Center for Strategic Decision Research


Special Address

General Wesley K. Clark
Supreme Allied Commander Europe


During the last few years, the NATO Workshop has been held in Dresden, in Warsaw, and in Prague. Holding these meetings in these cities symbolizes the changes that have occurred in Europe and in NATO in this decade—the West has opened its arms in friendship, dialogue, and support. And this year’s Workshop is held in Vienna, a city that is and always has been at the center of European security issues.

Vienna, with its great history, is central to Europe in many ways, linking South and North, mediating between East and West, helping to integrate different regional traditions, and serving as a forum for dialogue and understanding. Vienna has close historical ties to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—the three countries that will join the Alliance in 1999—and to other countries that are interested in cooperating closely with our Alliance. In July of 1998, Austria will for the first time hold the EU presidency, a further sign of the changing role Austria will play in Europe and in the international community in the upcoming years.

At such a busy time for them, I want to thank our hosts for providing this magnificent palace for our workshop so soon after it was rebuilt, and for taking the time to welcome us.


In May 1998, I was in Prague. There President Havel told me about his vision for the future of Europe. We spoke about the many wars that started in Europe, and the fact that Europe often exported war and instability to other parts of the world.

President Havel’s vision was that Europe would change. In the future, Europe would export stability and peace to the rest of the world.

Just before presenting this paper, I was in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Srebrenica, where soldiers from NATO and SFOR are working to import peace and stability. The area, almost three years after one of the late-20th century’s most gruesome crimes, is still a forlorn place, ravaged by destruction, peopled by refugees longing to return home, and a silent witness to the terrible repressed passions released in the Balkans in this decade.

But even there a new spirit is struggling to emerge, a spirit spurred by the need to face the future and, for most, the will to put aside the hatreds and fears of the past. And in the midst of this are our SFOR soldiers, in many different uniforms and throughout Bosnia, providing the bedrock of security on which peace and reconciliation can take root and grow.

It is upon this scene that I would like to reflect now—on its origin, its significance, and the consequences and challenges for the armed forces who participate and for the Alliance that they serve.


Some years ago, there was a sense of relief, triumph, and even wonder that the Cold War struggle was over. A “new world order” was proclaimed by no less an authority than the U.S. President. And an American historian announced to much acclaim that we had witnessed “the end of history.”

This was premature euphoria—and we knew it at the time. The dramatic events of the early ‘90s merely provided new and different opportunities to achieve a strengthened framework for peace, security, and prosperity in Europe. Serious work on the security structures of Europe continue.

For example, the CSCE was transformed from a forum for negotiation and dialogue to an organization, the OSCE, with an active operational structure. Its field missions now provide excellent early warning of crisis. It provides outstanding monitoring of elections and development of electoral and human rights institutions. We admire and give thanks for its arms control activities in an era in which arms control continues to expand in scope and effectiveness to accommodate changes in the European security landscape.

NATO also embarked on a program of internal and external adaptation. Following the development of a new Strategic Concept in 1991, this adaptation saw the adoption of Partnership for Peace, the approval of a new command structure, the formation of more flexible military structures such as the Combined Joint Task Force concept, and, of course, the decision to enlarge the Alliance. NATO has also embarked on new relationships with Russia and Ukraine and, with the Western European Union, is developing the European Security and Defense Identity in which “separable but not separate” military capabilities of the Alliance will become available for use under the strategic direction and control of the WEU.


NATO’s adaptation has been timely indeed, for a new set of dangers has emerged. We have seen a resurgence of nationalist aspirations. Regional instability has ripped countries apart as factions—once formed to subordinate their own goals and interests—compete with no holds barred. Historical flashpoints reappeared in the Balkans and within the periphery of the Former Soviet Union. We also have reason to be concerned about potentially aggressive states in North Africa and about Iraq and Iran. The unremitting pressure of radical ideologies from the South has fed some of this instability, and because of disintegrating defense industries, corruption, or perhaps malign intent, some nations with different values and interests have acquired key technologies and weapons of mass destruction. Such capabilities have once again brought the threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to our homes, the most recent reminders of which are the tests of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan. Some of these weapons proliferators and recipients are so-called rogue states; they covet the territories and resources of their neighbors. And they are not above using conventional or unconventional methods to obtain them, seemingly without regard for international laws and norms of proper behavior.

Now, these are regrettable—but more or less predictable—problems. However, dealing with them is complicated by an international environment that is becoming ever more globally interdependent. Today, trade, finance, investments, human labor, technologies, even culture flow easily across borders. Minor events in distant places reverberate across the globe at ever-increasing speeds, triggering unanticipated reactions and consequences. This interdependency, frankly, is magnified by efforts at European integration.

