Roth Floor Statement on Lessons Learned in Kosovo Conflict
WASHINGTON -- Senator William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE), Chairman of the Senate NATO Observer Group, today delivered the following floor statement on the lessons learned from Operation ALLIED FORCE and the Kosovo conflict:
"Mr. President, over the course of the next several months, countless 'lessons learned' studies assessing Operation ALLIED FORCE will be conducted by NATO authorities as well as by our armed services, our own Committees here in Congress, and their counterparts found among our NATO allies," Roth stated.
"What I wish to do today is to approach this matter of 'lessons learned' from the vantage point of one who regards the NATO Alliance to be a vital interest of the United States. I want to ensure that NATO's experience in Kosovo contributes to an Alliance that is better prepared for the challenges it will face in the next millennium.
Victory without Triumph
"The conflict over Kosovo was NATO's first war, and the Alliance did win. Operation ALLIED FORCE forced the regime of Serbian Prime Minister Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo. It thereby ended the systematic brutality that regime exercised against the province's Albanian population.
"It was in many ways a military campaign of unprecedented success. Not a single NATO airman lost his or her life to enemy fire in the course of over 35,000 sorties. Despite a few tragic errors, the bombing campaign featured unmatched accuracy and precision.
"However, while Operation ALLIED FORCE did attain victory, the accomplishment of its goals did not yield a shared sense of triumph and finality. This absence of triumph is the product of how NATO exercised its power in this war in light of the tremendous military advantages it had over its opponent, the forces of the Milosevic regime.
"Among NATO's first and foremost objectives in this war was to stop the atrocities then being committed against Kosovar Albanians. Yet, in the course of Operation ALLIED FORCE, Milosevic accelerated and expanded his campaign of terror. Before the war was over, nearly 90% of Kosovar Albanians were driven from their homes by Serbian para-military and military forces. Nearly one half were actually expelled from Kosovo.
"Moreover, no less than 10,000 Albanians were executed by Milosevic's henchmen during the course of the NATO campaign. As we learn daily from the grim excavations of body-filled wells and mass graves, the actual figure is probably much, much higher. And then there were the countless rapes of Albanian women, which for cultural reasons will unfortunately never be fully reported -- all occurring during the course of Operation ALLIED FORCE.
"When assessing the lessons learned from the Kosovo war, we must not forget that the primary purpose of NATO's threats and then its bombing campaign was to prevent these tragedies from occurring.
"Then there are the facts concerning the balance of power between NATO and Serbia. It took the Alliance 78 days to force Milosevic from Kosovo, a region the of Los Angeles County whose population was 90% Albanian -- a population that wanted NATO's support and that would have warmly welcomed Alliance ground forces as was done when Operation JOINT GUARDIAN commenced.
"That this campaign took 78 days is especially disturbing when one takes into account that, according to a Washington Post report, NATO has a standing force some 37 times larger than that fielded by Slobodan Milosevic and a combined economy that is 696 times larger than that of Serbia. These statistics do not come close to capturing the vast technological advantages NATO forces have over the Serbian military.
"That NATO won the war is obvious. That in the course of Operation ALLIED FORCE, NATO demonstrated its awesome capabilities is indisputable. But, when assessing the lessons learned from this war, one cannot avoid the haunting fact that its results included an acute and brutal increase in the suffering of the Kosovar population, that an Alliance of such power and magnitude took over two months to defeat an exponentially far weaker foe, and that in the aftermath of Operation ALLIED FORCE, the regime that created this crisis remains not only in place, but belligerent.
"So what are the key lessons and issues raised by NATO's first war, a war that brought NATO victory yet, denied it triumph?
The Military Core of Allied Unity
"The first and foremost lesson concerns the Alliance's political cohesion. Many have stated that NATO's greatest success in this conflict was that its 19 members hung together.
"There can be no doubt that this cohesion was rooted in the common values and interests that bind the 19 Allies. But in recognizing this, one must not overlook a central fact: The first lesson from Operation ALLIED FORCE is that the trust among Allied military personnel promoted by NATO is an invaluable reinforcer of the political cohesion binding NATO Allies. Allied unity in this war was never a given. Several allies floated proposals to temporarily halt the bombing campaign. Others publicly denied the use of their territory for a forced entry into Kosovo or Serbia proper. NATO's political cohesion was vulnerable in an often very visible manner.
