[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[August 11, 1995]
[Pages 1253-1254]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Statement on Vetoing Legislation To Lift the Arms Embargo Against Bosnia
August 11, 1995

    I am announcing today my decision to veto legislation that would 
unilaterally lift the arms embargo against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    I know that Members of Congress share my goals of reducing the 
violence in Bosnia and working to end the war. But their vote to 
unilaterally lift the arms embargo is the wrong step at the wrong time. 
The American people should understand the consequences of such action 
for our Nation and for the people of Bosnia.
    First, our allies have made clear that they will withdraw 
            their troops from Bosnia if the United States unilaterally 
            lifts the arms embargo. The United States, as the leader

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            of the NATO Alliance, would be obliged to send thousands of 
            American ground troops to assist in that difficult 
    Second, lifting the embargo now could cause the fighting in 
            Bosnia to escalate. The Serbs will not delay their assaults 
            while the Bosnian Government receives new arms and training. 
            Getting humanitarian aid to civilians will only get harder.
    Third, unilaterally lifting the embargo will lead to 
            unilateral American responsibility. If the Bosnian 
            Government suffered reverses on the battlefield, we, and not 
            the Europeans, would be expected to fill the void with 
            military and humanitarian aid.
    Fourth, intensified fighting in Bosnia would risk provoking 
            a wider war in the heart of Europe.
    Fifth, for this bill to become law now would undercut the 
            new diplomatic effort we are currently engaged in, and 
            withdrawal of the United Nations mission would virtually 
            eliminate chances for a peaceful, negotiated settlement in 
            the foreseeable future.
    Finally, unilateral lift would create serious divisions 
            between the United States and its key allies, with potential 
            long-lasting damage to the NATO Alliance.
    This is an important moment in Bosnia. Events in the past few weeks 
have opened new possibilities for negotiations. We will test these new 
realities, and we are now engaged with our allies and others in using 
these opportunities to settle this terrible war by agreement. This is 
not the time for the United States to pull the plug on the U.N. mission.
    There is no question that we must take strong action in Bosnia. In 
recent weeks, the war has intensified. The Serbs have brutally assaulted 
three of the United Nations safe areas. Witnesses report widespread 
atrocities: summary executions, systematic rape, and renewed ethnic 
cleansing in Bosnia. Tens of thousands of innocent women and children 
have fled their homes. And now the Croatian army offensive has created 
new dangers and dramatically increased the need for humanitarian aid to 
deal with displaced citizens in the region. But these events also create 
    Along with our allies we have taken a series of strong steps to 
strengthen the United Nations mission, to prevent further attacks on 
safe areas, and to protect innocent civilians:
    NATO has decided it will counter an assault on the remaining 
            safe areas with sustained and decisive use of air power. Our 
            response will be broad, swift, and severe, going far beyond 
            the narrow attacks of the past.
    For the first time, military commanders on the ground in 
            Bosnia have been given operational control over such 
            actions, paving the way for fast and effective NATO 
    And well-armed British and French troops are working to 
            ensure access to Sarajevo for convoys carrying food, 
            medicine, and other vital supplies.
    Despite these actions, many in Congress are ready to close the books 
on the U.N. mission. But I am not--not as long as that mission is 
willing and able to be a force for peace once again.
    I recognize that there is no risk-free way ahead in Bosnia. But 
unilaterally lifting the arms embargo will have the opposite effects of 
what its supporters intend. It would intensify the fighting, jeopardize 
diplomacy, and make the outcome of the war in Bosnia an American 
    Instead, we must work with our allies to protect innocent civilians, 
to strengthen the United Nations mission, to bring NATO's military power 
to bear if our warnings are defied, and to aggressively pursue the only 
path that will end the conflict, one that leads to a negotiated peace.