|ASSESSING THE SITUATION|
April 2, 1999
As NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia continued for a 10th day, thousands of ethnic Albanian continued to flee Kosovo. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Secretary Advisers Brent Scrowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski assess NATO's Kosovo strategy.
JIM LEHRER: And that brings us now to three perspectives on possible "what next" scenarios for NATO and the United States. Brent Scowcroft was National Security Adviser to President Bush; Zbigniew Brzezinksi had that same job for President Carter. Henry Kissinger was National Security Adviser, later Secretary of State for Presidents Nixon and Ford.
|Staying The Course?|
|Secretary Kissinger, do you agree with President Clinton
that NATO must now stay the course?
HENRY KISSINGER: Absolutely. The future of NATO, the credibility of the alliance, and the commitments of the United States require that we achieve success and define success rigorously.
JIM LEHRER: You have said that there's only one end game now, and that's victory. What would constitute victory in your mind at this point?
HENRY KISSINGER: I would separate it into two parts: one, the end of military operations and, secondly, the political outcome. The end of military operations requires a cease-fire, a withdrawal of forces, and an agreement of Serbia to begin discussing a new status for Kosovo. The political outcome will have to be a new status for Kosovo. I don't agree with the president that it can be kept within Serbia on some sort of autonomous basis. I believe the most probable outcome now will be some kind of a protectorate with large self-government for the Kosovars. And I would actually hope that the protectorate be not only NATO military forces but that Russia be brought into that political discussion, not into the discussion on how to end the war.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Dr. Brzezinski, would you agree that that must be the end result?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I would agree very much with what Henry said. It seems to me both the situation and the stakes have changed. The stakes are the unity of NATO and American leadership in the world, and the situation has changed in that we can no longer go back to the Rambouillet formula, namely some sort of Serbian sovereignty, including Serbian border guards in Kosovo. It will have to be some new status, perhaps a NATO protectorate, but involving, in effect, self-determination for the Kosovars.
JIM LEHRER: General Scowcroft, what would you add or subtract from that?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I broadly agree with that. I think it is -- it is premature right now to talk about the ultimate status of Kosovo. I think the important thing is to restore the situation. It will have to be some kind of a NATO protectorate, whatever happens. But the first thing we have to do is to restore or to achieve our goals. One of the problem is our goals seem to shift as the situation shifts. But I certainly agree with Dr. Kissinger on that, and I think that, though, will take a lot of work.
|Preparing For Ground Forces.|
|JIM LEHRER: Yes. Well, let's talk about that work. Let's
talk about -- let's move back to what should happen next. Dr. Brzezinski,
what would you lay out as to how we get where you, where the three of
you think we should be?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: First of all, we have to sustain the bombing campaign but make it more effective, more painful to Milosevic's forces. I realize the difficulties of conducting that campaign, given the terrain and the weather. But I think we have to become more assertive, take more risks. I think we have held back too much. Secondly, the mass media.
JIM LEHRER: What kind of assertive bombing are we not doing that we should be doing?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think we should be doing more tactical air attacks against the Serbian forces, particularly in Kosovo, using even attack helicopters, which I understand the SACEUR has asked for.
JIM LEHRER: That's the supreme commander of NATO.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Secondly, I believe that the mass media ought to be more patient, not pronounced bombing campaign as a failure, which some members of the mass media have done. Remember that in the Iraqi war, it took about four to five weeks of bombing, followed by ground campaign, to achieve victory. So be more patient, because otherwise we send signals of impatience to Milosevic. And, thirdly, still talking very broadly, I think it's a mistake for us to be saying in advance now that we'll never use ground forces. I think we should indicate, if necessary, a willingness to use the ground forces but let the air campaign runs its course first.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's take those one at a time. Dr. Kissinger, first of all, do you agree with the idea that the bombing has got to be intensified, we have to take more risks? You heard what Dr. Brzezinski said. Do you agree?
HENRY KISSINGER: I am no technical military expert, but certainly the first phase of the campaign was, in my view, too hesitant and more concerned with avoiding casualties than with achieving results. So - and fundamentally, I think -- I think this -- I don't want to have my position misunderstood. I have grave doubts about the diplomacy that got us into this. But now that we are there, I go along with intensifying the war. And we have to remember, Serbia is only about 10 million people. If the 19 nations of NATO cannot bring it to heal on an issue, which has to do with the self-determination of the region, it would be a disaster, and I would, therefore, intensify military operations, trying to spare the civilian population to the greatest extent possible. And I would also make clear that, if necessary, we would use ground forces.
