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Western Press Review: Kosovo Gets Complicated


By Don Hill, Gabrielle Blocker and Anthony Georgieff



Prague, 17 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Complications in settling the Kosovo crisis -- such as the Russian presence in Pristina, Kosovar Albania anger, and the future of "bombing for peace" -- are the focus of attention by Western commentators today.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: UNCONSCIONABLE FOR NATO TO DO NOTHING

The New York Times finds that the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia was wasteful and generally a bad thing, but to have done otherwise would have been "unconscionable."

The newspaper says in an editorial: "As NATO peacekeepers move into Kosovo, they are finding grisly evidence of Serbian brutality in nearly every town." The editorial continues: "That Washington and its European allies were willing to confront [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is a powerful signal to other tyrants that the instigation of ethnic violence, even within their own borders, can reach a point that the world will not tolerate. That does not mean the West can or should intervene whenever ethnic conflict erupts."

The newspaper says: "Air power is not a panacea, but the war in Yugoslavia demonstrated that sustained aerial attack with precision munitions can erode resistance and bring retreat." It concludes: "To have done nothing in the face of Milosevic's campaign of terror would have been unconscionable."

THE WASHINGTON POST: NATO SHOULD ALLOW RUSSIA TO CONTROL A PIECE OF KOSOVO

In The Washington Post, columnist Charles Krauthammer says that NATO should allow Russia control of a sector of Kosovo. He writes: "(Anyone) who cares about the success of American foreign policy must believe that the gratuitous humiliation of Russia is simply stupid. Publicly carving Kosovo into five zones -- American, French, British, German and Italian -- leaving nothing to Russia, qualifies as gratuitous humiliation."

Krauthammer writes: "If a Russian sector is permitted, things will take their natural course: The Serb refugees now streaming out of Kosovo will have a place to go. And the ethnic Albanians in the rest of Kosovo will be left to build and rule their land without needing an endless NATO occupation to ensure that they do not do unto their minority Serbs what the Serbs did unto them."

THE WASHINGTON POST: KOSOVO NOT A RUSSIAN CONCERN

But The Washington Post itself, in an editorial, addresses the issue as not primarily a Russian concern. Serbia, the Post says, may once have had a claim on Kosovo, but their leader, Slobodan Milosevic, has forfeited it in their name. The editorial contends: "At one time, Serbia could make a legitimate claim, based on history, to sovereignty over the independence-minded province of Kosovo. But asserting such a claim now, in the face of further emerging evidence of its crimes against Kosovo, seems almost ludicrous."

The newspaper says: "Kenneth Roth (director of Human Rights Watch) said yesterday that the exodus of ethnic Albanians was the result of a highly organized, efficient, complex Serbian operation. The pattern was the same everywhere, he said: 'demonstration killings' to stampede villagers into the nearest town; the confiscation of all identity documents; systematic looting of every transportable item of any value whatever; and the herding of displaced people from towns to the border and out."

The Washington Post concludes: "It will be many years, generations perhaps, before anyone in Belgrade can in good conscience speak of a Serbian right to Kosovo."

SEUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: MOSCOW HAS EXPLAINING TO DO

From Munich, Grmany, comes another voice, expressing a view contrary to the Washington Post's Krauthammer.

Editorial director Josef Joffe writes in a Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentary: "All Russia's recent 'misunderstandings' with the West should be cleared up by the weekend, is the comforting message from Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. So are we to learn why 200 paratroopers have occupied Pristina airport in a surprise coup; why the Russians want to advance a further 9,000 men into Kosovo, making it the second-largest force after the British; and why the Russians are playing protectors of the Serbs? Moscow has a lot of explaining to do."

Russia, Joffe points out, can't even afford to run its domestic affairs and has turned to the West for aid, but then opposes the West at great potential expense.

Joffe writes that the United States seems positively acquiescent. He writes: "The Americans, of course, are also being secretive. No one is currently taking more trouble over the unpredictable Russians than the U.S.A. Washington reacted astoundingly tolerantly to the coup in Pristina, while Moscow -- just like old times -- put pressure on its former satraps Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania to open up air space for the Russian troop transporters. Forward into the past?"

The German commentator calls for a firm line. He writes: "Adventurism is not the route to power political status. The G-7-plus-one summit will be a good chance to remind Yeltsin of this simple truth."

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: RUSSIA'S MOVE INTO KOSOVO WILL HAVE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES FOR THE COUNTRY'S REPUTATION

King Pyrrhus of Epirus won a battle against the Romans in the year BC 272 so costly in men and materiel that he exclaimed, "Another such victory and I am undone." U.S. international affairs scholar Michael McFaul examines the Russians' triumphal rush through Serbia to Pristina and equates their "Pristina victory" with that of Pyrrhus.

McFaul comments in The Wall Street Journal Europe: "It must have been a real thrill to be a Russian soldier in the convoy that rumbled through Serbia and then into Pristina. Serbian soldiers saluted, Serbian children cheered, and women blew kisses. It's been a long time since locals embraced marching Rusian soldiers."

McFaul continues: "But whatever the immediate pleasures of the move in Kosovo for Russia's political class and military commanders, the petty act of deviance has long-term consequences for Russia's reputation as a reliable international partner. In exposing gross contradictions in Russian foreign policy, the dash to Pristina will make it more difficult for the United States and other Western countries to work with Russia in the future."

The commentary concludes: "Western governments will no doubt continue to engage Russia in a dialogue over Kosovo, especially with Russian forces on the ground there. But when the next international crisis comes around and Western leaders do not bother to phone Moscow, Russia's foreign policy community should pause and remember their 'Pristina victory' before complaining again how they never get any respect."

EL PARIS: MILOSEVIC MUST GO

The Spanish daily El Pais publishes a commentary by Hermann Tertsch, who joins the ranks of commentators urging that Milosevic must go. He writes that only after Milosevic's ouster will "Balkan countries (who must operate through the territory of their Western neighbor) find it easier to gain access to (the markets) of Western Europe."

Tertsch writes also: "European nations must be conscious of the fact that if they don't assume leadership in the reconstruction of the area, they needn't be surprised if the south Balkans become a permanent U.S. base."
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