Updated: 2 June 1999 Press Conferences


2 June 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 to today's briefing. I have often pointed out at the beginning of these press briefings that NATO is not only in the business of winning the conflict from the air, which we will do. We are also in the business of building the peace on the ground. That peace which is going to lead to a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo at the end of this process. Now, if that vision of ours, of peace, stability and human rights for Kosovo is to be realised, it is going to need an international security presence on the ground, and with NATO at its core, for two reasons: because NATO is efficient and because people trust NATO.

Yesterday, we took the first important step forward in putting together the building blocks that are going to make up this international security force. We held a first Force Generation Conference at SHAPE. All 19 Allies participated, and 12 of our partner countries participated, one of those countries as an observer. And this very extensive participation from right across Europe demonstrates that the Allies and their Partners are ready to share the burden of committing troops to this operation which we have called, as you know, Operation Joint Guardian. A stable Balkans is in everybody's interest, and therefore everybody has a common commitment to provide capabilities to bring these stable Balkans about, and that is what happened yesterday. We had a very successful initial Force Generation Conference, and we are going to be ready with our force very soon.

The 30 countries that attended at SHAPE yesterday committed a total of 47,868 troops. This shows, therefore, that our planning is more than well under way. Our brigades are now almost fully sourced and those partner countries which attended yesterday agreed to put about 10% of that total on the table. By the way this is not an exhaustive list. I would anticipate that many other countries will come forward with their contributions, and there will be a place for all of them. There is much work to be done in Kosovo, and nobody's efforts will be unwelcome to us.

Now we are already preparing those units to be ready. Many countries have come forward publicly so far with their levels of contribution, and I know that this afternoon in a speech at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, President Clinton will have something to say about the US contribution. And NATO is currently in contact with countries in the region in order to arrange transit and transport facilities and predeployment for the bulk of this force in the theatre so that it will be able to move into Kosovo rapidly as soon as the Serb forces begin to withdraw. And when the NATO force arrives, the people of Kosovo are going to be able to spot the difference. The difference between two kinds of military force. They will soon see that the NATO forces are not their enemy but their friend. That NATO is not there to hurt them but to protect them. That NATO is not there to destroy their lives and to destroy their property, but to rebuild them. That NATO does not drive people away, but brings them home and creates the safe conditions which will allow them to remain and remain for good. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the essential difference between armed forces that represent the very worst of a repressive, brutal dictatorial society, and armed forces that represent the best, the finest, of democratic societies.

Now the people of Bosnia have seen the difference since 1995, and they like what they see. And that is why all three ethnic communities in Bosnia have consistently called on NATO forces to remain to provide that essential protection for the reconstruction of Bosnia. And that same approach that we take in Bosnia is the approach that the NATO forces will take tomorrow in Kosovo. They will be trustworthy, they will be even-handed, and they will be efficient. A force designed to promote democratic values and human rights, not to destroy them.

And now I would like to ask General Jertz to give you his daily operational update.

General Jertz: Thank you very much, Jamie. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday, despite poor weather, which caused cancellation of some air operations, NATO flew almost 600 sorties against strategic and tactical targets, including 197 strike and 70 suppression of enemy air defence sorties. Strategic targets are shown on this slide. They were an air defence command centre, radio relay sites, radio broadcast stations, TV FM relay sites, and an electricity transmission tower. Other strategic targets are shown on the next slide. Ammunition storage sites, refuelling station, one highway, one railway bridge, petroleum storage site. Overall, there was little anti-aircraft activity yesterday, and no Serb aircraft activity at all. Air defence radars as well as early warning radars activity was very light. All NATO aircraft returned safely.

