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Western Press Review: Looking Ahead In Kosovo; Back In Beijing

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill

Prague, 4 June1999 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press on the apparent submission by Yugoslavia to NATO's demands concentrates on examining what may come next. Commentary on the 10th anniversary of the crackdown against dissidents in Beijing's Tianamen Square seeks to unravel what happened then and how the West should respond.

NEW YORK TIMES: What should we think of a potential deal in Kosovo?

Writing in The New York Times, columnist Thomas L. Friedman asks the central Kosovo question directly: "What should we think of (yesterday's) news of a potential deal in Kosovo?" One answer, he says, is that the Serbs acknowledged "that the air war really has hurt them." Another is that the West must worry about exactly what it is that NATO has won. Is it, Friedman asks: "the right to manage relations between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs indefinitely?" That, he emphasizes, genuinely is something to worry about.

INDEPENDENT: The victory does not feel particularly victorious

From London, The Independent, sums up succinctly the consensus of Western press comment. Its editorial says: "It is a victory that does not feel particularly victorious."

NEW YORK TIMES: Unless Milosevic is playing diplomatic games the war in Yugoslavia is ending

The New York Times' own editorial on Kosovo is cautious. The Times says: "Unless [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic is playing diplomatic games, the war in Yugoslavia is ending. Thanks to the resolve of NATO and constructive peacemaking by Russia, Milosevic on Thursday accepted settlement terms that he had repeatedly rejected."

WASHINGTON POST: NATO must cooperate with the International War Crimes Tribunal

Another leading U.S. newspaper, The Washington Post, couches its editorial view in equally conditional language. A Post editorial says: "NATO'S steadfastness in Kosovo, and [U.S.] President [Bill] Clinton's, may be paying off."

The Post then raises what could become an embarrassment in all declarations of NATO victory. It says: "NATO must cooperate enthusiastically with the International War Crimes Tribunal as it seeks to prosecute and arrest war criminals -- the indicted Mr. Milosevic first and foremost. Only when he is in the dock in The Hague, after all, can the Balkans truly hope for peace and stability. NATO's resolute pounding of Serbian forces may now succeed in returning Kosovars to Kosovo."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: People on both sides are tired of the war

Commentator Peter Muench writes in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that this seeming end to the shooting part of the Kosovo conflict may signal not so much victory or defeat as bilateral fatigue. He writes: "The Yugoslav leadership is running out of steam, [but equally] political pressure to achieve a diplomatic solution is growing enormously in the NATO countries." He says: "People on both sides are tired of the war and that increases the risk [of] a half-hearted peace."

AFTENPOSTEN: It is too early to assume that all dangers are over

Norway's Aftenposten editorializes today, "It is too early to assume that all dangers [in the former Yugoslavia] are over. [There are many] military, diplomatic and humanitarian problems. According to the plan, the United Nations Security Council must sanction the plan as it has been accepted by Yugoslavia under duress. The sooner it does that, the better. Such a recognition will restore the United Nation's authority in questions of war and peace. Russia will probably approve the plan but it is not at all sure that China, a [veto-wielding] permanent member of the Security Council, will go along."

SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: There is one thing NATO's missiles are unable to do

Commentator Stephanie Salter discusses the absurdities of the Kosovo war. One great absurdity, she says, comprises comments like that of a U.S. Congresswoman who said that something must force "Mr. Milosevic to come to his senses." Salter writes in the San Francisco Examiner: "Perhaps the evil and black-hearted Slobodan Milosevic will abide by the international peace agreement and end the conflict, as his government pledged (yesterday) to do. (And) perhaps Milosevic's toughest general will have looked him in the eye and told him that the latest inventory shows that the Yugoslav army hasn't enough ammo and facilities to defeat the Campfire Girls in a sustained ground war. One thing that NATO's missiles and soldiers will not be [able to do], however, is cause Mr. Milosevic to come to his senses."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The agreement is a victory for NATO

The Daily Telegraph, London, expresses fewer doubts than most other Western publications. Its editorial avows straightaway that: "The agreement on Kosovo accepted yesterday by Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian parliament is a victory for NATO and a vindication of its belief in modern air power."

DIE WELT: The military action may have given a boost to European reform

Finally, on Kosovo, Germany's Die Welt finds a silver lining in the clouds of black smoke rising from Yugoslavia. Die Welt says: "The military action in the Balkans may have given an unexpected boost to an important European reform. [That is that Europe finally] plans to equip itself to be a well-armed peacemaker. European attempts at crisis management have all been disasters so far. Without United States' intervention, nothing would have been accomplished in the Balkans. The EU wants to see that change."

NEW YORK TIMES: The engagers besmirch the American nation

On the subject of the 10th anniversary of the horror around Tianamen Square, New York Times' hardline conservative columnist A. M. Rosenthal, formerly an Asia specialist, writes: "Anniversary statement time. For a few days, in America and Europe, politicians will express sorrow at the murder of the young Chinese shot down in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, because they had gathered to cry out for freedom. [One] set of people will say a shame, Tiananmen, but we must not let that interfere with America's policy of engagement with China." Rosenthal says: "The engagers besmirch the American nation. By using their money and influence to strengthen Chinese Communist power, they brand the U.S. unfaithful to the freedoms that sustain America itself."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Beijing is obviously attempting to quell any prospect of demonstrations

Harald Maass writes from Beijing in the Frankfurter Rundschau that Tiananmen isn't just a name from the past. The suppression it stands for continues, he says: "According to eyewitness accounts, the army's actions on Tiananmen Square ten years ago cost the lives of between 500 and 3,000 demonstrators. Amnesty International [reports] that at least 241 survivors are serving prison terms for their involvement. [And by recently] stepping-up its arrests of critical voices, Beijing is obviously attempting to quell any prospect of demonstrations to mark the anniversary." Maass writes, with irony: "On the Square of Heavenly Peace itself -- the scene of the mass demonstrations of 1989 -- there will be no protests. 'Repairs' have apparently prompted the city council to seal off the square."

GUARDIAN: Least progress has been made in the field of peaceful political expression

The Guardian, London, offers little sympathy to China apologists. It says: "China has changed a great deal since 1989, but to lay stress upon this today -- the 10th anniversary of the Beijing massacre -- is to miss the point. For it is precisely in the field of peaceful political expression for which the democracy movement was campaigning that the least progress has been made."

INFORMATION: The massacre continues to influence China's politics

From Denmark, the daily Information editorializes that China hasn't escaped Tiananmen's dark blot. The newspaper says: "The massacre ten years ago today continues to influence China's domestic politics, its relationship to the world, and the world's perceptions, though the government does its best to prove the opposite."