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Western Press Review: Kosovo And NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit

By Jan de Weydenthal and Dora Slaba

Prague, 14 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The Kosovo crisis continues today to dominate selected editorial commentaries and analyses in the Western press.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Innate human aggression prompts Milosevic to stop at nothing

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Steven Livingston takes a step away from geopolitical assessments of the Kosovo crisis in favor of an anthropological one. "Could it be," Livingston asks, "that [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic and his followers will stop at nothing in Kosovo because of an innate human aggression, inherited from our animal ancestors, to possess territory believed to be one's own?"

WASHINGTON POST: NATO is pushed toward a war aim of unconditional surrender

Washington Post commentator Jim Hoagland turns to more practical concerns, arguing that NATO should clearly define its aims in the conflict, particularly in view of its approaching summit meeting in Washington starting on April 23.

Hoagland writes: "Slobodan Milosevic caught NATO's leaders unprepared for his brutal use of Kosovo's civilians as a weapon of war. ... Mr. Milosevic's tactical skill in confounding NATO by uprooting 800,000 civilians comes back to haunt him. Ethnic cleansing on this grand scale ties the West's hands. It pushes NATO toward the difficult and dangerous, but perhaps, unavoidable, war aim of unconditional surrender as the only appropriate outcome of Mr. Milosevic's crimes."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The prospects changed dramatically on the day the bombing began

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski agrees that NATO should clearly establish its positions before or at the Washington summit. He writes in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

"If the Kosovo conflict lasts until then, then this event will offer an opportunity for a war council (indeed it is a war) and the will to assert a strengthening of NATO. If NATO wins by then, then the meeting will indeed be a celebration."

"Meanwhile," he continues, "doubtlessly much more is at stake than the fate of Kosovo. The prospects changed dramatically on the day the bombing began. Without exaggerating, it has to be stated that the failure of NATO would be the end of its credibility and at the same time the leading global role of the United States would be jeopardized. The consequences would be devastating for global stabilization."

INDEPENDENT: The notion of a 'greater Albania' alarms all Slav populations of the region

In the meantime, writes Rupert Cornwell in an analysis published in the British newspaper The Independent, recent developments create a danger that the conflict could expand on a regional scale.

Cornwell writes: "The Yugoslav army's incursion into Albania yesterday offers an alarming, albeit brief, taste of how the Kosovo war could quickly engulf neighboring countries -- and bring Serb ground forces into the direct proximity of an ever-increasing number of NATO troops. ... Throughout the Kosovo crisis, for the ties of blood and culture, Albania has tried to avoid stoking the fires of 'greater Albania,' embracing all or most of Kosovo ... and a slice of western Macedonia. ... The very notion alarms all Slav populations of the region. More fighting could light the fuse of a wider, generalized conflict between Slavs and Albanians in the central Balkans."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: NATO must not permit that either Milosevic or the KLA take the initiative out of its hands

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says in an editorial that the Kosovo Liberation Army stands to gain a tactical advantage from any widening of the conflict. The newspaper says that "if the KLA succeeds in engaging the Serbs in battle and to lure them into withdrawing to Albanian territory, it could force NATO, which has certain responsibilities toward the Albanian government, to engage in ground battles and so escalate the war. The alliance can only avoid this move if the frontier between Albania and Kosovo is made secure by the stationing of troops. By the same token, it must also keep the KLA at bay. For NATO must not permit that either Milosevic or the KLA take out of its hands the capacity to determine the advance in its military operations."

FRANCE SOIR: To arm the KLA would not serve freedom

But the French newspaper France Soir expresses concern over the role of the Kosovo Liberation Army and warns against supporting it. The France Soir says it is "far from irrelevant to think about post-war times. For these times will not pass without the use of force toward the KLA. This organization seeking independence harbors in its ranks Islamic fundamentalists dedicated to terrorism. It maintains close contacts with the drug mafia. It professes nationalism with an ethnic tinge, which in no way falls short of Milosevic's brand. Are these the fundamental values that are shared by Paris, London and Washington? 'To arm the KLA would not serve freedom,' said Defense Minister Alain Richard. It is to be hoped that the message arrives at a time when thousands of Kosovar Albanians in exile are possessed with the idea of revenge and hence intent on defeating the Serbs."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Failure in diplomacy risks turning a split over Yugoslavia into another Cold War

Britain's Financial Times calls in an editorial for expanding diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, particularly by bringing Russia into the negotiations. The Financial Times says that the escalation of the Kosovo conflict provides a timely reminder that NATO's bombing campaign against Slobodan Milosevic must be matched by careful diplomacy. The Times says that was clear when Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, met in Oslo yesterday. The Financial Times says the two agreed on nothing beyond the need to keep talking but notes they cannot merely agree to disagree for too long. "They need to recognize and take steps to tackle an underlying divergence of interests. ... Failure to do this risks turning a split over Yugoslavia into another Cold War."

GUARDIAN: Milosevic ought to be weighing the advantages of a political settlement now

The British daily The Guardian sees the "glimmer of a way out" of the seemingly intractable situation. The Guardian writes in an editorial: "All governments now understand that, whatever happens in terms of the present war, our countries face a long continuation and broadening of the already costly and difficult engagement with this region that began with the first serious fighting in Croatia. They must know that the way this war is ended will make that inevitable engagement more or less difficult, and more or less likely to lead to new episodes of violence. None of them, therefore, wants to make concessions of substance, while they continue to differ, but not radically, on what concessions of style might be offered."

The Guardian continues: "The hope is that Milosevic, in his calculations of political survival, will begin to take these facts into account. He has always had poor strategic judgement, as is shown by the failure of all his major ventures, but also an instinct for the shifts of position that could extricate him from those failures." The Guardian says that if Milosevic has been paying attention to the evolution of the thinking of NATO governments on the war, he ought to be weighing the advantages of a political settlement now because such a settlement will not be available to him much longer.