STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Briefing Room
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. United States forces,acting with our NATO allies, have commenced air strikes againstSerbian military targets in the Former Yugoslavia.
I will address the nation more fully tonight on why thisaction is necessary, but I wanted to say a few words now.
We and our NATO allies have taken this action only afterextensive and repeated efforts to obtain a peaceful solution to thecrisis in Kosovo. But President Milosevic, who over the past decadestarted terrible wars against Croatia and Bosnia, has again chosenaggression over peace. He has violated the commitments he, himself,made last fall to stop the brutal repression in Kosovo. He hasrejected the balanced and fair peace accords that our allies andpartners, including Russia, proposed last month -- a peace agreementthat Kosovo's ethnic Albanians courageously accepted.
Instead, his forces have intensified their attacks,burning down Kosovar Albanian villages and murdering civilians. As Ispeak, more Serb forces are moving into Kosovo, and more people arefleeing their homes -- 60,000 in just the last five weeks, a quarterof a million altogether. Many have headed toward neighboringcountries.
Kosovo's crisis now is full-blown, and if we do not act,clearly, it will get even worse. Only firmness now can preventgreater catastrophe later.
Our strikes have three objectives: First, todemonstrate the seriousness of NATO's opposition to aggression andits support for peace. Second, to deter President Milosevic fromcontinuing and escalating his attacks on helpless civilians byimposing a price for those attacks. And, third, if necessary, todamage Serbia's capacity to wage war against Kosovo in the future byseriously diminishing its military capabilities.
As I have repeatedly said to the American people, thisaction is not risk-free; it carries risks. And I ask for the prayersof all Americans for our men and women in uniform in the area.However, I have concluded that the dangers of acting now are clearlyoutweighed by the risks of failing to act -- the risks that many moreinnocent people will die or be driven from their homes by the tens ofthousands; the risks that the conflict will involve and destabilizeneighboring nations. It will clearly be much more costly anddangerous to stop later than this effort to prevent it from goingfurther now.
At the end of the 20th century, after two world wars anda Cold War, we and our allies have a chance to leave our children aEurope that is free, peaceful and stable. But we must -- we must --act now to do that. Because if the Balkans once again become a placeof brutal killing and massive refugee flights, it will be impossibleto achieve.
With our allies, we used diplomacy and force to end thewar in Bosnia. Now trouble next door in Kosovo puts the region'speople at risk again. Our NATO allies unanimously support thisaction. The United States must stand with them, and stand againstethnic violence and atrocity.
Our Alliance is united. And I am particularly gratefulfor the support we have received from members of Congress from bothparties. As we go forward I will remain in close contact withCongress -- I have spoken with all the leaders today -- and incontact with our friends and allies around the world. And I willhave more to say about all of this tonight.
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