Examination of witnesses (Questions 1140
WEDNESDAY 21 JUNE 2000
MOORE and MR
1140. But on 12 April 1999 the Chief of Defence
Staff said publicly: "I wish to make it clear, absolutely
clear, once again, what our position is of today. Neither NATO
nor the United Kingdom have any plans for a proposed invasion
of Kosovo by force." When I challenged him on this, when
he gave evidence on 15 March, his reply was: "We obviously
had to go along with what the market could bear."
So I come back to my original question: would it not have been
a lot better if the market had been able to bear telling Milosevic
at the outset what you evidently told him later, quite rightly,
that ground forces might be used? Was not NATO undermining its
deterrent capability by sending him a signal, at the outset, that
this was the one thing he did not have to worry about?
(Mr Hoon) The most important phrase in what you quoted
was "of today". I have made it clear that there is throughout
a campaignand this has been true of almost any campaign
in any war that I can think ofthere is an inevitable tension,
where you have a number of allies seeking to work together who
are democracies; who have to have regard to public opinion; who
have to have regard to the stated foreign policy position of those
countries to work together in this kind of military operation.
That is quite a difficult and demanding process.
1141. If you had to do it again, would you say
that again, at the outset?
(Mr Hoon) Let me finish. The reality is that graduated
responses will change according to the circumstances; according
to what is necessary. What I was askedand I could not deal
with the specific question of the datebut what I can emphasise
is that had it been necessary, we had a plan that would have allowed
the ground force option to have been deployed and to have been
1142. What would have happened to the coalition
then? Would you have kept the 19 together?
(Mr Hoon) I am pretty confident we would have done.
I think there was a growing recognition that this might become
necessary. Frankly, in the course of the bombing campaign, at
each stage when we thought that Milosevicbecause we assumed
that he was a sensible rational leader of his people, who might
have some regard to their welfarewe assumed he would back
Mr Hood: Where was the evidence for that?
1143. After Bosnia!
(Mr Hoon) The reality was that it did not prove to
be the case for longer than we had anticipated but in the end
he did back down. One or two peopleI think Julian made
the point earliergave an explanation. I do not think that,
in the end, any of us knows precisely what it was that persuaded
Milosevic to back off. No-one knows what was the single most important
factor or whether it was a combination of factors, or which factor
it was, but the reality was that he did back down. That is why
the questions about the resort to ground forces can only be speculation.
1144. Do you think NATO's credibility, internally
and externally, has been enhanced as a result of the Kosovo operations?
(Mr Hoon) I think it has been greatly strengthened.
It has demonstrated our ability to work together. It has demonstrated
that this ability ultimately was successful; and crucially that
we were able to be successful without loss of life on our side.
On any test of a military campaign, this is a pretty remarkable
1145. Last February you gave us evidence on
European security and defence. You told us then that the Kosovo
operation, Operation Allied Force "could have been"
one of the so-called Petersberg tasks undertaken by the European
Allies. What you actually said though was that this was not likely
to have been the case in the near future. What you said was: "It
could have been but I think it is realistic to say that the scale
of that operation was such that it is not something which today,
given the present level of European capability, European nations
could have conducted outside NATO and certainly without the United
Do you still hold to the view conceptually, as opposed to the
question of capabilities, that an operation such as Operation
Allied Force could have come up under the category of a Petersberg
task; that is to say, a task that could be undertaken by the European
nations outside NATO as crisis management, without the United
States being directly involved?
(Mr Hoon) I agree with what I said on
that previous occasion. I am not sure I could improve on what
I said to you. What I said to you was that I felt that the Petersberg
definition was sufficiently broad to incorporate the kind of activity
that we were involved in, in Kosovo, but it was clear from all
the lessons that we have learned and clear from our reservations
of our European capabilities, that Europe as of today is not able
to mount the scale of operation that Kosovo required. I do not
think there can be any argument about that. In a sense, I am standing
by what I said. That I am confident that Kosovo does fall within
what is a very broad definition of the Petersberg tasks, but that
we need to do a great deal more before the European nations could
be in a position to carry out such a campaign without resort either
to NATO assets or, frankly, to the United States.
