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Updated: 26 May 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ
Brussels

26 May 1999

Press Conference

by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
and Major General Walter Jertz, SHAPE

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea : Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon. Welcome once again to today's briefing. As you know NATO is giving itself the tools to succeed in Kosovo. The first way we are doing this is keeping up the military pressure, and over the last 24 hours NATO has once again established a new record for the number of strikes that it has been able to carry out. Aircraft flew 650 sorties conducting 284 specific strike sorties and another 74 strike sorties against a Yugoslav integrated air defence system. General Jertz is going to give you the full details of that intensive 24 hours of operations, but the weather forecast for the next 2 weeks is for blue skies, and therefore I have every reason to expect that that record will be beaten quickly.

At the same time, yesterday evening as you know, the North Atlantic Council gave itself the second building block of success, because what we must do to succeed is not only win the conflict from the air but build the peace on the ground and yesterday, the North Atlantic Council approved an expanded concept of operations for the Kosovo Peace-keeping Force in which this Alliance is going to have a central role to play. Now the approval of the revised operational plan is of course a first step, albeit a very important one. The process of putting this force together is going to take time, and of course success will depend not simply on numbers, but on efficient, effective military planning.

But we are going ahead, full steam ahead, and the first stage now will be a Force Generation Conference which will be held at SHAPE next Monday, during which the nations will respond to the requirements of the military authorities for a force which will have all of the equipment and all of the units that it needs, and this Force Generation Conference will be chaired by the Deputy SACEUR, General Rupert Smith, and we are counting of course on the allies to be generous in contributing what is going to be needed in that respect.

Finally, I would just like to tell you that today, this morning, the North Atlantic Council had a long meeting, and much of it was spent with General Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander and of course the overall Commander of Operation Allied Force. He gave the Ambassadors his regular update on operations and first of all he gave them a detailed briefing on how this operation is succeeding increasingly in striking at all of the key indicators to put the Yugoslav Army under increasing pressure, that is to say ground forces in Kosovo, command control and communications systems, radio relay sites, supply routes, ammunition storage sites, petroleum storage sites and the electrical power system on which all of those military activities in the last analysis depend.

At the same time SACEUR made it clear through many insights that he shared with Ambassadors, that this is indeed the most precise air campaign in history. And his conclusion was that the Serb forces are now increasingly vulnerable to collapse, but we have to continue until they indeed either do collapse, or President Milosevic decides to avert that eventuality by meeting NATO's five key conditions, but for the details I now turn to General Jertz.

Major General Jertz : Thank you very much Dr Shea. Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. During yesterday's update, I talked about the unrest in the southern area of Serbia. Having failed to suppress the action by persuasion, it appears now that the Yugoslav Army is using stronger armed tactics to keep people quiet. Demonstrations continued in southern Serbia, mostly during the 24th and 25th of May, but only at a reduced level. As Belgrade threatened to crack down protesters reportedly were warned they risked losing their jobs if they continued the rallies. Regional VJ authorities reportedly banned anti-war demonstrations, threatened MUP intervention, and warned reservists that they had to report to their units or face court martial.

NATO aircraft attacked a wide range of targets yesterday, as already has been mentioned, both in Kosovo and in the remainder of Serbia. Over the last 24 hours, NATO flew as already has been mentioned, 650 sorties, summing up to 27,110 sorties, out of which 7,535 sorties have been strike, and 2,487 sorties to suppress enemy air defences.

Our main emphasis remains very clear - attack and destroy military targets in Kosovo. As the weather started to become more favourable yesterday, and the outlook for the next days is very good, we have broadened our attacks against those sources in Kosovo which are responsible for the brutality and repression of the Kosovar Albanians. We struck at least 5 tanks, 6 mortar positions, 15 artillery pieces and other military revetments. A surface to air missile launcher and an anti-aircraft artillery position were successfully attacked. Serb army support and storage areas were struck in and around Kosovo, including a railway tunnel used for military storage near Pristina. We have evidence that Serb forces are making extensive use of rail and road tunnels to hide their military equipment and ammunition. Therefore, we continue to dedicate our reconnaissance in order to identify these essential targets.

