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Western Press Review: Kosovo, Germany

Prague, 24 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The war in Kosovo, particularly the question of whether or not a ground war will be necessary to achieve NATO's aims, continues to dominate Western press commentary. There is also some commentary on Germany on the double occasion yesterday of the 50th anniversary of the Federal Republic's postwar constitution and the election of Social Democrat Johannes Rau as its new president.

NEW YORK TIMES: Present air-war strategy will succeed in meeting NATO's basic conditions

In a commentary for the New York Times, U.S. President Bill Clinton seeks to explain U.S. policy on Kosovo both to the American people and to the world at large. While not specifically excluding what he calls "other military options" -- but not mentioning ground troops explicitly -- Clinton says the Alliance's present air-war strategy is working and will, he adds, "succeed in meeting NATO's basic conditions of restoring the [ethnic Albanian] Kosovars to their homes, with Serbian forces out of Kosovo and the deployment of an international security force."

"This force," Clinton continues, "must have NATO at its core, which means that it must have NATO command and control and NATO rules of engagement ... just like our [present] force in Bosnia." This strategy, he adds, "has broad and deep support in the Alliance ... and gives us the best opportunity [to strengthen, not weaken] our fundamental interest in a long-term positive relation with Russia."

Finally, Clinton says, "we must remember that the reversal of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo is not sufficient to ... establish lasting stability. The European Union and the U.S.," he concludes, "must do for southeastern Europe what we did for Western Europe after World War Two and for Central Europe after the Cold War."

WASHINGTON POST: Evidence seems frail for the likely success of the air war

The Washington Post sees the problem differently from the president. In an editorial yesterday, the paper wrote: "To those who question its contention that the air war is working in Kosovo, the Clinton Administration now claims to detect serious and growing fractures in Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's hold on his army and his people ... By the official political calculus, it adds up to a vindication of the Clinton strategy to intensify the air war rather than add ... a ground attack as well."

But the WP says the idea is likely not to work: "We have favored the air war from the start," the paper notes. "But frankly we find that at this point the evidence presented for its likely success seems frail and tenuous as a basis for sticking just with the air campaign."

The Paper explains: "The reported discovery of splits in the other [that is, Milosevic] side's key constituencies and the reliance on those splits to avoid hard choices has a long history in war. That is what troubles us about the Administration's seeming confidence in its air-war policy now. It may be so that Mr. Milosevic has begun to acknowledge casualties, but there is [still] no sign that he intends to accept the Alliance's key condition for a settlement, the insistence on a NATO core in the international force that would enter Kosovo ... Until the Serbs meet this entirely reasonable and necessary condition ... a readiness to take the war to a ground campaign will remain a requirement of an effective war policy."

INDEPENDENT: Sending more troops to the Balkans is overdue

British daily The Independent expresses strong support in its editorial today for the introduction of allied ground troops into Kosovo. "Sending more troops to the Balkans is overdue, but [nonetheless] welcome," the paper writes. It says, "two important things have [recently] happened to support this view."

The first, the paper says, "was the first evidence that Serb military morale might be cracking. The other was the first sign of a shift in the American position in favor of ground troops. Coming just after White House leaks of Bill Clinton's rage against his friend [Prime Minister Tony Blair, an outspoken supporter of NATO ground troops in Kosovo] ... this can mean only one thing ... in effect, Mr. Blair has won the argument."

According to the Independent, "Mr. Blair [now] has what he has [long] wanted, and what should have happened a long time ago: a build-up of 50,000 NATO troops on the borders of Kosovo." The paper concludes that, were NATO forces ultimately to escort deported Kosovars back to their homes in a so-called "semi-permissive environment" ... it would be a tremendous vindication for Mr. Blair. More important, it would be a victory for human rights and international justice."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Serbian intransigence may crack

In an analysis for the Daily Telegraph today, Defense Editor John Keegan says, "the war in the Balkans is now at a turning point ... If bombing does not soon yield a result favorable to NATO, then ... the campaign may fall into stalemate ... On the other hand," he adds, "bombing may [yet] open a moral chasm behind the facade of national unity Milosevic has so successfully maintained."

