May 20, 1999
European governments have expressed differences over how NATO should proceed in Kosovo. Margaret Warner speaks with four leading European journalists.
MARGARET WARNER: First, the Kosovo story. We begin with remarks by President Clinton this morning. They followed statements from several European governments this week that revealed differences within the NATO alliance over how to pursue the Kosovo campaign.
|Clinton: strong bipartisan support.|
CLINTON: Let me again say what we are doing. The refugees must go home with security
and self-government. Serbian forces must leave Kosovo. An international security
force with NATO at its core must deploy to protect people of every ethnicity and
faith in Kosovo. On this, our country is speaking with a single voice as we see
by the strong bipartisan support for the measure. From the beginning, we have
said that we believe that a peaceful resolution that meets these conditions would
serve our interests, and we will continue to pursue one with our allies and with
Russia. We will also continue our military campaign until the conditions are met.
I believe the campaign is working. Each day we hear reports of desertions in the
Serbian army, dissension in Belgrade, unrest in Serbian communities. President
Milosevic should know that he cannot change the fundamental terms that we have
outlined because they are simply what is required for the Kosovars to go home
and live in peace. The question is not whether ethnic cleansing will be reversed,
but how much of the military will be destroyed because of his intransigence along
the way? How much damage will be done to Serbia because of his delays? NATO is
united in our determination to persist as long as it takes to achieve these goals.
Let me just make one other point about Kosovo. In the last few days, we have seen more disturbing evidence of the atrocities committed against innocent Kosovars, including some of the first photographic proof of massacres of unarmed people. In trying to divert attention from these crimes, Serbian forces are only committing more by placing civilians around military targets. It's like pushing someone in front of an oncoming train and then trying to blame the train for running them over. We will not allow this cruel tactic to deceive or divert us from our goal. We need to stay focused and patient in pursuit of our simple objective, to defend the right of a people to exist on their land without being subject to mass expulsion and mass murder. With continued support from Congress and the American people, that is exactly what we intend to do. Thank you very much.
|Perspective from Europe.|
MARGARET WARNER: For the latest perspectives from Europe on the Kosovo conflict we have four leading journalists from NATO countries. Hugo Young is a columnist for the Guardian newspaper in Britain. His new book on Britain's relationship with Europe, "This Blessed Plot," was just issued in the United States. Christine Ockrent is a veteran TV anchor and editor and is now a commentator with France 3 Television. Klaus Frankenberger is the international editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany's largest national daily newspaper and Lilli Gruber is a news anchor and special foreign correspondent for RAI Uno, the largest state television station in Italy.
MARGARET WARNER: Hugo Young, the issue of whether and when NATO should be preparing to inject ground troops, which seem to have faded, is back now in good part because of recent statements by your prime minister, Tony Blair. Why is he pushing this right now?
HUGO YOUNG, The Guardian: Well, I don't think Tony Blair has specifically pushed ground troops in so many words, although it's plain from the position which he's taken that he doesn't believe that the air war alone is really likely to achieve NATO's objectives. But he has been quite careful, I think, not to divide himself completely from the alliance, more still trying to persuade other colleagues in the alliance of the need to at least prepare more generously for a ground troop presence. But, I, myself, believe, having recently been in Washington, that Robert Cook's appearance there this week, if that is his objective, is quite unlikely to be successful.
MARGARET WARNER: Why do you say that?
HUGO YOUNG: Because what I picked up in Washington both on the Hill and the White House was a sense that the sort of ground troop posture where the environment they were going to go into was not really permissive, which was halfway between permissive and hostile, was not something which the American political class looking at the American political opinion polls, was willing to entertain.
MARGARET WARNER: Klaus Frankenberger, why has the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, this week come out so vociferously against the notion, saying it was unthinkable, even suggesting that Germany might try to block it within NATO?
KLAUS FRANKENBERGER, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Well, this would be certainly the defining moment for the government. Public opinion up until now is supportive of the NATO campaign in Kosovo, but - or a commitment of sending in ground troops in a non-permissive environment would not only mean a fundamental or reduction in public support, but it would also blow apart his coalition government. As you know, there are very vocal factions among both parties who do oppose your campaign. Among the agreements are some pacifist elements who do oppose war outright. A ground campaign would also not be applauded by the conservative opposition parties, though there would be a fundamental loss - a break of consensus if NATO went ahead in preparing for a ground intervention.
MARGARET WARNER: And Christine Ockrent, where is the French government now on this question of even preparing for a ground operation?
CHRISTINE OCKRENT, France 3 Television: So far, public opinion in France has been very supportive of the intervention and has actually supported the idea of ground intervention, but, you know, from one week to the other that support is slightly fading, especially after all the mishaps of the bombings over the past few weeks. And so our politicians, although they're not in a position as difficult as the German one, have also to follow the mood of the public opinion and now President Chirac and the prime minister have both said that there is no weakness in the French support, but there is much thought more here about some diplomatic signs, which seem to be hopeful. And I think that the more people believe that there is a little hope, that perhaps Milosevic is getting weak - you know - that his troops may be deserting and all that -- I think the more signs we have, the more difficult it is for our politicians to convince our people that they have to actually plan for ground intervention.
|Sticking with NATO?|
| MARGARET WARNER:
And, Lilli Gruber, where is the Italian government on this now? |
LILLI GRUBER, RAI Uno, Italy: I would say that the Italian government is still sticking to NATO and the NATO alliance and Prime Minister D'Alema made it clear yesterday in the parliament when, as you know, the parliament passed a resolution that was committing the government to seek a halt on the bombings. Don't forget that Italian public opinion is very divided on this war, and, of course, is strictly against the deployment of ground troops. And I talked today, this afternoon, before I anchored my news program, to one of D'Alema's - or the prime minister's assistant, and he was giving me the results of the latest polls. They have now discovered that this week 65 percent of Italians are fairly against the deployment of ground troops and only 26 percent are in favor. And another quite surprising result is that this week only 38 percent of Italians are in favor of the NATO air strikes. And, don't forget that last week there were 43 percent. So, in fact, the Italian government is in a very complicated situation also because the coalition led by Mr. D'Alema is formed by Greens, by Communists, by centrists, and by former Communists. And in Italy we have a very strong pacifist movement.
