THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Spangdahlem, Germany) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 5, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM COHEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF GENERAL HUGH SHELTON, AND SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER OF EUROPEAN FORCES GENERAL WESLEY CLARK
Spangdahlem Air Base Spangdahlem, Germany
12:00 P.M. (L)
SECRETARY COHEN: In the recent days NATO forces have carried out the mandate that was issued at the Washington Summit, namely to intensify the air campaign against Milosevic. Well, that noose is tightening. The military force is reducing his air defenses, interrupting command and control, and choking supplies to the military. They're reducing the forces in the field and the oil embargo is going to tighten that noose even further.
At our meetings in Brussels this morning, NATO Secretary General Solana briefed President Clinton on the allies' determination to continue and to intensify Operation Allied Force until we achieve our goals. The United States and allied forces are performing brilliantly in very difficult circumstances and conditions.
General Shelton is going to discuss some of these issues with you in a moment. General Clark gave President Clinton an update on the military progress, and he's going to summarize that briefing for you momentarily.
We are aggressively attacking the armor, the artillery, and the moving forces that have driven 800,000 Kosovar Albanians from Kosovo, and pushed some 650,000 from their homes into the hills, while burning the villages that they have been forced out of. Refugees relayed disturbing reports that 100,000 young men are missing, that at least 4,000 people have died in summary executions since the beginning of the year. And we have reports of mass executions in some 65 towns, and mass graves.
So while all the world is witness to ethnic slaughter being carried on in certainly historic proportions, Milosevic and his family blatantly insist that this horror is but a figment of someone's vivid imagination. Tyrants may insist that their subjects swallow their lies, but democracies are going to demand nothing less than the truth. And that is why NATO is determined to achieve a resolution that meets our five conditions: The killing must stop; the Serbs must leave; an international force with NATO at the core must come to enforce peace and stability; the refugees must return to build their lives; and the Kosovar Albanians must achieve autonomous self-rule.
These basic conditions will not erase the hate and brutality of the past, but they can offer hope and stability for the future.
GENERAL SHELTON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'll keep my comments brief so we that we can answer your questions. It's great to be here in Spangdahlem, a base that has played a very key role in our ongoing operation against the Yugoslavia military forces.
Like Secretary Cohen, I've been in close contact with my NATO military counterparts since Operation Allied Force began almost 45 days ago. I am struck by their unity and their resolve. And I think that we could say that that is true for the entire Alliance.
Milosevic expected dissension, and instead he's faced cohesion. And he's faced strength of purpose. The most powerful statement of this determination can be seen on the faces of our pilots and crews, like those here in Spangdahlem, as they climb into the cockpit for another mission over Yugoslavia.
It can be seen in the eyes and hands of the great support teams in Aviano, aboard the Theodore Roosevelt, and across the region, as they fuel, arm and prepare their aircraft for combat. And this determination is evident -- it's evident in the efforts of our terrific soldiers, airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, and they work in the mud, the heat and the dust in Albania, both to care for the refugees that are streaming in from Kosovo, and to prepare for military operations over Yugoslavia.
As you know, the great team in Albania includes the pilots and the crews that are flying the Apache helicopters like the ones that were involved in last night's incident. And I think this incident goes to show us that we must never lose sight of the fact that our military men and women operate in a very hazardous environment day in and day out in support of America's national security.
I've just returned from talking to some of those outstanding servicemen and women, and I can tell you that they understand their mission and that they will not fail in its execution. Milosevic's military and special police forces and the security infrastructure that supports and sustains their brutal repression of civilians in Kosovo are being hit repeatedly and effectively. And every day Milosevic's military machine gets weaker as NATO continues its systematic attack.
Now I'll turn it over to General Clark for an update on his military operations. Wes?
GENERAL CLARK: Thank you, General Shelton. Let me begin by thanking the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman for visiting our airmen here today. In any conflict such as this, the military need clear and strong leadership, and that's just what we've been getting. The President and the Secretary of Defense are finding that NATO and U.S. airmen here are in very good heart. They're performing magnificently, and I want to pay tribute to their courage and their dedication, and to the dedication of all of the service members who are engaged in this operation around Europe today.
Let's not forget that our forces are doing an heroic job on the humanitarian front also, and we're just as proud of that work as we are of the air campaign. Day after day, night after night, over Yugoslavia, we're facing a formidable enemy, but precisely because of our forces' courage and professionalism, that enemy is a lot less formidable today than when this conflict began.
