Joschka Fischer, the onetime anti-war protester who became Germany's foreign minister during his country's first war since World War II, spoke with unusual emotion today about the NATO war over Kosovo, calling it a fight against fascism and for the security of all Europe.
"This was not a moral question," Fischer said. "This was not the 1968-ers. This was not a question of human rights. This was a question of security and stability in Europe."
Fischer, a leader of Germany's Green Party, said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic would have gone on to destabilize Montenegro, break up Macedonia and spread trouble throughout the continent. "It was a question of the future of Europe. In which Europe will we live and our children live?" he asked.
Fischer recalled that he initially opposed intervention. But he said that "step by step, from mass murder to mass murder," he changed his views. That change of heart was essential for Germany's backing of the war because Fischer was able to maintain enough support within his party to prevent it from deserting Germany's governing coalition.
Fischer deflected criticism that NATO was acting like the 19th-century great powers that carved up the planet into spheres of influence. "We're not talking about great powers carving things up," he said. "We're talking about integration into Europe on the basis of democracy, human rights and social justice."
Given the opportunity to start bickering publicly with the United States about the cost of reconstruction in the Balkans, Fischer instead said Europe should shoulder most of that burden without complaint.
"Let's look back at what Cologne looked like 50 years ago," he said, referring to the destruction of this city by allied bombs during World War II -- and its subsequent rebuilding with funds from the United States. The Americans, he said, "didn't ask then if the price was too dear."