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Western Press Review: Commentary Turns To 'Other' Kosovo Issues

  • Don Hill



Prague, 22 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The war over Kosovo continues to get top billing in Western press commentary, but the stage increasingly is occupied by secondary actors -- Montenegro, refugee relief, NATO politics, and extra-territorial skirmishes.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Surprisingly, Germany speedily agreed to support military intervention

Joseph Fitchett says in an analysis in the International Herald Tribune, Paris, that Germany surprised the rest of NATO by the speed with which it agreed to become a belligerent. Fitchett writes: "When Germany went to war again last month, for the first time in over half a century, the German armed forces assumed a full role in the NATO campaign, including -- to the surprise of many observers -- missions for all three services, army, navy and air force." The analyst writes: "The speed with which Germany reached a political consensus supporting military intervention has surprised allied governments, which generally thought that it would take a decade or more for German leaders and the public to be ready to take part in military efforts to protect European interests outside the defensive perimeter of NATO nations' territory."

DIE WELT: The alliance has to take a united stand against dictators

In Germany's Die Welt, Herbert Kremp notes that even at an unrelated event such as the awarding of a civilian honor -- the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom -- to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Germany's NATO role reared its head as a central topic. Both the awarder, President Bill Clinton, and the awardee, Kohl, spoke of it. Kremp writes: "The alliance has to take a united stand against dictators now and in the new century, said Clinton, adding diplomatically that a partnership with a democratic Russia is also essential to realizing the vision of a united Europe. Anyone without a vision for the future, said Kohl, misses out on experiencing history in the making. The United States, he said, acknowledging the great help America gave a defeated Germany after World War II, is a stronghold of liberty."

Kremp says: "Civilian awards float around the world's capitals like friendly butterflies -- many people earn one, some get theirs through their old-boys' network and some come by theirs through old-fashioned bootlicking." Kohl, Kremp contends, earned his.

TIMES: Montenegro has been miserably rewarded

The Times, London, flies in an editorial to the aid of the Serbian province of Montenegro. The editorial says in part: "Montenegro, poor, wildly beautiful and with a proud national identity, is the last republic besides Serbia to have stayed in the shrunken Yugoslav federation. It has been miserably rewarded for a loyalty, now severely strained, that Mr Milosevic has held in contempt." The editorial goes on: "[Yugoslavia's] army is blocking access to Montenegro from Croatia, directly challenging the government's authority in an area declared a demilitarized zone by the UN, and demanding full control over the police. The government is defiant, but has reason to fear a military coup. In a country of divided loyalties, [its] ousting would lead to civil war."

The editorial concludes: "[NATO Secretary General] Javier Solana warned Belgrade against unseating [Montenegrin President Milo] Dukanovic, insisting that Nato had "plans to stop" a coup. Yesterday, Madeleine Albright spoke only of unspecified serious consequences. If a plan exists -- and NATO's continuing reliance on air power must be cause for doubt -- it should be dusted off. For if it is bluff, evidence mounts disturbingly that Mr Milosevic is preparing to call it."

NEWSWEEK: Milosevic has all but won the war

In its current edition, the U.S. magazine Newsweek says in an analysis that for the Kosovar Albanians, it may already be too late. The magazine says: "[Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic has all but won the war he is fighting. As of late last week, as many as 600,000 of the 2 million Kosovars had left the province on forced marches or in flight from war. An additional half million were displaced within Kosovo, and Milosevic, after shutting down the borders a week ago, threw them open again in an apparent final attempt to make Kosovo a Serb province. Milosevic, perhaps realizing how his image has suffered from reports of mass executions and rape, seems to be organizing the exodus more humanely. 'At any given moment he's a guy making more calculations than a supercomputer,' Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, (said). 'I'm sure he is considering how to get out of this.' The question is, how does NATO?"

NEW YORK TIMES: NATO is failing in its primary mission

This amounts to a defeat for NATO, twice embarrassing as it prepares to 'celebrate' its 50th anniversary, writes New York Times columnist William Safire, who says: "Manhole covers are being sealed and sharpshooters are preparing to patrol rooftops as this capital braces for the biggest turnout of world leaders since the Kennedy funeral. The 19 nations of the Atlantic alliance had planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the military organization that stopped the Russians. Instead, they will be marking their failure to stop Serbia from expelling unwanted Albanians from its province of Kosovo."

Safire also says: "Nobody at NATO will concede defeat. Beribboned briefers use laser pointers to show bridges destroyed, oil refineries destroyed and empty barracks blown up - as if bombing from a safe distance had anything to do with NATO's military mission. [The alliance] is failing in its primary mission. The Serbs have almost finished doing the bloody work they set out to do. That is military defeat."

NEW YORK TIMES: A desire for democracy and economic growth can promote ethnic cooperation

The New York Times carries another editorial column contending that ethnic division needn't lead inexorably to ethnic hatred and conflict. Times writer Tina Rosenburg says: "Not every nation with a tense mix of ethnicities has slipped into violence. Romania and Hungary, two nations that border Yugoslavia, are trying to manage conflicts surrounding the Hungarian minority in Romania peacefully. The same is true with the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia. Many former Soviet nations are arriving at democratic ways to deal with the large Russian populations in their midst. Latvia, for example, has now agreed to remove most barriers to citizenship for the one-third of its residents who are ethnic Russians. And while several ethnic enclaves of the former Soviet Union, like Chechnya and the ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, have fought separatist wars, many other enclaves have not. History was one thing that made Yugoslavia different. In the Balkans, the ebb and flow of empires over the centuries -- Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and others -- left a long cycle of killings and revenge."

A hunger for revenge leads one way, the writer says; a hunger for democracy can lead another. She concludes: "While Milosevic promised Serbs a better life through ethnic cleansing, the leaders of Hungary, Romania and Slovakia held out the promise of joining Europe.

These leaders were essentially told that they had no chance of NATO or European Union membership until they solved their ethnic problems. Similar statements helped persuade governments of the Baltic states to treat their Russian minorities more justly. It is not only the heavy hand of imperial rule that can impose ethnic cooperation. In most circumstances, the desire for democracy and economic growth can do the same."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: NATO expansion should include Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania

Neither southeastern Europe nor the United Nations will ever be the same, two writers in the Wall Street Journal Europe contend. Former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg James G. Lowenstein writes: "Whether Kosovo becomes independent, partitioned, autonomous, semi-autonomous or an international protectorate, there will be an internationally negotiated solution. That point may be weeks or even months away. But whenever it is reached, it should be followed by a second phase of NATO expansion to include Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The end of the Cold War opens up other opportunities for international action

Foreign affairs advisor to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sir Charles Powell, says: "We now have seen two recent cases where Western powers have decided to use force without the specific authorization of the United Nations Security Council. In both cases -- the renewed bombing of Iraq by the United States and Britain in December, and now NATO's military action against Serbia -- there were howls of protest from Russia, China and other countries arguing that the U.N. is being undermined. Is this the beginning of the end for the United Nations? Perhaps not quite, but both cases point to a sharper recognition of the limitations of the U.N. and its inability to deal with new threats to peace."

Powell writes: "Recourse to the United Nations will not be the automatic response to future conflicts, nor should it be. The ending of the Cold War opens up other opportunities for international action by the countries of the West, which now are being joined by democracies in the eastern part of Europe."

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