In the light of the overall campaign, NATO aircraft also struck strategic targets, concentrating on Serb command and control, leadership propaganda dissemination, including transmission sites near Belgrade and Novi Sad. A newly constructed surface to air missile site near Belgrade was attacked, detected and struck. Damage assessment is still on-going. Other targets attacked are shown on these maps.

During the last few days you have asked several questions regarding reporting NATO attacks against water facilities. I can assure you that we have not targeted Serb water resupplies and water supplies. We have hit the electricity supplies which obviously had some effect on electrically driven water pumping installations. Let me say it very clearly once again. We do not attack civilian targets.

Turning to Serb action on the ground in Kosovo. Most of the observed activities are concentrated in the western part of Kosovo near the Albanian border, to cut off UCK supply routes. Serb artillery again was firing across the border near the villages of Tropoje and Dobrunin. 11 shells were reported, increasing the need to remove refugees away from the border for their own safety. In the area I just mentioned, Serb forces also crossed the Albanian border but only for a short distance and withdrew again.

We also observed Serb military activity near Orahovac. Strong Serb forces concentrated their efforts in this region to clean UCK strongholds. We have no evidence of Yugoslav airforce aircraft flights in the last 24 hours, so obviously our continuing campaign against Serb airfields is successful. We continue to disrupt their repair efforts at these airfields, preventing their ability to carry out fixed wing operations. However, Serb air defence remains active. 12 surface to air missiles were fired yesterday against NATO aircraft, and there was intense anti-aircraft fire. No NATO aircraft were hit, and all NATO aircraft returned safely to their bases, contrary to Serb reports. Belgrade Tanjug reported yesterday that a heavier type aircraft was shot down. This type of disinformation is typical of Milosevic's regime trying not only to convince their population that Serb forces are surviving, even more that they are strong enough to successfully degrade NATO's air capabilities.

I am sure that you are aware of the fact that there are several Serb Internet web-sites publishing official figures on NATO aircraft shot down since the air campaign began. The total aircraft claimed to have been shot down or to have crashed totals75 at the present time, and what I have been told is that he has enough spaces to continue with the numbers.

That completes my portion of the brief.

CNN: The Secretary General said that all NATO's military options remain open. Does NATO have contingency plans in case President Milosevic refuses to back down?

Jamie Shea : First of all, we don't believe that President Milosevic will refuse to back down, we believe that as all of these factors come into play, the degradation of his forces, the growing strategic isolation of his country, the economic pressure, the growing unrest within Serbia itself as war weariness takes hold, that he will accept the five conditions. As I often like to say, it is not a question of if, it is simply a question of when, but he can shorten the when, if he so wishes. But obviously NATO, as a military planning organisation, has plans for everything, that is one of our jobs in normal peace time circumstances to have contingency plans. So yes we do have plans for options, but they are plans, nothing more than that. At the moment we believe, and SACEUR made this clear this morning, that the air campaign is going to do the job that it was intended to do.

The other thing that we are working on, as you know fully well, is the Peace Implementation Force so that we are ready when the time comes to be able to move into Kosovo and secure the province for the return of the refugees. Those are the two priorities and we believe as long as we keep the air campaign going and have our Peace Implementation Force ready, we are going to have the tools to finish the job.

Question: Can you tell us what those contingency plans are?

Jamie Shea : Those contingency plans relate to a number of different ground options, but at the moment they are simply plans in the cupboard, nothing more than that, although those plans are taken out of the cupboard occasionally, dusted down and up-dated in the light of changing circumstances, but this is simply contingency planning. None of these other options, apart from the Peace Implementation Force, have gone beyond the initial planning stage.

Bill Drozdiak (WP) : Does NATO have any rationale or insight into the latest surge in the refugee exodus to Macedonia? Is this being done to further destabilise the state or complete the ethnic cleansing process? What is the best reading you have on that?

Jamie Shea : Good question Bill, it is difficult to know why this is taking place. One theory, you are right, is it could be an effort to destabilise the neighbouring countries, but if this is what President Milosevic wants then it is a failure before he has even begun because we are ready now. In Albania, as you know, Afor forces have helped to build 10 refugee camps, there is plenty of surplus capability there. Yesterday the Afor troops began to move the refugees away from Kukes to those other camps and therefore, and this was clear from the visit of the Albanian Prime Minister yesterday, both his government and we and the international relief organisations are able to cope with that situation.

