|NEWSMAKER: JAVIER SOLANA|
April 5, 1999
NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana speaks with Jim Lehrer about air strikes in Yugoslavia.
JIM LEHRER: A newsmaker interview with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. I talked with him late this morning, Eastern daylight time.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome.
JAVIER SOLANA: Good morning. How are you?
JIM LEHRER: Fine, sir. Sir, in general terms, what has the NATO air campaign accomplished thus far?
JAVIER SOLANA: The NATO campaign is going according to plans. We have had some days of bad weather that has prevented to achieve all the objectives. In general terms, the campaign is going as was defined and as planned.
JIM LEHRER: What has it accomplished?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, it has accomplished -- is in the first phase, as you know, it was basically to damage the air defenses of the country. And the second phase started a few days ago to try to damage as much as possible the war machine of Milosevic, the war machine of the Serbian army and the Serbian police.
JIM LEHRER: Now, when you say it's gone has planned, the large-scale
exodus by the ethnic Albanians was not part of the plan, was it?
JAVIER SOLANA: Our responsibility was to try to stop the criminal activity of Milosevic. As you know, this criminal activity was planned way before our first air strike. In fact, the air strike was a response to the behavior President Milosevic has been planning for months and this criminal behavior. The question of the exodus of refugees is nothing which is dramatically new, unfortunately. It has been taking place for months. It is true that the last few days the behavior of Milosevic has achieved levels of criminality that no rational man could have believed. And that is why the exodus has increased in numbers, and that is why the alliance and all the allied countries are doing its utmost to stop this massacre first and then to help the consequences of the massacre of Milosevic; therefore, we have at this point two objectives: first, to do as much damage as possible to the war machinery; and second, to help as much as possible the consequences of massacres which are the refugees.
|What is NATO doing about refugees?|
JIM LEHRER: All right, now, the refugee camp now, there are some figures out today, 44,000, another 44,000 left yesterday, is that correct?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, the figures that are produced by the Organization of the UN are more or less like that. I would not be prepared at this point to be precise on the figures. The figures are being given by the UNHCR, the agents of refugees, but, unfortunately, more or less, are like the ones you have just given.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. But your spokesman, the NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea, said this morning that 360,000, an estimated 360,000 ethic Albanians have left Kosovo in the last two weeks since the bombing began, is that, that's a correct figure?
JAVIER SOLANA: It, more or less - more or less, that is the figure we have on this point, although it's very difficult to be absolutely precise. The basic counting and the basic figures are provided by the agents of refugees of the UN, but, more or less, are the same that we have at this point, yes.
JIM LEHRER: Now, NATO is stepping in, as you said, to try to assist these refugees. Specifically, what is NATO going to do about it?
JAVIER SOLANA: What NATO is now going to do it is already doing. As you know, we have troops deployed already in Macedonia; we are going to deploy troops in this very moment in Albania to do whatever we can; we are not going to spare any effort to put all the military capabilities that we have to the service of the humanitarian relief. NATO and NATO countries are doing the utmost with no spare effort to help the humanitarian catastrophe that we cannot forget had been created by Milosevic's behavior.
JIM LEHRER: And that includes, does it not, taking some of those refugees from Macedonia and Albania to other countries nearby, is that correct?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, as you know, many, many countries, not only countries that belong to NATO, but also partner countries, are offering their possibility of receiving in their countries some refugees. Now, we would like to have as much as possible to help - in particular the Macedonian government - to handle the humanitarian crisis, and, therefore, some of these refugees will be good to take into other countries, but the principle that we'd like to defend as much as possible is that these refugees do have the right to return to their homes, to return to their country, and, therefore, we would not like to see these refugees going very far away from the region where they should return. So this is the violence we want to strike, to relax the situation in Macedonia and Albania, but at the same time have the commitment, the guarantee that these people had the right in the international community obligation to allow them to return to his country.
JIM LEHRER: You use the word "guarantee." NATO will guarantee that these folks will be allowed or will be able to return to Kosovo?
JAVIER SOLANA: It is my point that the international community, of course, including NATO, should guarantee that these people that have been forced out of their country by the criminal atrocities of Milosevic to have the guarantee that they can return as they so wish to their country. Yes.
JIM LEHRER: And that is now one of the priority goals of the NATO operation?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, at this point, the priority goal is double - as far as the consequences of the Milosevic actions, they are for the refugees to help them as much as possible, with all our capabilities, capabilities of NATO, the capabilities of the NATO countries, and capabilities, also, of the organization of the United Nations, UNHCR, the European Union, the OSCE, all the international communities together in a very well coordinated manner that had started two days ago here in Brussels. And, of course, here at the same time we are going to continue striking to damage the machinery of criminal - the criminal machinery that Milosevic has put forward to really kill and expel the thousands and thousands of people from Kosovo.
|Air strikes alone?|
JIM LEHRER: And you believe that can - you still believe that can be done by air strikes alone?
JAVIER SOLANA: I think that is absolutely necessary to continue with the air campaign, and the air campaign is what can really damage at this point in a more important manner the capabilities that the Serb army and the paramilitary forces do have. That is our opinion. That is the opinion of all the countries that belong to NATO, and we have to succeed with the air campaign to stop - and I would like to say a behavior that nobody could have even thought in the most difficult nights of nightmare - the behavior of somebody like President Milosevic at the end of the 20th century.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, Mr. Secretary-General, here in the United States, at least, the debate has gone beyond that, that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among others, said on this program Friday night, for instance, that victory is the only alternative for NATO and whatever it takes. Ground forces, in addition to air strikes, victory must be attained by NATO. Do you agree with that as a general premise?
