Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



Mr Chidgey

  140. Just a quick one, Mr Sweeney, if I may. Going back to some of your earlier remarks about how Milosevic basically broke up Yugoslavia and threw out the other ethnic groups from any political control, I wonder if you have got any comments you might like to make on the relations that Milosevic had with Tudjman, because Tudjman was always well known for saying that they had a plan of how to carve up Yugoslavia? I am sure you will remember the famous table napkin incident with Paddy Ashdown, where he had worked out the plan of what it would be. There is something inconsistent here; if, on the one hand, Milosevic is tearing the place apart, and when Tudjman was responding in Croatia with the atrocities that they committed, how does that fit with any grand plan that the two of them may have worked out?
  (Mr Sweeney) Why do you not answer that, because I think we almost speak with one mind.
  (Mr Judah) It is very simple, because they agreed on the general idea of it but they could not agree on the details; it is as simple as that, where was the border going to lie?

  141. So, if 200,000 were going to die because they could not agree on the details, that was a shame, to be honest?
  (Mr Sweeney) Let me refine it, in a slight way. Compare it with what happened in Czechoslovakia; there, in Czechoslovakia, you had a great man, Václav Havel, who had the courage, and the political courage, to say, "We're going to split up, and even though the Czechs are in the majority in Czechoslovakia we will not invade Slovakia, we will not be brutal; if they want to part with us, okay, so be it, I am saddened but let that happen." Even, and I hesitate to defend the Romanian regime under Iliescu, who was a nasty piece of work, you have a big Hungarian minority in Transylvania of about two million people, and they could have had a lot of fun saying, "These are spies, let's kill them, and let's have a nasty little version of Northern Ireland," or whatever, persecuting the Hungarian minority. By and large, they did not, but Milosevic and Tudjman could not say—remember that they were campaigning on a nationalist agenda—"We're going to do a dirty deal in private" and retain their nationalist agenda, "We hate the Croats, we hate the Albanians, we hate the Slovenes," in public.

  Chairman: I would like to make progress and move on to Rambouillet: Sir John Stanley.

Sir John Stanley

  142. Just before going on to Rambouillet, I have to say, Mr Sweeney, I did find your comments in relation to the previous Government fairly extraordinary, and could you just answer this question. How do you maintain the line that the previous Government was weak and feeble when the previous Government, like the present Government, had threatened air strikes, had implemented air strikes and actually had delivered the Dayton Agreement on the back of air strikes?
  (Mr Sweeney) It took a long, bloody time. In 1991 they started shelling hospitals, and it took five years, and it took five years of people saying, "Why are we continuing to watch people die in front of our eyes?" Essentially, they did it without enthusiasm; yes, when it came to the crunch, they did it, and I am grateful for that, but, nevertheless, it took too long. And Milosevic sensed the weakness and played on that weakness for too long; and he charmed and bamboozled his international interlocutors, like Carrington, like Owen, knowing that, at heart, the British Government, and I think this was fair, was reluctant actually to get in touch. Just one final thing. I used to worry very much about British soldiers losing their lives over this thing, so, to be fair to you, Sir, I understand their concerns, but, eventually, there had to come a time when we had to say, "Enough is enough;" and that took too long.

