|Updated: 1 April 1999||Press Conferences|
1 Apr. 1999
by NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana
In just a moment, SACEUR and his team will brief you on the military aspects.
But first of all, I would like to stress that NATO's political goals remain the same:
These have been our objectives for a long time. We tried to achieve them through negotiations. At Rambouillet, President Milosevic had a unique opportunity to settle this issue through negotiations and on the basis of a balanced and fair peace agreement. But he rejected this agreement, even though it took Serbian as well as Kosovar Albanian interests into account. Instead he has been preparing for this ethnic cleansing for months now. Even before the talks in Paris ended, he had started his clean-and-sweep operations through Kosovo.
He demonstrated that he was really only interested in a military solution, and totally on his terms. He left the Alliance no other option but to start military operations. NATO has begun a difficult operation. But we believe that it is the right thing to do, and that it is our duty to do whatever we can to stop the killing in Kosovo.
This is why every Ally has pledged its full support and will continue to do so. NATO remains united and determined. After one week of our air operations, I am confident that we are having a major impact on Belgrade's criminal war machine. We are degrading its ability to carry out the current acts of violence in Kosovo. Let me now offer the floor to SACEUR to brief you in more detail on the military operations.
I would first like to pay tribute to the men and women of the Alliance's armed forces who are currently operating against the military forces of the FRY. They have performed with dedication, tenacity and remarkable courage. I know the people of Kosovo are taking great heart in their accomplishments because we hear from them. Those of us in command can only stand in awe of the magnificent way in which they're executing our orders and I'm speaking not only of the airmen but of the many, many other Allied soldiers on the ground, particularly in Macedonia, who are there doing their duty and waiting in hopes that they could come in to help implement whatever agreement might enable these people to return to their homes.
Those of us who've grown up in liberal democracies have a hard time truly appreciating what's happening right now in Kosovo. It's a grand combination of terror and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale, it's being perpetrated largely against defenceless civilians by the last vestige of a hard-core communist dictatorship in Europe. Man does not do this to his fellow man. We are all in uniform outraged at the sight of this. This is not something uniform military soldiers do to civilians. From the NATO side, we've been very, very careful, very precise and very cautious in our operations to ensure that we were striking exclusively military targets. We've had results that showed this precision very clearly. There have been very few collateral damages and very few civilian casualties. We know this because we know the FRY propaganda machine is desperately seeking to manufacture incidents, even reports of their demolition squads blowing up houses to simulate NATO bomb damage. We know this.
First slide. We have more than 400 aircraft, we have a number of naval vessels, and additional reinforcing aircraft are coming in almost every day from the increased determination of member countries of NATO to respond to the outrages there. Next. We set up the operation to hopefully deter at the outset, and if it didn't, to progressively and systematically attack, degrade, disrupt and further diminish the capacity of the Serb war machine to perpetrate these atrocities against its own people. We said at the outset that it wasn't going to be a one or two bomb affair, it could be much more difficult than that. In fact it would be as long and as painful as President Milosevic forced us to be to his armed forces and security instruments. We had phase one, where we worked very extensively on the integrated air defence system and we began to target command and control, and even at that early stage, some deployed forces in the field.
When we went to phase two we focused more intensively on the force structure and forces. We're now taking a slightly broader array of targets which are further impacting his ability to conduct the kinds of oppressive operations that he's conducting in Kosovo. Next. Now what I'm going to show you is a series of charts that day-by-day go through the targets and you'll get a geographical depiction of the targets we've struck and damaged and where the weight of the effort is. There are many different targets in there, but what we have done is we've divided them into four categories, essentially: air defence, command and control shown by the star, the support facilities shown by diamonds and VJ and MUP forces and command and control facilities for those forces shown by the little explosions or other support facilities that are required for those forces.
On day two, we continued to work on air defence and command and control, you can see the distribution here of the targets on day two, you can see that there are more attacks on the forces and headquarters inside Kosovo as well as continuing efforts against the air defence facilities and its command and control assets.
Day three continues - more attacks against their headquarters and facilities and forces in Kosovo. Continuing attacks against the air defence system and air defence command and control around Belgrade.
