Clinton Calls for Vigor, Patience
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 26, 1999 It will take vigor and patience, but NATO's air campaign will prevail over Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces, President Clinton said here April 24.
"We are doing what needs to be done here with great vigor, and I am convinced we will prevail if we have the patience," Clinton told reporters at NATO's 50th anniversary summit. The president said he strongly believes NATO is "not drifting" into a long and endless conflict; the alliance is "moving forward" with a strategy that will succeed.
Clinton said the alliance can make the campaign expensive for Milosevic militarily and economically. In time, he said, "we will either break down his military capacity to retain control over Kosovo, or the price of staying there will be far greater than the perceived benefits."
NATO remains determined to end the Kosovo offensive Milosevic's forces planned last year, Clinton noted. "They had 40,000 troops in and around Kosovo and almost 300 tanks. It takes time to reverse that, but we are working on it and we will prevail if we execute well with real determination ...."
The president pointed out that NATO's Operation Allied Force has been under way only a month, a relatively short period of time. In the Persian Gulf, he said, where the land was flatter, the targets clearer and the weather better, coalition aircraft bombed 44 days before land action commenced.
While some U.S. forces are now in Albania to provide security for the Apache helicopters deployed there, Clinton repeated that NATO is not considering deploying ground forces. Once a peace agreement is reached and a permissive environment is secured, NATO plans to deploy a security force to ensure refugees' safe return. NATO has sent some troops to Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to help manage the massive refuge problem, he added.
NATO allies attending the summit issued a strong message of support to Kosovo's "front-line" neighbors," Clinton said. "NATO will respond to any actions by Serbia against its neighbors as a result of NATO presence on their territory during this crisis, or to any move to undermine the democratically elected government of Montenegro," the president said.
Queried about NATO's decision to strike Serb television, Clinton replied the alliance does not view Serb radio and television as a conventional media outlet. Rather, the network is seen as "an essential instrument of Mr. Milosevic's command and control," the president said.
"He uses it to spew hatred and to basically spread disinformation," Clinton said. "He does not use it to show all the Kosovar villages he's burned, to show the mass graves, to show the children that have been raped by the soldiers that he sent there."