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Western Press Review: U.S., European Press Have Different Interests

By Don Hill, Anthony Georgieff, and Alexis Papasotiriou

Prague, 11 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the U.S. press today focuses generally on domestic issues, ignoring dangerous turmoil in Russia, a new Chechnya brewing in Dagestan, turn-about ethnic killings in Kosovo, and growing signs of imminent collapse of Yugoslavia's government. Continental and British newspapers comment at length on the nearby chaos.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The root problem remains rooted

The Daily Telegraph of London editorializes bluntly: "Yugoslavia Must Go." The Telegraph's editors observe that much of what the West sought in Kosovo --the end of Serb atrocities, return of Kosovar Albanians, emplacement of armed NATO-directed peacekeepers -- has been attained. But the province remains an ethnic killing field, with Serbs as the new victims. The root problem remains rooted, the DT concludes, despite what it calls, "our political leaders'... grandiose schemes." The newspaper says: "Unfortunately, when it comes to the heart of the problem, the Yugoslav rump, (Western leaders) remain incoherent."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: One large impediment to progress is the diseased body politic of Serbia

The Wall Street Journal Europe deputy editorial page editor Michael Gonzalez, just returned from a trip through the Balkans, says in a commentary that for many Balkan leaders sovereignty versus independence is fading as the central issue. From this perspective, prosperity and freedom of choice are transcendent, he says. Gonzalez, reaching the same conclusion as the Daily Telegraph, writes that, as he puts it: "One large impediment to progress of any sort in the region is the diseased body politic of Serbia as long as [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic remains in power in Belgrade."

DIE WELT: KFOR seems to be trying to spotlight the UCK's ugly side

Commentator Edith Kohn in Berlin observes in Die Welt that the world's press has developed a new view of the Kosovar Albanians' Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). The international security force known as KFOR, for Kosovo Force, she writes, "almost seems to be using a well directed media campaign to distance itself from the [UCK]." KFOR, Kohn writes, originally contributed to the UCK's image as the good fighters against the bad Serbs. Now, she says: "KFOR seems to be trying to shine the spotlight on the [UCK's] ugly side."

AFTENPOSTEN: The United Nations is at fault

Aftenposten, in Norway, calls a continuing confrontation between KFOR and the UCK "a new front, political as well as military." In an editorial, the daily says the UCK demands control over large parts of the province. It says the United Nations is at fault because it has, in the editorial's words, "fallen behind with establishing civil structures." Aftenposten adds: "With every day gone without the United Nations' having organized a new civil form of government in Kosovo, the possibility of the Albanians and the Serbs living together is minimized."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Islamist guerrillas are provoking an increasingly bloody confrontation with Russia

European newspapers also comment at length on two manifestations of unrest in Russia -- politics in Moscow and gunfire in Dagestan. Thomas Urban says in a Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentary that "the Russian military's failure immediately to come to grips with the incursion into Dagestan" was part of the reason that President Boris Yeltsin fired Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and nominated former top KGB official Vladimir Putin to succeed him. Urban writes that former Chechnya rebels Shamil Bassayev and the so-called "Emir" Khattab are evident leaders of what the commentator calls "the Islamist guerrillas who now have declared an independent Islamic state in Dagestan, provoking an increasingly bloody confrontation with Russia."

INDEPENDENT: Russians only suspect the opposite

The Independent's Helen Womac writes this from Moscow in a news analysis: "Twenty-four hours after sacking his prime minister and appointing a former spy to lead the government, President Boris Yeltsin held a council of war (yesterday) over Dagestan, where fighting poses the greatest threat to Russian stability." She adds: "After the latest political crisis, Mr. Yeltsin's assurances that he is committed to democratic elections made the weary Russians only suspect the opposite."

DIE WELT: Putin stands at the top of an old-comrades' network

Die Welt commentator Jens Hartmann, in Berlin, says that Prime Minister-designate Vladimir Putin no longer wants to hear about what was once the world's most powerful secret service, the KGB, whose successor agency he headed. "But other Russians," Hartmann writes, "can't help thinking about it." The German writer says this: "Putin is unusual in Russia only in that he stands at the top of an old-comrades' network which could drag the country back to the old times."

DIE WELT: The President Brought Solar Eclipse Forward Two Days

In a separate commentary in Die Welt, Hartmann assesses Russian commentators' reaction to Yeltsin's latest government disruption. He says they "have had not a good word to say about Boris Yeltsin." The writer quotes a headline from Trud: "President Brought Solar Eclipse Forward Two Days."

The German commentator also offers these quotations from prominent politicians.. Boris Nemtsov said that "it is a serious blow to Russia's reputation." Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, Hartmann says, referred to the "agony of the state" and what Zyuganov called Yeltsin's "dementia." Hartmann also quotes a poll commissioned by Sevodnya newspaper which purports to show that, as Hartmann puts it, "98 percent of respondents said they could not imagine voting for [Putin] in the presidential election."

KATHIMERINI: Yeltsin fired Stepashin for two reasons

Greek commentator Thaleia Kartali wrote yesterday in the daily Kathimerini that Yeltsin fired Stepashin for two reasons, which she describes in these words: One: "He failed to persuade the Russian presidents inner circle --made up of daughter Tatyana, the magnate Boris Berezovsky, and the Kremlins chief of staff Alexander Voloshin -- that he will be in a position to secure immunity for them in the post-Yeltsin era." And, two: "Stepashins devastating term in the Interior Ministry during the Chechen war made him unsuitable to handle a new crisis in the Caucasus."

KATHIMERINI: Attempts to undermine Greek businessmens legal rights in Kosovo should be dealt with

Another Greek commentary, an editorial published by Kathimerini today, offers a uniquely Greek view of the Kosovo problem. Here are excerpts:

"Greeces businessmen were the first part of the nation to act upon the collapse of the Communist regimes in the Balkans."

"Greeces businessmen took risks, innovated, and succeeded in penetrating the emerging markets of the Balkans."

"(Now) a combined approach of foreign business circles in complete cooperation with their governments and the international press, are trying to displace them in base and illegal ways."

"Attempts to undermine Greek businessmens legal rights in Kosovo should be dealt with extremely responsibly and decisively by the Greek government, which went along with all of NATOs decisions on the Yugoslav issue, though 90 percent of the Greek population opposed NATOs bombing campaign."