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Western Press Review: NATO's Strategy In Bosnia

  • Jan de Weydenthal

Prague, 22 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Press reports and commentaries today focus again on the situation in Bosnia, particularly on NATO's increasingly active role there and Russia's position on electoral politics in that country. Other comments concern the growing efforts to ban personnel land mines.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Taboos against NATO actions are being chiseled away

Tracy Wilkinson wrote today that "for most of the 20 months since the war here (in Bosnia) ended, Bosnia-watchers have grown accustomed to being told what Western peacekeepers could not do."

Wilkinson said that "The NATO-led guardians of peace could not escort refugees returning home. They could not pursue war criminals. They could not do anything about the paramilitary police who took charge of those two issues by blocking refugee returns and harboring alleged war criminals. Some of those taboos are now being chiseled away. Most dramatically, NATO this week ousted an entire police hierarchy in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serbs' largest city, and replaced it with one considered more cooperative."

But Wilkinson also said that "The strategy of stirring the Bosnian Serb pot is a risk-filled effort that could backfire at any moment," and added that "for the West's new strategy to be successful, diplomats say, it will have to be sustained. Police beyond Banja Luka will have to be brought into line."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Raids on police stations were designed to break Karadzic and Kijac's power

Colin Soloway reported today that the NATO action in Banja Luka was motivated by far-reaching political designs. He said: "Wednesday's raids on the police stations were presented as simply part of the IPTF's (International Police Task Force) investigation of human rights abuses in the Banja Luka police. But diplomats admit that they were designed to break the power of the police loyal to Dr. (Radovan) Karadzic and Dragan Kijac, the interior minister."

The paper today said also in an editorial that "the intervention force should have long ago used its strength to arrest Mr. Karadzic and his lieutenant, General Ratko Mladic, and deliver them to the war crimes tribunal for trial. Having failed to do that, it has to fall back on a highly dubious instrument to thwart Mr. Karadzic's designs."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE/NEW YORK TIMES: Russia has long been the Serbs' major outside ally

The "Tribune" printed today a "Times" report by Raymond Bonner on yesterday's meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concerned with the political situation in Bosnia. Bonner said that "in a closed-door meeting here (in Vienna), Russia put the brakes Thursday on a proposal to have an international organization supervise elections that the Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic, has called in her power struggle with the Serbian hard-liners' leader, Radovan Karadzic."

Bonner said that "the Russian action is a setback for the Clinton administration, and major European governments, which have openly sided with Mrs. Plavsic..." He went on to say that "Russia has long been the Serbs' major outside ally, and is reluctant to get caught in a struggle between Serbs."

LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES: Diplomats believe Russia is taking Milosevic's side

Commenting on that development, Guy Dinmore said in today's edition that "without proper supervision, Western officials fear that hard-line Serb nationalists loyal to Radovan Karadzic, the ex-president and an indicted war crimes suspect, will be able to manipulate the elections as they did last year."

Dinmore added that "Diplomats believe Russia is taking the side of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president in Belgrade, who opposes the Western-backed Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic, in her power struggle against the nationalists."

Land mines

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE/WASHINGTON POST: Washington has shown ambivalence toward a land mine ban

The "Tribune" printed today an editorial from the "Post" advocating the ban on land mines. The editorial said: "Long after war ends in many parts of the world, one particular kind of weapon goes on exploding. Land mines are cheap, lethal -- and long-lasting. More than 100 million of them are buried in current and former battle zones, with another two million being laid each year. That is far more than are being uncovered and disarmed. Most of then the victims of these weapons are civilians, frequently children, who are most likely to skip away form a trodden path and find themselves suddenly legless.

The horror of this carnage has sparked a popular movement to abolish land mines altogether, a movement toward which official Washington has shown ambivalence."

The editorial said further that "now the weight of opinion within the Clinton administration is shifting appropriately toward a ban, and toward the argument that most military functions assigned to mines can be assumed by other weapons and revised tactics."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: A ban is unlikely to obtain universal agreement

Commenting on the issue today Frederick Bonnert, editorial director of a major NATO publication, cautioned that "a ban is unlikely to obtain universal agreement. It would be difficult to control and impossible to enforce. It would bind only nations which, when they use mines, do so in an orderly and therefore not subsequently damaging fashion."

Instead, Bonnert suggested that "another, more limited objective would be achievable. Records can be made easily and quickly of mines laid while an operation is in progress; the mines can be lifted shortly thereafter."

Bonnert went on to say that "consensus could be obtained for elimination of the most dangerous system, the equipment for indiscriminate mechanical scattering of large quantities of undetectable plastic mines. Such commitments are in the interest of all, and should therefore be readily acceptable.

This solution is not ideal, but it is realistic. It would considerably reduce, and perhaps eliminate, the subsequent consequences of which so many tragic examples have recently been in evidence. Such a treaty could excel not only in its easier international acceptance but also in the universal adherence to its provisions."