Updated: 18-Aug-2005 NATO Speeches


17 August 2005

Press briefing

by Brigadier General Steven Schook, NATO HQ Sarajevo

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. We will start today with a briefing by Brigadier General Steven Schook, who is the first commander of NATO Headquarters Sarajevo. He briefed this morning the North Atlantic Council on the work he's undertaking in Bosnia and one of his main responsibilities, which is to advise the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina on all matters dealing with defence reform.

General, you have the floor.

BRIGADIER GENERAL STEVEN SCHOOK (NATO Headquarters Sarajevo): Thank you very much.

First of all, you can tell it's a slow day in NATO. I guess the August holidays here are as they are in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But thank you all for coming, and participating today.

Good session today with the NAC. I was very happy with the session, very happy with the questions so I'll generalize that.

Let me give you a little bit of background of how we got to where we are today with this defence reform. And the handout, I think, does a very good job of describing the elements of the draft law that's been handed off to the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Back in October I was the last SFOR commander. We transitioned on 2 December, and we handed SFOR and ended the mission and we stood up EUFOR under Major General David Leakey to take over the safe and secure mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

NATO established a new headquarters; all this based upon the Istanbul Summit decision, to maintain presence there in three areas. The first and foremost was to conduct defence reform, and then two supporting tasks, which are operational tasks, which is PIFWC operations and counterterrorism operations.

The thrust of what I'll talk about today will be on defence reform, because I think I have some very good news and a potential huge breakthrough on the current status and conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

We have a mechanism to conduct reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina called the Defence Reform Commission and I think it's important as background and for the record that you understand how that operates, because it's a fundamentally laborious process, but has a good track record of ensuring success.

The Defence Reform Commission is co-chaired by my POLAD, Dr Raffi Gregorian and the Minister of Defence of Bosnia-Herzegovina Minister Radovanovic.

Represented on the Defence Reform Commission are the major parties of the ruling parties of the entities within Bosnia-Herzegovina. So you have the representation of the SDS, the HDZ and the SDA; so the Bosniac ruling party, the Serb ruling party and the Croat ruling party are all represented on the Commission. That's very important because as agreements come to fruition on the Commission you're getting buy-in from the politicians prior to presenting the law to be voted on. And you can see where that becomes a very laborious process. It goes through extensive legal review, provided by NATO.

And also represented on the Defence Reform Commission are the Security Council for the Parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ministers of defence of the entities, and so what I'm painting you a picture of is that you have this body of people that represent the political side and the governmental size of Bosnia-Herzegovina so when you come to agreements, when you put something down on the draft law, you have reached at least the beginnings of a political agreement prior to the presentation of the legislation.

So enough on the background, but I wanted to give you an idea of how we got there.

We started that Defence Reform Commission and the work of that body to present this 32-article draft law on defence reform in January. We handed it off in a Defence Reform Commission signing ceremony on the 18th of July.

Now here's where we're at, and here's why I'm very optimistic on what this law will do in terms of not only reform of defence, but leading other reform within Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is critical.

For the first time we're operating under a mandate that was established by the HR Lord Paddy Ashton. Paddy came up and said, look, we want to get to a single ministry of defence, and we want to have a single budget and a single chain of command.

As most of you may or may not be aware, that is a significant move from the Dayton agreement, which preserved all entities. We, in our infinite wisdom, decided to go one step further and to create a single military force, representative of the culture and the ethnic groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina under a regimental system. And it was a regimental system that is not like any other regimental system, but it has bits and pieces of the way the British do it, the way the Canadians do it, and other military structures within NATO.

The second thing we did is as we created this single military force, we coordinated very closely with the IS staff and NATO, DPP, to make sure it was passing litmus tests for potential future NATO membership; i.e. let's get this massive legislation done, take it one step further and see if they implement it properly will this put them on a path to NATO.

So I think as background I think it's important you understand what we were trying to do and where we are.

Now, I'm in the process, which is very convoluted, as you can imagine, within the entity, i.e. the Republika Srpska, RSNA, their assembly, the federation, they have to adjust their constitutions to accept this legislation, this law. Why? Because the current constitution preserves all the entities and it preserves separate everything. So what I'm laying out for you is a true fundamental shift from what was dictated by Dayton, to a cohesive single-military force, which we believe will be palatable to NATO, with one budget and one minister of defence, i.e. owned by the state.

