Russian to the Scene

Russian to the Scene

Russian to the Scene

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 30 1999 6:46 AM

Russian to the Scene

The quickening tempo of air operations against Yugoslavia while the Kosovar refugee situation becomes increasingly desperate is the lead story at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. USA Today goes instead with the DJIA closing above 10,000 for the first time ever, a story that everybody else fronts and that the Wall Street Journal front takes several different whacks at.

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The LAT cites some UN figures on the refugee situation: since last Friday, 70,000 Albanian Kosovars have fled to Albania, 12,000 into Montenegro, and 7,000 into Macedonia. These are mostly women and children. The WP says this is one of the largest movements of people since World War II. The NYT reports that the Clinton administration is now citing evidence of genocide by Serbian forces, and is using that term quite intentionally to describe assassinations of Kosovar Albanian leaders and the torching of Kosovar villages. The papers report that the murdered leaders include a signer of the Rambouillet agreement earlier this month and a prominent newspaper editor. The WSJ says that the Kosovar Albanian military has largely escaped this onslaught and has some 30,000 to 40,000 troops hiding in the hills. The NYT quotes a NATO officer's depiction of Slobodan Milosevic's strategy: solve his ethnic problems in the time it takes NATO's unity to fall apart.

The Times and WSJ state that the latest round of NATO air attacks have been focused on the barracks and HQs of Serb military units directing attacks on Albanians, rather than on the deployed units themselves, which, says the Pentagon, are scattered across the countryside in very small groups. Also active in the torment of the region's Albanians are paramilitary units and street gangs, says the NYT. The coverage indicates that Monday marked the initial sorties of the war for the A-10, an antitank jet. And additional bombers and radar jamming aircraft were brought into the operation. The papers report that the White House remains firm about not bringing in ground troops, however.

The WP emphasizes that from now on, the air war will go on around the clock. The paper reports however that over the weekend, NATO's supreme commander had requested bombing the Defense and Interior ministries in Belgrade and was turned down by NATO. (So he's not completely supreme, right?) The NYT mentions the restrictions as well, but doesn't mention the bombing request.

The other big development in the war, discussed in the various Kosovo leads and on the USAT front, and catching the U.S. off-guard, is that Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov will be in Belgrade today to pitch a cease-fire to Milosevic.

An LAT front-pager wonders if the weekend shootdown of an F-117 stealth fighter means the Serbs have solved the plane's radar-evading technology. Not likely, says the paper, which goes on to list some factors that probably were involved: 1) The mountainous Yugoslav terrain means more turns than would be needed over say the deserts of Iraq, and turns increase the plane's radar return one hundredfold; 2) The Serbs may have clustered their radars along likely ingress routes, thereby boosting signal power; 3) The plane is not as stealthy at low altitude (again, more strength in the radar return) nor when its bomb-bay doors are open. Incidentally, yesterday's deployment of additional radar jamming planes is an almost sure indication that the downed F-117 had indeed been made on Serb radar screens.

A WSJ front-page how-now-Dow story does something that the Journal and other financial papers and magazines too often don't: namely, remembers that most Americans (60 percent) still don't own any stocks. As a result, notes the paper, the stock boom has exacerbated the net worth divide. And what a divide it is--the paper caroms from $8-an-hour workers waiting in line at the DMV to new money folks who hire not just a nanny, but also her husband to wash the cars, walk the dogs, and handle the yard work.

The USAT front section "cover story" raises a good question about the consistency of the Pentagon's press policy regarding tactical details. Yesterday, the DOD spokesman, Kenneth Bacon, refused to confirm the deployment of the A-10s on the grounds that the U.S. doesn't want the Serbs to make "defensive calculations." Yet, the paper observes, the Pentagon has allowed the TV networks to broadcast live shots of bombers taking off from England on Yugoslavia-bound missions, making it a simple matter for the Serbs to calculate time-at-target.