Updated: 26 May 1999 Morning Briefings


26 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Let me, as always, just give you the features, the highlights, of the operations overnight. I trust, of course, that you have received as always the written operational update by now. Let me stress that, as last night's activities make clear, the pressure of NATO for compliance continues unabated and our planning for success also proceeds apace. Yesterday , as you know, at the end of the afternoon, the North Atlantic Council approved an expanded concepts of operations for the Kosovo Peacekeeping Peace Implementation Force. This is of course a first step. The process of gathering the forces will take time, because effective military planning among 19 nations has to be done in a deliberate methodical way, but at the same time we are going to move ahead quickly on this. Today the military authorities should be issuing a preliminary status of requirements to NATO nations, which will indicate the number and type of forces that they believe that they are going to require to successfully implement Operation Joint Guardian.

On Monday, SHAPE will convene a preliminary Force Generation Conference, which will be chaired by the Deputy SACEUR, General Rupert Smith, and this Force Generation Conference will be attended by representatives of all 19 Alliance Members, to begin the discussion as to how we meet the essential military requirements for this expanded NATO Peace Implementation Force for Kosovo. And, as I said to you yesterday, the next stage will be to consult with our Partner countries on the operational planning, and in due course, to involve them in the Force Generation, to the extent that they wish to be involved. So, I will of course update you as this whole process proceeds, but as you can see, we are not losing any time. We are getting on with it quickly.

Over the last 24 hours, as you will have noticed, NATO once again established a new record, a new high, for the number of strike sorties flown by the NATO aircraft. The aircraft yesterday flew 650 sorties, conducting 284 specific strike sorties, and another 74 strike sorties designed to suppress the Serb air defence system. So, as you can see, yesterday NATO aircraft brought really all of their capabilities together, their combined weight together, to bear against Belgrade's forces responsible for the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. These extensive strikes yesterday included strikes against 15 artillery positions, 6 mortar emplacements, 5 tanks, a surface-to-air missile launcher, and an anti-aircraft artillery position, as well as several other military revetments.

At the same time, in the way to which you have become, I suppose, accustomed by now, we continued to also strike at strategic targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia that are responsible for controlling, supporting, and sustaining the ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo itself. We had a second strike yesterday against the command and control bunker at the Dobonovci Presidential Villa complex and we attacked additional targets in that complex, notably support buildings for the command and control bunker. We also attacked a depot in Belgrade used by the MUP Special Police Forces that are responsible, it must be said, for the most brutal activity in Kosovo. We also struck, as you have seen, TV and radio relay sites, both stations and transmitters, at five different locations including in Belgrade and we attacked army barracks at 4 locations, ammunition dumps at 3 sites, fuel storage areas at 3 sites, an air defence command post at Novi Sad, a command post in Pristina, as well as numerous other targets that are too numerous for me to mention here, but which are of course listed for you in the morning update. So, I think those are the essential features of overnight.

Just a few extra pieces of information for you. The North Atlantic Council is meeting at the moment. We have just had a meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Tarschys, in which Kosovo has been discussed, particularly the respective roles of NATO and the Council of Europe in a peace strategy for Kosovo after the violence is over, in which obviously the Council of Europe has a role to play in the field of human rights and the development of democratic institutions, particularly legal and constitutional matters, where it has already actively assisted the Rambouillet Peace Talks by providing expert advice on constitutional arrangements. So, we are very grateful to Mr. Tarschys for coming here today to brief us on his thinking and in a few moments, at 11.30 a.m., SACEUR will be briefing the Ambassadors, in the way that he does virtually every week, on the progress of the operation answering questions and looking ahead. That, I think, is the main thing on the agenda for today.