Let us now turn our attention to the operations in Kosovo, where NATO's tactical air strikes against Serb forces in Kosovo increased yesterday. Military targets supporting tactical operations in Kosovo struck included radio relay, Kosovska Mitrovica, border posts, army barracks at Pec, troop staging area, ammunition depot. We also identified and struck two major targets, such as bridges at Tupec and Nacek. These critical bridges sit astride the two main roads of resupply into the area around Mount Pastrik. We deployed NATO aircraft to bring more air power to bear on Serb front-line units in this area, very close to the Kosovo-Albanian border. To maximise air effectiveness, air controllers have set up what they call a hog pen over this area. That means a holding area in the sky for one of our most potent ground attack aircraft, the A10, known as a tank buster. I will come back to that in a minute.

Indications are that Serb forces are also repositioning within Kosovo, most probably to counter reported UCK activity. In turn, NATO air activity over Kosovo has increased as a result of the increase in Serb ground force activity. Yesterday I called it a rich target environment.

Our assessment is that the current Serbian counter-offensive against the UCK around Mount Pastrik, offers NATO the best opportunity so far in the air campaign to hit Serb forces hard. To counter UCK advances, Serbia has had to mobilise and concentrate in this area. Because these forces have had to come out of their camouflage positions they have become more visible to our airborne forward air controllers. Once the forward air controllers spot a target, for example a tank or an APC, they call up NATO strike aircraft circling in the area, and guide them into their attack.

Yesterday, we conducted nearly 150 sorties only around Mount Pastrik. Let me elaborate more on tactical targets in the vicinity of Mount Pastrik. We struck 32 artillery pieces, 9 armoured personnel carriers, 6 armoured vehicles, 4 other military vehicles, 8 mortar positions, revetted positions, and one SA6 surface to air missile site. Initial indications are that we have had a significant impact on the Serbian forces operating in this area. A fuller battle damage assessment of course will have to wait a few more days.

What I have said so far is a testimony to the flexibility of this air operation that we have been able to concentrate our air power so quickly in response to actions on the ground. But bear in mind, the tactical part of NATO's air campaign is very different from the strategic operations that make up the other elements of an air war. Tactical air employment consists of static and dynamic elements. Let me elaborate a little bit on the dynamic elements I just mentioned. The time between a forward air controller spotting a target and the air strike against that target can be, and should be, in a matter of minutes only. Timing of course depends on whatever and whether we have to pull the aircraft off a tanker, or whether there is already one available in a holding pattern over Kosovo. Just think of . over Grand Canyon.

The pace of bombing is dictated by the pace of the battle on the ground. Yesterday, NATO aircraft carrying out attacks against Serb forces on the Albanian, and close to the Albanian, border unintentionally dropped several bombs just over the border inside Albania. The training and equipment of the pilots involved in NATO's operation over Kosovo is second to none. But as any pilot will be able to tell you, these things which I have just described, can and will happen in an intensive and dynamic tactical air operation of this nature. As I mentioned on several occasions, we do not have direct contact with the Kosovar Albanian forces on the ground. However, they are obviously benefiting indirectly from our success against Serb forces. We carefully watch the ground situation close to the Albanian border. A Serb mechanised brigade based out of Prizren has managed to contain the UCK advance around Mount Pastrik, but by moving down to counter-attack, the Serbs have left some flanks exposed. UCK units in the interior appear to be taking advantage of this, and intensifying guerrilla type operations against Serb forces using classic partisan tactics. We are also getting reports of increased fighting between UCK special forces and Serb ground forces throughout Kosovo. It seems that the Belgrade political and military leadership may have been premature when it claimed victory over the UCK a few days ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes my portion of the briefing.

Jamie Shea: General, thank you very much.

Matthew Chance, CNN: Jamie, can you confirm that this international security force will be firmly under a NATO banner and won't fall under kind of UN auspices?

Jamie Shea: We very much hope Matthew that it will have a UN Security Council Resolution, and that is being worked on actively and we have said all along that it will have a NATO core. That means that NATO countries will be prominently represented in the force, and it will have a NATO command and control structure. It will have robust NATO rules of engagement, and NATO certainly will be, if you like, the central tent pole around which the force will be built, but you saw yesterday that 11 countries came to the Force Generation Conference. By coming to that conference they made it clear that they want to go to Kosovo with us and not in any kind of other arrangement.