  143. Could we turn now to what was the nodal foreign policy judgement before the war began in March. This Committee obviously is concerned with foreign policy, and in this particular respect, though it was a NATO initiative, as the British Foreign Secretary has said many times, in and outside the House, the British Government were in a leading role in negotiating the Rambouillet Accords. The question I would like to ask you is this, do you consider that the Rambouillet Accords, including what was then a confidential military annex to those Accords, which, of course, is now declassified and is in the public domain, were well judged or ill judged? Well judged in the sense that they represented a realistic basis on which Milosevic might have been able to accept them and thereby avert the war; or ill judged on the basis that the terms were much, too steep, too intrusive, that there was never any possibility that Milosevic could have accepted the Rambouillet terms, and that the Rambouillet process merely served to put him in the mind set that war was inevitable and that the only option left for him was to utilise the war to further his own appalling ethnic agenda inside Kosovo. So, I ask you, do you think the Rambouillet negotiation was a well-judged one, in foreign policy terms, or an ill-judged one?
  (Professor Roberts) Firstly, I think one has to set it against a background, and the background of Rambouillet was a long history of a really rather fundamental clash over Kosovo, and a long history of western involvement in that clash, especially through, of course, the Agreement of October 1998, which gave NATO a monitoring role in respect of events in Kosovo. And, incidentally, in commenting on Mr Steele's suggestion that it might have been different and under a different basis, I think that the history of it was one that had involved NATO in a monitoring role, and therefore it is not surprising, apart from all the other considerations, both military and to do with legitimacy, that it was NATO that felt obliged to carry on with that involvement. Against that background, there is no doubt that Rambouillet was, from the very start, presented as the last chance. I can well remember Robin Cook, as it were, announcing that there were to be negotiations at Rambouillet, trying to sound like Winston Churchill and indicating that this was Milosevic's last chance. So, against that background, it would not be surprising if there were criticisms of Rambouillet as being a tough Accord which was bound to be difficult for Serbia and for the Yugoslav regime to accept. Now one thing I would like to clear out of the way in the whole issue of Rambouillet is the military agreement.[27] The military agreement, that subsequently became public, and indeed quite soon during the war became public, is on one level a complete scandal, and it shows an absence of any understanding whatever of Serbian society, because to write into a military agreement that the Yugoslav Government had to accept NATO troop rights, not merely in transit but manoeuvre and goodness knows what else, was outrageous, bearing in mind that Yugoslavia is a country where it had been a constitutional offence, under the Tito constitution, and since 1971 actually, to accept the presence of foreign forces on Yugoslav soil. And it is not correct to say, as has been commonly done, including still today by Wes Clark, that the military agreement was simply a carbon copy of the Dayton Agreement in respect of Yugoslavia. There are provisions in there that were not in the Dayton Agreement, and whoever wrote that military agreement, or produced it off a word processor, should be taken aside and shot. But, having said that, there is no evidence at all that the military provisions in that agreement played any part in the breakdown of negotiations at Rambouillet, at least, I have yet to see any, it may be that some can be produced. But those who took part in the negotiations say that that military annex was never discussed; if it was delivered at all to the Yugoslav side it was on the very last days of the negotiations, and it appears they made no fundamental objection to it, and that is because it was the main substance of the Rambouillet Agreement that was under discussion and they would only have got to that subsequently. On the main substance of the Rambouillet Agreement. On the whole, and one can easily make criticisms of it with hindsight, but on the main text of the Agreement proper (which is now history, it is not something which can now be implemented). I think that in itself it was not unreasonable.

  (Mr Steele) I would like to enlarge on that and perhaps go even a little bit further. I think it was a very well-judged agreement, and it was not just a last chance in the sense of an ultimatum, "You either accept this agreement or we bomb you," it was a last chance for an honourable way for Milosevic, or a senior Yugoslav leader, to get out of Kosovo with some kind of dignity. And I remember writing an article just before the Rambouillet talks actually started, when we knew what the parameters were, saying that the jury was still out on whether Milosevic was looking for a way of getting out of Kosovo, because if he was he could accept Rambouillet and do it with dignity. He would have had peace-keepers in there, he would have had Yugoslav territorial integrity guaranteed, he would have had Yugoslav forces, more importantly, remaining in there, with the KLA demilitarising and disarming, while Serbian forces remained there for at least two more years; and so, in that way, it would have looked as though the "terrorists" were having to disappear from the scene and be disarmed by international peace-keeping forces, while his own forces remained in operation. So it could have been perceived as a very generous agreement which allowed him to get out with dignity. Obviously, everybody knew, that once you have peace-keeping forces in there Serb political authority disappears, ultimately; and, probably, at some future point, three years, or maybe two years, there would be a referendum and it would become an independent state. But the fact was, and I think this is often overlooked, that Kosovo was a colony, really. When the Serbs reoccupied Kosovo in 1912, when the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating, the Albanians were already the majority population; so the Serbs were trying to recreate an ancient medieval empire but in completely different historical circumstances where they were already the colonial minority. And they operated under Tito, at least between 1974 and the end of his life, and then for the next few years, a pretty relaxed regime, where, as I think John Sweeney has already mentioned, there were Albanian police, Albanian self-defence units, and so on. But Milosevic destroyed all that in 1989 and reverted to a very repressive, colonial regime, an apartheid-style regime, which we were all writing about, with separate schools, and so on, and all the Albanian civil servants, everybody, the doctors, the professors, and so on, were all sacked, and it became a very oppressive, colonial regime. But other countries have given up colonies with dignity, and Milosevic could have done that under the Rambouillet Agreement; and then, of course, the jury came back in and it was quite clear from his behaviour that he did not want to give up Kosovo, he wanted to get rid of all the Albanians out of Kosovo.

