The Fate of Srebrenica: Akashi, Janvier, and Smith, June 9, 1995
1. It is important to make sure that our analysis of the situation and our
approach to it are the same. One of the main issues will be the negotiations
with the Bosnian Serbs. I understand why you have taken the position of no
negotiations with the Serbs until all hostages are released, however Zagreb
and New York believe that some discussions should take place - but this is
not contradictory. We can have firmness on the ground while exploiting
opportunities to talk with political and military leaders.
2. This is the situation as of last night. There is still a hard core of
hostages held by the BSA. I call them hostages because they come from a wide
range of nations. I believe that it will be harder to obtain their release
than it was with the first two batches. The eastern enclaves are also to be
considered hostages in that we cannot feed them. In Zepa and Srebrenica we
have OPs that could be overrun and captured. We also have a large number of
camps at risk of artillery attack: the eastern enclaves, Sarajevo, Tuzla,
Visoko, and others.
3. We do not have the consent of the Serbs. We have less cooperation from
the BH than we did one week ago. To all intents and purposes we have been
neutralized. The Exclusion Zones and Weapons Collection Points are ignored;
the safe areas are under increasing threat. The UNHCR and our ability to
resupply is limited. While the new convoys (to Sarajevo) are welcomed, the
result is to further remove UNPROFOR from the equation. The Serbs continue
to squeeze us and I do not believe that they want a cease-fire. I believe
that they want to continue to remove UNPROFOR from their affairs and to
continue to neutralize NATO. This analysis is supported by the facts. Being
more speculative, I believe that the BSA will continue to engage the
international community to show that they cannot be controlled; this will
lead to a further squeezing of Sarajevo or an attack in the eastern
enclaves, creating a crisis that short of air attacks we will have a great
difficulty responding to.
4. The Bosnians are getting more fed up with the UN; they hoped two weeks
ago that the world was coming to their rescue, now they realize it is not
true - they do not think more will be done to help them. They may want to
continue what they started in May: taking the battle to the BSA, and
sticking to their political position insisting on the Contact Group plan.
There are many signs of an attack being prepared in Visoko; there is a quiet
but large battle going on in Treskavica, south of Igman. To speculate, the
BH will continue to apply pressure around Sarajevo and to try to create
military conditions for a large scale attack to beak the siege of Sarajevo.
It is the recognition of the lives that this will cost that now holds them
in check. While relations with the Bosnian government remain good and
cordial, I am not confident that we have sufficient cooperation from the
government to stabilize the situation around Sarajevo, and do not feel that
I can appeal for that cooperation as I could 10 days ago. The HV/HVO are
continuing to apply pressure in Sector South and Sector Southwest - there
will be serious implications if they cut-off the road from Knin to Banja
5. Regarding the BSA, I took the decision that I was not going to deal with
them for two reasons: 1) a matter of principle (because of the hostages);
and 2)1 had something to give away (the four BSA detainees) - and I was a
hostage in a sense as well. Now I deal with them on a notification basis;
there are no negotiations between my HQ and the BSA; I am personally not in
touch with Mladic, although my COS (Brigadier Nicolai) is; at times. I do
not believe that the BSA is remotely interested in talking to me. The
impression I have from various sources is that the air attacks surprised
them because: 1) we did what we said we would do; 2) of the size and scale
of the attacks; 3) of the accuracy of the attacks. We can take some profit
6. My view is that my actions on 25/26 May have failed, because they did not
achieve their objective of getting the weapons back. But in that failure we
can take some profit by realizing that we do not have to conduct business
with the Serbs. The Serbs' reaction to the air strikes was to withdraw their
consent for our operations. Our counterattack on the Vrbanja bridge, our
refusal to discuss the four BSA detainees, the noisy preparations for Task
Force Alpha, were all important elements of creating a stabilization of the
situation favorable to us. My fear was that the situation would stabilize to
our disadvantage. Now the time has passed and so too perhaps has the
opportunity to take the profit.
7. Put it this way, we are much worse off than we were when I started (the
hostages, the situation with exclusion zones, WCPs..). We have neutralized
air power and further marginalized ourselves. The parties and events are
moving at a speed much greater than we have proven able to keep up with.
8. It is important to note that UNPROFOR is more blocked than ever. We are
no longer able to use air power because of the obvious reason that our
soldiers are on the ground. Whether we want it or not, the Serbs are
controlling the situation. Thus it is impossible to take action with our
forces that would endanger the political evolution. This "stability" must
permit me re-launching of the political process (FC's quotation marks). So,
what is the position that we can adopt regarding the Serbs? We do not
negotiate, but we discuss with them, demonstrate to them the situation,
enlighten them on a path that might be followed. It is not easy, it is not
enjoyable to ask Mladic for permission for convoys, but it is something that
I had to do and I did it. It may seem that UNPROFOR is on the sidelines, but
the parties must take responsibility.