Greg Palcott, Fox News: First, General, could you respond to a report in the "Washington Post" today that NATO responded to urgent KLA pleas to attack Serb force positions around Mount Pastrik. That this is, according to the "Washington Post" the first known example of NATO air support for KLA actions; and Jamie could you just update us on your feeling about the situation on diplomacy now that Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin are headed towards Belgrade?

General Jertz: I read this report also in the "Washington Post" but let me reiterate once again, we are hitting Serb forces around Mount Pastrik because they do come out of their camouflage positions, and that is one of the reasons why we of course identified them much easier than we did before, and why we had the good chance to also hit them. And that is one of the main reasons why we are so successful in this area, and we do attack and we do fight and we do try to destroy Serb military assets wherever we find them, and once again Mount Pastrik, an area where heavy fighting is ongoing, we of course do find much better and much easier what we want to destroy and attack.

Greg: But the NATO strikes were not in response to a KLA call for those strikes in that area?

General Jertz: No they were not, they were not. Because we have enough intelligence and other resources which indicate what's going on on the ground. And once again, those tanks have to move, the artillery pieces have to move, and this gives us a good capability and possibility to really attack those.

Jamie Shea: And where NATO effectively strikes Serb forces, then on the other hand it gives the Kosovo Liberation Army extra opportunities to attack those forces which have been degraded.

Greg Palcott - Fox News: There's been a lot of talk, there was a second round of talks today, some questions that the Russians had problems with a new set of details

Jamie Shea: Greg, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. They're going, that's the latest information I have and that is good news. It obviously means that they have achieved a high degree of mutual understanding around common positions of the international community and that good news for us is bad news for Milosevic who, confronted with the united position of the international community, will be under the type of pressure that we want him to be under, to accept our essential conditions. And you know what they are, those 5 sacrosanct conditions for resolving this crisis.

They will both take a firm message to Belgrade, the message that they are not there to negotiate, they are there to explain, to clarify if necessary, but to test the will of Milosevic, not only in word but moreover in deed to comply with the conditions of the alliance and the international community and to demonstrate that willingness by withdrawing his forces. So it's not for me to speak for them, they can speak much better for themselves but it's good that the trip is taking place and we very much support those efforts.

Mark Laity, BBC News: A couple of points. On the Force Generation thing, the creation of force, you've got it up almost up to the total that is required. Are there any gaps there for specific types of troops? Have you got too much infantry and not enough engineer? Have you included a hole for the Russians or will they be absorbed later on if they join? And on the matter of the attacks around Mount Pastrik, accepting that you don't have formal contacts with the KLA, are they telling you what they're up to and is there any evidence that they've been hitting, the Serb force have been hitting the KLA very hard by all accounts, causing a lot of casualties, has all the damage you've been doing stopped the VJ counter offensive, the Serb forces counter offensive against the KLA?

Jamie Shea: Mark, on your question, there will always be room at the inn for Russia. That is clear although of course Russia is not included in those provisional figures that I just gave you but I think Mr. Chernomyrdin has said, on occasion, and in Bonn as well yesterday, that Russia would be interested in participating in an International Security Force.

Obviously, after an initial Force Generation Conference there are going to be areas where you will need to balance your force. I have always stressed the criticality of engineers, of military policemen and of these specialised units of police such as we have in Bosnia with the multinational special unit which is very important in dealing with law and order functions, and of course medical assistance and these type of things but these are really minor issues which we will address over the next few days as we balance the force. The fact is that everybody wants to contribute and is contributing generously.