  144. In these answers, I put to you a very clear question and in your comments the whole Committee would like to hear your conclusion, and Professor Roberts did so, we actually want to have your view, was it ill judged or well judged?
  (Mr Steele) I think I was trying to say it was well judged, if Milosevic had been a normal politician, but he is not, he is a war criminal.


  145. Mr Judah, as regards that specific question?
  (Mr Judah) First of all, this agreement, well, it is not an agreement, it is what was supposed to have been an agreement, it was not just dreamed up in Whitehall or in Washington, this was the result of months of shuttle diplomacy, for a start, between Belgrade and Pristina, conducted by Chris Hill, for the US, and Wolfgang Petritsch for the EU. So that is the first thing. It also represented, not only an honourable compromise but it was a historic compromise. It was a kind of virtual independence for Kosovo, but it safeguarded the rights of minorities or the Serbs and it kept it within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; so it was a historic compromise.

  146. And so your answer to Sir John's question?
  (Mr Judah) I have not quite finished yet. The military annex was just a complete excuse, was just a red herring, because on the very last day Ratko Markovic the head of the Yugoslav delegation, wrote three letters, fulsome in his praise, to the negotiators, saying "We're looking forward to coming back to Paris in" whatever it is, "two weeks' time, and we think we've made substantial progress," etc., etc. The military annex was never mentioned. Three, four days later, obviously the order went out in Belgrade, "We've decided we're not going to have any of this;" they just picked that out of the blue as the excuse, it was obvious. But what had happened was that Milosevic decided to gamble, he was not going to take the historic compromise; by this time we had very much the talk, "Well, if there's going to be bombing, it will only last three days and Milosevic will back down." You had a kind of information short circuit, Milosevic thought, "Three days; well I can withstand three days," so he decided, "Well, let's go for bombing and see what happens." Do not forget, he had also watched on TV Desert Fox, the 70-hour operation against the Iraqis, in December, which came after, of course, the Holbrooke Agreement, when he had been genuinely scared he was going to be bombed, he thought, "Well, kind of three days, yes, I can deal with that, they'll come to me after and say, `Well, let's talk peace, etc., etc.'." So it was a historic compromise, it was an honourable agreement, Milosevic decided to gamble and he lost everything.
  (Ms Sharp) Just three brief remarks. I think Rambouillet was not badly judged, whether it was well judged is something else but it was not badly judged. I think it is a myth to talk about British leadership at Rambouillet; we had an Anglo-French chairmanship but it was made in Washington DC, the text. But I think the sort of kicker in this is the role of the Russians. I think, in hindsight, we probably did not spend nearly enough time working with the Russians on Rambouillet, because I am sure that Milosevic would not sign Rambouillet because he was getting assurances from the Russians of various things. There is a debate in the West on how helpful the Russians were, I think probably Jonathan and I disagree on this; one thinks of Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin as having a relatively positive role, but my feeling is that throughout policy towards Milosevic the Russians have been more mischievous than helpful. And I think it is very interesting to go back, and I am trying to raise some money to do this myself, and look at the whole Russia/Western relationship, in the Balkan context, since Gorbachev. You will remember that Milosevic was very much in support of the military coup against Gorbachev, and if we had been paying attention to the Balkans in the late eighties, as we should have been, we had Gorbachev there from 1985 to 1991, I think we could have done some useful things. And I think we just have not spent enough time working with the Russians on this.

  147. And your answer to John's specific question?
  (Ms Sharp) I say that Rambouillet is not badly judged; and I think the Russians were mischievous at Rambouillet.
  (Mr Sweeney) I think it was well judged and not badly judged. My caveat from that is, Milosevic could not get out of Kosovo, given his nationalist rhetoric, given his nationalist agenda, given his nationalist position, he had to be forced out, and he made the calculation, he thought he could get away with it, also he was in bed with the Russian coup plotters. The other people that he talks to every now and then are the Iraqis, and the Iraqis are a regime not in a different setting, not dissimilar, I would say; certainly the Belgrade students, the Serb students, used to call him "Slobo/Saddam". That said, Milosevic could not say, "We're leaving, the Serbs are leaving Kosovo, and I am still President of Yugoslavia," he could not do that, he had to be forced out. So, in that context, I cannot see any way he could guarantee political survival, which is the thing he cares about, in Serbia, and sign any deal which would have allowed a fair say for Kosovo's majority Albanian population.