Day four, the pattern continues.
Day five, these are the different targets each day by the way that are struck and these are the ones that were severely damaged or destroyed or moderately damaged as we move through this. Day five, the weight of the effort you can see is beginning to shift now off the air defence targets, it's more the command and control and defence facilities and increasing numbers of strikes inside Kosovo at the forces.
Day six, we went back and took out more air defence around Belgrade and continued to attack forces on the ground.
Day seven, more attacks on the forces including the reinforcement forces and their headquarters just north of Kosovo.
Day eight - last night - even more attacks against forces in Kosovo, a few attacks on air defence systems, continuing attacks on air defence command and control and attacks on support facilities. So if you look at this - days one through eight - on this chart, you can see the geographic scope of these attacks.
We said at the outset 'no sanctuary', we said we were going to go systematically and progressively to attack, disrupt and degrade. That is precisely the process that's underway now. Step-by-step, day-by-day, with a great deal of precision, a great deal of attention to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties, we are concerned for the safety of our own forces, we're going to minimize the risk to those forces while we accomplish the mission and we are doing that. I would tell you that the weather conditions haven't been everything we sought, but on the other hand this has been an extremely adaptive and responsive air campaign. I think in the history of modern air campaigns, there has never been any group of leaders who've shown any more responsiveness and adaptability than our airmen and their commanders have shown on this campaign in adapting to a number of changing conditions and changing requirements throughout the first eight days of the operation.
So I'm very proud of their efforts, very proud of their courage - of the airmen - and their skill and professionalism. I think you'll see much more of it in the days ahead. I also want to say I'm very proud of the soldiers - all of them - especially those on the ground, in Macedonia, who are doing their duty. They're in a position of some risk, they're serving there in the cause of peace. That's why they're there, in hopes that we can eventually stop this feudal war.
Let me just wrap it up and say that phased air operation results are effective operations within the FRY air space, the degradation of field and forces is underway and there will be increasingly severe consequences for the FRY military machine. This machine is going to be increasingly taken apart as the days continue. Thank you.
Secretary General: Let me thank SACEUR for the very detailed briefing. As you can see, the ring is closing around the Yugoslav armed forces. The impact of our air campaign will be increasingly cumulative. This is an effective operation and I'd like to underline that.
But let me say a word about the current humanitarian tragedy which as you know very well is not a spontaneous reaction to NATO's air operations. It is the final chapter of a carefully planned and methodically executed strategy which started well before NATO decided to act.
There is only one person responsible for all of the refugees now flowing into the neighbouring countries, and that is Milosevic. Every refugee testifies that Milosevic's soldiers drove them from their homes, not NATO bombs. I am as you know in daily contact with the leaders of the neighbouring countries. I have assured them of NATO's support and assistance during these difficult times.
NATO member countries are actively providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in Albania and FYROM. Already, shelter, blankets, clothes, food, medicine have been transported to the homeless victims of Milosevic's rgime.
Our Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre here in NATO is actively assisting the UNHCR and we are deploying as I talked this morning with Mrs. Ogata a NATO Liaison Officer to the headquarters of the UNHCR in Geneva to coordinate this assistance.
But let me stress that it is clear that the only solution to the humanitarian crisis is a political settlement in Kosovo which will allow refugees to return home in safety. That political settlement will have to be underwritten by a NATO-led Peace Implementation Force.
President Milosevic will have to listen to these messages. As our pressure increases, he will be forced to stop his aggression. NATO will stop only when he stops.
But this as General Clark has said is not a situation that can be resolved in 24 or 48 hours.
We have never pretended otherwise.
As General Clark has indicated, we will be successful but we will need stamina and determination.
What we have seen in Kosovo in the last few days is a direct challenge to all the values on which we are building our new and undivided Europe.
Milosevic and his government are the antithesis of all we value.
So we cannot tolerate the behaviour of a more barbarous age in a Europe, in our continent, which is striving towards a more united and more enlightened future.
Our cause is a just one. It is our duty to fulfil it. Thank you very much.
