Examination of Witness (Questions 976
WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2000
976. Thank you so very much for coming. It is
literally a flying visit for you. We will let you go at 11.30
when you wish to depart. We last met you when you visited NATO,
when you had come back that day having negotiated with Milosevic.
We were most impressed by your frankness and what you, in fact,
had said to us. We have read the statement you made to the United
States Congress. If I might ask a question based on your evidence.
You said in your statement to the Senate Armed Forces Committee:
"Nobody knows when [Milosevic] took his decision but I have
reason to believe that it was in November 1998 and it was most
probably the decision to not only annihilate the KLA but also
to expel the bulk of the Kosovars in order to restore an ethnic
superiority of the Serbs." My question is why and when did
you have reason to believe that Milosevic took a decision to begin
his campaign of ethnic cleansing in November 1998? It was, by
your quote, most probably a decision not only to annihilate the
KLA but also to expel the Kosovars in order to restore an ethnic
superiority in the Serbs.
(General Naumann) The reason why I came,
unfortunately with hindsight, to that conclusion, is that since
it was hindsight, I did not come to it in November 1998. General
Clarke and myself saw Milosevic in January 1999. As you know,
we were sent a second timewithout any success by the way.
He said to us, and General Clarke has stated this in public, "I
will solve the Kosovo problem once and for all in spring 1999."
That was Milosevic.
977. That is what he said?
(General Naumann) Yes.
978. Did you feel that was a threatening statement?
(General Naumann) It went on a little bit. We asked
him, "How will you do it, Mr President?" "We will
do to them what we did to the Albanians in Drenica in 1945."
So we said to him, "Mr President, we do not know what you
did to the Albanians in 1945. Would you be so kind as to elaborate."
"It is quite simple. We got them together and we shot them."
That was his answer. I would call it a little bit of a warning.
The intentions were not too peaceful at all. When he said thisand
I am not now revealing something which has never been said in
publicI repeat, General Clarke has stated it in public,
and it was reported at least in the American papers and in your
country one recollection came back to my mind when we negotiated
the retreat of the Serb forces in October 1998. We arrived at
a certain moment at an impasse and we got the impression that
the Serbs were playing for time. We had not achieved anything
after five hours or so but to solve the problem around the pocket
of Milosevic. Then General Perisic, the then Chief of Defence,
took us into his office. He was accompanied by a Police General.
He manoeuvred to get this Police General out. Then he suddenly
changed his tone. Before that he had spoken the usual official
Serb language. Then he told us, "Listen, you have to talk
to Milosevic. We all cannot do anything. You have to go back to
him now in order to find some flexibility on his side. He is the
only man in Serbia who can solve this problem." Then he went
on to say, "I am saying this to you since I want to save
the Serbian Army. I know that you can destroy the Serbian Army
and I also know that you will do it, but I do not want the Serbian
Army to be destroyed. The Serbian Army is the only democratic
institution in Serbia." So far, Perisic's words. I take the
conclusion from that that Perisic was aware that there were orders
to involve the Serb Armed Forces in the Kosovo theatre, which
so far had only been by the MUP and the Police. He did not want
to do this, which I understand. No Chief of Defence of a conscript
force would ever wish to see a conscript force involved in something
like an internal conflict. He apparently had mounted some opposition
against Milosevic's plans. This conversation came back to my mind
by the fact that Perisic had been ousted a couple of days after
our conversation had taken place. Milosevic had apparently removed
the man who did not want to do what he wanted him to do, and had
replaced him by someone who was known as an obedient follower,
a man who, as far as we know, was not absolutely free of the suspicion
that he had committed some crimes of war during his time as commandant
of the Pristina Corps. If you put all these pieces of the puzzle
together, it is not unfair to say that he had presumably the intention
back in November, and the justification for the time is linked
to the ousting of Perisic. That was the explanation for my statement.
979. You transmitted that back to the NAC? Do
you think that the less subsequent actions were followed on the
advice that you gave that, "This guy is really messing us
around, he is not really serious, he is playing for time, he has
an evil intent"? Was that a general message that you passed
(General Naumann) We reported faithfully the conversations,
which we had had in Belgrade, to the Council. The NATO Council,
at this point in time, was not yet prepared to take military action,
since they wanted to exploit another diplomatic avenue. This led
later on to the Paris and Rambouillet talks. The history of that
is known to you.
