95/10/17 Testimony: Peace in the Former Yugoslavia  Return to: Index of 1995 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.
U.S. Department of State
95/10/17 Testimony:  Peace in the Former Yugoslavia
Bureau of Public Affairs


                                 Statement by 
                   Secretary of State Warren Christopher 
                                  before the 
                       Senate Armed Services Committee 
 
                              October 17, 1995 
 
 
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  We are at a critical point in our efforts to 
achieve peace in the former Yugoslavia.  As a result of American 
leadership, we have made important progress.  For the first time in four 
years, we have a real chance to reach a peaceful settlement.   
 
If we are to succeed, continued American leadership will be essential.  
Our ability to sustain that leadership depends on our working closely 
with the Congress.  It equally depends on gaining the support and 
understanding of the American people.  That is why I am pleased to 
appear before you and the Committee with my colleagues Secretary Perry 
and General Shalikashvili. 
 
It is important to recall how far we have come in just the last few 
months.  As recently as last July, Bosnian Serb forces had overrun two 
UN-declared safe areas, murdering or expelling their inhabitants, and 
defying the international community.   
 
Then, we faced a stark choice.  The international community could either 
take firm steps to fulfill its mission, or it could watch the mission 
collapse.  If we had not acted, our NATO allies and other troop 
contributors might have been forced to pull out, leaving behind a 
humanitarian catastrophe.  Today, we might be here discussing the need 
to send troops to Bosnia, not to support peace, but to extract 
peacekeepers from a failed mission. 
 
Under President Clinton's leadership, the situation has been  
fundamentally changed.  First, at last July's London Conference, we 
convinced our allies to take firm measures, including the use of 
decisive air power, to protect the remaining safe areas.  After the 
Bosnian Serbs attacked the Sarajevo marketplace, NATO launched a two-
week air campaign to make clear that further violations would not be 
tolerated.  NATO stands ready to resume that campaign should it become 
necessary.   
 
Second, in August, the President launched a new American diplomatic 
initiative.  After weeks of shuttle diplomacy, and despite the loss of 
three brave American negotiators, we have taken dramatic steps on the 
path the President laid out.   
 
In September, the parties agreed to preserve Bosnia-Herzegovina within 
its present borders and with a single international personality.  The 
parties agreed to constitutional principles and a federal structure, 
including a presidency, a parliament, and a constitutional court.  They 
also committed to free elections and the protection of human rights. 
 
On October 5, the parties agreed to a Bosnia-wide cease-fire, to be 
followed by proximity peace talks and eventually a peace conference.  
Despite its imperfections, the cease-fire is taking hold.  This has 
opened the way for a land route to Gorazde, the deliveray of 
humanitarian aid in Bosnia, and the restoration of utilities to 
Sarajevo.  There has been a remarkable turnaround in the quality of life 
for the people of Sarajevo.  The price of food and fuel has dramatically 
declined.  Streets are now illuminated by the lights of the city, not by 
the flash of artillery firing from the hills. 
 
On October 31, the Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia will come 
to the United States to start the proximity peace talks.  They will have 
an immensely difficult set of issues to resolve, concerning territory, 
elections, constitutional arrangements, and the return of refugees.  I 
plan to open these talks and our negotiating team at the site will be 
led by Ambassador Dick Holbrooke.  We are determined to help the parties 
overcome the obstacles they face, and to reach an agreement that would 
make possible a formal peace conference and ultimately the 
implementation of a settlement. 
 
At the same time, Mr. Chairman, I want to stress that we cannot put the 
cart before the horse.  We cannot take it for granted that a settlement 
will be achieved.  Before we are ready to implement a settlement, before 
we know precisely what that will require from us, we must first get the 
parties to agree to peace.  They still have a considerable distance to 
go. 
 
We have a vital interest in sustaining progress toward peace in this 
volatile region of Europe.  The American people remember that twice in 
this century we have had to send our soldiers across the Atlantic to 
fight in wars that began in Central Europe.   Today, after a century of 
hot and cold war, there is an opportunity to build an undivided Europe 
at peace.  But we must remember, Sarajevo was once the spark that 
ignited an entire continent.  We can prevent that from happening again.  
We can help stop this conflict before it spreads beyond the borders of 
the former Yugoslavia, threatening progress toward peace and stability 
across Europe.   
 