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the situation there is more difficult because of the lack of excess capability in the camps and that is why today Italian soldiers, under the command of General Jackson, are working at expanding one of the refugee camps there - Stenkovac 2. But again, there are no indications, beyond the humanitarian considerations, that that outflow of refugees is destabilising the neighbouring countries and the evacuation programme to other countries goes on as well. So that hypothesis may be true, but clearly it is not working any more for Milosevic now than it did in the past.

Secondly, he may be trying to create an ethnically pure Kosovo by driving out the entire population. This would be something of almost biblical proportions in trying to displace a population which is not going to the Promised Land, but leaving the Promised Land, and back they will duly go in course. But again it is not clear what his strategy is for Kosovo in the future, and certainly that ethnic cleansing is not something that we are going to tolerate. So even if that were his strategy, again it is not one that is going to work for him.

He may just want to show that he is able to turn the refugee tap on and off almost at will by playing around with the lives of an enormous number of innocent people. He may be trying to deprive the Kosovo Liberation Army of what he considers to be the sort of sea in which the fish swim, that may be another tactic as well, all the better to defeat the Kosovo Liberation Army. But again if that is his tactic there are no great signs that it has been very successful up until now because the Kosovo Liberation Army continues to operate in a number of areas.

So honestly Bill, this is the one time that you really should have an MOD briefing twice a day in Belgrade, like you have two briefings a day here, so that you can ask the Yugoslavs, not me, you are sending the question to the wrong address, but so you can ask the Yugoslavs: What is the great master plan behind this humanitarian tragedy? Because to be honest with you, a lot of intelligent people here have sort of hit their brains against the wall and really are at a loss to explain what the rationale behind all of this is apart from cruelty for cruelty's sake.

Mark Laity (BBC) : If we could look at the issue of the oil embargo. There has been some kind of provisional agreement from the NATO Ambassadors, you said. Is this a sort of de facto recognition that the oil embargo is basically ineffective from the point of view of using force? And can you address the issue, is there anything you can do about the oil supplies on the Danube?

Jamie Shea : Certainly Mark the oil embargo is being effective. It is making it much more difficult for Milosevic to get his oil, it is driving up the price and it is forcing him to make ever more painful choices as to what he does with the barrels of oil that remain, whether he uses those for the civilian sector, for his economy, or whether he gives everything to the military. And those are the kind of painful choices that quite frankly we like him to have at the moment because it is that kind of pressure which will lead him towards NATO's and the international community's five conditions.

Having said that, I have never pretended that this oil embargo could ever be water-tight. There are always, as we know, ways of circumventing embargoes, but at a price, but we are very pleased that a number of countries have signed up to this, but of course we are at the same time watching the situation carefully. The traffic on the Danube in which Serbia could try, or is trying, to send unrefined oil out to get it refined wherever it can and then to bring it back, that is something we are watching very closely. And of course we are appealing, or we are consulting those countries in the region which are also NATO's partner countries, to do what they can to stop this illicit traffic happening. Because anything that keeps Milosevic under pressure shortens the conflict, accelerates the arrival of stability and is therefore in everybody's interest quite frankly.

Our visit and search regime has now been approved by Ambassadors, the rules of engagement will be decided in the next couple of days, that will go ahead and that will be one other screw of the tap into clamping down on the oil supplies.

Freddie Bonnart (NATO's 16 Nations) : You haven't mentioned the diplomatic track. Presumably there isn't particular news on that. But what is the next sequence of negotiations in which NATO is possibly involved.

Jamie Shea : The diplomatic track is going ahead and therefore I should have mentioned it so thank you for giving me the question. As you know, today another important meeting is taking place in Moscow with Mr Chernomyrdin, President Ahtisaari and at the same time the US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott. The frequency of those meetings shows that there is indeed no smoke without fire, that things are moving ahead, and Viktor Chernomyrdin is due to visit Belgrade tomorrow where again I am sure he will take a very firm uncompromising message to President Milosevic. We are preparing for the G8 very soon.

That will be another important juncture, as you know, the Russian Foreign Minister - that is to be in Cologne in a few days time - Mr Ivanov is in Stockholm today meeting with the UN Secretary General, and therefore the international community continues to work together to define the UN Security Council resolution. There's some work to be done, but it's going ahead very well. So in other words, if President Milosevic had hoped that he could sit out not just NATO air strikes but these diplomatic efforts in the hope that they would break down, I think he must be becoming increasingly disillusioned with that expectation, because it is working together.

