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DoD News Briefing: Dr. John P. White, Deputy Secretary of Defense

Presenters: Dr. John P. White, Deputy Secretary of Defense
December 08, 1995

Speech to the Penniscola Chamber of Commerce, Hampton, Va.

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1995 - 12:30 p.m.

Dr. White: As indicated, I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about Bosnia. We are now beginning in small ways to deploy troops into Bosnia as of yesterday. This is, as you know, a complicated subject, fundamentally important subject. The Pentagon, when you ask to have a briefing on Bosnia, they ask whether you want the long briefing or the short briefing. We obviously say the short briefing and that starts with the Ottoman Empire. If you want the long briefing, that starts with the Birth of Christ and so on. So, it's a long, these people have a long history. They have -- and it's in many ways -- a rich history. We think of them as being at war with each other all the time. It happens, if you happen to look at their history, not to be true. Yes, they've had their wars but so have most of the rest of Europe.

So, it is important I think that we put all of this in context and think about it in terms of what I would call for you today the realities of what's going on there. The first reality, and one that I think we all have to really recognize, is that, while the Cold War is over and our situation has changed, the critical nature of our relationships in Europe have not changed. They are a major trading partner of ours in terms of western Europe. The new countries that have come out in Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union are beginning to be important partners of ours, both in terms of national security and in terms of economics, which is critically important.

And for the last 50 years, American Presidents and Congresses have committed to and supported our leadership in Europe. It has been critical to their success and I think critical to our joint success. Now, the war in Bosnia fundamentally threatens our interests in that regard. It is not just the terrible carnage and the deaths of..., 250,000 deaths over the last four year. And we just had a [inaudible] team come back and he showed me a lot of pictures of the destruction and so on in that region. That's obviously very, very important.

But from a national security view, there are other things that are important. We worry greatly about that war spreading. That is, if we do not find a way to help these people live in peace, we are threatened and Europe is threatened with a much larger war. It can go south, in terms of Albania, in terms of the Kosovo area involving Greeks and Turks, and age old entities in that region. It can go north in terms of Croatia and Serbia. These are not academic concerns. We were vitally worried in the late summer about a new war flaring up in that region between the Croatians and the Serbians and we're not out of the woods on that one yet either. So, there are very, very serious fundamental national security concerns from our point of view.

The second reality I would submit is that this really is the best opportunity we've had since this terrible war started. We've had a whole set of agreements that you've read about in the papers over the years that have not held and it didn't hold because the warring parties weren't ready really to stop the fighting. But through a series of events, including importantly U.S. leadership and the magnificent performance of our pilots in terms of the bombing campaign that was run in the late summer, we have been able to change the attitude to bring them to the negotiating table. And through that device, we are in a situation where the people are clear that they would like to, in fact, find a way to stop the war and get on with the peace. We have now had a cease-fire that has been holding for quite some time. We think we can continue that cease-fire on into the foreseeable future.

So, as a result of that, we will now be committing forces large number of forces, about 60,000 people who will go into Bosnia-Herzegovina proper. And that's a relatively small -- a relatively small area. They will deploy starting in very small numbers now. As I said, we started with the so-called enabling force yesterday. That will not formally deploy the force until after the peace agreement is signed, which we anticipate will be done in Paris on the 13th and 14th just next week.

But nevertheless, we think it is an important opportunity. We think the force can do what it needs to do in about a year. If you look at the tasks of the force, which are very specific, they are all in the first six months. You have to get on the ground, make sure your security is solid, and then work with the parties to divide them according to the agreement that they've all initialed so far, will sign, and then you have to monitor the area around the various so-called separation of the parties in order to make sure that you have the provisions of cease-fire safety that you need. And then you have to help the civilian authorities as they go about holding elections, standing up a civil government, moving refugees back into the areas of choice and so on. And then that will also provide us with a number of months in which to provide them breathing space that, when you meet with them, they all tell you that they need in order to make this a success.

The third reality I would submit to you is that it is clearly a doable plan. It comes in three parts. The first part and the part that we focused on the most, and the American people have focused on the most, and what you saw is the military part because it does commit American forces and it does commit them and obviously, when you commit American forces in a complicated environment like this, there is danger. And that's something that we fully recognize.

What I want to stress is that this is a multi-national effort of basically all of the NATO countries, but for Iceland, which doesn't really have a force, will be committing their forces. So, we'll have 15 NATO countries. We'll have probably about a dozen other countries, non-NATO countries who will contribute to the force. We have more countries asking to join than we will be able to accommodate. We will have a Russian brigade as a part of this force. It's critical that we have the Russians involved not because we need their military capability per se, but because we want to make them part of Europe. That's all part of our process, to have them involved. The Russians have agreed that they will be part of the American sector and they will report to our American general, General Nash. And they will take orders from General Joulwan in Brussels, again, an American commander. And they have been clear with us that they are prepared to send forces to go to the area under American leadership.

So, as I mentioned, we'll have about 60,000 forces. We have very clear rules of engagement. We have highly trained troops. We have been running our troops through intensive training in Germany over the last several months in order to get them ready for this mission. They, of course, are well armed and well equipped and we think well trained and well prepared.

