Essential Public Policy Points Relating to the ISSA Mission to Yugoslavia, 
April 18-21, 1999

The International Strategic Studies Association organized a fact-finding 
mission from Washington DC to Yugoslavia on April 18-21, 1999. The purpose 
was for the Association and a key US Congressman to determine to a greater 
extent factors important to future policymaking with regard to the war being 
prosecuted against Yugoslavia. ISSA worked with a Yugoslav NGO, the Institute 
for Geopolitical Studies, in facilitating the mission. 

US Congressman Jim Saxton (Republican, New Jersey), an ISSA Life Member and 
Chairman of the US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism & 
Unconventional Warfare (and member of the House Armed Services Committee; and 
Vice-Chairman of the Joint [House-Senate] Economic Committee), participated 
in the mission, along with the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism, 
Yossef Bodansky. 

The mission delegates met with key Yugoslav officials and politicians, at the 
highest levels, including the Foreign Minister. As well, contacts were made 
with non-governmental individuals in Yugoslavia, and an assessment was made 
of NATO bombing damage in the greater Belgrade area. 

A. The Rationale Behind the Fact-Finding Visit 

1. The visit was principally undertaken to ensure that the US Congress had 
sufficient independent information on the conduct of the war (“the Kosovo 
Crisis”) to be able to fully debate proposals put to it by the US 
Administration. The Founding Fathers of the United States wished to ensure 
that there were checks and balances in the US system. The Congress was 
empowered to approve and fund — or disapprove and withhold funding — the 
actions of the Administration, and was charged with the function of declaring 
war. It was, therefore, the responsibility of Congress to satisfy itself 
through the utmost diligence that courses of action to which it committed its 
actions were appropriate. It was never intended that the Congress should 
blindly endorse the Administrative Branch, but rather should support it or 
check it after due debate and research. 

2. The commitment of US lives into a combat situation, where many lives will 
certainly be lost, and where the long-term strategic interests of the United 
States are involved, cannot therefore be undertaken without the most complete 
research and understanding. With regard to the present situation in 
Yugoslavia, Congress had until this mission been virtually totally reliant on 
the Administration’s view of events, and on the media, which has been greatly 
influenced by the only real source of information and opinion available: the 

3. It was necessary to determine far more objectively the real situation 
before one-sided evidence and jingoism was allowed to determine whether 
Congress threw American lives, and the future strategic position of the 
United States, into a war. This was the underlying motive for the ISSA/Saxton 
mission to Yugoslavia. 

4. It was also necessary to ensure that the United States did not unwittingly 
commit crimes of its own in pursuit of a just solution to the tragedy. 

B. What was discovered was: 

1. The Flow of Refugees: The international media, because it is largely on 
the external borders of Yugoslavia, has seen only the flow of refugees out of 
the country, to Albania and Macedonia. However, some one-third of the 
Albanian Yugoslav and other ethnic group refugees appear, in fact, to be 
fleeing further into Serbia, to avoid the Kosovo Liberation Army. Yugoslavia 
has already been burdened since 1992 with almost one-million refugees from 
Bosnian Serb areas and Croatian Serb areas, as well as Croatians and Muslims 
fleeing into Serbia-proper from what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. 

2. There is no doubt but that the NATO bombings in Kosovo and in the rest of 
Serbia have contributed heavily — perhaps overwhelmingly — toward the outflow 
of refugees, not only the Kosovar Albanians but many other ethnic groups who 
have been forced on the road with the destruction of their homes or their 

3. There are some 26 different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and some 20 
different ethnic groups living in the Kosovo region. Within Yugoslavia, some 
one-third of the population is not of Serbian origin, and this makes it the 
most multi-cultural, multi-religious state in the Balkan region. 

4. We saw extensive destruction of civilian targets, many of which could not 
be justified by NATO as military targets nor vital to the maintenance of a 
Yugoslav strategic power base. Given the widespread damage to these purely 
civilian targets which we saw, including the direct destruction of homes, it 
is not difficult to believe the claims of the Yugoslav Government that some 
400,000 to a half-million people have been thrown out of work because of the 
destruction of their workplaces. This means that some 2-million Yugoslavs of 
all ethnic origins are without income, out of a population of some 
10+-million people. 

5. Justification for bombing civilian targets has now been given that these 
facilities were owned by relatives of President Milosevic, but the vast 
majority of these factories were either State-owned, privately-owned by 
non-Milosevic family members or, for the greater part, owned jointly by the 
State and by the workforces of the various factories. As a result, this has 
directly contributed to an attack on the average Yugoslav family. 

6. There was no evidence to support the contention that the Yugoslav 
warfighting capability has been overwhelming broken by the sustained NATO 
bombing campaign. Rather, the bombing has driven the Yugoslav people to put 
aside their political differences and to unite in the face of an external 
threat, much as would be the case if the United States was attacked. We met 
with people who have, in the past, been totally opposed, politically, to 
President Milosevic. Today, they are working completely with Mr Milosevic to 
defend their country. So the intention of the bombing to break the Yugoslav 
people away from Mr Milosevic has totally failed, and shows no sign of 

7. The cost in terms of human casualties from the NATO bombing have largely 
been civilian: between 500 and 1,000 dead, with several thousand injured. 
Military personnel casualties have been minimal. 

