Select Committee on Defence Fourteenth Report


Early Warnings

13 The build-up to the crisis of 1999 in Kosovo has been extensively analysed.[34] We will not go over the same ground in the same detail, but it is necessary for our purposes to examine the factors which led to the eventual use of armed force against Serbia, and how the highly political context of the campaign shaped the way it was planned, prepared for, and conducted.

14 Kosovo is a small province of a small country—part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which is the rump that remains of former Yugoslavia following its disintegration during the violent upheavals following the end of the Cold War. Kosovo had (before the conflict) a population of around two and a half million and is about half the size of Wales.[35] The origins of the last year's crisis are often traced back to the revocation of Kosovo's partial autonomy in 1989, after Milosevic's election as president of what was then a part of the wider Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, Milosevic increasingly sought to impose a Serbian cultural and political hegemony in his remaining territory.[36] The Ministry of Defence's report on Kosovo observes that—

    ... for much of the 1990s, in particular during the first half of the decade, international action focussed more on finding a solution to the intense fighting and ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia, as the Former Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, than potential difficulties in Kosovo. But Kosovo remained on the international agenda¼[37]

However, many other international concerns competed for attention. Despite this, in December 1992 and again in 1993, the Bush and Clinton administrations in the United States had warned Milosevic against any incitement to inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo, warnings backed even then by the implicit threat of retribution if they were not heeded. The situation in Kosovo did not deteriorate dramatically during these years. In defiance of the government in Belgrade, the mass of the Kosovo Albanian population organised their own referendum on independence, elected their own president, Ibrahim Rugova, and established separate systems of health, education and other social functions, but remained committed publicly to non-violence. This seems to have been partly on the grounds that demographic trends worked in their favour while also representing a recognition that resort to military force held no great prospects of success for them.[38]

15 From the mid-1990s, however, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) gradually emerged, partly it would seem in frustration at the lack of progress either domestically or internationally in furthering the goal of independence. It rejected the non-violent approach of Ibrahim Rugova and so aroused the fear of civil war spreading to Kosovo from the rest of former Yugoslavia.[39] The KLA was initially a small and shadowy organisation, at that time without a clear leadership structure, and appears always to have had connections with outlaw elements in the province and in Albania. It began a low-level campaign of shootings and murder.

16 Meanwhile Kosovo was specifically excluded from the Dayton peace process of November 1995 which brought an end to the civil war in Bosnia.[40] The decision to do so can be interpreted as a concession to Milosevic—in effect inviting him to see a settlement in Bosnia as a quid pro quo for being allowed to hang on to Kosovo. These were certainly the terms in which he presented the deal to the Serbian population—that Bosnia had been sacrificed to save Kosovo from the West.

Dayton to Rambouillet


17 In September 1996, an offer to provide an European Community Monitoring Mission in Kosovo had been refused by Belgrade.[41] During 1997, KLA attacks and assassinations provoked responses from Serbian security forces in Kosovo which became increasingly disproportionate. International concern continued to be expressed through several different diplomatic forums,[42] but there was no consensus either on the nature of the problem or the best means of addressing it. For the UK and the US, in particular, it was a problem created by Milosevic's brutality and his refusal to enter into a legitimate political dialogue with his own people. European Union governments tried to mobilise available diplomatic pressures, but not all members of the EU took the same view of the Belgrade regime. Italy and Germany, for example, were more affected by the Kosovo crisis, being the involuntary hosts to Kosovo Albanian asylum seekers.[43] For others, such as Greece, it was a problem created by secessionists who were deliberately provoking an over-reaction. And for other states, outside the EU and NATO, such as Russia[44] and China who feared for their own territorial integrity, it was a domestic affair in which outside powers had no business to intervene.

18 Faced with the growing realisation that the Kosovo Albanians were becoming radicalised by the activities of the KLA and Serbian overreactions to them, NATO and other organisations in the international community—the UN, the EU, the OSCE and the Contact Group[45]—began from late 1997 to look for ways to head off a crisis in Kosovo. In December 1997, NATO Foreign Ministers expressed concern about VJ and MUP (Serbian Army and Interior Ministry Police) and Serb irregular forces' military operations in Kosovo,[46] the first official intervention by the Alliance.

