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Western Press Review: Commentators On Kosovo Ask 'What Now?'

By Don Hill/Dora Slaba/Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 1 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- As NATO enters its ninth day of air attacks on Serbian targets in Yugoslavia, Western commentary divides into categories, including: Kosovar refugees, the question What now?, and the role of Russia.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Serbian brutality has triggered a wave of solidarity

Peter Muench, writing in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, says Albania is helping the refugees and is itself calling for help. He writes: "Albania is stirred to the depths of its soul. Albanians are following aghast the reports and newsreel footage of refugees trekking across the border from Kosovo into the mountainous north of their country. The fighting in Kosovo and the brutality shown against ethnic Albanians by Serbian units operating in the province have triggered a wave of solidarity. But there is also a growing sense of fear in the Albanian capital, where the government of a bitterly poor country feels overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of refugees and has appealed to the international community for help."

NEW YORK TIMES: The alliance must also tend to the needs of refugees

The New York Times calls editorially for significant levels of aid for the poor neighboring countries bearing the brunt of a refugee exodus. The editorial says: "While NATO warplanes attack Serbia, the alliance must also tend to the needs of a tidal wave of refugees fleeing Serbian atrocities in Kosovo. In the past eight days, nearly 150,000 Kosovars have arrived in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, three of Europe's poorest republics." It says: "The refugee problem has grown faster than anyone anticipated because few outsiders expected that Milosevic would attempt the wholesale removal of Kosovo's Albanian population. NATO must now help cope with the consequences of his inhumane behavior."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: America's long-term strategy must include indicting and arresting war criminals

Fred Abrahams is Kosovo researcher at Human Rights Watch. In a commentary published today by the International Herald Tribune, he calls out for more than aid. Abrahams writes: "America's long-term strategy must include being more vigorous in indicting and arresting war criminals. [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic has to be made to understand once and for all that punishment will follow this crime."

ZEEITUNG VOLKSRANT: Defense of refugees should be a political and above all military assignment of NATO

Netherlands' Zeeitung Volksrant says in an editorial: "The defense [of refugees] should be an important political and above all military assignment of NATO. That would also be the best encouragement to accept responsibility in those NATO countries where sensitive public opinion prevails."

GUARDIAN: We must create a capacity to put a ground force into Kosovo

The Guardian, London, calls on behalf of the refugees for increasing the NATO threat by assembling ground forces. Its editorial says: "The clock ticking in the Balkans is calibrated in human lives." It says: "We must pursue both active diplomacy and, as this paper has argued before, we must create a capacity to put a ground force into Kosovo as soon as possible."

INFORMATION: Constant demonization of one leader will inevitably increase his popularity at home

Demonizing Milosevic is counter-productive, Danish commentator Karsten Fledelius says. Fledelius is the author of the recent, "The Downfall of Yugoslavia." He comments in the Copenhagen daily, Information: "(True), Milosevic is a man of exceptional cunning who has his feet in the old Communist system. He is a western-like figure rather than the stereotype of a Serb nationalist with a long, black beard. He is not exactly a democrat but he has always secured parliamentary support ... at times with the help of unlikely alliances."

Fledelius continues: "The West has helped him in this. We should have learned that the constant demonization of one leader will inevitably increase his popularity at home."

NEW YORK TIMES: There must be a multimedia NATO drive against Serbia

New York Times columnist William Safire calls for a coordinated multimedia NATO drive against Serbia. He writes: "What can be done is to mass a NATO ground force near Albania and Macedonia borders, protecting and training a [Kosovo Liberation Army] guerrilla force. The very presence of five armored divisions nearby, prepared for action under air supremacy, would radically change the local power equation. Economic pain can be inflicted by the seizure of Yugoslav assets around the world to subsidize the upkeep of refugees. Psychological war can be waged by shortwave, leaflet and even the Internet, to Yugoslavs now getting only Milosevic propaganda.

On the diplomatic front, forget the Russians," Safire writes. "The long-term Russian interest is to diminish NATO; Primakov cannot be its intermediary."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The United States and NATO cannot retreat without humiliation

William Hyland, former editor of Foreign Affairs, an influential quarterly journal in the United States, says in a commentary published today by the International Herald-Tribune that, at the least, a credible threat of ground forces is essential. Hyland writes: "The United States and NATO cannot retreat without humiliation that could have dangerous consequences not only in the Balkans but in Europe and even in Asia."

LONDON TELEGRAPH: An effective policy would comprise making Kosovo's independence a policy goal

The London Daily Telegraph says in an editorial headline: "We Can't Stop Now." The newspaper says that a logical and effective policy would comprise five elements, including these: "Immediate start to building up a ground invasion force in Macedonia; and tearing up Rambouillet and making Kosovo's independence a policy goal."

DIE WELT: The result was not much love on either side

Russia still is siding with the Serbs, Manfred Quiring writes from Moscow in the German newspaper Die Welt. Quiring says: "Something seemed to be missing when Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic welcomed Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov to Belgrade. They shook hands, they held each other's arms and their expressions exuded goodwill. But there was no kiss." Quiring goes on: "So a cool distance on both sides seems to have been the reason why the kissing stopped at the Belgrade city limits. In principle, Primakov backs his fellow-Slavs, the Serbians. In practice, he feels the Serbians' behavior runs counter to Russian interests -- such as Russia's relations with the West in general. Milosevic told the Russian delegation that moral support was not, as far as he was concerned, enough. The result was not much love on either side."

JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: Milosevic has used Russia badly

The U.S. business newspaper Journal of Commerce said yesterday in an editorial: "Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's mission to Belgrade carries clear risks that extend far beyond the Balkans -- risks to Russia, to the West, and to the entire global economy. The challenge to all concerned is to recognize those dangers and keep them from flaring out of control."

The editorial says: "Milosevic has used Russia badly as he has gone merrily about his genocidal way, finally provoking NATO into air strikes. Mr. Milosevic has left Russia in a no-win situation: either Moscow has influence with him, and hence shares some responsibility for his bloodthirsty rampages, or it has none, and hence is merely a toothless apologist for his actions."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Russia is teaching the world plenty about how to wag the United States

The Wall Street Journal in the United States editorialized yesterday: "Whatever else might emerge from the wreck in the Balkans, Russia is teaching the world plenty about how to wag the United States. That's the message of the remarkable to and fro surrounding Russian Prime Minister Primakov's announcement Monday that Russia -- after filching billions in aid, defaulting on tens of billions in loans, accusing the U.S. of bottomless villainy in Serbia and kicking top NATO advisers out of Moscow -- is going to get new thousands of millions of dollars in credits from the International Monetary Fund."

The editorial says: "Then there seems to be this endless hope drifting through Washington that if the U.S. just gives Russia enough money, Moscow will do nice things in return -- like not steal it, or maybe refrain from selling weapons to our adversaries or maybe stop accusing us of war crimes in Serbia."