Updated: 27 May 1999 Morning Briefings


27 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I delayed coming this morning because I understand that several of you were held up at the main entrance because of a demonstration so I am glad that the security were able to get you in finally and it is good to see you.

I believe that you have all, by now, received our overnight update, you have seen that this was an extensive night of operations last night, indeed with a record 741 sorties, but as you have the list I don't think I need to delay you by going back over it.

The only thing I would like to tell you is that the Force Generation Conference at SHAPE is going to be on Tuesday now, not Monday, Tuesday. You should not read any significance into that. It's simply the time that is required to organise this Force Generation Conference in the way that we want to, so it will be on Tuesday, June 1st and not on Monday the 31st now. Having said that I think I will go straight into your questions today.

John: Jamie, two questions. First of all, what does NATO think about the impending announcement that President Milosevic is a war criminal? And secondly, do you have any comment on the report in The Times, The London Times, today that President Clinton is planning to send 90,000 troops to the Kosovo campaign and is that in line with current NATO policy?

Jamie Shea: John, on the first question I am really not going to speculate on what the Tribunal may or not announce at 2 p.m. That is not for me to speculate on and I am not going to do it. The Tribunal is an independent body, it takes its own decisions. All I want to say is that NATO fully supports the Tribunal. We co-operate with it closely, as we have demonstrated in Bosnia, and NATO Allies all recognise their obligation under International Law to co-operate with the Tribunal, but let's wait for the Tribunal to make its announcements and when the announcement has been made there will be further comment at that time. But not now, so please don't try to draw me into this because I am not going to be drawn. The Tribunal makes its own announcements.

On the other question, I saw this report in The Times this morning but I am not aware of any change in NATO policy. The United States, along with the other Allies, is preparing for a peacekeeping force, that peacekeeping force is not 90,000, it's about 45,000 with some logistics units on top and that is not an invasion force, it's a Peace Implementation Force. So I don't know where that report comes from but it doesn't reflect anything that I am aware of.

John: Could I just ask one supplementary on that? Without commenting on whether or not Milosevic will be indicted today as a war criminal, were he to be indicted, would NATO have any obligation to try to arrest him?

Jamie Shea: Now that's a speculative question John and thanks for trying but I am not going to be drawn on that. I'll comment later on today in the regular press briefing once the Tribunal has made its announcement.

Mark Laity, BBC: Just on the overnight stuff, just one point. Are we going to get our fairly regular daily, weekly up-sum which has tended to be on Thursday? I don't know if one is planned from General Jertz? And make the distinction: when you talk about 308 strike sorties, that doesn't mean 308 aircraft dropped weapons, it means that 308 aircraft were assigned to fly strike missions, and they may have found a target and hit it or they may not have and flown home and it would still be a sortie?

Jamie Shea: Oh, yes, Mark, because I don't think we have given you 308 targets on the list, so clearly those are the aircraft which absolutely, you are quite right, have been assigned to strike missions, but again they strike the target only if the pilots are certain that the operational conditions allow them to strike the target accurately.

Mark: So is there any sense in which targeting is getting harder in the sense that finding targets as you've destroyed other ones, that to actually hit targets especially in Kosovo is actually getting more difficult and that more aircraft may be returning home with their weapons because they haven't found anything to strike?

Jamie Shea: No, that's not the case. SACEUR, as you know, came up to the Council yesterday and he made absolutely clear that we are not running out of targets. I specifically remember him saying that. It is clear also from the nightly operations with the large number of targets destroyed, degraded, struck, that appear on the list every day, that we clearly are not having any shortage whatever. Milosevic has a lot of military capability, it's clear and therefore there are a lot of things in Kosovo and elsewhere in Yugoslavia that we can go after. Where we strike targets for a second time, it's either because they are in very large complexes and therefore as you can see in some of the military compounds there are a lot of buildings and one night you strike one building, the next night another building and, as we have always made clear, Yugoslavia has some experience of reconstitution. Air defences are repaired, runways are repaired. As in the case of the Ministry in Belgrade, the Interior Ministry, which we struck on a second occasion it was because we saw equipment being moved back in and because of an underground bunker system and it is therefore a question of striking new targets of which there are plenty but also making sure that those targets that need to be degraded, and which can be repaired, remain degraded.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: Is there any chance that some of the strengthened KFOR, is there any chance that some of that would have to go and be forward based in Albania instead of Macedonia, for reasons of space, if nothing else?

Jamie Shea: This is something which we will look at, Doug, when the Force Generation has taken place and when SHAPE have a better idea on deployment timetables. We will look at national deployment decisions. As you know, France and the UK both announced an increase in their contribution to KFOR yesterday, but the bulk of the force is in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and we will first have to have consultations with the government in Skopje to see just how many of the greater enabling force it's willing to accommodate and in the light of that, if there's a need to have them elsewhere. But I have no doubt that the countries in the region will continue to show the co-operation with us that they have thus far.

Pierre: Le commandement de l'Alliance a-t-il transmis des preuves des exactions de Milosevic au TPI ou ses oprations de transmission de preuves ont t faites pays par pays de l'Alliance?

Jamie Shea: C'est la deuxime option. L'Alliance en tant que telle ne dispose pas d'une intelligence autonome. L'intelligence, le renseignement plutot, excusez-moi, le renseignement c'est quelque chose que nous recevons de nos capitales et je sais que plusieurs Allis ont dj transfr des renseignements, des preuves, l'IT et continueront de le faire. Nous avons non seulement une obligation de cooprer avec le Tribunal mais galement une obligation de fournir les informations dont nous disposerons qui pourraient constituer des pices conviction au Tribunal et les Alis sont parmi les pays les plus actifs au monde dans ce domaine.

Pierre: C'est pays par pays?

