International Papers


Once the terms of Russia’s involvement in the Kosovo peacekeeping force had been agreed Monday, the Russian press started to worry about the financial effects of the country’s participation. Segodnya pointed out that the 3,600-strong Russian presence in Kosovo–along with its 1,200-member contingent in Bosnia–will cost about $500 million per year–for which “there is no money” in the 1999 budget. (The paper also noted that the Kosovo mobilization will leave the Chechen war in the hands of “untrained drafted soldiers with broken weapons.”) The “respect” shown to Russia at the weekend’s G-7 summit could also prove costly. {{Izvestiya#2:}} {{said#2:}} that “the G-7 leaders only pretended that everything was OK in Russia’s economy. … One thing is to write off a poor country’s debts and quite another–to write off the debts of a member of the club of elite states.”

Regarding the G-7’s decision to write off much Third World debt, as long as the money is redirected to social programs such as health, poverty reduction, and AIDS education, the Nation of Pakistan said, “[E]conomic good conduct that requires tightening of belts and good governance is something that the Third World was badly in need of. The fact that Russia has been denied any further debt relief until it has implemented the necessary reforms should be enough to convince the Third World debt relief seekers that the G8 means business.” The {{Economic Times#2:}} of India struck a contrary note, however, when it pointed out, “[A]s with all loan write-offs, the move is unfair to those nations that have repaid their loans.”

With less than one week to go before British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “firm” June 30 deadline for a breakthrough on last year’s stalled “Good Friday Agreement” on Northern Ireland power-sharing, newspapers in Britain and Ireland are showing concern. Since the Irish Republican Army refuses to decommission its weapons before representatives of Sinn Fein, its political wing, are seated in the new Northern Ireland executive, and since the Unionist leader refuses to call the assembly to order before the IRA gives up at least some of its arms, the current stalemate seems fairly intractable.

Ireland’s {{Sunday Business Post#2:}} called for the British prime minister to apply his Kosovo spirit to Northern Ireland, saying, “[I]t’s time for Blair to assert his position and power to effect change, demonstrated so clearly in the Balkans in recent weeks.” Britain’s {{Independent#2:}} took a similar tack, {{observing#2:}}, “The situation is far from precisely parallel, but it is still a chastening thought that the Kosovo Liberation Army is, under conditions of vastly greater duress, handing in its guns at a rather faster rate than the Provisional IRA seems able to arrange.” An op-ed in Wednesday’s {{Turkish Daily News#2:}} suggested that this might not be such a good thing, however. The piece drew on the experience of Cyprus in the 1950s (or, at least, one rather skewed view of that experience) to argue against the disarmament of the KLA. “A time will come,” the authors argued, “when the people of Kosovo will have to be protected from new attacks and atrocities of the Serbians. At that point, NATO forces will not be able to provide this protection.”

Back in Kosovo, the {{Guardian#2:}} of London reported Wednesday that returning ethnic Albanians are targeting gypsies for reprisals. The story says that the gypsies are perceived to have “sided with the Serbs during the war and the 10 years of repressive direct rule which preceded it.” Meanwhile, gypsies trying to leave Kosovo are being turned back by Serb officials. A “clear sign,” according to the Guardian, “that despite his defeat, President Slobodan Milosevic is still trying to ethnically engineer the future of the devastated province.” The “justice minister” of the KLA told the paper, “This is a tragic turn of events. The gypsies were always the most oppressed members of the community, but they have been manipulated for so long by Belgrade that it has destroyed much of the feeling of social solidarity between them and Albanians.”

An editorial in Thursday’s {{Japan Times#2:}} speculates that “pique seems to have figured prominently” in the selection this weekend of Turin, Italy, as the site of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. The paper reports that after scandals surrounding Olympic venue selections, the procedure was reformed so that International Olympic Committee members are prohibited from visiting potential locations. Instead, a 15-member selection panel narrows the field of possible venues to two final contenders, with the final selection being made by the IOC. For the 2006 games, Sion, Switzerland, was the “clear favorite” of the two finalists, offering good venues, a “strong tradition of winter sports,” and “the political and economic security that the Olympic Games need.” However, according to the Japan Times, “the grandees of the IOC resent being given a fait accompli and voted against the recommendation to remind the world just who makes the final choice.” Another “ugly” motive was anger at the Swiss, the paper claims, since Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler was largely responsible for exposing the IOC corruption. The article concludes, “Even the mere perception of bias or unfairness undermines the Olympic ideal. The only question is how far the movement must go to rid itself of the taint it has acquired. Clearly, it [ha]s not yet gone far enough.”