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Western Press Review: Commentators Distrust Milosevic's Intentions

  • Joel Blocker
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 13 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke's efforts to persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to comply with UN Security Council resolutions on Kosovo continue to evoke commentary in the Western press. Among other subjects touched on by commentators are Russian President Boris Yeltsin's latest bout of ill health and prospects for the European Union's new single currency, the euro.

IRISH TIMES: Force is the only language Milosevic understands

The Irish Times today says that Holbrooke has "raised hopes of averting (NATO) airstrikes." In an editorial, the paper writes: "The essential objective of the escalating diplomatic and military pressure on...Milosevic is to relieve the rapidly deteriorating conditions for 300,000 refugees made homeless by his rampaging troops in Kosovo and to bring him to the negotiating table to reach a political settlement on the territory's future."

"If that is achieved by diplomacy," the paper continues, "all concerned will be greatly relieved. But there should be no mistaking the necessity to apply the threat of military force against (Milosevic) in order to achieve it, or, if necessary the actual use of force. This is clearly the only language he understands."

The Irish Times also says: "(There should be no) doubt about the need for a properly trained and armed (international) presence on the ground to ensure the refugees are able to return home safely....The (Yugoslav) leader has so often breached such agreements in the past that he must not be allowed to do so again."

GUARDIAN: Kosovars' and Milosevic's objectives are incompatible

Britain's Guardian daily titles its editorial today "Kosovo Must Be Backed: There is No Middle Way." The paper writes: "Rule by terror is not acceptable in Europe. That is the issue Richard Holbrooke has had to keep uppermost in his negotiations. It is the issue which still faces NATO as it considers military action, and which should dominate the talks (between Holbrooke and Milosevic) due to resume (in Belgrade) today."

The Guardian continues: "Any agreement with the Serbians which leaves open the possibility that Serbian troops and police could again shoot and burn their way through Kosovo's villages would be a little Munich which Western governments would soon have cause to regret."

The paper also says: "With or without cruise missiles, and even if Milosevic agrees to all or most of (Holbrooke's) proposals, that will only be the beginning.... He will bend or bash any agreement to which he puts his name....It is to be hoped that no Western policy-maker really believes in the myth of a middle way between what Kosovars want and what Milosevic wants. These objectives are incompatible."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Power in the Kremlin seems destined to be in the hands of people other than Russia's elected president

In Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung today, Tomas Avenarius comments on the cutting short yesterday of Boris Yeltsin's Central Asian trip because of a new bout of bad health. Avenarius writes: "Were it not such a serious matter, you might be excused for smiling. Russian President Boris Yeltsin was said to have caught a cold on (what was called) "a rough flight" from Moscow to Central Asia. That, the world was given to understand, was the reason why he cut short his tour of the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan."

The commentary continues: "The latest pictures showing an aide helping the exhausted Yeltsin out of his seat and on to his shaky legs clearly illustrate the extent to which the Kremlin leader's state of health has become an uncertainty factor in Russian politics....Russians --and not only Russians-- are wondering once more whether such an ailing president is still in a fit state to reach balanced decisions."

Avenarius adds: "An ailing Yeltsin is no help to Russia or the Russians....If his health remains so unstable...power in the Kremlin seems destined to be in the hands, at least temporarily, of people other than Russia's elected president."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Americans should be hoping that the euro succeeds

Writing from Washington in the International Herald Tribune today, columnist Reginald Dale defends the European Union against what he calls U.S. "complaints...that Europe is not doing enough to head off global financial disaster." According to Dale, "Europeans are said (in Washington) to be transfixed by the imminent introduction of their single currency, the euro, and consumed by internal rather than international concerns."

Dale acknowledges that "many Europeans are focusing single-mindedly on their new money without much regard for anything else." But he says: "That is understandable. The euro's debut (on Jan. 1) is so important, not only for Europe but for the international monetary system, that the Europeans simply cannot afford to get it wrong."

Dale writes further: "Americans should recognize that their closest allies are undertaking a huge and enormously difficult challenge, the success of which is important for America, too. Rather than carping," he concludes, "Americans should be hoping that the venture succeeds."

WASHINGTON POST: The referendum result is an important symbol

The Washington Post yesterday commented on Latvia's referendum of 10 days ago that eased citizenship requirements for the country's large Russian-speaking minority. In an editorial, the paper noted that "in June, (the Latvian) parliament approved a liberalizing law allowing any number to apply for citizenship instead of setting an annual quota. The law also qualified for citizenship children born since 1991 to non-citizens. Latvian nationalists opposed to the law, or resentful of Russian and Western pressure on the matter, gathered enough signatures for a referendum. But Latvians, by 53 percent to 45 percent, endorsed the changes."

The editorial also said that "Latvians still must demonstrate a sustained commitment to integration through language classes and other means. Russian speakers still must demonstrate their commitment to their new country."

"But," the paper concluded, "the referendum result is an important symbol of Latvia's desire to join the West as a liberal democracy. Now Western institutions that strongly encouraged this result, and in particular the European Union, should respond by accelerating Latvia's inclusion in Europe."

NEWSWEEK: Impeachment proceedings have the character of a nightmare revisited

In a long commentary in the current issue of Newsweek magazine, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served under former President Richard Nixon, reflects on how the threat of impeachment can affect a president's posture and influence.

Kissinger writes: "I find the looming (Bill) Clinton impeachment proceedings to have the character of a nightmare revisited. As during (the Watergate affair that led to Nixon's resignation), there are questions whether the impeachment process will affect the president's ability to act decisively in a crisis; whether it will tempt rogue nations to provoke crises, and whether the president might not undertake foreign initiatives as a means of easing his domestic travails."

Kissinger says further: "In such an atmosphere, normality and hysteria exist side by side. The president carries out his day-to-day activities as if nothing unusual were occurring while he is, in fact, standing with his back to an abyss into which he can be hurled at any moment. His ultimate fate is now substantially out of his control --a devastating experience for someone who has paid the dehumanizing price required to reach the highest office in the land."
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