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Western Press Review: Postwar Kosovo, Poland, U.S.-Russia

  • Joel Blocker



Prague, 25 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Much of Western press commentary today is again focusing on the situation in postwar Kosovo. There are also comments on Poland and U.S.-Russian relations.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Sadly, 'Slobo' is not the only problem

In Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, editorial-page director Josef Joffe says that how to get rid of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "is not postwar Yugoslavia's only problem." He writes further in a commentary: "The idea that [Yugoslavia will return to its normal liberal democracy] sounds wonderful. But there was no such thing in Yugoslavia before the war. Serbia was (and is) a kind of dictatorship, with a despot at its helm, flanked formally by a parliament and the courts, but in reality able to rule just as he liked."

But, Joffe asks, "were large-scale demonstrations not held in Belgrade in the winter of 1996-97?" He answers: "They certainly were, but none of the demonstrators objected at the time to Slobodan Milosevic's Kosovo policy. Indeed, opposition of any kind ended at the border of bullied Kosovo, with all camps in Serbia agreed on chauvinism and the anti-Milosevic camp in particular having to demonstrate national reliability by means of its hatred of ethnic Albanians."

He concludes: "Sadly, 'Slobo' is not the only problem. Another is the Serbian people, who sided firmly with him on the Kosovo issue.... What Belgrade wants is to return to the United Nations, to have sanctions lifted, to resume relations with the West --rehabilitation without reform....That is all the more reason for the West to keep an eye on the situation....Otherwise aid will merely serve to shore up an old regime that for 10 years has sent Europe heading for disaster."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: KFOR should speed up the pace of its troop movements into Kosovo

The Los Angles Times urges NATO to "get up to speed" in Kosovo. In an editorial, the paper says: "NATO couldn't muster the political will to commit ground forces to the war over Kosovo and now it's having trouble deploying the soldiers who are needed here to keep the peace. As of Wednesday [June 23], fewer than half of the 50,000 Western troops assigned to KFOR --Kosovo Force, the peacekeeping operation-- had arrived in the rebellious Serbian province. With all Serbian military and police forces now gone, a power vacuum exists that the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army [UCK] has moved quickly to fill."

The editorial continues: "Spread thin, NATO's soldiers have been unable or, in some sectors, unwilling, to halt the violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs or to prevent looting and arson." It adds: "Before the Kosovo war the State Department identified some elements of the UCK as terrorists. Many of NATO's European members, with long historical memories not shared by Americans, worry that the UCK, unless it is rapidly disbanded and disarmed, could evolve into a radical and destabilizing Islamic movement in the Balkans."

The LAT sums up: "The end of Belgrade's iron-handed rule over Kosovo brings a chance for representative local government to take root. But that can happen only in a climate free of threats and intimidation. The presence throughout the province of troops, some of whom are eager to take revenge against Serbs, some of whom are bent on holding on to power, is inevitably coercive. The countries that are contributing to KFOR... should speed up the pace of their troop movements into Kosovo."

ECONOMIST: The future administration of Kosovo must be part of a big Balkan plan

An editorial in the current issue of the British weekly Economist [dated June 26] says that, with "the bombing over, NATO's first big task is to show the rest of the world, especially the sullen and doubting Slavs, that the moral imperative behind the alliance's [air-raid] campaign was genuine. It is essential, for a start," the Economist adds, "that the apparent atrocities committed during the war are investigated and put before the UN's war-crime tribunal."

The magazine continues: "It is no less essential that NATO strives to protect Serbs who have dared to remain in Kosovo....[And] NATO must set about disarming the Albanian guerrilla army with all the firmness and thoroughness it can muster. That will not be easy," the editorial goes on, because "most Serbs are probably going to leave the province."

The Economist also says that the future "administration of Kosovo must be part of a big Balkan plan. Economic recovery can happen only with a measure of inter-ethnic harmony across the regional board --which means Serbia, too, must eventually be part of an overall deal....In the end," it concludes, "a fresh start for the Balkans may come only with a redrawing of the map and a further exchange of populations. [But] this does not have to be violent [and] may be less terrible than ethnic slaughter, or genocide."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRRIBUNE: Serbs themselves should decide whether to leave Kosovo or stay

In the International Herald Tribune today, analyst Anna Husarska argues that "appealing to the Kosovo Serbs to stay is irresponsible." She writes: "There are worrying indications that Serbs fleeing Kosovo --50,000 have already left-- may be forced out by the brutality of their ethnic Albanian neighbors. This," she says, "is simple human nature, not excusable but understandable given the scale and brutality of the humanitarian disaster that the Serbs inflicted on ethnic Albanians."

Her commentary continues: "The smartest Serbs left early, in an orderly fashion. This placed them higher in the pecking order for refugee facilities in Serbia or in the Serbian part of Bosnia. But...Milosevic does not want those Serbs anywhere near Serbia. They are a living reminder that he lost Kosovo, the cradle of Serbdom."

Husarska adds: "Because there will be no Serbian sectors in Kosovo, Serbs there will be vulnerable everywhere, unless they form a very compact group....Even a NATO soldier under every [Kosovo] bed may not be enough.....It would be wiser and more responsible," she concludes, "to leave the decision about leaving or staying in Kosovo to the individual Serbs, instead of assuring them of a protection that simply cannot be."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The reputation of Poland as the most successful post-Communist economy grows

Britain's Financial Times today has much praise for Poland's reform policies, saying that its "reputation as the most successful post-Communist economy grows all the time." The paper writes: "There are few better signs of international confidence in a country's economy than the willingness of foreign companies to invest hard cash. Poland should be congratulated this week on the sale of majority stakes in two [of its] big banks to [Italian and Irish investors]."

The FT continues: "Worries that last year's Russian crisis would engulf Poland have faded. Similarly, the upheaval in emerging markets has had little lasting impact, while the main effect of the Kosovo crisis has been a drop in American tourism." It says further: "Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Poland's efforts to integrate itself with the West are paying off, notably in this year's accession to NATO."

"Of course," the editorial also says, "serious problems remain to be solved before Poland's modernization is complete....Moreover, while most Poles are committed to further market-oriented reform, there are protests from those who have benefited least from change, including farmers, workers in heavy industry and pensioners." Still, the editorial concludes, "the West should support [Poland] by preparing for its early entry into the European Union....There is no better way of helping Poland complete its transition nor of sending a powerful signal of encouragement to the rest of ex-Communist Europe."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It is worth making an effort to improve Russia's mood

Columnist Flora Lewis writes approvingly in the International Herald Tribune of U.S. President Bill Clinton's praise over the weekend for Moscow's agreement on participating in the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Clinton, she recalls, said the accord would "reflect credit on the leadership and greatness of Russia and the Russian people."

She comments: "Obviously, [Clinton] had been well briefed on the sour and suspicious attitude toward America that prevails in Russia now....It seems simply to be taken for granted in Moscow that NATO, driven by American ambition to run the world, had a hidden agenda." The commentary continues: "The U.S. Administration and the European allies agree on the importance of keeping Russia functional and involved in world affairs. A bitter, angry, weak Russia would be much more dangerous for the West than Russia recovering its energies."

She concludes: "The metaphor often cited [about Russia today] is Weimar, the feckless German democracy that failed and gave way to Hitler. [But] there are important differences from Weimar, and they must be preserved. For that, it is worth making a strenuous effort to improve Russia's mood."

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