JIM LEHRER: Where do you come down, General Scowcroft?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I would start with the interest or determination to use ground forces, if necessary. I won't leave that to the end. And I would start making preparations for their --
JIM LEHRER: And you would say that publicly?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I would say that publicly. If the air campaign, after a suitable period of time, and I wouldn't be too patient, does not achieve its objectives, we will move on to make sure that our ultimate objective is achieved. And that would be the insertion of ground forces, because I think as long as Milosevic thinks that all he has to do is sit tight until his military is pretty largely destroyed to be replaced probably by Russia in the coming months, then he's home free. What -- he has no incentive to come to terms.
JIM LEHRER: Do you believe that the politics of ground forces are there yet, both domestically here in this country and in the rest of NATO?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I believe they're getting closer. I think they're closer in the rest of NATO than perhaps they are here. There will be something of a storm here. But the key to this all is we have to succeed now, and I think the president can make that case. There will be some opposition, of course, and there's no foreseeable period in which ground forces can be brought back out, once they're inserted. This is in for the long haul. We shouldn't be in this position, but we are, and I see only one very tough way out.
JIM LEHRER: Dr. Brzezinski.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, we're all in agreement. It seems to me that leadership, political leadership, requires setting the tone and setting the direction, and not following public opinion polls. Yes, public opinion may be hesitant right now, but the atrocities that are being committed I'm convinced will make public opinion more supportive of the use of ground forces, if necessary. And I see no political or strategic benefit in indicating to Milosevic that we'll not use ground forces, because that gives him every incentive, every incentive, to hunker down, absorb the bombing, and wait for a reaction in Western public opinion against it, or for him to make a peace offer. I wouldn't be at all surprised if at one point he said to us, having cleared out the Albanians, I'm not accepting the Rambouillet formula; please stop bombing; I'm ready to negotiate. What do we do then? I think we have to make it very clear to him that the outcome of this war is going to be a success for us, we have the means to do it, we have to show the determination to do it, and the success in that war is, as Henry and I and Brent earlier defined it.
JIM LEHRER: Dr. Kissinger -- yes, go ahead.
HENRY KISSINGER: Could I stress also --
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
HENRY KISSINGER: -- that we have to stop saying the Rambouillet formula is the way by which we will end it, because the Rambouillet formula left Kosovo and Serbian sovereignty - with Serbian photographs. It required that NATO disarm the KLA, and that a mix of Serbian and KLA forces, supervised by the United States, by NATO, operate there. None of this is achievable anymore. And I believe the administration owes it to the country to state some realistic objectives. And I think those require a separate status for Kosovo now.
|JIM LEHRER: And that should be NATO and U.S. policy, separate
status for Kosovo?
HENRY KISSINGER: I think that will be the outcome. That is the only possible solution now. And then that will have to include some consideration of what happens to the Albanians in Macedonia, so that as a result of the Kosovo operation, Macedonia, which is even more incendiary, doesn't blow up. So we need a comprehensive Balkan settlement, which is one reason why I believe on the diplomatic political end, it would be useful to involve the Russians.
JIM LEHRER: Some people have suggested, Dr. Kissinger, that - in fact, somebody -- some editorial writers on this program last night said that while we're doing the military and other more offensive things, there should be a back channel or something going on diplomatically at this point. Do you find any diplomatic room there at this point?
HENRY KISSINGER: We cannot vis-à-vis Belgrade, we cannot show the slightest hesitation. I don't see any terms that we can accept other than those on which the three of us, who have some experience with crisis, agree. There should be some back channel with Russia on what the political settlement afterwards looked like, but we cannot blink on the military operation.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: Jim, I'm worried about moving too fast on the status for Kosovo. One of the reasons we're in there is the dangers of spillover in the region of this conflict. An independent Kosovo with its attractiveness to the Albanians in Macedonia could spark a larger conflict, one we need to avoid. I think we ought to move cautiously on what will happen to Kosovo. Let the dust settle. Let's get the situation under control before we start looking down a path because it may look differently month after month.