SACEUR: Well, first of all let me say that we never considered this a race. I said from the outset it was a systematic, progressive attack, degradation, disruption of their military machine and security machine. It was not a race, it was an effort designed to slow down, block ultimately, to deter further action, or should that fail, to inflict on President Milosevic the loss of those assets which he prizes very highly. That effort continues and as far as the race is concerned, as I've looked at the battlefield on the ground, through our many, many information sources in there, it's going to be a long time before people in Kosovo give up their desire to live in autonomy and democracy in their own land. So I think that there's a little bit of mythology going on about how fast the Serb forces are working on the ground and I'd advise you not to be taken into it. We're going to continue our effort and they're going to pay the price.
Secretary General: Let me try to answer your question. First of all, when we stopped the killing which is taking place now, but that would not be enough, we have to create the conditions for the refugees to return to their homes, to their territory, to their country.
Journalist: Secretary General, I would like to ask you whether NATO has any signals concerning the information that the Yugoslav government is considering the idea of possible division of Kosovo because of hatred between the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians?
Secretary General: I don't have anything on that.
Pavel Bouda, Czech TV: I have a question for SACEUR. We are confronted with the fact of cross-border incidents, given that Russia has sent the navy into the region. As a Supreme Commander, what risk do you see that this crisis can be spread beyond the border of Yugoslavia and what to do you do to eliminate the danger?
SACEUR: I'm going to address that question at the military level and I'm going to tell you that we've watched for some time with growing concern President Milosevic's military strategy as he has attempted to meddle in the affairs of neighbouring states and so we know he's meddling in Macedona, he's in Bosnia, he's making threats around the region. What we've done is we've increased the protection for our forces, we're ready should there be challenges to us and that's our response at this stage. If more needs to be done, then we'll do it.
Secretary General: Let me add to what General Clark has said. To emphasize something that has been said by Minister Cook in his press conference this morning. We will hold Milosevic responsible for the safety of the three US soldiers and he has to know that very clearly.
Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: General Clark, could you explain if you have undertaken any steps to reach the Yugoslav authorities regarding the status of the three soldiers? And, secondly, there have been reports that there has been some unrest in the military hierarchy of the Yugoslav armed forces. Are these just rumours or do you have compelling evidence that there's a potential rebellion there among the top officers?
Neil Harrison, ABTN: General, if I can ask you to comment on the three US soldiers who were captured and also ask if there is any attempt being made to rescue them or if that can indeed be done? And to the Secretary General, whether you are concerned about the Russians sending a vessel into the Adriatic sea with six potential other vessels going as well and whether that poses any kind of threat?
SACEUR: Regarding the US soldiers I would just say that the investigation is continuing with respect to the exact circumstances of how they ended up inside Serbia and I'm not going to discuss at this time any other hypothetical or potential military operation.
Secretary General: Let me say that President Yeltsin has stated very clearly that Russia would not get dragged into this conflict would not get involved in this conflict, and I like to take the word of President Yeltsin.
Christian Unteanu, Romania: M. Secrtaire gnral, M. le gnral, l'opinon public roumain se pose le problme que'est ce qui va se passer si dans le cas o le conflit va s'tendre en comprenant au moins une partie de la rgion de la Roumanie qui se trouve la frontire ..de la Yugoslavie, est ce que vous avez pris en considration une telle situation? Quelles sont les plans pour couper court une telle extension possible du conflit?
Secretary General: Je vais essayer de rpondre votre question. Comme vous savez nous sommes en contact avec tous les pays frontiriels et avec la Roumanie nous avons crit personnellement une lettre au Prsident pour guarantir que nous repondrons de manire ffective si'il y a quelques problmes en Roumanie de la meme faon que nous ferons avec tous les pays qui sont les six pays qui sont les plus proches au conflit de Kosovo.
NRC Handelsblad, The Netherlands: Question for General Clark. Critics say that NATO is conducting a gentleman's war while the Serbs are committing genocide. How do you respond to that?
SACEUR: Well, I don't think that the Serb military and police elements that are on the receiving end of the air campaign consider it a gentleman's war. But if they have any doubts I just advise them to stay in place and we'll be there shortly.
