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Western Press Review: Clouds Gather Over Kosovo

By Don Hill/Anthony Georgieff/Dora Slaba

Prague, 19 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Yesterday's stalemate in he Paris talks on Kosovo has drawn a storm of commentary and analysis in the Western press.

SUEDEUTSCH ZEITUNG: It's easy to cross the line into silliness

Writing in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, commentator Peter Muench says Western diplomats are displaying an infinite capacity for self-delusion in continuing to try to apply pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Muench writes: "The [ethnic] Albanian signature on the Kosovo peace agreement does not mean peace is on the way for the troubled and rebellious province --not by a long shot. In fact, the absence of a Serbian signature on the treaty means that the European and American alliance trying to force a peace in Kosovo is at least halfway down the road to war."

The commentator also says: "With an unlimited willingness to pull the wool over their own eyes and then put on a set of blinders, Western diplomats keep finding new ways to give the Serbian Government new and ever-later deadlines to reconsider and sign. The only people who could seriously believe that the Serbs under Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may still give in and sign are the people who think that Milosevic's massing of troops and tanks in the crisis area is a sign that he might be ready to back down."

Muench adds: "When so many last chances have been offered, it's easy to cross the line into silliness. At least, it would be if the stakes weren't so serious."

DER BUND: NATO's compromise solution is at best supported for tactical reasons

Only the Kosovar-Albanians signed on to the West's proposed Kosovo solution, and even they were motivated by purely tactical considerations, Switzerland's daily Der Bund notes in an editorial. The paper says: "NATO's compromise solution --autonomy but, for the moment, no independence for Kosovo-- is at best supported by the Kosovo Liberation Army [UCK] for tactical reasons." Der Bund adds: "The second round of Kosovo negotiations [are ending] without a political solution. At best, it will succeed in forcing a cease fire --but then only if NATO doesn't put its credibility at risk with empty threats."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The US. is so strong it can afford to ignore tempests in local teapots

The U.S.'s International Herald Tribune publishes two commentaries. on Kosovo today. One urges the U.S. to stay out of Kosovo. The second calls for bombing.

Alan Tonelson is a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industrial Council and Ted Galen Carpenter is Vice President for defense and foreign policy studies at the conservative Cato Institute. In arguing for the U.S. to stay out of Kosovo militarily, they write: "Before President Bill Clinton sends a proposed 4,000 U.S. soldiers on a peace-keeping mission to Kosovo, he should consider this sobering reality: Peace-keeping operations all over the world are falling apart."

Tonelson and Carpenter go on: "Interventionists long have emphasized America's alleged moral interests in helping failed states through peace operations. But how moral is it to risk U.S. lives in unnecessary and futile ventures? The record shows that outside forces have not the vaguest idea how to fix failed states at any politically acceptable or strategically sensible price."

The analysts conclude: "Interventionists inside and outside the administration insist that U.S. superpower status requires actively supporting UN and NATO peace operations. Yet, the reality is just the opposite. Precisely because the US. is so strong, wealthy and substantially self-sufficient, it can afford to ignore tempests in local teapots, however tragic."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO has to live up to its threats

In the second IHT commentary, Christopher Bennett, author and former director of the International Crisis Group mission in the Balkans, says baldly: "Go ahead and bomb Yugoslavia." Bennett writes: "It was predictable. Kosovo's ethnic Albanians accept the international plan for the future of their province. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic rejects the deal because it means deployment of peace-keepers. The mediation process fails. NATO has to live up to its threats."

The writer adds: "If NATO fails to intervene in Kosovo, the evolution of the conflict is again depressingly predictable. As the weather improves, the fighting will escalate; more Kosovo residents, both Serbs and Albanians, will swell the ranks of the region's refugees; and the already entrenched positions of both sides will become even more extreme."

He says further: "It is easy to criticize the Dayton accord [on Bosnia] and the state of the Bosnian peace process. It will no doubt be easy to criticize any Kosovo settlement. That said, conditions for all parties in Bosnia, including the international community, are incomparably better today than they would have been in the absence of intervention. Three years down the line this will be the case in Kosovo, too, if NATO does indeed take the plunge and bomb."