At the same time, you have seen that NATO unity is strong. You saw this here with Prime Minister Aznar and the UN Secretary General yesterday. You've seen it yesterday in Washington with the Minister Fischer and Secretary Albright meeting, you have seen it this morning in Rome with Foreign Minister Dini and Mr Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and therefore again any hope that NATO would crack apart isn't coming true either. We remain a united Alliance, in fact I could even say that there is as much harmony inside today as in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Andrew: On the one hand you have got this force generation conference on Monday, on the other presumably the composition of Kfor is a matter of discussion also with the Russians. How do these two things work together? Can you sit down at SHAPE and work out just among yourselves what Kfor is going to be without factoring the Russians in?

Jamie Shea : There are two levels here: the first level is at the level of high diplomacy where of course the nature of the Peace Implementation Force, the mandate, the composition, are one of the focus points of these discussions going on in Moscow and in the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution. At the more practical level, as I mentioned, we will be briefing our partners in the next few days on the expanded operational plan and as Russia is a partner country, Russia will be invited to that meeting. We hope very much it will come, it will therefore be briefed and it will therefore have some initial indications as to how our thinking is developing. So we are working if you like the issue from both ends, from the high political end in terms of the mandate, in terms of the composition, but also at the practical force end in terms of inviting Russia to all of the meetings during which NATO's thinking will be discussed.

Andrew: But presumably they are not invited on Monday?

Jamie Shea : Initially we are going to meet with the Allies, this is the usual procedure, but very soon after, sooner than you think, our partners will be briefed and will be drawn into the process, including Russia.

Dimitri Khavine (Russian Line) : Inaudible.

Jamie Shea : We always do these meetings in something called the EAPC format, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Russia has a seat at the table, Russia is invited and I hope Russia will come.

Pierre Bocev (Le Figaro): Back to the oil thing, is NATO planning to do anything on the Danube side, or maybe Black Sea side? And secondly, what is the state of navigation on the Danube, I thought all things had crumbled down there and there was no free waterway any more?

Jamie Shea : No, apparently there is still commercial activity on the Danube. It may be more difficult but it is still, at least according to the information I have, taking place. The Danube is an important international waterway. I think General Jertz has got something he would like to add here.

Major General Jertz : The Danube, using the Danube up to inside Serbia is still open and we know that this is one of the leakages we have where fuel and oil supplies do come along the Danube, and we also know about some leakages coming from Montenegro into Kosovo. So on the Danube side I will not go into more details on that, we are looking very carefully at what is going on there and the measures will be very straightforward.

Pierre Bocev : In the Black Sea too?

Major General Jertz : The Black Sea is out of the question.

Jamie Shea : Pierre, one area where we have had some success is in Bosnia Herzegovina where an agreement between the governments of the Republika Srpska and the Sfor soldiers there has enabled us to more or less clamp down on any illicit cross-border of oil supplies, refined oil supplies, between Bosnia Herzegovina and Yugoslavia. So this is something where we continue to do whatever we can.

Pierre: Vous avez signal tout l'heure qu'il y avait des tirs donc sur l'Albanie, que des troupes serbes ont mme russi pntrer en territoire albanais, alors est-ce que finalement l'Alliance, l'OTAN, a quand mme bombard ces troupes serbes ou est-ce qu'en raison de sa stratgie arienne, elle n'a pas encore les capacits suffisantes pour rpondre ces menaces immdiates?

Major General Jertz : Well first of all of course we would have had the capability to react immediately, but the case I was mentioning was such a short distance that even the Albanians, who have a lot of ground troops in the area, did not react.

Dag: I was wondering if you had any confirmation or comment on reports that Milosevic's close confidente and some say banker, Karic, went to Cyprus yesterday with his wife, but was turned back and sent back to Belgrade. Did they have lots of bags with them? Did they have satchels full of money? Were they trying to flee, do you know?

