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Western Press Review: Kosovo; And World Economics

By Don Hill/Dora Slaba

Prague, 2 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Kosovo continues to attract Western press commentary. Commentators also focus on an array of world economic issues.

NEW YORK TIMES: Milosevic has maneuvered himself into a winning position

In The New York Times, Steven Erlanger writes in a news analysis from Belgrade that -- despite worldwide condemnation -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has maneuvered himself into a winning position. Erlanger writes: "As the deadline approaches for entering peace talks on Kosovo province, with threats of NATO bombs and sharp warnings from the West, Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president, has much to gain. The threats by the Clinton administration and its NATO allies to bomb him into ceding effective control over the separatist province not only make it easier for Milosevic to justify eventual concessions but also make him indispensable to any settlement."

The analysis continues: "While the stick of NATO's bombs is a necessary condition for any deal, Milosevic also will require some 'cake,' as the new deputy prime minister, Vuk Draskovic, put it -- a partial lifting of the harsh diplomatic and economic isolation that the West imposed on Serbia during the Bosnian war. Milosevic may also seek a quiet promise that he not be indicted for war crimes."

LES ECHOE: This compromise does not suit anyone

The French newspaper Les Echoes editorializes that Western efforts to force Milosevic to accept Kosovar autonomy and the Kosovar Albanians to accept continued Serbian oversight comprise losses for both sides. Les Echoes says: "To mollify the situation, the Contact Group is striving to make Belgrade pledge comprehensive autonomy for Kosovo within the province of Serbia. This compromise does not suit anyone. Serbia regards this as leading Kosovo unimpeded toward independence, whereas the Kosovar Albanians more or less reject the maintenance of Yugoslav domination. Therefore the Americans and Europeans tend to depend on NATO support to achieve success, taking into account all the risks such an engagement would entail."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: It is doubtful that Russia will agree to military intervention

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung says in an editorial that Russian leaders appear to share Western shock at reported Serbian brutalities in Kosovo, but not so much as to abandon their unwavering protectiveness toward the Serbs. German leaders are overly optimistic to expect Russian support for armed intervention should diplomacy fail, the newspaper says. The editorial says: "Doubtless, the federal government is right about one thing: The Russians, too, are shocked by the massacres in Kosovo. (But) it is questionable whether Chancellor (Gerhard) Schroeder and Defense Minister (Rudolf) Scharping are right in deducing that Moscow intends to get itself actively involved in the peace efforts."

The editorial comments: "The Bonn people have not explained their optimism. (Although), Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov made promises in Bonn on Monday, he declared categorically that Moscow rejects any use of force." The newspaper says: "This is the classic Russian attitude, which diverges diametrically from Western strategy (that they) will go along with the planned Paris negotiations. (But) if the negotiations fail, it is doubtful that Moscow will agree to the almost unavoidable second step of military intervention. Why should it?"

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Something has gone wrong with globalization

On the world economy, commentator Pierre Simonitsch writes in the Frankfurter Rundschau that the promised prosperity associated with economic globalization is enriching the rich nations and missing the poor. That's because, he says, the elite are setting the rules.

Simonitsch contends: "Something has gone wrong with globalization. Like dominoes, one country after another is knocked into financial crisis, while the former priests of neo-liberalism repent, in a manner, and acknowledge they got a few things wrong after all.

"Not that those who have been skimming the cream off the top are intending to pay for the damage. No: the same economic gurus who were demanding less state intervention yesterday are now calling on governments -- taxpayers, to be precise -- for help. This can be seen during the current World Economic Forum in Davos. This annual gathering of the vain at a posh Swiss resort, the 5,000 supposedly most important people on earth, is meeting under the theme: Managing the Impact of Globalization."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The countries of the rich world cannot endlessly demand reforms of the poorer countries

In the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Helmut Maier-Mannhart, also writing from Davos, discusses a new disaffection with the International Monetary Fund. He comments: "The IMF's first deputy director, Stanley Fischer, must feel he is running a gauntlet of hostile looks just walking down the corridors of the World Economic Forum. Whenever the organization he represents comes up in conversation here, opinion is decidedly thumbs down."

The commentator says: "After the Brazil debacle (virtual collapse of the economy following IMF intervention), many of the IMF's critics have had enough. Even though everyone could see the crisis coming, it was the same old IMF prescription: force a crisis-wracked country to take a variety of measures, notably very high interest rates, as the first line of defense against an outflow of capital. Yet this formula has been proven false in Asia and will not work any better in South America. For it has been shown, repeatedly, that high interest rates are not sufficient to staunch an exodus of capital."

He concludes: "The countries of the rich world cannot endlessly demand reforms of the poorer countries which need IMF help, while at the same time avoiding all debate over the practices of their own international institutions."

WASHINGTON POST: No one can be sure

A Washington Post editorial considers with bewonderment what it calls the "astounding" continued prosperity of the United States. The editorial says: "The U.S. economy grew at an astounding annual rate of 5.6 percent in the final quarter of 1998. It grew nearly 4 percent during the year, the same as in 1997 and nearly twice the rate predicted by most economists. At the same time, inflation remained negligible. In economic terms, it doesn't get much better; in fact, in most of the world right now things are a lot worse. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure why the U.S. economy has proven so resilient."

The editorial cites deficit reduction, inflation and interest rate controls, and luck. It adds: "But there are dangers. One is that Fed(eral Reserve Board) Chairman Alan Greenspan was correct, but premature, when he warned that the United States could not remain an 'oasis of prosperity' while so many other countries are suffering. Many Asian economies contracted last year."

The Post concludes: "The salient point here is that no one can be sure. If the experts understood what was going on, after all, they would have predicted 4 percent growth a year ago. It's worth keeping this uncertainty in mind when you read projections of federal budget surpluses swelling year by year as far as the eye can see."