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General Shelton's Opening Statement in Vilamoura, Portugal

Presenters: General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff
September 24, 1998

Thank you, Secretary Cohen, and good day to all of you.

As Secretary Cohen mentioned, this is indeed a critical time in NATO. And today's meetings have included an important series of discussions about the future course of this great Alliance.

Although I say we're talking about the "future course" of the Alliance, in truth, much of what we have discussed today are issues that must be addressed right away. The increasing threat from the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, and the clear and present danger posed by international - and increasingly transnational - terrorist organizations, are issues that are upon us. The Alliance must adapt to meet these threats.

I can assure you that NATO's civilian and military leaders are working very hard to transform the Alliance, internally as well as externally, to meet the security challenges of the 21st Century.

But as we grapple with the future shape of the Alliance's military structure, and the Alliance's strategic concept, we must also deal with other challenges that confront us today - issues like the continuing violence in Kosovo, and the increasing likelihood that we will face an enormous humanitarian crisis in that region as the harsh Balkan winter approaches.

As Secretary Cohen and I have said many times before, we all hope to see a diplomatic solution to the political differences in the region. But as we all know: hope is not a method.

So let me assure you that NATO has military plans to deal with the situation in Kosovo should our diplomatic efforts fail to produce a solution. We have developed military options that could be executed as part of the overall effort to convince all parties that the violence in Kosovo must stop; that serious negotiations to resolve differences must begin; and that the quarter-of-a-million refugees in the region must be allowed to return to their homes before they face starvation, disease, and exposure in the coming months.

Consideration of the use of military force is never undertaken lightly, for those of us in uniform well understand both the capabilities and the consequences of military action. All parties must act in good faith to resolve this situation before the crisis deepens and spreads.

The unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council, and the decision by the North Atlantic Council to begin formal Force Generation measures for the military options in Kosovo are clear signs that NATO is prepared to take necessary measures to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo in the months ahead.

Thank you, and now we would be happy to take your questions.

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