19 There has been some criticism of the lack of serious efforts to find a political solution to the conflict prior to 1998. We have not examined the diplomatic process in detail since this was considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Their conclusion was that—

    ... there may have been a missed international opportunity to achieve a peaceful settlement in Kosovo before the emergence of the KLA, but ... this [was] only apparent with hindsight.[47]


January to May

20 By early 1998 the situation in Kosovo had reached a turning point. Although the KLA remained a disparate organisation, well-armed but with no clear structure and vague short-term aims, it was now beginning to recruit and raise money from the growing Albanian emigré community in Western Europe and the United States. According to German intelligence sources much of its resources came from criminal and drug smuggling activities. There was also a breakdown of central government authority in Albania itself, and weapons were readily available there which could easily get into the hands of the radicalised Kosovo Albanian groups via their clan and family links to northern Albania.[48] Serbian forces continued to overreact to KLA provocations, as in the Drenica region in February/March 1998 where 30 Kosovo Albanians were murdered. On the other hand, the international community's concern about the growing violence continued to be hampered by real differences in the way the underlying problem in Kosovo was viewed. In many governments there continued to be a strong disinclination to engage in the growing crisis, which was beginning to manifest the characteristics of a diplomatic quagmire. Milosevic was undoubtedly aware of this lack of diplomatic unity and no doubt felt he could exploit it to resist demands for a political settlement. He regularly rebuffed all diplomatic efforts that were led by the Contact Group throughout 1998.

21 Recognising that diplomacy was failing to have effect, in the spring of 1998 military contingency planning was formally initiated within NATO, at the instigation of those members of the Alliance who appeared most determined to suppress Serbian revanchism in the Balkans.[49] On 6 May 1998—

    ... the NAC commissioned advice on options for intensified Partnership for Peace activity with Albania and Macedonia ... and military advice on options for a NATO contribution to UN/OSCE efforts to monitor these borders and on possible NATO preventive deployments in both countries.[50]

The UK Military Representative to NATO told us that the planning initiated on 6 May was not concerned with direct intervention in Kosovo but with the potential for spill-over of the crisis into Macedonia and Albania.[51]

22 Major General John Reith, who was at the time Commander of NATO's Allied Mobile Force (Land), related how this resulted in him meeting SACEUR on 7 May 1998[52] and being tasked to lead a reconnaissance team into Albania—

    ... to look at the infrastructure of the country ¼ and to look up on the northern border area to see what military action might be possible both in terms of assisting Albania against any Serb incursion if it was to occur, but also looking at whether later we might possibly want to be blocking any arms movement across the border from the Albanians to support the Kosovo Albanians internally.[53]

Three weeks later General Reith reconnoitred Macedonia—

    ... although the mandate was slightly different, because it was at the time when there was doubt whether the mandate for the UN force [UNPREDEP] was going to be continued, [and I was] looking at whether NATO might have to put something in to maintain the stability of the area.[54]

23 Measures to address the deepening crisis in Kosovo seem at this time to have been developing ad hoc within an incoherent international framework, in which NATO's rôle in relation to the other international actors—for example the UN, the OSCE, the Contact Group and the EU—was less than clear. Military planning within NATO cannot proceed without a political context and some clear direction about what it is expected to achieve and what measures are likely to be permissible. Even contingency planning—exploring the range of possible options—cannot begin without the formal sanction of the North Atlantic Council. This can, however, risk the setting in motion of a vicious circle—military planning cannot begin before a political consensus is achieved, but even an informal political consensus cannot sensibly be reached without sound advice on the military options realistically available. The reluctance of politicians to be drawn into the deepening crisis was no doubt reflected in a lack of enthusiasm amongst the Alliance military for further involvement in the Balkans. There is also an appropriate caution about engaging even in contingency planning for a range of possible scenarios in which resort to force could be used, since to do so could compromise the position of individual governments by suggesting that they had covertly given agreement to the pursuit of military intervention before they had secured domestic public or parliamentary support for such a course of action. It is also essential that military preparations should not pre-empt diplomatic efforts to avert crises. Nonetheless, the military have a clear duty to point to, and a responsibility to plan for, the worst, especially if they detect a drift towards military intervention which they suspect is based on unrealistic expectations. Similarly, politicians, notwithstanding their hopes for the best, must be much more ready than they appeared during the early stages of the Kosovo crisis to accept the need for and to sanction such planning.

