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Western Press Review: Chernomyrdin Responds; Other Kosovo Comment

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill

Prague, 27 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russian special Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin appears today as a commentator in The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON POST: NATO is morally wrong in punishing the Serbian people for one man's blunders

He urges NATO to stop the bombing in Yugoslavia and warns that, otherwise, he will advise Russian President Boris Yeltsin to suspend Russian participation in Kosovo negotiations, end military cooperation with the United States and Western Europe, postpone ratifying START II, and veto any proposed U.N. resolution on Yugoslavia. Chernomyrdin also challenges a statement by U.S. President Bill Clinton in Clinton's own commentary in the New York Times on Sunday.

Chernomyrdin says the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia has turned Russian public opinion hostile toward the United States. He doesn't defend Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but he contends that NATO is morally wrong in punishing the Serbian people for what he terms "one man's blunders."

Other commentary in the Western press on Kosovo includes an article by Washington Post columnist George Will challenging Clinton's credibility in the U.S. president's Sunday essay.

Following are excerpts from the Chernomyrdin commentary:

"I deem it necessary to express my opinion on the Kosovo situation as the warfare escalates and the danger grows of a shift to ground operations, which would be even bloodier and more destructive. I also want to comment on certain ideas put forward by President Clinton in his contribution of May 16."

"I am anxious to express my opinion of (Clinton's) premise that 'Russia is now helping to work out a way for Belgrade to meet our conditions,' and that NATO's strategy can 'strengthen, not weaken, our fundamental interest in a long-term, positive relationship with Russia.' In fact, Russia has taken upon itself to mediate between Belgrade and NATO not because it is eager to help NATO implement its strategies, which aim at Slobodan Milosevic's capitulation and the de facto establishment of a NATO protectorate over Kosovo. These NATO goals run counter to Russia's stance, which calls for the introduction of U.N. forces into Kosovo with Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity intact."

"Now that raids against military targets have evidently proven pointless, NATO's armed force has moved to massive destruction of civilian infrastructure -- in particular, electric transmission lines, water pipes and factories. Are thousands of innocent people to be killed because of one man's blunders? Is an entire country to be razed?"

"I appeal to NATO leaders to show the courage to suspend the air raids, which would be the only correct move. It is impossible to talk peace with bombs falling. This is clear now. So I deem it necessary to say that, unless the raids stop soon, I shall advise Russia's president to suspend Russian participation in the negotiating process, put an end to all military-technological cooperation with the United States and Western Europe, put off the ratification of START II, and use Russia's veto as the United Nations debates a resolution on Yugoslavia. On this, we shall find understanding from great powers such as China and India. Of this, I am sure."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton traduces the truth the way a shark feeds as a metabolic necessity

Also in today's Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will challenges another statement Clinton made in his New York Times commentary. Will writes: "Bill Clinton, a better president than columnist, traduces the truth the way a shark feeds -- relentlessly, voraciously, as a metabolic necessity. As in his column in Sunday's New York Times, which began with these words: 'We are in Kosovo with our allies to stand for . . .' He could not go three words without involving the truth in a fender-bender."

Will continues: "We are not 'in' Kosovo any more than we were 'in' Germany in 1943. You may ask, what is a preposition among friends? Well, as (American author and humorist, the late) Mark Twain said, 'The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- (it) is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.' But sticking to the truth -- 'We are over Kosovo with our allies . . .' -- would have sacrificed style to facts."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: We must find a solution as soon as possible

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan also enters the commentary field in an essay distributed by the Los Angeles Times syndicate and published today by the International Herald Tribune, among other newspapers. Annan reports on his recent two-day tour of Kosovar Albanian refugee camps in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He calls what he observed "heartrending" and writes: "(This) reinforced my profound outrage at what has been inflicted deliberately upon the people of Kosovo. It renewed my conviction that we must find a solution as soon as possible."

Annan writes: "How that peace is achieved is now the focus of intensive negotiations involving the large Western governments and Russia, the United Nations and all who seek peace with justice for the people of Kosovo."

The U.N. secretary general goes on: "With the eyes of the world on us, it is imperative that we aid the uprooted and brutalized people of Kosovo now, and return them to their homes swiftly and safely. (The U.N.) is determined to do its part to meet this challenge -- above all so that all the Kosovar Albanians, including the 100-year-old woman whose anguish I will never forget, can live once again in their own homes, on their own land, in safety."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: There are two things the Serbian people have not deserved

In the Frankfurter Rundschau today, German commentator Karl Grobe expands on Chernomyrdin's point that the Serb people are undeservedly the recipients of -- in the newspaper's words -- "NATO's devastating punishment." He writes: "The balance sheet is shattering. It is not the military might of the Milosevic regime or its control of all aspects of political life in Serbia that has been permanently destroyed. Occasionally, glimpses of a different truth from that proclaimed in (NATO headquarters in) Brussels come to light, when NATO officials admit that perhaps only a third of military targets have been put out of action. What has been destroyed is the country's infrastructure. Links across the Danube have been bombed to pieces, all except for one Belgrade bridge to Pancevo."

Grobe writes: "There are two things the Serbian people have not deserved -- their chauvinist leadership and the devastating punishment for the fact that they still have it."

AKTUELT: The indictment will prevent Milosevic from negotiating himself out of the war

From the foreign editor of the Danish daily Aktuelt, Asger Roejle, today comes a commentary on reports that the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague will indict Slobodan Milosevic today on war crimes charges stemming from Serb forces' Kosovo actions. Roejle writes: "The legal utterance (will be) a turning point in the Kosovo crisis. It will prevent Milosevic from negotiating himself out of the war at a later stage. It gives him two alternatives: either to bow to NATO's demands or to continue to fight the war to its bitter end."

Roejle writes: "This (would be) the first time in history that a sitting head of state is indicted on war crimes. Milosevic avoided being indicted during the 1992-1995 Bosnian wars, and he emerged as a peacemaker and a guarantor of the Dayton Peace Treaty. At the signing ceremony in Paris he shook heads with the presidents of the United States and France. This will hardly happen again."

GUARDIAN: At last NATO is getting ready to do what it ought to do

Two British newspapers today predict that the Kosovo situation eventually will involve NATO troops on the ground. They take the common stand that as the Guardian, London, puts it: "At last NATO is getting ready to do what it ought to do." Commentator Hugo Young writes: "A serious Euro-American army begins to gather at the gates of Kosovo, not yet for certain use, but deployable if and when conditions arise where military intelligence and NATO's political leaders judge Kosovo ready to be re-occupied by its citizens, as long as they have military protection they can believe in."

TELEGRAPH: Tony Blair and his ministers have taken the lead

London's Daily Telegraph says in an editorial headlined "Mission Creep" that "NATO now is inching toward a ground invasion of Kosovo." It says: "Such progress as has been made towards a strategy that NATO should have adopted from the beginning is to Britain's credit. (Prime Minister) Tony Blair and his ministers have taken the lead in proclaiming the wickedness of what Milosevic is inflicting on the Kosovars and in rallying public opinion. Their campaign has been made all the harder by lack of leadership in Washington. Bill Clinton (has) dithered."