Europe has few boundaries now and will have even fewer soon. In the Europe of today, Germany, Belgium, and, increasingly, the United Kingdom are truly next door to the troubled region of the Balkans and Northern Africa. This new state of transnational dangers is the result of both the ease of access and the expansion of ties so vital to the prosperity we seek—particularly in nations coping with far-reaching political, social, and economic transformations. Such dangers include the emergence of more violent transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, civil insurgency, and uncontrollable migrant flows. We have now entered an Information Age complete with the vulnerability of interdependent economies and societies.

I would be remiss not to point out that we face these new dangers with ever-reduced resources for defense and security. In a familiar 20th century pattern the disappearance of the traditional threat posed to Europe swiftly brought a decline in investment in the means of security.

Along with this familiar old pattern, another, more profoundly disturbing old pattern may have reemerged—bipolar rigidity. While its disappearance provided welcome opportunities to engage old adversaries, it offers new temptations now for competing national interests. Some have even warned about flirtations with 19th-century balance-of-power politics in pursuit of national interests, a warning that must be treated with utmost gravity. The idea that nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests, is an old one—and one that resulted in much mischief indeed. It is an idea that we are trying to work against by strengthening the permanent security structures of NATO.


The focus of the challenges we face—and indeed the litmus test of our ability to respond to the new problems facing us—is in the Balkans. And it is by now an old and familiar story:

  • A country created in the aftermath of World War I has been convulsed by a secession, civil war, ethnic cleansing, and genocide—and it is not yet over.
  • Four nations—Slovenia, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina—broke away, with Croatia regaining control over most of its territory in a final victorious military campaign in 1995.
  • Almost 75% of Bosnia was controlled by Milosevic and his Serb colleagues, who then turned Clausewitz’s dictum on its head. They sought to continue and consolidate the gains of war through other means by manipulating a peace agreement.
  • As part of the peace agreement, NATO accepted the mission to ensure implementation of the military aspects, including the transfer of territory, and to support the international civil agencies and the specially created Office of the High Representative in implementing the civil aspects of the agreement.
  • Today, two and a half years into that mission, implementation progress in Bosnia-Herzegovina is clear:
  • Hostilities have ended there; former warring factions have been separated and have moved into garrisons under close inspection; 300,000 men are no longer under arms.
  • Arms control is progressing very well and structures for military cooperation are in place.
  • Joint governing institutions are beginning to evolve and take hold.
  • Three sets of elections have been held and show potential for pluralism and the replacement of wartime parties.
  • The new government in Srpska appears fully committed to implementing the Dayton Agreement.
  • Airports, rail lines, and river ports are open; media restructuring is underway.
  • Police restructuring to build a police service that supports democratic institutions and serves its citizens has been agreed to and is underway.
  • Over 222,000 displaced persons and 218,000 refugees have returned.
  • Indicted war criminals are gradually being brought to justice—almost half of which are in The Hague.
  • An iimplementing force that began with nearly 60,000 personnel has been reduced to 35,000.

And NATO should be very proud indeed of the fundamental role it has played there.

While there has been great progress, hard work remains. Old dreams are still in place. Many among the former warring factions have yet to give up their war aims. We have made progress enabling refugees to return, but the yearning to return remains unfulfilled for hundreds of thousands. There are still almost 2 million refugees and displaced persons in host countries. Additionally, economic development, although improving, is still a fraction of the pre-war level. And while SFOR troops have bravely brought in persons indicted for war crimes that they have encountered—and there is a trickle of surrenders—considerable work remains in bringing to justice those who committed the most horrific of crimes.


But while the international community—with NATO at the forefront—patiently and firmly tries to reestablish stability in Bosnia, the situation in Kosovo is deteriorating fast, and the familiar Balkan dynamic of ethnic strife and repression is again in play. Ninety percent of the population of this beleaguered region has been effectively subjugated—held in check in almost colonial status—by a Serb minority supported by a strong military presence and an Interior Ministry police force that remains in place in defiance of the expressed will of the international community. Once again, villages are being destroyed by artillery and populations are in motion, leaving threatened areas and fleeing to safe havens, mainly in Albania.

Those who have studied or worked the issues in the Balkans have always feared that Kosovo would be the ultimate firestorm. It was in every discussion during the negotiations at Dayton three years ago. Albanian populations in adjacent countries ring the formerly autonomous region. Weapons abound and flow across the rugged, mountainous borders. Economies in the region still suffer from the effects of the economic embargo imposed on the rump Yugoslavian state some five years ago.

The repressed majority is increasingly radicalized and turning toward violence. And need I say it again: we have seen this before. Are we now in the opening stages of another Balkan War?


If we are to be successful in the Balkans—which is the crux of our current dangers—and also be successful in meeting other security problems facing us, we must meet three challenges. First, of course, our military implementation force must remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina a while longer. The decision to do this has been made. This is no easy burden, especially for European allies who are entering their seventh year of commitment to this troubled region.