We're striking on two air lines of operations, strategic and tactical. The strategic line is associated with President Milosevic and the higher level command and control of the Yugoslavia military and police forces, starting in Belgrade with their command and control, their operation centers, their lines of communication, their industrial base that is supporting them, and all of their infrastructure, including forces in that region.
We're also striking on a tactical line of operation, which are the forces inside Kosovo. We're going to isolate, interdict, and continue to degrade and attack and destroy those forces.
We've inflicted very serious damage upon Serb air defenses, so our pilots can get in and do the real damage to the forces carrying out the policy of ethnic cleansing on the ground. His defenses have proved ineffective against us. We've hit hard at his command and control, the brains behind the brutality. We're making it more and more difficult for him to send the orders to those forces on the ground.
The network, hardened for decades of redundant command and control, is disrupted and increasingly interrupted today. We've struck at his TV stations and transmitters because they're as much a part of his military machine prolonging and promoting this conflict as his army and security forces. And we're hitting those forces harder and harder, too. TV and radio outages are now routine throughout Serbia.
We've taken down a number of bridges because it's vital we cut off the supply routes that allow Milosevic to keep his forces up to the task of ethnic cleansing. He can't cross the Danube in the north, move reinforcements into Montenegro, or move additional reinforcements into Kosovo without delay, degradation and interruption. It's slow and it's dangerous for him.
We've hit at his power plants because they're essential to running every part of his military machine, and this has proven to be effective in disruption throughout Serbia. We've destroyed oil and petrol stocks and the refineries needed to keep his tanks on the move. His refineries are destroyed, a third of his petrol stocks are gone, and he's been reduced to smuggling and trying to ship through Bar to close the gap here between what he has and what he needs.
And more and more, having achieved all of the above, we're closing in, closer and closer, on his forces on the ground in Kosovo. Over the last few days, as the weather has cleared, we've been bringing the full weight of NATO air power to bear on those forces that have been the front line of the despicable atrocities that have been perpetrated against an entire people.
In the last 48 hours, we've hit 10 armor concentrations, 11 artillery positions, 3 command posts, 3 radars and assembly areas, and 13 groups of trucks. Tanks, artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers, command posts, fuel dumps, radio relay links, ammo dumps, barracks, bridges, railways, border posts -- we're hitting them hard, right where it hurts, on the ground in Kosovo.
Thousands of these forces in Kosovo are now in hiding, which at least stops them from doing what they were doing before. And when they're not in hiding, they're repairing what we've damaged, which again is better use of their time than what they were doing before.
But we're going to go on looking for them. This is a relatively small area. It's about the size of the state of Connecticut, and there are not that many places for them to hide. We're going to pin them down, close them out, and take them out. And we'll keep on hitting them until Milosevic faces up to the demands of the international community.
We've flown over 15,000 sorties, of which 5,000 have been strike missions. We now have more than 700 aircraft, over 30 ships, almost double the forces we had some five weeks ago, with more on the way. The target sets have been deepened and broadened, and measures are underway to further tighten the strategic noose around Serbia.
So, as his forces are weakened, ours are strengthened. We do have air superiority. Serb planes are being destroyed whenever they challenge us. Over 80 Yugoslav aircraft have been destroyed, six while flying. We've knocked out large numbers of service-to-air missile launchers and radars, and more and more with every passing day we're dictating events on the ground, too.
If I sound upbeat, it's because I am upbeat. And the reason I'm upbeat is because we're winning. The air campaign is working and it is working well. Milosevic is hurting and increasingly hurting badly. President Milosevic knows he cannot win. I know he cannot win, and more and more of his forces know it. And every one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in Allied Command Europe knows it as well.
We also know there is only one way that this conflict is going to end -- with his forces out, the refugees back home in safety, and meeting the demands of the international community in full. And the sooner that President Milosevic admits in public what he knows to be true in private, the better it will be for him, Serbia, and everyone engaged in this.
Q General Clark, can you tell us the circumstances leading to the first two NATO fatalities in Operation Allied Force?
GENERAL CLARK: This was a training mission that was done in preparation for further activities of the Apaches. It occurred in the middle of the night inside Albania. They were moving into a routine firing position, and beyond that, the facts are still -- remain to be determined.
Q Is there any indication of hostile fire?
GENERAL CLARK: There's no indication of hostile fire.
