DECEMBER 14, 1995
JIM LEHRER: Amb. Kerr, how would you answer the question to Americans who say, why us, on Bosnia?
SIR JOHN KERR, Ambassador, Great Britain: It's a NATO operation. It's an operation which the United States is going to play the largest, the largest role in absolute terms, in terms of troops on the ground. Relatively, the United States is not going to be playing the largest role. Relative to population, relative to wealth, the United Kingdom, with 13,000 troops there, will be doing five times as much relative to population, seven times as much relative to wealth in the United States. But the big point is you can only do this sort of thing as a team operation. This is what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is about. And under a command of an American general in Brussels and an American admiral in Naples, all NATO's nations who have armed forces--there's one who doesn't and will not be sending armed forces, they haven't got any--it's Iceland--but all those who have will be there in the field together, and the United States happens to be the biggest ally.
JIM LEHRER: Is it literally true that this would never have happened without the United States leading the way, first of all, to Dayton and the peace treaty, and now with these 20,000 troops?
FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG, Ambassador, France: It may very well be true. You could also say that Dayton and the success of the American diplomatic offensive would never have occurred if it had not been for the effort of the Europeans, who were on the ground for the few years before that, and if you remember well what happened in the last month of May and June, the turnaround which occurred after the hostage-taking that humiliated the international community, you must remember that the Europeans, and particularly the French president of the republic who had just been elected at the time played a major role in this turnaround by deciding the deployment of the rapid reaction force which, in turn, made possible the air strike by NATO. So we are really talking about a team work between the Europeans and the United States here.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what as--as the French ambassador listening to what you just listened to, and what you've read in American newspapers, and you heard what the President said, that only America can do this, the Europeans can't solve their own problems, does that offend you?
AMB. FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG: I think it is an unfair statement. Again, this is team work, but I still am of the opinion that the success of the American diplomatic offensive is to be applauded, but that it would not have been possible without the help of the Europeans, who have been, as my British colleague said, on the ground, who have paid a very high price, and including the price of blood, to make all of this possible.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to an American who would say, well, but why couldn't you Europeans solve this yourself, why did the Americans have to lead the way, which is the way it is being portrayed here?
JUERGEN CHROBOG, Ambassador, Germany: I think stability and freedom, peace in Europe, is still a vital interest for the United States. I mean, the United States are defending their own interests in Europe, as European interest, therefore, I agree with my colleagues, the American participation is substantial for any peace agreement; otherwise, the Serbs--the Muslims, especially, would never have accepted a peace settlement. This peace settlement will go far beyond Yugoslavia. It will strengthen NATO, and NATO is still in the wider interests of the United States. It will lead to a new kind of cooperation with Russia, and I think that is of a vital importance for all of us, for the Europeans, as for the United States.
JIM LEHRER: Well, based on your reading of American newspapers and talking to Americans, watching American television, do you think that message is getting over to the average American?
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: At least we are trying to bring it over.
JIM LEHRER: Has it gotten over thus far?
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: I think it's going to get over, yes. And the outcome of this congressional debate is encouraging for us Europeans.
JIM LEHRER: In what way is it encouraging?
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: Because you support the deployment of American troops, not the deployment, but at least you support the troops, and as I said, the presence of American troops is vital for solving the crisis in Yugoslavia.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: Brent Scowcroft, the American view here, has the case been made do you think, not only in Congress but in the American public, as to why the United States had to do this? You believe this as well, do you not?
BRENT SCOWCROFT, Former National Security Adviser: Yes, I believe it, and I think the case has been made about as well as it can, but this thing starts with a different perspective between the Europeans and the United States. On the mission going back, going back several years, the Europeans were there on the ground and they had a relatively traditional peacekeeping roll, and the United States was sitting back, being much more partisan, rather than impartial, much more bellicose, but unprepared to, to play a role.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let's explain that. Bellicose in criticizing the Serbs and, and more or less siding with the Muslims--
BRENT SCOWCROFT: That's right, and saying we ought to be tougher,--
JIM LEHRER: That's right.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: --we ought to be tougher.
