Allies and Lies (Correspondent, BBC2, 2001)
Correspondent Reporter, Sheena Macdonald: This is a story about espionage, bugging, covert military operations, political double dealing. In an investigation across six countries, Correspondent has uncovered a series of incidents which has tested the Western alliance to breaking point.
[different voices over footage of SFOR troops]
“The Americans were controlling the entire Bosnian airspace – on their own”
“My own office was bugged by the Americans”
“What I was doing had nothing to do with what the State Department or CIA was doing”
Reporter: This is a story about Americans behaving badly; about thousands of unnecessary deaths; about an alliance in crisis.
This is Sarajevo, the capital of the Republic Bosnia-Hercegovina, the scene of Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II. It’s five and half years ago now since the fighting ended, but the warring parties are far from reconciled. The country is split into two entities: Republika Srpska and the Bosnian-Croat Federation. What’s more this territory is the crucible for a potential split in the Western alliance, the most serious and fundamental for over half a century.
The story begins when a multi-national force was sent to Bosnia early in 1992. It was called the United Nations Protection Force – UNPROFOR. Its primary task was to help aid convoys reach communities isolated by the fighting. That mission was difficult from the start. UNPROFOR was trying to help all three sides in the conflict, but the Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims were continually at each others’ throats. In terms of peacekeeping there was no peace to keep.
Former neighbours were “ethnically cleansed” from any territory that changed hands. Lifelong friends became deadly enemies. And a rift between NATO and the United Nations opened up too. To stop any further escalation of the war the UN ordered that all flying, other than by Western allies, was to be banned in Bosnian airspace. NATO agreed to be the enforcer.
General George Joulwan (Retired) Supreme Allied Commander Europe 1993-1996: I took command of Allied Command Europe in October of 1993, and we were involved, NATO, in providing both what we called “Deny Flight” which was air cover over Bosnia and responsiveness to UN calls for assistance, air strikes.
Reporter: NATO is a war fighting machine dominated by the United States, but the UN was not in Bosnia to fight a war. Perhaps it was inevitable that the tail would start to wag the dog.
General Joulwan: The conflict came more in the interpretation of mission. It was very clear to me that their interpretation was to protect convoys. Actually their mission was much more than that it was the protection of Safe Areas.
[TV news footage showing General Rose speaking in uniform]: “My own view is that the …[cut off by Lt-Gen Rose speaking in interview]
Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose (Retired), Commander UNPROFOR, 1994: [in suit] I received my orders not from NATO but from the United Nations, and we agreed what the strategy was to be, and it was to follow the mandate that we had been given: alleviate humanitarion suffering, try and create the conditions under which there could be a peaceful resolution of the problem, but, under no circumstances, go to war.
Brigadier-General Hagrup Haukland, UNPROFOR Commander Sector North-East 1995: My mission was as follows: one, support the UNHCR relief operation – that was priority number one. Priority number two for my sector was, er, provide humanitarian relief to the local population, repair all utilities and houses. And three was to monitor the warring factions and report the activities.
General Rose: We were indeed keeping some 2.7 million people alive through the delivery of humanitarian aid across a bat- a very complex set of battlelines, because it was a three-sided war, civil war going on at the time, much of the infrastructure of the country had broken down . We were by our very presence lowering and diminishing the level of conflict and creating opportunities for some peaceful resolution of that problem, which of course is what peacekeeping is about.
Reporter: European military leaders resented United States criticism of their handling of the difficult situation in Bosnia. American generals kept telling them how to do their peacekeeping job. At the same time President Bill Clinton refused to deploy troops on the ground. The situation was considered just “too dangerous” for American soldiers.
UNPROFOR was desperately short handed from the beginning. Two US army battalions could have solved that problem and may even have hastened the end of the conflict. But the only real commitment by Washington was a handful of staff officers in UNPROFOR and a field hospital.
The hospital was set up in the relative safety of Croatia. But even that proved to be a commitment with unacceptable conditions. US reluctance to back UN operations on the ground was beginning to irritate.
