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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it is true that air power has not succeeded in bringing an end to some of the cruelty and expulsions from Kosovo. That is obvious. On the other hand, I can tell my noble friend that we have noted a distinct reduction in the activity of the Serbian armed forces and MUP in the last couple of weeks. It is clear that the KLA have benefited from NATO air attacks and have not been eliminated, as many people thought they would be within the first couple of weeks of the campaign.
I am sure my noble friend will forgive me when I take him up on his use of the word, he said that it is necessary for us to "extricate" ourselves from the situation. We will find ourselves carrying a share of responsibility for that part of the world for many months and possibly years to come. I am sure my noble friend's meaning was that we must bring an end to the cruelty and bloodshed as soon as we can. That is NATO's objective and one of the reasons we are stepping up the air campaign.
The number of missions flown every day produces a new record number--I think I am right in saying it is of the order of 700--missions every 24 hours. The proportion of strike missions in that 700 is increasing, and as the weather inexorably improves so the accuracy of the bombing and the ability of our planes to attack targets rather than fly home with munitions undelivered increases.
In two months' time it will be not even the end of July and I should be surprised if we were facing the same situation with respect to Kosovo and Serbia as we face today. I can assure my noble friend that great preparations are being made because we recognise that many of the refugees cannot possibly be re-housed before winter comes. We are making preparations now through DFID, through UNHCR and non-governmental organisations to ensure that they get through the winter in as good shape as we can manage.
As for the operation of diplomacy, again I can assure my noble friend that a great deal of activity is going on which is concealed from the public view. It gives me hope that these problems will not be with us much longer.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that many of us who supported and still support the need for NATO action against Milosevic are now worried that we are in danger of losing the propaganda war and failing to win the military war? Does the Minister regard it as satisfactory that, after two months of all-out air assault, on his figures we have only succeeded in removing one-third of Serbia's heavy forces in Kosovo and destroying only 12 per cent of the mobile surface-to-air missile systems?
The Minister has announced that Britain is to make a contribution of 19,000 troops--I added up the figures--out of a possible maximum of 60,000. As one country among 18 why are we expected to provide one third of the entire force? Who is to pay the disproportionate cost of this? Finally, does the noble Lord accept that what we really need are clear aims, one of which must be an independent Kosovo and the other is a peace-keeping force that may have to be there for 50 years?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, in the first place the noble Lord's fundamental assumption is misplaced. NATO has not been waging an all-out air war for the past two months. It has been very fastidious in its choice of targets and weapons. Its airmen have exercised great professionalism in returning to base time after time without releasing their munitions. We have not been waging all-out war in Yugoslavia, and I hope that the noble Lord recognises that. I am satisfied with the effects of the campaign so far and that we shall see great changes in the weeks ahead as the weather improves.
The noble Lord said that we were in danger of losing both the propaganda war and the military war. It is up to him to judge the propaganda war. I say to his face that I do not believe his remarks to be very helpful. As to the military war, I am quite sure that Mr. Milosevic is not winning it, even if he believes that we are not winning it. As to whether NATO has clear aims, I and my noble friend have said from this Dispatch Box several times--it has been said by the Prime Minister and every other Minister--that the aim is quite simple: his troops out, our troops in and the refugees back.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, first, can the Minister say whether any steps have been taken to ensure that Macedonia and Albanian, both of which are under very heavy strain, will be compensated for the
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, to deal first with the final question, I do not recall having seen any piece of paper on which any such suggestion is made. I would be very surprised if, when all this is over, there was a Serb area of Kosovo. Speaking personally, I have a strong suspicion that in the end Mr. Milosevic's policy on ethnic cleansing will be very successful except that Kosovo will be ethnically cleansed of Serbs. I tell the House that, frankly, I would not want to be a Serb living in Kosovo when all this is over.
As to compensation, the noble Baroness is probably aware--I do not carry the exact figures in my head--that the EU has already made a contribution to Macedonia. I believe I am right in saying that the Prime Minister has announced two tranches of £10 million each separately from this country. We are going out of our way to procure support for British troops in Macedonia from Macedonian suppliers.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, my question is based on press reports this morning, notably in the Guardian, to the effect that NATO has plans and proposals that are intended to bring this tragic war to an end. I therefore found the Statement deeply disappointing in that it appeared to be concerned with digging ourselves further in rather than extracting ourselves. Of course, we can extract ourselves only on honourable and satisfactory terms. But is it not time that we thought more seriously about how to bring this wretched business to an end rather than concentrate on digging ourselves in further?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I am aware that he does not agree with me on many aspects of our policy with respect to Kosovo. But I am grateful to him for acknowledging that we must bring this matter to an end on honourable terms, which is what we are determined to do. It will come to an end just as soon as Mr Milosevic submits to the opinion of decent people in the civilised world. There are 19 countries now lined up against him. They include all the frontline states that are his neighbours, a good number of whom are not members of NATO. It is up to Mr. Milosevic to bring this to an end. He can do it tomorrow if he wants to; it is perfectly simple. In my view, his actions have passed all rationality.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, the Minister referred to civilian reconstruction. Will it not be an enormous task given the scale of destruction and the number of refugees? I note his comment about the desire of refugees to return as soon as possible, but before any
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, the noble Lord puts his finger on some extremely important points. The realisation of the scale of these tasks is one of the factors that underpins the Statement made today by my right honourable friend. That is also one of the reasons for the North Atlantic Council's realisation that more ground troops will be needed to take part in the implementation force very early on, because inevitably that task will initially--I emphasise "initially"--fall to service personnel. I very much agree with what the noble Lord said.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can my noble friend indicate whether, following reports over the past few days of substantial disaffection among Serb forces, that is becoming an increasing or diminishing factor? What steps have been taken by the NATO alliance to take advantage of that situation?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I do not wish to give the House an exaggerated view that the discipline of the Serbian armed forces will collapse in the next few days. But we have seen men returning to their villages, which was something that we did not witness four, five or six weeks ago. There are perceptible shifts in the morale of Serbian armed forces at squaddie level (if I may put it like that). There is nothing that NATO can do to encourage it. We do what we can by dropping leaflets, broadcasts and other methods to try to encourage developments of this kind, which can only be in our favour.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, following the obvious great success of high-level bombing and the accuracy achieved, despite mistakes, can the Minister say whether it is possible at this stage at reasonable risk to our forces to back up the KLA and attack the forces in Kosovo from a low level, which is always more effective? Have we reached a stage of superiority when we can do that?
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