GUARDIAN: Western governments must prepare for a full-scale use of conventional force

In London, The Guardian goes farther still. "Air strikes are not enough," the newspaper says in an editorial. It writes: "There will have to be a military intervention in Kosovo. Western governments have been reluctant to send ground troops without Belgrade's invitation, but the choice can no longer be evaded. Air strikes by themselves are not enough, and could well provoke more reprisals against Albanian civilians, unless it is made clear that they have a military rather than a political purpose. They must be designed to reduce resistance to the arrival of ground troops. These are hard decisions, but over the next few days Western governments must prepare for a full-scale use of conventional force."

JYLLANDS POSTEN: Serbs can only anticipate being served with another ultimatum

A commentator for Denmark's daily Jyllands Posten, Jergen Ullerup, considers bombs over Kosovo inevitable. He writes: "The Kosovo peace talks have fallen apart again, and the Serbs can only anticipate being served with another ultimatum. They have a clear choice: either to accept the peace plan or to be bombed by NATO's jets and missiles, possibly by the middle of next week."

INFORMATION: To strike at one party in a regional conflict will set a very dangerous precedent

In an editorial, Denmark's daily newspaper, Information says that bombing would be historically unprecedented and pragmatically indefensible. The newspaper asks: "When was the last time the defense alliance of a number of democratic states threatened a smaller European nation with an ultimatum in the middle of some peace negotiations? Possibly, never." it answers.

Information explains: "The reasons for this are that such a move is meaningless in a conflict between two nations, the Serbs and the [ethnic Albanian] Kosovars, that {their conflict} does not directly threaten any NATO state, and that [it] takes place in a territory which has been disputed for 600 years." The editorial sums up: "To strike at one party in a regional conflict simply because it refuses to adhere to the decisions dictated to it by outside powers will be to set a very dangerous precedent."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Milosevic's Yugoslavia is a kind of Iraq in southern Europe

Corriere della Sera in Milan calls Milosevic's Yugoslavia "a kind of Iraq in southern Europe. The newspaper writes in an editorial: "How far do the air attacks have to go for Slobodan Milosevic to back down? [And)] meanwhile, how many massacres will be perpetrated in Kosovo? "

FIGARO: Milosevic has no other means of staying in power

France's Le Figaro finds the state of Milosevic' mind unfathomable. The paper says: "The Serbian President is fully aware that the thrust against the Albanians is unsustainable. Despite his superiority in military force and armaments, there is no chance of him winning this underground war. There are simply too many Kosovar-Albanians."

The newspaper goes on: "Politically, Milosevic wants to explain away the losses in Kosovo by describing it as a Western plot. He is refusing to negotiate seriously and is sending troops to the borders with Macedonia. He is sowing anti-personal mines in Kosovo that are aimed at the possible NATO [ground] troops. His provocations are becoming ever more frequent to coerce the allied planes into attacking. Milosevic has no other means of staying in power."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: According to the Russian view a war in Kosovo would be a catastrophe for the region

Writing in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Rudolph Chimelli asks why the Russians support the Serbs. He writes: "According to the Russian view, a war in Kosovo or a separation of the province from Yugoslavia would be a catastrophe for the region. The consequences cannot be compared with the break-up of Macedonia, which also has an Albanian minority. According to the Russian view, too, separating the province from Yugoslavia would also jeopardize the very existence of Bosnia. Because if a Greater Albania comes into existence, then why not a Greater Croatia or Greater Serbia?"

Chimelli also sees a religious motivation. He writes: "The Russian attitude toward the Serbs is prompted by a feeling of solidarity toward a [fellow] Slavonic Orthodox people, It has something in common with the hostility to Muslims that the Russians feel in Chechnya," But he adds: "A Russian diplomat responds, 'What's wrong with that? Would it be smart to drive Bosnians or Albanians under the banner of Islam?'"