Mr Rowlands

  148. On that basis and what you have been telling us, he could not possibly have signed it; is that the general agreement?
  (Mr Sweeney) He has got a real difficulty, because, let us remember, he is the man who is saving the Serbs and framing their historic destiny. Let us also remember that while the Rambouillet talks are going on Albanians are being massacred by Arkan's Tigers back in Kosovo; so that the reality, to the question of the legalistic framework, is that people are being killed for no good reason, and that is whirring away.

  149. But can I get some clarification. Are you all saying that he could not sign it because that would be his political death warrant, and that anyway he had reached the stage by which he had seen the rest of Yugoslavia fall off, piece by piece, and this was the last piece, and he had to make a last stand?
  (Mr Sweeney) I am saying that I am not sure about it.
  (Mr Judah) I think I would beg to differ with John here, because I think that if he had decided to go for it that he could have done, and all it would have taken—


  150. And sold it to his people?
  (Mr Judah) Yes; because he controls all the important media. All it would have required was the media to say, "This is a marvellous agreement, it safeguards Kosovo for Serbia, and for Yugoslavia," and I think he could have done. We only have to think back to the Vance/Owen Agreement in Bosnia, which originally they had been very sceptical about, when Belgrade decided that they were going to support it, the media was blaring, "This is a marvellous agreement." Well, the Bosnian Serbs disagreed and they failed to persuade them. But then you just looked at all the opinion polls, and all the opinion polls were showing that immediately the media started saying something the opinion polls followed what the press was telling them. So I think that he could have done, but I think he just decided, "Forget it, I'm not going to do it."

Mr Mackinlay

  151. Something Jane Sharp said really prompts me. I realise, in this matter of the Balkans, you can go back almost to Adam to find the genesis of the problem, can you not; and, in fact, I have been reading the telegrams of July 1914, which has a similarity, actually, the demands on Serbia, humiliating demands. But it does seem to me, when the Russian Federation was created, basically we had a decade of a wasted window of political opportunity; we have engaged insufficiently with the Russians, brought them in, and, in fact, exactly the opposite, we were disregarding them, and in the immediate period leading up to Rambouillet they had been sidelined, rightly or wrongly. But it just seems to me that that is part of our problem, we have not done a whole lot of linking and matching and bringing on and recognising the status of the Russian Federation; and, in a sense, the mischief, which one of you referred to, you used the word "mischief", I am sure it was mischief, but in a sense you can almost understand it, that they were fighting for their historic, legitimate area of influence, and the West, the United Kingdom, have just neglected Russia?
  (Mr Judah) The Russian factor, I think, personally, is overestimated, and I think that the Serbs could not care less about the Russians, they will use them if they can and they will sign agreements with them, just as they sign agreements with everybody else, as Milosevic did with Yeltsin, and totally disregard it. So it does not make any difference if they sign an agreement with Holbrooke or the Russians, and the Russian leadership and the people who have met him they loathe him because he humiliates them and has humiliated them just as much. The reason that Serbia is slightly important in Russia is for domestic reasons, and I think this whole argument is overplayed, and, historically, every time the Serbs have looked to the Russians for something they have always let them down, and the Serbs know that.
  (Professor Roberts) I think, on Russia, one has to accept that there is bound to be a difference of perspective between Russia and Western powers, in relation to the former Yugoslavia; and it is not that there is a hugely strong emotional link between fellow Slavs so much as that these are two countries in a very similar situation. Here you have two former communist federations which have inherited an extraordinary ethnic and administrative patchwork, and are both very aware of the fragility of that patchwork and very nervous about foreign interference in any possible break-up. And I think it is not in the least surprising that Russia, on the whole, has had a different perspective on these events from many Western powers; and when you add to that Russia's sense of being a great power that has lost its power and lost the respect it once had in the world, one is bound to have a difficult situation where it would not be realistic to expect total agreement. I am all in favour of those who make every effort to keep Russia involved in these negotiations, and so on, and more no doubt could have been done; but I do not think we should be particularly optimistic that by that process we will get anything like total agreement. And what you said earlier, about the historical origins of this conflict, does make one question the exclusive emphasis on the character of Milosevic that some of my colleagues here have put forward. I have to remind you that already in the 1920s, I have seen this in the old League of Nations Library in Geneva, there were numerous complaints about Serb massacres in Kosovo of exactly the kind we had later in the 1990s; and the problem that Milosevic inherited was totally different from, unrelated to, the problem of the break-up of Czechoslovakia: the ethnic composition, not to mention the memories of political violence, were completely different. And so one should not personalise the issue too much.
  (Mr Judah) This is kind of obvious. As far as I can see, the Russians, they look at Kosovo and they see Chechnya, they see an annoying Muslim breakaway, a bit "that we want to keep." It is the same for the Greeks; they look at Kosovo and they see the Turks, Cyprus. And the Chinese, too; the joke in Belgrade is "What's the Chinese word for Kosovo?" The Chinese word for Kosovo is Tibet.

