Examination of witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2000
and MR SIMON
20. But surely the planners are not just concerned
with planning for what might be absolutely inevitable but what
might be feasible?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) It was at least six months
before public concerns about Kosovo and generally people like
yourself became concerned about Kosovo that we became very worried.
I do not think there was a vacuum. We were watching the entire
Balkans region and it was well up on our list.
(Mr Tebbit) Towards the end of 1997, the emphasis
within the contact group after Tony Lloyd's visit and NATO was
on urging Rugova and the Serbs to meet for a peaceful resolution
of their differences. We were probably ahead of NATO planning
during 1998 in trying to encourage, through the contact group,
people to consider whether we should be bringing pressure to bear
on Milosevic to negotiate seriously. There is a big difference
here between a conflict between nations and what was still, formally
speaking at that stage, a matter within the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia. Remember, when we intervened, it was to avert a humanitarian
disaster. It was not to impose a settlement on people who were
part of the same structure. There is a difference there between
conflict between nations and, as you know, conflict within a federation
of Yugoslavia where autonomy had been taken away from one group
and they were seeking its restoration. There is a difference between
a straightforward international crisis where we might think we
should take military action and a crisis where the solution needed
to be and had to be from the start a peaceful, political solution.
It was the failure of the two sides to get together and secure
that solution that led to the intervention that we have seen because
of the humanitarian crisis that arose, not because of a classic
war intervention scenario. That sounds rather Mottramesque, Chairman,
but I think there is a distinction there that is quite important.
21. When planning was commenced for a campaign
of coercion against Serbia, were the objectives clear? In other
words, did the military planners in the PJHQ and in SHAPE understand
what the politicians were looking for?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) We wanted to give the
politicians as many options as we could, because we were not quite
sure, so we had to have a number of contingency plans. As I mentioned,
we did look at a very large span. In the first category, we had
Partnerships for Peace exercises, which meant we actually sent
people to Albania and Macedonia, three exercises. Sometimes the
air had the emphasis and sometimes the people on the ground. Then
we had another category. For instance, one option at one end of
the spectrum was selective support to the OSCE, supporting arms
embargoes, going up to the other end of the spectrum, which was
deploying people in Albania and Macedonia, to support the monitoring
which was going on. We then had two air options which we looked
at. Then we looked at the ground deployments, where we had four
options. One was to implement a ceasefire or a peace settlement
with full consent of all the parties. Then we had forced entry
to Kosovo and then we had a very worst case. We had a wide number
of plans which we presented to people.
22. Did they believe they could deliver what
the politicians were looking for? How did the military planners
assess the risks of engaging in a quick coercive campaign against
Milosevic as opposed to dealing with him in other ways?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) When it came to it,
we did deliver for the politicians. The campaign was a success.
We managed to achieve what we wanted to with an air campaign and
we were able to insert a ground force as a result of that.
23. When we were in SHAPE last month, we found
out that there was war gaming with an American facility in Germany.
There has been criticism that NATO did not conduct any political
war gaming in the run-up to the air campaign. Were NATO's international
staff involved sufficiently early in drafting the military options
and providing political/military guidance?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) NATO can give you a
better answer, quite honestly, than I can about that because I
am not quite sure when they did get involved. We had no war gaming
of the air campaign in this country but we did make very thorough
assessments at the Permanent Joint Headquarters of things like
casualties and we used past studies and operational experience.
We did model collateral damage to see what effect a bombing campaign
would have. Some war gaming did take place in Land Command during
the operation and really the intention of that was to estimate
the force size required and the benefits of different courses
of actionagain, casualties and ammunition requirements.
24. Was it the view of your advisers, or was
it your view, that Milosevic would cave in quickly?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I always hoped he would
cave in quickly, but I made it absolutely clear from the word
go that we had to brace ourselves for a long haul.
25. Do you think these views were passed on
to the NATO allies?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I certainly found that
my views were mirrored by most of my fellow Chiefs of Defence
in NATO. I also believe that none of the major players in the
political world in this country was under any illusion.
(Mr Tebbit) I was in Pakistan at the time, trying
to restart our relationship up after a small nuclear difficulty.
When it started, I telephoned home naturally and said, "Does
the Secretary of State want me to come back right now and not
carry on with the visit?" This was literally when the bombing
started, although we had a few hours' notice. George Robertson
said, "No, you had better come back fresh from the Indian
sub-continent; this could go on for quite a long time. I think
we might need some fresh minds after a bit". I just give
you that little, personal anecdote in good faith. We were not
under any illusions. Although we hoped it would be over quickly,
we needed to plan for it to be longer.
26. Was it not agreed because the view was that
there was a lot to consider, the use of ground troops, that the
air strikes were good enough? If that was the assumption, surely
it was not the planners' view that these air strikes could go
on and on?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Some people in the alliance
felt that the bombing could go on and on. We, as I think it is
well known, believed that a ground option should be planned for.