Jamie Shea : A good question Dag. Yes first of all it does seem, from what I have heard as well, that Mr Karic and his wife yesterday tried to do a runner, if I can use this term, from Belgrade to try to enter Cyprus, only to discover to their great distress that the EU visa ban actually works and that candidate countries for the EU such as Cyprus are applying this. And therefore it was a bit of a busman's holiday for them because they were back in Belgrade quickly. What they were doing there, whether to take money out or put money in, that is something that I don't know. But as you know, Mr Karic is one of President Milosevic's bankers, he is the Minister of Privatisation, although I think that meant basically giving state sponsored enterprises directly to President Milosevic's cronies.

And he has certainly played a role in providing the funds that helped Milosevic come to power at the end of the 1980s and he himself has benefited considerably since then in terms of his own personal wealth from both that privatisation process and his close association with Milosevic. So again it is not clear why he was going. Was it a sign that he believed that it was the moment to leave Yugoslavia? Was he trying to arrange some financial transaction for the benefit of his boss? We don't know. But the good thing is that as these people try to leave they are finding that there are not many safe areas where they are welcome.

Question: As you were speaking on the diplomatic efforts, you didn't mention the new initiative by two NATO members, the Czech Republic or Greece. As it was circulated at the press centre, so it is not a confidential document any more, can you reflect on it and what is the NATO procedure, does it deserve an answer?

Jamie Shea : Yes, as I have said we at NATO have had a lot of different ideas and thinking from NATO members which shows that NATO members are people who have creative minds and want very clearly to see how we are going to manage affairs when we get to the stage of Milosevic accepting the five conditions. We welcome all of these diplomatic efforts, but obviously every ally is in agreement that for the time being - for the time being - while we obviously try to think ahead on the diplomatic front, we have to continue the air campaign and all allies, including the allies you have just mentioned, are fully behind the need for the time being to continue to do what we are doing at the moment, that force is not an alternative to diplomacy but the precondition for the diplomacy working.

Antonio: General, the aim of this campaign was to make President Milosevic accept the five NATO points. If he doesn't, but still in the near future he accepts the UN resolution, can you still consider this from a military point of view a victory for NATO? And Jamie, out of the 800-odd refugees that arrived in Portugal, 15 are gone, the country is nice, the weather is nice, the food too, but they just disappear, they went to Germany I believe or Switzerland. It means that those people went to Portugal not really meaning to go there, they must have some family links in other countries. Does this make the policy of the Alliance concerning the people being sent to some places change, and do you have any other reports of people in the same situation who arrived in one country and decided to go to another one?

Major General Jertz : On the military part, not only we believe but we are pretty sure that our air campaign will succeed because it is inflicting greater and greater damages to his forces in Kosovo, it is inflicting greater damage on his ability to sustain his forces throughout the country, and we do it every day and every night, you know that, I have said it several times. And on the question on is it a victory or not, what is very important for us is that Milosevic agrees to the five points, and for us it is not necessarily a question of victory yes or no, what we want to have is a peace settlement according to what Jamie always mentions, the five points. But I think for the military, victory is not the important word, it is important that we do finish this campaign and have the Kosovars returning to Kosovo.

Antonio: So if he accepts the resolution, it is about the same thing as accepting the five points?

Major General Jertz : Yes.

Jamie Shea : Antonio, I don't know the precise circumstances of these 15, but obviously 785 are perfectly happy to stay in Portugal, and so would I, for the obvious reasons that you know better than anybody. No, there could be a number of reasons for this. For example there could be family ties elsewhere, it could be that they have discovered some uncles or aunts or whatever who are in different countries. The Kosovars are very close in family terms, I think this is something that can be said, so I can't comment. But of course these are refugees and they are free to go, and they don't need a visa, unlike the man we have just been talking about, Mr Karic, who has got millions upon millions of dinars, and dollars and deutschmarks, but who does need a visa. And this reminds me of that old Beatles' song, you know "Money can't buy me love". Mr Karic is now retitling it: "Money can't buy me a visa".

Question: ...et deux jours aprs. Est-ce qu'il y a une discussion propos de cette proposition et comment l'OTAN compte rsoudre le problme du transit par la Grce surtout aprs la dcision d'augmenter ses forces si Athnes va appliquer cette mesure?