Radio France International: M. le secrtaire gnral Solana, a nouveau une question sur l'extension potentiel du conflit, des incidents frontires, des soldats americains ont t enlev en Macdoine, des incidents frontires en Albanie du nord, que compte faire l'OTAN pour circonscrire le conflit intrieur du frontire yougoslave et empcher une extension, and for you, SACEUR, if I may, General Clark, do you have any element on the safety of Rogova, the prominent Kosovar, and were they really given the offer to be extracted from Kosovo and did they react to that, do you have any information on that?
Secretary General: Pour repondre votre question, il n'y a pas de raison pour une extension du conflit. Au Macedoine il y a des soldats, des soldats des nations unies, des soldats de l'OTAN, qui sont prts ragir si'il y a besoin de deploiement de troupes sur le terrain pour l'implementation d'un accord, pour garantir l'accord. En ce qui concerne l'Albanie, il n'y a pas des forces de l'OTAN en ce moment, mais s'ils sont dploys ils seront pour aider la question humanitaire, de contribuer la solution humanitaire, donc il n'y aura pas besoin d'une extension du conflit au pays - Albanie, FYROM les autres pays qui sont voisins.
SACEUR: I have no information on the individuals you mentioned. I have no update on Mr. Rogova or Mr. Agani or others. I have no information about an extraction.
Ian Rogers, Bloomberg News: I have a question for General Clark. Yesterday General Naumann said that the NATO air attacks "can't stop the killings and roundings up" I wondered if you would agree with his assessment of the NATO campaign, and if you do agree, will NATO be planning to do anything to aid these people on the ground?
SACEUR: Well, first of all, we've always said from the outset that air power alone cannot stop paramilitary murder on the ground and that's what's going on down there. We know that and it's been well-recognized. As for what else might be done I'm going to defer that to the political leaders of NATO and NATO's governments because these are questions that governments have to resolve. They're not questions that military men resolve.
US Journalist: Question for General Clark: you recently received additional targetting flexibility to proceed the campaign, but it is also noted here the NAC did not approve all of the phase three targets. Given the pace and the scale of the conflict do you think you might require in the near future additional flexibility to pursue your campaign? And as a military man if you did not have the political constraints inherent in the Alliance, is this the way you would choose to prosecute this air campaign to bring the conflict to a close, or would the campaign include more strategic targets and leadership targets that are familiar to all of us who watch the Allied campaign in the Persian Gulf?
SACEUR: Well, first let me tell you that I do have the strategic flexibility that I need in targetting. I think we've got procedures that have become increasingly well defined and accepted and so I don't feel constrained in any significant way in that regard and furthermore let me say that the campaign has gone pretty much the way we had planned it out. Step-by-step, systematic and progressive and so at this stage I think we're about on course for where we expected to be.
Journalist: General Clark, how many targets including from Phases three and two at this moment?
SACEUR: I'm not going to be able to discuss any specifics about numbers of targets or particular targets.
Le Ramboussier, French TV: I have a question for General Clark: there is a rumour about setting up a concentration camp in Kosovo, do you have any information about that by satellite or ground information?
SACEUR: We have no independent confirmation of that rumour.
Doug Hamilton: (Beginning of question not recorded) Do you have enough troops with te Enabling Force in Nacedonia to create a safe haven if you found it necessary to do that? I'm thinking especially of reports that Pristina is now being shelled and for the Secretary General: was NATO aware that Ibrahim Rogova went to Belgrade today and met with Milosevic and what do yo think might come of that meeting, if anything?
SACEUR: Well, I've read these discussins about using the Enbabling Force for some kind of small sacale sanctuary but I'm not gointg to disucss in any detial what its capabilities are to do such a mission or what the timelines or other aspects of such mission might be, I just don't think that's appropriate here.
Secretary General: I just learned when I was coming here that some news about Rogova being with Milosevic, I cannot say anything about what is going on, but it doesn't seem to me at least that Rogova is freely doing what he is doing, I would prefer it very much when he has to talk and say some of the things he is said to have said to me personally, I would be much more relaxed with that.