The analysis continues: "No European country [including World-War-Two Germany] ... has ever been so extensively and continuously bombed as Serbia has since March 24 ... The impression of uncanny and largely unerring accuracy --the media have exaggerated the proportion of mistakes -- cannot have failed to alarm and depress the Serbian population ... Reports that [young recruits] are protesting against being sent to front in Kosovo deserve close attention. Even more alarming for Milosevic must be the protest of their families. Once mothers start to confront the regime, it has a real reason to be worried."

Keegan, a military historian, concludes: "There is now a real chance that Serbian intransigence may crack. If and when it does, the effect may be 'cascading' ... an effect well known to military historians [and] seen most recently in the [1992] Gulf War, when an initial break-in on the desert flank of the Iraqi army led to a collapse."

LE MONDE: Germany has shown its openness

Two French dailies today comment on Germany's image in the world today, a half-century after it adopted its Basic Law (constitution). In an editorial entitled "Generous Germany," Le Monde writes: "The German Federal Republic has many reasons to be proud of the grand democracy it has become after the Nazi catastrophe -- and especially one reason," the paper goes on, "in this time of a Balkan war: [Germany's] generosity in taking in refugees."

Le Monde note that Germany has so far received 3,000 Kosovars --it foresees taking in a total of 20,000 if its European partners also make an effort ... [Also, Germany] has added 25,000 to its community of Albanian residents. In this regard, [by contrast], France's policy is far less receptive..."

The editorial continues: "Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, it has consistently been Germany that has set the example for others ... Germany has shown its openness. It now contains no less than 7.3 million foreigners ... who, since May 2, with the definitive adoption of a new nationality code," have the opportunity eventually to become citizens. The paper concludes: "Germany is changing centuries and moving its capital to Berlin, showing a generosity and respect for human rights that must be the envy of its neighbors."

LIBERATION: The time has obviously come for reconciliation

In a news analysis in Liberation today, Lorraine Millot asks, "Is Germany now a country like any other?" She says that since unification in 1990, the Federal Republic has never ceased to ask questions about its own identity. Thus, she notes that in the euphoria of unification, a group of right-wing intellectuals proclaimed the arrival of a new Germany, sure of itself and without complexes.

"The opposite point of view," the analysis continues, "was incarnated in two great but aging German intellectuals: the writer Guenther Grass (71) and the philosopher Juergen Habermas (69). At the very moment of unification, Grass warned that 'Germany will never be country like others' ... while in 1995 Habermas spoke up against the 'normality' of the republic of Berlin."

These two opposing points of view, Millot believes, are clearly represented today in Germany's current left coalition government. She says, "[Green Party] Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer is an attentive reader of Habermas, while Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder came to power announcing his desire to 'de-complex' the Germans [of their war experience] and called for a more outspoken defense of 'German interests.'" She concludes: "After all the polemics of recent years, the time has obviously come for reconciliation..."

TRIBUNE DE GENEVE: Normalization is entirely to be welcomed

The Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve today is also concerned with the question of Germany's "ordinariness" today.

In a signed editorial, Jean-Francois Verdant writes; "However fortuitous, the coincidence is far from being without significance: At the very moment when Germans were preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Federal Republic, the Bundesrat -- upper house of parliament -- on Friday [May 21) passed a reform that accords a much greater chance to attain German citizenship to foreign children born in Germany. [The Bundestag has taken the same step, thereby making the reform law.]

In doing so, the editorial continues, Germany has taken a step, that makes it, in this area, hardly distinguishable from its Western European partners. This "normalization," Verdant says, "is entirely to be welcomed."

(Note that there is no German press available today, since it is a legal holiday in the Federal Republic.)