27 March 1999
TEXT: UK MILITARY BRIEFING ON "OPERATION ALLIED FORCE" MARCH 27
(Top military officials vow to continue bombardment) (1890)
London -- Britain's Defense Secretary George Robertson and military
chief of staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, have vowed to continue
the NATO bombardment of Serbia's military machine until Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic agrees to peace in the war-torn province
In a joint briefing March 27, Robertson and General Guthrie said the
Milosevic's paramilitary police are committing mass murder against
Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo province.
They said the western allies are collecting information on the Serbian
units and individuals committing atrocities. At a later date, the
International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague will prosecute those
people on charges of committing crimes against humanity, they said.
General Guthrie said the allied warplanes have called back their
attacking warplanes because of bad weather to reduce the chance of
collateral damage and civilian deaths.
Following is the text of their statements:
BRIEFING BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE,
MR. GEORGE ROBERTSON, AND THE CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE
STAFF, GEN SIR CHARLES GUTHRIE
27 MARCH 1999
(NOTE: THIS IS THE TEXT OF THE PRESENTERS' SPEAKING NOTES. A FULL
TRANSCRIPT WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY.)
MR. ROBERTSON: More damage was done yesterday by NATO to Milosevic's
As you will hear from CDS in a moment, although our Harriers were
flying last night, bad weather prevented all NATO manned aircraft from
attacking their targets. But the campaign as a whole is making good
progress, with successful Allied missile attacks against a number of
targets, including several around Belgrade. Make no mistake.
These attacks are extremely damaging to Milosevic's war machine.
General Guthrie will say more in a moment about one particular attack
against the headquarters of Yugoslavian army operations in Kosovo. As
he will also explain, yesterday Milosevic also escalated his campaign
to neighbouring Bosnia, by sending his warplanes to violate its
As the CDS will explain in a moment these aircraft were capable of
ground attack missions against NATO forces. The MiGs were shot down
but we regard this as an extremely serious development. Let me make it
clear again that any attacks on NATO peacekeeping troops in Bosnia or
Macedonia will be met by a swift and severe response in self defence.
Our attacks last night came at the end of a day which saw the
international community decisively back NATO's actions at the United
Nations in New York. By the overwhelming margin of twelve votes to
three, the Security Council rejected a Russian motion critical of
Only China and Namibia voted against. Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil,
Gabon, Gambia, Malaysia and Slovenia all voted together with the NATO
members Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States.
I understand that this was the largest defeat for any proposition in
the Security Council since 1993.
The international community has now spoken again, and it has spoken
decisively against Milosevic. To those who say we are not acting with
the support of the international community, I say, the international
community itself does not agree with you.
To those who say that we have ignored the United Nations, I say, what
clearer evidence could there be than this vote of opinion within the
Security Council. I hope we shall now hear less of these suggestions.
Meanwhile, Milosevic is continuing with his brutal campaign of
repression. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees - with all
its considerable authority - was told by refugees yesterday of
appalling violence committed against the Kosovar people.
The Serbs have been torching villages, and, in a grisly echo of the
savagery of the Bosnian war, separating the men from their families
and shooting them. There are reports that the villages of Godeni and
Prush have been destroyed.
Serb police and masked paramilitary forces swept through the town of
Djakovica in Western Kosovo, killing and burning indiscriminately.
There are clear signs now that an all-out Serbian offensive against
the Kosovar Albanian people has started. Violence is widespread.
The Serbs are bombarding villages to the point of obliteration. We
have heard that some villages no longer exist. There are consistent
reports of extra-judicial killing by the Serb Security forces.
The numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are increasing
rapidly. There are reported to be 30,000 people in the open around
Podujevo, Kosovska, Mitrovica and Shale.
The Drenica and Pagarusa valleys are also badly affected. There are
reports of large numbers of refugees waiting to cross the border into
In the light of these reports does anyone any longer seriously believe
that we should not be doing what we are doing? That we should simply
stand by, and wring our hands while the repression continues, and
Milosevic's troops go on the rampage?
This is not happening because of NATO. This violence was going on
before our airstrikes began. They have been going on in the same vein
all week. It was not NATO airstrikes on military targets which started
the assault on the Albanian population but only NATO airstrikes will
These are the very same tactics which Milosevic and his killing
machine used in Bosnia. This man is a serial ethnic cleanser.
Let me make one other thing clear. We in the British Ministry of
Defence in London, with our allies, are meticulously collecting
evidence on what is going on in Kosovo, which Serbian units are
involved, and which individuals are taking part.
