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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
July 27, 1995 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, July 27, 1995 - 2:00 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to our briefing.

I've got a couple of announcements, first.

Tomorrow, Secretary Perry will go to Limestone, Maine, where he'll speak at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service up there. Then on Saturday he will commission a new ballistic missile submarine, the MAINE -- strangely enough at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

In Kittery, Maine, he'll have a press conference at the pier at 1:45 on Saturday. You could get information on contact points from DDI.

Secondly, I'd like to announce that in October on the 5th and 6th, Secretary Perry will host a NATO meeting of the Defense Ministers at Colonial Williamsburg. The meeting will be chaired by NATO Secretary General Willy Claes.

While I'm on the topic of Williamsburg, I'd like to note that he just came back from Williamsburg yesterday where we had a very successful meeting of the Defense Ministers of the 34 democracies in the Western Hemisphere. During that meeting, it was announced by Brazil that Peru and Ecuador had agreed to a demilitarized zone along their border, in the area where they were fighting in January over the disputed border. They will continue negotiations while they monitor the demilitarized zone in order to solve the border dispute.

This is not an agreement that came directly out of the Williamsburg Ministerial meeting, but it was certainly in the spirit of the meeting which was based on the assumption that we can solve disputes with words rather than weapons. The meeting went so well; that Argentina has agreed to host another Defense Ministerial in Buenos Aires at some time yet to be determined, but the meeting went extremely well.

With that, I'd be glad to answer any questions you have on the Defense Ministerial.

Q: Are there any indications of a move toward Gorazde by the Serbs? I assume there isn't, since there's been no air attacks. And we still haven't cleared up this matter yet of whether or not these widespread airstrikes could be triggered by the continued shelling of Sarajevo or the attacks on Bihac.

The Secretary said several times that, if authorization is needed for that, you could go back and ask for (inaudible). I know you have power to respond to Serb attacks now, but could attacks on Sarajevo right now, without further action by NATO, trigger widespread airstrikes?

A: On the first question you asked, I'm actually tempted to use the wonderful formula Secretary Christopher invoked in London, which is if you ask two questions, the answerer gets to choose which question to answer. But because it's you, Charlie, I'll answer both questions. [Laughter]

The answer to the first question is that we do not see any change in the Serb disposition of forces around Gorazde or any threatening move toward Gorazde at this time.

The second question is also easy to answer. The NAC resolution, the North Atlantic Council resolution that came out of NATO the other day, dealt specifically with Gorazde. It laid out a series of triggers that would provoke a response by NATO to Serb aggression against Gorazde, and it discussed what those responses could be, and it discussed the command and control setup for orchestrating those responses. It also said, and Willy Claes, the Secretary General of NATO, stressed this in his statement yesterday, he said, "We have also invited the NATO military authorities urgently to formulate proposals on how this planning could be applied to other safe areas in view, particularly, of the current, very serious situation in Bihac."

So, as he said, he has asked the NATO military planners to begin figuring out ways to apply the new airstrike rules and airstrike program to other areas. But the NAC directive--the North Atlantic Council directive--and Boutros Boutros-Ghali's decision about command and control apply only to Gorazde. They do not apply to actions involving other safe areas. That would have to come next. There would have to be another round of planning by NATO military officials, as well as action by the North Atlantic Council; and, then if they wanted to enact a new command and control situation for action around other safe areas that would also have to be considered by the UN.

Q: I think perhaps you've answered my question by making the point that the Serbs know that if they attack Gorazde they face immediate and possibly widespread airstrikes ratcheting up. But if they attack Bihac now, they will not face the strikes unless some kind of further action is taken. Is that what you're saying?

A: I'm saying that the Secretary General of NATO made it very clear that he has instructed NATO to do for remaining safe areas the same type of thing that has already been done for Gorazde. But that hasn't been completed yet.

Q: And would require further action, is what you said?

