Updated: 23 April 1999 NATO Speeches

23 Apr. 1999

Transcript of Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Mr Javier Solana
and General Wesley K. Clark, SACEUR

Mr. Solana: As you can imagine, we are very, very pleased to be in Washington. It's perhaps the most important meeting I dare to say in NATO's history. We are commemorating the enormous achievements of NATO, but of course this is taking place against the background of the Kosovo crisis.

Let me briefly tell you what are to my mind the most important points that have been discussed in the Leader's meeting this morning, which has been devoted entirely to Kosovo. I would like to underline the following points:

First, the unity and the determination of all the 19 Allies to continue with this campaign and to go on until the end, therefore to prevail. We are going to win this battle against Milosevic and we are going to continue until we achieve the objectives that the international community has established. Total determination and total unity in that aim and the 19 countries around that table today are determined that brutality cannot prevail.

Brutality will not prevail in Europe, and it is not going to prevail. The second idea that I would like to underline to you is that we have a clear strategy, it is the air campaign strategy, it is going to succeed, we are going to intensify, it until we succeed. Thirdly, I would like also to emphasise there has been agreement that together with these military measures the countries of NATO and other countries of the European Union who do not belong to NATO will continue putting economic pressure so that the regime of Milosevic is also economically isolated.

I would like also to emphasise that the leaders continue to be inordinately concerned about the humanitarian situation, the humanitarian situation outside Kosovo with the thousands of refugees which are already expelled from this country, and also for the humanitarian situation of the people who remain in Kosovo, and all the efforts are going to be made collectively and bilaterally from the different countries to come to grips with this tremendous humanitarian crisis.

The other comment and other point that I would like to emphasise is the original aspects of the crisis. We would like to underline how much effort many countries of the region are doing to help NATO allies, to with NATO Allies, to resolve this humanitarian catastrophe and I would like to pay tribute once again to the Republic of Macedonia and to the Republic of Albania which as you know have taken a tremendous load as far as refugees are concerned. Those two countries will have not only our sympathy but all the help that NATO allies are able to give to them.

But we would like also to underline that not only these two countries, but all the countries which border that region, will be at this point closer partners to the Alliance. As you know, the day after tomorrow on Sunday, the Heads of State and Prime Ministers of the Alliance will meet together with the 7 countries, with the Heads of State and Prime Ministers of the 7 countries which are the frontline countries in relation to this conflict. We have not only a short term strategy for these countries, but also a long term strategy for these countries with a plan from NATO for the stabilisation of the region, and a plan also in cooperation with other institutions like the European Union and the OSCE.

Let me finalise on the line of the other important point that has been discussed in this meeting of the summit, which is the importance that we attach to get Russia on board, to contribute and to cooperate with the initiative that Russia has taken, and also the wish that the countries do have that a settlement is reached. The moment has come to give a role to the Secretary General of the UN and also to the UN Security Council. This is what I would like to underline at this moment about the important meeting of more than three hours that the leaders of this alliance have maintained today in relation to Kosovo. But if I had to underline the most important of all the decisions it is the unity, the determination of all the 19 Heads of State and Prime Ministers, a determination to see this campaign through and to go all the way to the end until the conditions established, the five conditions established by the international community, are met by Milosevic.

Thank you very much. May I offer the floor to General Clark.

General Clark: Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning I briefed the Heads of State and Government on the performance in the air campaign, and let me share some of those remarks with you here today.

First let me tell you that in the 31st day now of the campaign, the men and women of the alliances Armed Forces are performing magnificently. They are courageous, highly competent and dedicated to this mission and we are all proud of each and every one of them.

In the air campaign, facing a formidable enemy defence, difficult weather and intermixed Serb forces and Kosovar refugees on the ground, allied airmen and sailors and their supporting personnel are attacking, disrupting and degrading Yugoslav forces, command and control and infrastructure and putting increasing pressure on President Milosevic and his leadership. Our forces are conducting simultaneous strikes on two air lines of operation: a strategic attack against his integrated air defence system, higher level command and control, fielded forces both army and police, sustaining infrastructures and resources in military supply routes; and secondly an operational attack against the forces in Kosovo to degrade, isolate and interdict them.