1146. I will come back to the broadness of definition
in a second, if I may, but let us move the timescale on a bit
and suppose that this so-called European Security and Defence
Identity has become more of a reality and that we are indeed,
as European nations, able to put into the field at relatively
short notice some 50 or 60,000 personnel and keep them in action
for, I believe, a year, which means presumably similar numbers
to be in training and similar numbers to be resting. It is a very
big commitment. Let us suppose that this so-called headline goal
is achieved by 2003. Do you think then, if we had that force,
that we could, as Europeans, undertake a similar operation without
United States support, although admittedly using NATO assets?
(Mr Hoon) There is little doubt, at the moment, given
what we know about the Kosovo campaign and the kind of equipment
assets that were required, that even then we would not be in a
position, given the capabilities we are setting out in the headline
goal, to be able to conduct precisely this kind of operation.
This is because very many of the assets, particularly in the air
campaign, are simply not assets that European nations for the
moment have available.
1147. That is a very frank and helpful answer.
It pretty well anticipates the next question but I would like
to put it to you for the sake of confirmation. One example obviously
in a campaign of this sort, which was primarily an air campaign,
was the crucial ability, which your own document Lessons from
points out, to suppress enemy air defences.
Do you think Europe will ever have the sort of specialist aircraft
that is necessary for such a task? Do you think, for example,
even if we wanted them, that the Americans would be willing to
supply them to us for our own purchases?
(Mr Hoon) That is something that we set out very clearly,
as you fairly say, in the report. It is something that we have
to look at. It is not only the United Kingdom that is doing that.
You concentrated on the headline goal, but you will be aware there
is a parallel process in NATO to enhance Alliance-wide equipment
capability; and the suppression of anti-aircraft equipment is
part of that process. So it is not simply in the context of a
headline goal that we are identifying the shortfalls. Across NATO
there is a consideration that allies must do more and that we
should not be dependent solely on the United States supplying
that kind of equipment. That is something we are examining and
something which is being looked at in the context of NATO.
1148. Would you at least agree then that if
we are going to be dependent for some considerable time on the
United States for the ability to suppress enemy air defences,
there can be no question of us undertaking another aerial campaign
without the United States capabilities for carrying out that vital
(Mr Hoon) That is a very open-ended question in the
sense that it clearly depends on the scale. I would agree with
you that if you had said, for example, another Kosovo style aerial
(Mr Hoon) It is perhaps trivial in the context, but
we did have some aircraft over flying Sierra Leone. Fortunately,
they did not have to use any weapons but they were there. Whether
I could describe it as an aerial campaign might be something of
an exaggeration. It depends on the scale. There are undoubtedly
air campaigns that we could conduct as a country on our own. There
are other campaigns that we could conduct with appropriate European
allies. If you had said to me, as I have already conceded, "Could
we conduct tomorrow, or even in the near term, a Kosovo style
air campaign?" I would say we could not without involving
the United States.
(Rear Admiral Moore) Just to go further with that.
Of course, some NATO allies do have significant SEAD capabilities,
which they used in the context of Kosovo. it is predominantly
American but it is not, by any means, totally American. The Germansand,
I believe, the French toohave got significant air capabilities
1150. Finally, on this question of definition,
you will recall, Secretary of State, that we had discussions along
these lines in February. Petersberg tasks are suppose to be tasks
of crisis management, whereas the operation in Kosovo was something
very close to being a war. I still put it to you again today,
as I did then, that when we consider that at least one of the
two World Wars started with an incident in the Balkans, that gave
us less than a fortnight's warning that we were going to be involvedas
the inquests into the origins of the First World War later showedand
the assassination of an archduke by a Bosnian was not even raised
in Parliament until less than a fortnight before the outbreak
of the First World War: do you not feel that it is dangerous for
something along the lines of the Petersberg tasks, which are supposed
to be deal with crisis management and peace keeping, to embrace
something like the Kosovo operation which could escalate into
something so much more serious?