And for those of you who have been following Bosnia-Herzegovina for some time, I'm sure understand the significance of that.

Now where are we right now?

Where we are right now is the last week in August this will go to a vote in the RSNA, Republika Srpska. Many of you may recall that the last time we went to a vote in the RSNA on a key reform issue was police reform. It was not a good result.

So in our coordination with the RSNA and our coordination with the Minister of Defence of Republika Srpska and our coordination with President Cavic of the Republika Srpska, I can categorize and I'm very optimistic that this will pass through the RSNA.

I am also very optimistic that even the opposition parties to the ruling government in the RSNA will support this legislation.

So what I'm laying out to you is in the last week in August I am extremely optimistic that we will have significant reform in defence that catapults us from the dictates of Dayton into a single military force, palatable in NATO, one command, one chain of command, ethnic representation and a single budget.

Now also in this legislation, which is of note, is it does away with conscription and it turns it into solely a professional army. Also in this legislation it does away with the huge reserve force, which is around 40,000 right now, not under control of the state, and in many cases, not under control of the entities, and creates a smaller, not larger than one... 50 percent of the professional force, but a professional reserve to augment the professional force. Again, palatable to NATO. Like other NATO nations have done.

My hope is that we get this legislation through and it begins to pull other reform within Bosnia-Herzegovina. So that in a nutshell is kind of where we are in defence reform.

Myself and Dr. Gregorian will make a presentation to the RSNA, I believe the 28th or 29th of August, prior to the vote, and hopefully we'll be celebrating that night.

Again, I'm very, very optimistic and have all the confidence that President Cavic is going to be able to make this happen within the RSNA.

PIFWCs, I'd like to tell you a few things about that that I think are of great interest and in my mind, not clearly understood nor articulated in the media yet.

What I would describe to you is that the conditions have fundamentally changed with respect to cooperation with ICTY and PIFWCs, and here's what I mean by that.

Prior to November 2004 not a single PIFWC was turned into the ICTY into The Hague by either Republika Srpska or Serbia-Montenegro. Since October 2004 we've had almost 20-some PIFWCs that have entered The Hague through the efforts of Belgrade and Banja Luka. Now that's a huge shift.

Since Liliana's statement, asking Radovan Karadzic to turn himself in we have newspapers in Banja Luka and Pale, running page ads demanding that Karadzic turn himself in for the good of Republika Srpska. That never happened before.

So what I'm laying out for you is that the conditions that have changed is that this problem is now being attacked vigorously with a mandate by the Republika Srpska in Belgrade.

I'd also point out, for the first time last month there was an operation conducted against known PIFWC supporters of Karadzic, one being his brother, Luka Karadzic by Belgrade and by the institutions of Serbia-Montenegro.

So what I'm trying to make sure everyone understands is that the conditions have fundamentally changed and the efforts of the institutions of Belgrade and Republika Srpska are now involved in PIFWC operations. Number one.

Number two, the man on the street in Pale and in Banja Luka, there is a groundswell of support now for these people to turn themselves in for the benefit of the future of Republika Srpska. That is a fundamental shift from October of 2004. the voices that are in support of Karadzic and Mladic are dwindling every day.

Now that's important to me because that creates what I call the political conditions for this to be complete. And I'm very optimistic that because of this change in behaviour, change in attitudes and institutional support for PIFWCs to be turned into The Hague to face justice, by Belgrade and Republika Srpska, I'm very optimistic that we hopefully can conclude this chapter that is causing such delays in the progress of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I think that's enough and if there's any questions I'd be glad to answer.



Q: (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: Who do you represent?

Q: My name is (inaudible)... and I work for the Middle Eastern (inaudible)...


Q: Let us begin first by the... by the arm. What is the number, when we talk about the reserve (inaudible)...? What would be the effective purpose of this army?

SCHOOK: Okay, right now there's many... yeah, it's a good question.

Q: (inaudible)...you have... you have a figure. Let me continue my questions.


Q: For the budget, whom will take this (inaudible)...? I know that the (inaudible)... for when we talk about budget, who will finance. And for... as the entities (inaudible)... do you think there is a sort of shift for reconciliation because they are ready now for making (inaudible)... question of the arrest. What is the... what's the situation now with the arrest of the son of Karadzic?

