30 May 1999
by Mr Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman
and Major General Walter Jertz, SHAPE
Jamie Shea : Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.
It's good to see you. General Jertz is with me, as always, for the military
operational up-date in a few moments.
Ladies and Gentlemen, yesterday I had the pleasure, along with some
of you here in the room, to accompany the Secretary General and SACEUR
down to Aviano and Istrana Air Force bases in Italy, and together with
them I spent a fascinating day speaking to the military personnel of seven
different NATO countries, the commanders, the pilots, the engineers, all
working around the clock on Operation Allied Force. The pilots were flying
USF16s, Spanish F18s, Italian AMXs, AWACs planes with multi-national crews.
It was truly a very impressive line up. It brought home to me, that phrase
of Franklin Roosevelt, when he spoke of the arsenal of democracy.
In fact, at some times, it was very difficult to speak and hear the
words because every moment, virtually every minute, an aircraft was taking
off, or another aircraft was landing. This really brought home to me what
700 sorties a day, and the intensification of the operation, really mean.
The pilots work in 12 hour shifts. For some it is their first combat
missions. But they are all extremely motivated. They have 4 hours preparation
before they get into the cockpit, during which they have enormous briefings,
very detailed briefings, they take enormous care to identify the targets,
to have all the latest information to ensure that they can be extremely
accurate. They fly for 6 hours in gruelling circumstances, and then when
they get back, they have a debriefing of 2 hours in which they analyse
the mission, they share information to make sure that that accuracy is
upheld. Indeed, some of those stories of the pilots are very impressive.
One told me of how, at night, flying over Kosovo he could see lots of
red dots representing houses and villages that are burning. More visible
at night than during the day sometimes.
Another spoke to me of a deserted landscape in which virtually nothing
moved. The roads were empty, no farmers, no activity in the fields, as
if the population, like troglodytes had gone into hiding in caves and
Another one told me of how he saw MUP Special Police Forces set fire
to a whole series of houses in Djakovica going up a hill. And those who
believe that our pilots stay at safe altitudes and don't risk their lives,
only need to speak to a few of those people coming back from their missions,
and hearing of very intense anti-aircraft fire, of the way in which they
have to take evasive action to steer clear of SA3 and SA6 weapons. It
became very rapidly clear to me that if we have lost only 2 aircraft thus
far, it's not because of Lady Luck, but it's because of the enormous combat
skills, training, and extensive preparations of our pilots.
And this whole trip, really brought home to me, probably more graphically
than anything else, the contrast between on the one hand a very professional,
very disciplined, group of young men and women who really believe in the
values that they are defending , who are extremely motivated, and under
very firm control by their commanders; and on the other hand what we see
in Kosovo today, which is a group of soldiers, out of control, being led
by indicted war criminals, who clearly don't believe in what they are
doing, and who are beginning to desert in large numbers as a result. And
that contrast is the contrast that makes me believe that we are not going
to win this conflict simply because we are the most powerful - although
we undoubtedly are - and the extra aircraft arriving at the moment at
their forward bases, the additional bases that are being made available
to us to operate more intensively, certainly reveals just how we are adding
all the time to our capabilities. No, it made me realise that we are going
to win because we are right. Simple as that. Might doesn't always make
right, that has been the mistake of Milosevic. But we have might in the
service of right.
Tomorrow, in the afternoon at the Arlington National Cemetery in the
United States on Memorial Day, President Clinton will make a speech underlining
those important values, and he will honour those who have sacrificed themselves
in previous wars in Europe, to allow others to live in peace and freedom
and to have their human rights respected. Exactly why we are intervening
in Kosovo today.
And last week, President Chirac of France, also referred to this when
he said that France is fighting for law, for justice and for morality.
We wage this fight with the thought of future generations in our minds.
We owe them a strong and a peaceful Europe, where all are united around
the essential values of democracy and human rights. It is for this Europe
that we are fighting today. And indeed we are, because the facts of this
conflict are crystal clear. Killing people because of their ethnic identity
is wrong. Making their families witness those killings is equally wrong.