Tomorrow, NATO is going to be represented at a senior level at the Stability Pact Conference in Bonn. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Mr. Don McConnell, will be there with the NATO team, and I will be obviously reporting to you on the contribution that NATO intends to make towards the long-term reconstruction of the south-east European area, particularly in the field of security, after the Bonn Conference. But that is very important as far as we are concerned. As I always emphasise, NATO is not simply interested in fighting the conflict. We are even more interested in building the peace that will follow. That's the entire objective of what we are doing, and we have got plenty of ideas, which I discussed with you, you will recall, last Friday, as to how we can help with our expertise, with our Partnership for Peace, with our bilateral and multilateral security discussions on arms control, on confidence-building measures, in promoting military transparency, military co-operation and stability amongst the states of the region. So that's where we are, and now I will take your questions.

Alex: Jamie, could you just update us on the status of the visit and search regime?

Jamie Shea: Yes, the visit and search regime has been approved by the NATO Council. The military authorities have now been asked to provide a recommendation on rules of engagement - in the NATO jargon that is called a "roreq" - and that will be coming in in the next couple of days and as soon as the rules of engagement have been approved the visit and search regime will get under way in the Adriatic in a pre-designated zone. Certain NATO ships, particularly from the standing NATO Force Atlantic, are currently reassigned to the Adriatic to provide the extra Naval capabilities that we require for that regime. So, it will be under way soon. The Council is also designating the ports in the region that we will be using to inspect the vessels that need to be inspected, so that is the status there.

John: Could you just remind us of what the planned rules of engagement would be for a ship from a country which hasn't signed up to the oil embargo, whether NATO would try to forcibly board such a ship? And in your introduction you were talking about the establishment of a NATO peace implementation force, at what stage would such a force expand beyond the19 nations?

Jamie Shea: First of all, John, I can't comment on the specific rules of engagement for a very simple and very honest reason. We haven't got them from SHAPE yet. SHAPE have now been requested to provide them and, of course, until they are approved by Ambassadors, I can't tell you what they are. But the visit and search regime is a voluntary regime, in other words, NATO ships will be inspected to the extent that their countries have agreed to participate in this regime. But let me stress that this visit and search regime will be of course subject to review, we will see how it goes, and if there is need to change the basic modus operandi in the light of experience, then that is something which NATO Ambassadors will consider. But we expect a wide participation and we will be, as I have said earlier, appealing to other countries to agree to be part of this visit and search regime, particularly as a number of countries have agreed to implement an oil embargo against Yugoslavia, and so we hope that they will also be willing to participate in that visit and search regime. But it will operate on a voluntary basis. Having said that, let me also state that we are very concerned that other partner countries of ours should take steps to make sure that the Danube is not used for illicit trafficking of oil supplies to Serbia. It is very important that the oil which is not flowing in any longer through the front door should not reach Belgrade by the back door either.

On the other question about the peace implementation force we, as I have said, are going to open up the force to participation by Russia, other partner countries, as you have seen us doing in SFOR successfully. In fact, in SFOR we have now more partner countries involved than NATO countries, the ratio is about 21 - 19 on the NATO side, so that has obviously been a very useful experience and we want to draw on that experience in conjunction with this KFOR force. And we will be having a meeting very shortly of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council with NATO to brief our partners on the expanded operational plan and at a later stage they will be involved in the force generation process, and I will update you as that proceeds. But as I said yesterday, several of our Partner countries already sometime ago indicated an interest in participating, but stressed that they wanted it to be a NATO-led force because clearly they have an interest in the whole thing being done effectively, they want their forces also to be adequately protected. So we will see how we go on there but I would anticipate a fairly broad response.

Dimitri Khavine: A short one. There was a report on Tanjug Agency about the Yugoslav Army sweeping territory in search of the pilot from a downed Harrier?

Jamie Shea: All I can tell you is that all NATO planes returned safely, so I have got nothing on that. And as I say, if every report from Tanjug on a NATO aircraft being shot down was true, we would actually be looking for a whole new Air Force by now.

La Repubblica: About the peacekeeping force, is there any deadline there? Can we know approximately when the force would be operational and in place?

