NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW WITH SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM PERRY
OCTOBER 10, 1995
Assertions that U.S. troops sent to Bosnia would be dragged into a quagmire, are addressed by Defense Secretary William Perry in a talk with Elizabeth Farnsworth. Perry discusses the U.S. objective to get an arms control agreement and says the U.S. should be prepared to send in its military, and if necessary, to provide resources to train and re-arm the Bosnian federation of forces.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you for being with us, Mr. Secretary.
WILLIAM PERRY, Secretary of Defense: Thank you, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We have reports today of fighting, of vicious ethnic cleansing, at least reports of it, and a new demand by the Bosnian Muslim government and yet, there's supposed to be a cease-fire announced in about an hour in Sarajevo. What is the latest on the cease-fire? Will it be announced?
SEC. PERRY: I met this afternoon with the foreign minister of Bosnia, Sacirbey, discussed this in considerable detail with him, and he had conversations back to his government. He believed that within 24 hours, there would be a cease-fire. I, of course, urged him to get moving with that, because people were being killed every hour while we're waiting for this cease-fire.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what happens next? I understand that there will be a meeting of the NATO Council of Ambassadors tomorrow, is that right? And then would you sort of describe the timetable of what would happen next.
SEC. PERRY: The--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: If the cease-fire is--in fact, goes into effect.
SEC. PERRY: If we get the cease-fire, there are several events going on in parallel. First of all, the--there will be a peace conference in the peace talks in the United States beginning October 31st. Those are very important, because it brings together in one room the presidents that are driving us towards this peace settlement. While all of this is going on, NATO is meeting.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There you're talking about the president of the Muslim--the Muslim Bosnians and--
SEC. PERRY: Croatia.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Croatia, and--
SEC. PERRY: And Bosnia and, of course, Serbia, so it's Milosevic, Izetbegovic, and Tudjman will all be meeting on the 31st.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: President Milosevic is representing the Bosnian Serbs.
SEC. PERRY: He represents the Bosnian Serbs in this. They have signed a document authorizing him to act in their case. In parallel with that, NATO is continuing very--beginning very detailed planning for the peace implementation force. That will take two or three weeks to put in its final one, so that plan will be ready about the same time that the peace talks will get underway in the United States.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And at this point, how many U.S. troops do you anticipate going?
SEC. PERRY: We don't have the plan yet from NATO. We met Thursday and Friday with the NATO defense ministers. Gen. Jalin briefed us on the status of the planning. They're looking for a significant--they're planning for a significant force, I would imagine on the order of about three divisions, which is pretty sizeable force.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A division is ten to fifteen thousand?
SEC. PERRY: A division is perhaps 15,000, American divisions are about 15,000. And there would be support forces as well. The United States is doing its planning based on an assumption that we will be providing about one division, about fifteen, perhaps as many as twenty thousand with the support troops involved with that. These numbers, though, are very tentative at this point.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And I understand that all this planning has to be done, but could you just give us a sense of how at this point it is envisioned they would enter. Would they be in different key points in Bosnia?
SEC. PERRY: Yes. That planning is already done, that is, we are assuming full cooperation from all of the parties and from the neighbors. And so we would--many of our forces would come in from the forces we have deployed now in Germany, and they come in on trains through Serbia, through Croatia, through Slovenia. Some of our forces would come in from Italy by ship, but that is the way we're planning. We believe it could be done very rapidly. From the time we get the authorization to send the forces in, we expect to have a significant controlling force in-country in just a few days.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: If there were a cease-fire violation by any of the parties--let's say the Bosnian Serbs, for example, wanting to take one little extra bit of territory once our troops were there, what is it they're supposed to do? What will be their mandate?
SEC. PERRY: Between now and the time we get a peace settlement--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: No. I understand that this happens after the peace settlement.
SEC. PERRY: Oh, after the peace settlement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes. Once the NATO-commanded troops are there.
SEC. PERRY: The mandate will be specified in the peace settlement which we don't have yet, but we can imagine what that will say, and they will ask the NATO forces, first of all, to enforce the separation to enforce the boundaries that are agreed upon and to enforce the cease-fire. We will have a very sizeable military force there to do that. They will be the most formidable military force in the area. They will--they will gain respect. Nevertheless, this is a country which has had passions and hatreds built up over three and a half years of war, and the government doesn't have control, I believe, of all of the paramilitary units to this, so we have to be prepared for some, some military action, and we will be prepared for that. We'll be prepared for it by having a very strong military force.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Which we would counter--we would counter that military action with our own military action.