Forcing the deportation of 1 million people, and robbing them of their
savings and identity cards, simply because of their ethnic identity, is
wrong. Looting and burning thousands of homes of people because of their
ethnic identify is wrong. Abusing women because of their ethnic identity
is wrong, and imprisoning thousands of men and beating them without charge
or trial because of their ethnic identity is wrong. Either these moral
values mean something in a civilised society or they don't. That is the
Today, I noted that the respected UK military historian, John Keegan,
and I respect him having read all of his books, has written, I quote "Patriotic
though they are, the Serbs can read the writing on the wall. Not only
cannot Milosevic win, but he also cannot escape the noose, that is being
drawn around him." I agree with that conclusion. The writing on the wall
which he speaks of is not going to go away. We are being successful, and
we have right as well as might on our side. Those are the two fundamental
reasons why we are also going to win. Thank you. Now General Jertz please.
Major General Jertz : Thank you very much Jamie. Good
afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.
NATO air forces maintained the pressure on Milosevic's military forces
flying almost 700 sorties yesterday. Exact numbers are 309 strikes, 85
air defence suppression sorties out of a total of 697. This adds up to
29,979 total sorties.
I told you a couple of days ago, that the weather at present is on our
side. With the help of this good weather, and the continuously increasingly
capabilities of NATO aircrews as Jamie just pointed out, NATO's air campaign
continued to be even more successful against Serb forces and equipment
in Kosovo. We have severed their primary lines of communication, so Serb
forces are having to use temporary bridges and other workarounds, slowing
down, of course, their mobility.
Among the military equipment, they are moving, as we observed, replacements
of artillery, replacement for those assets we have been targeting. Artillery
is a high priority target for NATO because it permits longer range projection
of fire power, including unfortunately cross border shelling as we have
experienced the last few days towards Albania. And of course it is also
used against people in Kosovo. We have reports of relocation and replacements
of artillery units, in particular the 203rd battalion operating north-west
of Nis, an indication that NATO air force has struck those forces successfully
in the past. Here you can watch the bomb coming from the right side, a
reveted artillery piece.
Other targets struck included mortar positions, air defence radars,
surface to air missile launchers, and anti-aircraft artillery pieces,
plus tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and other military vehicles.
Once again, we hit also airfields. This photograph of the airfield at
Sjenica shows some damage and for sure this airfield will not be used
for a long time. Outlined in red on the next photograph of the airfield
at Ponikve you can see evidence of repair. The Serbs have reconnected
two parts of the presently unusable run-way with a road through the damaged
area. We do have good evidence that Serb forces tried hard to have this
runway fixed again to be available for fixed wing aircraft operations
because there are still quite a few number of aircraft left at Ponikve.
We will continue to hit the airfields, so long as Milosevic continues
patching the damage we do to them. We continue to attack Milosevic's communications
capability. His radio and TV relay and broadcast sites, as shown on this
We also hit Milosevic's military storage targets including ammunition
storage sites, military storage areas, and military barracks as shown
here. I know it is a busy slide, but you can realise that we have a full
range of targets all over Serbia and Kosovo. On this video you can see
an attack against an ammo storage at Pozega and watch the tremendous secondary
There was no Serb flight air activity in the last 24 hours, but as you
can see Milosevic's air assets have no sanctuary on the ground. This video
shows an attack against a helicopter south-west of Nis.
We also hit a command post located in a tunnel at Livadica. Command
posts, as you know, are very important because they are the brains of
the military force. There was only intermittent use of air defence radars
yesterday, demonstrating once again the effectiveness of NATO air defence
suppression. This is another measure of our success. 18 missiles were
fired at NATO aircraft yesterday, but all are believed to have been shot
ballistically. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light. All NATO piloted
aircraft returned safely.
