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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Secretary Of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary Of Defense William J. Perry
January 03, 1996

Friday, November 24, 1995

[Secretary Perry addressed the Officers and NCOs of the 1st Armored Division, in Bad Kreuznach, Germany]

Perry: The Bosnia peace agreement that was initialed in Dayton will require a NATO force of about 60,000 troops for its implementation. We expect the United States will provide 20,000 of those 60,000 and the

1st Armored Division will be the backbone of this force.

I asked to talk to you today to answer for you the following important questions: "Why are we going to Bosnia? What we're going to do when we get there? Who is going with us? When are we going to go? When are we going to get back?" I cannot give you final, definitive answers on all of those questions, but I can give you my best judgment on each of them.

Why are we asking you to go to Bosnia? I believe that the reasons are compelling, and I want to share with you why I find them so compelling. I believe that you will find them compelling also. I'm going to do this by describing what I call the "iron logic."

The United States has vital political, economic, and security interests in Europe.

The war in Bosnia threatens these interests.

We now have an opportunity -- the first real opportunity in four years

-- to end this war. To seize this opportunity, a NATO force is required to implement the peace and the United States must be a leader in that force.

Although there will be risks associated with this operation, the risks to the United States of allowing this war to continue, are even greater.

It is in this "iron logic" which has driven the United States to commit troops to IFOR. Let me cover each of those points very briefly.

The United States does have vital political, economic and security interests in Europe. For many audiences I would stop to explain that, but for this audience I don't need to. You know very well what our interests in Europe are.

It is clear that the war in Bosnia threatens those interests. I'm not referring to the actual war itself and the direct consequences of the war, as appalling as those are. I'm talking instead about the danger of this war spreading to a wider war in Europe. This is not an academic concern. Only two months ago, I would have given you even odds that a war was going to break out between Serbia and Croatia. And all during the last three and a half years, the danger has been palpable that this war would spread south into Kosovo and Macedonia, and involve Albania and Greece and Turkey. It is that danger of a wider war that is the most significant threat to U.S. vital interests. The best way of avoiding the spread of the war is to seize this opportunity to stop it.

We now have such an opportunity. It's the first time in four years that we really have gotten all of the parties to step forward to sign an agreement. I have talked with each of the Presidents involved and their delegations. Just a week ago I was in Dayton meeting and talking with them. I can tell you that there were two factors that brought them reluctantly to this agreement. First of all, a war weariness -- four years of fighting, 200,000 people killed, 2 million refugees. They are just sick of the war. The second factor was that they were impressed and awed at the military capability of the United States and NATO. They got a sample of that during the bombing raids. They saw our military power, but they also believed that it would be used constructively, not to harm them, but to enforce the peace. That was the solid foundation which allowed them to step forward and make the necessary compromises to reach this peace agreement. Compromises, by the way, for which the Presidents will be criticized in their own countries.

Therefore, in order to seize this opportunity for peace, we must make an American commitment to participate. None of the parties, certainly not the Bosnian Federation, and also surprisingly, neither the Croatians or Serbians, would have been willing to sign the peace agreement without an American commitment. And one of the parties has already publicly stated that they would withdraw from the agreement if that commitment is not met.

So, the real alternative to this peace agreement, is the war starting up again. Failure to meet the American commitment could lead to another six months, another year, another two years of war -- resulting in humanitarian tragedies in Bosnia and risking the danger of the war spreading.

We will be taking every action to minimize the risks necessarily entailed in IFOR. We are going in with a large force. Some have argued that we could get by with a force half this size. But if we err, it will be on the side of sending in too many. It if turns out we don't need that many, we can pull some of them out. That's a lot better than not sending enough and scrambling to put more in later. An we are going in with a well-armed and well-trained force. Nobody doubts that the 1st Armored Division is well-armed and well-trained.

IFOR will be an impressive force that will intimidate anybody in the area. And it's going to be a force that has robust rules of engagement. I really want to emphasize that point. We would not be a participant in this operation if that were not true.

We do not expect organized opposition. The parties to the peace agreement not only agreed to a cessation of hostilities, but they invited the NATO force in, and offered to assist it. We do expect there will be rogue individuals or gangs who might want to harass the peace enforcement mission. If they do, your rules of engagement will permit the immediate and effective use of deadly force. You have a well-trained and well-disciplined force, so we know you will not go in as cowboys. But you will have full authority to use deadly force if you need to. If you use it, you will be fully supported by your commanders, by myself and by the President.

We're not going in alone. I told you there would be 20,000 Americans. As of today, more than 25 nations have stated an intent to join this force. Every NATO nation except Iceland has stepped forward and offered troops. The British 12,000 to 14,000; the French 7,000 to 9,000; the Germans 4,000; Italians and Spanish about 2,000 each; and nine other nations about 1,000 each. In addition to that, there are more than a dozen non-NATO nations that have said they want to participate in IFOR and have offered forces. In fact, we are oversubscribed. If you add all this up, turns out to be more than the 60,000 force level.

