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Western Press Review: Kosovo Threatens To Ignite Balkans

By Don Hill, Dora Slaba and Alexandre d'Aragon

Prague, 5 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary ranges over a variety of issues today.

Newspapers in Germany, Spain and Sweden examine, with alarm, Serbian suppression of secessionist sentiment among ethnic Albanians in Serbia's province of Kosovo.

DIE WELT: Situation has much in common with Croatia and Bosnia In Germany's Die Welt, commentator Boris Kalnoky writes: "What is happening in Kosovo, and whether it is war or just tension, with occasional outbreaks of violence, between Serbs and the province's ethnic Albanian majority, may be a matter for interpretation. But, everyone is agreed that the situation has much in common with the weeks before war broke out in Croatia and Bosnia."

The writer concludes: "If there is a full-scale war, the tactics will probably be the same as in Bosnia, with villages and towns being besieged, with a war of attrition against the civilian population and, finally, with the greatest brutality in conquest."

EL PAIS: Time bomb goes on ticking

El Pais, Madrid, editorializes: "Kosovo's time bomb goes on ticking until its detonation. Inexorably, because no one seems able to deactivate it, even though it could provoke a Balkanic war. Will the international community face its obligations? The Contact Group, in which six powers coordinate their action in former Yugoslavia, didn't succeed in taking a common position to make Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic yield. The only decision that came out of the last meeting of high-ranking officials in Rome, was to freeze Yugoslavia's foreign assets. But the decision came too late, one month after it was announced publicly, and Milosevic had ample time to put his funds in safety. Milosevic seems to feed on the divisions of the international community, and in particular of the EU, whose common foreign and security policy is not getting anywhere. Meanwhile, the crisis is worsening."

DAGENS NYHETER: Could the conflict have been avoided?

And Sweden's Dagens Nyheter says in an editorial: "It has been known for a long time that Kosovo is one of the most dangerous powder keg in the Balkans. Could the conflicts have been avoided at the time? Would it have been possible for the United Nations, with a better organization, more efficient diplomacy and a stronger will on the part of other countries to have nipped the conflict in the bud? It is difficult to find a straight answer. But it is clear that Kosovo together with Rwanda, Algeria and other places of unrest, where conflicts arise before our very eyes, belong to the experience from which the community of nations can learn. (But) it is also a fact that Kosovo stands high up on the list of international programs. The hope of a peaceful solution lies in an external engagement, before an explosion erupts."

WASHINGTON POST: Turkey on the brink of an economic explosion

James K. Glassman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. On a visit to Turkey he admires the nation's strengths, laments its intractable problems, and perceives hope on its horizon. Glassman writes in a Washington Post commentary: "A good society - in my book anyway - is one in which the government has only a few functions. But maintaining sound money is certainly one of them. In this, the Turkish government has failed, and it's a shame. The Turks don't deserve it. This is a magnificent country, established as a secular republic 75 years ago by the revolutionary democrat Kemal Ataturk, one of the great leaders of the 20th century, and the object of a continuing cult-like worship that's fully deserved.

As a member of NATO, Turkey was a front-line bulwark against the Soviet Union, and it helped win the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein. The Turks are born capitalists. They work hard, they're imaginative, they love to trade.

"Today, however, Turkey is suffering. There's a distinct lack of political leadership, and the result has been six separate governments in four years, huge budget deficits and crony capitalism embedded in state-owned banks and industries. Meanwhile, the terrorists of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) are in armed revolt in the southeast, and Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise. The country is 99.8 percent Muslim, and the same sentiments that, in 1453, led the conquering Ottomans to deface the Byzantine mosaics inside the beautiful red Hagia Sophia persist."

Glassman writes: "Turkey is on the brink of an economic explosion. The Turks themselves are ready, and the potential is enormous - after all, 47 percent of the nation is still engaged in agriculture. But the Turks need two things: partnership with Europe and freedom from the constraints that their own government imposes through high taxes, state-owned businesses and unsound money."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Turkey only wants assurances that it is part of the family

A commentary from Istanbul by Reginald Dale in the International Herald Tribune urges Western Europe to revise its attitude and actions toward Turkey. Dale says: "It is hard to exaggerate the strategic importance of Turkey. A unique secular democracy in the Muslim world, Turkey is the southeastern bulwark of Europe, and the Atlantic alliance, in one of the planet's most dangerous neighborhoods."

The writer says: "Yet the European Union, even as it seeks to expand eastward, has made an unholy mess of relations with its long-standing Turkish allies."

Dale Writes: "Turkish leaders insist they want the EU only to rephrase its commitment to ultimate Turkish membership to make it nondiscriminatory. They simply want assurances that they are part of the family. It should not be beyond the wit of diplomats to provide all that by the time of the EU summit meeting next month in Cardiff, Wales. But the broader political damage will be harder to repair. The Europeans will have to change their attitude as well as their words."

WASHINGTON POST: Next historic task for NATO is to engage Russia

Former national security adviser to the U.S. president, Zbignew Brzezinski, wrote yesterday in The Washington Post that - having made strides toward expansion - NATO now should turn its attention to rapprochement with Russia. Brzezinski said in a commentary: "Following the Senate's vote to ratify the expansion of NATO, the next historic task for the Euro-Atlantic community is to engage Russia. This will take time, but success will signal the resolution at last of the fateful dilemma that 20th century Europe was unable to solve on its own: How to deal with the rise of German and of Russian power, respectively."

Brzezinski urged: "The Russians must be made to feel that the expansion of NATO into Central Europe is neither an intentional nor an unintentional means for the exclusion of Russia from Europe. It must be made evidently and credibly clear to the Russians that the expansion of NATO and of the European Union are open-ended historical processes, with neither fixed geopolitical nor time limits, and that eventually a more formal association with both is on Russia's political horizon."

He concluded: "NATO's expansion should not be viewed as a defeat for Russia but as a major step toward a truly reconciled Europe."