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Western Press Review: Economic And Human Crises Proliferate

Prague, 2 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russia, market swings at Wall Street and Kosovo provide focus for opinions in American dailies today.

NEW YORK TIMES: Most Russians have been waiting a long time for the long run

The New York Times said in an commentary by Eleanor Randolph today: "With markets crashing, banks shuddering and the government imploding, Russians may not feel the urgent need for a lecture from President Clinton about economic reform. Despite the worthiness of his message about how Russia must ultimately follow 'the fundamental economic imperatives of the global market' to flourish, the president's talk Tuesday to young leaders in Moscow still sounded a little like the rich man giving a pep talk to the poor folk under the bridge."

The commentary continues: "Most Russians have been waiting a long time for the long run. During earlier decades, they endured Soviet five-year plans that dangled impossible promises of the golden Communist banquet where everyone would share more or less equally in the great national harvest. As the Soviet center fell apart in 1991, the old system gave way to a tender young democracy and an increasingly beastly form of capitalism."

The commentary goes on: "Now, faced with a reality that is increasingly painful to millions of people, Russia seems altogether too ready to decide that the Western reforms - at least as their leaders and their shadow government of businessmen boyars practiced them - were just another faulty experiment."

And it concludes: "Into this whirlwind comes Clinton, suggesting grand needs for an increasingly needy country... 'This is not an American agenda,' the president assured his young audience. 'These are the imperatives of the global marketplace. ...' These imperatives, as worthy as they are, did not even lead the Russian nightly news a few hours later. The vacuum in the Kremlin, the fear of government upheaval, the weakening ruble, the stores with emptying shelves and the first day of school were more urgent topics for most Russians trying to survive far beyond the latest presidential summit."

NEW YORK TIMES: The health of the American economy may end up hurting the world

In an editorial entitled Rebound on Wall Street, The New York Times said today: "The American stock market bounced back Tuesday, encouraging investors around the world and reducing the pressure on central bankers to lower interest rates here and in Europe. Perhaps markets will now pause to see just how far Asia's economic woes will spread.....Economic strength was cited by some analysts Tuesday as evidence that American stocks had fallen too far, and those arguments helped the market recover. But an irony of the current situation is that the apparent health of the American economy may end up hurting the world....much of the world is being starved of capital as investors who only recently were all too eager to invest in emerging markets are now fleeing those markets. Central banks in those countries have raised interest rates in a futile attempt to bring capital back, only to see the high rates further depress the local economy."

WASHINGTON POST: U.S. policy has consisted of a combination of bluster and importuning....

The Washington Post today publishes a commentary by Fred Hiatt entitled: "The Balkans: While We Watch": "A decade that opened with unspeakable crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia is, almost unbelievably, ending in the same way. Once again President Slobodan Milosevic is systematically destroying a peaceable society as President Clinton and the United States stand aside, acquiescent if not complicitous.... (as) U.S. satellites have watched faithfully from space, Milosevic troops have destroyed some 20,000 houses in Kosovo. At least 400,000 people - one-fifth of Kosovo's pre-war population - have been rendered homeless. Old people, children, women, men - as winter approaches in the Balkans all now face the prospect of exposure, starvation, typhus, cholera, tuberculosis, polio. And the offensive continues...."

The commentary continues: "In fact, there are differences between the Serb campaign against Bosnian Muslims in the early 1990s and the campaign against Kosovo Albanians today. The concentration camps, the mass rapes and killings are not being repeated, at least not on the same scale. But the extent of killing is difficult to measure, the mass graves difficult to locate, because this time Serb troops have worked harder to keep reporters, diplomats and human-rights monitors away....The United States does not support Serb aggression, but it also does not support Kosovar independence. So its policy, through the spring and summer, has consisted of a combination of bluster and importuning....

And it concludes: "Of course, the United States and NATO cannot end all human suffering or stand up to every tyrant. But their failure in Kosovo is particularly damaging, and not only because of the humanitarian disaster now unfolding. Among the few spots in the world Clinton can still claim as foreign-policy successes are Bosnia, to which the Dayton accords brought a belated peace, and central Europe, where NATO is now expanding. But if Milosevic can destroy Kosovo as he ruined Bosnia, the Dayton accords stand much less of a chance....And while a society can be uprooted in a few months, the resulting misery and destabilizing effects can last for years and travel far beyond that society's borders."

European editorial comment today also concentrates on Russia, particularly the Yeltsin-Clinton summit.

LA REPUBBLICA: Neither of the two is in control of the events he is talking about

Italy's La Repubblica (Rome) tries to sum up the mood at the Moscow summit in an editorial which says: "Blown by the winds of drama, Clinton and Yeltsin exchanged words of air and rain. I promise, assure, I encourage, I urge, we are friends, remain faithful to market economics. Chitchat: the bank accounts remain frozen, the prices are rising. The Moscow stock exchange is dead. Neither of the two is in control of the events he is talking about. The Russian is wobbling physically and politically. He is under the power of events, of political opponents and their assistants, who frequently have to steer him through a long public agony as was once the case with Brezhnev. The American talks but says nothing. He gives lessons in economic history, but he does not really have anything to offer."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: The stock markets will decide whether these three answers suffice to ease the crisis

But the Milan daily Corriere della Sera comments today: "Three questions have already been answered: No, Clinton is not financing bankrupt Russia; Yes, Yeltsin will continue with reforms and, Yes and No, Clinton is accepting the communists under certain conditions, but not the return of communism. In the coming days the stock markets will decide whether these three answers suffice to ease the crisis of the dying ruble. But the political effect should already be clear when Clinton meets with opposition leaders... The interest of the world is directed at the meetings with general Lebed and communist boss Zyuganov. Of course, the American president is thinking about what happens after Yeltsin, about a candidate for the year 200 acceptable to the US."

LIBERATION: The Euro is not doing badly

In Paris, Liberation comments today that the crisis in Russia is the first real test for the Euro, and claims that the 'Euro is not doing badly'. . "At the moment, the speculation about the future strength of the Euro is keeping a careful distance.... In a certain sense this is the first success of a minimal achievement - its good enough to maintain the relative stability achieved by Europeans over many years through painful effort. A general slow-down of economic stability will cause some harm to the Euro zone. Under this hypothesis, the system must weather its first fundamental test."

LES DERNIERES NOUVELLES D'ALSACE: Danger to central and eastern Europe can be indirect

The Strasbourg-based regional daily Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace comments: "Monetary union and the common market are no insurance against all risks. The danger can be indirect to the extent that while overcoming the crisis in Russia it spreads to central and eastern Europe. There are countries there that are customers of the European Union, above all of Germany. This could cost Europe a tenth of a percentage point in growth."

NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG: Civilians have been kidnapped and murdered on both sides

Finally Switzerland's Neue Zuercher Zeitung comments on reports of massacres of civilians in Kosovo: "As could only be expected, Belgrade has used a report spread by the Serbian media about the discovery of a mass grave with the remains of 22 Serbs for a general mopping up against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA is being accused of having sadistically tortured the civilians and of having burned their bodies in an oven. The Serbian propaganda does not shy away from making comparisons with Nazi concentration camps. Civilians have been kidnapped and murdered on both sides. Not only Kosovo Albanians, but Serbs too are fleeing albeit in smaller numbers. If Belgrade terms the latest offensive of the Serbian special police against the insurgents as 'legitimate anti-terrorist measures,' this is sheer cynicism."