SEC. PERRY: We would, indeed, yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Unlike, for example, Cambodia, where that didn't happen. I understand that was a UN operation.
SEC. PERRY: This will be a peace enforcement operation, and it will be responsible for enforcing the peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you answer the critics who say--I'm summarizing many kinds of criticism here--that this will be a quagmire, this is a place where peace can't hold, that a cease-fire, there have been other cease-fires, they can't hold, and that U.S. troops will be sucked into this quagmire?
SEC. PERRY: We have, because of our fear of a quagmire, we have refused to send our forces in until we got a peace agreement that was, first of all, a good peace agreement and one which is signed by all of the warring parties. So that is the first insurance in that point, and then secondly, we're going to send a very strong military force in there. We do not--we're taking every precaution against this being a quagmire, every action we know how to take to make this be an effective peace enforcement which does its job and then leaves the country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does the President plan to go to Congress for authorization for this force?
SEC. PERRY: The President has said that he would welcome authorization from the Congress. This will be because it's a big force, it'll be an expensive operation. We will have to get funding from the Congress.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How expensive? Excuse me for interrupting, but just briefly, how expensive?
SEC. PERRY: It depends on the size of the force, but a division, if it turns out to be a division of size, that will be somewhere between a billion and two billion dollars for one year.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Excuse me, so you have to get authorization?
SEC. PERRY: We would have to get the Congress to, to appropriate those funds for it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And if they didn't, would you go ahead anyway? I mean, they have to appropriate the funds, but if you did not get the congressional authorization that the President would like to--
SEC. PERRY: I'm very confident, Elizabeth, we're going to get the support from the Congress and get that authorization.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: If a settlement is reached, will the U.S. help arm and train the Bosnian Muslim troops?
SEC. PERRY: The settlement, in order for this not to be a quagmire, in order for us to be able to pull out in some reasonable time, let's say one year, there has to be some stability in the area. That stability will not be achieved if there is a vast difference in the correlation of forces there, so we seek to have a balance of forces there. Our objective is to get this through an arms control agreement where we have the forces build down. And that's what we hope the peace process will allow for that building down to take place. We'll send in the arms control process. Nevertheless, the United States is prepared if the build-down is not effective, it is prepared to provide the resources to train and, if necessary, provide some arms for the Bosnian federation of forces. This would not be a part of the peace implementation force. This would be a separate activity done by the United States in correlation with other governments.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You met with your Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, in Geneva over the weekend, and tell me if I'm wrong, I understand that there is a bit of an impasse here, that the Russians want to contribute troops to this peacekeeping force but don't want to be under the command and control of NATO. How--
SEC. PERRY: I met with Minister Grachev Sunday in Geneva, and I met with the NATO defense ministers Thursday and Friday in Williamsburg. Out of those two sets of meetings, I think it's clear that Russia wants to participate in this force, and the NATO defense ministers want Russia to participate. At my meeting with Minister Grachev, we agreed on many conditions and how the Russian participation will take place, but we still have one very major disconnect, and that is that the Russians believe that the political approval of the--once the UN mandates is set, which we both agree on--the political approval of the ongoing peace implementation must come from an international political committee of which they would be a member. In effect, we have a veto power on what happens. We believe that the political authorization, the political approval of the ongoing force must come from the North Atlantic Council, which is the standard body which directs NATO. This is a very important disagreement. We discussed that at some length. We did not come to an agreement on that point, so we will discuss it further. It will be discussed in further meetings of the contact group and quite possibly will be discussed by President Yeltsin and President Clinton in their meeting in two weeks.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How important is Russian participation in this force?
SEC. PERRY: It's important in my mind, Elizabeth. It's important not so much because we need the extra forces for the peace implementation force in Bosnia, but that this is the first real test of whether NATO and Russia can work together on a common objective, which is establishing security and peace in Europe. And so for that reason, for that symbolic reason, I believe it's important.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you really think that this peace can hold, or that a cease-fire can hold? Just today, there's fighting and ethnic cleansing of the sort that was forbidden in the September 28th agreement among the warring parties. What makes you think this can work?
SEC. PERRY: We're going in with this peace implementation force with the belief, with the understanding, with the belief that this will be difficult, that there will be violations, that there will be problems. That is why we are so insistent that this be a very strong military force. It'll be the biggest and toughest and meanest dog in town. And it'll gain the respect of everybody that is involved in it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.
SEC. PERRY: Thank you, Elizabeth.