Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840
WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 2000
840. In retrospect was NATO involved early enough
in attempts to find a political solution to the problem?
(Sir John Goulden) NATO's role was to provide the
military muscle behind the political strategy run by other bodies,
particularly the Contact Group and the American shuttle diplomacy
between the Serbs and the Kosovars. Force was in the picture from
an early stage when Bush made his threat to Milosevic in the early
1990s: if you mess about in Kosovo there will be trouble. NATO
itself became involved in December 1997 and was more deeply involved
in January, February and March 1998. I think that was about the
right time. Up to that moment there had not been much violencevery
littleand the thrust of international effort was rightly
on negotiation. There were private negotiations through the Americans,
negotiations involving the Contact Group and NGOs. It is worth
remembering that the Catholic organisation based in Italy, Sant
Egido, was carrying out very important negotiations to set up
an educational deal between the Kosovars and the Serbs. I think
NATO came in with the beginnings of the sabre rattling at about
the right time in the spring, as the violence began to show itself.
It would have been premature and probably unwelcome if we had
come in earlier than that.
841. Was it clear at various stages who was
going to take the lead, whether it was OSCE, the Contact Group,
the USA, NATO or whoever?
(Sir John Goulden) That is always a problem. All those
bodies have their own agendas. But we had learned a lot of lessons
from Bosnia, particularly with the UN, OSCE and the European Union.
That co-operation was very good. The most difficult co-ordination
was with the Contact Group. Sometimes the Contact Group was in
the lead and sometimes NATO was in the lead. We felt that particularly
in early April when we had to define the terms for a ceasefire.
That was a crucially difficult policy moment in the crisis. In
the end, NATO defined its terms on 6 April 1999 and the Contact
Group proved to be happy with them. But by and large, whenever
the contact Group produced a political ultimatum, NATO was ready
to back it up with a military ultimatum and the two worked in
quite good synergy. There were one or two moments when there was
842. What were the different parts of the contact
between the OSCE, the Contact Group, the USA and NATO generally
(Sir John Goulden) Solana and his opposite numbers
played an absolutely key role. We sent most of our documents to
those other organisations. The Contact Group, of course, was made
up of the NATO allies plus Russia and all the governments involved
had to ensure co-ordination. NATO also sent representatives to
some other organisations. With the OSCE the links were extremely
intimate during October, November and December when the verification
mission was in Kosovo. With the UN it was extremely good and close,
because Solana and Annan were in such close contact throughout.
It was mainly informal rather than formal. We tried to avoid ritualising
843. Admiral Haddacks, we have just been told
that NATO made the decision to get involved at a political level
from December 1997 onwards. Can you tell us at what stage the
NATO military staff were involved in detailed planning for the
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) First, we were involved in
the May of 1998 in providing advice to the Council on what measures
we may contemplate to stabilise the area. It was not thinking
about the direct intervention in Kosovo at that time, but the
Council was concerned about spill-over into Macedonia and Albania.
The first military thinking was measures to stabilise the Balkans
against what was happening in Kosovo. In terms of planning for
Kosovo itself, the trigger there was the ministerial meeting in
June 1998. Following that, the Council commissioned military advice
on a range of options. Those were options for preventative deployments
to neighbouring states; options for ground deployments for going
into Kosovo in the wake of any ceasefire or settlement there;
options on forced entry; and, of course, options on an air campaign.
That whole package of work was first put together in June and
844. In retrospect, was that soon enough, or
should it have been done earlier?
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) I believe it was soon enough.
The military planners throughout the whole campaign did a remarkable
job. They were very responsive and very rapid. I am not conscious
of any piece of military planning that was either done badly or
incomplete through lack of time. No, it was soon enough. There
was a need to have the answers in place for the decisions to be
845. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General
Sir Charles Guthrie, told us that in the summer of 1998 the UK
was ahead of NATO. Do you agree with that? Is that your view?
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) It is incumbent on nations,
where possible, to be ahead of NATO detailed planning because
nations need to be ready to respond with their own thought processes
and to have assessed to what degree they wish to contribute to
operations, and so on. The UK, and all the other nations were
well aware of the thought process going on in NATO. I am encouraged
to think that in the UK itself our thought process was a little
quicker. It is easier to be quicker in a single national staff,
than it is within an allied staff.
(Sir John Goulden) It is worth adding that by September
we had a complete library of plans in NATO covering almost every
possible use that we might have for force. That was all ready
by September 1998. The real test is whether there was ever a moment
when the plans were not ready and we needed to use them, and the
answer is no. They were always ready before we were ready to use
846. Would it be fair to say that NATO, and
in particular the small member states within NATO, had ownership
of the military strategy before the Alliance set itself on the
course that eventually led to the military action against Serbia?
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) It is fair to say that in
terms of military planning as seen in NATO headquarters, all 19
nations share ownership of that planning. Perhaps I can explain
the process. The Council identifies an issue on which it needs
military advice. The IMS (International Military Staff) tasks
the responsible strategic commanderin the case of the Balkans
it is SACEURto provide the advice asked for by the Council.
