Prague, 8 April 1999 (RFL/RL) -- As they have for more than two weeks now, Western press commentators are largely concentrating on the crisis in Kosovo and the increasingly intensive NATO air strikes across Yugoslavia. Some of today's comments take account of the latest developments in Kosovo, notably Belgrade's apparent decision to close the province's borders after having expelled close to half-a-million ethnic Albanians. Editorials and analyses also touch on the continuing plight of the Kosovars forced out of the province earlier by Serb forces.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Milosevic's truce proposal was rightly rejected
The Los Angeles Times calls Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's offer of an Orthodox Easter cease-fire earlier this week (April 6) a "cruel charade." In an editorial, the paper writes: "This is a time of blunder and bluster for Milosevic...and the NATO powers promptly and properly turned [the offer] down. Clearly, the bombing has hit its mark, shaking confidence at the presidential palace. Now is not the time to talk deals with Milosevic. He knows that the key condition for a real truce is a return to the Rambouillet peace talks in France."
The editorial continues: "In recent days, Milosevic has talked of striking a deal with Ibrahim Rugova, a moderate Kosovar leader, who apparently has been a guest, or captive, in Belgrade for at least a week. Milosevic reportedly is seeking a temporary arrangement with Rugova that could establish him as compliant leader of the Kosovars. That deal might have been done at Rambouillet, but it cannot be realized now that Kosovo has become a Serbian-occupied province."
The LAT concludes: "Milosevic is running low on options in Kosovo, and his military forces appear overwhelmed by NATO air power in Serbia itself. The diplomatic door is still open, but his truce proposal offered no concessions and was rightly rejected."
WALL STREET JOURMAL: We must first defeat the Serbian war machine
A commentary by Wall Street Journal Europe contributing editor Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, also focuses on Milosevic. "To rebuild Serbia," he says, "NATO must first defeat Milosevic." Kasparov writes further: "'No man, no problem,' reportedly one of Stalin's favorite phrases, appears to be the marching order of [the] Serbian dictator. His cold-blooded instructions to cleanse Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian population has shaken a Europe that hasn't witnessed such brutality since the end of World War Two."
Kasparov urges virtually all-out war on Serbia: "To not only end the atrocities in Kosovo, but to reverse the spell Milosevic has placed on the Serbian people, we must first defeat the Serbian war machine. And...the West must resist entertaining subversive arguments about 'historical rights.' The loss of Danzig, East Prussia and Alsace were not less traumatic for the Germans than the would-be independence of Kosovo is for the Serbs."
He adds: "The world needs an international decision-making mechanism not hobbled by the ideological baggage of the Cold War. The indictment of Slobodan Milosevic by a war-crimes court would be the best possible introduction of a new world order."
WALL STREET JOOURNAL: Leftists across Europe have a problem
In an editorial in the same issue, the Wall Street Journal Europe discusses "Slobo's defenders." The paper writes: "For decades, the European Left has preached pacifism, in part because a Marxist superpower was the Western democracies' main opponent. Now, a good many Socialists, Communists and Greens on the far Left, not to mention Trotskyites and other [fringe groups], have found a new rallying point: opposing NATO action in Yugoslavia."
According to the WSJ, "the NATO ally most vulnerable to Leftist divisiveness is Italy, a country run by a former Communist, Massimo D'Alema....[But] in Germany," the paper adds, "a splinter group of Greens has begun to organize a petition against the war....Most Germans, however, are unmoved. One recent poll puts approval of German involvement at 62 percent, with opposition half that."
The WSJ argues: "Leftists across Europe have a problem. Their hero this time is not a romanticized guerrilla like Che Guevara whose photo adorned Sorbonne dorms....This time the tyrant in question [is] Slobodan Milosevic, [who] looks every bit the thug he is. [That's why] he's often portrayed as a butcher in the British press and as a pig in [France's] Le Monde."
GUARDIAN: The real campaign has been against civilians
Britain's Guardian newspaper writes in an editorial today "It shows how far the Milosevic regime has lost contact with reality if its leaders can assume that the international consequences of driving hundreds of thousands of people to their borders can be reversed simply by driving them back again....The deportees," the paper adds, "have apparently been sent back by Serbian officers who told them that...it is all right now for them to return to their homes."
The Guardian comments: "The fact that those homes may have been completely destroyed and almost certainly have been looted bares the fiction on which conciliatory moves by Serbia over the last few days are based. This fiction is that there has been a short, sharp, and necessary fight against terrorists, complicated by a flight of civilians caused by NATO bombing."
The paper concludes: "What has really happened is that there has been very little fighting with the Kosovo Liberation Army....The real campaign has been against civilians, whose vast displacement has been largely forced or, when voluntary, caused by fear of the Serbians rather than fear of the bombing."
