[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)] [March 3, 1998] [Pages 325-326] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
[[Page 325]] Message to the Congress on United States Armed Forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina March 3, 1998 To the Congress of the United States: I hereby certify that the continued presence of U.S. armed forces, after June 30, 1998, in Bosnia and Herzegovina is required in order to meet the national security interests of the United States, and that it is the policy of the United States that U.S. armed forces will not serve as, or be used as, civil police in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This certification is presented pursuant to section 1203 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, Public Law 105- 85, and section 8132 of the National Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal year 1998, Public Law 105-56. The information required under these sections is in the report that accompanies this certification. The supplemental appropriations request required under these sections is being forwarded under separate cover. America has major national interests in peace in Bosnia. We have learned from hard experience in this turbulent century that America's security and Europe's stability are intimately linked. The Bosnian war saw the worst fighting--and the most profound humanitarian disaster--on that continent since the end of the Second World War. The conflict could easily have spread through the region, endangering old Allies and new democracies alike. A larger conflict would have cast doubt on the viability of the NATO alliance itself and crippled prospects for our larger goal of a democratic, undivided, and peaceful Europe. The Dayton framework is the key to changing the conditions that made Bosnia a fuse in a regional powder keg. It is decisively in American interests to see Dayton implemented as rapidly as feasible, so that peace becomes self-sustaining. U.S. leadership is as essential to sustaining progress as it has been to ending the war and laying the foundation for peace. I expect the size of the overall NATO force in Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain similar to that of the current SFOR. However, the U.S. contribution would decline by about 20 percent, as our Allies and partners continue to shoulder an increasing share of the burden. Although I do not propose a fixed end-date for this presence, it is by no means open-ended. Instead, the goal of the military presence is to establish the conditions under which Dayton implementation can continue without the support of a major NATO-led military force. To achieve this goal, we have established concrete and achievable benchmarks, such as the reform of police and media, the elimination of illegal pre-Dayton institutions, the conduct of elections according to democratic norms, elimination of cross-entity barriers to commerce, and a framework for the phased and orderly return of refugees. NATO and U.S. forces will be reduced progressively as achievement of these benchmarks improves conditions, enabling the international community to rely largely on traditional diplomacy, international civil personnel, economic incentives and disincentives, confidence-building measures, and negotiation to continue implementing the Dayton Accords over the longer term. In fact, great strides already have been made towards fulfilling these aims, especially in the last ten months since the United States re-energized the Dayton process. Since Dayton, a stable military environment has been created; over 300,000 troops returned to civilian life and 6,600 heavy weapons have been destroyed. Public security is improving through the restructuring, retraining and reintegration of local police. Democratic elections have been held at all levels of government and hard-line nationalists--especially in the Republika Srpska--are increasingly marginalized. Independent media and political pluralism are expanding. Over 400,000 refugees and displaced persons have returned home--110,000 in 1997. One third of the publicly-indicted war criminals have been taken into custody. Progress has been particularly dramatic since the installation of a pro-Dayton, pro-democracy Government in Republika Srpska in December. Already, the capital of Republika Srpska has been moved from Pale to Banja Luka; media are being restructured along democratic lines; civil police are generally cooperating with the reform process; war criminals are surrendering; [[Page 326]] and Republika Srpska is working directly with counterparts in the Federation to prepare key cities in both entities for major returns of refugees and displaced persons. At the same time, long-standing obstacles to inter-entity cooperation also are being broken down: a common flag now flies over Bosnian institutions, a common currency is being printed, a common automobile license plate is being manufactured, and mail is being delivered and trains are running across the inter-entity boundary line. Although progress has been tangible, many of these achievements still are reversible and a robust international military presence still is required at the present time to sustain the progress. I am convinced that the NATO-led force--and U.S. participation in it--can be progressively reduced as conditions continue to improve, until the implementation process is capable of sustaining itself without a major international military presence. William J. Clinton The White House, March 3, 1998. Note: This message was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 4.