U.S. won't help reconstruct Yugoslavia until Milosevic out of power, Clinton says
June 11, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will not help to rebuild war-torn Yugoslavia while Slobodan Milosevic remains head of that country, President Bill Clinton says.
In an Oval Office address to the American people Thursday night, Clinton delivered a stern message to the Yugoslav people: "As long as your nation is ruled by an indicted war criminal, we will provide no support for the reconstruction of Serbia."
Clinton said NATO must make sure the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians forced from their homes return safely, that Yugoslav troops withdraw from the province within the specified time frame and that international peacekeepers move in "to protect all the people of that troubled land."
Clinton said The United States and its NATO allies "achieved a victory for a safer world" in Kosovo.
"For the first time in 79 days, the skies over Yugoslavia are silent," Clinton said. "An unnecessary conflict has been brought to a just and honorable conclusion."
Clinton said now the job is to prosecute war criminals, rebuild war damage and return refugees. He said NATO's victory brings new hope that the world will not look the other way when people are persecuted for their race or faith.
Clinton also thanked the men and women of the U.S. armed forces for their service, and thanked the American people for "standing up to ethnic cleansing" and helping the Kosovar refugees.
Clinton plans to visit Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on Friday to express his appreciation to some of the troops who participated in the air war, which began March 24. Whiteman is the base for B-2 bombers that were used in the war.
In his speech, Clinton also praised the unity of NATO during the campaign against Yugoslavia.
"NATO has achieved this success as a united alliance ... Nineteen democracies came together and stayed together through the stiffest military challenge in NATO's 50-year history," he said.
The American leader also reached out to the uncertain ally of Russia.
"Thanks to President (Boris) Yeltsin, who opposed our military effort, but supported diplomacy to end the conflict on terms that met our conditions," Clinton said. "Now, I hope Russian troops will join us in the force that will keep the peace in Kosovo, just as they have in Bosnia."
Albright calls Milosevic 'clear loser'
A few hours before the president spoke, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was interviewed on CNN. She denied critics' claims that the war in Yugoslavia was "Madeleine's war."
"It was a war by the democracies, led by President Clinton, against what is a basic evil that had to be eradicated at the end of the 20th century," Albright said.
"I have spent a lot of time with my colleagues from the 19 democracies -- it's their war, it was all our war, and now it's everybody's victory," said Albright, adding that one leader involved in the conflict came up short.
"There is a clear loser, and that is Slobodan Milosevic, who has led his country to disaster and who has lost control over Kosovo," she said.
Clinton also sent a message to the people of Yugoslavia during his televised address.
"You should know that your leaders could have kept Kosovo as a part of your country ... without inviting a single NATO bomb to fall on your country," Clinton said.
"You endured 79 days of bombing, not to keep Kosovo a province of Serbia, but simply because Mr. Milosevic was determined to eliminate Kosovar Albanians from Kosovo, dead or alive," said the president.
"As long as your nation is ruled by an indicted war criminal, we will provide no support for the reconstruction of Serbia," Clinton warned. But he promised humanitarian aid and he said the United States would help Serbia build a better future when "its government represents tolerance and freedom, not repression and terror."
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that the precision bombing of Operation Allied Force pummeled Yugoslavia's military machine while limiting civilian casualties in the country.
"We achieved our goals with the most precise application of air power in history," Cohen said.
"Three months ago Yugoslavia was a heavily armed country with a significant air defense system," Cohen told reporters. "We reduced that defense system threat by destroying over 80 percent of Yugoslavia's modern air fighters and strategic surface-to-air missiles."
Cohen said NATO missiles and bombs destroyed more than 50 percent of Yugoslavia's artillery and more than 33 percent of its armored vehicles.
The alliance reduced the country's capacity to make ammunition by 66 percent and destroyed its oil refining ability at more than 40 percent of its military fuel supply sites, he said.
He said 35 percent of the bombs and missiles used were precision guided, with the majority dropped on oil refineries, ammunition storage sites and troop staging areas, enabling NATO to hold down civilian casualties.
"Of more than 23,000 bombs and missiles used, we have confirmed just 20 incidents of weapons going astray from their targets to cause collateral damage," he said.
About 75 percent of Belgrade and 35 percent of Yugoslavia overall remains without electrical power due to the NATO bombings, said Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He said NATO used both "hard-kill" and "soft-kill" weapons on Yugoslavia's electrical systems. Soft-kill weapons allow power to be restored within 72 hours or weeks, while hard-kill weapons cause damage that could take years to repair, the general said.
The judicious weapon choice by NATO was the only reason all of Serbia was not in the dark, Shelton said.
'Magnificent job' by pilots
Cohen cited the "magnificent job that our pilots did" for the record of 78 straight days of air attacks with no fatalities and only two planes lost.
As for criticism by some that ground troops would have ended the conflict sooner, Cohen said that the debate among NATO members about the need for ground troops made it impossible to make a quick decision to deploy them.
The air campaign "was the best option under the circumstance, and ultimately has proved successful," Cohen said.
"This was a fight over values, a fight against ethnic and religious hatred, a lack of tolerance for others and the right to live in peace," he added.
Cohen warned that the upcoming peacekeeping mission to Kosovo was not without risk to NATO troops.
The peacekeeping operation is likely to cost U.S. taxpayers $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year, Cohen said.
That figure does not include the cost of returning the hundreds of warplanes and thousands of troops that the Pentagon has sent to the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe since March 24 to carry out the airstrikes.
Pentagon officials said Yugoslav forces are required to withdraw from different parts of Kosovo in phases with three distinct deadlines.
Reuters contributed to this report.
U.N. Security Council standing by for Kosovo vote
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