Mr Rowlands

  152. To try to sum up the impression you leave with me on the evidence to date, could, or should, western diplomatic assessments have read Milosevic's motives better, or was he so unpredictable that it is unfair to criticise them for it?
  (Mr Steele) I think it is difficult, because, on the historical record, of course, he had done some terrible things in other places; on the other hand, Kosovo was a special case. It has a 90 per cent Albanian majority, there was no way that Serbia could really legitimately or seriously, practically, think of holding it for very many years in the future, and therefore he could have been thinking about getting out. And one must not forget what the Albanians thought; the Albanians, after all, know the Serbs probably better than we do, and they did not expect this massive ethnic cleansing that Milosevic unleashed as soon as the bombing started. I remember being with a Pristina Albanian family on the first night of the bombing, and when we saw from the ninth floor balcony the distant flashes of enormous orange fire going up in the sky they opened a bottle of wine, these were not people who normally drank at all, they were so delighted, they said, "Finally, they've done it; this is it, this is liberation." They did not know, that same family, that five days later they would be in the mud of the Blace crossing point, as refugees, going into Macedonia. So, I think, to blame western statesmen for not correctly predicting this is really unfair, because nobody predicted it.

Mr Chidgey

  153. Can I just draw us back to Sir John's points he started with, on the Rambouillet Agreements. I think I am right in saying that all of you, at one stage or other, have said in the last ten minutes that Milosevic could not have signed up to the Agreement without committing political suicide. Well, if that is the case—
  (Ms Sharp) No.

  154. Well that is the message I have been getting, and if that is the case how could it be well judged?
  (Mr Judah) I said I begged to differ with that view.

  Chairman: I think it was only Mr Sweeney who said that.

Mr Chidgey

  155. Perhaps you could take that, Mr Sweeney?
  (Mr Sweeney) Actually, I did not use the words "political suicide", but I think that he had a serious problem; and when we were talking, and when Tim was talking, about the Vance/Owen thing, Milosevic never left anywhere in the former Yugoslavia unless at the threat of force. For example, the principle of Croat freedom and that Croatia could exist came after the blood-bath of Vukovar; and it was at that point that enough blood was spilt that the two, well, I was about to use the word "dictators", and, yes, in the European sense I believe that to be true, Milosevic and Tudjman said, "Okay, that's enough blood spilt; we part." So the only exception to this is Slovenia, which is almost entirely pure Slovene, so there are no Serbs there, so there is not a domestic political agenda, or a domestic political problem, for Milosevic in letting the Slovenes go; there was for Kosovo. So you had a serious problem. Whether it was political suicide or whether he could have squeezed it through the information machine that he controls I do not know; my own feeling is, he could not really have given the Albanians what they wanted, they had to take it away from them.

  156. So you are saying it was not well judged then?
  (Mr Sweeney) No, I do, because I do not think the West, the whole West, really had any option but to do something about this, but to frighten Milosevic to stop committing such inhumanity. And my thinking about the war, in a sentence, was, there was going to be this liberation war, it was going to go on and on and on until the Albanian nine-tenths majority won, as they were bound to do eventually, and Western intervention telescopes the time-frame. And I also think, at the end of it, fewer people were killed than would have been killed in a bloody, awful, civil war, which would have been still going on today had we not intervened.
  (Mr Judah) Can I add one, just one, very brief point, that the vast majority of Serbs, and especially educated Serbs in Belgrade, well-connected people, that I knew, that I was talking to, right up to the last moment, in Rambouillet, they all thought there was going to be a deal, they all said, "He's going to negotiate right to the wire, but there's going to be a deal, he's not going to go for it;" they got it wrong, like everybody else. They were ready for a deal. They said, "Look, there is a problem with troops, yes, but of course they are building it up, but they will make some deal, there will be NATO troops but they'll be wearing blue berets, or something like that, yes, they'll make some cover."

