The International Strategic
Studies Association organized a fact-finding mission from Washington DC
to Yugoslavia on April 18-21, 1999. The purpose was for the Association
and a key US Congressman to determine to a greater extent factors important
to future policymaking with regard to the war being prosecuted against
Yugoslavia. ISSA worked with a Yugoslav NGO, the Institute for Geopolitical
Studies, in facilitating the mission.
US Congressman Jim Saxton
(Republican, New Jersey), an ISSA Life Member and Chairman of the US House
of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare
(and member of the House Armed Services Committee; and Vice-Chairman of
the Joint [House-Senate] Economic Committee), participated in the mission,
along with the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism, Yossef Bodansky.
The mission delegates met
with key Yugoslav officials and politicians, at the highest levels, including
the Foreign Minister. As well, contacts were made with non-governmental
individuals in Yugoslavia, and an assessment was made of NATO bombing damage
in the greater Belgrade area.
A. The Rationale Behind the
1. The visit was principally
undertaken to ensure that the US Congress had sufficient independent information
on the conduct of the war ("the Kosovo Crisis") to be able to
fully debate proposals put to it by the US Administration. The Founding
Fathers of the United States wished to ensure that there were checks and
balances in the US system. The Congress was empowered to approve and fund
- or disapprove and withhold funding - the actions of the Administration,
and was charged with the function of declaring war. It was, therefore,
the responsibility of Congress to satisfy itself through the utmost diligence
that courses of action to which it committed its actions were appropriate.
It was never intended that the Congress should blindly endorse the Administrative
Branch, but rather should support it or check it after due debate and research.
2. The commitment of US lives
into a combat situation, where many lives will certainly be lost, and where
the long-term strategic interests of the United States are involved, cannot
therefore be undertaken without the most complete research and understanding.
With regard to the present situation in Yugoslavia, Congress had until
this mission been virtually totally reliant on the Administration's view
of events, and on the media, which has been greatly influenced by the only
real source of information and opinion available: the Administration.
3. It was necessary to determine
far more objectively the real situation before one-sided evidence and jingoism
was allowed to determine whether Congress threw American lives, and the
future strategic position of the United States, into a war. This was the
underlying motive for the ISSA/Saxton mission to Yugoslavia.
4. It was also necessary to
ensure that the United States did not unwittingly commit crimes of its
own in pursuit of a just solution to the tragedy.
B. What was discovered
1. The Flow of Refugees: The
international media, because it is largely on the external borders of Yugoslavia,
has seen only the flow of refugees out of the country, to Albania and Macedonia.
However, some one-third of the Albanian Yugoslav and other ethnic group
refugees appear, in fact, to be fleeing further into Serbia, to avoid the
Kosovo Liberation Army. Yugoslavia has already been burdened since 1992
with almost one-million refugees from Bosnian Serb areas and Croatian Serb
areas, as well as Croatians and Muslims fleeing into Serbia-proper from
what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
2. There is no doubt but that
the NATO bombings in Kosovo and in the rest of Serbia have contributed
heavily - perhaps overwhelmingly - toward the outflow of refugees, not
only the Kosovar Albanians but many other ethnic groups who have been forced
on the road with the destruction of their homes or their livelihoods.
3. There are some 26 different
ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and some 20 different ethnic groups living
in the Kosovo region. Within Yugoslavia, some one-third of the population
is not of Serbian origin, and this makes it the most multi-cultural, multi-religious
state in the Balkan region.
4. We saw extensive destruction
of civilian targets, many of which could not be justified by NATO as military
targets nor vital to the maintenance of a Yugoslav strategic power base.
Given the widespread damage to these purely civilian targets which we saw,
including the direct destruction of homes, it is not difficult to believe
the claims of the Yugoslav Government that some 400,000 to a half-million
people have been thrown out of work because of the destruction of their
workplaces. This means that some 2-million Yugoslavs of all ethnic origins
are without income, out of a population of some 10+-million people.
5. Justification for bombing
civilian targets has now been given that these facilities were owned by
relatives of President Milosevic, but the vast majority of these factories
were either State-owned, privately-owned by non-Milosevic family members
or, for the greater part, owned jointly by the State and by the workforces
of the various factories. As a result, this has directly contributed to
an attack on the average Yugoslav family.
6. There was no evidence to
support the contention that the Yugoslav warfighting capability has been
overwhelming broken by the sustained NATO bombing campaign. Rather, the
bombing has driven the Yugoslav people to put aside their political differences
and to unite in the face of an external threat, much as would be the case
if the United States was attacked. We met with people who have, in the
past, been totally opposed, politically, to President Milosevic. Today,
they are working completely with Mr Milosevic to defend their country.
So the intention of the bombing to break the Yugoslav people away from
Mr Milosevic has totally failed, and shows no sign of succeeding.
7. The cost in terms of human
casualties from the NATO bombing have largely been civilian: between 500
and 1,000 dead, with several thousand injured. Military personnel casualties
have been minimal.