24 While the Chief of the Defence Staff indicated that he was previously aware of "the potential for crisis",[55] none of our military witnesses accepted that formal military contingency planning should have begun earlier than it did. However, we elicited that 'informal' military contingency planning, intended to inform and influence the process in NATO, had been going on in UK prior to the formal direction to initiate planning within NATO on 6 May 1998. The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Commitments), Air Marshal Sir John Day, told us that he—

    ... chaired a committee that looked at operational tasking and we became concerned about the situation in Kosovo at the back end of 1997/early 1998.[56]

The MoD also informed us that—

    ... the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) first looked at national contingency planning on 7 April 1998. This was in-house, 'informal' work, of the kind which the principal headquarters are expected to undertake on their own initiative. PJHQ considered possible missions, factors that would impact on these, further information requirements and so on.[57]

The value of this preliminary planning was emphasised by the UK's Military Representative to NATO, Vice-Admiral Paul Haddacks, who stressed the need—

    ... where possible, to be ahead of NATO detailed planning because nations need to be ready to respond with their own thought processes and to have assessed to what degree they wish to contribute to operations ...[58]

25 We acknowledge the inhibitions on military contingency planning and recognise that unilateral military intervention by the UK was never considered. There was never any question that any military response to the growing crisis in Kosovo would be other than multinational. That fact of life coloured and shaped all that followed. We also recognise that there would have been little point in UK military planners having engaged in greater and more detailed contingency planning significantly ahead of NATO, and that it would probably not have advanced the UK's wider interests within the Alliance to have done so.

26 But while the timing and level of the UK's contingency planning probably reflected a realistic assessment of the political context, we do not think the Alliance can be excused on the same grounds. Although we recognise the political difficulties with which the North Atlantic Council was confronted, we believe these could and should have been overcome earlier. As General Naumann commented in his evidence to us—

    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 [in May 1998] not to threaten the use of force, to start planning for air operations, it would have been a little more credible.[59]

By May 1998, the political difficulties within the Alliance on reaching a consensus on its policy on recourse to military options was evident to any outside observer. We conclude that the failure of the North Atlantic Council to reach an early consensus on its policy on recourse to military means, and the inhibitions within NATO on military contingency planning which might have assisted the process of reaching that consensus, undoubtedly hobbled the Alliance during its early attempts to develop a strategy for addressing the crisis in Kosovo.

27 On 28 May 1998, NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg demanded movement towards a political solution to the growing crisis in Kosovo, while reaffirming the territorial integrity of the FRY. This reaffirmation may have signalled to Milosevic that the crisis continued to be regarded as an internal security matter for the FRY, and that the Alliance would not be drawn into action contesting the territory of the state—the impression left by the Dayton settlement. In any event, the demands can hardly have seemed menacing to Milosevic, unaccompanied as they were by any evidence at that stage of military preparations. It is evident that until mid-1998, the little military planning about options for intervention in Kosovo which did take place within NATO was conducted in the context of a policy of containing the crisis within Kosovo, not one of resolving it. Planning seriously for such a more coercive intervention, as General Sir Charles Guthrie, the Chief of Defence Staff described it, did not really get started until "early summer 1998" prompted, we assume, by the NATO Defence Ministers' direction on 11-12 June.[60]

June to October

28 In June 1998 an increase in diplomatic determination to address the crisis was signalled when the UK received widespread, informal support at the UN for a toughly-worded resolution on Kosovo that would have authorised the use of "all necessary measures" (the phrase which indicates the legitimisation of the use of military means) to enforce its terms under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.[61] But Russia and China made it clear that such a wording would attract a veto, and it was never put.[62] On 11-12 June 1998, NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, concerned that Milosevic was continuing to ignore repeated calls for dialogue, extended their earlier remit and directed NATO's military staff "to assess and develop [a] full range of options for operations that might become necessary to reinforce or facilitate efforts to achieve a solution".[63] The scope of the planning was described as embracing—

    ... options for preventative deployments to neighbouring states; options for ground deployments for going into Kosovo in the wake of any ceasefire or settlement there; options on forced entry; and, of course, options on an air campaign.[64]

By early August 1998 the results had been reviewed by the North Atlantic Council—

    The options considered included a phased air operation, a ground force to implement a ceasefire or peace agreement and—at the top end of the spectrum—a ground force which could enter Kosovo against opposition in order to impose these solutions.[65]

On 12 August 1998 the NATO Secretary General, Mr Javier Solana, had issued a statement confirming that—