But this is the rub: the military tasks in Bosnia are largely done. To be sure, they must be sustained—but the real challenge now is to move ahead with the civil implementation promptly, undeterred by the remaining hardheads fighting agreement. This cannot be done without NATO—but for the most part we, the military, cannot do it ourselves.

Simultaneously, the Alliance is moving—as it must—to find a way to deal with the Kosovo issue. We have learned from our experience with Bosnia: as Secretary General Solana said, “NATO will not stand idly by.” We are engaged. NATO’s political leaders have made some decisions already—our recent air exercise demonstrating NATO’s powerful and flexible capabilities showed the political and military agility of the Alliance—and we hope that the message has been received: all prefer a purely diplomatic solution. But in the event that diplomacy is not enough, we must remember that any prospective military actions must serve a larger political purpose. They must be placed within a diplomatic framework with clear, attainable objectives, and with the military consequences—costs, risks, likely outcomes—thought through. Then, if it becomes necessary to move ahead, we must do so resolved to see our actions through to the aim we seek.

Our efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in support of the Kosovo issue, however, cannot be effective in isolation. And this leads me to our second challenge. Our efforts must be embedded in and reinforced by the larger search for security and stability in Europe. In this regard, we must cope with the continuous evolution of international institutions, forums, and processes that provide a framework for facing the problems ahead. And we must build on the strengths and foundations that have served us well in the past. We must adapt to face complex new problems and, above all, avoid a return to the failed practices of a century ago.

NATO has now become the fundamental bedrock of our security, not just for the West, but also for most of the nations in Central and Eastern Europe—nations that know that the European security horizon is not measured in months or years but in decades. With nearly 50 years of service, NATO has demonstrated the endurance, resilience, coherence, and structure needed to provide this security.

To do so, NATO must follow through with accession, and keep the door open to future enlargement as its leaders declared at the Madrid Summit in the summer of ‘97. We in the military are working to support this effort.

Moreover, NATO needs to keep reaching out to nations that want to cooperate with us. To this end, SHAPE has a Russian deputy and a brigade of Russian paratroopers serving with us in Bosnia. We also have been able to cooperate more closely with Russia through the Permanent Joint Council. And the importance of this channel of dialogue is already clear—deepening understanding, enabling consultations, and forging Allied consensus in full light of the probable opinions, policies, and reactions of others. It is clear that we need to develop a strong network of European and international security institutions in a way that enhances NATO and its effectiveness while enhancing these international security institutions—without weakening NATO’s inherent strength, resolve, and capability.

The third challenge—which I plea for on behalf of all the men and women in uniform today, in NATO and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina—is that we retain our war-fighting skills and capabilities. They are still required to under-gird our security and peace today and into an uncertain future. As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reminded the Security Council on 2 March 1998 concerning the inspections agreement with Iraq, “If diplomacy is to succeed, it must be backed both by force and fairness.” Even today, lack of military strength is widely viewed as weakness, and some find such weakness tempting, and the absence of a credible threat an invitation to ignore the dictates of international law and good conscience. We must have the right combination of diplomacy and force, of military and non-military means, to achieve not only our goals in Bosnia and Kosovo but our larger security goals as well. We know that force unguided by law and human decency is illegitimate and will not be tolerated. But we also know that law and good reason alone will not always deter the tyrants, the unscrupulous, and the evil. Mediation and compromise are sometimes not enough to deter conflict, and moral, diplomatic, and even economic suasion may not always be adequate to stop the slide into war. While the resort to force must never be our first choice, it must nevertheless remain a potential and feasible last choice.

There is genuine professional competence in our armed forces. I see it each time I visit SFOR—competence that can be destroyed in a year or two of fiscal starvation, but which would take a decade or more to rebuild. We must provide adequate incentives, training, structure, and investment for the armed forces in our nations. And we must attend to the increasingly sophisticated technology available around NATO’s periphery today and to its implications for our security.


I am optimistic NATO will remain the foundation for peace and prosperity for Europe. We will continue to push for common values, standards, purposes. We will work to stop the spread of instability or chaos, ensuring that those forces that threaten stability are dealt with through a variety of political or other means as necessary. NATO will continue its efforts in peace enforcement, and retain our core commitment to collective defense and the attributes that make it stick: shared risks, shared burdens, shared benefits. We are all partners and equals in this great Alliance, an Alliance that will continue to play a vital role in security in Europe and beyond.

In closing, let me, as a soldier, return to the most vital component in the security debate—to those tasked with the execution of force—the men and women of our armed forces. I am reminded of the late British General Sir John Hackett and his pledge of unlimited commitment or liability that distinguishes our fighting men and women. He said, “The essential basis of the military life is the ordered application of force under an unlimited liability.” Indeed we are keenly aware of the risks inherent in this profession. It is the unlimited liability that sets the man who embraces this life somewhat apart. Those of us in uniform still feel this unlimited liability—we still feel this privilege of service—and we still are ready should the ordered application of force be required.


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