A: I said it would require further action. He did use the word "urgently." He said that he's asked NATO military authorities urgently to formulate proposals. Being a Belgian, he never splits an infinitive. [Laughter]

Q: Aside from the question of when and if there might be a NATO response to Serb aggression in other safe areas--aside from that question--Secretary Perry has described the Gorazde response as one that would come in phases, beginning with somewhat limited, geographically at least, limited strikes. Then he said the second phase could be what he called a broader regional response.

My question is, could you move to that second phase without first going back to the NAC and to the UN political authorities for approval?

A: Yes.

Q: You could?

A: Yes.

Q: Does NATO have the authority for a broader air campaign over Bihac and the other safe havens?

A: Well, I thought I explained earlier that the Secretary General of NATO has asked his military planners to come up with a pattern for dealing with Bihac and Sarajevo that's similar to the one that's already been adopted for Gorazde.

Q: But they have the authority from the UN. They don't need additional authority from anybody to--for--a broader air campaign?

A: They would have to go through a process that is similar to what they went through for Gorazde. The question they would have to answer is whether they could devise the same command and control setup for other safe areas as they've devised for Gorazde. That would require UN action.

Q: Can you tell us if any of that planning for the other safe areas has begun, or are there any moves indicating...

A: The planning has begun.

Q: When would you anticipate a meeting--a decisionmaking meeting--on that?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: You mean the order that's gone out now: Boutros Boutros-Ghali giving up his authority for final approval, for final political approval of these strikes; and also Willy Claes, I think, turned the final order over to his military commander? This only applies to Gorazde and not Sarajevo, right?

A: That's right.

Q: This new dual-key arrangement only applies to Gorazde?

A: The London meeting dealt specifically with Gorazde. The NATO meetings flowed directly out of the London meeting. Those meetings dealt specifically with Gorazde. The request of the Secretary General to act on a NATO decision was the decision that dealt with Gorazde.

Q: And the decisions by Boutros-Ghali and Claes apply only to Gorazde?

A: That is my reading of what they both said yesterday.

Q: Can you tell us whether you think there's a unity of opinion among the French, the Brits, and the U.S. to have the command and control structure that is applied to Gorazde also be applied to Bihac and Sarajevo?

A: The allies agreed on a command and control setup which will be applied to Gorazde, and I would assume they will agree elsewhere as well.

Q: When the agreement came on Gorazde, the British, French, and United States delivered a specific ultimatum to the Bosnian Serb leader. Would an additional ultimatum or a similar ultimatum be delivered to the Bosnian Serbs if this were to be extended to include other safe areas?

A: I believe it would be, but I'm not absolutely certain on that. But yes, I believe there would be another ultimatum so that the Bosnian Serbs would be perfectly clear about what NATO's intentions are if they were to continue a certain course of action; just as they should be perfectly clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt, what NATO's response will be if they attack Gorazde or if they begin to marshal troops in an apparent effort to attack Gorazde.

Q: Now that Boutros Boutros-Ghali has delegated the UN key of the dual- key, are you clear where that key is now? Is it in Sarajevo? Is it in Zagreb? Is it in Paris?

A: It's in General Janvier's pocket.

Q: Is the RRF now completely in and around Sarajevo? Have they completed their deployment? And do you expect that they will reestablish the weapons exclusion zone even if they have to launch some kind of offensive? And will the Serbs be warned first?

A: About 40 percent of the British and Dutch elements... All the Dutch are there. Somewhat less than 40 percent of the British troops have been moved down there. There are now a total of 1,742 British and Dutch troops of a total of 4,492 who will be moved down there.

Q: You're talking about... I was talking about the British and the French moving to Sarajevo. You're talking about...

A: I'm talking about establishing the entire Rapid Reaction Force. People are still moving from the United Kingdom down to Bosnia. We've completed moving about 40 percent of the people we're going to move, and the others will be moved down in the first half of next month some time. Will complete being moved down in the first half...