    ... the North Atlantic Council had reviewed a full range of ground and air options to bring an end to violence and create the conditions for negotiations, and ... informal force generation was to begin.[66]

He subsequently issued a press statement on 9 September 1998 announcing that NATO had completed contingency planning "for a full range of military measures".[67]

29 Throughout our evidence on this period of NATO's preparations we heard a variety of terms used to describe the kind of military planning that was being conducted—these terms include "informal contingency planning", "formal military planning", "serious planning", "detailed planning", "national contingency planning" and "preliminary, conceptual planning". In essence, though, what we deduce from these various descriptions is that the planning that was taking place in mid-1998 still required development from an exploratory stage to a level of detail where a plan would actually represent a usable basis for launching a military operation. Even at this stage, the planning was still illustrative, outlining the nature of the military tasks to be carried out under each option, with estimates of the forces required. While this work was essential to inform decision-making, once an option had been chosen, further detailed planning would have been required to create an Operational Plan to suit the circumstances at the time. It was also, as the UK's Ambassador to NATO, Sir John Goulden, observed (further widening the range of qualifying terms), "hypothetical planning without commitment",[68] though he went on to say that, "by September we had a complete library of plans in NATO covering almost every possible use that we might have for force".[69] This is one way of describing what might otherwise look like a rather indecisive approach to developing an agreed strategy. It is not clear how many volumes from this library survived till the end of Operation Allied Force. Ostensibly at least, the Alliance adopted a gently graduated military response to a steeply worsening diplomatic situation. During the middle of 1998 this included the deployment of additional aircraft to the region (including RAF aircraft), a major NATO air exercise in Albanian and Macedonian airspace (15 June), and NATO Partnership for Peace exercises in Albania (17-22 July) and Macedonia (10-18 September).

30 There is little evidence, however, that Milosevic was especially impressed by the threat offered to him by this activity. Indeed, between 23 August and 5 September 1998,Yugoslav/Serbian forces launched a major offensive in Kosovo resulting in heavy civilian casualties.[70] In the view of General Naumann—

    Milosevic, who was never unaware of NATO deliberations, rightly concluded that the NATO threat was a bluff at this time and finished his summer offensive which led to a clear defeat of the KLA.[71]

Over the summer of 1998, there was a decisive shift within NATO towards preparing for direct military involvement by NATO in the Kosovo crisis. But the lack of readiness on the part of individual Allies in 1998 to commit themselves to preferred options critically impeded the development of a full range of clear, agreed and detailed plans for a strategy of graduated coercive pressure by NATO against Milosevic.

31 The failure to deter Milosevic's summer offensive placed NATO's credibility squarely on the line. The stakes were accordingly upped. Once NATO had threatened the use of force to resolve the crisis, so Milosevic's defiance provoked further threats and increasingly it was felt that the Alliance's credibility needed to be defended. In the face of Milosevic's continuing intransigence, the Allies either had to unite and carry through their threat, or have their bluff called. And if the threat of military intervention was not thought credible by Milosevic as a consequence of obvious or perceived lack of resolve among nations so, paradoxically, the need to preserve NATO credibility increased the likelihood of military intervention becoming necessary. As General Naumann observed in evidence to the Senate Armed Forces Committee "one should not threaten the use of force if one is not ready to act the next day".[72] No doubt public differences among the Allies concerning the extent to which they were prepared to engage militarily in Kosovo, particularly without a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the use of force, contributed to Milosevic's assessment that NATO was not serious.

32 By mid-September it was estimated that some 250,000 Kosovo Albanians had become internally displaced, of whom some 50,000 were left in the open.[73] On 23 September the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSCR 1199 demanding a cease-fire between the KLA and the Yugoslav forces and the start of a meaningful dialogue over Kosovo. The following day the North Atlantic Council approved the issuing of an Activation Warning Order (ACTWARN) for a limited air operation. During the next week Belgrade made a series of conciliatory announcements, though there was little indication on the ground that the Serbian offensive had lessened. On 1 October the NAC issued an Activation Requirement (ACTREQ) as the next stage in force generation, whilst the political directors of the Contact Group met in London to consider ways of holding Milosevic to the requirements of UNSCR 1199.

