The frustration of the bellicose British press at the half-hearted pursuit of the war in Kosovo vented itself Wednesday in an editorial in the Times attacking President Clinton, who, it said, has “proved his absolute inadequacy as a Commander-in-Chief, stumbling on a stage that is bigger than his talents can match and performing with hesitancy, frailty and fear.” It added, “[T]his war will not be serious until Mr Clinton listens to the Pentagon, rather than the latest opinion poll. He has never countenanced a campaign plan; and in the absence of one, even air power has been misapplied. … Mr Clinton has retreated into the semantic ambiguities for which his presidency has become infamous.” The editorial concluded that “[f]or Nato, for European peace and for Britain, the true, high reckoning begins: it is called failure.”
The Daily Telegraph led its front page Wednesday with a report that both Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were struggling “to hold back a growing tide of criticism of their leadership of the Kosovo conflict.” Along with other papers, the Telegraph reported cracks in British bipartisan support for the NATO offensive. In an article in the Telegraph, the Conservative Party spokesman on foreign affairs, Michael Howard, called for the establishment of a committee of inquiry into the war and the “diplomatic failures” that preceded it. Howard described the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade as “an act of gross incompetence.” He said, “To use outdated street maps for an operation of this kind beggars belief.”
The liberal Guardian led Wednesday on “gloom” in NATO as China and Russia hardened their demands for a halt to airstrikes before they will agree to support peace moves in the United Nations. Having consistently urged the use of ground forces, the paper finally recognized in an editorial that “the possibility of a ground attack has dwindled.” It said that the British and the French have been willing to do their bit but that Clinton “could not muster the will, or lacks the necessary political weight, to commit the United States to ground action.” The central issue now, it said, is that “NATO forces, acting for the Kosovo Albanians, must have preponderant physical power on the ground, whatever the formalities of status may be.” The liberal Independent’s front-page lead spoke of “an unmistakable whiff of panic and confusion in the West’s councils of war.”
There was gloom on the continent as well. Le Monde of Paris led its front page Wednesday with the headline “Kosovo emptied of half its population” and said in an editorial that President Slobodan Milosevic knows–“because we have been at pains to tell him”–that he need not fear a land offensive, and he knows the limits of the air bombardments. “He can, at his leisure, test the unity and determination of the allies,” it added. “One way or another, it is always he who holds the cards.” On Tuesday, the Greek daily Ta Nea published a leaked NATO document warning that Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia are in imminent danger of economic and political collapse because of the Kosovo crisis. The displacement of nearly 600,000 Kosovar refugees threatens to destabilize the entire region, it said. The “restricted” memo, dated April 29, was reported to have been sent by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana to the alliance’s 19 member states last week.
With only five days to go before voting in the Israeli general election, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to be reconciled to defeat. The main headline Wednesday in the daily Maariv quoted Netanyahu as saying, “I’ll apparently lose.” One senior Likud Party official told Yediot Aharanot, “We don’t have many good reasons to be optimistic.” Meanwhile, two more public opinion polls showed that Labor Party and One Israel leader Ehud Barak is moving inexorably ahead. The Jerusalem Post led Wednesday on Netanyahu deciding, because of the polls, to take personal charge of Likud’s TV advertising campaign.
Ha’aretz led on Defense Minister Moshe Arens accepting the possibility of a Palestinian state. He reportedly said that recent developments have made territorial compromise inevitable. The Jerusalem correspondent of the Independent of London described the hatred among different religious and ethnic communities that has surfaced during the Israeli election campaign. In one TV debate, Yusef Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the Shinui Party which seeks to reduce the influence of ultra-Orthodox Jews, challenged Eli Suissa, the ultra-Orthodox interior minister, with the words: “Maybe you’d like to put me in a concentration camp?” To this Suissa replied, “You’ve already been in a concentration camp and you didn’t learn your lesson.”
The firing of Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov by Boris Yeltsin two days before impeachment proceedings against the president were due to begin in the Duma provoked little surprise in that country’s newspapers Wednesday. Kommersant said Primakov has been under threat of dismissal for at least two months, and that Sergei Stephasin, Yeltsin’s choice to succeed him as acting prime minister, has already been offered the job at least three times. Segodnya said it is understandable that Yeltsin ran out of sympathy for a man whose main political support came from Communists, who “have proclaimed as their basic goal the overthrow of the president.” Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Primakov is going without loss of face because he is already recognized as the man who saved Russia from an abyss. His chances of winning the next presidential election, if he decides to run, are “very high,” the paper said.
In an editorial Wednesday on the booming U.S. economy, the Financial Times warned that the country is running out of workers. With unemployment at a 30-year low, there aren’t many motivated people left for the labor market to absorb, it said. “As Alan Greenspan pointed out last week, faster adoption of new technology has helped productivity growth to increase. But this may well prove temporary. When the economy runs out of workers, the laws of supply and demand take over.”
Le Monde ran a front-page article about unexpected difficulties facing the new single European currency, the euro. It said the European Central Bank has a major problem creating a consistent monetary policy because of growing economic disparities among the countries of “Euroland.” It said, “While some Euroland countries are enjoying American-style growth, others are on the brink of recession.”
La Repubblica of Rome reported Wednesday that the singer Michael Jackson has been fined 4 million lire (around $2,200) for plagiarism. He was found to have copied 37 notes from a song by Italian pop star Albano Carrisi in his song, “Will You Be There?” The judge agreed there were extenuating circumstances because both songwriters had been inspired by old blues music.