In this article "Does Putin really need Nobel Peace Prize", it is claimed that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari had the following conversation with Serbian president Miloshevich during the Miloshevich-Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin meeting (my translation from Russian):

Ahtisaari: We met here totally not for any discussions or negotiations.

Miloshevich (after reading the document): What will happen if we will not sign?

Ahtisaari (moves hand over the table surface): Belgrade will be like this table. We at once will start carpet bombing of Belgrade.

Ahtisaari (again moves the hand over the table): We will do it to Belgrade. In less than a week there will be half a million dead.

Was it really like that?

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    This is another article (in English) with similar claims, without any mention of Putin. counterpunch.org/2008/10/14/how-the-nobel-peace-prize-was-won – Anixx Oct 12 '13 at 19:49
  • Yeah, I saw the same article on another site. The claims apparently comes from Ljubisa Ristic, who is supposed to be a friend of Milosevic. I couldn't find out much more about him though. – Lennart Regebro Oct 12 '13 at 20:16
  • @Lennart Regebro also the words of the prime minister in the Assembly: “Our country was faced with a threat of total annihilation. Through diplomatic mediators and through the media, the aggressors spoke of the future targets to be bombed, including civilian victims counted in the hundreds of thousands.” – Anixx Oct 12 '13 at 20:20
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    Btw, most importanty: I can't find anything that suggest Ljubisa Ristic was present. – Lennart Regebro Oct 12 '13 at 20:27
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    This is an example of the comment chat that really dissuades me and I Suspect many from participating here. Other than the double posting most of the comments toward the OP belong as part of an answer. – Chad Oct 13 '13 at 17:12

I would claim that it is highly unlikely that the description of the events are truthful.

According to an description of the meeting from the website of the President of Finland (which was Ahtisaari in 1999, when this meeting happened), there is at least one part of that description that was true: This was not a negotiation. The meeting was to present the NATO/Russian proposition. The negotiations were between NATO and Russia, and Ahtisaari was brought in as a third part in those negotiation as he had proven to be a good mediator earlier.

NATO explicitly did not want to negotiate with Milosevic.

But that's not of course what the text really is about. That Milosevic obviously didn't have a chance once NATO decided to stop the war was pretty obvious. He of course had no chance to win a war against NATO. This was probably obvious to him as well.

The purpose of the text is to claim that Ahtisaari (and therefore NATO) threatened to kill half a million Serbs if Milosevic didn't agree to the proposition.

The question then is if Ahtisaari really made those claims, and really made a sweeping gesture on the table, indicating that NATO would flatten Belgrade?

Of course, only the people in that room really knows, and at least two of them are already dead. But what is clear is that after that meeting, Milosevic needs to convince everyone else that agreeing to the proposition is the right thing to do, and since the proposition includes Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo, that will be a very hard pill to swallow.

Would that pill be easier to swallow if they had no option? Is it easier to accept if the alternative is half a million dead? Well, of course.

But would NATO really carpet bomb and flatten Belgrade? Of course not. They already knew from long before that bombing civilians isn't seen with kind eyes, and was in the bombing of Yugoslavia aiming at military and strategic targets, although of course there were civilian casualties. But a mass destruction of Belgrade would have not have been accepted by people, media or politicians in the west.

And I don't think Milosevic was stupid enough to believe it would be accepted. So I don't think Ahtisaari made any such threats, because it would have made him seem like a fool. It's most likely that this is Milosevic excuse for agreeing to a proposal he knew he didn't have much choice than to agree to.

The quotes about Ahtisaari making a sweeping gesture over a table comes from Ljubisa Ristic. Then a politician, now it seems like he is a movie director. I think we can ascribe the creative license to him. :-)

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    Btw, here's another flaw in the text: it has Ahtisaari repeatedly saying "We will bomb" etc., presumably meaning NATO. But the whole reason for his being there was that he was non-NATO - so how could he have said that? – Felix Goldberg Oct 12 '13 at 21:14
  • @FelixGoldberg Good point, it shows that that the quote at best is incorrect and distorted. – Lennart Regebro Oct 12 '13 at 21:23
  • @Felix Goldberg he could mean "we, the West" – Anixx Oct 12 '13 at 21:44
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    @Anixx: There is no "We, the west", and it surely does not have bombing capacity. Besides, Finland is further east than Serbia. – Lennart Regebro Oct 13 '13 at 3:16
  • @Lennart Regebro actually, the West has. Regardless of where the particular countries situated. – Anixx Oct 13 '13 at 17:30

From a very preliminary analysis it seems as if the conversation indeed took place and that Ahtisaari was indeed playing the bad cop routine on Milosevic. However the bloodthirsty quotes ascribed to him look like inventions.

Here's why - I looked up footnote (6) in the counterpunch article. It refers to a Time article from 1999 and here's the relevant bit from there:

Compared with that marathon, the talks in Belgrade were swift and matter-of-fact. On Wednesday night the envoys and Milosevic talked for 4 1/2 hours. Chernomyrdin never veered as he read from the prepared script. Ahtisaari went over it in detail, explaining why each demand was not negotiable. "Can we make improvements in the text?" Milosevic asked. "Absolutely not," Ahtisaari shot back. This was NATO's best offer, and not a comma could be changed. Hoping to soften the Finn, Milosevic invited him to dinner. "Let's not have dinner," answered Ahtisaari. Instead, the Serbian leader should go back to his advisers and consult them on accepting NATO's ultimatum.

So apparently somehow "Let's not have dinner" morphed into "Belgrade will be like this table"...

EDIT Just to make it clear - I did not randomly select footnote (6) for verification - this was the specific footnote to which the whole (fictional) conversation that @Anixx is asking about is referred. Once this was found to be a fabrication, there is little point in poring over the rest of the article's references.

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  • This could be from another referred source. – Anixx Oct 12 '13 at 22:05
  • @Anixx Yes, it could - but I think I am not going to spend any more of my time on this. It was counterpunch's own reference for the quotes they gave and it contains nothing like their quotes -> apparently they have distorted the quotes and stretched them beyond recognition. Which really makes the value of the c-p article null in my eyes. – Felix Goldberg Oct 13 '13 at 4:51
  • Counterpunch, Infowars, rense.com, Daily Kos, Russia Today, PressTV: a rogue's gallery of the mendacious, the unhinged, the gullible, the wasters of time. A few of their readers may benefit from a year in re-education camp, the rest just need to be put down. – Eugene Seidel Oct 13 '13 at 10:22
  • @EugeneSeidel Just make them listen to this for 12 hours. – LateralFractal Oct 13 '13 at 10:41

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