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Western Press Review: Second Wind In Bosnia; Second Thoughts In Space

  • Don Hill

Prague, 21 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A renewed firmness in Bosnia by the U.S. government has brought renewed attention to the Balkans by Western press commentators. There also is continued concern for the troubles of the joint Russian-U.S. mission aboard the Mire space station.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The chances of the U.S. playing a winning hand in Bosnia are increasing

Commentator Jim Hoagland says today that the likelihood of a new U.S. diplomatic success in Bosnia is growing. Hoagland writes: "Do Bill Clinton, Congress and the Pentagon have the patience and skill to play out a winning hand in the Bosnian conflict? Six months ago, an intelligent oddsmaker would have put big money against. Today it looks like an even bet that is improving. In recent weeks, President Clinton has re-engaged his administration in a crisis that had been allowed to drift during his reelection campaign and the start of his second term. His modest moves on Bosnia have been aided by events on the ground, where Serbian nationalism now devours itself instead of massacring its neighbors."

He says, "The United States and Britain have come down heavily on (the side of Bosnia Serb President Biljana) Plavsic and are trying to manipulate this split among the Serbs into a decisive showdown. Washington backs Mrs. Plavsic's clearly extra-constitutional dissolution of the Bosnian Serb parliament and her call for October elections for a new legislative body."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Bosnian Serb TV compares NATO peacekeepers to Nazi occupiers

In a news analysis today, Tracy Wilkinson writes that the United States and NATO "clearly" have decided to support Plavsic. Wilkinson says: "In a new widening of the role of U.S.-led peacekeepers in Bosnia, NATO seized control of (Banja Luka's) entire police structure (yesterday) and installed a police chief loyal to embattled Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. Clearly taking sides in an explosive crisis that is splitting the Bosnian Serb Republic in half, U.S. and European mediators also moved to help Plavsic hold early elections to replace a parliament that opposes her."

She writes: "After months of lethargy and stalemate, the West is taking steps into uncharted territory in a newly-revived, U.S.-spurred determination to push the peace process ahead. Until recently, NATO officials had steadily refused to intervene in the notorious Bosnian Serb paramilitary police." The writer says: "For now, keeping hardliners off-balance seems to be the preferred strategy for marginalizing Karadzic, rather than attempting a perilous arrest mission. But the current strategy is also risky. Bosnian Serb television, still controlled by Karadzic's allies, blasted Plavsic as a 'renegade president' that it likened to 'the worst quislings of World War II.' Peacekeepers were compared to Nazi occupiers."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: NATO seized 2,500 weapons to smash a possible coup against the president

Defense correspondent Christopher Bellamy writes in a news analysis today that the NATO troops' action in Banja Luka blocked an incipient police coup against Plavsic. Bellamy says: "British and Czech troops supported by U.S. Apache gunship helicopters raided police stations. (They) seized 2,500 weapons in an operation to smash a possible coup against the elected president. (Plavsic) has been struggling to maintain her authority over rivals still loyal to the indicted war criminal and ex-president, Radovan Karadzic. Yesterday's operation succeeded and at noon she made a triumphant visit to the main police station where she was cheered by several hundred onlookers."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Karadzic forces have been spying on the president and her supporters

Karen Coleman, writing from Sarajevo today, says in an analysis that the NATO action followed crisis talks between Plavsic and international diplomats, and followed discoveries that Karadzic forces systematically had been spying on Plavsic. Coleman writes: "The decision to mount yesterday's operation was taken after Ms. Plavsic held crisis talks on Tuesday evening with Robert Gelbard, the U.S. envoy, and Carlos Westendorp, the top international mediator for Bosnia. They discussed the results of a search of the town's main police station last Sunday, which uncovered evidence of widespread telephone tapping of citizens in Banja Luka, including Ms. Plavsic."

The writer says: "After the discoveries, the international community decided to support Ms. Plavsic's demand for the rest of the police stations to be investigated." Coleman writes: "It is now clear that forces supporting Mr. Karadzic have been involved in a huge campaign to spy on Ms. Plavsic and citizens who support her."

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Plavsic has amazed everyone with her campaign against Karadzic, her former mentor

Jovana Gec, a writer for the U.S.-based news agency, writes in a news analysis distributed internationally by AP that both Serbs and foreigners are mesmerized by Plavsic's metamorphosis from a super-nationalist cocoon into flight as an independent leader of her republic.

Gec writes: "When Biljana Plavsic became Bosnian Serb president a year ago, she was a hard-line nationalist and a true and loyal heir to wartime leader Radovan Karadzic. Today, the 67-year-old biology professor has amazed everyone with her campaign against her former mentor and his lieutenant. Plavsic is helping the West pressure Karadzic, its most-wanted war crimes suspect."

The AP analyst says: "In 1993, she defied Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, backer of the Bosnian Serb war effort, refusing to shake his hand because he was pushing for peace. (But now), although the Serb clash easily could turn into armed conflict and break apart the Serb half of Bosnia, Plavsic maintains she was right to turn against Karadzic and his allies."


Commentators for U.S. newspapers say in analyses published today that despite the problems of space station Mir, the U.S.-Russian collaboration in space has been rewarding -- both for what it has achieved and for what it may have prevented.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Russian-American space relationship has developed into a true partnership

Colin McMahon and Cindy Schreuder write: "Over the past year, the Russian space station Mir has had enough crises to fill a Star Trek episode: a fire, oxygen supply problems, a crash with another spacecraft, dwindling water supplies, plugged toilets and computer failures. But the foibles that fuel the punchlines of late night TV also stoke the fires of resolve for many Americans and Russians. They continue to see the orbiting space station as a triumph of human ingenuity and a unique opportunity to bridge political and cultural boundaries. If NASA's relationship with the Russians started out like space itself -- cold and distant -- it has developed into a true partnership, particularly among the astronauts and engineers who make it run every day."

The writers say: "The American and Russian space programs have distinct styles of working, their own ways of looking at risk, and they sometimes let fly at each other in the occasional public disagreement. At heart, however, they share a special appreciation for what it takes to chart the frontiers of space."

NEW YORK TIMES: The U.S. wants to encourage Russia to use its aerospace brawn for constructive, not destructive ends

William J. Broad points out that Russian space scientists preoccupied with mending Mir aren't launching warheads nor selling missiles to misanthropic regimes. Broad writes: "Big rockets can launch warheads as easily as astronauts and throughout the space age have been used interchangeably for such wildly dissimilar jobs. This fact of technological life is one of the main reasons that Washington puts up with the tragicomedy of the Russian Mir space station."

He writes: "NASA and the (U.S.) government have a lot riding on the Russian program. After the nightmare of the Cold War, Washington wants to do all it can to help the shaky Russian economy, especially its aerospace component. The United States wants to encourage Russia to use its aerospace brawn for constructive rather than destructive ends. In particular, it wants to discourage the Russians from selling big rockets to countries that might use them for nuclear war and blackmail."