SCHOOK: Okay. First of all let me start off with the size and scope of the army and the purpose and the structure and all that.

First of all, what I would tell you is, we cannot afford... they cannot afford the structures they have now. It's unaffordable. And so the budget is quite frankly one of the driving reasons behind the size and structure that's laid out in that paper, both in the reserve force and in the standing professional army.

So it is a budget issue and those numbers were created and developed based on what is affordable.

Now, to answer the budget question and this is...and the law goes into great detail on this, that is a complex issue. The transition from a Republika Srpska ministry of defence, a Federation ministry of defence and an existing state ministry of defence into one probably the most complex aspect of that transition is the budget transfers. And that includes many, many things. It includes current debts, who takes those over? Passing of the budget in what is acceptable and understood by the state to be the existing surplus annual budget within the entities.

Now the law goes into great detail on how to do that. And I'm not going to bore everyone here with that, but I will tell you that there is a great deal of intellectual capital spent on a very complex budget issue.

But the bottom line, and what I will tell you, without getting the figures and data, is that this is a much cheaper solution; much cheaper solution than what exists today.

And especially when it comes to reserve. They cannot afford 40,000 reserves. The money isn't there. It just isn't there. And they can't afford the size of the standing professional force they have now. The money isn't there.

And so this work in the Defence Reform Commission to come up with this force structure in size and scope, was driven largely by the budget constraints.

So what we've created in this law is an affordable and sustainable force structure in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And the budgets from the entitles will be passed to the state. That's part of the package. It has to happen that way.

I'm now trying to remember all the other questions.

Q: (inaudible)...size.

SCHOOK: The fact sheet should cover the size.

Q: (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: Right now... Okay, right now... here's why I'm kind of dodging a little bit. Right now I'll give you an estimated size. Less than 10,000, but around 9000-plus. That's still being worked out. But less than 10,000 for the standing professional.

Q: (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: No no, the standing professional army. And the reserves, by law, can only be up to 50 percent of the size of the standing army. So if the standing army's 10,000, the reserves can only be 5000.

And what other question did you have?

CALLER: Milosevic or Karadzic's son.

SCHOOK: Ah. Sasa Karadzic has given several interviews since his release from NATO. He is home with his mother and sister and his wife. And he was treated very, very well. We had the International Red Cross that came in. I don't know what else to tell you on Sasa Karadzic.

Q: (inaudible)...

MODERATOR: This was the second question, on the entities.

Q: Is there any conciliation? (inaudible)...?

SCHOOK: Here's how I would answer that question, and I'll go back to what I said in my opening remarks. I think it's a significant move by all the entities under the current structures of Dayton to sign this draft law because what it does is it lays out a single military force, a single budget, a single MOD owned by the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Now, I'll add one other thing under that. This is significant for a lot of reasons, but the first reason I would give you is, it creates a sense of security within Bosnia-Herzegovina. Why? Well, if you don't have the entity armies and you've now created a state army it's a different set of security conditions than what existed prior. And our latest polling shows up to 40 percent are concerned about security still.

Number two, it further stabilizes the region. It has impact on the neighbouring countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Now so I think I've answered your question, but I am not going to put a vision out of the SDS, SDA and HDZ of what Bosnia-Herzegovina's going to look like when it's all done, but I can tell you that this step is huge in a direction for creating a secure environment, a safe environment and one, quite frankly, where they become a provider of security apparatus to the world needs, versus a consumer.

MODERATOR: Shall we go to Leon, please.

Q: Leon Bruneau, Agence France-Presse. Back to the arrest of the Karadzic son. He was arrested on the presumption that he had specific knowledge related to the PIFWCs...

SCHOOK: Related to his father.

Q: His father obviously. And then of course he was released ten days later. So I don't know all the details of this. I didn't follow it very specifically, but I mean, did he have, in fact, direct knowledge? I mean, where does that stand?

SCHOOK: I will give you the... and I probably should have started... I'll give you the standard answer that I give in news conferences and press conferences in Bosnia-Herzegovina. By the way, this is much different than in Sarajevo.

I will not get into operational details, and I will not get into what we learned or didn't learn with respect to that detention. It's, in my estimation, in my belief, it's still a current operation.