We have about twice as much in the way of combat power as we did when we began this campaign 31 days ago. Our overall assessment is that allied forces have significantly degraded the FRYs military and security apparatus and infrastructure. We have achieved air superiority at mid high altitude throughout Yugoslavia. The air defence forces there are ineffective against NATO aircraft and are being destroyed whenever they challenge us. Over 70 FRY aircraft have been destroyed, to include 5 in air to air combat; 40% of his SA3 battalions, 25% of his SA6 batteries have been knocked out; we have inflicted significant damage to military industrial targets and maintenance facilities in order to disrupt his ability to repair and reconstitute air, missile and ground forces, and in the weeks ahead this should further impede his air defence and air and ground forces.

POL refineries have been largely destroyed and effective fuel distribution has been disrupted, in fact operations in Kosovo have been brought to temporary halts on three occasions due to lack of fuel. The communications systems that support command and control functions are moderately degraded thus far, but continue to be struck hard and we are taking more of a toll on them.

We are in the process of isolating the Kosovo battlefield by interdicting road and rail links and by destroying the prized field command posts. We continue our efforts to destroy methodically all strategic and tactical elements of his capability to conduct military operations in Kosovo, his military and police forces in the field, and their reinforcing and sustaining units and facilities.

Yesterday, despite some adverse weather, in Kosovo we destroyed an artillery battery, 6 tanks, 23 vehicles, a column of troops and a field command post.

In short, what we will tell you is that Operation Allied Force is progressing well. It is true that President Milosevic has shown a willingness to accept a high level of damage, but the prime military and security forces, their supporting infrastructure, have been significantly damaged, they are vulnerable to collapse. In short, we are winning, he is losing, and he knows it.

Freddie: Secretary General, you said in your opening statement that there was unity and that NATO was determined to continue to the end, and General Clark gave us an extremely good exposition of what in fact the air campaign has achieved up to now. But at the rate of knocking out 5 tanks a day and the odd artillery battery, you have something like about 200 days worth of air campaign before we get to the end. Is NATO prepared to go on, and on, and on, with this air campaign without ever changing its strategy?

Mr. Solana: As I have said before, the strategy is not going to change. As you know, the military forces are taking all the assessments that have been performed since the months of late-July/early August, but at this point we are going to continue with determination, with with the air campaign. The air campaign, as General Clark has said, has a strategic and tactical thing that we want to continue destroying and so that the machinery which is responsible for the brutalities which have taken place, and continue to take place, are stopped.

General Clark: I would only advise you not to get drawn into the battle damage bean counting. What we are doing here is attacking the forces at all levels, we are putting pressure on them. They are in hiding during the day and at night when allied aircraft are out, they cannot move, they cannot operate, they are lurking in villages running back in the force and otherwise trying to get away from us, so they are ineffective. So it is not just a matter of how many tanks we engage, I just threw that out there so you would understand we are attacking and hitting targets down there, but the campaign has a much broader impact than any statistics.

Question: Mr. Secretary General, you talked about the time has come to give a role to the United Nations, can you talk about, in the meeting this morning, how was the diplomatic track address? You referred to getting Russia involved. How do you envision getting, first of all, Russia involved and second of all how does the UN play into this and at what time and in what way?

Mr. Solana: Well there is a very clear expression, it is spelled out in the communiqu, as you have seen it probably on Kosovo. We would you like to have, as I said before, Russia involved in a manner of accepting the five points of April 12, the five points that have been defended by NATO, defended by the European Union, defended also by the Secretary General of the UN and we would like to see the same points defended by Russia. If that were the case, and I hope it will be the case, we will be in a position to take that scheme to the UN Security Council, have a resolution, Chapter 7, and that it will be encompassing all these points that you know very well, of the position at this point of the international community.

Question (USA Radio): Why wasnt the Security Council of the United Nations brought in in the beginning, why have you waited 31 days to do so?

Mr. Solana: You know very well because the operation would have been impossible because one country would not be willing to do it and the 19 countries of the Alliance were not prepared to see those things going on without action. We acted and we will continue to act.

