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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 3, 1995
                      BOSNIA RAPID REACTION FORCE

July 1, 1995

Dear Mr. Leader: (Dear Mr. Speaker)

I have received your letter of June 29 regarding my decision to provide funding and support for the U.N.'s Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) in Bosnia.

The decision to provide support and funding to the RRF, under existing Presidential authority, was made with both the views of Congress, as expressed in your letter of June 15, and those of our Allies clearly in mind. I believe my decision is in the national interest and I will stand by it.

Your letter raises three important questions: First, whether paying for any of the RRF with U.N. assessments violates your insistence that no new assessments be used to fund it. Second, whether the failure of the U.N. to permit NATO bombing in the Banja Luka area after Captain O'Grady's rescue and after the release of the UNPROFOR personnel puts our pilots in Operation Deny Flight more at risk. And third, whether the United States should, as you recommend, oppose the RRF because its mission is not as clear and robust as it should be and because Bosnia would be better off if the U.N. mission collapsed, which I understand is your position. Let me begin with the last question first.

Having reviewed the alternatives and their likely consequences, I believe that we must support our Allies and UNPROFOR's continued presence. Were UNPROFOR to withdraw, there would be no substitute for its critical role in allowing the parties to diminish the wide-scale conflict that existed prior to its deployment (thus reducing civilian casualties from over 130,000 in 1992 to under 3,000 last year), assisting UNHCR in providing aid to over 2.8 million Bosnians, and maintaining peaceful relations among the Federation partners in most of central Bosnia. If we force the UN to withdraw and there is a dramatic increase in the loss of life and human suffering, what will our responsibility then be? If the United States, in effect, drives the French, British and other UNPROFOR contributors out of Bosnia, what is our responsibility for the consequences?

I agree that more is needed, as do our Allies: that is why they have called for creation of the RRF. Support for the RRF is essential to the strengthening of UNPROFOR. Failures to provide that support would result in a split in the NATO Alliance, a heightened risk that the conflict would spread to neighboring regions, greater suffering by the Bosnian people, and an increased danger that we would need to insert a large number of U.S. forces as part of a potentially dangerous NATO withdrawal operation. The RRF would make it less likely that UNPROFOR would have to withdraw, while at the same time increasing the capacity for a safe UNPROFOR withdrawal should that nevertheless become necessary.

As to the level and nature of U.S. support for the RRF, it is our NATO Allies who will deploy the forces, bear most of the burden, and take most of the risks. They deserve our support, both politically and materially. At the same time, given the already considerable U.S. contributions to operations in the former Yugoslavia, we have gained Allied agreement that financing the RRF should not be done on a business-as-usual basis. Accordingly, I have insisted that the bulk of the funding be provided through voluntary contributions. I agreed to the partial U.S. funding using UN assessments of $35 million -- less than 8 percent of total estimated RRF costs -- because that is limited to meeting our obligations under UNPROFOR force ceilings that were agreed to long before you and I had our conversation about not funding the RRF with new assessments. I believe this is consistent with the concerns expressed in your letter of June 15.

Because of the importance that our Allies attach to the RRF as a means of strengthening UNPROFOR, I strongly believe it is in the U.S. interest to make a voluntary contribution as well. Our Allies need U.S. assistance in transporting their forces to the theater of operations as well as equipment to make the RRF more effective in dealing with provocations. As we have explained in our Congressional consultations in recent days, this is precisely the kind of assistance that existing drawdown authorities were designed to facilitate.

Finally, I assure you that my Administration would never acquiesce in any decision that would subject American military personnel to unnecessary danger. As you are aware, suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) packages are now an integral part of every Deny Flight mission. NATO planes are authorized to respond -- without UN approval -- if surface-to-air missile sites display hostile intent.

At the same time, we cannot expect NATO or UNPROFOR commanders to acquiesce in decisions that subject their personnel on the ground to unnecessary danger. Once the RRF is deployed, the ground commanders will have the military means to better protect their forces from retaliation and hostage-taking after NATO air attacks. Only under these circumstances could you expect the prospects for a more robust NATO air policy to be enhanced.

Our Allies are continuing to refine the rules of engagement and the appropriate role and mandate of the RRF. I will continue to support a robust RRF mission statement and insist on strong measures to ensure the protection of U.S. forces participating in Deny Flight and other air operations.

As always, I remain ready to discuss this with you further.

William J. Clinton