Q General Clark, there is a report in the Wall Street Journal today that says plans have been developed for the introduction of about 60,000 ground troops, about one-third of them Americans, by the end of July, in a semi-permissive environment if a political decision is made to do that. Can you tell us if that's essentially correct, and without reference to your answer, sir, could you and General Shelton explain what a semi-permissive environment is and how you plan for that, as opposed to a hostile environment?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, first of all, when I heard about this story yesterday I had my staff contact the writer. I said there wasn't a bit of truth in it, and he printed it anyway. There's not a bit of truth in it, and it's in print. So that's all I can say about that.
Secondly, as far as I can tell you about the semi-permissive environment, that's not any phrase that we are using in any military planning or any considerations at all.
Q -- if I could ask General Shelton, because in certain circles in Washington, maybe diplomatic rather than military, the phrase is used in the last three or four weeks frequently to describe some sort of environment that is not permissive, but not hostile. And I don't understand the difference between semi-permissive and hostile. Would you like to go into a semi-permissive environment and not --
GENERAL SHELTON: Sam, I don't understand the difference either, because in our terminology it's either permissive or it's non-permissive. If it's non-permissive, it's certainly going to be under uncertain conditions and you plan for that operation as if it's going to be hostile.
Q You wouldn't then say to the President -- send someone into a semi-permissive environment and -- very light casualties or no casualties?
GENERAL SHELTON: To the contrary. What I told the President in no uncertain terms is that we don't acknowledge a semi-permissive environment. It's either permissive or non-permissive, and if it's non-permissive, meaning that we don't have -- if it's permissive, it means we've got a settlement between two parties, we've been invited in -- that's a permissive environment.
If it's any less than that, it's going to be in uncertain conditions; we'll assume that we could face hostile action; we'll prepare our forces accordingly.
Q General Clark, when you said there's not a bit of truth in the article in the Wall Street Journal, do you mean that this proposal has not been drafted?
GENERAL CLARK: I meant just what I said. I saw some outlines of this article yesterday. I didn't recognize any elements of truth in it. I haven't read the article yet; I've been tied up with other events this morning. But we passed the word back to the author that there was no truth in this.
Q Did you brief the President today on any plan from the use of ground troops, since you all have been instructed to take a look at that issue?
GENERAL CLARK: No, I didn't do that. I briefed him on the air campaign and I told him substantially what I gave you in this briefing. This air campaign is working. We're winning. Milosevic is losing and he knows it.
Q Have you all finished your review of the ground troops?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, we've always looked at ground troop plans that we submitted since last July. We've been continuously reviewing and updating these and there are a number of reviews underway. And I suspect that one will be made available in NATO in the near future to do with how the KFOR mission should be further enhanced and modified as we look at the changing situation on the ground in Kosovo. I don't have a specific time, nor can I give you an particular details about this review because it's still underway. But that's the review that's hot on our plate right now.
Q General Clark, given what you just said in your briefing about the progress you've made in attacking Serb forces directly in Kosovo, can you now say that they no longer have the ability to carry out ethnic cleansing on the scale that they've done in recent weeks? And, secondly, you said here today that Milosevic is hurting, he's hurting badly. You reportedly told the President that Milosevic's leadership is now vulnerable. What's our evidence of that?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, first of all, with respect to the capabilities of the Serb forces, they are now essentially avoiding NATO air power. They're limiting their movement, they're limiting their activities, they're limiting their resupply, they're trying to do everything they can to reduce their vulnerability.
Because when they move, when they're in the open, they're seen; and when they're seen, they're hit and when they're hit, they're killed. And we know there's very widespread concern throughout the Serb forces, concern about their vulnerability, concern about the deteriorating morale that's a consequence, concern about increasing numbers of desertions, concern about how to bring more reservists forward if that's possible. They are very concerned about NATO air power. They do not have the capacity to undertake the kind of operations they did at the start of this campaign.
On the other hand, there are thousands, still, paramilitary thugs committing murder and mayhem on the ground in Kosovo, and we know this.
Q The second part of the question, which is you said that Milosevic's leadership is now vulnerable -- what's our basis for saying that?
GENERAL CLARK: We have substantial sources there from various different countries and various other sources that I can't go into in great detail, but I will tell you this -- that the strikes over the last two and three weeks of this campaign has intensified, have brought home to the Serb people, to the leadership in the Armed Forces and the various political groups and the ministries in that government, the fact that this is a very serious, sustained and intensifying NATO campaign and that, essentially, President Milosevic is powerless to protect them from the will of the international community. And in that society, in that culture that he has created, power is everything, and that's precisely what he's demonstrating his lack of on a daily basis.
