Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840 - 859)



  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 violence—very little—and 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 uncertainty.

  842. What were the different parts of the contact between the OSCE, the Contact Group, the USA and NATO generally or specifically?
  (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 it.

Mr Gapes

  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 military operation?
  (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 July 1998.

  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 taken politically.

  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 them.

  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 commander—in the case of the Balkans it is SACEUR—to 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 Kosovo.


  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 else's.

Mr Viggers

  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 military judgment?
  (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.

Laura Moffatt

  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 strike—the various phases that we organised—again 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' views.

  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 about that?
  (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 Naumann—he would tell you so himself—and 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 SHAPE.

  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.

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