Jamie Shea: La coopration de la Grce qui est un Alli loyal et solide de l'Alliance a t tout fait fondamentale dans le dploiement de quelques 14.000 soldats, dont la rpublique ex-Yougoslave de Macdoine .......presque tous ses soldats et leur quipement et leur logistique a transit par le port de Thessaloniki et donc j'ai entendu ces rapports, ces nouvelles, comme vous, mais je ne doute pas que cette coopration trs essentielle dans le dploiement de nos forces se poursuivra donc je n'ai aucun doute l dessus.

John: Jamie, as the negotiations resume today in Moscow, Russia, according to the wires called for an immediate halt to NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia saying that their escalation could destroy the chances of a political settlement and I am wondering, could you respond to that demand now as formally as you can and say what you think the Russian reaction will be if NATO's response is to keep escalating the number of air strikes?

Jamie Shea : We will continue to work very hard to convince Russia that our strategy is the right one because it is the only one that will successfully resolve the Kosovo crisis but it is not a strategy which consists in bombing alone, we are not a bombing only organisation because we are, our countries, the countries that are involved in this operation, are also, also the ones that are most committed to finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

We are the same countries that organised the Rambouillet talks, the same countries that have sent hundreds of envoys, on hundreds of occasions to Belgrade to reason with Milosevic, we are the countries that will be showing up in Bonn tomorrow for the EU sponsored Stability Pact talks, we will be the ones that will be putting the money on the table for the reconstruction of the Balkans, we are the ones that have been giving all the financial and humanitarian aid to the neighbouring states to keep them stable during this affair and we are the ones who are going to be supplying the soldiers, the great majority of the soldiers, for the Peace Implementation Force and for the other civilian relief organisations, their personnel, their money, once the crisis is over.

So it's not as if bombing takes place here and diplomacy is somewhere else, in another institution down the road. It's not. We are juggling all of the balls in the air here and therefore we want to make it clear that if we stop now, before Milosevic has met our goals, he will consider that to be a sign of weakness, he will not become more interested in diplomacy, he will become less interested. He will impose tougher conditions, he will wish to give even less away than he probably does already. He will rebuild his air defence so that our pilots will be faced with even greater difficulties if we started again and he will regroup his forces. By the way, there is no indication that he would exercise restraint simply because we did.

So what we have to try to convince the Russians of, and we will continue to make the effort, is to see force and diplomacy, not as sort of contradictions or as mutually exclusive, but as a very intricate part of the same package to guarantee success. And we are having some success in convincing the Russians of that but we will never be the ones to refuse to meet with Russia and to continue to make those arguments. And of course the sooner Russia and the allies have a full understanding of this point, the sooner the conflict in Kosovo is going to end.

Jake: Jamie, we keep hearing about the 5 points and also about negotiations with the Russians edging forward very slowly and that one of the sticking points is the composition of a Peace Implementation Force. Now the composition of that is going to be considered in the assembly of these 50,000 troops over the next few weeks and it has emerged during questions to you about that, that the definition of a NATO core is not something you can presently pin down. So what does a NATO core mean and isn't the reality that if you think yourself forward a year perhaps, once this is unequivocally over and NATO and Belgrade have both accepted a UN resolution, no matter who is providing the troops to be in there, if refugees have a choice between staying under canvas in Macedonia and going back to their rebuilt homes then, with the exception of those who would never go back anyway, they are going to go back. Of what practical importance can it be? Isn't this becoming an obstacle to a negotiated settlement and isn't it actually a case of NATO's intransigence?

Jamie Shea : Jake, not at all. There are peacekeeping forces and peacekeeping forces. Some have been very successful, some have been very unsuccessful in recent years and it is clear why. Some have had the mandate, the command and control, the equipment, the robust, rules of engagement to do the job properly, to be respected. Others have been there more as passive witnesses of human suffering and war without the means to intervene to decisively stop that. Now we have learnt those lessons in Bosnia and we have learnt them in many other areas and so that is not the sort of mistake we are going to repeat.