I would like to have seen a ground option planned before the first
bomb was dropped. I believe it was important to do that because
you need to face Milosevic with different options. You want to
worry him. If he was worried about a ground campaign, which he
was in the end, because you will remember in my opening remarks
I said I thought this had a lot to do with him caving in at the
end, but I would like to have planned and hoped we would never
have had to do it.
27. Was that the advice you gave to the Prime
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) What I told the Prime
Minister it is probably best for the Prime Minister to tell you,
rather than me.
Mr Hood: Now we know your view, we can
28. I am interested that you now say that you
wish that the option of planning for ground invasion had been
available right from the start, because I have the text here of
a press conference in which you participated on 12 April 1999
and you said, "The question of NATO using ground forces continues
to be raised and I wish to make it clear, absolutely clear, once
again what our position is of today. Neither NATO nor the United
Kingdom have any plans for a proposed invasion of Kosovo by force."
You went on to say, "This does not mean to say that over
many months we have not been considering making contingency plans
for the use of ground troops. It would have been irresponsible
not to do so." Do you not feel that you were sending the
opposite signal to Milosevic by stating that, at the very time
when he ought to have been being kept worried that there was a
possibility of ground troops?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I said "of today"
and that was the position at that time. That was what NATO's position
was. We obviously had to go along with what the market could bear.
Other countries at that time were less keen on it. I was just
saying what NATO's position was. I said "of today".
As time passed, the likelihood of having to turn to a ground option
became ever stronger because winter was approaching. The alliance
was thinking, changing its attitude and I believe it was one of
the reasons why it was not taken off the table at the Washington
Summit. President Clinton said, "All the options are on the
table", I think. Before this, Javier Solana said, before
the Washington Summit, "We must plan for everything".
29. You were in an extremely difficult position
because only the day before, at another conference, the Foreign
Secretary had said categorically11 April"We
are not preparing for a ground invasion. These troops are not
preparing for a ground invasion but we have more assets than he
[Milosevic] has and we can keep going longer than he can. The
sooner he recognises that, the better for his army". The
problem I am getting at is this: you have said to us very frankly
that you would like to have seen Milosevic kept worried right
from before the first bomb was droppedthat was your expressionthat
there might be a ground invasion; but you felt that you had to
say, if only because your political masters were saying it, that
there will be no ground invasion because of the very revealing
phrase you just used, it was what the market would bear.
(Mr Tebbit) There is another dimension here. I am
not just trying to put words into the CDS's mouth because he can
do it for himself. There was no secret that we were planning military
options. In 1998, we were planning military options, but this
was a matter of NATO cohesion and solidarity. The most important
thing of all was that the alliance should be absolutely resolute
and clear and that, when it said anything, it said it with absolute
unanimity. It was not possible for the alliance as a whole to
have said that and the Chief of Defence Staff was not playing
to his United Kingdom political masters; this was a necessity
in terms of alliance cohesion and solidarity. That is one of the
reasons we won in the end, because we remained united.
30. I do not want to anticipate later questions
but I want to get this quite clear. The militarily desirable option
would have been for Milosevic, before the first bomb was dropped,
to have been in fear that there might be ground forces used, but
you felt that you could not say that, even when we were into the
conflict in mid-April, because you were afraid that the unity
of the alliance might not bear it or, as you say, the market might
not bear it.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I was just one Chief
of Defence Staff. There is a council for political leaders and
my view was that I would have, but it is not just me.
31. Do you not feel, in a way, that you as a
professional, military adviser should not have to have considered
these political aspects about alliance unity and were put in something
of a false position to have to go up and take what was an overall
political line on this question when, in fact, militarily you
would have wanted to be able to threaten that ground forces would
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I see what you are getting
at but my view is that what I said on that day, as you quoted,
was "as of today". That was the position. As of today
it was not on. That does not mean to say that I would not have
liked something else. It was not just a political decision; this
was in our country and we were one of 19.
Chairman: Thankfully, we have established
political control over the military. The military, thank God,
do not make policy. It is bad enough having politicians making
32. I am grateful for the explanation of that
statement because I remember when I heard it I felt that this
simply was not credible. This Committee heard a lot in Brussels
and Mons last month about the lack of a clear mission when the
Allied Rapid Reaction Corps deployed to Macedonia. Was the build-up
of forces in Macedonia, following the deployment of the ARRC,
well managed? Did they know what they were there to do and could
they have done it?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) When they were building
up in Macedonia and before the technical agreement with the Serbs
was signed, there was some uncertainty about where they would
go and the nations who would be involved in it, but when the technical
agreement was signed, if you remember, General Jackson did that
with the Serbs, and it was quite clear how he would move into
Kosovo and where people would go. There had been discussions obviously
of contingency plans because we all knew that sooner or later
we were going to have to move into Kosovo hopefully to implement
a ceasefire which had been agreed by all parties, which we did;
or go in another way. He was clear what he had to do but it could
have changed at some stage up until the time of the actual signing
of the agreement.