Radio Liberty, Russian Service: I have a question for General Clark and Secretary General. With Russia sending its warships in the Mediterranean, with Primakov flying to Belgrade and having negotiations, with all this hysteria is there any way for Russia to play any positive role in this crisis, basically to..?
Secretary General: Yes, I think Russia can play a very important role, in fact it has tried to play an important role in the last days, and we welcome very much the effort that Mr. Primakov has made, but you know very well has been a failure, and a failure because Milosevic has not moved a single inch. But we would like very much for Russia to keep involved, to find a solution on the terms of the international community. That is what I would like to say. I think strategically the NATO countries and Russia have had the same aim to try to find a solution to the crisis in Kosovo. Don't forget that a Russian man, a very able diplomat, has been involved in the negotiating team - the three people that achieved the Rambouillet agreement - therefore strategically we are together with the Russians and the Russians with us. It is true that at this very moment we have a point of difference which is very important, but still we hope very much that strategically we will continue working together.
SACEUR: I think that answers the question.
Mrs. Dubravka Savic, Novosti, Belgrade: General, you address in extremely severe words towards Belgrade authorities in terms of the air attacks, to Kosovo targets, but you didn't even mention that NATO is doing almost the same thing, from the very first day we are aware that you hit quite a lot of civilian targets including a bridge last night and the half of Novisad at least is out of water. Do you think that you use just these military targets as a pretext that you could in a further phase use a lot of civilian targets and civilians and then abusing in the end only one person? My question for both gentlemen, do you think in the end that someone out of 19 democracies could judge about this NATO action?
SACEUR: Well, let me tell you that from the military side we are not hitting civilian targets. We've had very little collateral damage, we've been very tightly focused on nothing but military targets in this campaign. Now as far as hitting the lines of communication is concerned, yes, lines of communication are a target, our objective is to attack, disrupt, degrade and do as much damage as we can to that anti-humanitarian juggernaut that's going on down in Kosovo. I'm talking about the FRY military machine and in so far as it's drawing reinforcements and supplies and extra material and so forth from throughout Yugoslavia. The routes throughout Yugoslavia are legitimate targets and when we deem it appropriate then they will be struck, but I want to underscore this, this is not a campaign against the Serb people, far from it, we've taken very possible measure to avoid collateral damage and injury to innocent Serb civilians. It is quite different than what's being perpetrated on the ground in Kosovo where a population is being systematically attacked and driven from its homes and looted and I think that's a fundamental distinction that will be recognized in this campaign for many years afterwards and in courts of law I might add.
Secretary General: With all respect to you let me say again, emphasize, that we have nothing against the Serbian people, on the contrary, we would like very much to see the Serbian people integrated into the movement which now is trying to construct Europe. A Europe that looks to a 21st century which is more united, which has the values it has defended always. But in 1992, and even before, as you know very well, when the war started in the Balkans we were trying to help to solve that problem, that tremendous crisis and problem, and as you know very well there are responsible people, responsible leaders, that are not prepared to look to the future. They are still looking back instead of looking forward. We are very, very willing to take the Serbian people along and construct together the future of Europe. They deserve it.
Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: A short follow-up to the Russian question. Do you have any clear indication that Russians are ready to sell or give weapons to the Yugoslav army and should it happen, what could be the NATO reaction? Are you ready to take action against ?
Secretary General: The Russian authorities have said very clearly that would not be the case.
Jonathan Marcus, BBC World Service: A question to each of you gentlemen. General Clark, you say air power alone can't stop paramilitary murder on the ground, but the situation in the Pagarusa valley with artillery tanks and so on allegedly firing on refugees, that clearly is something NATO air power could address. How hampered are you still being by the weather or have you had any real results against Yugoslav units in the field, and to the Secretary General: could you tell me if you still believe Mr. Milosevic is a man with which the Alliance can deal in a diplomatic sense in the wake of this catastrophe. He's been dubbed "The Butcher of Belgrade", the rhetoric has been very, very strong from all NATO capitals. Is he somebody that the Alliance can deal with in the future?