Professor Vidar Lehmann, Chief Medical Officer UNPF 1995: We had helicopters that could perform MedEvacs [medical evacuations], but we also needed was a medical team that could take care… that could go with the helicopters when they were taking out the casualties from the operational theatre and also take them back and treat them on the way. We had a MedEvac team and American hospital in place on camp. When they were asked to do that job, it was part of the standard operations procedure, and they should do it, but they refused to do it, because national regulations were against it. And then I had to find somebody else to do that particular difficult and risky job, which was very, very sad, and er.. and was against the rules of the UN.
Looking at this from a force point of view it is heavily dependent upon [unclear: ETS?] and the MedEvac team and if the hospital cannot man a team like that maybe the only doctor who is left in the theatre will have to take the casualties back to the hospital and there is nobody left. That was what happened on some occasions as well. Until we got some other people to do that job, which the Americans should have done but blatantly refused to do, out of national reasons. So I found another solution: some Indonesian soldiers were willing to take that risk on behalf of the Americans and that is how it ended.
[news footage titled Central Bosnia showing UN blue helmeted troops apparently blocked by unidentified local troops] “There is no reason why we cannot go up this track.”
Reporter: [voiceover footage soundtrack] Domestic US politics had ruled that a soldier from Britain, France or Pakistan could serve and die in some corner of Bosnia. Such an outcome was preferable to the danger of CNN reporting the death of a soldier from Galveston, Texas.
[footage soundtrack] Female interpreter: Everything has been mined and I cannot guarantee safe passage… British bluehelmet interrupts: Well we’re willing to take that risk, it is nothing to do with you.
General Rose [voiceover]: They find it very hard politically to put their young men and women in harm’s way. Even in pursuit of something as justifiable morally as creating peace in the Balkans. And they don’t circulate amongst the community the way we’re able to do in Britain [means British Army?] – and that’s a tremendous disadvantage which they will acknowledge.
[footage of US soldiers in Tuzla base]
Reporter: What US governments fear most about overseas military operations is being accused of dragging America into “another Vietnam”. That and public backlash from scenes on televison news of flag-draped coffins being unloaded from miltary planes. And so not a single American soldier patrolled this hostile terrain.
But there were plenty of other Americans in Bosnia. They were not part of the UN Protection Force. Nor were they part of NATO. They were intelligence agents working for the CIA and the Pentagon. America’s spies seemed mostly interested in learning about the activities of the United Nations.
Thorvald Stoltenberg was the UN’s chief peace negotiator for much of the conflict. We asked him when he first learned that the Americans were intercepting his telephone calls.
Thorvald Stoltenberg, UN Peace Negotiator: Er… That I… I would guess it must have been in ’93. But er… I cannot say that for sure. But… No, I believe it must have been 1993. I would say I’m used to it so it didn’t come as a shock or surprise to me.
[picture of Galbraith]
Reporter: This man was surprisingly well briefed about Stoltenberg’s secret talks. Peter Galbraith was the American ambassador to Croatia. Of course if the US had been more proactive in the peace talks before the summer of 1995 it might have been unnecessary to tap the private calls of this hard-working elder statesman.
But Stoltenberg wasn’t the only intelligence target.
General Rose: “My own office I think probably was bugged by the Americans. I always suspected that and we were always very careful what we said in that office and if we did say something it was with delibrate intent [smiles].”
Reporter: Some of the bugging was done by General Rose’s neighbours. The CIA’s office in the American embassy next door was perfectly placed for the use of a laser beam. This picked up the vibrations made by human voices on Rose’s windows. The Americans even loaned him a military satellite phone which had a bug built into it.
General Rose: We had an American team sweep my office and as they left they said, “Well, there are no bugs in your office”, and I said to them, “Except for the ones of course that you left behind!” and they had the good nature to blush.
Reporter: The story of one American intelligence agent is typical. The man, calling himself Major Guy Sands, deserves a medal for a determination which outpaced his skills as a spy. In 1994 carrying UNPROFOR credentials he would hang around General Michael Rose’s headquarters here in Sarajevo. At the bar he would boast about his ten year tour of duty in Vietnam.
Guy Sands became the highest profile and longest serving spook operating in the Balkans but “Major” Sands was no soldier. His claim to be a member of America’s airborne elite was undermined when he was seen wearing his airborne wings on the wrong side of his uniform. An American source remembers confronting Sands in a bar in Sarajevo. Sands told him he was a “contract employee” of the CIA. Guy Sands was expelled from General Rose’s headquarters – only to turn up six months later in Tuzla.
