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Western Press Review: From Macedonia To Islam In Central Asia

Prague, 16 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A number of newspapers in our survey today of the Western press examine the tentative peace accord in Macedonia and NATO's proposed role.


Berthold Kohler comments in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that NATO is so pleased by any movement at all that it may be seizing on a momentum leading nowhere. Kohler writes: "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has found a new ally in Macedonia that it definitely does not want to lose: Momentum. The opposing sides should be pushed along the road to peace so fast that they do not have time to come up with any calamitous ideas."

He writes: "With everybody talking about the momentum that has to be exploited and the solidarity within the alliance that has to be maintained, there is a risk that those voices that point out the risks of the operation might go unnoticed."

The commentator concludes: "The West runs the risk of making the same mistake in Macedonia as it did with its intervention in Kosovo, which plunged NATO into a deep crisis: trusting in hope and not the old military virtue of being prepared for hope to fail. Next week, the German parliament will have to remind the government of this."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" publishes a commentary by Garth Evans, president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. Evans is a former Australian foreign minister. He says the NATO plan for Macedonia is insufficient, writing, "Macedonia 2001 [is] unnervingly like Bosnia 1992." He goes on: "The agreement alone has little chance of bringing real peace. What we are seeing is the classic pattern familiar from Middle Eastern headlines as well as earlier Balkan conflicts: extremists doing their worst precisely when peace appears tantalizingly close."

The commentary says, "After a decade of international involvement in the Balkans, neither our own interests nor the region's peoples will be served by allowing extremist Albanians or hard-line Slavic Macedonians to pull the rug out from under the country's final hope for a multiethnic future."


"The Christian Science Monitor" devotes space to a commentary by Violeta Petroska-Beska, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, who says that the West has built the impression of partiality to the Albanian rebels in Macedonia. She lists these reasons, among others, behind this growing impression:

1) "Both the ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians are convinced that NATO can, but doesn't want to, cut off the [rebels'] supplies from Kosovo."

2) "Both groups see the fact that the Albanian guerrillas have been using modern weapons as a sign that NATO must be supporting them."

3) "At the start of the insurrection, the United States and the European Union condemned the guerrillas. Now both sides are treated the same."

The writer says, "It is high time for the international community and NATO to accept at least some responsibility for these existing perceptions."


The "Frankfurter Rundschau," in an editorial, commends NATO for a middle-of-the-road policy. The editorial says: "There is a saying that, 'He risks death who does the middle hold, when danger travels down the road.' This is not always valid. In this particular case the middle road seems reasonable considering all the dangers at risk."


In the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Kurt Kister says that German politics are such that the opposition will criticize German troops in Macedonia's peacekeeping contingent for the pure sake of being negative.

The commentator says: "It is the unspoken hope that [other] dissidents [will] remain true to their stand. Then [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder would, at long last, experience a defeat -- and that is more important to some [German politicians than the issue of peace in] Macedonia."


Anneliese Rohrer writes in Austria's "Die Presse" that the West is making old mistakes in Macedonia. She says, "The West is following the same policy as it did in Bosnia and Kosovo."

She writes: "Some dabbling is going on in painting the pictures, but no one is trying to complete the picture as a whole. Now it is Macedonia's turn. Anyone who looks back at Kosovo will note that, after that war, the image of a peaceful Balkans failed to emerge because the necessary political decisions were not adopted. [And] who is to tell what development will take place in Montenegro? A coming clash to achieve the independence of a divided Yugoslavia cannot be excluded."


Anna Husarska comments today in the "International Herald Tribune" on another Balkans trouble spot. She writes that well-meaning diplomats may err if they succeed in forcing Serbia to engineer reforms too rapidly.

The writer says: "Given the brainwashing that [former Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic applied to his subjects, a swift change imposed on Serbs, who for a decade were forced to live in a lie, might backfire."

She says ordinary Serbs do not appear to be ready to abandon the persecution of gays and other minorities, or to accept the truth about the Serb-led massacre at Srebrenica, as disclosed in a recent BBC documentary aired on state television.

Husarska gives examples of three Serbs who share her assessment: "Radovan, a television journalist -- he is not gay -- has been thinking about emigrating since a gay parade was attacked. Zoran, a print journalist, was disgusted by the reaction to the Srebrenica documentary. Ana, who soon starts a fellowship at Columbia University, seemed to look forward to it for more than just educational reasons."

Husarska writes, "If only Serbs had a leader who knew that saying 'sorry' is a proof of strength."


"The New York Times" editorializes today on a different region where, the newspaper says, old lessons have failed to instruct present behavior. It says the United States is supporting tyranny in Central Asia, just as years ago it did in Iran under the Shah, who, the newspaper says, "suffocated his nation into revolution."

The editorial says, "The people of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have always lived under despots." It continues, "Now, 10 years after they became independent nations, they have once again become sultanates, ruled by tyrants who maintain tight control of political and economic activity."

The newspaper says: "When the Soviet empire broke up, millions of people in Central Asia began to practice Islam. Unfortunately, local governments saw religion that was independent of the state as a threat. In Uzbekistan, the most populous of the Central Asian nations, with 25 million people, the government has arrested thousands of religious Muslims and sentenced hundreds of them to long jail terms, even though they were not accused of violent acts. Thousands of villagers in Islamic areas have been forcibly resettled."

"The New York Times" says, "While American officials talk about human rights when they meet with their Central Asian counterparts, Washington's interest in the region's oil and gas reserves and fear of another Afghanistan limit American criticism." It concludes, "The military and economic cooperation given in the name of assuring stability may in fact be helping to brew dangerous instability."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this review)