980. When we met you, you were in a rather angry
mood. You were tired. You had just come back from Belgrade. The
general image you had was, I presume, one of pessimism. That it
would be very difficult to achieve a diplomatic solution with
a man as threatening as Milosevic.
(General Naumann) We had been sent against our advice
to Belgrade. We had asked not to be sent since we knew that the
task we were given was not a military task. I should say the instruments
that the Council had kindly provided us with to persuade Mr Milosevic
were not really a stick but what I would call a rubber baton.
Of course, Milosevic, who is a shrewd man, knew that. So we talked
for seven hours against the wall. It is also perhaps interesting
for you, and also perhaps later for history, that during these
talks the only man who spoke was Milosevic. No-one else ever had
to say anything, whether we talked about the diplomatic status
of Ambassador Walker or the admission of Judge Arbour, the then
head of the ICTY. All these nitty-gritties, which normally in
every civilised country are dealt with best by a Foreign Minister,
were dealt with by the President of Yugoslavia. So no-one could
say that he did not have the personal responsibility.
Chairman: That is interesting. Thank
you. Laura Moffatt.
981. General Naumann, your responses to our
questions are really very much helping us to come to some conclusion
about the events, and we know how difficult it certainly must
have been at the time. It is difficult enough for us to piece
together the sequence of events, to try and understand if we could
have conducted this business better. As the Chairman has already
said, we were very fortunate. I believe it was a privilege to
see you so quickly after you returned from seeing President Milosevic,
to be able to debrief us in that way. However, there are some
things I would like to explore with you. This is because it seems
to me, and just this moment I said I felt as if I was wasting
my time, I should not have been there, it was a politician's job.
I have to tell you that some members of this Committee share that
view. I was sent to do a job which was not really for me. You
did your best but you were just sat there and a soldier was spoken
at for hours and hours. I was going to say do you believe that
we were threatening what we were not going to deliver as NATO,
but clearly your answer to that would be yes, I suppose now, would
(General Naumann) I think I have said, before the
conflict started and, as a matter of fact, here in London in a
speech at the Royal United Services Institute a couple of days
before the conflict started, that we, NATO, should never threaten
the use of force if we are not prepared to act the very next day.
We were not prepared to act when we started to threaten the use
of force and the reasons for that are well known to all of you.
When we started to threaten the use of force, we were 16 nations.
Those 16 nations were not united at the point in time when they
agreed to the threat that action should be taken the next day.
In many cases, I believe, including your own, the legal conditions
to use force against another country in a conflict like Kosovo
were not yet there. I know for sure in my country the legal basis
was not yet there. In the absence of a mandate of the United Nations
Security Council, we need a clear vote of the German Parliament.
This did not exist at this point in time. The next ingredient
which you need in an alliance: we did not have the consensus in
the alliance when we started to threaten the use of force. My
conclusion from that is my lesson learned for crisis management.
I am saying this openly and frankly since I am certain the next
crisis will come. I am not saying it in order to be seen as one
who has raised the finger, but as one who wants to learn from
history so that we know in the future what we have to get right
next time. We have to understand how an alliance is seen from
the outside world, from a man who knows us. That is the other
point which you all have to see with Milosevic. He has lived in
New York for a couple of years, so he knows our western societies;
he knows our system. He can read between the lines and he can
make a difference, whether it is The Sun or The Times
which is reporting on something. He understands us and as soon
as he sees that there is no cohesion in the alliance he will take
the obvious step and try to drive a wedge into the alliance in
order to weaken our determination, and that he did.
982. You painted the picture of that visit that
it was a complete waste of time but there was some pulling back,
was there not, by Milosevic, after that visit? I know that was
subsequently followed by some activity by the UCK. How did that
influence Milosevic saying, "There you are. That is what
happens when I comply"?
(General Naumann) That was perhaps one of the few
windows of opportunity where there might have been a chance to
avoid what happened in 1999. I think it is fair to say that Milosevic
honoured the commitment which he had made to General Clark and
myself on 25 October 1998. He withdrew the forces and he withdrew
the police. There may have been some difference as to whether
there were 200 or 400 policemen more or less but that really does
not matter. More or less he honoured the commitment. Then the
UJK or KLA filled the void the withdrawn Serb forces had left
and they escalated. I have stated this in the Nato Council in
October and November repeatedly. In most cases, the escalation
came from the Kosovar side, not from the Serb side. What the Serbs
got wrong was that they reacted in an indiscriminate way. They
used force more or less in the same way our Russian partners are
doing now. If you have someone sitting in a building, it is apparently
their way to move forward a company and to destroy the entire
village. Then you are sure that the house in which the sniper
was is destroyed as well. That is what we call indiscriminate
use of force, which is not allowed for us, but through this stupid
way of answering an illegitimate act of the Kosovars he escalated
and then the conflict went out of control.