INDEPENDENT: The EU governments have a stark choice
In an editorial, Britain's Independent daily says today that "the fate of the Kosovar refugees has taken a new and sinister twist [with the Serbian army apparently forcing the] fleeing people back into Kosovo.... The refugees," the paper goes on, "have suddenly become not just the victims of war but a weapon in the propaganda battle...[Yet] whatever Mr. Milosevic's calculations, his actions should not fool anyone in the European Union into thinking that the Kosovars in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro are going to be able to go home soon."
The editorial continues: "It is extremely disappointing, therefore, that [EU] nations have not been able to come up with an agreed policy on sheltering refugees....While the Germans, Dutch and Danes [propose] that EU states welcome refugees in proportion to their population, Britain and Italy [say] no --and France is trying not to take any Kosovar refugees at all."
The paper concludes: "The best and quickest way for the EU to get the Kosovars home is for NATO to establish a protectorate over Kosovo....The EU governments have a stark choice. Either they can have a long war with no NATO ground troops involved and the prospect of the refugees becoming permanently settled in their countries, or they can fight to create a protectorate which will secure future peace."
LEIPZIGER VOLKSZEITUNG: NATO will have to figure out how to get out of its current dilemma
Germany's Leipziger Volkszeitung comments in an editorial on NATO's rejection of Belgrade's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire, calling the offer "a hollow ploy" by Milosevic. The paper writes: "NATO was justly skeptical.....It will only be in the coming days, when Serbian units are supposed to be withdrawn, that one will be able to properly assess things."
The paper continues: "If there is no fundamental change, NATO will have to figure out how to get out of its current dilemma. Either it will have to dare to send in ground troops to liberate Kosovo and place returning ethnic Albanians under international protection. Or it will have to end what have become senseless air strikes, and accept a dictatorship with no regard for human dignity, right in the middle of Europe."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The success of Russia's efforts depend on working with the West
Another German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, comments on the role Russia may be able to play in bringing peace to Kosovo. The paper's editorial says: "Any Russian emissary would have to make it clear to the Serbian leader, that NATO is serious about its threat to destroy the Serbian military machine.....This," it adds, "is a chance for [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin and [Prime Minister Yevgeny] Primakov to prove that they are capable of reacting to a major crisis by doing more than just protesting from the sidelines."
But, the FAZ warns, "Russia's efforts can only be successful, if [its leaders] work with the West --not without it, and certainly not against it."
WASHINGTON POST: Intervention without Russian participation will lack legitimacy
"Russia's role" is also the subject of a commentary today in the Washington Post by Celeste Wallender, a professor at the U.S.'s Harvard University. She writes: "Increasingly, discussion of options to salvage the disastrous policy on Kosovo has turned to a ground-force intervention. Should [NATO] decide it must stop the humanitarian crisis it has helped to create, it will face a major obstacle to such a mission. Intervention without Russian participation will lack legitimacy and is likely to be the final blow against meaningful Russian security cooperation with the West for a long time. Somehow," she urges, "a way must be found to end this crisis through cooperation with Russia."
Wallander's commentary goes on: "By excluding Russia from the single most important decision about European security that has been made since the end of the Cold War, NATO and the West have [already] severely undermined support in Russia for security cooperation. So far, Russia has said that it will continue to cooperate in important security issues....But the West should not believe that Russia has an unconditional interest in cooperation."
"In particular," the commentator adds, "a unilateral NATO occupation of Kosovo would substantiate the Russian security elite's wildest fear: that the U.S. means to use a restructured and expanded NATO to revise borders wherever it sees fit in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This would convince even Russia's moderate leadership that multilateral security cooperation has no future."
WASHINGTON POST: War needs to be carried out by people who are serious
In a second Washington Post commentary on Kosovo today, columnist Charles Krauthammer asks: "Remember the Dutch pilot who shot down a Serb MiG in the first days of the Kosovo campaign? You don't remember him because the Dutch Government would not allow his name to be released. It allowed no official celebration. It would not even allow the pilot to make the traditional mark on his fighter to commemorate his 'kill.'" Krauthammer comments: "NATO doesn't glorify killing. NATO doesn't even admit to killing. NATO simply carries out 'air campaigns.'"
"Early in this one," the commentary continues, "Italy asked for a bombing pause over Easter, in part because the war might scare away holiday tourists from Venice. And NATO took the presidential palace of Slobodan Milosevic, the man we call Hitler, off the bombing target list because of 'cultural' considerations. It is chock-full of heritage. And it contains a Rembrandt." Krauthammer then asks: "This is war?"
Krauthammer sums up: "War needs to be carried out by people who are serious about what it is and what it costs. It took 10 days and half a million refugees for...NATO leaders to begin to acquire seriousness. Finally they are hitting targets --power plants, fuel depots, bridges, airports, television transmitters -- that may indeed kill the enemy and civilians nearby." And again, he asks: "When will we know our leaders have become serious?" His answer: "When they are prepared to hit a Rembrandt."