MODERATOR: Mark. Yeah, yeah, it's okay. (inaudible)...

Q: Augustin Palokaj, I work for Koha Ditore in Kosovo and Jutarnji list in Croatia. Again on Karadzic and Mladic. We know that NATO is not running operation SFOR anymore and this is now up to European Union forces. How is your cooperation with EU on the ground regarding search for fugitives? And because I got impression that listening you that you hope because the circumstances are changed that the time will bring Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague, but I didn't hear any concrete plan or the fact you are planning to do during this year to arrest those two. Because the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte is very critical for the job that was not done in Bosnia in last ten years, let's say, from NATO troops.

SCHOOK: My last two meetings with Carla Del Ponte have been absolutely wonderful. First let me answer the question with respect to NATO and EU for co-existing and having an interest in PIFWCs together.

In the NAC today one of the things I talked about was the relationship between NATO and EUFOR in all areas. And what I would tell you is the same thing I told the NAC today and that is, there is not a more professional, effective relationship in Sarajevo than that what exists between EUFOR and NATO Headquarters Sarajevo. And in my estimation it is a work relationship that works very well. It is not competitive. David Leakey and I are joined at the hip. We meet frequently. All operations with respect to PIFWCs we coordinate and synchronize together and leverage each other's capabilities.

So I can't characterize it any different than I have.

What was the other question with Mladic and Karadzic? It's been a long day. I'm usually better at remembering these questions, but I apologize.

Q: The plan during the rest of the year, any operation and criticism of Carla Del Ponte that you... NATO...

SCHOOK: No, I have no criticism of Carla Del Ponte. In fact...

Q: She has a criticism for the role of NATO until now.

SCHOOK: She has in the past, but recently I think she's been pretty positive. First of all, and I won't speak for EUFOR, but NATO, and I believe EUFOR, we will continue to aggressively pursue Mladic and Karadzic and we have not stopped. And I apologize if my opening statement led you to believe otherwise, and I'm not going to get into what we are doing in exact operations, but I can tell you we're very, very busy.

But I will tell you the reason I spent the time I did on describing how the conditions have changed, is that when fugitives have institutional support they are very difficult to capture. And the efforts of NATO and EUFOR have done a great job of eroding and/or eliminating much of that institutional support, number one.

Number two, because of the efforts and the change of conditions of Banja Luka and Belgrade, I am very optimistic, very optimistic that we can end this chapter with respect to Mladic and Karadzic. I don't know how else to answer the question, but that's how I see it. So yes, we are still participating vigorously.


Q: Mark John from Reuters. You mentioned the very positive and political and atmospheric conditions concerning Mladic and Karadzic now. Is there still anything more that the Bosnian-Serb authorities could or should be doing, or are they doing absolutely everything in your judgement?


Q: And the second thing is, how is this change in the conditions, how is it affecting your role, the role of NATO in PIFWC operations? Have you kind of adjusted strategies and perhaps you can tell us something about that.

SCHOOK: Yeah, okay, same question I'm going to tell you just up front and honest, we have changed, but I'm not going to get into details on how. But we have. And we have changed in how we deal with the RS MUP special police and I'll leave it at that. That's as far as I'll go on that.

What was the first one?

MODERATOR: How the conditions....

Q: And what more do you want the Bosnia-Serb (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: Okay, okay. First of all, I would grade... I will talk only specifically Republika Srpska because that's where I'm at. Up till April I was very encouraged of the efforts of Minister of the Interior Matijasevic and those RS MUP special police that were working for him. Up till April.

Since April, in my conversations with the authorities of Republika Srpska I am not as happy and it's because there's been no good transparent effort. Now recently there has been a couple of operations he conducted that I've been very happy about. But I guess what I would characterize it is that Minister Matijasevic has not been as aggressive and used the full capabilities of the Minister of the Interior to aggressively and actively seek the remaining PIFWC as he can be.

And I am hopeful that he will jumpstart what they had going up until April again, and be much more aggressive and use the full capabilities they have.

Q: Can you be a little bit more specific? I know it's difficult, but you're talking in generalities at the moment. I think it would be useful to (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: Well, I would characterize what they had done up to April as voluntary surrenders. It is now time to use the full apparatus of the government to go after people who are not going to voluntarily surrender. That's what I'm looking for, and that's as specific as I'll get.