That advice comes up to NATO and is then sent to national capitals
for consideration. The Military Committee then meets and puts
together a capping memorandum on the SHAPE advice, which is the
Military Committee's overall assessment of the validity of the
advice, and provides to the Council further conclusions and recommendations
on that advice. So all nations have ownership of that part of
the process. As planning becomes more detailed, we start to see
draft operation plans and so on. Those too are available in capitals
and nations are allowed to comment on them. Normally they divide
their comments into some that are essential and some that are
just important. The important ones are left for SACEUR and operational
commanders to deal with, but essential ones have to be resolved
to a nation's satisfaction before the Council is recommended to
approve the operational planning. Whether you are the United States
or Luxembourg, you have the same right in that process to put
up a yellow or a red card and say, "We want this point addressed",
or "We want this point managed in a different way".
847. Who decides what is essential?
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) It is for the nations to decide
what is essential and to negotiate with the Military Committee
the solution to their essential point.
848. If one nation says that something is essential
does it have to be dealt with at that level?
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) It would have to be dealt
with within the Military Committee and resolved to a point of
consensus before it can go through to the Council. What is remarkable
about the whole Kosovo campaign is that that process, that can
take weeks or months, took a matter of hours generally through
the main part of the Kosovo campaign. NATO was very quick and
very responsive, particularly with the UK.
(Sir John Goulden) One relevant point in relation
to your question is that the allies were not actually asked to
take a crucial decision involving the threat of force until 13
October and again on 30 January 1999. That was the moment when
they put their money on the line. Up until then we had been doing
hypothetical planning without commitment. At no stage did the
production of a plan oblige nations to go to war or to start using
force. By 13 October everybody had ownership because we had been
through this difficult process of wrestling with the legal problem
and the political issues associated with the deterioration in
849. Did that library of plans have under "R"
refugees and what to do with them when tens of thousands of them
come charging over the mountains into Albania? We have the impression
that that really caught us by surprise.
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) The answer is that in October
1998, no, it did not. It focused on a range of military plans
that dealt with air operations, ground operations in Kosovo in
the two scenarios that I have described and support operations
into neighbouring states. So the possibility was there in the
plans for us to put Mike Jackson's force into Macedonia, and there
were the bare bones of the options to put a stabilisation force
into Albania. The tasking for humanitarian purposes was not there
at that particular stage.
850. I shall not labour that point because of
the time constraint. There are all these plans which were extremely
competent and Milosevic had few cards to play. Did not someone
have the wit to work out that he would flood his opponent's area
with people going in the opposite direction to that in which you
may be going?
(Sir John Goulden) I think the Foreign Secretary explained
to the FAC why it was difficult to pre-plan and to put facilities
in place for a massive deportation. The governments concerned
would not have accepted it and nobody at that time was predicting
it. Our assumption was that in the spring there would be a further
campaign, probably more extreme ethnic repression than in the
previous year and a lot of people would be displaced and driven
out into the mountains. Looking at the evidence as a whole, we
had no reason to expect that deportation would be the key vehicle
that he would use. When we saw it, we got the plans moving very
quickly. Of course. The NATO response was much faster than anyone
851. Once the air campaign had started, what
were the main problems of maintaining the political consensus
on the North Atlantic Council?
(Sir John Goulden) The really difficult problem of
consensus came one stage before that with the threat to use force.
The most difficult moment for the allies to come together and
say that they would do something collectively was finding a legal
base that we were all happy with to issue a threat in the first
place in the absence of a Security Council resolution. Thereafter,
the consensus was remarkably good, considering the many different
situations that governments were in. Bearing in mind the new governments
in Italy and in Germany, the special position of Greece, the Czech
Republic's special position, the Hungarian population of Voyvodina,
Turkey's ethnic interests in Kosovo and so on, the consensus was
very good. There were two problem areas. The first was the flow
of information as not everybody knew enough in time and not everybody
felt comfortable with what they knew in time. The flow of information
will always be a problem in a crisis. Some allies were not happy
with the extent of information about what was going on in the
Contact Group. Not everybody was acting on the basis of the same
information. The second problem area was in the dark days of early
April 1999, when the weather was bad, the air strikes were not
being very effective, the refugees were pouring out, there were
premature peace initiatives and people were rushing to Belgrade
with half-baked peace schemes and so on. In that period, just
before Easter 1999, consensus was hard to sustain. However, I
never felt that it was going to break; I just felt that it was
under strain at that time. Of course, after the Washington summit
the consensus grew stronger and stronger, particularly under the
impetus of the refugee problem.
852. I have a different question for Admiral
Haddacks. Sir John has explained the triangle of political, military
and unity. To what extent did the overriding need to maintain
the Alliance consensus distort military planning and contradict
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) In the areas that became important,
I do not think it did at all. In the areas of the air campaign
and the ultimate ground deployment, there were no real problems
of military consensus throughout those events. With hindsight,
there were two areas where we had trouble in finding some consensus
in the Military Committee. One was on what became the vexed issue
of "board and search", the regime to enforce an oil
embargo. Through difficulties of legal base among various nations,
we could not find a consensus for a mechanism to do that satisfactorily.