33 With NATO moving through its activation process, US envoy Richard Holbrooke was mandated by the Contact Group to undertake a mission to Belgrade to secure agreement to the requirements of UNSCR 1199. As Sir John Goulden observed,[74] this was when the Allies were, for the first time, obliged to take a crucial decision—whether or not to use force in spite of the fact that NATO did not have a Security Council resolution in place 'legitimising' such action. Having by now reached a stage where no doubt they would have been damned if they did and damned if they didn't, but well aware of the consequences for NATO's cohesion of their bluff being called, the NAC agreed to the commencement of phased air operations. On 8 October the NAC approved the Operational Plan for air strikes against Serbia, and on 13 October approved two Activation Orders ("ACTORDS") to be ready to begin air operations "in approximately 96 hours".[75]

The Kosovo Verification Mission

34 This demonstration of NATO's resolve appeared to have caused Milosevic to back off—a withdrawal that turned out to be deceptive. Whether it was part of a longer-term strategy of deception on his part is doubtful—one of our witnesses described Milosevic as a "one move ahead chess player"[76]—a poor strategist but a good tactician. The Holbrooke mission secured a diplomatic agreement on 16 October in which Belgrade issued a unilateral statement of principles governing its approach to negotiations with the Kosovo Albanians, agreed to reduce its military and police forces in Kosovo to 'pre-crisis' levels, and agreed with the OSCE to establish the ground-based Kosovo Verification Mission, consisting, however, only of unarmed monitors. This was to be backed up by an Aerial Verification Mission, provided by NATO, in a separate agreement between Belgrade and the Alliance.[77] This package was welcomed in UNSCR 1203. Lack of support for the UK's toughly-worded draft resolution in the UN stopped it short of making an explicit threat of force in the event of non-compliance although, since it was framed in terms of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, dealing with enforcement measures, a certain ambiguity remained.[78] During the discussion of its adoption by the Security Council on 24 October, the UK's Permanent Representative, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, commented that—

    It was right that the commitment be enshrined in a mandatory Chapter VII resolution. In agreeing to the OSCE and the NATO missions, President Milosevic had accepted that the international community had a significant role in resolving the problems of Kosovo. The United Kingdom would ... would be resolute in following up implementation of the agreements and of the resolutions ...[79]

In the event Russia and China abstained on the vote.[80] On 27 October 1998, with the immediate likelihood of air operations receding, the NAC agreed —

    ... to keep compliance of the parties under continuous review, to maintain the Activation Order for air strikes and to remain prepared to carry out air strikes should they be required.[81]

35 As the Yugoslav forces withdrew, the KLA began to occupy territory which VJ and MUP forces had vacated, and its leadership began to promote their local offensives as a war of liberation. In response the VJ/MUP began a series of offensives in a vicious anti-terrorist operation.[82] General Naumann observed—

    I think it is fair to say that Milosevic honoured the commitment which he had made to General Clark and myself on 25 October 1998. He withdrew the forces and he withdrew the police ... more or less ... Then the UCK or KLA filled the void the withdrawn Serb forces had left and they escalated ... In most cases, the escalation came from the Kosovar side, not from the Serb side. What the Serbs got wrong was that they reacted in an indiscriminate way ... through this stupid way of answering an illegitimate act of the Kosovars he escalated and then the conflict went out of control.[83]

The Foreign Secretary told the House on 18 January 1999 that—

    On its part, the Kosovo Liberation Army has committed more breaches of the ceasefire, and until this weekend was responsible for more deaths than the [Yugoslav] security forces.[84]

36 Various commentators have suggested that the international community should have anticipated, and acted to head off, the KLA's initiative to take advantage of the negotiated withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo in October 1998. Some have gone so far as to hint at collusion between some governments and the KLA. It should be remembered that there was at this stage no agreement with the KLA—who were not formally recognised—only with the Belgrade government. And from our formal and informal discussions, we conclude that the Allies did anticipate the likelihood of a KLA counter-offensive in October. In the absence of any agreement from Milosovic to the presence of a properly-equipped peace enforcement force in Kosovo, there was little direct action the Alliance could take to forestall KLA insurgency. There were, we suspect, different nuances in the reactions of different governments to the activities of the KLA and their likely consequences. The MoD's Policy Director told us—

    ... the American Ambassador Hill was trying to broker some sort of solution with various parties, including talking to the KLA, during 1998, although one of his problems was that even as late as towards the end of 1998 there was no single clear leader of the KLA. There were contacts going on but at this stage it was primarily on the political net. The KLA became ... a significant player in the game quite late in the day although it grew in significance very quickly. But everybody up to that stage had been focussed on Rugova, and I think the same would have been true of other people before at least early 1998.[85]

Although the KLA had ready access to looted weapons, their swift emergence as a capable fighting force suggests that they were the beneficiaries of covert outside assistance.