8. There has clearly been
significant damage suffered by Yugoslav military assets, including domestic
oil refining capability. However, it would be a mistake to believe that
the real warfighting capability of Yugoslavia has been degraded to anything
like the level where the insertion of ground forces could be successful:
that is, that it could militarily defeat Yugoslavia without massive loss
of life and without destroying the one thing which the campaign intends
to save, namely a viable restoration of Kosovars to their homes and livelihoods
in the Kosovo region. The net result of an insertion of ground forces would
be that a protracted war would continue within the very rugged terrain
of the country, and that the lowland areas would be lain-waste to in the
process. It surely is not our intention to achieve a victory without restoring
the homes and employment of the Kosovar people (whether of Albanian origin
9. Apart from a costly, protracted
war with the massive loss of life among NATO states, including, of course,
the United States, there is reason for grave concern over a wider war.
Firstly, it is clear that there would be retaliatory actions against major
Western targets, such as our own oil refineries and nuclear power stations,
etc., from Yugoslav special forces or from non-government Serb activists.
So we could expect a major outbreak of anti-NATO terrorism, perhaps on
a scale not before seen, if we choose to escalate the war into a full ground
operation. This must at the very least be taken into consideration.
10. We attempted to investigate
reports that there has already been considerable loss of life among NATO
forces, and we feel that we received some confirmation that this has been
the case. Clearly, the cost to NATO in human and equipment terms has already
been far greater than anything which has been announced. Just how extensive
the NATO aircraft and personnel losses have been remains to be confirmed.
What is clear is that already there has been a cost to us, apart from the
mere monetary cost of equipment and consumables. This cost can only rise
significantly as the conflict proceeds.
11. It has been stated by
NATO that the Yugoslav Air Force has been driven from the skies, with half
the Yugoslav fighter aircraft force lost, and that all defenses now consist
only of anti-aircraft artillery and anti-aircraft missiles. It is more
likely that the Yugoslav Air Force is preserving its forces to be used
in any broader conflict. This is not Iraq, and we should not make the mistake
of believing that the fight, or fighting capability, has been driven from
12. There has, in fact, been
considerable progress toward reaching a political solution acceptable to
all moderate parties. And, of course, we except from the definition "moderate
parties" the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, which derived from
the communist origins of the former Albanian stalinist leaders and which
today is funded largely by narcotic trafficking into Western Europe and
through extortion. It has been a mistake for the West to support the KLA
now, when moderate Kosovar Albanian leaders have been committed to a political
solution to the tragedy. Equally, attempts to discredit moderate Kosovar
Albanian leader Dr Ibrahim Rugova are counter-productive to achieving a
peaceful and lasting solution to the problem. The fact that Dr Rugova's
enormous courage in remaining in Yugoslavia to seek such a solution is
now being dismissed by allegations that he is a "virtual prisoner"
only serve to reinforce the hand of the KLA, which has previously been
labeled a terrorist force by the United States, and remains so today. [The
matter of KLA terrorism and the prospect of Yugoslav special operations
in a wider war are both matters which have been the subject of considerable
study by the US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional
Warfare, chaired by Congressman Saxton.]
13. We received strong indications
from the very senior officials with whom we met - and clearly the messages
which we received were sanctioned by Mr Milosevic himself - that virtually
all the substantive demands for Kosovo's future autonomy within Yugoslavia
could be met, and met quickly, provided negotiations could resume. As a
result, we need to undertake a careful step-by- step approach toward peace
and we need to see some substantive evidence of commitment and goodwill
on the part of the Yugoslavs. I believe that this will be forthcoming.
14. Without question, we need
to ensure that Congress is totally clear on the situation before further
escalation takes place, and before further funding is put in place to continue
a protracted war. Congress needs to undertake this process of due diligence
itself, given the fact that the enormous confusion which has taken place
due to media manipulation on all sides has only contributed to a blood-lust
which - if it is the only basis for decisionmaking - could lead to a much
longer and wider war.
15. Finally, it seems clear
that if we accept that we must commit to a broader war in Yugoslavia, then
we must also accept that US and NATO military preoccupation with this conflict
will open the door to a range of other conflicts which could be of massive
and lasting consequence. In this regard, we must expect that an expanded
war would lead to an exacerbation of Turkish-Greek tensions leading to
a separate war, in which the Cyprus issue would become a key. We could
expect North Korea to take the opportunity to initiate a military attack
on South Korea, with Japan drawn into the fray. We could expect that the
People's Republic of China would use the opportunity to attempt to invade
Taiwan. We could expect a variety of new conflicts to arise in the Middle
East. And so on. What is clear, not just to ourselves but to others, is
that we have a finite military force available to NATO at present, and,
because we have spent our post-Cold War "peace dividend", others
will take advantage of the situation to launch their offensives, knowing
the West does not have the capacity to fight on many fronts.