International Papers

France in the Doghouse

Slate’s Complete Kosovo Coverage

France has been barred from some of NATO’s top-secret military plans because the United States fears they will be passed on to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the Daily Telegraph reported Friday from Washington, quoting “a senior Western military source.” The source said, “Washington has started cutting Paris out of the loop on some operations because of the worry of information being handed either to the Serbs direct or indirectly through the Russians.” In an editorial headlined “Send in the troops,” the Telegraph said that, with an impetus building to NATO’s advantage, the alliance “should seize this moment to announce a new goal and new means to achieve it. The first is the independence of Kosovo; the second is the commitment of ground forces, a move that senior military leaders consider essential to success.”

The deployment of ground troops has been gathering ever-greater support in the British press since it became clear that the bombing is strengthening rather than weakening Milosevic’s resolve to complete the “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovo. A majority of papers, both conservative and liberal, have now come out in favor of it, with one important exception: Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid Sun, Britain’s largest-circulation paper. While the upscale Murdoch papers the Times and the Sunday Times now support ground intervention, the Sun backs Prime Minister Tony Blair in his promise not to send in British troops. While it bursts with aggression against Milosevic–“Clobba Slobba” being its rallying cry–the Sun threatened Monday to withdraw its support for Blair if he changed his mind. “Don’t Send Our Troops off To Die” was its front-page headline.

The weightiest British opponent of the war remains the Times’ op-ed columnist Simon Jenkins, who, writing from the United States Friday, said that “the misreading of Mr Milosevic by Nato deserves to rank with Gallipoli and Pearl Harbor in the annals of military incompetence.” He wrote, “It is grimly intriguing that the American pro-war lobby is made up of mostly younger people who do not remember (or have forgotten) the Vietnam escalation. The issue, once again, is not the plausibility of the operation but the esteem of Uncle Sam and confidence in America’s military omnipotence. As for whether a Kosovan war will be anything but an American one, you can hear, read and talk about this subject from dawn to dusk and not hear a word about British involvement–beyond the complaint that ‘America is having to rescue Europe from another of its messes.’ “

French papers Friday contained reports from Kosovo by a group of French journalists who spent time with combatants of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Le Figaro reported that the KLA claims to control “just about 40 percent of Kosovo” and to be in close contact with NATO forces, from which it could call in air support at any time. It quoted Capt. Florin Kulaj, commander of the KLA’s 850-strong 136th Brigade, as saying that he had identified ground targets for NATO attacks, such as a bridge used by Serb forces, which had been bombed on Wednesday. But Capt. Kulaj also admitted that the KLA was surrounded by Serb troops and short of weapons. “New recruits hardly get one Kalashnikov between two of them,” he said. “We don’t ask the West to send ground troops. If our men are given the means to fight, we will be able to defend the civilian population of Kosovo.” But Libération reported from Washington that the United States is still reluctant to arm the KLA because it doubts its democratic credentials.

According to Le Monde Friday, most of the Russian media are “deaf and blind” to the Kosovo refugee crisis. “After two weeks of conflict, most newspapers continue to see it only as a showdown between NATO, confused with the United States and considered the ‘aggressor,’ and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, ‘president of Yugoslavia,’ ” it reported. “Accordingly, not a single newspaper has devoted a front-page story, or even a headline, to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of [ethnic] Albanians from Kosovo.” Russian press comments from the past week, selected by Le Monde’s Moscow correspondent, included the following: Vremia said, “The horrible descriptions of massacres of Albanian Kosovars in the West are wrong and exaggerated”; New Izvestiya offered, “While the president of the Unites States plays golf, tens of thousands of innocent people are fleeing from the hell unleashed by NATO airplanes”; and Nezavissimaya Gazeta said that NATO was conducting “barbaric bombardments … under the false pretext of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

While Le Figaro in a front-page editorial said that the tide is now turning in NATO’s favor and marveled at the “astonishing unity” of the alliance so far, Milan’s Corriere della Sera berated Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema for condoning open revolt against the war within his coalition government. Noting that Communist Party leader Armando Cossutta was seeking a meeting with Milosevic and that another coalition party was calling on the government to distance itself from NATO “while Italy is at war and its airmen running the risk of being shot down,” Sergio Romano wrote in a front-page comment, “I have tried to find a precedent that would allow me to justify these initiatives and the prime minister’s silence, but I cannot find one.”