Jamie Shea: C'est pays par pays absolument. L'OTAN en tant que telle n'a pas un renseignement autonome propre, mais bien sr nous encourageons nos pays a transfrer les informations, les renseignements, dont ils disposent.

Alex: Jamie, does the fact that the number of sorties seems to be going up and up now, does that reflect just weather or are there other factors as well here?

Jamie Shea: Two things really, Alex. First of all, yes the weather certainly, we have never hidden the importance of meteorology in this whole operation and certainly as I said yesterday we now are in the most favourable period weather-wise that we have been in since the beginning of the operation in terms of good weather, predicted more or less for the next two weeks without interruption. Hopefully the meteorologists have got it right. Secondly, it also reflects the increasing number of aircraft available to the Commanders. You have seen in recent days new A10s being transferred, you have seen a number of F16s and F15Es going into Hungary, extra tanker aircraft, and we have also been able to open up new bases in the region, putting planes in Turkey, and as planes have been transferred to Turkey this has allowed extra aircraft to bed down in Italy, also the use of Hungary, the conclusion of air space agreements with Romania and Bulgaria, which have also of course allowed SHAPE to operate a 360 degree spectrum around Yugoslavia, and that also explains the increased momentum of operations.

Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV: Do you have any fresh information where we stand on the diplomatic front, especially after the yesterday for example? I know it is in large part confidential, but could you at least assess the trend according to the NATO view?

Jamie Shea: I don't, George, have any privileged insights into the talks in Moscow, they are going on today, as you know, this morning with President Ahtisaari, Strobe Talbott and Viktor Chernomyrdin. I think the fact that these talks are going on so intensively obviously is an encouraging sign that we are concentrating on the real issues and we have to wait and see what is going to come out of those talks, but we are very strongly behind this diplomatic process, again on the basis of the five conditions that we have highlighted.

Question: Russia has been taking an active part in these diplomatic efforts, but they are showing signs of frustration. If they were to pull out, what would that mean for the whole diplomatic effort?

Jamie Shea: Again, that is a speculative question because they haven't pulled out, they remain engaged, talks are going on in Moscow and we very much want those talks to go on, and of course not only Mr Chernomyrdin, but yesterday the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Ivanov, was in Stockholm meeting the UN Secretary General. So no, I think Russia wants to be part of this process, I don't believe Russia wants to be on the outside, and therefore even though the talks may be difficult as we come to a common position, the fact is that people are engaging and that is what counts.

Julie: You said yesterday that General Clark had made it clear to the Ambassadors that the air campaign is going to do the job. There are reports out of Washington that General Clark has also indicated that there may be a possibility that the air campaign alone won't guarantee the objectives of the Alliance. Has SACEUR briefed NAC at all on the possibilities, on the options, what would be involved in a land offensive, and can you confirm that slides were actually shown to them on Friday that laid out some of these possibilities, if not to push a land offensive but at least to focus the mind of the NAC on the possibility?

Jamie Shea: As I have always made clear, NATO keeps all of the options on the table, we have plans for all eventualities and those plans have not been torn up and thrown away. But having said that, it is SACEUR's view, and it is the view of all NATO governments, that the air campaign is working, it is increasingly effective, and provided it is maintained with the same intensity, with the same unity, it will produce the results that we want with the Yugoslav forces being forced to withdraw. And as I have said, the whole focus of our planning at the moment is not on an invasion force but on a Peace Implementation Force, and there we are moving ahead expeditiously. So nobody is asking for any change of strategy. The whole view of the Alliance is that the present strategy, providing we stick with it, is going to do the job. We haven't gone into any other scenarios.

Julie: You don't have to push a change of strategy to present other options. Has the General presented other options to the NAC?

Jamie Shea: No, he hasn't presented other options to the NAC, we have not gone into any detailed discussion of any other option apart from pursuing the current strategy, which we are all committed to.

Question: Jamie, I would like to stick to this Peace Implementation Force. You mentioned the number of 45,000 troops, but we haven't heard anything about the material, about tanks and whatever is going in there with the troops. Can you elaborate on that?

Jamie Shea: You know I have used the phrase, which is wholly mine, the Teddy Roosevelt force, in other words it will speak softly, it will be impartial, it will be nice to people but it will carry a big stick, in other words that it will be willing to fight, it will be willing to defend itself, it will be willing to pursue its mandate robustly if necessary. And of course we are going to make sure that force is adequately equipped. I can't comment on the details yet because that will depend on the Force Generation Conference and SACEUR's status of requirements which is being circulated to nations today. But if you look at the enabling force which we have predeployed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I believe there are 16 Leopard 2 tanks which the German contingent has, I don't have the number of British tanks but these numbers are publicly available and it clearly shows that this is not a force with side arms only, it will have robust equipment. We have learned the lesson that the better equipment you have, the less chance that any of it will ever have to be used or fired in anger. And certainly yes as I say in terms of helicopter support, air support, heavy armour, this will be a very robust force indeed. We do not consider that Kosovo is going to be an easy environment to operate in. Even if the Serb forces are withdrawn, we know that there are a lot of weapons, we know that there is a law and order vacuum, has been for some time, there is obviously a great residual element of bitterness and we want that force to be able to cope with all contingencies, and so it will be a heavily armed force.

Question: Can they count on, for instance, the Apaches?

Jamie Shea: That I don't know, that will depend on obviously what the US government wants to do with the Apaches, in conjunction with the Peace Implementation Force. I don't believe the decision has been made. But if you look at SFOR in Bosnia, which is our existing Peace Implementation Force, you will see that it has a lot of helicopter support, it has a lot of heavy armour and the fact that we have never lost one single soldier in SFOR due to any violent hostility shows that that kind of approach works.

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