From March 1995 Brigadier Haukland was commander of UNPROFOR’s Sector North-East.
Brigadier Haukland: Everybody in Tuzla, as well as, well I think in Bosnia knew about the person you are talking about. He was actually in my headquarters in Tuzla, he was responsible for the cooperation with the civilian relief organisations, especially with UNHCR and so on. And he did a tremendous good job there, he was a workaholic. I was suspicious of him because he didn’t mind his own business. That was the problem. And when you are in the headquarters and people stop minding their own business you get trouble.
Reporter: Haukland complained to Sands’ contingent commander about his behaviour.
Brigadier Haukland: He is not following the chain of command which will frustrate his colleagues as well as damaging the system.
Reporter: When Sands was discovered snooping around Haukland’s intelligence unit, it was time again for the “red card”.
Brigadier Haukland: All of a sudden he was ordered by his contingent commander who was sitting in Zagreb to show up in Zagreb immediately. Because it was too dangerous for the Americans being in Bosnia. [smiles and winks]
Reporter: Why did bugging and tapping become so central to America’s covert activities in the region?
Stoltenberg: I’d never criticise the Americans for saying that this was a European issue and must be solved by the Europeans. My criticism applies to the fact that they did not actually then go outside the field and sat down and watched. No, they were standing on the sidelines shouting in to the players.
Reporter: The scale of America’s espionage operations cannot be understated [sic]. Hundreds of personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency were deployed in Bosnia during 1994 and ’95. The US contributed far more spies than infantry. But what UNPROFOR needed was infantry. Washington wanted it both ways: it had no players on the pitch, but that wasn’t going to stop it trying to dictate the outcome of the “game”.
The United States had no faith in a negotiated settlement to the war. Senior officials in the State Department, the CIA, and the National Security Council believed the only solution possible was what they called “lift and strike”. They wanted to rearm and train the Croats and the Muslims and then encourage them to fight an all-out war against the Bosnian Serb Army. “Lift and strike” was totally contrary to the UN mandate and in breach of the arms embargo. It was Washington’s secret agenda.
Correspondent can reveal that part of the American administration went so far as to manipulate NATO resources in order to rearm the Bosnian [Muslim] army, the BiH Army.
NATO’s primary involvement in the Balkans was Operation Deny Flight, the total ban on all unauthorised flying over Bosnia.
[footage of news conference] American voice: “The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN Protection Forces in Croatia, as well as Bosnia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”
Reporter: The North Atlantic Alliance was particularly well equipped to perform this task [zooms in on AWACS badge on uniform of an attendee who says:] “Based on this it’s going to be nine hours and forty-five minutes from take-off until… [fades out]“.
Operating from high altitude its E3 AWACS are able to scan the skies over a huge area.
[footage of ranks of operators in front of screens] non-English accent: “And command force to Magic, five-five radar detection north Sarajevo [unclear] mission id.”
Reporter: The AWACS – codeword Magic – always works with two fighters on combat air patrol. Magic will send them to intercept and check any suspect flights, but this vital operation was manipulated by the Americans in order to do exactly what it was designed to stop: make covert, embargo-busting flights over Bosnia.
On the 10th of February 1995 Norwegian airforce captain Olvind Moldestad was visiting UNPROFOR in Tuzla. The local base was at a complex called the “Blue Factory”.
Captain Olvind Moldestad, Helicopter Ops UNPROFOR 1995: I’m up in Tuzla – I tried once in a while to get up for a weekend with my, my colleagues and friends for some R&R [rest and relaxation] – and it’s Friday night and we’ve been in the mess hall for dinner with my, my CO [commanding officer] in the evening. And as we walk out I… we face directly towards Tuzla city, Tuzla town. And what I see is… I see two fighter aircraft, twin-engined, lit up like a Chrismas tree – afterburners, nav [navigation] lights, strobes, everything – flying in circles over the city, er, about 3,000 feet. And this is very strange for me. They normally, they fly at 25,000 feet or higher. At night all lights are off, so nobody can see them, you can just here them. And, and when I saw this I saw that something was wrong.
So I go away into the squadron operations centre and I call down to my colleagues in Sarajevo who is dealing with the fighter planes from AOCC [Air Operations Control Centre – UN Sarajevo]and I speak to the duty officer, a good friend of mine a British Tornado pilot. And I just ask him to confirm “friendly over Tuzla”. And he says “Stand by”, he checks his papers, comes back and he says, “No, there is nothing flying tonight. NATO is not operating tonight for some reason.”