37 Certainly, the activities of the Kosovo Verification Mission failed to deter either KLA attacks or Milosevic and his forces responding by stepping up their acts of repression against the civilian Kosovo Albanian population from mid-December onwards.[86] Many share General Jackson's opinion that—

     Perhaps with hindsight one might have said that this [verification mission] could only buy a certain amount of time, that this could not be in any way a lasting solution, because unarmed monitors at the end of the day can only act as moderators, as dampeners down. They cannot actually themselves coerce behaviour. But equally well in October 1998 there was not the collective political will to go further than that."[87]

Air Marshal Day similarly believed—

    The fact of the matter is the Kosovo Verification Mission was the best deal that Mr Holbrooke could get in October 1998. It worked for a few months. It was a bit slow getting on the ground and in the end those who thought it was given an impossible task were proved right.[88]

The Chief of the Defence Staff also commented that—

    I do not think it would have made any difference having more [monitors] on the ground because I think once Milosevic had been determined to go down the path he was and was tightening the screw, it would not have made any difference.[89]

38 These assessments are persuasive, and we agree with the conclusion of our colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee that, in retrospect, while the Holbrooke agreement did delay NATO intervention, it was always unlikely to be enough to avoid it in the circumstances of Milosevic's refusal to be deterred from his plans for ethnic cleansing.[90] Given the absence of political will in the international community to do more, it was probably better to have deployed the verification mission than to have done nothing. But the Kosovo Verification Mission was given a next to impossible task and that those who served as monitors (including British military personnel) participated at considerable personal risk and with great bravery.

The Extraction Force

39 On 13 November, the NAC agreed an Operation Plan for a NATO Extraction Force stationed in Macedonia to rescue the Kosovo Verification Mission monitors should that be necessary. On 4 December an Activation Order for the deployment of an 1800-strong force was issued.[91] On 7 December the first UK personnel deployed to Macedonia to join the Extraction Force.[92] This first deployment of NATO ground forces into the vicinity of Kosovo[93] may have been intended as a warning to Milosevic of NATO's growing resolve. It did help to promote stability in the region and lessen the fears of the Macedonian Government that it would be left exposed and unsupported should the crisis in Kosovo spill over into Macedonia. But the overt purpose of the Force was to be prepared to extract Kosovo Verification Mission monitors from Kosovo[94] should any become hostages or their lives be otherwise endangered by hostile Serb forces, As an ad hoc force made up of relatively small contingents from a number of nations with little artillery, it is doubtful, even with the full weight of NATO's air power at its disposal, that it could have successfully conducted extraction operations on any scale against opposing Serb forces, much less act as a convincing deterrent threat.

40 Had Milosevic sought to put the Extraction Force to the test, even only in its limited role as a rescue mission, its limitations and NATO's credibility might have been rudely exposed. We concur with those who have said that the international community did not display sufficient seriousness of purpose or sense of urgency in supporting either the Kosovo Verification Mission or the Extraction Force.[95] One of the lessons of this phase of the twin track military/diplomatic approach to Kosovo is to remind us that peace support operations require a convincing show of both political intent and military force to be credible and effective. An unarmed verification mission and an under-armed extraction force did not meet these criteria.

The Drift into Conflict

41 In retrospect, it is clear that these events of the autumn and winter of 1998 were a critical turning point on the path towards the use of force. First, UNSCR 1199[96] had clearly expressed a wish to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and encourage the development a constitutional dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians. Beyond this limited aim, by the end of 1998 there was less than international unanimity over the longer-term requirements that would be placed on Belgrade. By the end of 1998 there was no international consensus over willing the means (military and diplomatic) which would be needed to enforce the terms of UNSCR 1199 on Milosevic and about maintaining progress towards a durable political solution to the crisis in Kosovo.

