Examination of Witnesses (Questions 836
WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 2000
836. Sir John and Admiral Haddacks, thank you
for coming. We are two-thirds of the way through our inquiry into
the lessons of Kosovo. We have asked you to give public evidence
mainly because we want to get on the record some things that you
kindly said to us when we visited NATO in February. If you want
to say anything to us in confidence, we can go into private session
later. We have a lot of questions to ask you so I am instructed
by the Clerk that there will not be much time for supplementary
questions. Would you like to make some kind of short opening statement?
(Sir John Goulden) Yes, if the Committee
does not mind, I would like to say an opening word about how NATO
functions. That is the key to understanding how this operation
worked and how future operations are likely, in practice, to be
handled. The culture is, of course, one of consensus. In NATO
we can do things only if 19 countries agree. That involves compromise
and that compromise has to seek the best results, not just on
the military axis, but also on the political and unity axes. In
fact, one is basically looking for the best decision of NATO on
a three-dimensional graph: political, military and unity. Compromise
is not normally at the lowest level. There are various ways in
which we ensure that the compromise is usually at a fairly high
level. That is partly because of the habits of integration and
co-operation over 50 years; it is partly because we have a strong
sense that once we start on an operation we have to see it through
to success; and it is partly because of the intense investment
that we make in consultation among the allies, not just formally
in the North Atlantic Councilduring the crisis it met 81
timesbut also informal meetings of the Council and intense
informal consultations with smaller groups and between capitals.
That is NATO's great strength. That explains the most difficult
decision that we took, to make the threat and to use force in
spite of the fact that we did not have a Security Council resolution.
It explains the speed with which we were able to escalate once
we took these decisions. As soon as various political milestones
were passed elsewhere, NATO was able to follow up with remarkable
speed. It also explains the solidarity that governmentssome
of which were in great difficulties domesticallywere able
to show in taking painful political decisions in order to stay
with the NATO pack. I stress that point. I know it is well known
to the Committee, but it is important that it should be understood
because I suspect that most peace support operations in the future
will be by a coalition of some kind. The factors that inhibited
NATO, but which were also its great strengths, will apply whether
the European Union is in the lead or NATO or whether there is
837. When we visited you, you told us that the
lessons learned were being studied. Have there been any developments
in the two or three months since we saw you? If one is learning
lessons how does one go about that other than to study them?
(Sir John Goulden) That is being done at several different
levels in NATO: with the military at SHAPE, the military in Brussels,
and the various political committees. Most of that is now at a
fairly advanced stage, although not all of it has gone to the
Council yet. The key lesson that we have learned from previous
operations is that the important thing is not just to learn lessons,
but to implement them. That is one of George Robertson's major
themes since he arrived at NATO. He is determined that this time
we shall not just learn lessons, but that we shall implement them.
He is setting up an implementation machinery to that effect. I
think that will make a very important difference. It is crucial
that we draw the right lessons. That is the value of reports like
the one you will be doing.
838. At what level will that implementation
take place? If it is not done at a pretty high level and if there
is a lot of bureaucracy, everything will disappear and initiatives
will be gobbled up.
(Sir John Goulden) I think it will have to be done
under the authority of the Council and under the authority of
the Secretary-General. If he puts his weight behind it, that will
make all the difference.
839. The attempt to manage the Kosovo crisis
was, by definition, in some ways a failure as we had to resort
to military force. Do you believe that ways may have been found,
or moves made earlier, that could have avoided the bombing of
Serbia and Kosovo?
(Sir John Goulden) That is a very big issue. In as
far as military operations are always a result of a political
failure, I would point the finger first, obviously, at Milosevic.
I do not need to go into the details of the number of opportunities
that he lost and the mistakes that he made that led us to that
crisis. The second area would be the institutions and the non-governmental
organisations that specialise in conflict prevention, which is
not NATO's forte, although given Milosevic's line, those organisations
were probably doomed to fail at that stage. My sense is that if
there had been a Security Council resolution in October 1998 or
in January, February or March 1999, we might have been able to
avoid a conflict. Milosevic might have been overwhelmed if there
had been a Security Council resolution that included military
force. But that was vetoed by Russia and China. Milosevic was
then left with a feeling that we would probably use force, but
that we would be inhibited and that the international community
would split and that if he held his ground it would go on splitting.
We had to go to that stage of the air campaign. In retrospect,
the air campaign was a precondition of success. Without it we
would never have achieved the resultthe five conditionsthat
we insisted upon.