Updated: 23 April 1999 NATO Speeches


23 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
and Colonel Konrad Freytag, SHAPE

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea Colonel Freytag and I have had the habit of giving these briefings at NATO headquarters for the last four weeks but we have transferred them here to Washington for the duration of this summit. We'll brief you every day although the time might vary just a little but essentially in the morning around 10 o'clock through to Monday, the last briefing on Monday when we depart once again for Brussels and on Tuesday we will resume the 3 o'clock Kosovo update from Brussels. It is good to see you all and I recognise some familiar faces in the audience.

Colonel Freytag, from SHAPE, will give you the military operational update in a few moments but first and foremost, I'd like to convey to you a sense of the meeting that began this morning at 9.15 of Heads of State and Government which is entirely this morning devoted to Kosovo and the way ahead in resolving the Kosovo crisis. I listened to about five or six speakers before leaving the meeting to come and join you here.

There will be a clear message from this meeting, that much is not in doubt, a meeting of resolve and determination by all 19 allies to see this through no matter how difficult nor how long it takes.

We know what Milosevic is up to and we are not going to let him get away with it. Milosevic wants to have Kosovo under Serb domination in Yugoslavia, he wants to ethnically re-engineer that portion of his territory and throw out if not all at least a major part of the 1.8 million Kosovar Albanians that lived there before the present crisis.

He wants to pick on the weak guys, the neighbouring states like Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that he knows are in a fragile condition and which he believes that he can destabilise either through the weapon of refugees or through the weapon of security threats or by staging demonstrations and other kinds of incidents. We know that he had a carefully premeditated and orchestrated war plan, building up his forces several weeks before the crisis began - at least the new stage of the crisis - organising in a systematic way the deportation now of upwards of 580,000 refugees from Kosovo and a population of internally-displaced persons, in other words persons that are either outside Kosovo or out of their homes inside Kosovo, stretching now almost to the million mark, it's about 960,000. But at the same time, despite this immense onslaught of violence and aggression, what is remarkable is that Milosevic has not achieved those objectives. There are still many Albanians in Kosovo today even if their condition is of course a very preoccupying one.

Secondly, he has not eliminated the UCK; every day more and more people arrive in the region determined to fight Milosevic even if they don't have the weapons or the training to do that successfully but the fact that Milosevic has had to send forces into Kosovo shows that the UCK is still an irritant to him and that even with 40,000-plus troops, he can't succeed in liquidating it altogether and he has not achieved his objective of destabilising the surrounding countries. In fact, the essential difference is that he is now paying a price in terms of the determination of the NATO countries to stop him. At the same time, the VJ forces inside Kosovo under the attack from NATO are increasingly in defensive positions.

The essential message of the meeting today, ladies and gentlemen, will be that we believe our air campaign is on track, it is working, it has done a lot but there is still a lot more that it can do and our focus will be on identifying the ways to make it as optimally effective as it can be.

What are our successes so far? Firstly, we have degraded substantially Belgrade's military machine in Kosovo, we have cut off those Kosovo forces from external re-supply; all of the main lines of communication between Yugoslavia and Kosovo are now inoperative. We have put a ring of steel of NATO military forces around the borders of Kosovo in Albania and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia which will make it much harder for Milosevic to threaten those countries, we have given them security assurances that we will stand by them in whatever circumstances; NATO countries have provided them with economic aid for their refugees and for their economic situation. We are preventing Milosevic from infecting the entire region with his virus of nationalism.

Now we need to go a step further, we need to reinforce the strategic isolation of Yugoslavia and break Milosevic's will to resist. This will mean in particular degrading very significantly and damaging the essential instruments of power on which that regime rests and has rested for the past decade, most notably the enormous numbers of special police and paramilitaries and the propaganda machine. We need to isolate Kosovo tactically and isolate Yugoslavia strategically. We need to show Milosevic that time is on our side, not his side, that he can't hope to ride out the air campaign, that he cannot hope to at least achieve partially his objectives and to come out of this looking like a winner and that he cannot weaken NATO. Milosevic must see that NATO is not an old-fashioned coalition of powers easily divided but that it is an alliance based on certain principles and values and that the more we are provoked the stronger rather than the weaker we become.