Q Secretary Cohen, I wonder if you could tell us -- Joe Lockhart says the President has asked you to review the status of the two Yugoslav prisoners of war. Will you recommend to the President that they be handed back to Yugoslavia?
SECRETARY COHEN: Well, right now, the International Red Cross is examining the second prisoner, and as soon as they complete their examination, then I will review it and then make a recommendation, but I would expect within a relatively short period of time that we could see their release.
Q Is there any reason not to release them, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY COHEN: Once the administrative work is completed, once the interviews are conducted -- we want to make sure of their status and make sure that the International Committee of the Red Cross has an opportunity to see them, interview them and then complete some administrative work.
Q So you're inclined to release them?
SECRETARY COHEN: At an appropriate time I would recommend that.
Q And what would be the rationale for that? Because our argument has been that our three POWs were improperly captured, that they were in Macedonia, they weren't really fighting. I mean, these are two Serbs who were obviously fighting, carrying out ethnic cleansing, presumably. Why would we release them?
SECRETARY COHEN: We will release prisoners consistent with traditional standards. To the extent that there can be a release in conjunction with other prisoners that we may want back and should we suffer any more prisoners being taken, then we could have a session of exchange. But we will wait until further administrative work is done.
Q Is this a goodwill overture to Mr. Milosevic?
SECRETARY COHEN: This is not a goodwill overture to Mr. Milosevic. I don't believe Mr. Milosevic has made any goodwill overture to us. He acts in accordance with what he thinks will serve his interests, and no amount of gestures on his part can in any way obscure or mask, as I've indicated before, the stench of evil that's emanating from the killing fields of Kosovo. So this is not a gesture of goodwill on his part as far as I'm concerned.
Q If I can follow that up, you said that he's a tyrant who operates through hatred and brutality. Does that mean that we --
SECRETARY COHEN: I said lies, I believe.
Q Does that mean we could not possibly negotiate a settlement with him? And if not, who would we negotiate a settlement with?
SECRETARY COHEN: We have indicated time and time again that we are not negotiating with Milosevic. We have laid down the five conditions that NATO has endorsed emphatically. He must meet those conditions. Then, once those conditions are met, there can be a proper resolution of this conflict. But until then, we will continue the air campaign and, indeed, we're going to intensify it substantially.
Q Is it correct that NATO has taken the decision that in enforcing the oil embargo, military force will not be used against a vessel that refuses to stop and be boarded?
SECRETARY COHEN: There has been no final determination of that issue. It may be phased in, in terms of starting the interdiction process, but there has been no final decision as whether force or not will be used.
Q That's still being debated within the NATO council?
SECRETARY COHEN: It's still being considered, it's not debated. I think they're considering it and taking it up during the course of this week and next.
Q What is General Clark's recommendation?
SECRETARY COHEN: I believe that -- well, I'll let General Clark speak for himself, but let me tell you what I think. I believe that an interdiction of program ought to mean precisely that, that ships that are violating either the EU resolution or NATO's resolution ought to be visited and searched. To the extent that can be brought about voluntarily, that certainly would be desirable. To the extent that it is not voluntary on their part, there certainly could be consequences that would be political in nature, economic in nature, and potentially military in nature. Whether the committee recommends that at this point remains to be determined. I'll let General Clark indicate what he thinks should be done.
Q What's your recommendation, General? Can you have an oil embargo if someone gets a free pass?
GENERAL CLARK: Our recommendation has been that we have a strong and effective oil embargo and also an embargo on other war-related material that can be used to assist their war machine. As we're trying to destroy it from the air, he's trying to resupply it and rebuild it from importing other goods and services, so we need a strong and effective regime.
To the extent that it's voluntary, that's great. To the extent that it can be induced by economic and political pressures, well and good. To the extent that it takes military assets out there to enforce it, then that's what we should have.
Q General Clark, General Naumann, the retiring Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, yesterday seemed to severely criticize this operation, saying the political leadership of NATO was forcing the military to fight with one hand behind its back, in effect suggesting that these limits were causing a needless delay in getting the job done. I wonder if you'd care to respond to that.
