Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1020 - 1032)



  1020. Was the assumption that the air strikes would quickly be effective and therefore you would not need to have it ready at that stage?
  (General Naumann) It was not an assumption. It was a hope which we all had and you presumably as well. I was on one occasion asked in the NATO Council, "General, can you tell us how long this will take us?" My answer—you may find this in records of the NATO Council—was, "No, I cannot tell you. The only thing which I can with some confidence predict is that under extremely favourable conditions it will take us a minimum of seven days to neutralise the air defence system." That was I think the only timing I ever gave.

  1021. It took a lot longer than that, you did not totally neutralise it.
  (General Naumann) We did not have favourable conditions.

  1022. Were the directives given to SACEUR by the Military Committee accurately and punctually implemented?
  (General Naumann) Yes. More or less, yes.

  1023. More or less. Were SACEUR's representations to the Military Committee considered in a timely and satisfactory manner?
  (General Naumann) I think SACEUR has reported accurately and I think in a timely way. Most of the real debate on all these issues took place in the Council. That was something we had to learn in war, as well, it was the first time we used the Military Committee in a war-type operation. The role of the Military Committee in controlling an operation, as long as it is following the issue of strategic guidance, is not, I should say, the role of a monitoring body. We offer advice to the Council, whether SACEUR stays within the guidance he is given or not. That is the only point on which the Council has to take a decision. The Military Committee is not a headquarters, if you allow me the comparison, it is not a corps headquarters which watches anxiously what divisions are doing, it is really at the strategic level.


  1024. You hesitated slightly when you were asked whether SACEUR had done what he was told, I do not want to cause any problems between you and SACEUR, can you just slightly elaborate?
  (General Naumann) I can tell you in all frankness and all honesty the reason I slightly hesitated, on the first or second day of the air campaign one nation raised the question about whether SACEUR had been entitled to strike targets north of 44 degrees. This one nation was not aware of the fact that not only the phased air operation had been authorised but also the limited air response. In the target set for the limited air response targets north of 44 had been authorised. We had to help this nation, and behind the Military Representative his political authorities, to re-read the papers to which they had agreed and that lead to a lengthy debate in the Military Committee, because it was a nation which was well known for stubborn insistence on certain points.

  1025. We do not have the slightest idea which country you are referring to.
  (General Naumann) I bet are you off-the-mark.

Mr Cohen

  1026. General Naumann, your first conclusion to the Armed Services Committee hearing in November was, "The integrated command structure", by that you mean NATO, "worked well. What needs to be improved are procedures to achieve unity of command, to be exercised by NATO where parallel existing national and NATO command arrangements are unavoidable." In a way, that is echoed by the US Department of Defence report and the comments of General Sheldon. It said, "Parallel US and NATO commands, structures and systems, complicated operational planning and maintenance of unity of command". Can you give some examples, of the most serious kind, of how this came about? What these were?
  (General Naumann) You may take from this differently worded statement that Sheldon and I were making the same points. Particularly, of course, it was true for the execution of the US national command authority. I think SACEUR did what he could do to bring the two systems together but, on the other hand, I think a small remainder of conflict will remain with us and no one can subject the American President to seek agreement for his decision on American strategic assets, which are not assigned to NATO by NATO. I think no nation would accept this. Why should the Americans accept this. What we can do is, I think the Americans learned this lesson as well, to better coordinate the use of strategic assets in what I will call an operational campaign.

  1027. In a way you are half hinting that the United States is a problem here, although I can see other nations saying, "If the United States can do that we could be different from NATO in what we want to do". That could open up a whole can of worms. Should the United States think seriously about giving NATO a bit more authority in these circumstances?
  (General Naumann) One has to explore it. As always with our American friends, if they make a step one has to exploit them, one has to explore how far they are willing to go and not say, "It is insufficient because we Europeans are thinking of something better". I also believe that some of our European nations are not entirely free of making one or other reservation with regard to the use of their forces. There are some nations in NATO who are extremely frank and blunt. The Germans they will stand and say, "Yes, sir, we cannot do it because the Minister of Defence has not allowed us to do it". Others are more elegant and will say, "Yes, sir, we will do it", they will say a lot of friendly words and then add, "however the weather is unfortunate", although there is a lot of sunshine.

  1028. What you are hinting at, again, here is that there is a counter-military approach, not just NATOs approach and other countries. Perhaps, the United States in this instance was running a different military approach to what was the accepted NATO approach.
  (General Naumann) It would be the wrong conclusion to say that the United States of America waged a war within a war, that is not true. They provided assets which we did not have. SACEUR tried to harmonise the impact these assets may have as good as it could into NATOs campaign plan. Under the given circumstances we could not have achieved much more.

  1029. I come back to the point on how you tackle this lack of unity and command where there is this national approach as well. Are you saying that NATO needs to be given more autonomy if there is a similar situation?
  (General Naumann) Strictly speaking, from a NATO point of view I think one has to make sure that a NATO Commander is given the maximum unity of command and the right to really see it through. Nations, I think, have to think through—I should put it as cautiously as I can—they should prepare to think through to which degree they are really willing to transfer authority to NATO. At the moment the formulas which we have definitely allow for improvements under difficult conditions, as we had.

  1030. One question on a different aspect, however you have touched on it in various answers, there is a report today that Amnesty International have said that NATO, in their opinion, was guilty of a war crime for the bombing of a TV station in Belgrade. Of course last week NATO was acquitted, in effect, of war crimes during that campaign. Are you able to comment or would you like to comment on the Amnesty International view about the bombing of the TV station?
  (General Naumann) I can tell you I was still Chairman of the Military Committee when we discussed this. In the NATO Council we had quite a deep running debate about whether we should include this category of targets as well. We then said, "Yes, I think we have to do it". The media in Yugoslavia are not like the media we see here in our countries. There you have no freedom of expression, there you have a State controlled media, so they are an instrument of warfare, a media which are an instrument of propaganda. If my recollection is right, they are allowed to be attacked under the Hague Convention of International War.

  1031. Even if they are civilian?
  (General Naumann) As soon as they are instruments of propaganda they are allowed to be attacked. That is my recollection but it may be slightly differently worded because back in the days when I was a captain I had to teach that.


  1032. General Naumann, thank you so much. It was very stimulating and very enjoyable. Thank you for all the work you have done in your military career, you are much too young to retire. I hope our paths will cross again. I hope English traffic allows you to get to your aircraft in the allotted time.
  (General Naumann) You are extremely kind, Mr Chairman. May I say, I enjoyed it very much and I appreciate the effort you are making to record this event.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 10 July 2000