(Mr Hoon) I cannot fault the logic. It certainly could.
Those are circumstances which could occur. I cannot deny that.
At the same time, I am not sure we learn much from it, frankly.
Those kinds of historic comparisons really do not assist very
much. I was tempted earlier, when we were talking about political
control over military decisions, to say that I recently visited
the Somme. I doubt today that any government could survive very
long if it allowed 50,000 of its troops to die on the first day.
That reflects a very different kind of world in which information
and communication are supplied very much more rapidly. That is
part of the discussion, in a sense, that we have been having already.
So I am not sure those comparisons help. The reality isand
this is, in a sense, what I hope I have been saying throughout
this morningwe have to deal with a situation as it confronts
us and take appropriate decisions in the light of those circumstances.
1151. I am grateful for that. My last point
is just this. Surely we ignore history at our peril because if
we look back, for example, at the appeasement years, we constantly
draw lessons from that as to why appeasement does not work. Surely
we ought to look back at the way in which crises can escalate
out of control and draw lessons from that when we are constructing
things like a European security defence identity, which is purported
to deal with a lower level of operation but which could see us
sucked into something, which if NATO dealt with, might have been
(Mr Hoon) I think in one sense you make a sensible
point because undoubtedly with the benefit of historyand
I am certainly not going to ignore the lessons of history, we
ought to learn something from itbut the reality is, especially
in the modern world, that we are aware of crises, almost instantaneously,
that would not have even registered a flicker, even say 25 years
ago, and certainly not 50 or 60 years ago. We are aware precisely
what is happening in Fiji or the Solomon Islands almost instantly.
We have live television footage from crises. It appears in our
living rooms instantly. In those circumstances that undoubtedly
has an effect on public opinion; and in a democracy that is something
which governments rightly have to take account of. Therefore,
the consequences for the decision making process are significant
and we have to allow for those. So I am not saying we do not learn
lessons from history but those lessons are brought into much sharper
focus, particularly because of the very significant changes in
the way in which information is available to all of us now in
the modern world. That is why actually those historical comparisons
are quite difficult, because they were operating in a very different
world where information simply did not travel as rapidly.
1152. I think it would be physically impossible
to lose more than 50,000 British troops, as we only have 100,000;
so two days' worth and you would be down to your Reserves. As
Mr Brazier has gone, we are not going pursue this any further.
I would like to come back to what you said about electronic warfare
and suppression of enemy air defences. In this excellent report,
Lessons from the Crisis, it was saying how the United States
provided the bulk of this capability. This is paragraph 7.43 at
page 42. That the United States provides almost all that capability
and our aircraft are limited in number. Why has it taken so long
for Europe or for the rest of NATO or for the Ministry of Defence
to be considering a capability other than that of the United States?
If we are considering it, how long will it take before that consideration
is translated into a capability similar to the Prowler aircraft
that the United States has?
(Rear Admiral Moore) I think that we have had a SEAD
capability of a sort for many years. SEAD now means a very high-tech
electronic means of waging war but it did not before. The suppression
of enemy air defence could be a well targeted bomb or a rocket.
It is perhaps, as a result of the on-rush of the availability
of technology, that the United States has been able to harness
this, because of the money they can throw at it in a way that
Europe cannot. But it is not a new thing. It is just that now
the possibilities are so much wider and so much more expensive.
1153. Could we lease them from the United States?
Could Europe lease them? It is something that we would need to
acquire off the shelf or wait ten, 15, 20 years to be able to
replicate, by which time technology would have marched on even
(Rear Admiral Moore) I am afraid equipment is not
my area but we are examining exactly those options.
(Mr Hoon) There is very considerable work underway
on looking at this but in a sense, it is partly your point, technology
moves on very quickly, we have to make a judgment at what point
we have the right technology, and the best technology so that
is not superseded by developments elsewhere. Work is underway
in a vigorous way to get this right.