On the ground, UCK operations in north-western Kosovo, in the vicinity
of Mount Pastrik seem to have slowed down, indicating that Serb forces
may have contained that offensive at least for the time being. Further
north, near the Kosovo borders with Albania and Montenegro, the UCK is
obviously attempting to maintain a corridor of supply and communication
so that they can link up their forces.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, concludes my portion of the briefing.
Greg - Fox News : Jamie, is it the sense at NATO that
the next couple of weeks are crucial, crucial in the sense of diplomacy,
crucial in the sense of your air campaign and crucial that after a few
weeks maybe some more decisions might have to be made if there aren't
results from the air campaign, from diplomacy?
Jamie Shea : Greg, obviously in a campaign like this,
every week is crucial, I wouldn't like to characterise the next two as
being more crucial than any other, it is an on-going effort, an on-going
effort as far as the air campaign is concerned to continue to grind down
the Yugoslav Armed Forces, although clearly we are having increasing success
at doing that, and an on-going effort to construct with Russia a united
diplomatic front to further isolate Milosevic. Certainly I would not like
to use the word crucial, but the coming week will be an important one.
There is an EU Summit as you know in Cologne in just a few days time,
we are heading towards the G8 summit a couple of days after that. Clearly
allied leaders are interested in learning from Mr Chernomyrdin what were
the latest results of his visit to Belgrade and analysing those results
to see where we go from here. But I would see it as a patient onward march
rather than characterising things in terms of a decisive week or a make
or break moment, I don't believe there are any make or break moments,
this will be done through perseverance and persistence.
Greg - Fox News: There is a lot of talk that if by
18 June, if by the G8 summit there are not clear results, that is defeat
from the air campaign and not clear results from diplomacy, then you will
once again have to think hard about the ground invasion?
Jamie Shea : No I don't' see it that way, Greg. I
think we are talking about the success of the air campaign, not the defeat
of the air campaign. It was clear to me visiting the bases yesterday the
enormous success that those pilots are having against those ground targets.
I don't think that any other strategy is going to take out so many tanks
so quickly as what we are doing at the moment and we are going to win
this by sticking to our strategy. We are not the sort of an Alliance that
changes horses in midstream.
Karen - ZDF: General Jertz, you have had a couple of
days with favourable flight weather, can you update a little bit the figures
or give us a percentage, how many weapons have been hit, now many aircraft?
And in addition you mentioned replacements. From where do they come in,
from Serbia or how can they replace forces in Kosovo?
Major General Jertz : Let me start with the latter.
Replacements do come from Serbia but we of course observe the lines of
communication and whenever we do have a chance, once they move into Kosovo,
we of course do attack them the moment we see them. But once again, they
are not reinforcements, they are replacements, just to make it clear.
On the numbers, I would ask you to wait until next Tuesday where I am
giving you a complete update on what has happened in the last two weeks
Roy Gutman - New Republic Magazine: In the Telegraph
today, you quoted Mr Keegan, there is another article that talks about
Britain having offered the astonishing figure of 50,000 troops should
ground combat be necessary. Could you address that just in the general
sense, and also in the context of this meeting that took place last week
of the Defence Ministers in Cologne?
Jamie Shea : The UK have already made it clear on-the-record
that there is nothing behind this. I don't know where it came from, there
are no NATO plans for a ground invasion whatever. We are continuing to
focus on building up the forces necessary for the peace keeping force,
the Peace Implementation Force, and as you know a force generation conference
at SHAPE takes place on Tuesday to begin that process. There was a meeting
of NATO Defence Ministers last week, not a formal one, an informal one,
at which several Defence Ministers were represented. I understand that
Secretary Cohen joined that meeting briefly. The focus was on two things:
what we need to do to continue to intensify the air campaign, which everybody
agrees is succeeding, and as you know there are now some additional assets
on the way; and secondly what we can do to expedite our preparations to
have our Peace Implementation Force ready to move into Kosovo as soon
as the Serb forces have started to withdraw. But this was not about some
sort of secret revision of NATO strategy. We have not invented a so-called
third option, we are sticking to the two options on the table at the moment.