Q: I'm sorry. I wasn't talking about the Rapid Reaction Force being moved to the region. I was talking about the specific British and French troops who are being moved to Sarajevo.

A: I do not know if all of that is... I do not know if they have completed moving the troops they intend to move to the Mount Igman Road and other places.

Q: Perhaps what I'm asking is, are they ready to do something there? And is there an intent to retake the exclusion zone and to warn the Serbs first that they'd better...

A: I can't answer that question. That's up to the Rapid Reaction Force. As you know, we're not a part of the Rapid Reaction Force. We're just supporting their movement into the theater by taking them to Split, Croatia, and Ploce which is where the ships are coming in.

Q: On Monday, Secretary Perry said the U.S. may provide additional electronic warfare aircraft to NATO for the airstrike plans that are being developed. Has NATO come back and actually requested aircraft yet?

A: I don't want to get into the specifics of where that review process stands. But the Secretary has said on a number of occasions that he feels there are significant air assets already in the theater, but that if his military advisers recommended that we send more, we would not hesitate to send more. This is now being reviewed. But the area where we are most likely to need to send more--if we do send more--would be in the communications, early warning, electronic warfare, surveillance areas. That's being studied now.

Q: ...specific aircraft are being looked at?

A: I'd rather not get into the specifics right now. When that happens-- some time after it happens you'll know it all--but the decisions are still being reviewed, and will be made relatively soon one way or another.

Q: Can you comment on a CNN report earlier this week that the United States at least considered the sending of B-52 and B-1 bombers to England?

A: We do send long-range bombers such as the B-52 and the B-1 to England from time to time for exercises, and some had been in England relatively recently for a so-called global power training mission. We don't have plans to deploy those planes for use in Bosnia now.

Q: Can you just clarify? You said you don't have plans, but are you denying that the United States, at least as of earlier this week, was considering the possibility of deploying those planes for possible missions in Bosnia?

A: It is the job of the Pentagon planners to consider every conceivable possibility, and we do.

Q: Given the success of the F-117s in the Gulf, is there any intent to send F-117s? Or when you say there are enough aircraft...

A: I'm not aware of any intent to send F-117s. The F-117s were extremely successful in Baghdad against very heavily defended targets. That's really the mission for which they were designed, and we don't face targets of that type in Bosnia. But having said that, I'm not aware of plans to send them.

But I also want to stress we are in the process of reviewing what we need in the way of air assets -- whether we have to enhance what we have there or whether we have an adequate complement of planes. I'm not trying to give you a covert, secret signal in front of these lights over a microphone that we're about to send one type of plane or another. I'm trying to tell you we are reviewing the situation. When decisions are made, planes will be requested, and presumably they will be authorized to go.

Q: You're stating the obvious, but in practical terms isn't there a situation now where because this resolution only dealt with Gorazde? We could see the fall of Bihac before the NAC acts again?

A: The NAC can act quickly. It's not an organization that only meets on Thursdays.

Q: There are no scheduled meetings for this week?

A: That means nothing. You might not have a scheduled story for Saturday, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't write a story for Saturday. Schedules can change. But I think you have to take what Willy Claes said, and I think you have to take what the Secretary said, and [what] Secretary Christopher said in London on Friday, as an indication that we are very concerned about the security of Bihac and Sarajevo.

Bihac is a very complex situation. It's not similar to what happened in Srebenica or Zepa. There are several different forces there, including a force of rebel Muslims. There are Croatian elements there as well. It's not nearly as black and white as some of the other situations have been.

Q: How does that fact complicate any military plan that might be devised?

A: It's the job of planners to sort through complications and come up with plans that work. That's what they will do if faced with that.

Q: Some of the press have characterized the potential threatened airstrikes in defense of Gorazde as massive airstrikes. Would you use the term "massive"? And if not, how would you characterize the scale of the threat?