It is not true to say one peacekeeper looks like any other peacekeeper and therefore is interchangeable. No, those refugees have said time and time again to us that they will only go back if they see NATO in that peacekeeping force. It doesn't mean to say that they have to see the NATO flag everywhere or the NATO logo plastered on every building but they need to know that that force is a force which is built round that NATO core, that NATO soldiers are providing the bulk of that force, that the type of NATO command arrangements which we know work are there, that that force is a force which is going to be respected by all, it's not going to crumble like a pack of cards at the first sign of a challenge and that is extremely important and that is why say a NATO core. It is not because we are sort of ego maniacs that want to have our name in the headlines. No this will be a very difficult, very expensive mission and it is likely to last some time. Let's be aware of that. It is simply because our experience with Milosevic is that he is the master of exploiting weak, under-equipped, peacekeeping forces. He has done that and we don't want him to feel that this is the type of force that he can meddle with again, breaking rules, imposing artificial restrictions, making threats, taking some of the peacekeepers hostage, as his forces did in Bosnia you recall in the early 1990s, using peacekeepers as human shields, humiliating peacekeepers by making it obvious to them that they were unable to do their job of protecting the civilian population.

No, we are not going to do that again so I can assure you that it is better taking a little bit of time getting this right and then have something that works, like Sfor has worked in Bosnia, than putting something together ad hoc and seeing it fail. At my old college there was a logo up which I have always taken to heart. It said 'ad hocery is a mockery' and that applies to peacekeeping as well.

Jake: There is one important difference between Kosovo and Bosnia, isn't there? The majority of Kosovo is not territory disputed between different ethnic groups. You haven't got different ethnic groups seeking to interlock in some way, in different bits of Kosovo. I mean this force is not going to be faced with the problem of ejecting one group to install another, is it.

Jamie Shea : Jake, you are right in a general sense but not absolutely. There are 10% of the population of Kosovo, at least pre-conflict, that are not Albanians. They too have the right of return. I want to make this clear, they too will be protected by NATO troops if they wish to go back, that is clear. Secondly you have got a lot of Serb paramilitary forces in Kosovo at the moment. What is going to happen to them? There are a lot of citizens with kalashnikovs under the bed. There are the Kosovo Liberation Army that also have to be, as part of an eventual peace settlement, disarmed and integrated into the political process. There is a humanitarian vacuum in which law and order has been totally absent for now the best part of 2 years in Kosovo, leading to a vacuum in which all kinds of violent incidents, settling of accounts, revenge operations, can take place. So believe me, this is a dangerous environment. I can assure you that when you go there as a journalist, as intrepid as I know you are, you will be glad to have the protection of NATO soldiers as well.

Roger: Jamie, at this stage could there be a peace? Could NATO stop its bombing before this expanded Peace Implementation Force is ready? In other words, if there is an accord before that, would there not be a vacuum that would be unacceptable to you so does that more or less oblige NATO to continue bombing for say, the next 2 - 3 weeks until this force is ready?

Jamie Shea : No absolutely not, Roger. If President Milosevic phones the Secretary General in the next hour we will stop and then clearly gives guarantees of withdrawing his forces and we see those forces go, NATO is going to stop. We are not going to prolong this once Milosevic has accepted the 5 conditions and we have a force in the area. We have got over 14,000 troops in one country alone, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There are NATO troops all over the region now, in other countries as well. NATO has had an operational plan involving 28,000 ready-to-go forces although some of them are still at short notice to move in NATO countries. That plan has been ready for a long time. The forces have already been identified through Force Generation conferences. So we are not going from zero to 50 as it were at the speed of a Porsche in 6 seconds. We have the troops.

Question: If it is adequate, then why is it going up to 48,000?

Jamie Shea : Because we consider that the environment is now a more difficult one and a more dangerous one and that is true. But at the same time, if President Milosevic raised the flag of peace today we would still have, still have, even today a substantial number of NATO forces under an integrated NATO command and with a lot of heavy equipment, in the region able to deploy at very short notice into the field, and which could be rapidly augmented with NATO countries. So we are not, if you like, naked at the moment. We want to add a few more clothes but we have got the basics for a peacekeeping operation already.

Neil King (Wall Street Journal): Jamie, if this were a dispute between Yugoslavia and any other country or group of countries, it would almost be certain that NATO would welcome a ceasefire because it is natural that that is the case. It would say "stop" if only for a day or two and talk. That is always the way of international diplomacy and regional dispute. What argument is there against, I mean you say that if you were to stop it would be determined, it would be seen as a sign of weakness which hints that there would be the actual weakness. It seems as though there is a fear implicit in the NATO structure that were it to stop even for 24 hours to say "OK here is a sign that we are willing to talk but if you don't do this we will immediately resume perhaps twice what we are doing now". But there seems to be a fear, even within NATO, that were it to stop it might not be able to resume or that it would even create fissures if it's in the Alliance so I would just be interested to hear the argument about why NATO wouldn't perhaps benefit from changing the dynamics on why they may not this week, maybe next week, by doing some sort of 24 or 48 hour ceasefire or does it actually underline a kind of implicit weakness within the Alliance?