That information will be passed to the International War Crimes
Tribunal. And when the time comes, they will face justice in the
The sad fact is that Milosevic's currency is the currency of violence.
That seems to be all he understands. He is now learning a painful
lesson, because force can be used against him too. In a moment, you
will hear from CDS something about the strength of the lesson he has
already been taught.
And if Belgrade is banking on NATO not having the unity and strength
of purpose to carry through our policy to the end, they are making the
most crucial mistake of all.
I spoke to a number of NATO Defence Ministers yesterday. I have bad
news for Mr Milosevic. There is no weakening of their resolve.
Indeed the firm view of those I spoke to was that we should increase
the weight of our attacks.
We are not at war with Yugoslavia or its people, and we have no desire
to prolong the military action a moment longer than is absolutely
necessary. But it is not we who are prolonging It.
It is Milosevic himself, by not calling a halt to the killing. He
simply has to pick up the telephone.
As General Guthrie will explain, NATO's campaign is continuing its
progress towards the point where Milosevic's war machine will no
longer be capable of inflicting the kind suffering on the people of
Kosovo that we have seen in recent days and weeks.
GENERAL GUTHRIE: Last night attacks continued over Yugoslavia. Royal
Air Force Harriers were planned, once again, to take part, and eight
were launched against targets in Kosovo.
Unfortunately, the weather was against us. Aircraft at the front of
the wave that included our Harriers reported that the target was
obscured by heavy cloud. This meant that the aircraft were unable to
identify and to guide their weapons onto their targets precisely. As a
result, all of the NATO aircraft in our attack waves were called back.
All of the aircraft returned safely to base. These things are not
uncommon in air operations, and we make our plans to take them into
Of course, the aircraft could have pressed on to bomb the targets
without precision guidance, but, with the consequent reduction in
accuracy, the possibility of collateral damage and civilian deaths is
significantly greater and one which we are not prepared to risk.
Again, our restraint in the use of force shows NATO's determination to
avoid the risk of harm to innocent civilians.
Turning to NATO's actions overall, it is now clear that the
effectiveness of the Yugoslavian air defence system is becoming more
and more degraded, leaving our forces greater ability to concentrate
more fully on attacking those aspects of Milosevic's military
apparatus which support his campaign of repression in Kosovo. Although
our manned air missions were curtailed by weather, NATO did press
ahead with Cruise missile attacks, on which NATO Headquarters may be
able to brief you later. The range of possible attacks that NATO can
mount will give Milosevic and his regime no rest.
We can attack in poor weather, we can attack at night, we can attack
during the day. Milosevic can take no comfort or respite until he
stops the violence against innocent Albanians in Kosovo.
To take just one example, we now know that the war HQ of the 3rd Army
at Kursumlija, near the border with Kosovo, was hit on the first night
of the campaign and was badly damaged. This is the HQ from which the
Yugoslav Army is controlling its Kosovo campaign and this will give
the Yugoslavs key command and control problems. We know that their
army has been badly rattled by this attack.
I would like to say a word or two about the Yugoslavian Ministry of
the Interior Police, or the MUP. This paramilitary organisation is,
and has always been, primarily responsible for the atrocities being
committed in Kosovo. Last October, Milosevic agreed to limit the
number of these police to 4,500 in Kosovo. Since then, he has built
his forces up so that by last week over 18,000 of this vicious force
were at work in Kosovo. It is this force that is, in the main,
carrying out the brutal repression and they have been at work for
quite some time. It is their command and control assets, along with
those of the Yugoslavian Army, that we are attacking in order to
reduce their ability to continue acting against the Albanians.
I fully expect this trend to continue over the days to come. The
Serbian security force commanders should be in no doubt about this.
The severity of our attacks upon their capability will continue to
increase unless they change their behaviour. No one should be in any
doubt. We are absolutely determined to see this through until we have
achieved our objectives.
I know that the Secretary of State has mentioned that we are
collecting information for use in any future prosecution for war
crimes committed in Kosovo by Milosevic's henchmen. The British Armed
Forces, who have played a major part in the detention of Bosnian war
criminals, will be ready to carry out the same task for the war
criminals of today if they are asked.
Before concluding, I should like to say a word about the shooting down
over Bosnia-Herzegovina of two MiG29s. This is viewed by NATO with the
utmost seriousness. The Yugoslav tactics failed completely, we shall
certainly be considering carefully the implications of what occurred.
The ease with which the two MiGs were shot down by NATO aircraft
underlines the superiority of allied aircraft. Slobodan Milosevic now
knows that any further incursions of this kind will be dealt with in a
similar manner. NATO forces can and will protect themselves from any
kind of attack and have the means to do so.
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