983. You have explainedand this was an
angle I had not consideredthat Milosevic actually knows
quite well our psychology, the way in which the western world
will respond to anything that he does. You say he knew about us.
Did we know enough about what was going on with him? When did
we start gathering intelligence in NATO to give you the tools
to understand how best to talk to him?
(General Naumann) NATO intelligence is the collection
of NATO nations' intelligence. Not all NATO nations provide intelligence
to NATO. They all benefit from it but there are only a few which
really provide intelligence. Your nation is among them; mine also.
I think we got the first disquieting reports late in 1997. Then
it continued and, as of the beginning of 1998, the NATO military
authorities were invited to provide the NATO Council on a weekly
basis with an update on the Kosovar situation. That we did, based
on what nations were kind enough to give to us. For the sake of
clarity, NATO has no own intelligence gathering machinery.
984. What you are saying to us is there was
a very small window of opportunity where a peaceful settlement
may have been achieved. It was not. At what stage did Milosevic
know that we were serious then?
(General Naumann) That is the $100,000 question. I
simply do not know exactly. I have reason to assume that he possibly
did not believe that we were serious when we started to bomb.
The reasons for that are again found in our statements of the
west. Allow me to say in all frankness that if you start an operation
like Kosovo but rule out by public statements that you are willing
to see it through, a ruler like Milosevic who does not feel much
responsibility to his people and his country, who has just one
interest, namely to stay in power, may come to the conclusion,
"I could try to sit it out since they will not go down the
road", an issue which my British predecessor, as chairman
of the Military Committee, and I have stated I do not know how
often in the NATO Council. It is always the same two points. You
have to tell us what is the political objective and if you tell
us to use force please be prepared to see it through. This preparedness
to see it through is not there if you rule out in public statements
the use of ground forces and that was the element which removed
uncertainty from Milosevic's mind.
985. You said in your statement to the United
States Senate Armed Services Committee that crisis management
by definition was a failure before March 1999 in the sense that
it did not prevent the use of force. Do you believe that there
were any moves that could have been made or moves that were made
but perhaps at different times that could have made a difference?
(General Naumann) I am really not sure. It again means
to read the mind of our opponent. We all know Kosovo was nothing
which came overnight to us. Kosovo was a crisis which more or
less was looming since 1989 when the autonomy was lifted. Then
it became quite obvious that it was a serious point when Milosevic
refused to negotiate the Kosovo issue at Dayton. From that moment
on, we knew that we had a problem on our hands. There were attempts,
as you know, to find a resolution of the problem but I remember
very well one attempt which was made at one of these Bosnia peace
implementation conferences, the one which was hosted by Germany.
The then German Foreign Minister raised the issue of Kosovo and
the reaction of the Serb delegation was to walk out. We knew that
there was a different quality in that and we also knew that we
could never compare Bosnia to Kosovo. When it had been possible
to find a solution for Bosnia, not one of us should have believed
we would find in the same way a solution for Kosovo.
986. Was one of the problems also that there
was no real clarity about who was taking the lead in trying to
solve this question? Was it NATO? Was it individual countries,
particularly the United States? Was it the OSCE? Was it the contact
group? You referred to the Bosnia implementation discussions.
Was one of the real difficulties that there were so many cooks
and there was not any clear structure?
(General Naumann) I believe that was one of our mistakes.
In the German language we have two proverbs which apply perfectly
to this situation. I do not know the proper translation into English
but one is if you have too many cooks they will ruin the menu.
