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Western Press Review: NATO In Macedonia, World Economy Dominate Commentary

Prague, 17 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonia and prospects for the world economy provide the dominant topics in Western press commentary today.


The British weekly "The Economist" says in its current edition that the greatest danger in NATO's intervention in Macedonia is that the participating countries will back away if trouble erupts. The magazine says, "Once more, a multinational military force is preparing to intervene in a Balkan hot spot, amid high-minded rhetoric about stanching the flow of blood and creating conditions in which the region's future can at last be settled peacefully."

It says: "The combined efforts of the world's most powerful armies ought to be enough to bring stability to one small, poor Balkan country. Even so, no one can promise the mission will be casualty-free. The real test of NATO's resolve comes not with this week's peace agreement, but with the first sign of real trouble. It would be a disaster for the alliance if any of the countries involved pulls out when the going gets tougher."

The commentary says, "That is why the governments who are about to send soldiers to Macedonia ought to have done a better job of explaining to their citizens how violence in this corner of Southeastern Europe has the potential to engulf the entire region."


"The Washington Post" carries a commentary today by Morton Abramowitz and Heather Hurlburt of the U.S.-based International Crisis Group. They write that NATO is in danger of doing "just enough to fail" in Macedonia. The commentators say: "A political agreement to stanch the decay and begin rebuilding is now in place. But the trust and will to implement it are lacking. Against this backdrop, NATO's plan to enter Macedonia for 30 days, collect any arms that combatants choose to hand over and then depart may do the trick. But few people believe that it will."

The commentary says: "NATO can go in under this plan, hope for the best -- and do just enough to fail. Or NATO can deploy in larger numbers and aim to secure a dependable cease-fire, a tight closure of Macedonia's border with Kosovo, and serious implementation of the political agreement by both sides. Such a deployment would last longer than 30 days but would aim to turn its role over to civilian monitors once the elements of success were present."


The "International Herald Tribune" carries a commentary by author-historian Misha Glenny, who writes: "The force is not big enough and its mandate not robust enough. But this is not mission impossible."

Glenny says: "There must be a concomitant political engagement from the outside to ensure that Macedonia's politicians do not stray from their voyage of peace. The international community must demonstrate to both Macedonians and Albanians that this country is a valued part of Europe."

He adds: "The United States and the EU co-sponsored this deal. Its success or failure is thus not just crucial for Macedonia but for the West's reputation and its ability to manage crisis in the Balkans."


Wesley Clark concurs in a commentary today in "The New York Times". The author of "Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat," Clark is the U.S. general who acted as Supreme Commander during NATO's air war over Kosovo. Of the current NATO strategy in Macedonia, he writes: "Sending these troops with such a restricted mandate belies NATO's commitment. A mission so limited in scope and time risks failure."

Clark says, "If NATO is serious about making democracy work in this fractious corner of Europe, then Western forces need to enter as soon as possible, engage as broadly as possible and stay as long as necessary to restore peace."


Britain's "Financial Times" in an editorial calls the planned NATO intervention in Macedonia a double gamble. It says: "A NATO taskforce will today begin arriving in Macedonia on a mission fraught with difficulty and danger. The soldiers will not be peacekeepers, having orders only to collect weapons due to be voluntarily surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels. But in spite of their limited mandate, their presence will pose an important test of credibility for the 19-member alliance and its secretary-general, [Lord George] Robertson."


The "Financial Times" today also has much to say about shifting sands in the world's economy. Staff writer Philip Coggan comments that the declining value of the dollar might appear to be only a usual summertime flinch. He writes: "What is it about August and foreign exchange markets? Back in 1992 and 1993, the Exchange Rate Mechanism was plunged into turmoil during the month. Now suddenly the dollar is in freefall."

Coggan says dollar rates are significant well beyond the U.S. shores. He writes: "A dollar decline has its dangers, especially if it is sparked by a U.S. economic downturn rater than by better economic performances in Europe and Japan. A weaker dollar will hit the competitiveness of European and Japanese exporters -- many of whom are already struggling."

Another "Financial Times" commentator, Gerard Baker, says there is one phenomenon currently active in the U.S. economy that is peculiar to that country. He says, "If the U.S. economy avoids an outright recession in the next year, there will be no shortage of candidates for the credit -- [the American homebuyer]."

The commentary continues, "Home ownership has become the means by which American consumers are continuing to spend in the face of the most severe business contraction in a decade." Baker writes, "And in the longer term, the mortgaging of the American economy to its housing stock may fundamentally change the forces that determine how fast it grows."

And in an editorial, the newspaper warns against dismissing the dollar's decline against the euro and other currencies as merely a summer twitch. The editorial says: "There are two important differences this time. First, the United States needs ever-increasing capital inflows to fund its current account deficit, while its attractiveness as an investment location is declining. Second, a falling dollar would benefit the economies in the United States, the U.K., and the euro-zone."

The editorial says: "Currency markets have not yet reached any conclusions about the underlying trend but further falls in the dollar could become self-reinforcing. The United States still needs big net flows of capital to fund its current account deficit but a falling dollar reduces foreign investors' return on U.S. assets. What has happened so far, at least, is welcome."


"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" commentator Dorit Feldbruegge writes that those waiting for the U.S. downturn to reverse have yet to receive hoped-for favorable signals. The writer says: "A worldwide economic recovery is expected only when the U.S. economy gets back onto terra firma. Just when that will happen will serve to keep the economists guessing."

Feldbruegge writes: "It is a difficult time to be making economic forecasts. There are no concrete clues at the moment. Yet one thing is clear already. The next round of forecasts in autumn will once again be characterized by downward revisions."

The commentary says, "For there still have been no signs of an economic turnaround this summer, something that had been hoped for as recently as spring."