Saturday’s entrance into Kosovo of NATO forces leads all around. The mostly British and French force, which includes a smaller U.S. component, spent the day establishing control over much of the province. The main confrontation came, the papers report, not with Serb troops but with the 200-odd Russian soldiers at the airport who had marched in-country from Bosnia duty the day before. The NATO forces backed away from a direct confrontation with the Russians, while senior NATO and U.S. officials, including President Clinton, talked up cooperating with the Russians. The Washington Post quotes a British senior officer by name as saying that he was going to “make love” to the Russians at the airport. But according to the New York Times, love has its limits: It quotes a senior U.S. official saying that wherever Russian forces end up in Kosovo, they will be under NATO command.
The WP notes that although Russia’s foreign minister had said that the unilateral deployment of his country’s troops was a mistake and that it would be retracted well before now, on Saturday Boris Yeltsin endorsed the deployment even if, according to the paper, there remained questions about who ordered it. The Los Angeles Times and NYT pin the move more squarely on Yeltsin, with the former saying it came on his “clear orders,” and the latter even quoting Secretary of Defense William Cohen as asserting this. The LAT says Yeltsin appeared “gleeful” in Russian TV coverage on Saturday, and the paper also notes that he promoted the commander who led the troops into the airport. The paper also enlightens with the observation that the whole airport episode was “vintage Yeltsin,” similar to his conduct of the Chechnya war, and comporting with his general tendency to play subordinates (like the military and foreign ministry) off one another. Also, the LAT adds, the Russian military was probably only too open to such an adventure, eager as it is to burnish its post-Chechnya reputation.
The LAT also has some priceless details of the events on the ground, noting that some entering NATO troops could be seen “dabbing away tears as they sat atop their tanks” being cheered by Kosovar Albanian refugees. Plus, although all the papers report that the entering NATO forces were slowed by minefields, the LAT tells of a booby-trapped boom box left behind.
The papers all front stories reporting that although George W. Bush hasn’t formally declared, he did say on Saturday in Iowa, in his first full-blown campaign road trip, that he was running for president. His speech emphasized his claim to compassionate conservatism. The papers capture his jaunty approach to the day–according to the NYT and WP, he made this announcement in his campaign plane at the start of the flight to Iowa: “Please stow your expectations securely in your overhead bins, as they may shift during the trip and can fall and hurt someone–especially me.” All three majors also quote him saying, “We know you have a choice of candidates when you fly.”
The NYT fronts a report, citing “associates” of Ken Starr (recall that the Times has caused trouble with this sourcing before, costing one close Starr aide his job), saying that although Starr has decided not to indict the Clintons, he has tentatively decided to issue a possible “blistering” final report about their behavior, which could be delivered in the middle of Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate bid. Maureen Dowd, in her column today, sees this news as a sign that Starr is operating on “revenge autopilot.”
The NYT reports that the Commerce Department has decided that the forthcoming Sony Playstation II is based on such powerful technology that the government would have to be notified before it could be shipped to China. However, the toys could be shipped to toy stores in Hong Kong without setting off any notification or review process.
It’s Beat a Dead Horse Day at the WP, which starts its samples from Bob Woodward’s new book about five presidents and the Watergate legacy with an excerpt about Clinton’s prep for the Paula Jones case deposition. The big news is supposed to be that Clinton’s lawyer, Robert Bennett, was concerned he wasn’t getting the truth from his client about some 5 a.m. meetings in the Arkansas governor’s mansion basement with a beautiful marketing executive. More flaying goes on inside, with a piece about the Woodward book. The bulletins keep coming at the Post with a battery of five pieces about airline travel in coach, revealing that security check points are annoying, the seats are small and often the planes are delayed.