JIM LEHRER: As a practical matter, you said let's get ready to do ground forces, but every expert we've had on this program since this whole thing began is that you cannot do that overnight. That takes weeks and months to mount the kind of ground force that it would take to accomplish these goals that the three of you have outlined tonight. Do you agree with that?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: That's why we need to start now. I think -- you know, we don't need a force the size of Desert Storm.
JIM LEHRER: That was 500,000.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: That's right. There are about 40,000 Serbian troops in there now. Under the assumption they fight -- and I'm not sure that's a very realistic assumption, then, yes, we'll need at least two, maybe three times that number. But we ought to start now.
JIM LEHRER: What's your feeling about how long it would take and how many troops, et cetera, Dr. Brzezinski?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I really don't have a firm judgment as to how many troops it will take. But I have a great deal of skepticism regarding the fighting capabilities of the Serbian army. You know, we have talked a great deal about the vaunted quality of this air defense system. We have bombed them for ten days; we have lost one plane. The army has been very active in attacking civilians, acting like a bunch of brigands. It is very antiquated equipment. My guess is that our forces would not have to be as large as some of the scare scenarios that have been articulated by the opponents of the ground campaign.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: And they will have been punished by our air forces in the interim.
|War In The Television Age.|
LEHRER: Dr. Kissinger, I want to pick up on a point that Dr. Brzezinski
made a moment ago, which is the effect that these television pictures
are going to have on the American public. The ones we just showed and
we've shown them every night now for eight or nine days of these long
lines of refugees, and all three of you have been involved in crises with
television cameras involved. How do you read the potential for that to
have an impact on what U.S. policy and what NATO policy eventually becomes?
HENRY KISSINGER: Well, I think that these pictures unify public opinion and support the determination to put an end to the suffering in Kosovo; and therefore, what would surely support the military objective of putting an end to military operations by the Serb army in Kosovo. I think public opinion will be very firm on that. The major issue will be to see what outcome we will finally manage to get public support for afterwards and to stay the course for a political solution, because I believe now, after what has happened, there will be military forces needed in that area for a considerable period in a kind of a protectorate.
JIM LEHRER: General, do you agree this is the moment when those pictures are on television for the U.S. and the NATO leadership to move?
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I think it is because public opinion on issues like this is ephemeral. It will build until we get troops in there and the first soldier is killed and the first mother asks why are our troops in there? Why can't these people take care of their own problems? So yes, now is the time to do it.
JIM LEHRER: Now is the time, Dr. Brzezinski?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: To start -
JIM LEHRER: To start the -
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: To get ready.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: The buildup is necessary because we cannot be sure that the bombing campaign will succeed. It may. I certainly hope that it will. If we ratchet it up, it might. But if it doesn't, are we going to keep it up for three months, six months? At some point we'll have to go into a ground campaign. And in that context, the pictures to which you have referred to, Jim, are also important because I think they predetermine to some extent the political outcome; that is to say, there is no going back to the Rambouillet formula. And Kosovo that's part of Serbian sovereignty with Serbian border guards out on the borders of Kosovo, keeping out the people that Milosevic expelled? This is simply not in the cards. And I think we ought to make that clear. The president did Tuesday night and then kind of walked back from it. And I'm wondering whether there are hesitations or there's simply lack of attention to this issue. But I think we have to make it very clear: Milosevic has forfeited the right to sovereignty over Kosovo by the genocidal policies that he has pursued.
JIM LEHRER: Now, you believe, General, that it is too early to make those kinds of statements.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I would not make those kinds of statements now. We may very well come out that way, but I think the situation is too complicated. It is too sensitive and there's too much opportunity for it to spread to be making final determinations now.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Anything you want to add to that, Dr. Kissinger?
HENRY KISSINGER: Well, I don't know what statements I would make, but I think we ought to be cleared in our own mind that the Rambouillet formula, which I never much liked to begin with, is totally inappropriate now and that whatever we think prudent to say at the moment, what we should say to ourselves is that the outcome will have to be some new political status for Kosovo and not go back into the bog of a negotiation that will find us crosswise with both sides.
GEN. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I do agree on that.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Milosevic may try to trap us into going back to Rambouillet. We shouldn't allow that.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you all three very much.