Question: (Martin Walker, Guardian) General Clark, you said that the forces in Kosovo are now lurking, they are hiding, they are hiding from us, theyre holing up by day, it sounds almost as if they are refugees and yet we know they are still continuing with the policies of ethnic cleansing, of brutality towards the Kosovar refugees. At what point will the air campaign be able to start protecting, defending, the refugees inside Kosovo?

General Clark: What we have said we are going to do is continue to attack the forces that are there and we intend to intensify those attacks. We have sharpened up our techniques, we are bringing in new assets and they are going to pay a heavy price for remaining there. The situation, as far as the refugees are concerned, is fluid. We know in many cases they have been run out of their homes, they have been moved into the forests, they have been flushed out of the forests and pursued half way across Kosovo and so this is still a very dynamic situation on the ground and we felt the best means of protecting them is to attack the forces, the command and control and the sustaining power behind those forces and that is what we are doing.

Question: It is clear there will be no change in the military field, I mean no change in the air operation campaign, but what about the political field. Do the allies still seek a solution for Kosovo based on Yugoslavian integrity that means within the border of Yugoslavia, or are they ready to support independent Kosovo now?

Mr. Solana: At this point the Alliance is committed to a Kosovo which has self-government, but is established clearly in the document with the borders of FRY.

Bill: Mr. Secretary, to clarify a few points on the communiqu. It says you will require the withdrawal of Serb forces. Does this mean you will not require the withdrawal of all Serb forces? And secondly, regarding the intensification of economic sanctions, how do you propose to do this and block the flow of oil through ports in Montenegro without penalising the Republic of Montenegro?

Mr. Solana: Two questions, two answers. To the first, yes, all. To the second, as you know the European Union has also agreed on an embargo and to and we have to task today the Ministry of Defence to look into all the possibilities for implementing the embargo in oil without damaging, or damage as least as possible, to the Republic of Montenegro. That is also in the communiqu.

Patricia Kelly: Secretary General, I understand that General Nauman is to be replaced by an Italian Admiral within the next couple of weeks, because his term is up. How do you feel about replacing one of NATOs senior military officials at a time like this? Is that likely to affect your campaign in any way?

Mr. Solana: No, it will not affect the campaign, The campaign is commanded by General Clark which is not going to be changed. He will continue with that and do the splendid job that he is doing so far - General Clark. General Nauman had a term, the term is to come to an end. I remember that it is May 8, I think, and of course he will be replaced by the person who has been elected some time ago, which is an Admiral Italian called Venturoni and he will do the same job as good and as well as has been done by General Nauman. General Nauman has been a splendid Chairman of the Military Committee, and I am sorry to see him gone, but the time does not forgive things, like the time but General Clark will be with us.

Question: (Douglas Hamilton, REUTERS) A question for both please. Italian Foreign Minister, Lamberto Dini has said that the bombing of Serbian state television was terrible and it was not in the plans. I would like to ask if some allies have decided to proceed to phase 3 targets without the agreement of other allies and I would like to know how far you intend to go down the list of increasingly political targets?

Mr. Solana: All the targets that have been struck in the last days belong to the same phase in which you are, we are in phase 2, we will continue to be in phase 2, no change, no decision has been taken to move from phase 2 into any other phase. And as you know, the target that you have mentioned is a target of long ago, long ago it was set by me and by General Clark that it would have military implications. It is not the first time that we have talked about that target, you remember.

General Clark: We said from the very first day there was no sanctuary and we were going to go after the military targets and the targets associated with the higher level command and control system, thats what that was.

Question: Is NATO willing to monitor the Russian tankers carrying oil to Belgrade. Isnt this going to create a political problem? Is NATO going to carry out the maritime operations as well?

Mr. Solana: Until the work of the military committee is finished, the military committee this afternoon, during the Defence Ministers meeting, is going to discuss this in about half an hours time. So then we will see what decisions are going to be made by the Ministers of Defence. But the Heads of State and Government have tasked the Ministers of Defence to consider all possibilities in order to ensure this embargo.

Jamie Shea: Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is all we have time for. The Secretary General will be back for another press conference at 2.45 tomorrow afternoon, we will see you all then. Thank you very much.

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