A: I would characterize our threat as a deterrent. We do not want to launch airstrikes against Serb troops surrounding Gorazde or any other place. We want them to stand down. We want them to protect safe areas. We want them to hold back while we continue to work toward a diplomatic solution. Our goal is not to launch attack. Our goal is to deter a Serb attack against safe areas.

If deterrence fails, we have been authorized by NATO to use the force necessary to turn back the attack. I think that it's premature to characterize the level of airstrike that would require. It's, as Secretary Perry said, a phased or graduated plan, and we would start with the appropriate level of force.

Q: Do you have any evidence that the Serbs in Srebenica or Zepa have used any type of gas--poisonous--gas at all?

A: We do not have evidence. I've seen the reports. We do not have evidence that they have.

Q: Do you have any information on what the Croatian government is providing around Bihac to support the Bosnian government?

A: I don't have detailed information on that, no.

Q: General information at all?

A: No.

Q: You've used the term airstrikes repeatedly. Would you rule out the use of Tomahawk cruise missiles on ships offshore, or do you think you need, that given the fact that you... You pointed out before that the Serb air defense is not what the Iraqi air defense was over Baghdad. Is there any intent or any possibility or even probability, that cruise missiles--Tomahawk cruise missiles--might be used?

A: I don't want to rule anything in or out, but I wouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about that now.

Q: Is Perry on the Hill briefing on Bosnia this afternoon?

A: I think so, but actually, I left his schedule in my office so I can't tell you. I believe he is supposed to go to the Hill, but... We'll find out.

Q: What aspect is he discussing then?

A: He's discussing lift. That's the issue of the day. The House is looking at a lift proposal--unilateral lift proposal similar to the one that we opposed in the Senate and will oppose in the House.

Q: Is he meeting with House members?

A: I believe so, but as I said, I'll tell you for sure. It's not a secret. I just don't have...

A2: The Committee on National Security and House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A: Okay, that's it.

Q: Do you have any information that would give credence to the published reports that France may have conducted a unilateral bombing of a target in Pale?

A: No.

Q: Do you believe that it didn't happen?

A: What I believe isn't particularly relevant. We don't have any firm evidence that it occurred.

Q: Have you received assurances from France that it in fact...

A: This is an issue you should discuss with the French. Whatever happened or didn't happen, happened under French control.

Q: Do you have any idea what damage might be [inaudible]?

A: No.

Q: You don't know where the bombs didn't hit? [Laughter]

A: Why don't you ask all these questions in French. To someone who can answer in French. [Laughter]

Q: Back on the House question, Representative Gilman has, I think, sent a letter to the Secretary asking for some discussion of why airdrops into Bihac were stopped at some point and what the implications of that are. I was wondering whether you'd received that, or has there been any answer from the Secretary to the representative on that?

A: I will look into that. I was not aware of the letter. When did he send it?

Q: My best information is earlier this week.

A: I'll look into that.

Q: Now that the UN tribunal in the Hague has indicted Serbian political and military leaders, does the Pentagon have any authority, or does NATO, or does the UN have any authority to apprehend those men within the borders of Bosnia?

A: The Pentagon is not a law enforcement agency, and we do not have people in Bosnia. We do not have combat forces or other forces except for a tiny number of liaison people in Bosnia. So I think the answer to that is no on the Pentagon side. On the UN side, you'll have to ask the UN.

Q: When the lift question first came up, the Pentagon was drawing up various options for arming and training the Muslims. Are those now being updated, reviewed? Is there anything you can say about...

A: It was never our intention to arm and train the Muslims. That was something that was required of us by Congress. The only reason we looked at that was to comply with a law. It is not the Pentagon's intention to arm or train the Muslims, and that is exactly one of the points we've been trying to make in this debate over the Dole unilateral lift bill. We fear it raises the possibility that we could get drawn more deeply into the conflict in Bosnia. Our goal is to try to limit this conflict. Our goal is to try to set a framework for a diplomatic solution -- not to do things that would inflame the conflict further.

Press: Thank you.

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