JAVIER SOLANA: I agree. I agree completely that victory is the only outcome, and victory not only for NATO, victory for the values that we want to defend, the countries that belong to NATO, the people of the countries that belong to NATO, and many other citizens of the world that cannot live with this behavior of somebody in the European territory at the end of the 20th century; therefore, victory is the only thing, the only exit of this conflict, and victory means to uphold the values that civilized people in the world want to have as we enter into the 21st century. Yes, I agree with that.
JIM LEHRER: Now, Winston Churchill, who is the grandson of "the" Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain in World War II, the grandson was a member of the parliament in Britain, wrote a piece that appeared in the "Wall Street Journal" here in the United States, and let me read you how it ends: "The sooner that the alliance's" - he's talking about NATO - "The sooner the alliance's political leadership recognizes that the operations in Yugoslavia must now enter the phase of ground warfare and that Kosovo will ultimately become a free, independent nation the sooner the bloodshed and suffering will be ended." Is he right?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, I have great respect for what he represents and his thinking, but at this point the countries that belong to NATO, they have a slight different approach. And the approach is that at this point we are not in the position to deploy troops at this point to the ground; we want first to have all the air campaign finished, to try to have a cease-fire, and, therefore, after that to deploy the troops, which are already prepared, already prepared to guarantee that, among other things, that the refugees return to their country, if they so wish. As far as the final stages of Kosovo, the only position, the common position of the international community on this point is what was agreed in the Rambouillet Agreement, or in the measures in the Rambouillet Agreement, and it goes through in the direction of a very profound self-government for Kosovo, and not any other - any other position has been taken by the international community. But it's true that the evolution of the situation on the ground, the behavior of President Milosevic is so dramatic that there may be an event that we will have to think about some other alternative. At this point, the agreement that was signed by the Kosovars in Rambouillet should be the basis of the discussions for a final solution to the crisis.
|Are you surprised?|
JIM LEHRER: You were, of course, involved in all of the discussions that led up to the decision to launch this air strike campaign. Are you personally surprised or whatever word you would want to use here about the fact that Milosevic continues to do what he's been doing in spite of the NATO air attacks after almost two weeks now?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, I'm not surprised at what Milosevic is doing. I've been involved in the crisis in the Balkans since 1992. I know fairly well what has been the war in Bosnia, the behavior of President Milosevic, and in the war against Croatia and the war against Bosnia - we cannot forget that Milosevic is not a new personality in this crisis in the Balkans. What he is doing now is something that goes beyond anybody could have imagined, the behavior, the cruelty, the manner in which he is deporting people, that is what it is - it's a deportation of people, of people of his country - it's something that to me probably is the only small surprise that I've had. How much cruelty could be in somebody at the turn of the century?
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary-General, one decision-making question, the United States has offered to send 25 Apache helicopters to the NATO force to assist in attacks on Serb ground forces, tanks, et cetera, that there seems to be some confusion about whether NATO wants to use these helicopters or the ambassadors, having made a political decision yet. Can you clarify where matters stand on the helicopters?
JAVIER SOLANA: Yes. I would like to, with pleasure. Of course, we welcome very much the commitment of the American people, the administration, President Clinton, to continue to providing the help through new assets, assets that will be very, very important to do what we want to do, to damage as much as possible the war machinery of President Milosevic; therefore, we welcome very much all the NATO countries, we welcome very much the decision of the American administration, and President Clinton. Yes, we welcome very much.
JIM LEHRER: Has the decision been made whether or not to use these 25 helicopters? Has NATO accepted the offer, in other words?
JAVIER SOLANA: The decision has been made - a decision has been made. We are at this moment in consultations with the government as to whether the helicopters will be deployed, and in a question of minutes I would say the answer will be given, but I can tell you that everybody, it looks - this decision of President Clinton with great satisfaction.
JIM LEHRER: But the Albanian government you're referring to specifically, that's where they'd be used, correct?
JAVIER SOLANA: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: All right. But, in other words, there's no problem -
JAVIER SOLANA: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: There's no problem here, right? In other words, those helicopters aren't going to be used -
JAVIER SOLANA: No. On the contrary. Right. On the contrary, there's very, very profound gratitude for the contribution and assets of your government.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Because the question has been raised about why were ambassadors and political people making decisions that were basically military decisions, but that's not a problem?
JAVIER SOLANA: No, not at all. The only political decision that has to be taken and has already been taken is a decision about allowing military assets to belong to the NATO countries - in this particular case to your country - to be deployed in countries which are not NATO members. That is the only decision that has to be taken; it has already been taken.
JIM LEHRER: Now, should that be read as - some people are reading it here as a step toward the introduction of ground forces - should that be read that way?
JAVIER SOLANA: Well, I don't think that this is interpretation - the correct interpretation. I think that your administration, the American administration explained very clearly yesterday that this is a new asset to be provided in order to achieve the same objective, the objective of damaging and destroying, if possible, the military machine. At the level we are now after several days of air campaign, it could be of great help to have these new assets, Apache helicopters, to continue in the same mission - destroying and damaging as much as possible the machinery of Milosevic.
JIM LEHRER: Back to the general and finally, Mr. Secretary-General, is there any question in your mind that the 19 members of the NATO alliance have the wherewithal and the will to see this thing through to a conclusion that will, in fact, do all the things that you and others have outlined?
JAVIER SOLANA: I can tell you that I chair the North Atlantic Council every day, and some days I share two meetings, and I can tell you that all the countries, the 19 allies at this point, are absolutely together, behind the decision that we had taken several days ago, and they are absolutely determined to see this through to the victory.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you very much.
JAVIER SOLANA: Thank you very much.
JIM LEHRER: And since that interview this morning, Solana did receive preliminary approval from Albania to deploy those Apache helicopters, NATO officials told the NewsHour. And the first airlift of Kosovo refugees took place. Hundreds were flown to Turkey.