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Western Press Review: Varied Views on Kosovo


By Don Hill and Gabrielle Blocker



Prague, 14 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Western press commentators flock today to analyze the events in Kosovo of the last few days. They reach as many conclusions are there are commentaries.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: RUSSIAN TROOPS CONSTITUTE A NEGATIVE

New York Times Moscow staff writer Michael Wines says in an analysis that the small contingent of Russian troops that charged into Kosovo may have acted on their own or may have moved under orders. Either way, they constitute a negative, he says.

Wines writes: "There are but two conclusions that can be drawn from Russia's abrupt and befuddling deployment of troops in Kosovo, neither reasuring. One is that President Boris Yeltsin no long has full control of his government. The other is that he does."

THE GUARDIAN: GENTLE HAND WITH RUSSIA

The Guardian, London, calls editorially for a gentle hand with Russia. The newspaper says: "What then should NATO do?" The Guardian's own answer -- "A simpler way [than allowing Russia an enclave] has to be found for soothing Russia's wounded pride, for admitting that the West has been cavalier in its treatment of the former superpower and that it now has to be given a seat at the commanding table."

THE WASHINGTON POST: RUSSIAS TRUE INTENTIONS REMAIN UNCLEAR

The Washington Post's editorial on the same topic argues that, with its unpredictability, Russia has virtually ruled itself out as a responsible partner. The Post says: "If there had been any doubt about the wisdom of denying an exclusive zone of occupation to Russian troops in Kosovo, the Russians themselves removed it with their secretvie entry into Pristina on Saturday. [In fact], Russia's true intentions, and even whether it is possible to speak of the Russian government as a single actor, remain unclear."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: BALKAN WAR CREATES TENSION INSIDE NATO

Commentator Stefan Kornelius, writing from Washington in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, contends -- in an unusual argument -- that the United States cleverly has permitted itself to be used as a lightning rod for world criticsm of the NATO bombardment. He writes: "To listen to the feature writers and critics in Germany, and the pundits in the circus of opinion this side of the Atlantic, it was 'Madeleine's war,'" meaning that it was intiated and largely directed by U.S. Secretary of State Madeliene Albright. This, is, Kornelius writes, "grotesque reasoning -- but a widespread impression, and one which shows just how much tension the war in the Balkans has created inside NATO between the United States and Western Europe."

The German commentator says: "No matter. What it all meant in practice was a long overdue and beneficial balancing of power inside the alliance, to the benefit of the Europeans."

Kornelius writes: "The political center of the alliance is shifting, because military dominance also strikes fear, and naked power creates powerful resentments. Because it strived to seem so uncompromising, the United States wasn't really suited to direct negotiations. By keeping only a background role in them, Secretary of State Albright maintained the pressure, confirming the impression of the superpower ready to pounce again if the talks went nowhere."

The writer says: "This apparent unwillingness to compromise, useful as it was for diplomacy, actually provoked a widespread anti-American impulse. [And] in a strange reverse logic, opinion hostile to the United States grew as the war continued."

He concludes: "Critics forget that the cause of the conflict was the aggressor in Belgrade and his crimes of ethnic cleansing and organized hatred. These could not be controlled by the system of international law for the simple reason that Milosevic would have ignored it. The United States often is rightly accused of oversimplistic rhetoric which tends to see too much in black and white, good and evil. But Kosovo now has given the Europeans the lesson that clear principles are very useful in building unity of purpose in times of war. The Americans have learned too -- especially that the varying interests of NATO members can be harmonized even as they play different roles in service of a common purpose. By remembering this, they will also puncture the crude argument that they are hegemonists."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: RUSSIANS WERE FASTER

Anatol Lieven of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, says in a commentary published by The New York Times: "Winston Churchill liked to tell the story of the man who tried to give powder to the bear, and all the elaborate preparations he made to do so -- 'but the bear blew first.' Decayed and decrepit though it is, the Russian bear blew faster than NATO when it came to sending peacekeepers into Kosovo."

LE MONDE: MOSCOW DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE AUTHORITY OF NATO

France's daily Le Monde says today that "the Russians spoiled the West's day by facing it down." Le Monde say in an editorial: "The message was brutal, declaring that Moscow does not recognize the authority of the chief of NATO's peacekeeping force, General Michael Jackson, showing that the Russians do not intend to submit themselves to NATO's authority in Kosovo, and signifying that they want to control the northern sector of the province in order, in effect, to create a partition of Kosovo." The editorial concludes: "Russia should certainly be more closely associated with the international force, but not at any price and, especially, not through a partition of Kosovo."

THE WASHINGTON POST: BALKAN REPAIR JOB/FRACTURED AMERICAN RESOLVE

The Washington Post on Sunday published a pair of commentaries, the first by Anthony Borden and Christopher Bennett of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting; and the second by Charles A. Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The commentaries are entitled respectively, "A Balkan Repair Job" and "Fractured American Resolve."

Borden and Bennett say: "Even as NATO troops enter Kosovo, politicians, finance ministers and military planners must be looking forward and even considering that further deployments in Yugoslavia may become necessary. The wars in the Balkans will not be over until the politics and the parties that prosecute them have been changed once and for all."

Kupchan writes: "On the face of it, the apparent capitulation of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president, should give the United States and NATO allies new confidence to confront tyrants and safeguard rights across Europe. But the political and strategic legacy of the war promises to be quite different. We can expect a curtailment of America's role in Europe."
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