International Papers

Unhappy Birthday

Slate’s Complete Kosovo Coverage

The bombed shell of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s Belgrade residence was the favorite front-page picture in the European press Friday. “Yesterday the war got personal,” commented the Daily Telegraph of London. “Slobba’s Cracking,” said the British tabloid the Sun, claiming that Milosevic made a new peace offer only because NATO had “blown his bed to bits.” The main story in both the Telegraph and the Times of London was the new hawkishness of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His statements in the United States that victory was the only acceptable “exit strategy” from Yugoslavia are part of a new Anglo-American deal, the Telegraph claimed. Blair and President Clinton have “forged a new strategic partnership in which Mr. Blair is the leading hawk and Mr. Clinton tacitly goes along with deeper involvement in the Balkans. … While Mr. Blair tried to stiffen spines among the other 17 Nato leaders arriving for the Alliance’s 50th birthday, Mr. Clinton made it clear that the world’s sole superpower was underwriting the British-led escalation.”

The Times’ front-page headline was “Hawk Blair stiffens US resolve.” It compared his behavior in the United States with “Margaret Thatcher’s spine-stiffening American visit before the Gulf War.” The liberal Guardian highlighted Blair’s call for a new “doctrine of international community” and his explicit statement in a speech in Chicago that his “Third Way” thinking offers a framework for the entire globe. But the paper led on Milosevic’s peace offer, which it said included “a key Yugoslav concession”–agreement to an international security force in Kosovo.

In an op-ed article Thursday, Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky attributed the triumph of the Third Way to the global economic crisis of the past two years. This, he said, is “one of the luckiest breaks that Bill Clinton and Tony Blair ever had, even in their amazingly lucky careers.” Kaletsky wrote, “Nobody seems to believe any longer that markets work best if businesses are simply left to their own devices or that capitalism can avoid booms and busts without active government intervention. … In short, the Third Way faith in ‘smart’ government seems to have triumphed completely over the Thatcher-Reagan doctrine that government is the problem and market forces the solution.”

In an analysis of Blair’s “new internationalism” on its editorial page, Le Monde of Paris described it Friday as “a kind of humanitarian Wilsonism that wouldn’t be limited to the right of peoples to self-determination that Woodrow Wilson wanted to impose on the defeated European empires after World War I ; it defends the rights of man, the rights of minorities, and cultural and religious freedoms.” The author welcomed Europe’s attempt in Kosovo to break openly with the spirit of Munich but warned that the new internationalism contains paradoxes that could spell trouble in the future. One is its willingness to use NATO, rather than the United Nations, to enforce the aims of the U.N. Charter; another was uncertainty about its geographical extension (should its writ run outside Europe?); another the tendency of American “messianism” to mask egotistic, nationalist policies; and yet another the clash of different national values and principles around the world.

In Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung led on peace moves under the headline “Bonn expects much from American-Russian co-operation.” While highlighting Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s three conditions for peace–an immediate end to the use of force; a withdrawal of Serb military, paramilitary, and police personnel from Kosovo; and their replacement by international peace enforcers–it said in an editorial that NATO can only leave Yugoslavia as “victors.” The main Italian papers all led Friday on Milosevic agreeing to a U.N. presence in Kosovo, while El Mundo of Madrid led with Clinton authorizing preparations for a land invasion. In a report from New York, La Repubblica of Rome said it is now clear that the NATO allies are divided into doves and hawks, with Germany and Italy being the leading doves and Britain the leading hawk. Corriere della Sera of Milan carried a front-page report that the southeast Italian region of Apulia has experienced a 40 percent fall in summer tourist bookings because of the Kosovo conflict and has appealed to the Italian government to declare it an economic crisis zone.

According to the Daily Telegraph, an interview in the Washington Post with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana revealing a dusting down of Kosovo invasion plans was “arranged” by the White House. In an article on NATO’s birthday celebrations, the Times’ Brussels correspondent recalled how one week into NATO’s air campaign, Solana told visitors not to worry about Kosovo spoiling the party. “I’m sure the problem will be solved before April 23,” he said then, with a reassuring smile.

Among several British editorials on NATO’s birthday, the Times’ warned Blair against trying to woo America with “the moral fervour which comes so naturally to him,” since what was most needed to sway U.S. opinion was “an informed case based on strategic interest, an argument for committing US troops that explains why the future contours of European peace are being decided in the Balkans.” It warned him, too, not to “jump the gun” on Clinton and to “avoid the slightest hint that this is a Bill-and-Tony show, with the rest of Europe hanging on their coat-tails.” The paper said, “US troops in Kosovo are vital, because the key is the decisive thwarting of Slobodan Milosevic’s campaign, as destabilising as it is criminal, against its people.”

The Guardian, under the headline “Unhappy Birthday,” said the celebrations were taking place “in the wrong place at the wrong time” because “the war will need to be over–‘won’ is hardly apt–before the profoundest question of this anniversary season can be addressed: whether the North Atlantic Alliance can and should continue into the 21st century.” The Daily Telegraph, however, extolled NATO as “the only organisation capable of upholding the international order” and defended its Yugoslavia offensive as a means of keeping the United States happy. “America, with its Wilsonian moral impulses, could not be held indefinitely in an alliance that sat back, fat and happy, while atrocities were being committed on a large scale in Europe’s backyard,” it said. “Disgust with European complacency would have led to fresh calls for withdrawal.”

In the Arab and Islamic world, newspaper commentators were urging an Islamic contribution to solving the Kosovo crisis. In al-Ra’i of Jordan Thursday, political analyst Fahd al-Fanek said Islamic countries should put together a peacekeeping force that would be acceptable to both the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians, while Clovis Maksoud, writing in both al-Khaleej of the United Arab Emirates and the Pan-Arab al-Hayat, said Arabs should work to take the initiative out of NATO’s hands and restore it to the United Nations, where it belongs. Maksoud, a former Arab League diplomat now heading the Center for the Global South at the American University in Washington, noted a “frightening and obscene” convergence between Serbia’s ethnic cleansing and the behavior of NATO, which has taken international law into its own hands.