Updated: 2 June 1999 News Articles

in the
2 June 1999

Effectiveness and Determination

Article by General Wesley K Clark, SACEUR

NATO's air campaign is now two months old: each day, since 24 March, we have been systematically, comprehensively, relentlessly weakening Milosevic's hold on the levers of power and his ability to sustain and control his forces in the field.

The campaign is having a dramatic impact. Every night more aircraft - we now have more than double the numbers we had at the start of the campaign - are flying strike sorties. Every night they are hitting more targets.

Our aims are both strategic and tactical.

Strategically NATO's air campaign continues to focus on disrupting Milosevic's ability to direct and sustain the conflict in Kosovo - a conflict that violates all international norms. We are weakening his hold on the power base that enables him to conduct his ethnic cleansing.

This includes the strategic command, communication and logistics networks that Milosevic uses to control and supply the military and internal security forces on the ground in Kosovo.

It also includes the state-controlled media. This is the instrument Milosevic uses to mobilise resources. He also uses it to deny to the Serb people the truth about the atrocities his forces are committing in Kosovo, to conceal the depth of international condemnation for his policies and to hide the punishment his forces are taking.

We have targeted the integrated air defence systems: this means our aircraft can mount unrestricted and relentless attacks on the forces engaged in Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing.

We have destroyed or disrupted critical lines of communication including bridges, road and rail routes, re-supply chains and military manufacturing capability.

We have also targeted the command and control points critical to the Yugoslav force's ability to conduct operations in Kosovo, as well as the petroleum production and reserves used to fuel Milosevic's war machine.

This may seem like an impossibly long list of targets - but we are steadily working our way through it, thanks to the bravery, professionalism and expertise of NATO's forces.

All but one bridge across the Danube is down; the four major road and rail routes into Kosovo are closed; the Headquarters of the 1st and 3rd armies have been destroyed; 40% of military fuel stocks are gone, along with 30% of fuel storage capacity. And, equally important, Milosevic's ability to disseminate propaganda is nearly extinct.

Our strategic campaign is achieving its aims: it is getting harder and harder for Milosevic to direct and sustain his forces in Kosovo.

And our tactical operation is hitting the forces causing the carnage in Kosovo.

To date we have hit some 600 pieces of heavy equipment; we have destroyed around 100 aircraft, around 75% of Serbia's fixed surface-to-air missile sites and half the ammunition storage in Kosovo. The Serbs can no longer generate and launch tactical aircraft.

Serb forces now hide during the day: they only move around at night, or when the weather is bad. And they have dispersed into smaller units. This makes them vulnerable to the KLA - still a threat after a year of attacks by the Serbs.

Our tactical campaign has transformed the Serb forces from well-equipped, efficient and lethal into a collection of individuals less able to carry out their campaign of brutality. Each day brings news of more disruption within their ranks - mass desertions, resignations by senior officers, and generals under house arrest.

This is an army in decline; an army that knows it is losing. The simple fact is that Milosevic will have to accept our demands, sooner or later, and the campaign will continue until he does so. Like his army, he knows he is losing. So why does he still hold out? Only his stubbornness, and perhaps a mistaken belief that he can negotiate on the basis of our demands, is keeping him holding on. Once again Milosevic is wrong.

Our campaign aims to cause the minimum civilian casualties by precise targeting, and the use of proportionate force. We are taking out the tanks, trucks and installations one by one. This takes patience and skill. It also takes time. But this is a tribute to the success of the campaign rather than any inherent weakness. We are targeting individual vehicles with pinpoint accuracy. And we are getting them - one at a time, again, and again, and again.

We have now flown over 10,000 strike sorties, released around 14,000 pieces of ordnance and hit 1,900 targets. Each day takes us closer to victory, each day takes Milosevic nearer to defeat.

There have been some civilian casualties - I regret them very much. But they would have been far higher without our careful targeting, high technology and skilful service personnel. And let us not forget that Milosevic has been deliberately moving refugees into strike zones to try to create civilian casualties - a hideous and evil act.

Today the resolve of the Alliance is stronger than it was on Day 1, it will be even stronger tomorrow. This is because our growing awareness of the horrors of the Milosevic regime is redoubling our determination to banish them from today's world.

All 19 NATO members and our partners - over 40 countries - know that the crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a challenge to the values that NATO has successfully defended for the past 50 years: democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. These are the values at the very heart of today's international community: values that we intend to preserve in the next millennium.

The responsibility for this conflict sits squarely on Milosevic's shoulders. He is causing the damage to his country and his people. The values of the Milosevic regime - built around ethnic hatred and systematic brutality - come from an era of the darkest past. They have no place in today's world. Our quarrel is with him, and his regime, not the Serb people.

Our terms are simple, and not negotiable. Milosevic must stop the killing. He must get his troops out of Kosovo. He must accept an international military presence, with NATO at its core, to establish security inside Kosovo. He must unconditionally allow all refugees to go home and live in safety. And he must work to build a lasting political solution based on the Rambouillet plan.

Milosevic could accept these terms today. Until he does NATO aircraft will continue to take to the skies each day and night, in a campaign whose cause is just, and whose means are justified.

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