That was right in the end game. We also had a consensus problem
over the viability of the military conducting humanitarian air
drops in advance of an eventual ceasefire. There were problems
in those two unique areas, but in terms of the main operations
I am not conscious of any distortion of military planning through
lack of consensus.
853. Can you remind the Committee at what stage
the political management was handed over to the Secretary-General?
(Sir John Goulden) The key dates were those of the
two decisions to threaten to use force: firstly, 13 October 1998,
just before the Holbrooke negotiation came to a crisis and, secondly,
30 January 1999. As part of making that threat credible, warning
Milosevic that if he did not co-operate we would use force, we
delegated to Solana the power to tell SHAPE when to start. That
made the threat more credible but there was also a caveat attached
to it. We insisted that Solana should decide on the basis of intensive
consultation. He had the power, but before using it he had to
consult intensely with everybody and with the governments as well.
That was an effective way of doing it and it is a model that I
believe we should continue to use. When we got into the campaign
itself and delegated to the military the tasking to do certain
categories of strikethe various phases that we organisedagain
the assumption was that the military would stay in close touch
with Solana and that Solana would help them with any interpretative
problems that they had. He, at the centre of the web, knew what
the Council would live with and what it would not live with.
854. From your response to my question we would
assume that you were happy with the timing of that. Is that true?
(Sir John Goulden) Yes, I think it was about right.
You could argue in the case of the January decision that it came
a bit early because we could not actually use force until several
conditions had been met. First, there had to be a humanitarian
crisis and on 30 January there was not then an obvious, grave
humanitarian crisis. We had the Racak case and the graph was moving
the wrong way, but there was not yet a total humanitarian crisis.
Second, the Serbs had not rejected all the deals on offer. That
did not happen until after Rambouillet. Third, the Kosovars had
not signed up to the deals. That did not happen until the Klaiber
negotiation. I think it was good to put the power in the hands
of Solana and by using the consultation method to leave the precise
timing to his judgment in the light of what he knew to be governments'
855. In your preamble you mentioned that the
North Atlantic Council met 81 times during this process.
(Sir John Goulden) Yes.
856. It seems to me that meetings are one thing,
but what you actually do is important. What was the Council doing?
Was it micro-managing the whole campaign? Can you tell us a little
(Sir John Goulden) The first half of all these meetings
was devoted to a detailed briefing from the military on what was
happening. Usually each day we had a letter from SACEUR which
told us what had happened the previous night. We had a detailed
briefing from the chairman of the Military Committee; we had a
daily intelligence document which circulated all the information
available to NATO and some assessments; and then we went on to
issues. That was the moment when the allies with problems raised
issues. Even in formal Council people were free to do that, and
did so if they had a hang-up or a problem or an anxiety building
up in their governments. They would say that colleagues needed
to be aware that people in their capital were beginning to worry
a little about this, or were asking themselves something and what
could they say to them to reassure them. When we wanted new planning
carried out, someone would say, "Would it be a good idea
if we asked for military advice on that problem?" Then the
process that Paul has described would start to produce military
advice and planning. Micro-management did not occur at any stage.
We cleared targets generically. We said, "This phase is now
authorised", "That phase is now authorised". We
never sat in judgment on an individual target. In fact, I can
think of only a couple of cases where a target was mentioned in
the Council and that was done illustratively: "If you authorise
this phase, this is the sort of target we shall think about hitting".
We never said, "We veto this", "You can do that"
or "Why are not you doing that?" That was not our job.
Over four or five years in the Balkans we have learned that the
military must be given leeway, freedom to do their own job within
the guidelines that we set them, which are generic clearance and
the clear constraints about collateral damage, safety of our own
troops and specific guidance like, "Please do not hit Montenegro
unless it is really necessary".
(Vice-Admiral Haddacks) Perhaps I can support Sir
John's reply to you. Certainly in the Military Committee we never
felt that there was any micro-management within the Council. We
were relieved, and perhaps slightly pleasantly surprised, because
the track record is not always as "hands-off" as it
was during the actual campaign itself. I know that Klaus Naumannhe
would tell you so himselfand my colleagues all felt that
the Council was very restrained in that period. It stood well
back, which was just the right thing to do.
857. That may have been as it appeared to you.
I assume that there had been a fair amount of negotiation before
it became public. It was a meeting that was working well and you
presented a united front. Was it ever difficult to agree those
generalities of targeting?
(Sir John Goulden) We had already interfered, of course,
in clearing the plan, where the military and even the political
side of the Alliance had been able to crawl over the plan and
say, "We do not like that". Often the plans went back
for quick amendment. There was also contact in capitals of course
and with the commanders. So there was a very intense dialogue.
The military knew what was asked of them and they also knew what
the political realities were.
858. Who drew up the targeting guidelines?
(Sir John Goulden) It was SHAPE: it came to us through
859. It went from SHAPE, to you for amendment
and then back to SHAPE?
(Sir John Goulden) Sometimes they subcontracted it
to other headquarters to do the detailed work because the plan
is a thick document. But SHAPE was our interlocutor and SACEUR,
of course, was in very close contact with us.