If we want the killing to stop, if we want to end the worst conflict in 
Europe since World War II, then we must follow through on the strategy 
that brought us to this point.  Let me say again that this is our best 
chance in four years to achieve peace in the former Yugoslavia.  Future 
generations would neither understand nor forgive us if we carelessly 
turned our backs on this opportunity.  America must continue to lead. 
 
We have this opportunity because America has exerted determined 
leadership on behalf of peace.  Had we not been prepared to do so, we 
could not possibly have made it this far.  Unless we are willing to 
continue to lead, I seriously doubt if peace can be achieved. 
 
There will not be a peace settlement in Bosnia unless NATO, and the 
United States in particular, take the lead in its implementation.  The 
Bosnian government has said directly that it will not sign a peace 
agreement without a commitment by the United States and NATO to help 
implement it.  The Bosnian government has good reason to ask for 
international safeguards after years of brutal fighting and dozens of 
broken agreements.  Only NATO can provide the robust forces and the 
effective command and control needed to deter or prevent the parties 
from backing away from their commitments.   
 
If we ask NATO to act in Bosnia, we cannot fail to contribute troops to 
the mission.  The United States is the bedrock of NATO's strength and 
resolve.  We cannot say to our allies:  "we have come this far together 
but now you are on your own."  That would mean abdicating our leadership 
of the Alliance.  It would imperil the future of NATO and thus the 
stability of Europe.   
 
The costs and risks of our participation in a NATO mission should 
certainly be shared by our allies.  Indeed, our allies, especially 
France and Britain, have already borne the bulk of the casualties among 
international troops in Bosnia.  I pay tribute to their valor.  But this 
is not a purely European problem that the Europeans can solve on their 
own.  In the last few weeks, we have seen once again that if the United 
States does not lead, no nation or group of nations has the strength or 
vision to replace us.  
 
Some still believe that the best way to implement a lasting peace in 
Bosnia would be to have the international community lift the arms 
embargo and walk away.  Such a course would prolong the bloodshed and 
jeopardize all the progress we have made in pursuit of peace, at a 
moment when peace is finally within reach.  It would make it impossible 
to put into place the institutions of a single Bosnian state, inevitably 
consigning Bosnia to partition.  It would be inconsistent with what the 
government of Bosnia itself wants.  It would subject the Bosnian people 
to another winter of hiding in cellars and mourning in cemeteries. 
 
If and when a final peace settlement is reached, Mr. Chairman and 
members, the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia will come to an end.  At 
that point, and only at that point, a NATO-led international force would 
move in to implement the agreement.  Under any circumstances, this will 
be a complicated mission and it will not be risk-free.  But let me 
assure you that the President will not put our troops in a situation 
where there is no peace to keep.  The force would have a limited 
mission, and remain for a limited period of time -- approximately one 
year. 
 
As my colleagues will discuss in greater detail, the implementation 
force will be run by the NATO command and control structure.  There will 
be no "dual key."  Some non-NATO countries may also participate.  
Russia, for example, can make an important contribution.  We are working 
with Russia to identify an appropriate role, consistent with the 
principles I have outlined. 
 
Military implementation will be accompanied by humanitarian and 
reconstruction efforts, so that peace will endure.  The European Union 
will take the lead in reconstruction, but our contribution will also be 
vital.  In addition, the international community, working through the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, will help organize 
elections in Bosnia to ensure they are free and fair.  Let me also 
emphasize, as the President made clear over the weekend, that the United 
States will continue our strong support for the Yugoslav War Crimes 
Tribunal.  We will not accept an agreement that undermines its 
effectiveness. 
 
Mr. Chairman, we are committed to working closely with you on every 
aspect of our involvement in Bosnia.  The Congress is asking the right 
questions and we will continue to answer them.  Secretary Perry, General 
Shalikashvili and I are testifying on the Hill four times this week 
alone. 
 
In the end, it is vital that the Administration, the Congress, and most 
important, the American people, find common ground on the need for 
American leadership.  We must do so for the sake of our common goal of 
peace in the former Yugoslavia, and our shared commitment to security in 
Europe. 
 
To the top of this page