1154. I have got some specific questions but
I would like to go over two points, one you made, Secretary of
State, and one Mr Webb made. The first one is to you when you
answered Jamie Cann's question about targeting and you said that
there were legal constraints about the targets that he suggested
should have been hit first, but you subsequently hit those targets
around Belgrade so what were the legal constraints that were lifted?
Was the law changed, did something happen, because you subsequently
went on to attack the very targets that some people were suggesting
were the right ones in the first place?
(Mr Hoon) When I said there were legal constraints,
I was not referring to any of the particular targets that we hit.
All of the targets we hit were on the basis of appropriate legal
advice which was very carefully considered. So none of the targets
that were selected were selected other than following careful
legal advice. What I was indicating in answer to Jamie earlier
on was that there were some targets that we would judge were contrary
to international law and we did not attack them. We did not attack,
for example, civilian targets, pure and simple. We did not conduct
any kind of terror campaign which has been a feature of aerial
warfare in the past. We did not seek to damage the civilian population
of the former Republic of Yugoslavia because we judged that would
not be consistent with principles of international law.
1155. But Mr Webb said a significant effort
was being made on the media front and it was many weeks into the
campaign when you considered that targeting the television station
was a legitimate target. If you believe what Mr Webb said that
Mr Milosevic was very adept at using the media and giving his
message across pretty quickly, that surely should have been a
target from day one?
(Mr Hoon) I indicated to you, and I do not think there
is any argument about this, that this was a graduated campaign.
A range of targets was selected and judgments are then made as
to the military benefit of hitting any given target bearing in
mind as well, as I said earlier, that the situation over Belgrade
in particular, but also in other parts of the former Republic
of Yugoslavia, was not benign. This was not a safe theatre in
which to operate. This was a remarkably dangerous place for pilots
to operate in.
1156. But you had Cruise missiles at your disposal.
(Mr Hoon) These are judgments that are made according
to the military benefits that follow from striking particular
targets. We do not strike all of the targets on the first day.
This is a process and indeed in this particular campaign there
was a graduated process, again because we hoped that Milosevic
would recognise that we meant business, and it took him longer
to do so than we thought was going to be the case.
1157. Can I go to the specific point directed
to Mr Webb. In your comments you talked about the ability of people
closest to the action to have first bite of the media response
to it and I think one would be right to interpret what you were
saying as the truth counts so you had to verify before you made
responses. Why was it then that the Ministry of Defence and NATO
were so adept at putting out misleading information about what
we had succeeded in hitting in the way of armour day after day
if you were not so concerned about verifying whether that was
actually true or not?
(Mr Webb) The point I was trying to make earlier on
was not about media facilities.
1158. No, use.
(Mr Webb) It was simply the point that there is an
inherent advantage on the part of the person on the ground being
able to get the story out first. I think the answer is that the
Ministry of Defence was trying extremely hard to verify and then
to report what it thought the position was and sometimes it happens
that subsequent reports lead you to change what you say first
off, but the intention to tell the truth about this was, I think,
part of the overall campaign if only because it is in our own
interests that people believe that we are telling the truth or
at least trying to tell the truth, sometimes in a situation of
(Mr Hoon) And the very considerable detail of the
battle damage assessment details are published and they are available
on NATO's Internet site with some very considerable information
supplied and published by General Clerk. So this is information
that is publicly available and you will know, I am sure better
than I, that battle damage assessment is not an exact science.
1159. Having been to Kosovo very shortly afterwards
I for one did not see too much evidence of damaged armour. It
must have been in the bunkers where he hid the other tanks and
he must have hidden the damaged ones away as well. The interesting
thing is that I have never met anyone who found the bunkers that
all these things were hidden in.
(Mr Hoon) I say it is not an exact science because,
for example, we are not in a position to say precisely how many
tanks were withdrawn, when they were the withdrawn, whether those
that were withdrawn were damaged and how they were damaged. What
I can say is what I said earlier on, our campaign was successful
in ensuring that those pieces of equipment did not threaten our
forces and that seems to me militarily quite a sufficient degree
4 Ev p 7, para 28. Back
5 HC 264 p 8, para 35. Back
6 Cm 4724. Back