987. Yes; too many cooks spoil the broth.
(General Naumann) The second is never change horses
midstream. We violated both. Spoken from an alliance point of
view, the worst situation was when two European governments proposed
that the contact group should be brought into the game. The contact
group had a composition of France, the United Kingdom, Germany,
Italy, the United States and Russia. This was an ingredient which
helped us in the internal debates in the NATO Council to weaken
the cohesion which we had achieved when we had agreed in October
on the activation order, since suddenly ambassadors of non-contact
group nations, who were normally behaving like ambassadors should,
like a group of peaceful sheep, became what I would call ferocious
988. Can I take you on to how the NATO side
of this worked? Were the North Atlantic Council and the Military
Committee involved and engaged in this sufficiently early and
sufficiently effectively to manage the crisis prior to the actual
start of the air campaign?
(General Naumann) I would not complain that we were
not involved sufficiently. From the Luxembourg ministerials in
spring 1998 onwards, Kosovo was the number one issue on our agenda.
They kept us really busy, at least us, the military, with developing
one contingency plan after the other. At the end of September,
I think we had a list of some 15 or so contingency plans sitting
on our shelves. We were involved early enough. Whether the quality
of our advice was sufficient I have to leave to the judgment of
others. The NATO Council, from my perspectiveand I participated
in every single meeting of the Council except the ambassadors'
luncheons on Tuesday which the chairman of the Military Committee
is not allowed to participate inwas fully involved. We
saw one weakening of NATO's involvement and that was the phase
of the Rambouillet and Paris talks where NATO was not admitted
to be present. We were not allowed to offer any advice at all.
That led to some problems of cohesion within the Council since
they all knew that five of the Council members had some national
information but, as always in international negotiations, the
degree of sharing was never 100 per cent. It may have been close
to 100 per cent but it was never 100 per cent.
989. Are you suggesting that if NATO had been
involved in Rambouillet the results of Rambouillet would have
been different and perhaps we could have avoided the conflict?
(General Naumann) No, I would not dare to say that.
The only thing which I can clearly stateand that was something
which General Clark and I had tried to achieve in vainis
we had been of the opinion, based on our experience with Dayton,
that the military annex to this Rambouillet Treaty should have
been negotiated first and not as the last thing. I said this in
the Council I think in very drastic language. I said, "You
have to treat the Serb delegation like the French treat their
geese when they try to produce this wonderful liver. You have
to stuff it down the throat and then start to talk about the other
things." Forgive the frank language, but that is the way
it was done in Dayton and it worked. Later on, we saw the same
point which led to a failure. It was at the end the military annex
which the Russians pretended not to have known, which the Serbs
regarded as a violation of their sovereignty. As all of us know,
no paper which is put on the table is eventually signed in exactly
the same language in which the first draft is put on the table.
This is not an excuse but I believe we had not been absolutely
off the mark when we advised the Council to take the most difficult
thing first and then, after you have solved that, go to the things
which apparently are easier.
990. My starting point is one of the conclusions
that you drew in your statement when you appeared before the Senate
Armed Services Committee hearing on 3 November 1999. Your second
conclusion in your paper is: "There is a need to think through
how crisis management can be improved. Simulation techniques may
be a helpful tool to be considered." You have just pointed
out to us that NATO intelligence is the intelligence of each country
and of course there is the further point that I understand the
international staff of NATO has no right to raise issues independently
and is only allowed to react to tasking coming from the North
Atlantic Council. Following through your conclusion, did you have
the power to involve simulation techniques?
(General Naumann) I believe one could do it. I have
stated in the Council repeatedly that to do military planning
which involves the nations I need a Council authorisation, but
to start thinking I do not need a Council authorisation. This
indicates a little bit the leeway within which you can manoeuvre.
I did not have any problems at all to tell my staff, the international
military staff, a very small group of people, "Think this
problem through; think this problem through and come back to me."
I also told these national officers, "Please consider you
are international officers as I am. I am not a German. I am a
NATO officer. You, the French colonel and you, the American colonel,
forget that you are French and American. Please do not run and
say, `This German has told me to think about this and this'. Be
assured that I will tell your superior but the point in time at
which I will tell him is my decision."
991. General, were you successful in convincing
the Frenchman that he was not French?