GENERAL CLARK: Well, I read the whole article, not the headlines, and I think that the headlines somewhat mischaracterized General Naumann's opinion. I'm very familiar with is opinion. We work together on a daily, even an hourly basis as we've gone through the preparation and the work leading up to this campaign. Every military operation has to be governed by the political ends that it seeks to attain. We did not enter this operation with an intent to crush Serbia or attack the people of Serbia. That's not the way it began, and as we've always said, it's not a war against the people of Serbia.
What we did say was that we were going to use air power as an inducement, a coercion, a compellance to convince President Milosevic to halt, to stop, cease or otherwise desist from what he was doing in Kosovo. And to the extent that he didn't do that, that he would suffer the attack, the diminishment, the degradation and ultimately, should he continue not to comply, the destruction of the assets that he most valued. That's been the consistent aim of the campaign, and I think the methods that have been followed have been fully in line with those aims.
Q General Clark, you mentioned in some detail the effectiveness of the attacks on the Yugoslavian military, and you also mentioned that the paramilitary thugs are still operating freely. What can be done to stop them? How effective has NATO been in combatting that and how serious a threat are they to the people of Kosovo who are still in the region?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, first of all, we've always said that the person who could ultimately stop the paramilitaries is the person who put them there, including letting the thugs out of jail, arming, training them, organizing them and sending them down there. That is President Milosevic and his coterie of paramilitary and military and political leaders who have carried out this policy of ethnic cleansing.
Yes, they still are a threat. We know from our sources that there are members of the UCK still at work inside Kosovo. In fact, one of the real surprises -- a most unpleasant surprise for President Milosevic, no doubt -- has been that rather than the quick, five-to-seven-day campaign that he boasted of before this started, in which he would completely crush the UCK and drive them off, they're stronger than ever and there are more of them than ever, because the kind of injustice and inhumanity that he's perpetrated builds its own resistance. So there are a number of brave people in there who are attempting to defend the displaced persons who are inside.
Meanwhile, NATO is doing all that it can, as I've said, to disrupt the command and control, to attack forces on the ground, to make their re-supply difficult, if not impossible, and to further isolate the forces that are in there. And one by one, group by group, set by set, we will attack and destroy them.
Q Gentlemen, you've lost two Apache helicopters and not a shot has been fired. How does that influence your thinking about the use of Apaches in Kosovo and when do you plan to use them?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, first of all, we knew when we put the Apaches over there that they had to be trained and they had to get into the operating environment and work in that operating environment. That training program is thorough, it's systematic and it's progressive and that training program is underway and continues this very day.
We've not given a specific date when they'll be used. They'll be used at a time and a place and in a manner which is best designed to take advantage of their own capabilities, which serves the strategic and tactical purposes of the campaign and, frankly, we're going to protect that sort of information until they are used.
Q Secretary Cohen, if I could follow up the Apaches for a moment. Has the President now given the authority for General Clark to use the Apaches? And, second of all, given the death of these two American pilots, are you -- do you believe that we've laid the groundwork with the American people for American casualties in this war? I mean, do you think that they're sufficiently prepared for this? And, finally, on this question of the two POWs, the Serb POWs, are you saying the they will or will not imminently be released?
SECRETARY COHEN: I'm saying we first have to complete some administrative work; they have to be interviewed completely by the International Red Cross and then a recommendation will come to me and at that time I'll evaluate it. I would expect that recommendation to come at some reasonably short period of time -- when, exactly, I can't say at this point.
On the Apaches, first let me point out that General Shelton and I, as well as General Clark, testified before Congress on quite a few occasions. We have made a number of public statements to the press at conferences and to other fora. On each and every occasion we have pointed out this is not a risk-free campaign, that we are likely to suffer casualties. Any campaign has inherent dangers involved to the people who are carrying out and prosecuting it. That is no different here.
We've tried to point out, for example, that the weather was a very complicating factor, a big challenge; that the environment, itself, given the rugged terrain, was also a major challenge; and that there was a significant and redundant air defense system. All of which should be taken into account as we carry out this campaign.
So we have prepared the American people for the fact that there would be casualties involved in any kind of an execution of a campaign. I'd point out that the Apaches, we have lost two Apaches in training missions now. But a week ago we lost seven of our men in another helicopter accident in Kentucky, Fort Campbell.
And so this is inherently dangerous business. This is why we come to pay tribute to the men and women who serve us, because they are training day in and day out, carrying out extraordinary difficult missions to make them the best prepared force in the world. And so we lose people during the course of their training. We will regrettably continue to lose them because we will train at a level and with an intensity that will make us the most professional and the most capable military in the world.