8. There has clearly been significant damage suffered by Yugoslav military 
assets, including domestic oil refining capability. However, it would be a 
mistake to believe that the real warfighting capability of Yugoslavia has 
been degraded to anything like the level where the insertion of ground forces 
could be successful: that is, that it could militarily defeat Yugoslavia 
without massive loss of life and without destroying the one thing which the 
campaign intends to save, namely a viable restoration of Kosovars to their 
homes and livelihoods in the Kosovo region. The net result of an insertion of 
ground forces would be that a protracted war would continue within the very 
rugged terrain of the country, and that the lowland areas would be lain-waste 
to in the process. It surely is not our intention to achieve a victory 
without restoring the homes and employment of the Kosovar people (whether of 
Albanian origin or not). 

9. Apart from a costly, protracted war with the massive loss of life among 
NATO states, including, of course, the United States, there is reason for 
grave concern over a wider war. Firstly, it is clear that there would be 
retaliatory actions against major Western targets, such as our own oil 
refineries and nuclear power stations, etc., from Yugoslav special forces or 
from non-government Serb activists. So we could expect a major outbreak of 
anti-NATO terrorism, perhaps on a scale not before seen, if we choose to 
escalate the war into a full ground operation. This must at the very least be 
taken into consideration. 

10. We attempted to investigate reports that there has already been 
considerable loss of life among NATO forces, and we feel that we received 
some confirmation that this has been the case. Clearly, the cost to NATO in 
human and equipment terms has already been far greater than anything which 
has been announced. Just how extensive the NATO aircraft and personnel losses 
have been remains to be confirmed. What is clear is that already there has 
been a cost to us, apart from the mere monetary cost of equipment and 
consumables. This cost can only rise significantly as the conflict proceeds. 

11. It has been stated by NATO that the Yugoslav Air Force has been driven 
from the skies, with half the Yugoslav fighter aircraft force lost, and that 
all defenses now consist only of anti-aircraft artillery and anti-aircraft 
missiles. It is more likely that the Yugoslav Air Force is preserving its 
forces to be used in any broader conflict. This is not Iraq, and we should 
not make the mistake of believing that the fight, or fighting capability, has 
been driven from the Yugoslavs. 

12. There has, in fact, been considerable progress toward reaching a 
political solution acceptable to all moderate parties. And, of course, we 
except from the definition “moderate parties” the so-called Kosovo Liberation 
Army, which derived from the communist origins of the former Albanian 
stalinist leaders and which today is funded largely by narcotic trafficking 
into Western Europe and through extortion. It has been a mistake for the West 
to support the KLA now, when moderate Kosovar Albanian leaders have been 
committed to a political solution to the tragedy. Equally, attempts to 
discredit moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Dr Ibrahim Rugova are 
counter-productive to achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the 
problem. The fact that Dr Rugova’s enormous courage in remaining in 
Yugoslavia to seek such a solution is now being dismissed by allegations that 
he is “a virtual prisoner” only serve to reinforce the hand of the KLA, which 
has previously been labeled a terrorist force by the United States, and 
remains so today. [The matter of KLA terrorism and the prospect of Yugoslav 
special operations in a wider war are both matters which have been the 
subject of considerable study by the US House of Representatives Task Force 
on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, chaired by Congressman Saxton.] 

13. We received strong indications from the very senior officials with whom 
we met — and clearly the messages which we received were sanctioned by Mr 
Milosevic himself — that virtually all the substantive demands for Kosovo’s 
future autonomy within Yugoslavia could be met, and met quickly, provided 
negotiations could resume. As a result, we need to undertake a careful 
step-by-step approach toward peace and we need to see some substantive 
evidence of commitment and goodwill on the part of the Yugoslavs. I believe 
that this will be forthcoming. 

14. Without question, we need to ensure that Congress is totally clear on the 
situation before further escalation takes place, and before further funding 
is put in place to continue a protracted war. Congress needs to undertake 
this process of due diligence itself, given the fact that the enormous 
confusion which has taken place due to media manipulation on all sides has 
only contributed to a blood-lust which — if it is the only basis for 
decisionmaking — could lead to a much longer and wider war. 

15. Finally, it seems clear that if we accept that we must commit to a 
broader war in Yugoslavia, then we must also accept that US and NATO military 
preoccupation with this conflict will open the door to a range of other 
conflicts which could be of massive and lasting consequence. In this regard, 
we must expect that an expanded war would lead to an exacerbation of 
Turkish-Greek tensions leading to a separate war, in which the Cyprus issue 
would become a key. We could expect North Korea to take the opportunity to 
initiate a military attack on South Korea, with Japan drawn into the fray. We 
could expect that the People’s Republic of China would use the opportunity to 
attempt to invade Taiwan. We could expect a variety of new conflicts to arise 
in the Middle East. And so on. What is clear, not just to ourselves but to 
others, is that we have a finite military force available to NATO at present, 
and, because we have spent our post-Cold War “peace dividend”, others will 
take advantage of the situation to launch their offensives, knowing the West 
does not have the capacity to fight on many fronts. 

Gregory R. Copley, Editor
Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy

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