(General Naumann) I had an extraordinary French Air
Force colonel in my staff. I could not have thought of a better
992. You say that simulation techniques may
be a useful tool to be considered. Were they considered and were
(General Naumann) What I was dreaming of was that
we had something like what the Americans call a war gaming capability
within NATO and also within the Military Committee and the NATO
Council. The technology is there to have it but unfortunately
my generationthis is a generation of generals and ambassadorsis
not very good at clicking the mouse. We hate this and we do not
exploit the possibilities of modern technology in a sufficient
way. It starts with chamber rooms like yours and the Military
Committee looks very similar. You do not have the need but the
Military Committee, for instance, really should have the technology
to have screens instead of microphones in front of them, where
we can display what it would mean if we bring in 50,000 people
and what would be the difference if we brought in 100,000. We
can do this on simulation and then we come to better advice and
a better founded conclusion. That is not yet exploited. We have
to go in that direction. Nations, by the way, do it. My nation
does it. The United Kingdom does it. The Americans are very well
advanced in that respect.
993. You see this as a supranational NATO facility
as opposed to a national facility?
(General Naumann) I would love to have something like
this as a supranational facility since otherwise you will always
depend on the judgment of nations. NATO is not one nation; NATO
is many nations.
994. It is technological equipment you are looking
for, rather than a change in the structure of the manner in which
NAC gives its instructions to staff?
(General Naumann) I am not arguing in favour of overruling
the vote of the nation. Do not misunderstand me in that respect.
I am a strong believer in the consensus machinery which we have
in NATO. It is difficult to achieve a consensus, but it is one
of the strengths of NATO that we respect the smallest nation as
if it were the United States of America.
995. To take a specific example on war gaming,
did Milosevic's option of holding back with much of his air defence
capability get to be analysed?
(General Naumann) I have no precise information. That
is the level which was dealt with below the Military Committee,
as presumably has been done with SHAPE or with those who did the
targeting business. I am absolutely confident that they analysed
all options of reaction of the Serb air defence forces. I doubt
that this option would have led to a different approach with regard
to the attack on the air defence forces. We did not do too badly
with regard to the air defence system. We were not able to neutralise
it completely but we degraded it to a remarkable degree.
996. Some war gaming requires sophisticated
equipment but other parts of it involve effectively human brain
storming. Would more of that have been helpful in trying to lead
to conclusions on what Milosevic would do in different circumstances?
(General Naumann) Yes, perhaps, but on the other hand
the key to this question you are raising is not so much the amount
or the degree of war gaming but the authorisation of the degree
of force you are allowed to use. We were not allowed initially
to use overwhelming force. It was a very modest attack which was
authorised for the first phase of the campaign. During this first
phase of the campaign, the political objective without any doubt
was to bring him back to the negotiation table to find a peaceful
solution. That we did not achieve and for that reason we had to
escalate. We did it quickly, as you know.
997. There was a period when, because you had
not the authorisation from the North Atlantic Council, it was
a route barree for proceeding down the line of thinking
of the further use of force.
(General Naumann) I was not involved in the military
assessment which led to the selection of targets. That is not
the task of the Military Committee. I refused also to do that
for good reasons. On one occasion, I had a little bit of an exchange
with one nation which had insisted that the targets should be
discussed in the Military Committee in detail before SACEUR was
authorised to strike a target. I refused to do that. I told them,
"Do not forget you are no longer air force colonels or air
force majors. You are now three star generals, so behave like
them and think on the level of a three star general who does not
care about the individual target, who has to care about whether
the authorised set of targets is hit or not." For that reason,
I told them, "I will never accept any debate on individual
targets in the Military Committee." There was some mumbling
and bumbling, but they accepted it.
998. I was very interested in what you said
to my colleague, Laura Moffatt. You said that Milosevic knew us.
Did we know enough about Milosevic's state of mind and what made
(General Naumann) Milosevic is a well known personality
to many of us. In particular, those who were in Dayton know this
man pretty well. They know his way of thinking. They know more
or less the pattern in which he has acted so far. We have had
sufficient information about the man. What we did not know precisely
was how much he was willing to absorb and how much he was willing
to impose on his country. We were pretty well aware of the fact
that any air campaign against Yugoslavia contained the risk that
the people would rally behind Milosevic. That is not only a question
of the Serb attitude of doing it despite the entire world being
against them; it is also a phenomenon which we have seen all over
again in history. I was too young to see it myself but I sensed
it, more or less. I was told by my mother later on. The same happened
in Germany when the firestorm tactics were applied to German cities.
This did not weaken Hitler's position in Germany. Much more to
the contrary. Something similar happened in Yugoslavia.
999. Have you seen this document produced by
our Ministry of Defence?
(General Naumann) That was presumably published after
I was retired?