SACEUR: Well, first of all we are having results against forces in the ground including some of the forces engaged in operations in and around the Pagarusa valley. We know these forces, we know who they are, we know who commands them and we are taking action, as we have over the last couple of days. On the other hand I will tell you that any, any operation that is going to bring ordnance from the air onto the gorund is normally controlled by a close air support team and of course there is no close air support team in there and so we're being very careful to ensure we don't add to the terror and the humanitarian tragedy of the people who are in there under the artillery fire by dropping NATO ordnance in the wrong place.
Secretary General: Let me answer your question by saying that President Milosevic is the one who has control and probably the only person who has control of the Serbian army and of the military police and therefore is the one who can stop this catastrophe. As far as that is concerned we have to deal with him and we'll see afterwards what happens.
Pierre Lefevre, Le Monde: General Clark, do you think theoretically speaking that sending a mid -sized ground force to create a sanctuary would make sense at this stage of the war?
SACEUR: Well, I'm not going to give my military opinion on an operation like that. When I have those opinions I will give them to the responsible military and political authorities in the Alliance and that's the privacy that's required for me to be able to do my job, so I'm not going to share that opinon publicly.
John Dahlberg, LA Times: Mr. Solana, if I understood correctly some remarks that you made this morning to a Spanish radio station that were recorded by Reuters, you said that the time had come to start giving consideration, or start thinking about the possible use of ground troops in Kosovo. Could you explain if that was a correct quote and what your thinking is on that currently?
And I'd like to ask another question to General Clark: I think probably the average TV viewer back in the United States is wondering whether there are going to be any people left in Kosovo by the time the NATO air operation succeeds. Could you explain why you're so confident that there will be?
Secretary General: I haven't seen the quote but let me convey to you my thinking within the NATO thinking. At this point in time, the NATO Allies are not prepared to deploy troops prior to a settlement. What I tried to say and what I want to say again is that we are prepared to deploy troops after a ceasefire to a settlement, for many reasons, but let me emphasize one: I think that the only possibility that the refugees may return to their homes is with the deployment of ground troops after the settlement is agreed. And that is something that for me is very, very important. Not only for me but for all of us. The possibility to create a guarantee, create a secure condition, so that the refugees may return home. And for that, without any doubt, an international presence on the ground will be necessary.
SACEUR: Well, as far as the population in Kosovo is concerned, remember it was almost 2 million people, now many, many have fled. But there are still an awful lot of people left there and the history of operations conducted against a civilian populace such as President Milosevic is conducting, the history of such operations is that the military leaders involved typically underestimate greatly the degree of difficulty and the time required to achieve their results. We heard a lot of boasting by the Yugoslav military authorities that they'd be finished in five days or seven days, well they haven't been, they've got the determined resistance of an awful lot of people in here to face, so I think we have to recognize that it might be a strategy that they will say they're finished but in reality there'll be resistance for a long time.
Alexander Mineyev, ITAR-TASS: Question to the Secretary General. I return to the diplomatic field: how do you appreciate the initiative of President Yeltsin - today's initiative - to organize a kind of conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of eight countries, the big eight?
Secretary General: Well, as I have said many times, we welcome all efforts to secure a political settlement, but on the grounds the international community has demanded. And for that, President Milosevic has the last word.
Greek TV: If it is possible to have some more details about the captures of the three American soldiers. On which ground they were?
SACEUR: We're still investigating where the incident occurred, but what we do know is that they began to be shot at, they attempted to move out of harm's way and return further south we know that's what their intent was, they then said "we're totally surrounded", the radio transmission was cut off and they disappeared for several hours. The next we saw they were badly beaten up there and shown on television in Belgrade.
Mr. Krasnieki, Kosovar Press: Some of the NATO press officers have been using the word "genocide" going on in Kosovo, ..just mentioned the "ethnic cleansing". My question is to the Secretary General: do you think that the 19 governments of NATO can still find that moral courage to ask to the Albanian population to live, even for another three year period under the jurisdiction of Yugoslavia?
Secretary General: It is not for me to answer that question. It is a question to be answered in a negotiated solution that I hope will be found. Let me say that at this point, the international community agrees and supports the agreement that has been signed by the Kosovars in Rambouillet, and that is the only thing I can say at this point; it is the only answer I can give you at this moment.