9. Our first objective is the release of the hostages, and we must also
resupply our soldiers in the enclaves - in reality they are potential
hostages also. Another position that we must maintain is firmness: the
creation of Task Force Alpha is very pertinent, as is the implementation of
the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) which I would rather call the Theatre Reserve
Force (TRF). If no crisis comes to modify the situation, the hostages are
liberated, and we are able to resupply the enclaves, we can maintain this
pause until political negotiations resume.
10. Another point to underline is that the BSA considers UNPROFOR as an
enemy -this is clear. Their behavior reflects this. Mladic said that he
would not fire on our positions - he knows that it is not in his interest to
11. Mladic won't treat us as an enemy as long as we do everything on his
terms. If we try to do our job our way, then we are his enemy and he will
treat us that way. If we bring in force behind us, he will make concessions,
but if we do things on his terms he will succeed in neutralizing us.
12. The main point of the situation is that we are a peacekeeping force,
whether we want it or not - this is the whole difficulty of planning the
TRF. What is essential is to allow for political progress to begin; as long
as the situation is such, we cannot go toward confrontation. What would be
most acceptable to the Serbs would be to leave the enclaves - it is the most
realistic approach and it makes sense from the military point of view, but
it is impossible for the international community to accept.
13. The moment to move toward confrontation has passed, at least for the
time being. But our analysis of Serb intentions is different. I remain
convinced that the Serbs want to conclude this year and will take every risk
to accomplish this. As long as the sanctions remain on the Drina, they risk
getting weaker every week relative to their enemy. They will only accept a
cease-fire if their political identity is guaranteed.
14. Everyone in Sarajevo and in Pale have worked Out that the anger in
London and Paris has been the result of threats to individuals not to the UN
or the mandate. The driving force is to get the hostages released, not to
solve the problem. Bildt has been appointed, but it is not clear what his
mission is going to be. It is hard to develop military plans not knowing
what they are going to support. I agree that a stabilization period is good
for political talks, but believe the pot will boil over before the political
process can work
15. Regarding safe areas, the difficulties are greater now, and all we can
do is try to obtain a minimal situation. Regarding the TRF, I remind you
that it was a demonstration of internal politics. For example the two
(British) batteries were announced before I knew it; the section of (French)
heavy artillery is the same thing - neither you nor I knew about it. The TRF
will help us with defense, but will not help us open a corridor to
Srebrenica, Gorazde or even Sarajevo.
16. The Serbs need two things: international recognition, and a softening of
the blockade on the Drina. I hope that these conditions will be met quickly,
given the urgent situation. I think the Serbs are aware of how favorable the
situation is to them - I don't think that they want to go to an extreme
crisis. On the contrary. they want to modify their behavior, be good
interlocutors. It is for this that we must speak to them - not negotiate,
but to show them how important it is to have a normal attitude.
17. I agree that they do not want a crisis - they want to neutralize the UN
and NATO, have the UN and NATO as constant factors as they fight the
Muslims. That is why I wanted to push them early on - I did not think they
would go that far, and would thus back down. Now, whenever we find ourselves
in a position to negotiate, we are dealing with the matter in isolation. Our
efforts need to be tied into a broader process - all these activities get
tied into the hostages, because that is what's neutralizing us.
18. What the (Bosnian) Serbs do not understand is that the hostages are
losing their value as days go by.
19. I agree that the hostages' release will become harder unless the
(Bosnian) Serbs get assurances of no further NATO air strikes, which is
impossible. But the gradual release of large numbers of hostages follows
past patterns - this time is different though because the Serbs are more
isolated than in the past, and the air strikes were more robust than in the
20. We are in an ambiguous, transitional phase. Our likely legal framework
will be more or less the same, like option "B", with elements from options
"C" and "D". The Council will allow redeployment from the WCPs, but safe
areas are a very divisive issue. The actions that we propose must be
acceptable to the Council and to TCNs. The reinforcements you and the Force
Commander will receive may be less than you wish in some cases and more than
you need in some cases. You need to bring the new elements into the
peacekeeping context, which means consent, impartiality, use of force for
self-defense, and freedom of movement. But there are also elements of
enforcement - and this combination brings us to the edge of the Mogadishu
line. If we do not cross it, we will be accused of being timid and pro-Serb;
if we cross it, we will be accused of being reckless and abandoning chances
for peace. As peacekeepers, we must talk to all parties; the small gains
that we achieve from doing so are better than the losses from the combative
approach. We remain vulnerable, but our vulnerability provides for a modicum
of support from the parties.
