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Western Press Review: Commentators Vary On Kosovo Solution

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 12 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to center on the conflict in Yugoslavia -- developing near unanimity in horror over perceived Serbian excesses and on the difficulties of developing solutions, but varying widely on what those solutions might be.

NEW YORK TIMES: To confine Serbian ultra-nationalism is a heavy obligation

New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, writing from London, approvingly quotes James Hooper of the Balkan Action Council as saying, "The Balkans are the new Berlin -- the test of Western will." Lewis says: "We have to face a hard fact. The United States and its allies must be in this for the long haul. Reconstructing Kosovo after the Serbian savagery will not be easy. Then we must work with surrounding countries to confine the Serbian ultra-nationalism that [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic has aroused. It is a heavy obligation, but the alternatives are worse."

DAILY MAIL: What we do have is attitude

Also in London, Daily Mail editorial writer Derrick Hill resurrects the notion of British "jingoism" and tells why it is alive again in British attitudes toward the Balkans. Hill writes in today's Wall Street Journal Europe: "The British government [failed to assess correctly] the mood of the average Briton to the possible involvement of British ground troops in the effort to curb Milosevic's murderous ways." He says: "The term jingoism denoting a warlike foreign policy, derives from an English popular song from 1878, at the height of Empire, when the great issue of the day was resisting the advance of Russia. Echoing the belligerent sentiments of those who wished to send a British fleet into Turkish waters, the chorus went: "We don't want to fight but, by Jingo, if we do/We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money, too."

He concludes: "What we do have in today's parlance, is attitude. Which is why our men are in the skies over former Yugoslavia. It's also why, if ensuring a settled, long-term future for Kosovo's ethnic Albanians requires it, our troops could soon be on the ground, too."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: A NATO ground war could develop into a world war

Jingoism on the part of an embattled Russia and its president, Boris Yeltsin, also remains a threat, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung warns editorially. The newapaper says: "In moments of the direst emergencies Boris Yeltsin still manages to mobilize enormous strength." It says: "Yeltsin knows what is at stake for him personally and for Russia this week." It goes on: "The torturous Yugoslav crisis without a doubt is weakening great power Russia." The Sueddeutsche Zeitung concludes: "Moscow's atomic power could again be aimed at NATO states is the underlying warning; a NATO ground war [in Kosovo] could develop into a world war. Parallel to this Yeltsin is trying to postpone impeachment. Certainly he is impelled by private motives, but not only. This should be observed by the West."

ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: You can't fight a war without fighting

Jay Bookman, editorial writer for the Atlanta Constitution, writes that the Serbs have an advantage in the Yugoslav war. That is that they care enough to put themselves and their lives on the line. He writes: "Though we're willing to kill for Kosovo, we're not willing to die for it. The Serbs, on the other hand, are willing to do both. And that's the core of our problem."

Bookman says: "NATO's air campaign in Kosovo has undoubtedly had an impact." He says: "However, the Serbs' sole advantage in this conflict - NATO's unwillingness to risk casualties -- has given NATO an even greater handicap. The hard truth is, you can't fight a war without fighting."

LE JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE: This war is quite different from others

France's Le Journal du Dimanche editorializes that the current conflict is very different from previous military conflicts this century. The newspaper says: "How many crimes -- millions of crimes in this century -- have been perpetrated in the name of nationalism? By contrast, this war is quite different from others. For, however the degree of refusal to comply is inevitable in every war, this one is not being fought in Europe in the name of nationalism, but against nationalism."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO must finally commit itself to a strategy for long-term stability throughout Southeast Europe

The U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1993 until last year, Robert E. Hunter, contends that the United States and NATO need to develop a strategic perspective in the Balkans. He writes in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times: "However the Kosovo crisis is resolved, the United States and its NATO allies must finally commit themselves to a comprehensive and coherent strategy for long-term stability throughout Southeast Europe. Beyond reinforcing Allied determination in Kosovo, this must be the centerpiece of the NATO summit in Washington on April 23-25. The alternative is to condemn the West to more episodic interventions under crisis conditions."

Ambassador Hunter says: "The allies must recognize, now, that nothing in NATO's future is possible unless they put the focus on, and keep it on, all of Southeast Europe from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, from former Yugoslavia to Turkey's Eastern frontier."

NEW YORK TIMES: In future ethnic conflicts, the United States and its allies will have to be better prepared

The New York Times offered Sunday the editorial opinion that NATO will prevail if it perseveres. But "next time," says the newspaper, it should be wiser and craftier. The editorial says: "Even with the ragged start in the Balkans, NATO air supremacy should be sufficient over time to grind down Serbian resistance and bring Slobodan Milosevic to a political settlement. The pace has been slowed in part by bad weather and a decent regard for the safety of NATO pilots."

The editorial concludes: "In future ethnic conflicts, the United States and its allies will have to be better prepared to handle hordes of displaced people. Governmental resources, including military units, will need to be committed in advance to the effort. Having made the defensible decision to rely primarily on air power in regional conflicts that do not immediately threaten American security, Washington will need to be as imaginative and agile as possible in fighting such wars and in preparing for their repercussions."

LA STAMPA: Bombing won't be enough

From Turin, La Stampa disagrees. Bombing won't be enough, it says in an editorial. It says: "The more time passes, the more the conviction that bombing and the 'clean war' are not sufficient to terminate the tragedy in Kosovo."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: For how long can the introduction of ground forces still be described as premature ?

So does Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It editorialzies: "For how long can the introduction of ground forces still be described as premature, in spite of the fact that the regime in Belgrade is so successful in depopulating Kosovo and is destabilizing its neighbors with the flow of [ethnic] Albanian refugees?"

WASHINGTON POST: There should be no compromise on basic principles

The Washingon Post expresses shock editorially over the scope of what it sees as Serbian crimes. The paper says: "Slobodan Milosevic now has urged all citizens of Kosovo 'to live together and cooperate.' It is difficult to overstate the grotesque cynicism of this statement. Mr. Milosevic, the Serbian leader, has perpetrated crimes against the people of Kosovo of a scope rarely seen in history, and by all accounts these crimes are continuing."

The edtiorial says: "Now there is at least a chance that the balance of advantage may begin to tip in NATO's favor. Although the intensity of the allied bombing campaign can be questioned, it finally may be affecting the Serbian forces directly involved in crimes against humanity in Kosovo. This campaign must be carried on with far greater urgency, for hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in danger." The Post contends: "That does not mean NATO must rule out a peaceful or negotiated solution to this conflict. It does mean there should be no compromise on basic principles."

WASHINGTON POST: The solution is to create a safe haven within the refugees' own country

A refugee specialist, commenting in The Washington Post, focuses on the plight of Kosovar refugees. Princeton Lyman directed the U.S. State Department's Refugee Programs Bureau during the Gulf War. In a commentary in the Post, he writes that the best real hope for Kosovar refugees lies in the dangerous act of using troops to guarantee them safe haven within Kosovo. "As hundreds of thousands of Kosovars take refuge in neighboring countries, or even worse, find themselves turned back at the border, we should remember that we have faced this situation before. And the solution then was clear and unavoidable -- to create a safe haven within the refugees' own country."

Lyman says: "No doubt that establishing such an area requires the entry of NATO troops into Kosovo, but it need not necessarily lead to combat. The bombing has diminished the Serbian army's capacity. Nevertheless, with whatever limitations we place on the operation and advance warnings we issue, the risk of confrontation with Serbian forces will exist. But the alternative is a humanitarian disaster, threatening not only the support for this war, but the stability of the entire area."