The second part of this approach, of course, is that you have to leave something behind and the something that you want to leave behind is, basically, a functioning government and a functioning economy. This is an economy that now is about 20 percent of what it was before this war started. So, it's been devastating.

But, we have a major program with our European allies and, in terms of the peace agreement, of a new government with parliament, where they had a state with a judicial system with a calling for elections within six to nine months after the signing of the agreement, and with a full array of governmental functions which obviously is very, very important.

We also will have a major economic redevelopment program which will be led by the Europeans which we will participate in. It will be largely a European endeavor. That's critically important, obviously, in terms of making sure that what's behind when the military forces leave is a real society that's working together.

And the final element of our three-part plan is what we call military stabilization. That is, in the agreement there specific arrangements for drawing down the number of weapons in the area and the size of the forces in the area. And then if there is still a gap between the Serbs, who are by far the stronger and better equipped forces in the area, and the federation government, which is made up of Croatians and Muslims, then we are prepared and have ensured them that we are prepared to work with them through other countries in order to see that they get the kind of equipment, or the defense of equipment that they will need in order to assure their own safety when the implementation force leaves.

So, I think we have a clear end state in terms of where we're going for the military forces. We will have a clear division of territory for the various entities there and we'll have a real government.

The fourth and last reality I want to emphasize with you is American leadership. It is fundamental to the success of this enterprise that America take the lead. We have only gotten this far because of American leadership. It is only after the London Conference, in which we proposed very specific rules under which we would provide air power in the region which then were triggered by a task by the Serbs, that we got this far. We got to a situation on the ground where they wanted to stop. The president initiated a peace program that he put together and we sent our team over there to negotiate that peace plan. It was not without cost. We lost three of our colleagues in a tragic accident in Sarajevo during this peace process. So, its been -- its had its difficulties.

But, it could not have been done without American leadership. We had the Dayton meetings, which I will tell you, about at the very end we did not think we were going to be close on. First, we were going to do it on Sunday and then on Monday and then, finally, on Tuesday when we got the agreement. I went out to Dayton for the agreement and for the formal initialing and talked to all of the three parties and they will tell you that it will not be done, could not be done, without American leadership. And that's echoed by our NATO allies who, of course, were all there and participated in those discussions.

Now comes the implementation. The implementation, as I indicated, has these three parts to it. But the most important part, in terms of what has to be done to show that we're committed, to show that we have the resolution to work with these people and give them the chance they're asking, for is the implementation force. That means NATO. NATO means American leadership. We cannot have a NATO operation -- and effectively... This is the first real NATO operation of this sort that's ever been done. It has to require American leadership. We have American -- the American command structure includes, of course, at the top General Joulwan and then Admiral Smith who will be the commander on the ground of the complete implementation force. So, we have American leadership in that regard.

If we do not have American leadership for this force, we will not have a force. The Europeans have unfortunately displayed, in the almost four years that have gone by, that they alone were not able to provide what was needed in order to make this a success. Will it be risky? Yes, it certainly will be risky. We're sending in some 20,000 American forces, principally the 1st Armored Division from Germany. We, as I mentioned earlier, we have about 750 people going in this week to begin to set up various communications and logistics and other functions through the region. And then after the signing, we will then flow the forces who are ready to go into the region.

It will include, also reservists. We will send about 3,500 to 4,000 reservists will be called to active duty. Not all of them will go directly to the region. Of course, some of them will be in Germany and replace people who are in Croatia or in Hungary and at other bases. But, they will be involved.

So, it will be a major effort and of course, we will keep our aviation units there. We've still got a full capability there and we will also keep our Navy there, which is there anyway. We have a carrier there and that's critically important to the success of this effort.

So, it really is a NATO show, with NATO capability, with all the NATO nations, with a whole set of other nations and that include the Russians, as I indicated, and that provides us with the ability to bring others, -- the Poles and others like that -- into the fold, in terms of the long-term efforts that we have in Europe.

So, it is I think, critically important that we do this. And I think that we can do it on a time schedule that the President has indicated. I think we can do it with the forces that we have. There are risks, but this is not a war. We are not sending America's young men and women to a war. We are sending them in on a peace operation. We have, as you look back on it over the last 50 years, committed ourselves to support our European allies in the post-World War II period. It has been one of the foundations of our security strategy. And while the world has changed, our commitments in that part of the world have really not changed. And the importance of Europe to us has not changed.

We are now in the position where Bosnia threatens that peace, threatens a wider war if we don't step in and show the leadership necessary in order to make sure that this war does not flare up again.

So, it seems to me we have clearly opportunity here. It is an opportunity that we ought to seize. Having gotten these people to stop fighting and have a cease-fire, which now has been holding for a long time and has been very successful, having gotten them to the negotiating table and committed our prestige and our leadership to get them to sign an agreement which was very contentious and very, very hard to sign. As you know, you don't make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies. And it's always very, very difficult. But having done that and having negotiated that peace, it seems to me that we have to now take the next and final step and provide them with the commitment they're all asking for, that is, American leadership to see this through, give them the breathing space that they want so that they can live in peace in the future.

Thank you very much.

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