JIM LEHRER: That's right. But the British and the French actually had troops on the ground--
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Had troops on the ground--
JIM LEHRER: --at the time.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: --who were very vulnerable.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. And you lost 54 French--
AMB. FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG: We had 54 dead and 300 injured.
JIM LEHRER: How many--
AMB. JOHN KERR: A small number dead, 26 killed.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: So what happened is there was a different perspective here and NATO wasn't able to operate properly. And, and there was, there was some, frankly, bad feelings among the parties. Then the United States, I think, finally said, we will put troops in if there is an agreement to get the agreement along with the Europeans. We agreed that we had to be more partisan.
JIM LEHRER: Couldn't be just a diplomat, though? I mean, we had to also be a--
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Couldn't just keep the peace. We were going to force a cease-fire. I think the Europeans, from my perspective, agreed because the United States said we will participate in the enforcement of a settlement. And that's where the change really came, having agreed to that and the United States agreeing to put troops in, then taking lead and forcing the parties to Wright-Patterson, taking the lead in forming an agreement, we are committed.
JIM LEHRER: And is that the thing that probably most Americans don't understand, Amb. Kerr, that the--you made the point at the very beginning--we are a member. We, meaning the United States, is a member of NATO, so if NATO acts, we act. It's not--it's not one of these things we come in and out on at our own discretion, is that right?
AMB. JOHN KERR: I think it's very hard to envisage, and I'd had to envisage a NATO so changed that it was an operation where people joined in if they felt like it and stayed out if they didn't feel like it. NATO contains a very strong commitment to mutual defense. The front line of the alliance has been, if you like, in Alaska, or it's been in Norway, or it's been in Germany, it's been in Turkey. It's--it's a reciprocal thing. That is the nature of NATO, and the United States happens to be, by far, the largest of the allies.
JIM LEHRER: Some Americans have the impression that let's say that Prime Minister Major decided to bring the warring parties to London instead of, as President Clinton did, to bring them to Dayton and tried to do this, and said, okay, and we'll send 20,000 troops and all of that, that the French and the Germans and the rest of the Europeans probably wouldn't have participated for their own internal political reasons. Is that a--is that a correct reading?
AMB. JOHN KERR: I can't speak for France and Germany, obviously.
JIM LEHRER: No, no.
AMB. JOHN KERR: But I don't think that's right at all. French and British forces have been on the ground for three years, as we've been saying. French and British and German diplomats have been working very hard on this with Russian and American colleagues, but it was a five- power effort, the contact group, and a very serious one for a long time. I agree with, with what Brent says. It seems to me that Dayton couldn't have happened without the change that Brent described that took place this Spring/Summer. Dayton was a very good job done by Warren Christopher and Dick Holbrooke, but they were standing on the shoulders of others. They were standing on the shoulders of, of Peter Carrington, of Cy Vance, Tarrell Staltenberg, David Owen.
JIM LEHRER: David Owen.
AMB. JOHN KERR: Over the years, a lot of people have tried, and the contact group was there with Holbrooke working throughout Dayton. It--I don't think it could have happened without the United States stepping in. I don't think it could have happened without the change that Brent describes from the early Summer, but actually I now think it's time not to look back and wonder whether we could have done better in the past or how did we get here. I think we need to look forward at the huge task there is of reconstruction.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let's do that. First of all, does the--you heard what Amb. Chrobog said. Do you agree that this debate in the United States Congress is a positive thing, or is it going to be a negative thing as far as the mission is concerned and the end results, these, these kind of what we call tepid resolutions they passed, or does it matter?
