Ambassador Peter Woodard Galbraith was a senior advisor to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1979 to 1993, and American Ambassador to Croatia from 1993 to 1998.
Ambassador Peter Galbraith describes his view that Slobodan Milošević had decisive influence over the Croatian Serb leadership that had control of a swathe of territory in the eastern part of Croatia, referred to as the Krajina:
… [I]t was apparent to me that, as indeed it was to virtually all the other international mediators, that the defendant was the … key to any peace settlement, that the Krajina Serb leadership would not take any decision -- any substantive decision for a peace agreement without his approval, that they consulted regularly with him and indeed the leaders with whom I negotiated, at least several of them, Milan Babić, Milan Milanović, said that they regularly consulted with the defendant.
Ambassador Galbraith describes a meeting that he had with Croatian Serb leader Milan Babić on 2 August 1995, in which he discussed with him proposals to conclude peace with Croatia, and thereby avoid the impending Croatian offensive against Serb-held territories. The offensive, code-named Operation Storm, began a few days later, and resulted in more than 150,000 Serb refugees:
"Then came the issue of whether this could be sold to the leadership in Knin, and [Milan Babić] said, “Well, my party has a majority in the assembly. I think I can get them to go along.” The question was then: Would [Milan] Martić [then President of the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina] go along? He said, “One sentence from Milošević and we can get the agreement of Knin.”
Q. And he was right about that. Things would not have unfolded in the way they did.
A. That is right. In my view, the war could have been avoided and 180.000 Serbs would not have become refugees."
Ambassador Galbraith describes a conversation he had with Slobodan Milošević on 1 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, at the beginning of the peace negotiations to end the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Arriving at a settlement in the Serb-held eastern part of Croatia, Eastern Slavonia, was the first item on the agenda at the Dayton negotiations. Slobodan Milošević and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman had just agreed to send Ambassador Galbraith and Norwegian Ambassador Thorvald Stoltenberg, then the Co-chairman of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, to Eastern Slavonia to work on a deal. Ambassador Galbraith relates what Milošević said to him in the private conversation the two of them had afterwards:
"[Slobodan Milošević] then … told me that I wouldn't accomplish anything going back to Eastern Slavonia on this mediation mission, even though he and [Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman had just signed a statement asking that [Ambassador Thorvald] Stoltenberg and I go back, and that I would do just as well to spend my time on vacation in Dubrovnik.
Q. You interpreted that observation as revealing what and meaning what?
A. I interpreted it to mean that a settlement on Eastern Slavonia would not be decided by the local Serbs in this shuttle diplomacy, that -- and certainly not decided by them in Erdut [the Croatian Serbs’ base in Eastern Slavonia], but it would be decided in Dayton at such time as Milošević decided it was convenient and useful to him and his broader purposes to settle the issue."
Ambassador Peter Galbraith provided corroborating testimony that Slobodan Milošević controlled the Croatian Serb leadership. After the period in 1991 when the Prosecution alleged that forces under Slobodan Milošević’s control committed a host of crimes throughout the eastern part of Croatia, called the Krajina, Croatian Serbs held that part of the territory, which the Croatian government wanted back. In order to avoid a military confrontation, international representatives, including Ambassador Galbraith attempted to negotiate a peace deal between the Croatian government and the Serb-side, represented by Milošević and his proxies in the Croatian Serb leadership, including ICTY accused Goran Hadžić, and convicts Milan Babić and Milan Martić.
Ambassador Galbraith’s testimony showed that Slobodan Milošević’s agreement was central to any peace settlement. He testified about a meeting that he had with Croatian Serb leaders on 30 January 1995 to discuss a proposal to conclude a peace agreement, called the Z-4 plan. “We attempted to hand over the plan,” Galbraith said, “and [Croatian Serb President Milan] Martić would not take it. He wouldn't touch it.” Ambassador Galbraith provided other evidence, as seen in the passages quoted above, that Croatian Serb leaders could not act without Milošević’s go-ahead.
Ambassador Galbraith testified about crimes committed by both sides. He described human rights violations committed by the Croatian forces during Operation Storm as "severe and inexcusable". After complaining directly to President Franjo Tudjman about reports of such violations on 10 August 1995, Ambassador Galbraith went to join a convoy of Serb refugees. One of them invited Galbraith onto his tractor with his wife and two small children. “There was a … crowd along [the road], jeering, [and] shouting insults,” said Galbraith, “but the Croatian government had policemen every 10 metres and there were no incidents”. The Tribunal later issued an indictment against three of the highest-level surviving military and police commanders (Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač) for crimes committed against Serbs, in which deceased Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is named as a co-perpetrator.
Ambassador Galbraith also testified about a report that he wrote on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report was based on four visits to the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and 1992, during which he interviewed scores of refugees who had witnessed or survived atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It found that Serbia and Montenegro shared responsibility for the killing then underway in Bosnia. Prophetically, Galbraith wrote in the report that what was happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a harbinger of crimes yet to come: “Given the success that Serbia has had with its ethnic cleansing policy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it may advance the same policy in other areas under Serbian control, namely Kosovo and Vojvodina. There have been signs already that Serbia is contemplating and may have initiated such a course.”
During his tenure as an advisor to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1979 to 1993, Ambassador Peter Galbraith authored numerous reports, including one on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Galbraith was the United States’ first ambassador to the independent republic of Croatia, serving in that post from 1993 to 1998. Galbraith went on to serve in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.