Reporter: Of course, saying that NATO wasn’t flying is not the same as saying the skies are empty. As Moldestad and his colleagues watched the US Navy’s improvised display they were about to realise it was no more than a sideshow to the main event.
Captain Moldestad: One of our guards comes running over to me and he goes, “Sir, sir, did you see the other aircraft?” and I said, “I’m looking at them now.”
“No! No! The one that came behind here, the big one!”
I said, “What do you mean?” “Oh, there was a big aircraft, coming behind the Blue Factory towards Tuzla airbase.” And I ask him if he could identify the aircraft in any way, was it a jet aircraft, a propellor aircraft. And the only thing he could say was that it was a Hercules type aircraft and to his knowledge that was all he could say. It was low and flying towards Tuzla airbase. Tuzla airbase is closed, it’s been closed for years.
Reporter: Word of the incident soon spread rapidly up the UNPROFOR chain of command to Sarajevo and then on to Zagreb.
Professor Vidar Lehmann: I remember one morning in operation room where a message came in – it must have been in the beginning of February, I believe – but a British officer was on call and he reported a plane that had probably landed on Tuzla airbase in the middle of the night. And it was very silent afterwards and those who usually spoke up said nothing. And the next morning, when questions were asked about this, there were no comments at all and they said it must have been a misunderstanding, but we were not in doubt at all that a drop had taken place in Tuzla. Of course we were not told who did it but we had our suspicions.
Reporter: When Moldestad got back to Sarajevo UNPROFOR’s new commander, British Army general Rupert Smith, called him to his office.
Captain Moldestad: He got a bit upset… [smiles and pauses] to say it that way. He ordered me not to talk to anybody… about this… at all. He says it’s a very serious incident… and if anybody had any queries… about it that they were to contact him personally.
Reporter: Later that month Moldestad and a number of colleagues flew from Sarajevo to the airbase at Vicenza in northern Italy. What was scheduled as a routine meeting between NATO and the UN turned out to be a lesson in the arrogance of power.
Captain Moldestad: We go into the meeting room and… his name was Colonel Cooper… he starts the meeting with something like, “You know, I wish UNPROFOR would stop seeing all these ‘unidentified flying objects’ and I would really like to meet the people that has initiated this bullshit!” And it made me a bit angry, so I raised my hand and I tell him that I am the one that reported this. He appears to be a bit surprised!
Reporter: Moldestad was told to see the chief UN liaison officer at Vicenza, a Dutch general.
Captain Moldestad: As I’m in there Colonel Cooper comes into the office and he says to the general “Excuse me, sir, but we need to talk to this officer.” And… whereupon the Dutch general replies “Well, can’t you see I’m talking to him now.” And Cooper grabs my arm and he says “Well, I think we’re more important than you in this matter!” and he leads me out of the office.
Reporter: Moldestad was then interrogated by a group of senior American officers.
Captain Moldestad: It’s quite scary to find yourself in a situation like this. What I remember is that I gave them very vague answers to their questions, and I referred them to General Rupert Smith. As I walked down the corridor I meet another UN officer, a Norwegian one, who, as I pass him, puts a piece of paper down inside my jacket, and he’s looking a bit distressed about it, and he says, “Read it on the aircraft, on your way home.” And I try to reach for it and he says, “Not now, don’t take it out before you’re on the aircraft.” As we take off, I take out this piece of paper. And it is NATO’s flying programme for the 10th of February, Friday 10th of February. It’s a classified document, where he’s got it from I have absolutely no idea. But I’m sure he was not meant to have it.
Reporter: The document records that at 5pm “Magic” [code name for AWACS] had been stood down. It was replaced by a US Navy E2 Hawkeye, the smaller, carrier-borne AWACS. This was not “magic” this was manipulation.
One hour later two F-18s took off from the same American carrier. These were the two twin-engined fighters seen flying low over Tuzla by Moldestad and his colleagues.
Captain Moldestad: This indicates to me that during this incident, this evening, not NATO but the Americans were controlling the entire Bosnian airspace… on their own.
