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Western Press Review: Albright's Tough Talk Ignites Admiring Commentary

  • Don Hill

Prague, 5 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- An old joke in English ends with the contention that "If a diplomat says 'no,' he or she isn't a diplomat." It has been nearly a week since U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to the Balkans and said "no" and a number of even stronger words. And Western press commentary has been discussing the event ever since.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Dollars play a leading role in Albright's policy

Here's how Bernhard Kuppers, in a commentary, described Albright's demeanor at the time: "Albright held tough talks with Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb and her toughest talks with Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. She then flew to Sarajevo for talks with the three-member presidium of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Only two days earlier she had ordered (Bosnian) Alija Izetbegovic, (Croatian) Kresimir Zubak and (Serbian) Momcilo Krajisnik to Sintra, Portugal, where NATO foreign ministers were meeting, to give them a piece of her mind for showing scant willingness to integrate."

Kuppers commented that Albright's words were part of an exercise in dollar diplomacy. He said: "Dollars and deutschmarks play a leading role in the policy which Albright and the European peace protectors have lately pursued. If the Bosnian ethnocrats fail to show readiness to integrate and to take back refugees, they are not to receive funds. Whatever happens, commitment beyond the end of the SFOR mandate, which expires in June 1998, will be needed. But in the final analysis it will be for the people of Bosnia to resort to self-help to ensure, regardless of their wartime and peacetime leaders, a coexistence along lines that are legally ordered and economically beneficial."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Americans are cheering a small 60-year-old kicking butt

In today's edition, Washington correspondent Hugo Gurdon comments that the Albright show of muscle has captured approbation in her home country. He says: "America's secretary of state (has) stepped up pressure on Serbia to comply with the Dayton peace accords, warning President Slobodan Milosevic that he can either cooperate in the process or 'lead his country down a rat hole.' "

Gurdon writes: "Whatever its effect on the Balkans, Mrs. Albright's abrasive style of diplomacy is having a profound impact on her standing at home. Americans who might rarely take an interest in small countries far away are cheering the sight of the small 60-year-old 'kicking butt.' "

He says: "A Washington diplomat, who described her style as refreshing, recalled that it used to be joked that 'U.S. foreign policy wouldn't be such a mess if Warren Christopher were alive.' No one could aim a remark like that at Mrs. Albright." Gurden comments: "People are showing they will support an active American foreign policy if their representative shoots from the lip instead of grinning and flattering foreign rogues."

AKRON BEACON JOURNAL: Albright struck the right pose

The paper editorialized yesterday: "Madeleine Albright visited the Balkans over the weekend to punctuate the call made by the United States and its NATO allies last week for all parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina to keep their pledges to abide by the Dayton peace accords. The secretary of state used an exclamation point, appropriately enough."

But, the newspaper said, Albright's words were only symbolic, requiring complementary action to give them effect. The editorial concluded that the secretary's words, "can be ignored." It said: "For that reason, it is both imperative she speak out and the NATO allies see her visit as renewing a sense of purpose. How disappointing it would be to learn that Albright's tough talk wasn't part of an enduring commitment to see peace take hold in Bosnia but a hollow, even cruel, gesture. She struck the right pose. If the Balkans are important enough to dispatch American troops there as peacekeepers, it is surely important to see the mission accomplished, even if it takes longer than many might have hoped."

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Albright's tour of the Balkans must be followed by action

In an analysis, Richard Whittle reported Tuesday that a number of specialists on Bosnia agree with the Akron newspaper's stand. He wrote: "Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's tough-talking tour of the Balkans over the weekend must be followed by action if she hopes to break the logjam blocking peace in Bosnia, specialists said Monday." Whitle said: "The critics also want the U.S.-commanded stabilization force to arrest individuals indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal. The peace accords have worked poorly so far, they say, largely because the Serbian portion of Bosnia remains unofficially controlled by leaders such as the indicted Radovan Karadzic. Pentagon officials and top military officers have resisted taking on such missions."

He wrote: "The critics also worry that the administration is failing to implement fully its promise to arm and train Bosnia's Muslim and Croat military forces as insurance against renewed conflict when Western troops leave the country."

NEW YORK TIMES: Balkan leaders can no longer complain that Washington's views are unclear

The paper said Tuesday in an editorial that Albright's language was uncommon for a diplomat but delivered the level of clarity and candor she had promised. It said: "Albright promised a new level of candor when she took charge of American foreign policy. She delivered during a weekend visit to the Balkan region. In a series of remarkably blunt conversations with the leaders of Croatia and Serbia, Albright made plain that they had failed to carry out many of the provisions of the Dayton peace agreement. Albright employed a vocabulary not commonly used in diplomatic discourse, especially in public comments by secretaries of state." The newspaper concluded: "Albright's remonstrations and the more determined American policy behind them may not budge the Balkan leaders. But they can no longer complain that Washington's views are unclear."

NEWSDAY: Albright was the highest U.S. official to visit Srpska

In the U.S. newspaper, Roy Gutman wrote Tuesday from Banja Luka that Albright's bold venture even won support in one of the centers of "Serb ethnic cleansing." He wrote: "Albright was the highest-level U.S. official to visit the ethnically pure (Bosnian republic of Srpska), and the first top aide to lay down mandates that in effect will defeat the notion of an ethnically pure republic, demanding the return of Muslims and Croats, and creation of a multiethnic entity. He said: "And in Banja Luka, (President Biljana) Plavsic gave Albright a surprisingly friendly reception, causing her to stay an hour longer than planned. Plavsic said she and her colleagues believed in the Dayton accords."

Gutman wrote: "But it was not clear what if anything Plavsic can deliver, her title notwithstanding, for she is by far the junior partner to Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb leader, indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity and still, according to U.S. officials, effectively in charge of Srpska."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Albright is the 'president of the United States'

Writer Tyler Marshall, with Albright in Brcko, Bosnia, wrote in a news analysis Monday that "the most rewarding stop on Albright's agenda was at the start of the day, at a playground along Sarajevo's infamous 'sniper alley' that has been rebuilt with U.S. assistance. Albright met with a group of 5- and 6-year-olds who had lived through much of the war, telling them, 'Everything will be OK because we will make a world that is good for you.' The children were impressed. When asked if she knew who the important visitor was, 11-year-old Vasfija Kapo responded without hesitation. 'Of course, she's the president of the United States.' "