General Jertz: Mark, the first part of your question, no, we are not in direct co-ordination with KLA or UCK, I have already mentioned that. Of course, once again, we have the good chance now to find the very many targets in this area and that's why we attacked them, as I already explained. And on the second part, even so I said that they did benefit, UCK did benefit from our air attacks, especially in the area of Mount Pastrik, they didn't get too many positive results so they are obviously drawn back to the border but in other areas the results for the UCK fighting Serb forces are better. Mount Pastrik is not standing very well for the UCK.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: Jamie, Viktor Chernomyrdin has said that the peacekeeping force will be made up of separate groups of Russian and NATO troops under separate commands. If they are all going to be inside Kosovo under this arrangement, won't that amount to de facto partition and won't that be a violation of NATO's 5 sacrosanct demands?

Jamie Shea: Doug, let's see how we come out on this one. As far as NATO is concerned, we are talking about a single force, not a number of different forces. A single force with a unity of command, robust rules of engagement and a common approach throughout Kosovo. We are not going to do anything which could increase the chances of some sort of partition whether virtual or real.

Doug: So no sectorisation?

Jamie Shea: Again, we have as you know various areas of command but we are not talking about sectors in which you would talk about different policy being applied in a different way with a wholly different command structure, no we're not talking about that at all.

General Jertz: Was there a question to me also?

Doug: Yes, from your Bosnia experience you must know that in Republika Srpska not very many Muslims at all have returned to their homes in the Republika Srpska precisely because they don't feel confident to go into areas such as Ugeljevac where there is Russian Ukrainian Sfor?

General Jertz: Yes, the real truth is of course that the ethnic cleansing had already divided Bosnia into two parts and that's why we think it should not happen again. On the forces, Jamie is correct, we need to have the kind of force like we are using at, like we did use since 1995 in Bosnia, but on the ethnic cleansing part of the house we want to help the Kosovar Albanians go back to their homes and that's why we have a different understanding and of course we have a different start of the position when we are talking about Bosnia versus Kosovo.

Craig Whitney, New York Times: General Jertz, you have said there is no direct contact between the UCK or the KLA and NATO but how does NATO know where the UCK positions are so that it doesn't strike them by mistake? Do you have contact indirectly with them?

General Jertz: Well if I would be cynical I would say unfortunately we did strike one of their command posts just a few weeks ago, just maybe two weeks ago, so that might be a clear indication that we didn't know that they were there, we wouldn't have attacked them. On the other hand, no there is no direct link and for us of course if I would go into more details I would have to tell you exactly on what kind of intelligence orders we are using to know where their forces are which I'm not going to do, at least not here, so I think you understand that.

Jamie Shea: Craig, they are two totally different armed forces. The UCK, to my knowledge, don't have tanks, major armoured vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, major pieces of artillery, so as I say, spot the difference. It's not that hard.

Julie, National Public Radio: You have just detailed all of the allied action around Mount Pastrik, 150 sorties were flown there yesterday. How have the allies contributed to the intensity of the fighting themselves? Is not the alliance getting drawn thicker and thicker into the fighting a) on behalf of the UCK and complicating any sort of peace arrangement and b) intensifying the fighting there at a time when the diplomacy is at such a delicate point?

General Jertz: Let me answer the first question and maybe Jamie can use the second part of this question. The connection you are talking about of course UCK and us, NATO, we do have the same aim. We do want to destroy military and Serb forces on the ground. And then of course that's why I always mention that they are benefiting of our operations of course but that does not mean that we are, as I've always said, we are not the KLA or UCK Air Force and I will repeat it again, we are not. We have by our intelligence sources good information on where the Serb ground forces are and we are going to attack them until we finally reach what Jamie I hope is now answering.

Jamie Shea: Julie, we don't see any contradiction between the diplomacy and the continuing use of NATO air power. Quite the reverse. It's what is going to concentrate Milosevic's mind wonderfully on the diplomacy and I always like to quote from Frederick the Great, my mentor here, he said diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.