So I think that the American people understand this. The Congress certainly has been alerted to it. And we have been as up front as possible to say this is the danger involved, but this is what also is involved. We cannot afford to allow Milosevic to carry out this campaign while NATO sits on the sideline being indifferent. So we will wage this campaign and we will wage it successfully.
Q And on the question of authority?
SECRETARY COHEN: Authority -- General Clark is still in the training mode as such, right now. He's going to make sure that the men and women who are operating Apaches and the environment in which they operate is consistent with his best judgement as to when they should be employed and at that time he'll make a request to the President.
Q General Clark, if I may, it seems -- if you wouldn't mind coming to the microphone, sir -- it seems that strike aircraft are coming back with more battle damage than earlier phases in this campaign. Why is that and has the danger to American pilots increased recently?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, first of all, we've had two aircraft come back with battle damage, out of thousands of sorties by any historical comparison it's a very, very ineffective air defense that's been applied against us. We are flying at somewhat lower altitudes, especially in Kosovo, in an effort to do a better job hitting the targets and also to help reduce the chance of collateral damages and hitting innocent people down there.
But we've taken a measure of his air defense and we think that the risks that we're taking arrangements entirely consistent with good military judgement and the requirements for mission accomplishment. And I think that's what governs this campaign and that's the way we're flying.
Q -- higher now for American pilots, or less so?
SECRETARY COHEN: The dangers have gone down consistently since the very start of the campaign. We've taken the measure of his air defense. We know what's there, we know how he operates.
He, on the other hand, is increasingly desperate. At first, he wanted to take the measure of our capabilities. I think he tried to lay low. I think he thought maybe if he didn't strike back he wouldn't attempt to defend himself, he wouldn't lose anything; or perhaps that NATO would lose its resolve and give up in a few days and he'd never be tried.
Well, the trial is on. His forces are under the test every single day and every single day they've failed. Yesterday he launched a MiG-29 in an effort to pursue one of our groups as we were departing from a daylight operation over Serbia. We picked it up, we turned and we shot it down. It didn't take but a few seconds; wasn't much of an engagement; one more MiG-29 gone.
So I think the risks have gone down for our pilots on the whole, rather than up, as we continue to dismember his integrated air defense system.
Q Let me just follow up with one thing. Sir, given the progress that you've described to us here this morning, when can we expect the wholesale expulsion of refugees to end?
GENERAL CLARK: You'll have to ask President Milosevic this. His policy, or such as it is, his strategy is entirely inexplicable. He throws them out, he holds them in, he throws them out. Is it designed to simply punish them? Is it designed to use them as human shields? Is it designed to hold them there until they starve to death? I mean, none of us know what's in his mind, nor should we be expected to.
What he should do is invite them all back in, bring the NATO forces in to provide assurances of security, pull his forces out and end this on the terms that the international community has proscribed. That's the appropriate response and, really, that's the only thing that he could do that would be explicable to us at this stage.
Q So he and not NATO is in charge of that expulsion?
Q General Clark, you said there was -- when you talked about additional aircraft, can you tell us what you discussed with the President in the vein of additional aircraft, what progress has been made, for example on basing these additional aircraft, and anything you might say -- how soon and the impact it would have on the search and destroy, the effectiveness of the search and destroy aspect of the mission at this point?
GENERAL CLARK: To be clear, the details of all of the reinforcement have been worked out through the various countries involved, including through the United States military authorities, through General Shelton and Secretary Cohen. We told the President that everything is on track in terms of the reinforcement flow -- it is. New basing agreements are being reached. Over-flight permission has been secured. And what this is going to enable us to do is to greatly expand the areas that we're covering, intensify the coverage when the weather is most favorable and intensify it on those targets that are of highest priority to us. So the intensification is very much underway and we expect the full flow of assets within the next 30 days.
Q When you say that we're winning this war, are you confident that we'll win it in time, that refugees will not be still in these camps when cold weather arrives in the fall and winter? Or do the allies now need to start making contingency plans for providing shelter for them when it gets cold again?
GENERAL CLARK: Well, I'm not going to be able to make any predictions as to how soon President Milosevic is going to recognize the inevitable here. But I can tell you that in dealing with the humanitarian situation we, in NATO, are making every effort to help the international relief agencies and the UNACR make full provision for the realities of the terrible tragedy that's been perpetrated against these people. Crops haven't been planted in Kosovo, so the food supply is not there. Homes have been destroyed, roofs ripped off, houses and apartments blown up and whole villages apparently just destroyed inside Kosovo. So even when they're allowed to go home, life won't be normal for a while and it won't be something the international community can turn its backs on.