AMB. FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG: Well, it certainly matters today, but when the effort of deploying the troops starts, I have no doubt that Congress will be behind the troops being deployed. They said so, actually, in so many words. And there is a sort of momentum which will, which will develop, which hopefully will be a momentum for peace. Everybody has bound to--is bound to consider that the peace settlement which has been now signed in Paris, after having been concluded in Bosnia, will be the first case in which the post Cold War NATO will have a chance to bring a very positive action to the security of Europe. This is very important for the Bosnia situation today, but it is also very important for whatever may happen in the future. And I think there again the collective work of the European allies and the United States is extremely important and we hope will be a very positive development.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree that this was a very important matter, not only for Bosnia but for the future of NATO and for Europe and our, the whole--
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: As I said, it goes far beyond the conflict in Yugoslavia, especially the cooperation with Russia and all might be very helpful when we talk about the expansion of NATO one day. I mean, it will prove to the Russians that cooperation with NATO is possible; therefore, I think it's a decisive step forward.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Yes, I do. I think over the past two or three years, NATO has been tarnished a little bit by being caught between different perspectives of its major members. Now NATO has a chance to operate as NATO really should operate, and there's no question they can do the military part of that mission with great skill and great efficiency, and I think NATO will be strengthened as a result of what's happening.
JIM LEHRER: But what if it doesn't work?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Well, you know, I have some questions about exactly what the mission is, and what IFOR is expected to do.
JIM LEHRER: That's the peacekeeping force.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Right. But insofar as the fundamental mission--and that is keeping the warring parties separated to enforce, if you will, the cease-fire so that the peace can be manufactured, I have no doubt that NATO can accomplish that and will do it well.
JIM LEHRER: Is the future of NATO at risk here in the, in the next few months in Bosnia?
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: It would have been at risk but now it is guaranteed. It would have been at risk if the Americans wouldn't have shown solidarity with their partners in Europe, indeed.
JIM LEHRER: Even if, even if the peace mission doesn't work and even if they start shooting at each other again?
AMB. JUERGEN CHROBOG: But at least we will, we will time now. We need--we have one year to proceed, and within this one year we have to take care of the political side. The military side is only one part, but now we have to build up a new kind of life in this country, and we have to take care of the military side, and I mean, we have to talk now about disarmament, confidence building measures. We have to build up a political system which lasts. But that is the main task ahead, and the peace troops will be helpful, will buy us time for this one year. It is this one year we have to make use of, we have to build up something which lasts, and that will be very difficult.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, there are many Americans in Congress and elsewhere who are very skeptical that this thing is going to work. What would you say to them?
AMB. JOHN KERR: I agree again with Brent. I think the military task, the three jobs that IFOR has to do, supervising a cessation of hostilities, supervising the separation of forces, and supervising the creation of the entity boundaries inside the unitary state, these three tasks are all perfectly doable and perfectly doable, I believe, in about a year. it doesn't seem to me to be difficult. We all know that there is a huge task of reconstruction to do. That is going to take much, much longer, but I think it is very important and right that the intervention force is given strictly limited, clear military tasks to do. It is not going to be involved in the reconstruction. Nation building, all the different bits of the job that have to be done by the rest of us are not going to be done by the soldiers. They have clear rules of engagement. They have a very precise mission. Their clear rules of engagement are very firm. If they are attacked or if they have evidence of deadly intent against them, they will strike back, and that's very important.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of the soldiers finally, is there concern in France and in Europe that because of the debate here and the concentration on the possibility of American lives being lost, that if there are, in fact, American casualties, that America might pull out, might bug out, to use the expression?
AMB. FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG: We hope not. We have defined the mission. We know that it is not a risk-free mission. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as risk-free missions as long as deployment of soldiers is concerned, but we are very confident, again, that there will be a momentum starting, and I think it is very important naturally if we are trying to conceptualize the whole thing, you could present NATO and the IFOR, which has been deployed, as just the military arm of the international community, and the rest of the task which is precisely the nation building, the election supervising, the reconstruction work, is the responsibility of the whole international community. If that goes well, if that starts well, there may be incidents on the ground, but I'm quite confident that the international community and NATO will want to get the job done.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you all four very much.