Prague, 9 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary ranges broadly today, with Kosova leading the list. If Western leaders follow the editorial advice they are getting, they will mount their horse at once and ride off in five directions.
FINANCIAL TIMES: The international community has yet to devise a coherent policy
In The Financial Times, London, Swedish political leader and Balkans expert Carl Bildt, comments that the West must take action against Serbian military assaults. Bildt writes: "Only six months ago, the Kosova Liberation Army made its first public appearance. Yet the southern Balkans is already on the brink of another war. The international community has yet to devise a coherent policy in seeking to contain the conflict. Nor has it a clear idea of how to find a longer-term solution to the problems of the region."
Bildt writes: "Tough action against Serbia should not be confused with European support for an Albanian uprising against Belgrade. The interests of nearly 200,000 Serbs in Kosova also must be taken into account."
WASHINGTON POST: Armed force should never be used or threatened lightly. But ...
The Washington Post says in an editorial that armed force now may obviate a need for greater force later. The newspaper says: "The details of Slobodan Milosevic's latest outrage are beginning to emerge: 250 dead, hundreds more injured, 50,000 left homeless. Mr. Milosevic, the Serb leader, has unleashed tanks and other heavy weaponry against defenseless villages in the independence-minded province of Kosova. This is precisely the kind of ethnic cleansing the Clinton administration had said repeatedly it would not allow. But its response so far is weak."
It concludes: "Certainly armed force should never be used or threatened lightly. In Kosova's case, the humanitarian rationale is compelling, but not sufficient; people are suffering in many conflicts from Eritrea to Sri Lanka -- and America can't save them all. What makes Kosova different is the likelihood that the fighting, if unchecked, will escalate, threatening the fragile peace in Bosnia and potentially sucking in even Greece, Bulgaria or Turkey. Then Mr. Clinton and his military would have no choice, and their task would be far more daunting."
TIMES: Pinpricks will do nothing to stop the killings
The Times, London, also calls editorially for armed action. The editorial is titled, "Against Milosevic." It says: "The European Union yesterday announced a ban on investment in Yugoslavia in response to the bloody crackdown by Serb forces on the Albanian majority in Kosova. America has indicated that it will follow suit. But these pinpricks will do nothing to stop the killings, ethnic cleansing and systematic destruction of Albanian villages ordered by President Milosevic."
The editorial concludes: "What action should NATO take? The passive stationing of troops along the Albanian border would be folly, tying down huge numbers in very remote mountains. The exercises planned for Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia may be too little, too late. NATO instead should now look at the swift co-ordination of an operation to strike at the Serb forces now burning Kosovar villages. That message would be clearly understood in Belgrade. It would strengthen the growing opposition by police and military units to the bloodshed in Kosova. It could, at last, help the downfall of Mr Milosevic."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: An incursion into Kosova would be dangerous
But a commentary in the International Herald Tribune by the editorial director of NATO's 16 Nations, an independent military journal, says: "Once more, miserable groups of old people, women and children stream down Balkan mountainsides, fleeing their burning homes. With Bosnia fresh in mind, calls for NATO action in Kosova are becoming more strident."
The commentary says: "But one thing should be ruled out: an armed incursion by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into Kosova. The comparison with Bosnia is erroneous and dangerous. In Bosnia, Muslims were defending themselves against murder and expulsion by well-armed Bosnian Serbs. In Kosova, the self-styled army of liberation is fighting the regular Yugoslav military in an attempt to break away from Serbia. A NATO incursion would be seen as support for that movement -- something else again from stopping mass murder."
It says: "Options include deploying NATO forces along the Albanian border with Kosova, reinforcing the small U.N. force in Macedonia and establishing a no-fly zone, similar to that enforced over Bosnia. But an incursion into Kosova is not under consideration, and a suggestion that one is, is dangerous. As long as intervention appears a possibility, it raises expectations that cannot be met and that can result in actions by the Kosova Liberation Army that would cause further bloodshed. President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia is rightly detested for the havoc he has caused with his policies and actions. He should be made to respect the rights of individuals and minorities. But methods and organizations other than NATO exist and action by them is now essential."
Other commentary today looks at the potential arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the U.N. conference on drugs, the Czech government under interim Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky, and neutral nation profiteering in World War II.
DIE WELT: Karadzic is not worth a single SFOR soldier's life
In Die Welt, Hamburg, Nikolaus Blome comments: "The net is closing in on former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who has been charged with war crimes by the Hague tribunal. The NATO-led SFOR peacekeeping force in Bosnia evidently knows where he is at almost all times." He says: "NATO aims to prepare a perfect arrest. 'Karadzic,' as NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana recently put it, 'is not worth a single SFOR soldier's life.' "
Blome writes: "Karadzic himself reportedly has only about 100 men left for his personal protection. Less than a year ago he is said by NATO sources to have been guarded by a heavily-armed force of over 1,000 men. Back then, each of his bodyguards was paid $2,500 a month, says NATO officials. An ordinary policeman in Bosnia is said to earn a mere $100 a month, if that. But many of Karadzic's sources of funds have since dried up because he has lost much of his political influence."
NEW YORK TIMES: This conference seems designed primarily to recycle unrealistic pledges
The U.N. drug conference is an exercise of the ineffectual conducting the irrelevant, The New York Times editorializes. It says: "Manhattan is filled this week with world leaders attending a well-intentioned but misdirected U.N. conference on drugs. With drugs more plentiful and cheaper than ever worldwide, the leaders are mostly extolling failed strategies to combat the problem." The Times concludes: "The United Nations kept off the program virtually all the citizens' groups and experts who wanted to speak. There is no discussion of some interesting new ideas such as harm reduction, which focuses on programs like needle exchanges and methadone that cut the damage drugs do. Like previous U.N. drug conferences, this one seems designed primarily to recycle unrealistic pledges and celebrate dubious programs."
FINANCIAL TIMES: Mr. Tosovsky has set a new political style
Robert Anderson writes in The Financial Times, London, that Czech Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky'a government is welcomed by the people, detested by the politicians. Anderson says, "In office, Mr. Tosovsky has set a new political style that contrasts with the hectoring approach of his predecessor (Vaclav Klaus) and the intemperate rhetoric of (Social Democrat Milos) Zeman."
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Neutral nations all emerged from the war richer than when it began
The Los Angeles Times discussed editorially what it calls " The Dark Side of 'Neutrality'." It says: "Switzerland was the money launderer for gold looted by Nazi Germany during World War II, but other officially neutral nations -- Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey -- 'played an equally critical role in sustaining the (German) war effort,' says a (U.S.) State Department-coordinated report. Specifically, the four countries provided the German war machine with minerals essential for producing the steel alloys used in machine tools, armored vehicles, weapons and ball bearings."
The editorial says: "The neutrals, to their credit, could also act decently. Among them, they provided haven to several hundred thousand refugees from the Holocaust -- a record far better than that of the United States -- and in some cases rescued and protected Allied airmen. But the fact remains that all emerged from the war richer than when it began, and all provided vital aid to the Nazi effort long beyond the time they may have felt compelled to do so. This too deserves to be noted in the history of the world's most costly and destructive war."