Examination of Witness (Questions 1000
WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2000
(General Naumann) Then you are no longer privy to
such marvellous information.
1001. I was interested in your comment about
what happened after the decision to seek Milosevic's agreement
to the withdrawal of troops. You said, give or take a few hundred,
that promise was kept by him. You might be surprised to know that
this report says that, despite initial levels, they never achieved
what they set out to do and you would also be interested to know
I think that the only reference to the KLA was when there was
a suggestion here that they only moved into the territory. There
is no suggestion in this report at all and I would like you to
expose us to a bit more thought on the actions that the KLA took,
because this report suggests there was no mention at all of the
KLA being involved in any sort of action in the sense of a military
action or causing any sort of atrocity. It simply says that they
filled the vacuum left by the vacating Serbian forces.
(General Naumann) I can only repeat what I said earlier
on. I reported this in the same way to the Council after we had
achieved this agreement with Milosevic. He honoured his commitment
to withdraw the forces. We were never quite sure about the police
officers but we also said this in our statements to the Council.
There may have been differences in figures and there were of course
possibilities for him to cheat since policemen can easily be brought
back in civilian clothes. There is no possibility for us to check.
I remember some of the reports of the Kosovo verification mission
and later the OSCE mission. They suggested that most of the commitments
Milosevic had entered into were initially honoured when the KLA
then took action. The KLA took some action. Again, we reported
this on a daily basis, either orally or written, to the NATO Council.
He reacted in the way I described earlier on. I never belonged
to those who portrayed the Serbs exclusively as the bad guys in
this conflict. They both are not qualified to play in the league
of angels. The only difference is that, at this point in time
of which we are talking now, the Serbs had the upper hand and
now the other side has the upper hand.
1002. In your position as chairman of the Military
Committee, you saw this humanitarian catastrophe emerging there.
It must have been in the back of your mind and in the back of
the minds of your colleagues that you needed a short, sharp action
which would deliver a result which would minimise that. Was the
decision taken by the NATO Council or by individual countries
that their aim was to minimise their own casualties, rightly so,
some would suggest, hampering that short, sharp solution to the
problem and possibly would short, sharp actionmaybe more
severehave led to less of a disaster occurring?
(General Naumann) Quite frankly, I am not so sure
as, for instance, General Short has been when he testified in
the United Senate that a short, sharp and overwhelming strike
on Yugoslavia, more or less indiscriminate, would have been the
solution to the problem. I am full of doubts on that. I simply
do not know. You have this wonderful saying in your language:
there are always two to tango. We do not know what impresses Mr
Milosevic in such a way that he eventually blinks. Is it the overwhelming
strike, as some people are suggesting? We should have bombarded
Belgrade? Personally, I am full of doubts that this would have
been a wise approach. I believeand I have said this also
to your then Defence Minister, Lord Robertson, when I paid my
farewell visit to your country as chairman of the Military Committeenothing
would have changed the first week of our air campaign. Our military
objective, our military recommendation, has always been to neutralise
as much as possible of the air defence system and of the command
and control system, so that we then had at least air superiority
and, with that, more flexibility to act. The first week would
have been more or less the same, I think.
1003. Looking back on it, what do you think
of NATO's ability to deploy rapidly?
(General Naumann) I think it is insufficient. I include
in this judgment of insufficient deployment capability the ideas
of the European Union now. To create an expeditionary force with
a notice to move of 60 days is insufficient. What you need is
a notice to move of approximately a fortnight. I would give you
my rationale for that. When we saw the disaster Milosevic had
wrought over Macedonia and Albania, we were extremely lucky that
we had the extraction force still there. If we had not had the
extraction force there, we would not have been able to react in
the appropriate time. The UNHCR, which had promised wonderful
things, was never able to deliver. It had not been able to take
care of the refugees. Had we lost this part of the campaign, we
may have seen a destabilisation of FYROM and Albania which could
have resulted in toppling the NATO prone governments of these
two countries. Had this happened, Milosevic had strategically
won the conflict since with that we had been deprived of the potential
launching pad for a ground campaign. Had he had this final assurance
that we could never come in, in a ground campaign, he may have
felt encouragement to sit the air campaign out knowing that some
nations would sooner or later under the influence of the media
say, "Okay. Stop it."
1004. Do you think Milosevic seriously thought
you would fight your way in?