Jamie Shea: The answer is I can't give you an exact time but it will be a gradual progressive process. It is not a question of one minute there are going to be, as at the moment, just over 14,000 troops in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and next week there are going to be 30 or 40,000, it is not that at all, it was going to be a progressive affair. And there are two aspects here. The first aspect is after the force generation conference has taken place at SHAPE, certain countries may choose to predeploy some of their forces in the region. But again I stress this has to be - and I stress this - subject to agreement with the host counties concerned, obviously. But they can do this, they can predeploy some of their forces and we will see if capitals choose to do so, but I anticipate that some will probably choose to do that. And therefore it will be a progressive increase of forces. At the same time not all of the troops that will be assigned to Operation Joint Guardian will be predeployed in the region. The idea is that a large number should be in order to have a bulk force there, able to enter Kosovo very quickly, as soon as NATO's five conditions have been achieved, to prevent a vacuum and to establish a security presence. For that we need obviously a certain percentage of the force to be deployed in the region. But the other elements, according to the standard NATO procedures will be on standby in NATO countries, readiness to move within a matter of hours and could be quickly transported to the area. So it is not a question of having all of these 45-46,000 troops predeployed, the idea is to have a significant percentage predeployed and the rest will come from the capitals, but this will be, as I say, a progressive affair and will largely depend on how quickly the nations involved can deploy their forces.

Question: First of all I would like to know whether NATO is going to make the force generation for the peacekeeping operation in Albania depend upon the evolution of negotiations with Russia and the other countries within the G8 for a peaceful solution of the Kosovo crisis? And which kind of Naval forces are going to be used for the visit and search regime and who is going to command those forces?

Jamie Shea: This visit and search regime will be under the operational control of SACEUR, as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in the way that the land operations and the air operations are under his command. As you know, we have a single integrated command, but also the direct theatre command will be Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples. So we are not having any different chain of command for the visit and search regime and it will be obviously military ships from NATO countries which will be involved in conducting that visit and search regime.

As for your first question, obviously we are going to synchronise our military preparations with the process on the diplomatic front, which we are watching carefully and in which NATO countries are actively participating, but we still believe that there is a need for the international community to be ready, to do its homework, to be prepared and therefore to make sure that we have in the theatre already the elements for a rapid deployment. We don't know when President Milosevic is going to put up his hand and say I accept the five conditions. It may be sooner than we think. I certainly hope it is. And therefore we at NATO, as you would expect of a serious political military Alliance like ours, we at NATO want to make sure we are ready, we don't want a long lag before the forces can be in, there is going to be a difficult situation in Kosovo that we will need to address on an urgent basis and so we want to make sure that we are ready, and that is why we already have had for several months now 12,000 soldiers in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a number that we have increased to 14,000 and which in the next few days will go up to 16,000. And then as for further deployments, as I say, that is in the hands of the force generation process and the individual decisions by NATO countries. But remember yesterday I quoted the old motto of Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts - Be Prepared - and that is certainly the NATO logo as well.

Question: Did I understand well that the search will start next week? And could you tell us if part of KFOR will be deployed in Albania also?

Jamie Shea: At the moment, again to answer the second question first, the troops which are designed for the peace implementation force are stationed only in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The troops in Albania, either the Americans in the Task Force Hawk with the Apaches, or the 7,000 troops of AFOR are there for totally different missions, totally different missions. One is the humanitarian mission of AFOR, the American one as you know is connected with the air campaign directly, and therefore a new political decision would be required by NATO for those forces to be used for the peace implementation force. At the moment that political decision has not been taken, so their mission remains the same in Albania, and I can't comment yet on the involvement of other countries, that depends on political decisions that will have to be taken over the next few days. So, for the time being, the force for the peace implementation is only in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

As for your first question, I don't know how quickly the rules of engagement for the visit and search regime will come to the Council and be approved by the Council, but I do anticipate that it will be in the next few days and obviously I will keep you informed, as I always do, at least as I hope you think I do.

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