So the message of the meeting today is that there is no need to change the strategy. That strategy is working, it is the only one that in a reasonable time-frame can achieve the objectives of degrading, disrupting the forces in Kosovo and at the same time restricting the ability of Milosevic to re-supply those forces from elsewhere in Yugoslavia. There is no quicker or more feasible option on the table at the present time.

NATO is becoming stronger, we have 690 aircraft now in the theatre, we have 20 ships - that is double the numbers that we had at the beginning of this operation. We have achieved air superiority in the mid- to high-altitudes, we have significantly damaged the integrated air-defence system of Yugoslavia, we have destroyed 70 aircraft, we have shot down 5 in direct air-to-air interceptions. We have destroyed 40 per cent of the SAM-3 facilities of Yugoslavia, 25 per cent of the SAM-6 missile systems; the petroleum, oil and lubricant stocks are largely destroyed, 70 per cent of them for military purposes and 25 per cent of the fuel storage capabilities. Milosevic's capacity to refine crude oil has also been destroyed.

On three occasions, because of fuel shortages, operations in Kosovo have been cancelled by the Yugoslav army. We have only moderately degraded so far the command, control and communications network but we continue to strike it hard and we have interdicted lines of communications and destroyed command posts. In fact, last night, the last 24 hours are a good sample of the impact that we are now starting to have: we managed to destroy one artillery battalion, a column of troops, 23 vehicles, 6 tanks and one field command post inside Kosovo so, contrary to what has been alleged on occasions, we are not simply hitting fixed installations in Yugoslavia, we are bringing the pressure to bear increasingly on those forces inside Kosovo itself.

But there are three things that we still need to do and that is currently the focus of the meeting of Heads of State and Government just a few yards away from here.

The first thing is that we need to continue to augment our capabilities to strike hard in Kosovo itself, the Apaches that are now arriving in Albania will be operational shortly and will give us a very good capability but we also need further reconnaissance intelligence support aircraft as well. We want to take the fight directly to Milosevic's forces.

The second thing that we are needing to do and will do is to directly strike at the very central nerve system of Milosevic's regime. This of course are those assets which are used to plan and direct and to create the political environment of tolerance in Yugoslavia in which these brutalities can not only be accepted but even condoned. You have seen in that respect in the last three nights that three very high-value targets have been struck - the party headquarters in Belgrade, one of Milosevic's bunker systems in the suburbs and last night the headquarters of the RTS Serb television. In other words, there will be no sanctuary for those aspects of the regime which are spreading hatred and creating this political environment for repression.

The third thing that we need to do is to strengthen and tighten the isolation of Milosevic in the world as a whole, we need to separate him from his outside sources of support. There must be no soft underbelly where Milosevic can get through the back door what we are denying him through the front door and of course in this respect we are very concerned to cut off the supplies of refined oil to Yugoslavia which are very necessary of course for his military activities and as you know, there are several international efforts under way at the moment to have an embargo on those oil deliveries. And we are determined to screen humanitarian deliveries of aid to Yugoslavia to ensure that they do not contain military products or oil for his military machine. With these three measures, we can not only tighten the screw but hasten the moment when we become successful.

At the same time, we continue to do our utmost to deal not just with Milosevic's brutality but with the victims of that brutality in the efforts that we are making for the refugees, for the humanitarian relief operations in Albania and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This is a truly sterling effort; we started cold, we had to rush troops there very quickly, we had to set up refugee camps, we had to repair roads, we had to build field medical hospitals, we had to unload aircraft and we had to improve airports so they could operate 24 hours a day but this shows the truly remarkable flexibility and rapidity with which NATO can now operate and we have delivered 11,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, 85,000 tonnes of shelter equipment for refugees, 716 tonnes of medicine just in the last few weeks.

So what is my conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, before I hand over to Colonel Freytag?

The fact is that Milosevic has a high tolerance for damage, we have to accept that, he is a dictator and dictators have large military machines, dictators tend to be tough nuts to crack, we need perseverance and we need patience but because this may take longer than shorter does mean that doing it is any less necessary or inevitable.