(General Naumann) I personally believe he was not
quite sure about it. A couple of days before the Washington Summit,
I had convened a special meeting of the Military Committee in
Chief of Staff session in order to tell them where we stood and
to prepare a little bit the battlefield for the summit. I had
asked them, "Please use the existing forces present in FYROM
at least to train in such a way that Milosevic is no longer sure
what we are about to do." There is always this idea of uncertainty.
Forgive me; of course I am a child of the Cold War and uncertainty
in the mind of our opponent was the element which helped us to
preserve peace. I think it is a vital ingredient for every deterrent.
Since it is always the easiest thing to do with your own nation,
I looked at the German chief of defence and I said, "Come
on. You have a leopard two battalion sitting in Macedonia. Why
not give them the order to do a battalion live fire exercise just
parallel to the border?" You invite a lot of journalists
and tell them, "The theme of the exercise is attack against
the enemy in fortified positions." Then fire a few 120mm
rounds so that they can hear in Belgrade. That is good for the
soldiers. They like it much more than to erect tents. At the same
time, it gives a strong signal and Milosevic and his general staff
will start to think, "The politicians are telling us they
will not use ground forces but in reality they prepare themselves."
They do what I was told when I was a majorand Milosevic
is a majorthat the first beginning of a battle is to deceive
and to achieve surprise. What a beginning and it fits wonderfully
into the pattern of his thinking. Suddenly, the question marks
are there. We should not forget these things and for that reason
I am pushing a little the uncertainty envelope.
1005. You suggest that Milosevic's mass expulsion
of Kosovars is a form of "asymmetrical response", a
rather good way of phrasing it. Why did NATO appear to be so completely
politically and militarily unprepared for this huge mass expulsion?
They had all the pictures painted of him as the grand villain
and likenessesyou mentioned Hitler earlierso why
did it catch us so completely unprepared?
(General Naumann) We were not completely unprepared
for asymmetrical responses. For myself, I had not thought of a
massive expulsion of people as an instrument of asymmetrical response.
My thinking categoryand I think that of most of my colleagueswas
terrorism in our countries and we had taken precautionary steps
to counter that. To expel the bulk of a nation was something so
alien to our thinkingperhaps you can blame me and this
is a mistake; I accept that, but it is so alien we had not thought
of it. It is against everything we stand for. We simply did not
think of it. Then, we were not as superficial as not to take into
account that refugees may come. For that reason, we had contacted
the UNHCR, well before the air campaign and asked them, "Please
be prepared for refugees." They had given us every assurance:
"Yes, we can do it. We can handle up to 20,000." When
it came, we learned that they were not prepared to handle such
an influx of refugees and we were lucky to have the extraction
force there and to bring in a few other forces to Albania.
1006. You have just answered my second question
but I would like to put a third one about the important role of
the extraction force. There is something very fundamental in the
answer you have just given, which is that in response to the point
over here made repeatedly that most of the refugee problem followed
the bombing, the reply was given to us repeatedly over here, "Oh,
but that is not true. Tens of thousands of people were already
on the move before the bombing." In a sense, we cannot have
it both ways. If there was already a gigantic refugee problem
building before the bombing started, we surely could not have
been caught so surprised by the scale of it. Either there was
a huge refugee problem already before the bombing started or there
(General Naumann) Without any doubt, the answer you
were given is absolutely correct. There were considerable refugee
movements before the bombing started. I would like to remind you
that in the summer of 1998 we had approximately 300,000 refugees
sitting somewhere in Kosovo. What we have not seen in the same
degree of action was that these refugees were pushed out of the
country. So far, the refugee movement in Kosovo had been more
or less to take them out from their settlements to a range of
ethnically cleansed areas, so that pockets of Albanians were taken
out and brought to another place inside Kosovo. As far as I recall,
we saw the initial movement towards Albania and Macedonia a couple
of days before the bombing started. We got the notion that they
were pushing some of them to other countries. That was the point
where we once again contacted the UNHCR and told them, "Come
on. Be prepared", but what we really did not expect was the
mass movement which was triggered. What no one in all fairness
can rule out is that our bombing campaign, which Milosevic may
not have expected, accelerated the movement. I could say it was
not the bombing campaign which triggered the expulsion. It may
have accelerated it and it may also have increased the brutality
with which it was eventually executed, but it would be unfair
to blame NATO for the plight of the Albanian people.
1007. There is though a fundamental distinction
between moving people within a country which is an anti-terrorist
tactic used extensively all over the worldwe moved tens
of thousands of people in Malayaand throwing people out
of their country, on the other hand. There is a fundamental, moral
(General Naumann) There is a fundamental difference
between these two. I am opposed to expelling people against their
will inside the country but to drive them out of the country in
an attempt to weaken other neighbouring countries is what I would
call perhaps in this case an asymmetrical attack.
