Balkans Syndrome

MUNICH Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), Jan. 9: The controversy about an alleged Balkans syndrome carries the traits of a panic that is guided by certain interests. The facts are not even clear. The only thing that is known is that NATO used depleted uranium ammunition during the Kosovo war, and there is no evidence showing that there is a link between leukemia cases and the use of this ammunition….But the political part of the debate about this ammunition is dangerous, because it is based solely on the assumption that there really is a Balkans syndrome. That is why the defense minister and NATO must first answer all questions and dispel all doubts. In this process, they will exert pressure on the United States and call upon it to show greater transparency.
—Stefan Kornelius

MOSCOW Sovetskaya Rossiya (conservative), Jan. 6: The outraged Europeans, naturally, ignore that their soldiers and U.N. officials were exposed to less danger than the local population. But then, of course, gentlemen from NATO view Albanians and Serbs as third-rate Europeans. Europeans will normally try to hide their racism, but it has surfaced in Kosovo….No doubt, the political leadership and military command in the United States were well aware of the possible consequences of the use of uranium munitions. This means that they knowingly used that which is included among weapons of mass destruction.
—Vyacheslav Tetekin

TOKYO Asahi Shimbun (liberal), Jan. 22: Exposure to radiation from depleted uranium shells can be considered quite low. In contrast to what we know of the effects of intense radiation at the time of a nuclear explosion, a lot remains to be established about low-dose absorption. It is not easy to clearly establish a link between health and low-dose aftereffects. That is part of the reason that the United States and Britain deny any relationship. Of course depleted uranium munitions, including their manufacture and stockpiling, should be banned if any causal relationship is established. Further, even if after investigation no causal relationship is established, unless an unequivocal pronouncement can be made about their safety, it seems unwise to tolerate depleted uranium munitions.

AUCKLAND New Zealand Herald (centrist), Jan. 9: It is hardly reassuring that the U.S. and NATO seem to have done their best to obstruct efforts to assess the impact of the use of depleted uranium weapons. Those New Zealand personnel who served in Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Gulf were aware of, and accepted, certain risks. But the possibility they could be exposed to dangerous levels of depleted uranium was not part of their job description—just as Agent Orange and the effects of nuclear radiation were beyond the ken of earlier generations of service personnel. The Americans’ experience with the compensation trail defined by Agent Orange may make them less inclined to acknowledge a link between depleted uranium shells and leukemia or cancer. But such factors should not inhibit this country’s government. This is an opportunity to do right by men and women who served us in dangerous and difficult circumstances.

MADRID El País (liberal), Jan. 8: It is difficult to establish whether the increase in deaths…is attributable to depleted uranium in some of the shells fired by the United States. Nor is it known how this has affected the local population in Kosovo and Bosnia, though this angle does not seem to worry the West very much. At the time, the Pentagon did not acknowledge the use of bombs containing depleted uranium, which it had already used massively in the Gulf War, though the current NATO secretary general, Lord Robertson, admitted last March that the United States had fired 31,000 of these projectiles in Kosovo.…It is lamentable that [Spain’s] Aznar government has not only refrained from demanding an explanation but has not had the initiative to conduct its own inquiries.

HARARE The Zimbabwe Mirror (pro-government), Jan. 19: Zimbabwe has over 70 peacekeepers in Kosovo...some of whom are due to return to the country next month. At this time when member states are voicing their concerns on the safety of their nationals, Third World countries are conspicuously silent, as if they have no interests to defend in those risky places. This applies to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and a few others that have sent troops to this beleaguered province….Is it conscionable to wait for many deaths before we can blow the whistle?

HAVANA Juventud Rebelde (communist youth), Jan. 18: The fact that NATO troops are now dying has exploded into a scandal that has, however, failed to mention the potential victims in Yugoslavia. Those now worrying over it have, in addition, ignored previous warnings by organizations and groups alerting them to the high toxicity levels of depleted uranium.
—Marina Menendez Quintero

NEW DELHI Hindustan Times (centrist), Jan. 13: What is noteworthy in all this is how warfare is being forced to maintain remarkable levels of good behavior. After all, war is about killing and maiming as effectively as possible. Today, this is clearly no longer the case. One reason is the increasing [number of] cases of humanitarian intervention. As these actions are legitimized on moral grounds, the soldiers concerned are held to standards of behavior that military men of previous ages would find incomprehensible.

SOFIA Standart News (independent), Jan. 18-19: Europe is not willing to take the place of the U.S.A. in Kosovo and therefore staged the depleted uranium hysteria. The message is: “You Americans have made this uranium mess, and now you want us to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for you. No way—our public opinion won’t give us the go-ahead.” But Kosovo will need policing....Who will then carry out the duty? One of the options is Brussels putting aspiring NATO candidates Bulgaria and Romania and possibly newly inducted the loyalty test by urging them to increase their military presence. Thus the Kosovo conflict would be utterly and irrevocably balkanized.

Viewpoints includes items drawn from the U.S. Department of State’s daily digest of international media opinion.