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Western Press Review: Kosovo, Russia And The Aftermath

  • Breffni O'Rourke

Prague, April 27 (NCA/ -- As the bombing of Yugoslavia enters its 35th day, events relating to the crisis remain the focus of the international press.


In a commentary, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that if the conflict between NATO and Yugoslavia is to be really ended, there must be two winners -- namely NATO and Yugoslavia.

This follows, the commentary says, not only from the need of the opponents to "save face" after the weapons are laid down. More important is the lesson America drew from the Second World War when, after initial thoughts of punishing the vanquished, under the Morgenthau Plan, the United States soon swung around to winning Germany as a partner. For that purpose, the Marshall Plan was developed, which gave West Germany such a forward momentum that even some of the winning powers became jealous.

The newspaper continues: "In the case of [President] Saddam's Iraq, America has not yet arrived at such a strategy -- the survival of the dictator stands in the way of that -- and as a result this conflict is still not finished after nearly a decade.

"While NATO is still busy with defeating a staunch adversary, (German Chancellor Gerhard) Schroeder has quickly brought into prospect a 'Marshall plan' for that bombed-out land. However criminal and stiff-necked Milosevic presently appears to the Western public, to 'bomb Serbia back into the Stone Age' and leave it there would not be good in the long run; a lengthy humiliation of the Serbian people would seem inappropriate to the American people even more quickly than it did with Germany in the past. And for so long as such a humiliation lasts, there is no incentive among the population for a 'mental self-Europeanization', which is the aim of the European Union."

The commentary continues that what's needed is not so much a post-conflict delivery of food and cheap credits but the development of a new order for the Balkans.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: West sheds no tears for Russia

Another German newspaper, Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, looks in a commentary at Russia's place in the spectrum of the Yugoslav problem. Referring to the weekend Washington summit to commemorate the alliance's 50th anniversary, the paper says that the party is now over, and for Russia -- which had been invited but chose not to come -- it was not pleasant. It says that no one at the celebrations seemed too sad about Russia's absence:

"The assurances that we want to involve Russia in the security architecture of the 21st century seem to some to represent a case of 'crocodile' insincerity, to others a forced invitation, and to others still a case of not knowing what else to do.

"On the one hand, the Americans want increasingly to make politics without reference to the now-diminished superpower (Russia). On the other hand, the former Warsaw Pact states want to have less and less to do with the former hegemonistic power. And still others, above all the Germans, are at a loss to know how they can maintain contacts with a difficult partner with the false air of a superpower."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Russia wants to avoid a showdown with NATO

An article in Britain's Financial Times also deals with Russia and its dilemma over the Kosovo crisis. It says there is growing evidence, both public and private, that Russia wants to avoid a showdown with NATO over the Kosovo conflict. The two writers, Stephan Fidler in Washington and John Thornhill in Moscow, base that premise on information from U.S. officials. They note that the Clinton administration's senior Kremlinologist, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, is now in Moscow. The article continues:

"The Talbott mission opens a week of intense diplomatic activity in Moscow, involving the U.S., United Nations, Canadian and European officials. The aim is to keep Russia, an unstable nuclear power, engaged diplomatically as the NATO military campaign escalates. Russia boycotted the summit in Washington in protest at the alliance campaign. But opinion polls (in Russia) show that a majority are strongly against Russian involvement in the conflict."

The article goes on to quote an unnamed U.S. official as saying that Russia has been moving toward a realization that it is the wrong strategy for it to be acting as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's lawyer.

AFTENPOSTEN: NATOs future is at stake in Kosovo

In the aftermath of the Washington summit, Norway's Aftenposten newspaper ponders NATO's new self-chosen role, which is to promote stability and security in a broad "Euro-Atlantic" region, and to actively engage itself in crisis situations.

"The first example is Kosovo," Aftenposten writes, "but no one yet knows what the 'Euro-Atlantic area' means. [At the summit in Washington] Ukraine sat next to Albania and Macedonia, Latvia rubbed shoulders with Sweden and Switzerland, Slovakia was side by side with Uzbekistan and Georgia. In reality, the alliance has spread itself from the Pacific Ocean to Central Asia (in the East).

"But here it runs the danger of becoming unemployed. NATO is bigger and more powerful than ever, but its advanced and impersonal weapons must not be allowed to assume the role of a global judge. Kosovo shows that NATO is dependent on Russia, and that it has pitched all its credibility on the (outcome of the) conflict.

"What matters for NATO in Kosovo is ... NATO's future."

INFORMATION: NATOs future can rise or fall with Kosovo

From Denmark, the daily Information takes up the same theme. It says that decisions to extend NATO's scope of action in the world make little sense while the Kosovo situation remains so opaque:

"Kosovo was on the lips of everybody in the corridors, press rooms and negotiating halls in Washington, but no politician dared admit that it makes no sense to promote NATO as a future force expected to take military action in humanism's name as long as no political leader or member of the public has an idea where the current conflict with Slobodan Milosevic's regime will lead up to. In reality, NATO's future can rise up or fall down with Kosovo."

INDEPENDENT: Hostilities between Serbia and Montenegro are partly connected with the oil embargo

Turning from NATO to events on the ground in Yugoslavia, the Independent of London today carries an article by Steve Crawshaw, writing from the Montenegrin seaport of Bar. Crawshaw notes that Belgrade has been "pouring" troops into the neighboring constituent republic of Montenegro, which is not enthusiastic about standing together with Serbia against NATO. He writes:

"The latest increase in hostilities between Serbia and Montenegro is partly connected with NATO's proposal to block Belgrade's oil supply with an embargo. Montenegrin government officials say they have at least two months' stocks of oil in the port of Bar for civilian use; it is determined not to pass this oil to the Belgrade military."

The article continues on to quote a local deputy (Dejan Vucicevic) as saying that a civil war could break out between the Serbians and Montenegrins if they try and seize the oil. Crawshaw says:

"This might suit Mr. Milosevic, who has traditionally thrived on internal conflict, but not everybody in Serbia is keen on such confrontation. The authorities in Cacak, south of Belgrade, organized a demonstration that called for Serb reservists 'not to contribute' to the destabilization of Montenegro, by taking part in actions against the government of President Milo Djukanovic."

American and British media also give space to what is being seen as a startling pronouncement on Sunday by Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuc Draskovic. Speaking on a Belgrade TV channel (Studio B), the liberal Draskovic accused the Yugoslav government of lying, and he urged compromise with NATO.

INDENDENT: Speech by Draskovic was strong stuff

Writing in The Independent, Robert Fisk sees the incident this way:

"'So let's tell the people the truth ... we are alone.' With those nine words, Vuk Draskovic has written himself into the history of NATO's war against Yugoslavia, a roaring, harsh voice demanding reality and an end to propaganda, peace with honor and an end to lies. NATO (spokesmen later) misquoted him of course. The Serbian regime responded in shocked silence ..."

Fisk says Draskovic told the Serbs that NATO was not about to break apart, but on the contrary was growing stronger. He told them that Russia was not about to send squadrons of bombers to rescue Serbia, that international public opinion had turned against Serbia after "horrible scenes" of Albanian refugees and human suffering overwhelmed the western world. Serbs must be ready to accept them back, and to accept a U.N.-led international presence in Kosovo.

Fisk says that for Yugoslav viewers, this was strong stuff.