International Papers

Remnick’s Progress

The Times of London Monday was much impressed by Russia’s “dash and daring” in sneakily moving into Kosovo before NATO’s troops. In an editorial titled “Who Dares Wins” (the motto of the British SAS commandos), the paper said that the Russians have won “not only Pristina and the initiative, but the secret admiration of scores of NATO officers frustrated by an enforced wait on the Kosovo borders.” Their “coup de théâtre” has served as a reminder “that dithering loses to derring-do,” the paper said: “This may have been a media-dominated war; but to halt and advance to allow the cameras to catch up is a grotesque irresponsibility.”

But this was a minority view in the British press. On the Left, the Guardian said the Russian military “seems ever closer to being out of control” and that its behavior in Kosovo is “proof that there is no longer one government in that vast country, but rather several, held in loose, often hostile connection to each other.” NATO should continue to deny Russia its own sector in Kosovo, but should also soothe its wounded pride by “admitting that the West has been cavalier in its treatment of the former superpower and that it now has to be given a seat at the commanding table.”

On the Right, the Daily Telegraph criticized the United States for being too accommodating to Russia. It is hardly surprising that a cardinal aim of Russian policy is to counter NATO’s influence in central Europe, “and the role of honest broker between the West and Belgrade gave them an ideal opportunity to do so,” the paper said. “Trusting them with that task prolonged the air campaign and has now seriously queered KFOR’s pitch,” it added. “NATO cannot blame the Russians for making difficulties. The fault lies in giving them such an opportunity.”

In Paris Sunday, Le Monde ran an editorial saying that the message of Russia’s race to Pristina was a “brutal” one: that the Russians are not willing to submit to NATO’s authority and that they want control of the northern sector of the province to carry out a de facto partition of Kosovo. While the West had good reasons to be considerate toward Russia (by delaying preparations for a land invasion and seeking a solution to the crisis within the unusual context of the G-8, only because Russia was a part of it), it also has the right to expect Russia “to play the game,” Le Monde said. The West was right to involve Russia, it concluded, “but not at any price, and especially not at that of a partition of Kosovo.”

Another Paris daily, Libération, said Monday that Russia’s dash into Kosovo shouldn’t be treated lightly because it’s unclear “who pilots the Russian plane today.” Bill Clinton might well ask this question of Boris Yeltsin when they meet in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday, the paper said, but “it isn’t certain that his answer will be very convincing.” In Germany Monday, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called the move “Yeltsin’s coup” but added in a front-page comment that the next few days would show whether Yeltsin has only been acting on whim or whether there’s a strategy behind it.

Europe’s Monday papers were generally dominated, however, by the results of the weekend’s elections for the European Parliament in Strasbourg that, on very low voter turnouts throughout Western Europe, delivered heavy rebuffs to both Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Conservatives trounced the Left in Italy as well, where the party of TV magnate Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister, came in first. But in France, the Socialists triumphed. Le Figaro of Paris said, however, that the real winners of the elections were the absentionists. In France, fewer than one elector in two voted; in Britain, fewer than one in four did. The Financial Times of London said the low turnouts threatened to undermine the effectiveness of the European Parliament, and most British papers said the results might set back Blair’s plans to bring Britain under the European single currency, the euro.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, told the Milan daily Corriere della Sera Monday that his objective for the magazine was that it would be said that “of the 100 best articles of the century, 25 were published in The New Yorker–ideally, half of those under my editorship.” Confessing to interviewer Alessandra Farkas that The New Yorker was still in the red, Remnick said he is pleased that it has been rechristened “the most authoritative and prestigious weekly on the planet” because “when you’re the best in your field, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you become profitable.”

He rejected a suggestion that The New Yorker was “elitist,” saying that the word applied better to the New York Review of Books–“a purely celebral, if brilliant, undertaking.” Asked if he agreed that the quality of the world’s press is in decline, Remnick replied: “We are the living proof of the opposite: Investing in quality has and always will have a place in the market. Despite our deficit, nobody tells me what to publish and what not to publish. And do you know why? In a world of fast food, there will always be room for a five-star restaurant.”