Reporter: An intelligence report on the mysterious incident was written by a British army officer, based at UN Sector North-East Headquarters at Tuzla airbase.
[British officer in blue beret speaking] I think if you don’t know what is going on on the ground and what people are doing then you don’t have an idea of how you can negotiate…[drowned by voiceover]
Reporter: Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher LeHardy got to the heart of the matter when he wrote that:
[read by actor] “The mission was carried out with the consent and support of the authorities commanding the AWACS and other aircraft in the air at that time”
Reporter: In other words: the Americans.
An enquiry team was set up by NATO. It was staffed only by senior US Air Force officers. Meanwhile cables passed between UN Headquarters in New York, NATO in Brussels and Vicenza airbase. Some of these classified documents have reached Correspondent. We asked Ken Connor to review the file. Connor, a twenty-three-year veteran of the British SAS, is a leading expert on the planning and execution of covert operations.
The secret drops near Tuzla air base were made at a highway airstrip known as “Tuzla West”. The airstrip was little more than a very wide, straight stretch of public road. Some years ago that road was taken over by the US Army for helicopter flight operations and renamed Comanche Base [footage shows Camp Comanche]. On the airstrip Ken Connor told me how the covert air drops had been carried out.
Ken Connor: About three kilometres down that way there is a lake, which is the final navigational marker for the crew. Once they see that, they will then be able to pick up the drop zone lights. They come in [at] about four hundred feet. The stores on the aircraft are on pallets, they’re on rollers. Once they hit the lake, they’re going to do it, they take the final restraining straps off, as the aircraft comes it’s slightly “nose up”, its flaps are down, it’s making a lot of noise, flying at about 250 knots, the drogue ‘chute goes, the pallets go, the aircraft picks up speed and disappears. But once the pallets hit, the ‘chutes break away and drift off, the strobe lights are flickering, the orders are given, the work parties come out to pick up the load, put them on trucks and within a matter of a few short minutes the area is clear and off they go.
Reporter: General George Joulwan was Supreme Allied Commander Europe, head of the military side of NATO, throughout 1994 and 1995. How could it have been possible for Operation Deny Flight to have been stood down on the nights of the airdrops without the approval of NATO at the very highest level?
General Joulwan: We had no information that that was taking place, personally. Just to make it clear that what was coming to me as Supreme Allied Commander, was that we had no confirmation that this was taking place. What I was doing had nothing to do with what the State Department or the CIA was doing.
Reporter: In spite of the evidence America denied resupplying the BiH Army, in breach of the UN arms embargo. Correspondent decided to approach senior [Bosnian] Muslim officers and ask them about the drops.
General Hazim Sadic was commander of 2 Corps in the Tuzla region until late in 1994. He admitted he’d planned the drop zone.
Reporter: [interviewing Sadic] So were the logistics men based right around the perimeter or were they in different parts?
Hazim Sadic, Commander ABiH II Corps, 1994: [spoken interpretation] We had the task of preventing civilians from coming to this location in order to protect them from injury. Secondly, we had to attend these drops regularly at certain locations, and after collecting the cargo take it to the warehouse.
Reporter: Saric [sic] could tell us no more about the drops – he was sent to Turkey as military attache.
The UN Sector North-East report written by Lieutenant-Colonel LeHardy contained another intriguing piece of information:
[actor reads report]: At 20:25 alpha an armoured patrol reached the Tuzla highway strip. Cargo handling activity was observed. Five heavy trucks, BiH personnel and some cargo on the ground was identified by the use of night vision goggles. On their way back to the airbase the armoured patrol was fired on by BiH soldiers.
Reporter: We asked contacts in Tuzla which unit of the BiH army had attacked the patrol. They told us to look for the man on the right in these photographs. Brigadier Refik Brdjanovic, former commander of the Black Wolves special forces unit, was in charge of security for the air drops. It was his soldiers who’d shot at the UN patrol. Concerned about his personal security, Brdjanovic proved difficult to track down. We finally caught up with him in Switzerland. Brdjanovic confirmed that the Americans organised the covert operation.
Refik Brdjanovic, Commander ABiH “Black Wolves”: [spoken interpretation] I understood that Americans were leading these operations because before any air drops took place there were American planes flying over the region.
Reporter: Help was at hand on the ground too.