Julie: Isn't the alliance concerned though that the intensity along the Albanian border here, at this moment, is drawing them further and further into the fight?

Jamie Shea: Drawing who into the fight Julie?

Julie: The allies.

Jamie Shea: I don't think we are any more in the fight than we are at the moment.

General Jertz: We are in the middle of the fight, at least since 70 days now.

Jake Lynch - Sky: Jamie, one thing about the diplomacy puzzles me. You've said over and over from your position there that this is, in essence, quite simple. It's simply a matter of telling Mr. Milosevic what to do and wait and see if he'll do it. So, what is NATO's understanding of what these gentlemen have been discussing for all these hours in Bonn? And secondly, you quite rightly say it will be important for this implementation force to be seen on the ground as fair and even handed. Now it's going to be more difficult for them to be seen as fair and even handed if there's a perception, even among unreasonable people, that the relationship between them and Serbian civilians for example, is that of victor and vanquished. So isn't there at least the germ of a useful idea in some of these proposals that have been flying around from Mr. Chernomyrdin that there should be some discrimination between the nationality of troops in different sectors, even if it's under the same policy arrangements as you implied a moment ago to Doug?

Jamie Shea: Jake, the problem in Kosovo is a problem of mass insecurity. A total breakdown of law and order. Only a robust, international force, with NATO as its core, is going to solve that security problem. A Serb is just as unlikely to go home with a weak peacekeeping force in Kosovo as a Kosovar Albanian. So you will not reverse the Serb ethnic cleansing either, if you don't have a strong force which is even handed and in all areas. The right of everybody to return to their home means that the same force has to adopt the same rules of engagement and the same policies in every square kilometre of Kosovo. That's why I speak about unity of command.

As to your first question, my understanding is that President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin, as a result of their very extensive conversations, have now got a very close understanding of exactly what implementing NATO's 5 principles means in practice. So when President Milosevic says well how do you expect me to do this, they will say, this is how we expect you to do this President Milosevic, and this is the timetable, so that he will have a clear view of not just what the principles mean but how he has to implement them.

Thomas: Could you tell us more on the logistical challenge to deploy 50,000 in Kosovo as it could be very urgent and presumably the roads are very damaged and what kind of schedule, timetable is already foreseen?

General Jertz: Jamie is the expert on Force Generation so Jamie, go ahead.

Jamie Shea: Well, General Jertz asking me to speak German where he is the expert. No, we have 16,000, as you know, pre-deployed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia so a third of the total force are already there, they have been training for the mission, they know the terrain, they've got the capabilities so we have an advance guard already. We proved in Bosnia in 1995 that despite the worst winter that any Bosniac can remember in recent times, we have got a major force of 60,000 in within a matter of weeks, even in some places putting bridges across the Sava River to get there. So believe me, if we can do that in Bosnia in the worst conditions we can do it in Kosovo.

John Dahlburg, L.A. Times: Jamie, now that Mr. Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin are on their way to Belgrade, it looks like, what is NATO looking for from the Yugoslav side to stop the air campaign, to stop making music in Frederick the Great's terms?

Jamie Shea: At the risk of being boring John, we are looking for the 5 conditions. You can't accuse NATO of not being consistent in its objectives. Milosevic stops the fighting right away, that's the first thing. He can pull out his forces or order a ceasefire. The guns fall silent in Kosovo. Secondly, he starts withdrawing those forces and allows us to verify that the force withdrawal is under way. He makes it clear that he accepts the deployment of an International Security Force with NATO at its core, without trying to micro-manage or to negotiate the composition of that force. He makes it clear that the refugees are now free to return home, free of intimidation and to their homes. And finally he signals that he is ready to resume talks on the future status of Kosovo which were broken off, without justification, in France back in March. Very clear. Milosevic has had virtually three months to think about those 5 conditions and how he is going to implement them so they won't come as a surprise when they are reiterated by President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin in Belgrade later today.

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