Accessibility links

Breaking News

Western Press Review: NATO Summit And Its Implications

By Breffni O'Rourke and Dora Slaba

Prague, 26 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The NATO 50th Anniversary Summit, its implications for the Kosovo crisis, and for the Western powers' relations with Russia are prominent themes in the world's press.

Financial TIMES: The new strategic concept document is far more ambitious

In an article in the Financial Times today, David Buchan writes from Washington that the summit mapped out bold ambitions for the 21st century, as if the military alliance were at peace and not fighting in Yugoslavia for its credibility. He says:

"The new strategic concept document is far more ambitious than the 1991 doctrine it replaces. It speaks of preserving peace and reinforcing security and stability 'throughout the Euro-Atlantic region', made up of the 19 alliance members and the 23 countries with whom it has partnership arrangements".

Buchan continues however with a caution: "Inevitably the outcome of the Kosovo conflict will show whether the new strategic concept's call for an 'overall capacity to manage crises successfully' amounts to anything. It will also determine whether NATO's 'open door' policy on enlargement, stressed in the yesterday's communiqu, would mean anything if defeat in Kosovo reduced new members' interest in joining".

INDEPENDENT: The plan represents a thorough rethink

Writing in the British paper the Independent, Andrew Marshall says the summit gave a "huge boost" to the European Union's attempts to build its own defense capability, as distinct from NATO.

He says: "In language that represents a breakthrough after years of hairsplitting argument, NATO said the EU could use NATO equipment, personnel and infrastructure to mount operations once the EU itself has made its own arrangements."

He continues: "The plan represents a thorough rethink over the past two years of the best ways to allow Europe to play a role on the world stage through both political and military action." And he says the coming EU summit in Cologne in June is expected to fill in more of the framework, helping to turn a European defense policy into a reality after 40 years of fruitless argument.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Summit was neither a very determined council of war nor a very visionary look at the future

Not all comment on the Washington summit is positive, however. In an editorial, the Financial Times said the summit's concentration on Kosovo doomed that meeting to what it called a "confusion of objectives."

"In the event" says the editorial, "it (the summit) turned out to be neither a very determined council of war nor a very visionary look at the future".

That's because the 19 member states managed to agree to carry on and intensify the air war against Yugoslavia. The editorial says NATO "stopped short of any thorough consideration of the use of ground troops to follow it up", on the grounds that any such debate would have been an admission of failure of the air war.

That's too feeble an excuse, says the Financial Times, in that ground troops will have to be used in Kosovo, at the very least to chaperone Kosovan refugees back to their homes in future. Western public opinion must be prepared for that, and President Milosevic must be made to realize that he has to face a threat on all fronts.

WASHINGTON POST: Russia has diminished its stature

An editorial in the Washington Post on Sunday laments the absence of the Russians from the commemorative summit. It writes:

"That was unfortunate for NATO and the Clinton administration, which have worked hard, and rightly so, to make a place for Russia in the new Europe. It was even more unfortunate for Russia itself, which now finds itself more isolated than ever, and more exposed in its weakness."

The Washington Post editorial, titled "Empty Chair", notes the immediate cause for Russia's boycott is NATO's war in Kosovo. It says the bombing campaign has aroused strong emotions in Russia, all negative. Some Russians say it proves their fears that NATO is an aggressive, not a defensive alliance. There is also sympathy for the Serbs, who share the Russians' Orthodox religion.

The editorial continues: "Among policy-makers, who waged their own brutal war against ethnic separatists in Chechnya, the anxiety is that the Kosovo example could be used to fracture Russia. And there is resentment that NATO launched this campaign without authorization from the U.N. Security Council - which is to say, without the approval of Russia and China."

The editorial says that opposition to NATO's action is not, in and of itself, dishonorable. It says: "Plenty of Americans and Europeans share the view that an air campaign was not the optimal way for NATO to achieve its goals. But Russia in two ways has diminished its stature and its standing to make this argument. First, it has failed to put forward any true alternative (and secondly), "more serious has been Russia's refusal to condemn or even acknowledge the massive crimes against humanity for which Mr Milosevic is responsible. It's fine to argue against NATO bombing, if that's your view, and to call attention to the civilian casualties such bombing is bound to produce. It's not fine to pretend, as Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov did early on, that the mass exodus from Kosovo is caused entirely by NATO's bombing."

JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE: A war in the interests of human rights is definitely impossible

Other Western press have a range of their own views on the situation. France's Journal du Dimanche says in a commentary: "To say, as many serious people are saying, that this war is already lost, encourages Milosevic to hold on, and also (encourages us) to admit to ourselves, to the Kosovars and the rest of Europe that a war in the interests of human rights, with all the complexity that implies, is definitely impossible. And the next time -- because there will be a next time --- this type of war will not take place. Then we will weep over our impotence and cowardice".

NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG: A durable pacification of Kosovo will remain an illusion, without an intensive political and economic commitment

From Zurich, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung comments that the NATO campaign is not making the envisaged progress. It says: "the Serbs are obviously determined to deal with the Albanian question in a way that nobody believed was possible a short while ago. Of course a negotiated solution should be given highest priority but ... without a very long and intensive political as well as economic commitment, a durable pacification of Kosovo will remain as much an illusion as long-term political stability in the region."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: In the present circumstances there will be no peace in the Balkans

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung has two editorials about the Yugoslav situation: One is titled "Peace with Milosevic not Possible." It says that the longer the expulsion of the Kosovars goes on, and the longer bombs fall on Serbia, the more urgent becomes the question of how to stabilize the south Balkans after the war. It notes that at the Washington summit Germany proposed a South European Conference which would be tasked with elaborating a kind of Marshall Plan, the U.S.-inspired plan which help Europe rise from the ashes of the Second World War. But it is unclear who should plan with whom the future of a maltreated people, and who should foot the bill. And the editorial notes the importance of Russia in the equation: "Russia will listen when NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sit down to confer at one table in Bonn. Without the erstwhile eastern superpower, without the influence of the Serbs, there will be no peace in the Balkans in the near future."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: There was never any freedom of speech under Milosevic

In a second editorial the Sueddeutsche Zeitung deals with the NATO attacks on Serbian state television. Under the heading of freedom of speech, it says:

"The good news is that Serbian state TV -- a tool of propaganda -- has been blamed. The bad news is: five other programs continue to broadcast. The terrible news: People were left dead after the bombing attacks on the state transmitter -- the dead were not soldiers, but civilians. But who is a soldier and who a civilian in this war? Is it a Serb who is burnt in a military base because he had to join up, or are the employees of the state broadcasting corporation subsidiary victims for spreading lies, or being forced to spread lies?

The editorial concludes: "Whoever claims that this is an attack on the freedom of expression suppresses the fact that there was never any freedom of speech under Milosevic."