21. We need to do more than stabilize the situation; we need to build a
platform from which progress can be achieved, but it is difficult to do so
if we don't know the political direction. One way to judge the success of
stabilization efforts is to see: 1) if we are no longer being directly
targeted while we try to carry-out our mandate; and 2) if we have freedom of
movement, which at a minimum should be defined as the ability of UNHCR and
UNPROFOR to deliver supplies to the enclaves. We did not have these
conditions, or stabilization, before the air strikes, and we must try to get
it now. We are in danger of reverting to the status quo minus, of operating
in the mode of supplicant. This is why I keep returning to the question of
the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF): are we going to use them to fight? If not, I
am not sure I want them - they will just be more mouths to feed, and create
expectations that I cannot meet.
22. Going on from stabilization, we need two things, without which we cannot
operate: 1) safety for our bases, and 2) to reduce the exposure of potential
hostages. Regarding the first, we should perhaps consider a massive response
- by air attacks - if a UN camp is attacked. This would be stated openly.
There would be a risk of BH provocation, but this could be dealt with. Or we
should not do anything that will provoke an attack against a UN base.
Reducing exposure of potential hostages would have an impact on our ability
to carry-out our mission; they would have to be secure enough to protect
themselves until rescued. It may also be useful to have UN routes created by
the Security Council, similar to the three routes that use to go to Berlin.
The RRF could perhaps do that, but the TCNs would have to sign up to it.
These are the only two jobs I can think of for the RRF: rescuing isolated
elements and escorting aid to the enclaves.
23. It is clear that we cannot impose a solution, such as a corridor. We can
only achieve that through political negotiations.
24. I see no prospects of the parties agreeing to such routes; it would be a
waste of time to negotiate. My suggestion was that the United Nations in New
York establish the ground rules. But as I keep saying, to do so we need to
be prepared to fight across a whole range of threats. If we are not prepared
to fight, we will always be stared down by the BSA. We are already over the
Mogadishu line; the Serbs do not view us as peacekeepers.
25. Can we return (back over the line)?
26. Only by either doing nothing, or by showing an absolute readiness to
fight, including going over the top. That is possible because the BSA has
its hands full with the BH.
27. I insist that we will never have the possibility of combat, of imposing
our will on the Serbs. The only possible way is to go through political
negotiations - that is the only way we can fulfill our mandate.
28. In Paris, I explained that weapons in the WCPs are in Serb hands. We
tried to agree on ways to prevent them from leaving the exclusion zone. If
heavy weapons leave the zone, problems will be created for the Serbs because
of the BH infantry.
29. The situation with exclusion zones, safe areas, and WCPs is very
disconcerting. I see them as the next series of major problems that we will
face. There may be crises in these areas before the Reaction Force is
available. I anticipate actions that will lead our political masters by the
nose. I can easily see a situation arising where we will be forced to
request air power.
Janvier: 30. It s just for this that we must establish contact with the
Serbs, to show, explain to them that there are just some things that they
31. My judgment is that they will not listen.
32. I have a different approach. Once again the Serbs are in a very
favorable political position, and that is something they will not want to
compromise. The external political situation is such that the Serbs will
come to understand the benefits of cooperation. Unless there is a major
provocation by the BH, the Serbs will not act.
33. It is the interplay between the Serbs and the BH that might produce
something. The Serbs' enemy is the BH, and they want us neutralized, not as
an enemy. But because we have some enforcement obligations, either we fail,
or we act and we will be the enemy of the Serbs. I think that we will be
forced to make a decision within one month.
34. The Serbs are placing constraints on us. The only option I see is to
resume negotiations, get a cease-fire, and resume our operations. We may
regret that UNHCR convoys to Sarajevo are not escorted by UNPROFOR, but the
objective is to get food to the people. If the convoys' safety is guaranteed
by the Serbs, I have no problem with that.
35. But we remove the UN from the equation, which is in the interest of the
Serbs, and fuels the government's belief that they rather have arms than the
UN. We are taking decisions in the short-term that will have long-term
implications that we do not know.
36 With the Reaction Force, we would be able to impose tactical superiority
in Sarajevo; if we had a conflict, Mladic's tanks would have a problem. But
that is not their task. As long as the enclaves continue to exist, we will
be neutralized to an extent. In New York I said that the BH army should
defend the safe areas, they are strong enough to do it. This was not well
received at all.
[There followed a brief discussion of the four BSA detainees, during which
it was agreed that they would not be released until all UN hostages are
released; the FC also said they would be turned over to the BSA after that
point. There was also a discussion on UNPROFOR re-supply convoys to the
eastern enclaves; the FC said Mladic had assured him they could take place,
but through the FRY because there would be resistance if the convoys passed
The meeting began at 10:50 and ended at 13:30.
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