Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1000 - 1019)



  1000. Yes.
  (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 action—maybe more severe—have 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 believe—and 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 Committee—nothing 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 major—and Milosevic is a major—that 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.

Mr Brazier

  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 likenesses—you mentioned Hitler earlier—so 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 category—and I think that of most of my colleagues—was 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 thinking—perhaps 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 was not.
  (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 world—we moved tens of thousands of people in Malaya—and throwing people out of their country, on the other hand. There is a fundamental, moral distinction there.
  (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.

Dr Lewis

  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 system—and Yugoslavia and Serbia is still a Communist system—he 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.

Mr Viggers

  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 force entry?
  (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 involved?
  (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.

Mr Gapes

  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 into negotiations?
  (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 to others.

  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.

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