"The trust and unity fostered among allied militaries through fifty years of joint planning, training, command and operations significantly buttressed the durability of Alliance cohesion during the conflict. Unfortunately, I fear that the significance of this military bond may never be fully appreciated. I am disturbed that French Defense Minister Alain Richard recently asserted that the experience of Operation ALLIED FORCE has only further legitimized Paris' inclination to remain outside of NATO's Integrated Military Command.
"Quite the contrary, the war over Kosovo underscored the need for all Allies to become full members of that integrated command structure. It is an institution that facilitates and orchestrates more effective military operations by the NATO coalition. Its day-to-day operation is a cornerstone of trust and credibility that in times of crisis and war not only maximizes NATO's military effectiveness, but also its political unity.
Allied Capabilities and Burden-Sharing
"As I just stated, numerous studies assessing the strategy behind Operation ALLIED FORCE are underway. Much attention will be directed, as it should, toward the factors that contributed to Milosevic's capitulation. These, of course, include that regime's intensified international isolation, the actual damage done to its military and civilian infrastructure, the role of the KLA, and the influence of slowly increasing NATO ground force deployments around Kosovo, among others.
"We also need to ensure a fair and objective assessment of the Alliance's decision to tailor the bombing campaign around a strategy of gradual escalation. And, there has to be a thorough review of the decision to preclude the use of NATO ground forces for a forced entry into Kosovo. An important question will be whether a more severe and overwhelming application of force would have more effectively prevented the suffering that occurred in Kosovo over those 78 days.
"Because so much attention will be directed toward these issues and others related to what went right and wrong in Kosovo, we must, however, avoid the mistake of making Kosovo a singular template for NATO's planning and preparations for future conflicts. As a matter of prudence, we have to assume that the future will present contingencies that are more demanding than that which we encountered over Kosovo.
"Hence, the central focus of our assessments must be the following issue: Did Operation ALLIED FORCE demonstrate that NATO benefits from a force structure that can deploy on suitably short notice, be sustained over long distances, and readily provide Alliance leaders the option of swiftly delivering overwhelming force, be it from the sea, from the air, or from the ground?
"These are not new standards. The Alliance's Strategic Concept of 1991, which was updated in the course of the Washington Summit last April, postulated a NATO force featuring 'enhanced flexibility and mobility and an assured capability for augmentation when necessary.' That same doctrine also called upon the Alliance to have available 'appropriate force structures and procedures, including those that would provide an ability to build up, deploy and draw down forces quickly and discriminately.' With this in mind, NATO established in 1991 its 'Rapid Reaction Forces.'
"So after eight years, just how rapid and overwhelming are NATO's forces?
"Operation ALLIED FORCE yielded a very mixed answer to this question. And, it generates concern on my part about the overall readiness of Allied forces, including those of our own country, and, thus, the overall health of the Alliance.
"First, it is clear that the Alliance's ability to deliver devastating firepower from the air emerges almost solely from the United States. The U.S. provided 70% of the aircraft flown in Operation ALLIED FORCE. And, an overwhelming majority of the precision guided missions launched in the conflict were American.
"While ALLIED FORCE demonstrated the awesome capacities of American air power, it also highlighted glaring shortfalls in European inventories, including: fighter-bombers; electronic jamming aircraft; advanced command, control, and communications capacities; intelligence capacities; and, precision-guided munitions.
"Instead of becoming a symbol of NATO power, Operation ALLIED FORCE emerged as a symbol of the imbalance that exists between the military capabilities of the United States and its Allies. While it is true that our allies are bearing their share of responsibility in Operation JUST CAUSE, we cannot ignore the unequal capabilities the Allies bring to the forward edge of NATO's sword.
"The Alliance's singular dependence upon the United States is neither conducive to transatlantic unity nor is it the best way to provide an Alliance capability that is robust in the fullest sense of the term. An Alliance is simply not healthy if it is solely dependent upon the capabilities of but one member.
"It is, thus, especially disturbing that both France and Germany announced planned cuts in their defense budgets just weeks after the end of Operation ALLIED FORCED. It raises questions as to how seriously they take this matter.
"Second, the Kosovo war highlighted great gaps in inter-operability that divide Allied forces. No military commander has dedicated more time and focus on this urgent concern than General Klaus Naumann, who stepped down in April as Chairman of NATO's Military Committee. He has repeatedly warned that 'the growing gap of capabilities which we see inside NATO...will lead to an inter-operability problem.'