So I think that, yes, we have to look very much ahead, past the summer into the autumn, the winter and even into the next spring in terms of the continuing issues for relieving the humanitarian distress that's been caused here by President Milosevic.
Q Secretary Cohen, could you please describe more fully the connection between Mr. Milosevic's release of the three American prisoners of war and your inclination to perhaps release the two Serbian prisoners of war? We all know that Jesse Jackson went there, negotiated the release, and then he came to the White House and suggested to the President that perhaps the President should sort of return the favor. Is that why you did that? And secondly, one of these prisoners I thought had cooperated with us by giving us some information about how many deserters there were. And would that cause a problem to release him back to Serbs, would he be in danger then?
SECRETARY COHEN: Well, first of all, I'm not aware of what any prisoner has indicated or told to those who are questioning him at this point. And so I can't comment on that.
With respect to whether or not we're going to release this -- in response Jesse Jackson's recommendation, I think that the answer is we will consider releasing them at an appropriate time once the administrative work is completed and once there has been a completion of the International Red Cross examination of these prisoners.
Beyond that, I would not indicate any reciprocal gestures. I don't believe that Milosevic acts out of any generosity. I think he's tried to act out of self-interest. As General Clark has indicated on many occasions before, Milosevic has miscalculated on virtually everything that he assumed would take place with respect to the West. I think he has miscalculated here, believing that by releasing these three soldiers that somehow would serve to undermine NATO unity and commitment to this campaign.
So we're going to continue. Whether or not these two individuals are in fact returned to Serbia remains to be determined. But in any event, it will not impede our intensification of the air campaign. We're going forward.
Q Can I try it this way -- if they hadn't released those three, would you be inclined to release these two?
SECRETARY COHEN: I would listen to the recommendation of General Clark and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in terms of whether they should be turned over.
Q Secretary Cohen, just to clarify that part, earlier in this press conference, when I asked you, do you plan on releasing them, you said "at an appropriate time, I would recommend that." Are you now backing away --
SECRETARY COHEN: No. I said based upon the administrative work and their examination by the International Red Cross, that would be my inclination. I didn't say that they would, in fact, be released; it would be my inclination to recommend that, but I have to wait until the process is complete. And I would expect that to be done in a reasonably short period of time; exactly when, I don't know, but I'd say in a matter of days.
Q General Clark, could I just follow up one quick question? When you're talking about that -- you said that you're going to bring them down and close them down and take them out -- can you do that without using ground troops?
GENERAL CLARK: We're already doing it without using ground troops. That list of attack targets I read off to you is something that's -- we've gone beyond, and many of you will eventually be talking to the men and women who are running this air campaign on a minute-by-minute basis down there. They're doing things with intelligence, with targeting, with planning, with flexibility that, in my experience, had never been done in an air campaign before.
So I think the proof is not in the future, the proof's in the present. It's what's happened just in the last couple of days.
Q Secretary Cohen, if we were to release the Serb POWs, what kind of message do you expect Milosevic to get from that?
SECRETARY COHEN: I'm not sure Milosevic gets any message. Frankly, as I look at the interviews that have been conducted by he and his family, they have denied that there is any ethnic cleansing taking place. Again, they have indicated blatantly that there has been no purging, there have been no people who have been forced to leave their homes as if somehow these long lines of people who are now on the borders of Albania, Macedonia and elsewhere are somehow on a pilgrimage to peace. This is a flagrant lie that's being told by him, so I'm not sure that anything that we say or do would -- how it would influence his judgment. I think his judgment is seriously misguided, and that's why he has miscalculated about our reaction in the past. I suspect he will need to have greater persuasion to see the light of truth of what is taking place. So we'll see what takes place.
As far as this air campaign is concerned, he should understand several things. The NATO Alliance remains committed to carrying forth the campaign; he must meet those five conditions and anything short of that will not be acceptable.
Q Schroeder of Germany -- got a big problem with --
SECRETARY COHEN: All of the NATO countries are holding. That came out of the NATO Summit just 10 days ago. They were very strong then, they continue to be strong, and we expect this campaign to continue until such time as those conditions are met.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:40 P.M. (L)