Brdjanovic: When we were offloading these aircraft there were civilians who were talking English. I do not know if they were Americans, but they were speaking English.
Reporter: Some days after the drops an aid worker was driving along a road close by Tuzla air strip. He was taken by a call of nature [needed a piss!].
Norwegian aid worker [face not shown]: I found a nice place to stop in front of like I say it was a big garage with two or maybe it was three doors on the front and it’s a good place to park outside. So then I stopped the car there and went out and around the corner and to do my thing [laughs]. And then it was a small door, and the door opened and inside there I saw two guys sitting and I knew them I’d talked to them, I’d seen them and I knew that they were American and [they were] looking into two boxes that was a little bit shorter than two metres and since they were sitting on it it was approximately the height of a chair. 40, 50, maybe 60 centimetres high, and maybe the same width of it, and it was green, so it was not an ordinary box, it was some special kind of box, and one of them, that was nearest to me, just jumped up and smashed the door, in and locked it. I was very confused – I knew this guy and I talked to them many times.
Reporter: Six years after the incident this man still fears for his safety.
Brdjanovic: [spoken interpretation] They were big packages and inside there were boxes on which it was written “US Army”. Mainly grey although there were some green.
Reporter: The boxes contained valuable “Stinger” ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank guided weapons to be used against the superior army of the Bosnian Serb Army. But Brdjanovic also told us that this man [picture shown] was involved in arranging the covert supply of weapons from Iran. He was the Bosnian military attache in the Turkish capital of Ankara. General Hasim Sadic, it seems, had not told us all he knew.
We then asked Brdjanovic to name the most senior American involved in what was called “Operation Rescue”.
Brdjanovic: [spoken interpretation] I remember Jim Campbell. Before he came to Bosnia his people were scouting the region for this operation. The name of his assistant was Jack Collins.
Reporter: “Jim Campbell” turned out to be Major-General James L. Campbell of the US Army. We asked his commanding officer to comment.
General Joulwan: I don’t think he was with NATO. He may have been with the US Army in Europe. But not with NATO.
Reporter: As well as being commander of NATO, General Joulwan was also commander of all US forces in Europe. Either way, he was Campbell’s boss.
General Joulwan: I have no idea what his tasking was and er… I don’t know. You’ll have to ask General Campbell.
Reporter: It seems remarkable that General Joulwan was uninformed about the activities of one of his most senior staff officers.
General Joulwan: I had no idea that he was involved in these covert operations. If he was involved in it, I had no knowledge of it.
Reporter: Far from ending the conflict, the American “lift and strike” plan poured fuel on the fire.
Professor Vidar Lehmann: There was one particular issue that impressed us much and that was the American participation in the build-up of the army or forces of the Croats inside [meaning unclear], and when it came to the offensive in the Krajina in August they participated actively in giving air support to those forces. So they were on both sides in a way: they were in the UN systems with the hospital and with some staff officers, at the same time they were supporting one of the parties actively and militarily.
Reporter: Military training was also banned by the UN arms embargo. The Americans insisted they had only trained the Croatian Army in “human rights”. If so that training proved ineffective.
Professor Vidar Lehmann: On the 16th of August 1995 the Sector South HRAT, which is a humanitarian officer, viewed four dead bodies in the village of Zagovic [phonetic]. All appeared to have been dead for at least one week. Two of the bodies, both men, by the side of the main highway, both men had bullet holes in their heads.
Reporter: Defence analyst Tim Ripley believes that the US plan to train and equip the Bosnian Muslims led directly to the terrible death toll in Srebrenica later in 1995.
Tim Ripley: The Bosnian Army lurched from one disaster to the next. It went on the offensive in March in two places in central Bosnia, got defeated; it launched a major offensive around Sarajevo in May, and got defeated with several thousand casualties, and come June and July, General Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, decided that if the Bosnians were going to keep on attacking he was going to strike back and hit the Bosnians in the place where they were weakest, in the Srebrenica enclave. So you could say that these air drops were, in military terms, an own goal in that they gave the Bosnians a false sense of security, a false sense of their military power and it backfired spectacularly on the Bosnians.
Reporter: 7,000 men, women and children were massacred at Srebrenica.
In their determination to push ahead with the “lift and strike” plan the Americans made one huge mistake. They were concerned that their allies would learn about the covert operations and misuse of NATO resources. So they shut down the supply of all satellite reconnaisance photography and signals intelligence, telephone tapping.