42 Second, in the absence of consensus over enforcement mechanisms, NATO had taken its own stand, backed up very publicly with the threat of an air operation to enforce it. Once made, that threat of military action had put NATO's political and military credibility at stake. In its After Action Report to Congress, the US Department of Defense made it very clear that "maintaining NATO's credibility" was one of the three core objectives of the bombing campaign that was eventually adopted.[97]

43 Third, an explicit threat of force by one international player had been used to back up a series of less than explicit diplomatic initiatives being pursued by a number of others. Though the Holbrooke agreement of 16 October had established a verification mechanism to monitor compliance within the territory of Kosovo, the terms of that agreement remained vague on many of the details, and it was not well-supported by UNSCR 1203.[98] The attempt to contain Milosevic's oppression through the Kosovo Verification Mission was insufficiently backed up with resources (both military and diplomatic) by the international community. The utility of the Extraction Force as a guarantee of the monitors' security depended on Serbia's co-operation—a situation which was unlikely to have reinforced NATO's credibility in the eyes of Milosevic.

44 Fourth, the course adopted presumed on the hope that Milosevic could be diplomatically pressured into a settlement, either in response to or despite the increasing militancy of the Kosovo Albanians.[99] In part, no doubt, this assumption was based on Milosevic's capitulation to the Dayton peace process.[100] However, General Naumann told us that he now believes that Milosevic had already decided in November 1998 to prosecute his campaign against the Kosovo Albanians,[101] a timing he linked to Milosevic's sacking of his Chief of Defence Staff.[102] So he, at least, believes that the ethnic cleansing would have continued with or without the KLA's acts of provocation. Milosevic's determination to pursue his policy of oppression against the Kosovo Albanians at almost any cost was the reef on which the hopes of diplomatic pressure succeeding foundered.[103]

45 Fifth, it is clear that the threat of an air campaign could be truly effective only as a coercive pressure on the Serbian leadership, to reinforce diplomacy and to convince Milosevic of NATO's seriousness of purpose. None of our witnesses has seriously offered the view, retrospectively, that an air campaign could directly inhibit the activities of Milosevic's ethnic cleansers. But this coercive motive for its actions seems at the time not to have been fully and frankly acknowledged by the Alliance, which maintained the official line that the air campaign would be primarily directed at 'degrading' Milosevic's military capability and thus his ability to persecute the population of Kosovo. As the likelihood of recourse to armed force increased, so at the same time the purpose for which it was to be used became more confused.


46 In any event, the attempts to persuade or coerce Milosevic into politically responsible behaviour failed. On 15 January 1999 news emerged of the massacre at Racak which left 45 Kosovo Albanians dead.[104] It was immediately condemned by Ambassador William Walker, Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, and caused widespread international outrage. This outrage was heightened by the refusal of Belgrade to allow the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Louise Arbour, access to the site for investigations, and by its demand that Ambassador Walker leave the country.

47 It now appeared far more likely that the sort of military response threatened in October 1998 might have to be implemented. On 19 January, SACEUR (General Wesley Clark) and the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee (General Klaus Naumann) were sent to Belgrade to convey NATO's resolve to Milosevic. We met General Naumann in Brussels immediately on his return. He later told us in evidence—

    We had been sent against our advice to Belgrade. We had asked not to be sent since we knew that the task we were given was not a military task. I should say the instruments that the Council had kindly provided us with to persuade Mr Milosevic were not really a stick but what I would call a rubber baton.[105]

General Naumann also gave us some interesting details of his conversations with Milosevic—

    He [Milosevic] said to us "I will solve the Kosovo problem once and for all in spring 1999." ... We asked him, "How will you do it, Mr President?" "We will do to them what we did to the Albanians in Drenica in 1945." So we said to him, "Mr President, we do not know what you did to the Albanians in 1945. Would you be so kind as to elaborate." "It is quite simple. We got them together and we shot them." That was his answer.

48 In the light of Milosevic's insouciant defiance of this ill-considered mission, there were further escalations in the Alliance's military posture. On 20 January, NATO decided to increase the readiness of its assigned forces so air operations could begin within 48 hours of a decision to initiate air strikes.[106] On 30 January the Alliance was faced with what Sir John Goulden described as its second "crucial decision".[107] On that date, he told us, the NAC delegated to the NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana, the power to tell SHAPE (NATO's European military headquarters) "when to start". That, Sir John believed, had made the threat to Milosevic—

    ... more credible but there was also a caveat attached to it. We insisted that Solana should do that on the basis of intensive consultation. He had the power, but before using it he had to consult intensively with everybody and with the governments as well.