Roy : Were ground forces discussed at that meeting?
Jamie Shea : I can't say. I wasn't there. But I can
certainly say that there was no decision to change the strategy, quite
the reverse. We really believe now that we are starting to see the results,
and you don't change a winning strategy, particularly when you start seeing
the results you want.
Jake: Given the military and moral disparity which
you describe, and John Keegan I am sure is right that ultimately Milosevic
cannot win here. But it is clear, isn't it, that firstly it is within
his power to spin this out and the longer he spins it out the more misery
and mayhem he has potential to cause, not just in Kosovo but elsewhere
as well. My question is, what is there in what is currently on offer from
NATO to Mr Milosevic to incentivise him not to spin it out, especially
given that politicians around the world are the same, if they have to
perform a U-turn, they don't want it to look too much like a U-turn?
Jamie Shea : Jake, when you give President Milosevic
an incentive to agree, he negotiates, and you end up with less than what
you originally had hoped for, and that is not the mistake we are going
to make. It is not a question of giving President Milosevic a carrot which
encourages him to believe that he can settle this on his terms rather
than the terms of the international community, it is keeping up the pressure
so he knows that he has a simple choice: to agree to the five conditions
or to continue to see his Armed Forces progressively taken away from him.
That is the choice he has to make, simply to decide at what price he is
going to accept the five conditions. But we are not going to start offering
carrots and incentives and sweeteners to give him the notion that he can
back away from those five conditions, that would be a fundamental mistake
and we are not going to make it.
Jake - Sky News: But the condition of the international
community, as represented by the G8 for example, is to have an international
security presence, no mention in the wording of NATO core, NATO led or
anything else. Now you have said from that podium before that the only
real criterion of success for NATO is if those refugees go back to their
homes. Realistically, if the choice is between remaining under canvas
in a refugee camp and going back to their homes, perhaps rebuilt sometime
after the end of hostilities, they are going to go back, whether the troops
protecting them are from NATO countries, or from Russia, or anywhere else.
How useful is it for NATO to carry on insisting on that if that is going
to prove the stumbling block for example to getting agreement with Russia,
or indeed to getting agreement from Mr Milosevic?
Jamie Shea : A peace keeping force in a country does
not meant that things immediately get better. We have had examples of
peace keeping forces in countries where wars got worse, where refugees
flowed over the borders in ever greater number. So as far as we are concerned,
a peace keeping force is not interchangeable with another peace keeping
force, it is not simply changing the colour of the same car, it is fundamentally
a different model we are talking about here. The refugees will not move
unless they see a very strong NATO presence in that force. We know fully
well that only a strong NATO force will be able to provide the security
that is necessary for the reconstruction of Kosovo, that is why we are
going to insist upon it.
Antonio Martins - RTP : Yesterday, talking to the Secretary
General, I got the feeling that for the first time he thinks there is
something else behind the words of Milosevic than the usual way of doing
things. Is there anything now that might NATO think that Milosevic really
is a lot under pressure and he will give up soon? And General, from a
military point of view, and Milosevic is in charge of the army, does it
really make a difference if we say all options are open, or there is a
clear threat that the ground troops might go in if he keeps staying the
way he is?
Jamie Shea : It is obviously a sign of things going
in the right direction that President Milosevic now says that he is willing
to accept the G8 principles, clear. But on the other hand, we have to
wait and see what that means in terms of the details, details are very
important here. Anything that means that Belgrade moves towards those
five conditions is something that we will welcome, but at the same time
we will remain cautious because details in this business are everything,
as you well know. One could interpret those conditions in different ways
and we want to make sure that Milosevic interprets those in the way that
we interpret those. That is the first point.
Secondly, I saw the pictures of President Milosevic receiving Mr Chernomyrdin.