MARGARET WARNER: Christine Ockrent, I understand there's a new poll in France the last few days showing now that 49 percent or roughly half the French people would like to halt the bombing and start negotiating with the Serbs, versus half who would like to continue. Now, explain that to us, if you could.
CHRISTINE OCKRENT: There is a vague feeling - I'm not talking about experts and the elites - I'm talking about - you know - people who you talk to in the metro or in the café, there's that feeling that after all, all that military apparatus doesn't really work very well, so if, indeed, the Serbs are showing signs of weakness and openness to some diplomatic process, there is obviously a growing political and public movement which will ask for a pause, rather than sustaining the bombing, and these people will say okay, look, you know, these guys are telling us something. Let's take advantage of that, and let's make the polls, because it doesn't work anyway, and only civilians get killed, and we never hear about any military - about any Serbian military getting really hurt. So it's rather difficult, you know, from - on a day to day basis to actually find arguments to say, okay, we have to maintain the pressure and then maybe Milosevic will be more amenable to those four terms. And I think this is a very critical few days.
MARGARET WARNER: Hugo Young, is there sentiment of that kind in Britain?
HUGO YOUNG: There is certainly sentiment of that kind, but I don't think it is as strong or as articulated as it is in either Italy or France or Germany. One has to remember here that Tony Blair is an extremely popular figure who has no political problems at all in his own parliament, and also that Tony Blair has led this country and has tried to lead the NATO alliance in a direction which is pretty hawkish about the terms which will be acceptable. I think, therefore, that the public here has been, as it were, educated to expect something less - something better than a dirty deal. It's a deal where the Kosovars have got to go back, where the Serb army has got to leave, and where there's going to have to be a substantial UN or whatever presence, in fact, a NATO presence, maybe even British led. So I think that the agonizing debate is not going on here very much and, indeed, I think the British public will be, if it were to come to ground troops in an ambiguous situation, as long as there were plenty of them and plenty of other countries taking part - the British public would be entirely happy with that, possibly even happier with another two months of bombing.
|How serious a rift?|
WARNER: And Klaus Frankenberger, what about in Germany, how committed do you think
the German public is to the hard-line NATO position? |
KLAUS FRANKENBERGER: I think the public basically supports NATO's demands, which have been vindicated by the G-8 in Bonn several weeks ago. We do have Milosevic or anybody else in Belgrade to agree to let the Kosovar Albanians back into the country, to agree to a robust presence of security forces led by NATO. Certainly, we'll have to - Germans are supporting an agreement, a political solution for Kosovo, which is at least autonomy, if not something much more. In general, I would add, the public supports a strategy officially adopted by NATO, which is pursuing an air campaign, with a heavy dose of diplomatic efforts on the sidelines. This double strategy - the air campaign and diplomatic efforts with the intent to get the Russians onboard, to have the Russians apply pressure, to have the Russians as a sort of interlocutor to Belgrade, is one which is preferred by the government but also the public in general.
MARGARET WARNER: And Christine Ockrent, we're almost out of time, but how serious do you consider these differences now among the NATO allies?
CHRISTINE OCKRENT: I think for the time being they're not that important. There is a lot of talking going on, and what is very important, it seems to me, is that for the first time all our European countries still agree, still stand on the same position. Remember, it was not the same with Bosnia and this time - you know - the European Union countries stick together. But I think the more time goes by, the more military mishaps, the more civilian victims, the more difficult it will be for our political leaders in Continental Europe to keep convincing our people that this is, indeed, good policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Hugo Young, how serious do you think these rifts are?
HUGO YOUNG: I think the rift could become more serious because I think Mr. Blair is in danger of being somewhat out on a limb. The problem for Mr. Blair will be if the Americans and the Germans and the French and the Italians and others want to make a deal which is not really in accord with his language, I think that Christine is right, at the moment, the unity is through all sorts of difficulties; it's very, very impressive. But in the end it seems to me that Blair's language has been stronger; his gut feeling is going to find it very hard to accept the kind of deal which I suspect that in Washington at least is what they're going for.
MARGARET WARNER: Lilli Gruber, your view briefly on how serious these differences are.
LILLI GRUBER: I would say that for Italy, of course, it's a very difficult situation because Italy is a sort of natural aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean and the Italians are more exposed than over-exposed when we're talking about this war, and I think that from the political - the sheer political point of view - there are no risks of the unity and not that they don't speak together with their allies at NATO, but, again, talking about public opinion, I think the Italian government as time goes by will have a hard time to convince Italian public opinion that this war is a just war and that Italians are better off because they don't see an end of the war, they don't see which could - the final settlement of the Balkans be - what they see is refugees coming - Kosovar Albanian refugees coming through Albania to Italy. What they see is that they are giving shelter to right now 10,000 Kosovo Albanians in Sicily, Comiso, Sicily - and what they see is that there is no real - they have the feeling that there is no strategy to end this war.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you, all four, very much.