"Operation ALLIED FORCE showed that this inter-operability problem is not a matter of military theory, but that it is matter of real and urgent concern. As we all know, Serbian forces were given advance warning of Allied attacks, including specific targets, when Allied aircraft were forced to communicate over open and insecure radio channels because they did not benefit from suitably compatible and secure communications systems. This, needless to say, undercut the effectiveness of the bombing campaign. More importantly, it subjected Allied pilots to unnecessarily greater danger.
"Third, the Kosovo war highlighted the limited mobility of Allied forces. In April, I was disturbed to hear our nation's premier military experts assert that it would take months for the Alliance to deploy a ground force in the Balkans suitable for a forced entry into Kosovo or Serbia. Considering the relative and capability of Serbia's armed forces to that of NATO and the proximity of Kosovo to available staging grounds for such a forced entry, this assertion does not reflect well on the mobility of NATO military capacities.
"This is a matter relevant not only to our European Allies, but also to the United States as well. As the Kosovo War demonstrated, not every conflict of the future will be like that of Operation DESERT STORM where the United States was able to use literally months to build-up the offensive force necessary to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. In 1991, NATO established its Rapid Reaction Corps. I repeat, in 1991! Where was this corps and its rapidly deployable assets when NATO found itself confronted by a regime that was exponentially weaker and situated in its backyard, if not on its doorstep?
"These are not new issues nor new conclusions. Burden-sharing has always been an acute thorn in the side of Alliance unity. For several years, numerous European and American commanders, in addition to General Naumann, have been warning of the growing technology gap between the armed forces of the United States and Europe. And, NATO's own Strategic Concepts have been urging the Alliance to field forces that are rapidly deployable and assets that can sustain these forces over long distances and long periods of time. What is disturbing is that after nearly a decade, the need for such forces has been so loudly reaffirmed by the Kosovo war.
"Considering what can happen in war, Operation ALLIED FORCE provides a not-so-gentle reminder of the need to more seriously address these challenges. If one believes, as I do, that one has to assume that NATO will in the future face contingencies more challenging than that presented in Kosovo, it is imperative that NATO do more than study these issues. Alliance members must dedicate the resources necessary to overcome these shortcomings. To quote General Naumann again, what 'we require [is] action, and not just more paper declarations.'
NATO As a War Fighting Institution
"In addition to reviewing and studying the insights provided by Operation ALLIED FORCE upon Allied military strategy and capabilities, we have to remember that NATO is first and foremost a political Alliance. The conduct and procedures used in the course of the Kosovo war by NATO's political authorities must also be reviewed and critiqued.
"It was discomfiting, to say the least, to observe inter-Alliance disputes over target lists emerge on the public scene. NATO stumbled in the first phase of the campaign when individual NATO heads of state were personally reviewing and squabbling over daily target lists.
"These disputes, which concerned how to achieve ends through the use of force, raise a number of questions that must be addressed over the coming months. These include the following:
•"Was Operation ALLIED FORCE an example of coalition warfare or a 'war by committee?'
•"Should the Alliance establish procedures that will further separate the political and diplomatic decisions defining the objectives of war as well as the decision to go to war from those military decisions through which the war is executed?
•"In the course of Operation ALLIED FORCE, did the SACEUR benefit from the flexibility and freedom of action his office requires in the conduct of war? Are there alternative arrangements between the SACEUR and the NAC that the Alliance should consider?
•"Does the SACEUR have sufficient command and control over his subordinate commanders?
"With regard to the last question, it has been widely reported that in the course of the NATO-Russia showdown over the Pristina airport, British Commander General Mike Jackson refused an order from SACEUR General Clark to seize that airport prior to the arrival of the Russian battalion. General Robertson balked at the order and successfully appealed to his British senior political authorities to have that order rescinded. This example demonstrated the inherently political nature of NATO's multi-national command structures, one that warrants close examination.
"The questions I have raised constitute the core issues of coalition warfare. They are central to the Alliance's ability to sustain unity in times of crisis and conflict. They are also core issues of civilian control over the military, a cornerstone of democracy.
"While it is widely known that many NATO officers were not totally enamored of the political constraints they were dealt in Operation ALLIED FORCE, the evidence currently available indicates that they accepted and respected these constraints. They fully respected the authorities of their civilian leaders. That is another overlooked NATO success story in Operation ALLIED FORCE.