I saw that his hair looked rather greyer than when I had last seen him,
even a little bit further back on his forehead than what I had seen before.
He certainly didn't have the demeanour of somebody who was just back from
holiday. And so clearly if photos are to reveal anything, he is a man
who is now under substantial pressure.
Major General Jertz : Well you know we are all aware
of the fact that his power, Milosevic's power, is based on military force
and we are very successful against his military forces. We do attack his
command and control capabilities, we do take away his tanks, his artillery
and everything he has, and once he realises that we are successful and
he must do it pretty soon, because he has not too much left to play with,
he realises that the air campaign is working successfully enough to really
get everything away from him, what he needs to sustain his power, and
that is why the air campaign should continue the way we are doing at the
Antonio: But if NATO tells him that the option of the
ground troops is real, instead of saying all options are open, does this
make a difference? Because it is possible the man can stay for another
two months under fire and this is not going to be very well received by
the public opinion that counts in the countries of the Alliance?
Major General Jertz : Well to be honest, when I was
trained to be on stage here, I was told that the 'if' questions are the
bad ones, so don't answer those. Now to be honest, the campaign works
well. NATO is united, NATO is doing a successful air campaign and we are
so far ahead with the successes which we are doing at the present time,
I think we just should stick to it rather than discuss any other options
which are more than speculation.
ABC News: Two questions, one first for the General.
About 20 minutes ago CTV had very sketchy reports of some bridge having
been hit in southern Serbia, they are saying that many civilians have
been killed, so I want to know if you have heard anything about that?
Jamie, obviously we want Chernomyrdin to bring back good news when he
goes to Belgrade, but it seems that recently what he has been discussing
with Milosevic is a bit different from what NATO would like him to discuss
with him, is that still what is going on do you think?
Major General Jertz : Did you refer to a specific
ABC News: Just before coming in, CTV reported that
some bridge had been hit in southern Serbia, but no specific town yet.
Major General Jertz : First of all let me tell you
once again that of course we do only attack military targets. Full stop.
I have two reports, one is from the area of Pilot, it is an ordonance
ammo depot which was attacked last night at 2320 Zulu and one of the bombs
did go 300 metres away from the intended desired mean point of impact
because the target was covered by smoke, but it did land in a wooded area;
and the other incident I have a report on was that north-west of Nis,
Kamrolija, we did attack military barracks. Indeed two bombs, the pilots
did guide off intentionally because the target was covered so they couldn't
identify the target well enough, so they intentionally discarded these
two bombs which fell into a river called Nisavar, I hope it is spelt correctly.
And the reason why I am saying this, I think once again let me emphasise
that our pilots, even when they are under pressure, and Jamie has explained,
he has talked to the pilots yesterday and you know I am flying aircraft
myself, every time when you are under pressure and you are shot at by
AAA, you are shot at by Sams, the pilots still do know that they are responsible
for where their bombs are actually hitting and so like in this incident
where they realised that they would not hit the target, they just guided
them into a river, which was fortunate enough they did.
Remember though that Serb troops shelling civilians, they don't even
think about collateral damage and we should keep that in mind.
Jamie Shea : As for the question, I saw some reports
on Tass about some alleged ideas of Mr Chernomyrdin, but they are press
reports and I think it is right and proper for me not to comment on that,
let Mr Chernomyrdin explain directly to allied governments, as I am sure
he will be doing at the moment, exactly the contents of what he discussed
Karel - Agence Nouvelles tchque: Among more reports
coming from Yugoslavia are alarmist reports about the environmental damage
which is being done to the neighbouring countries. Is NATO doing some
kind of assessment of these?
Jamie Shea : No, we are not doing a formal assessment,
but there was a UN environmental protection programme conference a couple
of days ago on this which really did not find any significant evidence
of long term environmental damage, and therefore I am quite happy to go
with that verdict. As you know, we are very discriminating in our targeting
and we have no evidence of any long term effects.