Sir John Stanley

  157. I was not going to make any further response on this point, but just in response to Mr Steele, who made, I thought, the quite extraordinary claim that nobody had given any warning at all of the so-called ethnic cleansing consequences at the start of NATO bombing. Just using non-classified sources, the Sunday Times (with apologies to Mr Sweeney), on 28 March, gave a detailed account of the briefing given to President Clinton by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Shelton. And it said this: "The report did not make encouraging reading. Clinton and his cabinet members, including William Cohen, the Defense Secretary, and Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser, sat in silence as Shelton outlined the thrust of the analysis. There was a danger, he told them, that far from helping to contain the savagery of the Serbs in Kosovo, a moral imperative cited by the President, air strikes might provoke Serb soldiers into greater acts of butchery; air strikes alone, Shelton said, could not stop Serb forces from executing Kosovars. Britain's Ambassador to Belgrade had been making similar arguments in a flood of cables to London." So I really am absolutely astounded, Mr Steele, that you can claim that nobody had given any warnings of what the consequences might be?
  (Mr Steele) I do not think the consequences, even from that report that you are quoting there, are the same as what appeared to be, at the beginning of the bombing campaign, an effort to get rid of every Albanian out of Kosovo. That report talks about acts of violence, more acts of violence, or more severe acts of violence, against Albanian civilians; that is quite different from an almost Nazi-like campaign to eliminate the entire population from the country. I would challenge you to find anybody who really predicted that, which is actually what Milosevic tried to do.

  Sir John Stanley: I am being put under a challenge, which I am very happy to say, and I just simply refer you, Mr Steele, to many articles that have been written in relation to widespread knowledge about Operation Horseshoe, which was the operation to carry out large-scale ethnic cleansing, which was widely known to many people prior to the start of the bombing.


  158. In response to Sir John, we have heard Operation Horseshoe, what do you understand to be Operation Horseshoe?
  (Mr Judah) In the course of the work for the book I have just done on Kosovo, I went to talk to people at the top of the Foreign Office and said, "Did you know about Operation Horseshoe?"; answer, "No; yes, we heard about it afterwards." How come everybody else knew about it but people at the top of the Foreign Office did not know about it.

  159. What do you understand by Operation Horseshoe?
  (Mr Judah) It is something that the Germans produced and claimed that was some sort of plan for ethnic cleansing, and I think it was far less so, to the eye. And even people as senior as Strobe Talbott, I went to interview him for my book, I said, "Did you know about it?" and he said, and I am paraphrasing here "Well, we had some kind of vague idea but we did not really know what it was and obviously we did not take it seriously."
  (Professor Roberts) We know of no evidence of Operation Horseshoe that emerged in the West before 24 March, I have not come across any, I have asked a large number of officials, that is to say, about a specific plan. On the other hand, it was perfectly obvious that if there were to be military operations there would be likely to be renewed and extreme Serb violence against the unfortunate inhabitants of Kosovo. And, indeed, one of your colleagues, Sir John, in the Defence Committee, on the very day the bombing began, 24 March, made the point, very strongly, when George Robertson was giving evidence, that there would be a likelihood of the Serbs, in his words, giving "instant payback to the Kosovars" in the form of attacks and expulsions. So that likelihood was always there and was always known about. And, in my opinion, one of the problems of Western policy is how much they did in response to what was obviously the likely Serb response to military action.
  (Ms Sharp) I agree with that, and I think it is worth remembering that when NATO first made its bombing threat, which was October 1998, the Serb General Perisic, who has since resigned, warned then that if there were bombing there would be retaliation against the Kosovars. And, remember, all this is in the context of the very ill-judged NATO policy of denying that we had any plans to use ground troops at all; it was like flashing a green light at Milosevic and the Serbs, doing that.
  (Mr Sweeney) On that particular point that Jane has just said, yes, I entirely agree, it was dreadful military strategy to say, "We're going to hurt you; get out of Kosovo, stop being cruel to the Albanians, but we're not actually, personally, going onto the ground." That was a dreadful mistake. Even though, in the light of, one must record, no Allied soldiers, airmen, were killed during this campaign, that is very good and it rewrote the military textbooks; but, nevertheless, not to issue the threat, to take that threat away from Milosevic, I think that was a stupid thing to do.

27   Appendix B of the Rambouillet Accord. Back

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 20 April 2000