"In posing the aforementioned questions, the intention is not necessarily to yield structural change, but to ensure a fuller understanding of what to expect and demand of our Alliance's political and military leadership in times of conflict. In doing so we may be better able, and I quote again General Naumann, 'to find a way to reconcile the conditions of a coalition war with the principles of military operations such as surprise and the use of overwhelming force.' That sustaining Allied unity was one of the success stories of Operation ALLIED FORCE is a fact that shows how NATO manages war is as important a matter as the capacities NATO brings to war.
"The Kosovo war also yielded lessons about another issue of great importance to the Alliance, the relationship between NATO and Russia. Over the last decade the Alliance has made great efforts to transform that relationship into one of partnership. Toward that end, it invited Russia to join its Partnership for Peace Program, and in 1997 the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed establishing a unique consultative relationship between Brussels and Moscow. This effort to build a genuine partnership must be continued, but it also must be pursued with greater realism.
"The Kosovo war was the first major test of the progress made in relations between the Alliance and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Moscow's conduct in the course of this conflict and its immediate aftermath demonstrated that while Russia may not be the protagonist it was in the Cold War, it is certainly not a partner, at least not today. To paraphrase Russia analyst Tom Graham, Russia is more often than not, sometimes purposely and sometimes inadvertently, a troublesome problem.
"A brief review of Russia's role in the Kosovo conflict underscores this point. First, remember that Russia still calls for NATO's dissolution. Second, from the very start of Operation ALLIED FORCE, Moscow harshly condemned the bombing campaign and sided with Slobodan Milosevic. Russia continued oil transfers to Serbia despite a request by nearly all other European democracies to impose an embargo. So-called "Russian volunteers" operated with Milosevic's forces in Kosovo and Serbia and with the blessing of Moscow authorities. Third, Russia's successful dash to Pristina and its airport required a great deal of coordination with Serbian authorities. Moreover, let us not forget that Russian and Serbian soldiers jointly manned roadblocks in Kosovo that impeded the movement of Allied units in the initial days of Operation JUST CAUSE.
"Russia's conduct in the course of Operation ALLIED FORCE and its self-invited role in Operation JUST CAUSE demonstrated the volatility that still characterizes Russia's foreign policy, particularly its approach to NATO. Russian participation in NATO diplomatic and military operations is a double-edged sword, and has to be treated as such, particularly when sensitive Alliance operations are at stake.
"Engaging Russia should remain a significant priority of the Alliance. Introducing greater realism to this effort does not mean isolating Russia. It does involve recognizing the difficult challenge of simultaneously promoting cooperation and mutual accommodation while avoiding propitiating risk-taking behavior by Moscow, such as that which occurred in Pristina.
"The lesson from Kosovo is that while we must engage Russia with the goal of creating partnership, greater realism and caution in this endeavor is more likely to yield more stable and enduring cooperation.
"Mr. President, the Kosovo war demonstrated the continued centrality of NATO to transatlantic security. It has demonstrated the awesome power that emanates from allied unity. It underscored the profound political and military pay-off that comes from fifty years of intensive military consultation, cooperation, coordination, joint planning, joint training, and all the day-to-day activities the Allied militaries conduct to protect and defend our common values and interests and peace.
"The war over Kosovo tangibly reminded us of the military and political challenges NATO will likely face in the future. It was a firm reminder of the need for the Alliance's force structure to become more mobile and more capable of rapid deployment. It was an urgent call for improvements in the inter-operability of Allied forces and in the balance of transatlantic military capabilities. And it provided the first test of NATO's ability to manage war in the post-Cold War era.
"As Operation ALLIED FORCE was NATO's first war, it is essential that we ensure that it is comprehensively reviewed. In objectively assessing what went right and wrong, we must keep our eyes upon NATO's future. We must also work to ensure that the lessons learned and relearned from Operation ALLIED FORCE will not just reside in dusty reports but actually prompt decisions and actions that improve NATO's ability to decisively manage the political and military levels of war.
"Mr. President, I have quoted General Klaus Naumann several times and wish to share with my colleagues the transcript of his farewell remarks of May 4, 1999, the last day of his tenure as Chairman of NATO's Military Committee. They provide sage advise concerning NATO's future from an experienced military commander, and I urge my colleagues to take the time necessary to review them."
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