33. Clearly, if Milosevic had been threatened,
even privately, with a ground invasion, this would have had an
impact on him. Why was he not threatened, overtly or covertly,
with a ground invasion?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I think it really is
linked with the abilities in question. The alliance were coming
from different places. The alliance held together and I think
the resolution of the alliance actually strengthened rather than
weakened. Again, that was one of the main reasons why Milosevic
gave up because he hoped to divide the alliance. If we had gone
too far too fast, it might have been difficult for some countries.
(Mr Tebbit) You also have to bear in mind how long
it would have taken to have amassed forces necessary to achieve
a successful, opposed entry into Kosovo. Mike Jackson and his
force were configured for peace implementation; they were not
configured for an opposed offensive. You recall George Robertson
saying regularly, shortly afterwards when he was making his speeches
about the event, that it would have been the middle of September
before we were in a position to have inserted a force for war
fighting, had that been politically desirable. That was about
150,000 people. We finished the thing a lot earlier than that
through political resolve and essentially an air campaign.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) 150,000 to bring into
that area is a very demanding operation. We could have done it
and I think there was no secret that we, being British, were prepared
to find some 50,000, both regular and reserve.
34. How near were you to mobilising reserves?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) We were getting quite
close to it. I would say within a month.
35. How many reserves were you contemplating
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I cannot give you a
really accurate answer to that question because it depends on
what other nations were going to produce on the line of communications.
I was thinking of 12,000 or 14,000, something like that.
36. What was the trigger that caused the North
Atlantic Council reluctantly to reopen the question of a ground
invasion towards the end of the campaign?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I think there was a
feeling that it was necessary, if we were to get the Kosovars
back into their housesremember, we had some 850,000 who
had been driven from their houseswe needed to do it sooner
at that stage rather than later. If we had run into the winter,
getting them back in the most terrible weather would have caused
us great problems.
37. If you were within a month of mobilising
reserves, did you learn during the preliminary stage of the premobilisation
any lessons about the availability of reserves? Have you any cause
for concern, particularly in the recent case, for instance, where
an individual reservist
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I am absolutely sure
we would have had large numbers of the Territorial Army and the
reserves volunteering to come. I have no doubt that they would
have played a very, very important part. I remind you that we
have 800 in the Balkans today, and they are an extremely important
part of the Army. We had not done a trial on calling out sub-units
or units. We are having a study on that at the moment. We will
be reporting before the end of the year. That will make them more
usable. We would have had volunteers.
38. Whilst no-one knows for certain what caused
the change of heart of Milosevicwe all suspect that it
was pressure from Russiathe fact is that, to use the word
you used yourself, Sir Charles, we were lucky and we got away
with it, but is that the way to plan?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I used it in a slightly
different way, I was talking about aircraft really that we were
lucky enough to have. It is very difficult to predict exactly
what is going to happen. There is always an element of risk. We
all felt that what we were doing was well worth the risk and we
would come out on top and be successful, which is exactly what
(Mr Tebbit) I must say I did not feel that it was
just the Russians making it clear to Milosevic that they were
not prepared to help him that was decisive in the end, I think
there were at least four different factors. One of them was the
fact that the alliance held absolutely firm, despite every attempt
by Milosevic to divide and his expectation that he would be able
to do that. The second one was that all options were on the table
and whatever he could do, he could not, as it were, defeat the
KLA while NATO was keeping his own forces pinned down. It was
not that we were fighting for the KLA, it was just that the Serbs
could not move. The third reason, which I did not think of at
the time but I must say with the benefit of subsequent events
was quite important, was the indictment by the War Crimes Tribunal.
That appears to have had quite an effect on the Serbs, not necessarily
on Milosevic but on the leadership around him. These were as well
as the Russian element. I mention them because I think it is quite
an important point as to why he gave in.
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) Can I pick that up. You
suggested that we were planning on luck, we were not planning
on luck. There was tremendous resolution at the start both in
this country and at NATO and certainly in this Ministry of Defence.
We made contingency plans which included a ground operation, a
NATO ground operation, and the key question was when that ground
operation had to be called, in other words for the forces to be
mobilised. We did not quite reach that point. We were not planning
on luck, we had a comprehensive plan to ensure victory.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Just one thing about
the solidarity of the alliance. I think it is very interesting
when you think of their experience in these things, Germany and
the Bundestag, 98% voted for what we were doing, Italy who were
alleged to have real problems about what we were doing were host
to nearly a thousand NATO aircraft but Greece, who had opinion
polls which were overwhelmingly against the action, were very
solid when it came to the final days.
39. Just to follow on Dr Lewis's question, to
paraphrase what you said, Sir Charles, basically I think what
you said was you had to sacrifice your military judgment because
we belonged to a consensus organisation?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I am subject to political
control and I live in a real world. No-one can do always exactly
what they want to do. This was the right thing for the alliance
to do and I was happy to go along with that and make my point.
I think it was well understood what I did. I did not feel uncomfortable
Mr Cann: Nevertheless, we have a very
large NATO already, do you think if we make it even larger it
will make a difference?
Chairman: That is another inquiry. Only
I can ask stupid questions.