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Western Press Review: Kosovo, EU Defense, Euro

By Lawrence Holland/Dora Slaba/Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 30 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The western press continues to focus largely on the crisis in Kosovo. But there is also comment today on the fall in the value of the euro and on efforts to build a European Union defense force.

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: Unpalatable forces are coming to the forefront in Belgrade

On Kosovo, Denmark's "Berlingske Tidende" runs an editorial that is pessimistic about developments. It says recent political movements in Yugoslavia "can be interpreted as emphasizing President [Slobodan] Milosevic's refusal to move towards a political compromise to end the crisis." The paper says that with the removal of Vuk Draskovic from the government "some new and, to put it mildly, unpalatable forces are coming to the forefront in Belgrade: the extreme nationalist Vojislav Seselj, and not least the Communists led by Slobodan Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic." The paper says "the deep freeze of Yugoslavia's political life has disposed of the last vestiges of [internal] dissent."

The Danish paper predicts more peace proposals from Belgrade that will only seek to build false hopes in the West in order to split NATO member states and turn western public opinion against NATO operations in Yugoslavia. The paper concludes: "The most important thing is not to forget the main aim of the war -- to halt the mass murder in Kosovo and to press Milosevic to accept a peace-keeping force that can guarantee the safe return of refugees to their homes."

AFTENPOSTEN: NATO has three ways ahead in the Balkans

Norway's "Aftenposten" carries a commentary by its Foreign Editor, Niels Morten Udgaard. He writes that "NATO has three ways ahead in the Balkans. First, a continued air-borne war in order to bomb President Milosevic into forsaking his ambitions for Kosovo. Second, a land operation to remove his forces from the province. And third, a compromise where NATO and Milosevic will meet somewhere in the middle of the road."

But Udgaard argues that "NATO is trying to implement these strategies at the same time" with "more bombs, land troops being massed [and] hectic diplomacy."

Udgaard says that there is confusion over who should take the lead in trying to mediate an end to the crisis and that Russia's role remains unclear. He argues that "if [U.S.] President [Bill] Clinton and America continue to play the lead in Kosovo, Russia will become increasingly alienated. And that had not been NATO's intention in the beginning."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: There will be no peace in the Balkans while Milosevic commands the Serb armies

The Wall Street Journal Europe carries an editorial again arguing that NATO's war aim should be to remove Milosevic from power in Belgrade. The paper writes, "The issue in Kosovo is whether the U.S. and its allies are going to save Milosevic [from the consequences of his actions] yet one more time, with yet one more compromise ratifying his latest outrage as it ratified previous ones." The paper concludes that "there will be no peace in the Balkans while [Milosevic] commands the Serb armies."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: NATO, like all military alliances, will and should end

The WSJ carries a commentary by Victor Davis Hanson, which seeks to place the consequences of the Kosovo crisis for NATO into historic perspective. Hanson argues that a lesson of history is that treaty organizations "cannot endure defeat." He writes, "Military defeat or impotence suggests to the member states that they would be better off to seek neutrality, cast their lot with strong powers, or even join the enemy if need be."

Hanson argues that NATO underestimated "the brutality, speed and scope of Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo" and did not prepare adequate air or ground forces in the region. He says these miscalculations may have "cost thousands of lives in Kosovo, but such mishaps are not unusual among a large alliance, and they have not yet lost NATO's war against Belgrade." But, he says "a cessation of bombing with Serbian soldiers still in the field, a failure to return ethnic Albanians to their homeland, or protracted negotiations with a defiant Milosevic surely will lose it."

In that event, Hanson writes, "NATO, like all military alliances, will and should end after a quite remarkable half-century of success."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The Kosovo crisis cannot be stopped and cannot keep going on

The International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by Flora Lewis in which she describes the Kosovo crisis as "the throbbing, overwhelming international issue that cannot be stopped and cannot keep going on."

Lewis writes that NATO ground forces will eventually have to go into Kosovo, where they will probably have to stay "a long time." She says the question is whether ground forces "wait until the door is opened to them, or whether they bash their way in." Lewis says Czech President Vaclav Havel has given the answer to those Serbs who ask "Why us? What did we do to you?" She quotes Havel as saying "'What you have done to the Kosovars, you have done to me. ... There is solidarity.'"

Lewis also responds to NATO critics who wonder why the West is fighting for Kosovo and not for Cambodia, Rwanda or Sierra Leone. The answer, she says, has to be addressed to these critics as a question: "Are you saying there is never a reason to interfere when whole populations are massacred and terrorized ... or are you saying we must always interfere?"

FRANKFURTER ALLGEM EINE ZEITUNG: The lesson to be learned is to react as soon as possible

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung runs a commentary by Reinhard Mueller in which he writes that "the century is ending as it began: with mass expelling and genocide. During the Balkan war of 1912 and 1913, the Serbs exterminated the Albanians. The Armenians were systematically and almost entirely expelled from the Ottoman Empire."

Mueller continues: "The difficulties of a return [of refugees], even under international supervision, is evident in the fragile situation in Bosnia. The Dayton accord stipulates a right of return for the refugees, but what about its implementation?" He says "the lesson to be learned from this is to react as soon as possible to discrimination of national groups, to engage international organizations and -- as a last resort -- to take military action against the aggressors. If this opportunity is missed, then at least the return of refugees must be mediated before the expellers are able to resettle the land. The new inhabitants, on the other hand, must be defended against revengeful returnees and renewed evictions."

ECONOMIST: If the EU had looked readier for a fight, Slobodan Milosevic would have been slower to risk one

Britain's "Economist" weekly news magazine runs a commentary arguing that European Union nations need to do more in the way of common defense. It writes that "with a combined GDP similar to that of the United States, and roughly a third more people, the European Union ought to be shouldering more of the military burdens of Europe, and taking the lead in any post-war plans for the Balkans region."

But The Economist says EU states -- though they spend two-thirds as much as the U.S. on defense -- can only muster "a fraction of its military punch." It notes that with the talk of ground troops being sent to Kosovo, "of the Europeans, only Britain and France (with Germany coming up behind) have troops that can be moved anywhere in significant numbers and kept supplied for any length of time."

The magazine writes that "Europe's military establishments need [to be put into] better shape. Perhaps if the alliance had looked readier for a fight, Slobodan Milosevic would have been slower to risk one."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The euro is acting like a normal currency

On the recent fall in the value of the euro, the International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by Reginald Dale that argues there is no cause for concern.

Dale argues that the 10 percent drop in the value of the currency against the U.S. dollar since its introduction at the start of this year simply shows that the euro is acting like a normal currency -- reacting to events in a logical way. He cites Europe's sluggish economic growth and the Kosovo crisis as factors pushing the currency down.

Dale argues that the European Central Bank should not intervene to boost the currency, saying "it would be crazy for the ECB to jeopardize its credibility by attempting its first intervention when there is so little need. ..."