Accessibility links

Western Press Review: Editorial Comment On Kosovo Scrambled

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill

Prague, 7 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentators on Kosovo today and over the weekend divide generally into two categories -- those who declare the NATO-Yugoslavia war "won" and those who aren't so sure. All the commentaries surveyed for this press review were penned before talks on implementing Serb forces' withdrawal from Kosovo were known to have broken down.

NEW YORK TIMES: There's a test to prove Milosevic's genuine capitulation

New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis stated the question baldly Sunday. He wrote: "Has [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic really capitulated to NATO's demands? The test will be straightforward: Will the expelled ethnic Albanians return to Kosovo?" Lewis answered his own question: "They will not return if they have to go through checks at the border by Serbian police or soldiers. They will not return if sectors of Kosovo are controlled by Russian troops outside an effective single international command. One more essential: They will not return if the United States and its allies show signs of relaxing their commitment and the pressure on Milosevic."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: This war was worth fighting

The British economic newspaper Financial Times (F806) says today editorially: "The apparent willingness of Slobodan Milosevic to back down was given a muted reception in Washington, where there are doubts about the durability of the accord with the Serbian leader, and a lingering debate about the U.S. strategy. The response has been more of relief than of triumph."

NEW YORK TIMES: The Western world is doing the right thing in the wrong way

Two commentaries, In the New York Times and The Daily Telegraph, London, look for lessons for future behavior. New York Times columnist William Safire compiles today a list of eight. He writes: "In Kosovo, the Western world is doing the right thing in the wrong way. The right thing was to place humanity's resistance to barbarism above national sovereignty. [So] what are the lessons the West is learning in trying to stop national criminality?"

Following are the headings of Safire's list:

"1. Never tell the criminals what you will not do.

"2. When you decide to strike, strike decisively.

"3. Do not place a higher value on the lives of warriors than on the lives of civilians.

"4. Do not overestimate the courage of an army and paramilitary that kills the unarmed.

"5. Remember that in any alliance, some allies will be more allied than others.

"6. Do not let mistrust of the leadership's competence becloud faith in the rightness of a cause.

"7. Do not let the loser win.

"8. Don't try to mix oil and water in patrolling the peace."

Safire concludes: "The NATO-Serbian war is not yet over, but civilization is more civilized for having intervened to do the right thing. Next time we are more likely to do it the right way."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Ensure that the soldiers enforce the peace agreement with vigor

The Daily Telegraph singles out these lessons: "Beware of partition. Don't put too much faith in elections as a means of integration. Appoint a plenipotentiary with authority over both civilian and military matters. Ensure that the soldiers enforce the peace agreement with vigor."

AFTENPOSTEN: NATO now has to battle for peace

Two Scandinavian newspaper commentaries also declare the conflict finished. Norway's Aftenposten says today in an editorial: "NATO has won the war but it now has another battle to fight, a battle for peace in a country where turbulence has prevailed for decades." The editorial says also: "The West's most important task will be to cooperate with a Serbia of which Kosovo will continue to be a region. But if we have to take it more seriously, the Serbs must understand that they need another leader."

INFORMATION: Who should pay for the reconstruction of the province?

And Denmark's Information, moving beyond the end of conflict, raises a difficult issue: "As peace comes into sight in Kosovo, so does the question of who should pay for the reconstruction of the province after months of Serb terror and destruction and at least 33,000 NATO bombing missions."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO did bring Milosevic to terms

Independent commentator Flora Lewis writes with a degree of certainty that appears now to have been overtaken by events: "Finally", she writes, "it did work." She says in today's International Herald Tribune: "It took a lot more military power, destruction, persistence and victims than predicted, but NATO did bring Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic to terms without mounting an invasion."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Talbott emerged as the foreign policy strategist

Writers in Germany's Die Welt and in the International Herald Tribune seek respectively to profile a hero and a villain. The IHT's Joseph Fitchett says: "As the U.S. point man in the diplomatic endgame with Belgrade, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott emerged as the foreign policy strategist and operator whose skills are appreciated among fellow professionals but rarely publicized to the world at large."

DIE WELT: Milosevic is sick

Die Welt columnist Boris Kalnoky described Milosevic as befit a beaten man and as a man who guards uneatable straw like the dog in the manger. Kalnoky wrote Saturday: "Milosevic is sick. For at least 10 years, rumors say, diabetes has plagued him and now, according to television journalists, he looks significantly different than he did before the start of NATO's air raids on the Balkans ten weeks ago. His left arm, they say, hangs stiffly at his side. Ten days ago, according to reports, he suffered a slight stroke, which would explain the hanging arm. A prisoner in his own country since the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal indicted him for crimes against humanity, including deportation, murder and persecution, Milosevic is wanted by police around the world."

Kalnoky continues: "Milosevic is a man whose parents committed suicide, who was ridiculed by classmates at school, who as a Montenegrin in Serbia was stuck in the role of an outsider -- a man who destroys that which he can't have."