1008. In response to Mike Hancock, you said
of Milosevic, "He was a well known personality to us. We
had sufficient information about the man. What we did not know
was how much punishment he would take before he gave in."
You also said earlier in your evidence that several months before
the conflict actually broke out he had as good as told you that
it was his intention to shoot the Albanians if necessary. We had
evidence from the Permanent Secretary at our Ministry of Defence,
Kevin Tebbit, and the Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Charles Guthrie,
on 15 March this year. Sir Charles said to us that he thought
it was: "extremely difficult to get into Milosevic's mind.
We did have people who sat down and said `I am thinking like Milosevic'
and we did have psychologists in NATO who actually studied the
man's record. It was extremely difficult. Thank heavens he is
not like us." Mr Tebbit said, "We did not expect the
barbarity or the savagery. We did not reckon on the readiness
to do quite what they did. ... I think it was quite difficult
to get into the mind of not just Milosevic but his very close
entourage, they were extremely good at maintaining, as it were,
their own operational security." Finally, he went on to say,
"... we did not think he was a war criminal before then."
Before Kosovo. "He had behaved in a reasonably responsible
way in trying to get the settlement in Bosnia actually. His track
record was not so bad as it has become." My view is that
the British Foreign Office and allied agencies, as it were, were
somewhat conned by Milosevic. You seem to have had a very clear
idea of what sort of man you were dealing with. Do you think that
we in Britain were fooled by this man?
(General Naumann) I think I said earlier on you will
never be able to penetrate another human being's thinking and
be fully aware of what he might think or not. I do not have this
capability. That is presumably the reason why I did not study
psychology. We had evidence about what Milosevic was capable of.
I agree entirely with what Mr Tebbit said, that we did not anticipate
the savagery and the barbarity. I think I said this in other words,
not as elegant, earlier on. I have to take exception to his statement
that he had behaved rather responsibly earlier on. I do not know
what the final answer in a court proceeding will be. Fortunately,
he is indicted. I hope one day he will stand in front of the bars
of The Hague. Knowing a little the system of this country, no
one can tell me that he was not aware of what happened in Srebrnica.
Not only Srebrnica; we have seen so many places in Bosnia. Think
of Mostar and what happened there. In a Communist systemand
Yugoslavia and Serbia is still a Communist systemhe is
the one who knows at the end of the day everything. That was by
the way the reason why Clark and I insisted that he should sign
this agreement. He refused to do it. He said no. "Milotinovic
has signed it." I said, "No. Mr President, you should
sign that. Otherwise we will not leave since nothing will happen
in this country if you have not signed." Eventually, he signed.
We knew sufficiently well what he was capable of but we underestimated
definitely the brutality of his actions. We also perhaps underestimated
what Kosovo means to him. There were some people who believed
that Kosovo was nothing but Bosnia. Kosovo was different.
1009. You said today, as you have previously
said last November to the Senate Armed Services Committee, that
one should not threaten the use of force if one is not ready to
act the next day. However, you have also said that it is essential
not unnecessarily to rule out options when you are trying to deter
a potential aggressor. Surely it is the case then that sometimes
you have to threaten to use force at some time in the future,
even though you may well not be able to use it the very next day.
Perhaps all you can do is start to put the preparations into place
the very next day, to assemble the force that you are going to
use. Do you not feel that you are being a little too restrictive
when you say, "Never make a threat unless you can implement
and carry out that threat the next day", because that would
mean you could not threaten anybody with anything unless you were
ready to go immediately?
(General Naumann) Forgive me. Perhaps it is a typical
German attitude that I am dreaming of a perfect world. As a military
man, why should I not say it would be the better way, but there
are possibilities. Let me elaborate a little on that. If our politicians
tell us to get ready to do something and we start planning, in
our open societies, as soon as we start the planning, the opponent
will know it. Had we been given the task, at the same moment at
which the Foreign Ministers agreed at Luxembourg not to threaten
the use of force, to start planning for air operations, it would
have been a little more credible. My still serving military colleagues
I think will agree with me: it also would not have been too difficult
to underpin that ministerial decision by the precautionary deployment
of a couple of aircraft to Italy. We can do it as exercises or
whatever, just to underpin and again to create a little bit of
an enigma for him on what we are about to do.
1010. Although you were not involved in the
bombing campaign, what kind of targets do you think hurt most?
(General Naumann) Milosevic was educated in a Communist
military academy. He is a believer in a perversion of Clausewitz.