NATO has an obligation to be successful, quite frankly, and every Head of State at the meeting that I've just come from has made that point. We cannot afford to lose this one. We have invested simply too much time, too much effort and too many resources to settle for anything less than our five fundamental objectives. If Milosevic is allowed to defy the international community and get away with this, it would not only be a terrible injustice to his victims, the Kosovar Albanians, but it wouldl also be a very major setback to all of our efforts to build a new European security order based on democratic values, it would be not simply an affront to NATO and what we stand for but to the United Nations and to the entire international community. It would get the 21st century off to probably an even worse beginning than the 20th century. That is a nightmarish scenario and nobody in NATO is prepared to let that happen.

Konrad Freytag: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! NATO's military forces have conducted air strikes against the power structure of President Milosevic, other important strategic targets and military staging areas and once again, all our aircraft returned safely.

Let me begin with briefly covering NATO's efforts during the present refugee crisis in Albania and Fyrom:

Since 30 March, NATO soldiers, sailors and airmen continued to carry out a humanitarian operation of major scope and proportion. You see on the screen the figures that Jamie has already mentioned. During the last 24 hours, 19 aid flights arrived in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia delivering 93 tonnes of food and water and 5 tonnes of medical supplies; 28 aid flights arrived in Albania delivering among other urgent supplies 11 tonnes of food and water. So much for the humanitarian aspects.

Now I turn to the Serbian ground operations. The map gives you an impression of the Serb forces' activities that are being conducted, mainly counter-insurgency operations against the UCK. Offensive operations are also ongoing along the Albanian border in west and south-west Kosovo with the aim of interdicting and harassing the UCK re-supply effort. Serbian forces are also setting up defensive positions around key towns and lines of communication. Small units have been observed re-deploying into hiding positions in south Kosovo. UCK units in Kosovo are conducting hit-and-run tactics against Serb fielded forces.

Now a word on Prevlaca (phon). The situation between the Serb military and Montenegro police in the demilitarised zone on the Prevlaca peninsula remains contained but tense, the Montenegrian MUP special force are administering the border crossing whilst Serb military forces maintain defensive positions in the zone.

Serb air-defence activity was normal and no fighter activity was observed.

Let me now come to NATO's air operations:

Last night, NATO continued to disrupt the national command network and to degrade the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's propaganda apparatus; our forces struck at the regime leadership's ability to transmit their version of the news and to transmit their instructions to the troops in the field prosecuting their campaign of repression and destruction in Kosovo. The Belgrade television and radio studio, the largest mass media institution in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which orchestrates much of the regime's propaganda programme, was struck. The building also housed a large multi-purpose communications satellite antenna dish. Radio relay control buildings and towers were targeted in the ongoing campaign to degrade the FRY's command, control and communications network.

For this same purpose, two electrical power transformer stations were targeted, one transformer station supplied power to the air-defence co-ordination network while the other supplied power to the northern-sector operations centre. Both these facilities were key control elements in the FRY integrated air-defence system. Let me underline that before targeting these electrical power systems, great care and forethought was taken..facilities such as hospitals would have sufficient uninterrupted power to continue life-sustaining and other essential equipment.

Additionally, Nis airfield, several ammunition depots, the Novi Sad petroleum refinery and several bridges were struck. Reports on these targets are pending.

Last night's strikes do not represent a change in our policy. We are not targeting the Serb people as we repeatedly have stated nor do we target President Milosevic personally, we are attacking the control system that is used to manipulate the military and security forces. Strikes against tv transmitters and broadcast facilities are part of our campaign to dismantle the FRY propaganda machinery which is a vital part of President Milosevic's control mechanism.

Operations against fielded forces in Kosovo also affected by adverse weather conditions, achieved good results, military vehicles, tanks and artillery pieces were successfully targeted in a large assembly area in Kosovo, fuel storage depots and a field command post were also struck.

Finally, a border foot patrol from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia engaged in normal duties stepped on a Serbian land-mine, three soldiers were badly wounded, NATO provided timely medical help and emergency helicopter evacuation they urgently required.

Before I come to the end of my presentation, I have a few images from our recent operations:

The first image is of the last Novi Sad bridge, an important link in the north-south lines of communication before being struck and the next slide is the post-strike photograph on 20 April.

The next image is a pre-strike of Kupria army garrison and here you see the post-strike and this army garrison is the home of the 152nd Mixed Artillery Brigade.

Finally I have a video for you. It is of an attack on the Mur (phon) railroad bridge, one of the main lines of communication re-supplying fielded forces in Kosovo, it was taken on 18 April.

Thank you, this concludes my part of the briefing.

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