RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 24 November 1999
OPPOSITION DEMANDS RECALL OF HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.
Opposition politicians on 23 November demanded that
Ambassador Geza Jeszenszky be recalled from his post in
Washington following reports that he strongly criticized
Hungarian journalists awarded the Hungarian equivalent of the
Pulitzer Prize. Jeszenszky wrote a letter describing 13
recipients of the prize as "hirelings of the Socialists and
[belonging to] the worst wing of the Free Democrats" who used
"Goebbels's methods" to discredit late Prime Minister Jozsef
Antall's first post-communist government. Socialist Party
Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said Jeszenszky's partiality makes him
unsuitable to represent Hungary. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Gabor Horvath said Jeszenszky's private opinion does not
affect the country's diplomacy. However, the ministry's state
secretary, Zsolt Nemeth, admitted that "it was unfortunate
that Jeszenszky used the embassy's stationary for private
U.S. TROOPS IN KOSOVA: IN FOR THE LONG HAUL?
by Michael J. Jordan
The amber waves of grain that once covered the rolling
hills two miles east of Urosevac, in south-central Kosova,
are no more. They have been replaced with sprawling Camp
The heavily fortified, 755-acre military base is the
largest the U.S. has built from the ground up since the
As U.S. President Clinton visited on 23 November to
spend an early Thanksgiving with the troops, some observers
here were wondering: Why is Bondsteel so big?
Soldiers at this $36.6 million U.S. base say it's
strictly about safety and comfort. If nothing else, it sends
a direct message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic,
who already has provoked four wars this decade and may be
capable of more mayhem.
"The base is a response to the perceived need for a
presence in the Balkans for years to come," says Bryan
Hopkinson, Kosova director of the International Crisis Group,
a Brussels-based think-tank. "It shows the U.S. means
One day it could mean even more. Some say Camp Bondsteel
will smooth the logistics of a future U.S. military
intervention. Others see it yielding benefits in terms of
Balkan geopolitics and trade. Perhaps with this in mind, says
Hopkinson, U.S. planners are shrewdly "taking advantage of
favorable circumstances" to build a base spacious enough to
accommodate any future needs.
Those "favorable circumstances" are the key. Three
months of NATO air strikes this spring ended a Serbian
campaign of "ethnic cleansing" that unleashed a wave of some
1 million refugees in the Yugoslav province. So ethnic
Albanians here are thrilled to have 47,000 international
troops--6,300 of them from the U.S.--protecting them, even if
assistance has so far fallen short of their goal of
This contrasts starkly with Macedonia and Hungary,
Yugoslavia's neighbors to the south and north. During the air
strikes, both countries were uneasy about being drawn into
NATO operations. Hungary, unlike Macedonia, is a NATO member.
But the country only rid itself of Soviet troops nine years
"Albanians are the only people who embrace NATO with all
their heart," says Sevdije Ahmeti, a human-rights activist in
Kosova. "America will find no better allies in the Balkans,
or in Europe, than the U.S."
Allies may be needed with Milosevic still holding the
reins in Belgrade. A slew of destabilizing scenarios are
possible: secession by tiny Montenegro, leaving landlocked
Serbia the lone Yugoslav republic; conflict with ethnic
Hungarians in northern Serbia; civil war between pro- and
anti-Milosevic factions; or upheaval in Macedonia, which has
its own restive Albanian minority.
With soldier-safety high on the Clinton administration's
agenda, nothing is left to chance at Camp Bondsteel. The
troops are ensconced behind miles of barbed wire and
countless earthen and concrete barriers. Eleven guard towers
The base has a large helipad for nearly 55 transport,
reconnaissance, and attack helicopters, including a dozen of
the vaunted Apaches.
There is no runway for fixed-wing fighter aircraft,
although Hopkinson and other analysts speculate that the base
may be big enough to accommodate a runway in the future. U.S.
officials reject this possibility, pointing to the area's
undulating terrain. They also have tried to quash rumors that
Camp Bondsteel eventually may replace Aviano, Italy, as one
of the prime European airfields of the U.S. Air Force.
Still, observers suggest Camp Bondsteel would serve
several geostrategic functions. Though Kosova is a diamond-
shaped province smaller than New Jersey, it has proximity to
the Black Sea to the east, the Mediterranean to the south,
and the Adriatic to the west.
As NATO expands eastward, perhaps even into the Balkans,
some say Bondsteel could underpin security for the alliance's
It's not only Russia that considers the Balkans within
its sphere of influence. The Arab world is also looking to
make inroads between the Bosnian Muslims and the
predominantly Muslim but highly secular populations of
Albania and Kosova, "Kosova can be treated as a small spot in
the ocean, or a very important spot in Europe," says Ahmeti.
"The Near East also tries to put U.S. [in] their sphere, so
But some Western diplomatic sources scoff at the idea of
Kosova having any real strategic value.
"The notion that the U.S. is interested in forward bases
and extending its international presence is fundamentally
paranoiac and fundamentally wrong," says one diplomat, who
asked not to be identified. "On the contrary, the U.S. would
prefer to let countries conduct their own defense and not
have to intervene around the world."
And while President Clinton and others talk of a
Marshall Plan-style reconstruction of the Balkans, ethnic
Albanians hope that the mere sight of Camp Bondsteel may
soothe jittery foreign investors.
Ardian Arifaj, news editor of Kosova's leading daily
paper, "Koha Ditore," says, "There's a perception here that
there are American bases all over the world, and all those
countries have prospered with them."
The author is a Budapest-based journalist
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