Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 24, 1999
STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CLINTON ON KOSOVO, The White House, Washington, DC, 24 March 1999
The Briefing Room
2:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. United States forces,
acting with our NATO allies, have commenced air strikes against
Serbian military targets in the Former Yugoslavia.
I will address the nation more fully tonight on why this
action is necessary, but I wanted to say a few words now.
We and our NATO allies have taken this action only after
extensive and repeated efforts to obtain a peaceful solution to the
crisis in Kosovo. But President Milosevic, who over the past decade
started terrible wars against Croatia and Bosnia, has again chosen
aggression over peace. He has violated the commitments he, himself,
made last fall to stop the brutal repression in Kosovo. He has
rejected the balanced and fair peace accords that our allies and
partners, including Russia, proposed last month -- a peace agreement
that Kosovo's ethnic Albanians courageously accepted.
Instead, his forces have intensified their attacks,
burning down Kosovar Albanian villages and murdering civilians. As I
speak, more Serb forces are moving into Kosovo, and more people are
fleeing their homes -- 60,000 in just the last five weeks, a quarter
of a million altogether. Many have headed toward neighboring
Kosovo's crisis now is full-blown, and if we do not act,
clearly, it will get even worse. Only firmness now can prevent
greater catastrophe later.
Our strikes have three objectives: First, to demonstrate the
seriousness of NATO's opposition to aggression and its support for
peace. Second, to deter President Milosevic from continuing and
escalating his attacks on helpless civilians by imposing a price for
those attacks. And, third, if necessary, to damage Serbia's capacity
to wage war against Kosovo in the future by seriously diminishing
its military capabilities.
As I have repeatedly said to the American people, this
action is not risk-free; it carries risks. And I ask for the prayers
of all Americans for our men and women in uniform in the area.
However, I have concluded that the dangers of acting now are clearly
outweighed by the risks of failing to act -- the risks that many more
innocent people will die or be driven from their homes by the tens of
thousands; the risks that the conflict will involve and destabilize
neighboring nations. It will clearly be much more costly and
dangerous to stop later than this effort to prevent it from going
At the end of the 20th century, after two world wars and
a Cold War, we and our allies have a chance to leave our children a
Europe that is free, peaceful and stable. But we must -- we must --
act now to do that. Because if the Balkans once again become a place
of brutal killing and massive refugee flights, it will be impossible
With our allies, we used diplomacy and force to end the
war in Bosnia. Now trouble next door in Kosovo puts the region's
people at risk again. Our NATO allies unanimously support this
action. The United States must stand with them, and stand against
ethnic violence and atrocity.
Our Alliance is united. And I am particularly grateful
for the support we have received from members of Congress from both
parties. As we go forward I will remain in close contact with
Congress -- I have spoken with all the leaders today -- and in
contact with our friends and allies around the world. And I will
have more to say about all of this tonight.
END 2:20 P.M. EST
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