The Communists never understood Clausewitz properly but anyway
if you look at the system of the country then I think there are
three categories which hurt a man like Milosevic. The first is
the police, who maintain the control in the country. The second
is the media, a difficult target for us since, on the other hand,
we are saying we defend the freedom of media. The third are those
industrial barons who provide the money so that he can stay in
power. What bothers him presumably least is the armed forces.
For a man with his thinking, they are expendable.
1011. The war was fought at a distance, largely
by the use of air power and instructions not to lose any of our
personnel. Do you think that is a model for future operations
or will it merely make future operations difficult to conduct?
(General Naumann) My answer is a clear no. It is not
a model for future operations. We have learned again in Kosovo
that the best way to prepare for, fight and win a conflict is
to go for a joint operation of land, air and sea forces. To which
extent you will apply them and employ them, that is an open issue.
1012. Sir John Goulden told us, "In retrospect,
the air campaign was a precondition of success". Do you agree?
(General Naumann) At the end of the day, it was without
any doubt a success, since we achieved what we set out to achieve.
I agree with the statement of Sir John Goulden. It was a success.
1013. Was there any alternative to the air campaign?
A ground campaign was ruled out. The diplomatic initiatives were
not successful. Was there any alternative?
(General Naumann) We were fighting a coalition operation.
The key element to our success was that we succeeded to maintain
the cohesion of NATO. We had to make some sacrifices for that
since not all nations were prepared to go for the ground forces
option. It was more important to have them all aboard than to
go for a coalition of the willing operation which, in the absence
of a mandate of the United Nations Security Council, would have
given us tremendous difficulties.
1014. People tell us that it was possible by
greater diplomatic skills and more political pressure to avoid
the war. From your experience with Milosevic, could anything have
been done to achieve our objectives, short of fighting the war?
(General Naumann) With every good conscience, my answer
to that is I think we did everything we could to avoid this war
and to find a diplomatic solution. We went as far as to be humiliated
and to be the subject of all these wonderful cartoons which were
published about NATO. The paper tiger I think was the mildest
of all these.
1015. I come back to the central inconsistency
between the wish of the military to create uncertainty in the
minds of the opponent and the politicians who were anxious to
avoid the commitment of large land forces and possible casualties.
Was planning taking place in 1998 to 1999 for an opposed ground
(General Naumann) We had done some preliminaries.
It was the pre-stage of the concept on the ground force option,
including opposed entry. That was part of a tasking that defence
ministers had given us. I presented the results of this in July
or August 1998 to the NATO Council and we were told that these
options had to be put on the shelf. I saw a lot of pale faces
around the table when I presented to them what it meant to enter
Yugoslavia against the opposition of the Serb armed forces. We
would have won without any doubt, but it would not have been easy.
1016. Do you feel the military planners had
every opportunity of expressing their point of view to politicians?
(General Naumann) I think they did, yes. I do not
know what John Goulden told you but I never used ambiguous wording.
The use of the English language, particularly by a non-native
speaker, allows for some ambiguity from time to time, but we told
them in clear-cut words the military advice. Also, the Council
was good in trusting the military after we had spoken. I cannot
complain about micro-management or things like this which we have
heard so often in the media, not on the side of the NATO Council.
1017. The number of troops required for an opposed
ground entry became known to be about 150,000. At what point did
that number first become known and do you think the size of the
operation concerned and frightened the diplomats and politicians
(General Naumann) As far as I recall, the number was
contained in a paper which we called "Option B", one
of these many options which we had prepared. Option A was the
implementation force with a lot of variations and Option B was
the forced entry. There we had the number of 150,000 to 200,000.
We had told them, "Please do not nail us down with numbers.
It is just there for illustrative purposes, to give you an indication
of what it really would mean." We also told them that, should
we be authorised to do more detailed planning, the number may
change, but it was an illustration of the magnitude.
1018. You said in your statement that even a
tiny ambiguity in the formulation of political objectives can
have adverse effects on military objectives. Do you feel that
the political objectives were adequately translated into military
objectives? In particular, the question of forcing Milosevic back
(General Naumann) Since you ask me whether the political
objectives were properly translated into military objectives,
that was more or less the task of the Military Committee and of
SHAPE. I have to leave the judgment on whether we did our job
1019. Was there a clear plan, a campaign, for
a potentially lengthy campaign ready by 24 March?
(General Naumann) In the form of a detailed, fully
fleshed out plan, no. In the form of a concept which could quickly
be further developed into a plan, yes.