MODERATOR: Okay, anymore questions? Last one, um. You agree.

SCHOOK: Yeah, sure.

Q: Nick Fiorenza, Jane's. I have a couple of questions. First of all, when you talk about the reforms being palatable for NATO, you're talking about eventual... I guess membership of Partnership for Peace, or even maybe NATO membership. When do you expect Bosnia to be ready for PfP membership?

I also had a specific question about one of the points you made about the regimental system. How does that help... how is that palatable for NATO? I thought that most NATO countries don't have regimental systems.

And a detailed question about these newspaper ads on PIFWCs. Who placed those ads?

And finally...

MODERATOR: This is enough for the General, if you don't mind.

Q: Sorry, just a quick one. Under Berlin Plus are you still supporting the EUFOR, or was Berlin Plus only used for the initial appointment?


MODERATOR: Berlin Plus, Berlin Plus?

SCHOOK: I'll start with Berlin Plus. Yeah, that's the one I remember. First of all, Berlin Plus was a resounding success with respect to the NATO EU force stand-up. In fact, I would point out to Sarajevo as one of the shining examples of how well these two great institutions can coexist.

So from where I sit, Berlin Plus was a huge success.

Now, part of the Berlin Plus arrangement gets into things like, since we both occupy Camp Butmir, now do we fund and run Butmir. I mean, there's nothing... someday over beer I could tell you some great stories, but you get down to what's the proper split in funding, who's going to run the camp, who's going to secure the camp.

So under Berlin Plus David Leakey and I would close the door after the staffs, we'd go back and forth and we would sit down and say okay, here's what we're going to do. And for example, on Butmir the majority of the funding comes from EUFOR, because it's a larger force structure and it occupies more space and uses more service contracts. NATO continues to run Butmir because it had in place the contract people and stuff like that was already there. It didn't make sense to undo that, and since we had it, we're still there. So under Berlin Plus there's a shared responsibility, for example, where we live. And we're both very comfortable with how that worked out.

Now obviously if NATO didn't remain behind all of that would belong to EUFOR. So I guess what I'd tell you is that Berlin Plus got us to where we are, and Berlin Plus allows us to continue to move on.

MODERATOR: A question on the regimental system. Right?

SCHOOK: Yeah, first of all, I disagree with your characterization that most NATO nations don't have a regimental system. Most NATO nations, and I don't know I'd have to sit there and count them up, but several NATO nations that I can name off the top of my head have some form of a regimental system.

And what a regimental system provides is a system to preserve history in the lineage. That's it. It has no operational capability. It has no influence on the day-to-day operations. In fact, it can do nothing without the operational commander's permission. And it's in addition to, rather than part of the current military force.

What the regimental system allowed was the preservation of some form of the history and lineage of the entitles that make up this one army. And so that's the best way I can describe the role of the regimental system within the single military force.

Now I think the other question had to do with the NATO question. The first thing I will tell you, any NATO membership issue is a NAC decision. It isn't Bosnia-Herzegovina's decision. It certainly is not Schook's decision. What we tried to do, through coordination with the IS staff is if we're going to do this legislation and create this single military force, let's do close contact and coordination, so that as we design it we run the design back DPP, and we go is this NATO compatible or not? And there was a great amount of effort to do that.

The real issue begins with this PfP and NATO business though; is Mladic and Karadzic. Once Mladic and Karadzic is in then we can begin the potential PfP process.

I would asses the force structure and where they are now, under the requirements for PfP all but met, except for Karadzic and Mladic for PfP. So...

Q: That's (inaudible)...

Q: Who was paying for the ads?

SCHOOK: I'm sorry?

Q: Who is paying for the ads?

SCHOOK: For the?

Q: Who is paying for the ads in the papers. Asking...

SCHOOK: Oh, I can't answer that. I can't answer that.


MODERATOR: (inaudible)...

SCHOOK: But you're welcome to go to the major publications in Banja Luka and Pale and ask them the question. The fact that those papers ran them is huge.


SCHOOK: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. I hope I've given you some information.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

SCHOOK: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

SCHOOK: Hopefully I'll survive another day. Thanks.


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