Stale Ulriksen is deputy director of Norway’s prestigious Foreign Policy Institute he is particularly well-informed about intelligence matters.
Stale Ulriksen: Well, it was, of course, very provoking because intelligence is one of the main assets in the American… er, what the Americans bring to NATO. Europe has depended upon, and chosen to depend upon, America for supplying this data so, of course, it was an incredible provoking act to stop it. This was the beginning of the Euro force that we see today.
Reporter: [interviewing Ulriksen] And this was influenced by what was happening in Bosnia?
Stale Ulriksen: I would guess so, yes. Obviously! Of course! [laughs]
Reporter: The blackout even applied to countries with whom they had long-standing pacts for sharing such intelligence: Britain and Norway. Both governments were furious.
Stale Ulriksen: It threatened to break up NATO. It could have been the death of NATO.
[footage of Tony Bliar and Jacques Chirac on red carpet caption St Malo 1998]
Reporter: The first public sign of dissent within the western alliance was when the British and French agreed a plan for extensive military co-operation. Senior political and diplomatic sources on both sides of the Atlantic told Correspondent “off the record” that they were shocked at the development. The Anglo-French agreement was signed at St Malo in Brittany .
Tim Ripley: St Malo is the first time the British and French governments, at the highest level, had contemplated a non-NATO, military, co-operation for serious military operations as opposed to peace time exercise co-operation. It was the genesis for what is now known as the “Euro Army”. It showed that the British government, who had been the stalwart American ally since the year dot, was finally looking for European-based military options outside NATO structure. It’s a matter of public record that there is a distinct lineage from St Malo to the Euro Army.
Reporter: Once the French had won Prime Minister Tony Blair to their cause, the establishment of a European “rapid reaction force”, the Euro Army, was inevitable.
There’s a reluctance in Washington and Brussels to talk openly about a possible end to the transatlantic alliance, but the pace at which the Euro Army is being established seems to indicate a determination for it to take over as the leader in future peacekeeping operations.
When the proposal was put to the European Council of Ministers in Helsinki in December 1999 not a single country dissented.
Many defence analysts believe that the Balkans conflict has tested the Western alliance almost to destruction.
Tim Ripley: For the first three years of the Bosnian war the Americans were engaged rhetorically but disengaged militarily and diplomatically. For the Europeans that was an immensely frustrating and disillusioning event. They were there with their troops on the ground, being shot at, you had General Rose doing his stuff in Sarajevo, but the Americans were just not prepared to go that extra mile to back him up.
General Rose: There were 300 casualties amongst the peacekeepers of the United Nations who went to Bosnia to keep other people alive and to allow them to live better. It was a heroic achievement by the twenty-three-and-half thousand young men and women in Bosnia who never lost faith in what they were doing and I think NATO could learn a lesson from that.
Stoltenberg: We, Europeans and United Nations, have a lot to learn from Yugoslavia, but I think also Washington should take notice of the fact that we might have had peace earlier if they had supported the agreements negotiated. The main moral issue was to get people to stop killing each other.
Reporter: Right or wrong the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on the Balkans during the wars. The US secretly breached this embargo without informing the rest of NATO, the alliance of which they are a member. And the fighting continued, thousands more died, soldiers and civilians.
On the 25th of May 1995, Youth Day in Former Yugoslavia, the young people of Tuzla promenaded in the old town centre. [screen goes black, sound of explosion, footage of bodies lying in street] Seventy-one of them died in this mortar attack.
Reporter: Sheena Macdonald
Camera: Matt Smith, Hans Erik Lindbom, Leigh Wilson, Oliver Wills
Sound: Stephen Grealey, Michael Colman
Dubbing mixer: Chris Rayson
VT Editor: Boyd Nagle
Graphic Design: Nicola Owen
Research: Geir Ondal, Roger Charles, Alexander Øysta
Consultant: Ken Connor BEM
Production Manager: Lorna Jackson
Picture Editor: Warren Baxter
Associate Producers: Ola Flyum, Nick Anning, Dan Hebdich
Execurive Producer for NRK: Alf Jacobsen
Produced and Directed by David Hebditch
An SFI Production for the BBC, NRK & WDR
Editor: Fiona Murch