We expect that Major General William L. Nash will have under his command soldiers from seven to ten countries. This is really going to be a challenge for him in some respects but an opportunity in many other respects. He will have a Nordic brigade of 4,500 troops which are well-trained and well-disciplined, and know the terrain. This brigade will consist of Norwegians, Finns, Danes, Swedes and perhaps a Polish battalion. He will have a Turkish task force, one or two battalions. And we expect there will be a Russian brigade operating under the tactical control of General Nash. This poses some challenges to General Nash, but it's also a historic opportunity. I've spent most of my life as a "Cold Warrior," and as recently as a few years ago I could not have imagined the prospect of a Russian brigade serving under an American division commander.

These 25 countries operating together to bring about better security and stability in Europe, are truly a symbol of the new Europe. This effort will define how security in Europe is going to be handled for decades to come. This is defining what post-Cold War Europe is all about and how its security will be assured. We will be creating new relationships with these military leaders of other countries, not just NATO countries, that will effect the security of the United States for decades to come.

As of next Tuesday, I will have met with General Pavel Grachev four times in the last six weeks, trying to hammer out the agreement for Russian participation. I have invested so much time in this not because we need that brigade so much, but because of the effect of Russian participation on the future security in Europe. In the Europe of the future, we do not want to isolate or exclude Russia. We want to find a way to include them because they'd be easier to deal with inside a circle working with us, rather than outside the circle confronting us.

I talked to some of you two weeks ago, and speculated on whether we would get a peace agreement and what it would call for. Now we have a peace agreement and it's pretty much what I speculated. IFOR will be tasked to enforce the peace agreement. It will be a unitary command, no dual keys. It will be operating under NATO military and political control, not under UN control. We do expect the UN to give a mandate to a whole set of military and civil operations in Bosnia. So there will be very important civil programs that will be going on in parallel with the IFOR operation.

The civilian programs will include rebuilding the infrastructure, revitalizing the economy, bringing refugees back for resettlement, and providing for free elections. Those tasks will not be your job, but none of them can be done without your mission. Your mission is to provide the security environment that allows all those other things to be done.

You have all trained extensively on this mission. You will have robust ROE and you will be trained and disciplined in how to apply the ROE. This mission will be evenhanded. If you get any provocation, either by the Bosnian Serbs or the Bosnian Federation forces, you will respond. You will have the authority to move anywhere in Bosnia. You will be based primarily in the Federation, but you will be enforcing a zone of separation which goes several kilometers into Bosnian Serb territory and you have to maintain lines of communication that pass through Bosnian Serb territory. Therefore, in the peace agreement, we insisted on and got the authority to go anywhere in Bosnia to carry out our mission.

You will run into risks in this operation. I told you there may be individuals or gangs who challenge your authority. You will be well-armed, well-equipped, well-trained, and authorized to deal with that. You need to be especially concerned about accidents, since the roads are bad and the weather will be daunting. There are mines all over the regions you will be patrolling. Some experts say there are 6 million mines in the country. Those are risked for which you have trained. The biggest danger is complacency.

Your commanders are responsible not only for training your soldiers, which is key to their success, but for keeping them from falling into complacency. It could be that you go in there and for two or three months nothing will happen. That's what breeds complacency. So it will be a real challenge to your leadership.

When are you going? My best estimate is we'll pull the trigger in mid-December and the first units will start going in. General Nash will direct a flow of people after that, but the deployments will start in mid-December. That's based on when we expect the peace treaty to be signed, which is two or three weeks from now and when we get the enabling resolutions from the NAC -- the North Atlantic Council.

As we begin the deployment, we will have one great advantage. The Nordic Brigade is going to be part of our division and many of their personnel are already on the ground. They've been there for a year or two and they're familiar with the territory. We can learn from them; in fact, our survey teams that have been there already are benefiting from the experience of the Nordic forces.

When are you coming home? The plan involves a build-up over the first couple of months. By the end of the second month, we will have our entire force in and we'll maintain that until the sixth or seventh month. Then, if the security environment still holds, which I expect it will, we'll start phasing down. So for individual units, some will go in very close to the mid-December date. Others will phase in over the next month or two. All the units will stay for six or seven months and then some will start coming out. By the end of the first year, the eleventh or twelfth month, I think we'll be down to a small fraction of the 20,000. In other words, most of our forces will be back in Germany by then. Our plan is to withdraw the rest of the units at the end of the first year.

There may be a requirement for some peacekeeping after that time. The Europeans may put together a team to meet that requirement. The American commitment and the NATO commitment is for one year. Obviously, for this mission to be successful by the end of the first year, we need to have achieved some months of a stable security environment, and I believe we'll succeed in doing that. It will also require other things to happen that are not under our control. There should be a successful beginning to the long term mission of rebuilding the infrastructure and the economy, for example. We are not responsible for these missions, but we provide the environment that allows them to happen.

I'd like to conclude my comments by telling you about a painting which is outside my office at the Pentagon. As you come up the steps from the River Entrance, just before you enter the Secretary of Defense office, there is a large painting on the wall. It shows a soldier in church praying, just before a deployment. Underneath the painting is a verse from Isaiah, in which the people of Israel ask, "Whom shall I send. Who will go for us?" Isaiah answers, "Here am I. Send me." The American people will be asking the question, "Who will go for us?" And I expect the 1st Armored Division will answer, "Here am I. Send me."

God bless you.