President Vladimir Putin was quoted widely in western European press reports as Russia’s presence in the Balkans is acknowledged, following NATO’s ineptitude to solve a problem of their own making. President Putin was quoted as defending: “An energetic political action and, if necessary, a resort to force by the international community will allow it to halt the spread of the Balkans conflict”. Indeed it is decisive action that is needed and possibly the presence of Igor Ivanov in Skopje will force NATO into a knee-jerk reaction. Accused at best of not using their initiative to stop the Albanian insurgents entering Macedonia and at worst of complicity, only now after Russia makes a move does NATO finally wake up. The Russian Foreign Minister states his mission in the Balkans is to “coordinate the Russian positions with its partners in the region and with Europe and the USA”. Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO declared yesterday that supplementary troops will be sent to control the border area between Kosovo and Macedonia. “It has been decided to marginalize the extremists and neutralise their power and influence” For its part, the USA has also declared itself in favour of supporting Skopje. White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer stated that “President George Bush is worried by the recent actions by Albanian extremists and this was the reason why, like NATO, he authorised the reinforcement of Kfor patrols”. Meanwhile it is the Macedonians who are left with a bitter pill to swallow. For its part, the government of Skopje has reacted to the situation with determination and extreme political maturity, using the democratic process to discuss with its Albanian population, separating these from the extremist criminal gangs of bandits making incursions from Kosovo. The Macedonian army has gained advantage over these terrorists in the hills around Tetovo and is now moving to exterminate them, restoring law and order. The international community would do well to take heed of President Putin’s words. Determination and discipline can win the day if goodwill is shown by all.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON
Russian President Vladimir Putin got the West worried again by signing Decree No. 915. The news did not produce any public effect in Russia