Sir John is convinced that this had been an effective approach and a model that we should continue to use.[108] However, in response to questioning, he went on to argue that—

    The decision on 30 January came a bit early because we could not actually use force until several conditions had been met. One was that there had to be a humanitarian crisis and on 30 January there was not then an obvious, grave humanitarian crisis. We had the Racak case [15-16 January] and the graph was moving the wrong way, but there was not yet a total humanitarian crisis. The Serbs had not rejected all the deals on offer. That did not happen until after Rambouillet [6-23 February]. The Kosovars had not signed up to the deals. That also did not happen until the Kleber negotiation [Paris, 15 March].[109]

49 There was understandable concern, especially in the UK, that if the threat of air strikes were successful in causing Milosevic to climb down, there was no ground force in place ready to move swiftly into Kosovo and implement a peace agreement. In the MoD's own words—

    The UK judged it essential that NATO forces should be ready in significant numbers to move into Kosovo as soon as any agreement had been reached, and therefore led the way in the advance deployment of forces into Macedonia.[110]

Accordingly, the Extraction Force (see paragraphs 39 and 40 above), which had become fully operational on 16 January, found its mission changing with the situation. On 11 February, and in advance of a NATO activation order, the UK announced the deployment of the first elements of a UK contribution to a NATO peace implementation force.[111]

34  See eg Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, paras 1-70 Back

35  See eg Misha Glenny, The Balkans, 1804-1999, London Granta Books, 1999; Tim Judah, Kosovo, War and Revenge, Yale University Press, 2000; Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, Macmillan, London, 1998 Back

36  Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, paras 16-21 Back

37   Cm 4724, para 10.3 Back

38  Ev p 194, paras 11-13 Back

39  Q 299-300 Back

40  For a fuller account of the Dayton settlement, see our First Report, Session 1997-98, Peace Support Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, HC 403 Back

41  Q 2 Back

42  Ev p 186, paras 4-9 Back

43   Ev p 194, paras 17-19 Back

44  Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, para 116 Back

45  Comprising France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK and the USA Back

46  Ev p 186, para 3 Back

47  Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, para 45 Back

48  QQ 300,301, 314 and 315 Back

49  Q17 Back

50  Ev p 186, para 3 Back

51  Q 843 Back

52  Q 584 Back

53  Q 587 Back

54  ibid Back

55   Q 2 Back

56  Q 16 Back

57  Ev p 254, para 59 Back

58  Q 845 Back

59  Q 1009 Back

60  Q 17 Back

61  Chapter VII lays down actions which may be taken with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression: Article 42 permits the use of military force; Article 48 permits member states to take actions in pursuit of these aims Back

62  Ev p 197, para 43 Back

63  Ev p 186, para 4 Back

64  Q 843 Back

65  Cm 4724, para 2.10 Back

66  ibid Back

67  ibid Back

68  Q 848 Back

69  Q 845 Back

70  Cm 4724, Annex A Back

71  Evidence to Senate Armed Forces Committee, November 3, 1999 Back

72  Evidence to Senate Armed Forces Committee, November 3, 1999. Back

73  Human Rights Watch, Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign, 7 February 2000, p 9; Ev p 251, para 41 Back

74  QQ 836 and 848. Back

75  Ev p 198, para 48 Back

76  Q 1189 Back

77  Ev p 186, para 6; Ev p 198, para 49 Back

78  Ev p 198, para 50 Back

79  Proceedings of the UNSC, 24 October 1998, p 13 Back

80  Ev p 214 Back

81  Ev p 214 Back

82  Cm 4724, para 2.11 Back

83  Q 982 Back

84  HC Deb, 18 January 1999, c 567 Back

85  Q 305 Back

86  Ev p 216 Back

87  Q 605 Back

88  Q 58 Back

89  Q 60 Back

90  Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, para 53 Back

91  Cm 4724, para 8.5 Back

92  Ev p 215 Back

93  Ev p 187 Back

94  Ev pp 215-6 Back

95  Eg Foreign Affairs Committee, op cit, para 61 Back

96  See Appendix 1 Back

97  DoD, Foreword, p 1 Back

98  See Appendix 1 Back

99  HC (1999-2000) 28-II, QQ 9 and 12 Back

100  Q 2, Q47 Back

101  Q 9 76 Back

102  Q 978 Back

103  Q 839, Q 840 Back

104  Q 324 Back

105  Q 980 Back

106  Cm 4724, Annex A Back

107  Q 848 Back

108  Q 853 Back

109  Q 854 Back

110  Cm 4724 para 8.6 Back

111  Ev p 191 Back

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