Jamie Shea : Neil, no, not at all. It shows determination. Winston Churchill, as everybody knows, used to say that 'jaw, jaw is better than war, war' He is right but it is not a question of talking for the sake of talking. President Milosevic, by the way, is the master of talk. There are few leaders in the world who are quite able to go 16 hours without stopping, as I myself have discovered on two occasions in Belgrade and many other people in NATO have discovered too, and then sleep for two hours and have another meeting and have another 16 hours. Really if his achievements were judged in terms of words and promises and talk alone, he would be, his country would be the Balkan Tiger.

But of course there is more to politics than simply talking. Talking for what? If it is a question of talking only to have our 5 conditions immediately watered down so that we have a very insubstantial form of autonomy for Kosovo, meaningless under Milosevic's domination, that we continue to have large numbers of Yugoslav forces permanently stationed in Kosovo, that some refugees can come back if they can prove their citizenship as Mr. Dacic said yesterday, but those who can't, because they have had their papers confiscated, can't go back and therefore the whole ethnic character of Kosovo is permanently changed. "Yes I will talk about a peacekeeping force" said President Milosevic "but I'll define it my way in terms of a very lightly armed and loosely directed force which will be totally at my control, under my sufferance, whether it goes anywhere or does anything".

No, then I don't believe that the NATO allies would have judged that talking really led us anywhere. No, we insist that Milosevic meet the 5 conditions. They are the minimum for a stable Kosovo. Otherwise we are simply going to be doing what we were doing last year, thinking we had an agreement only to wake up the next day to realise that we were in a deeper crisis than before. When Milosevic wants to meet the 5 conditions, then of course we will see with him how those 5 conditions are going to be effectively implemented. But he must meet the 5 conditions and not simply in words. He must show, through concrete action, particularly the withdrawal of his troops, that he means what we mean.

Neil: But isn't there an element of grudge match in this that possibly that you don't have to talk, you could just say we will give you 48 hours to meet these conditions or here we come at you again? Because then it would at least allow him to say 'OK, I have done this, not under immediate bombing, but just to give the guy the tiniest modicum of a cover, then you wouldn't have to talk to him at all.

Jamie Shea : Neil, thank you for the suggestion but Milosevic doesn't need 48 hours. It's not as if he needs time to think. I think in those long lonely nights in his bunkers under Belgrade, he has plenty of time to think. He probably has quite a lot of sleepless nights for deep thinking at the moment and he knows what the conditions are. They are crystal clear, he just has to say 'yes'. Once he says yes and once he gives concrete indications that he means that, then certainly the modalities of allowing his forces to withdraw, those kind of things are things that we can look at but he has to meet the 5 conditions and he has to show that he means that in deed and not simply word, by withdrawing his forces. That is something that he can do tomorrow. There is no particular thinking period that is required here. We are going to insist on that. These 5 conditions are not negotiable. I really want to make that clear. These are not simply starting points for a negotiation that you put into play and you see where you end up. No, those are the conditions that we want to have not at the entry point but at the exit point of this process and that is why we are insisting on them. They are non-negotiable, we are not going to back away from them. It is simply a question of how closely Milosevic comes to them, how quickly, but he has to accept them.

Major General Jertz : There is also a military aspect of course on this one. In Bosnia we experienced 48 ceasefire agreements, the 49th was finally successful. Within these 48 we realised and we found out, because I was there by that time, that within a few hours he could also already reinforce and could move troops from one point to another repositioning, reinforcements brought in and you know we did not attack in Serbia a lot of ground forces. Only in Kosovo. He has still a lot of helicopters left which he of course would use and if you would give him a chance to use these helicopters to bring in forces, we would be tactically of course in a completely different situation. We would have to start all over again. I can only say also from the military side we need to continue until, what Jamie has already said, is finally reached.

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