Tuesday, June 15, 1999

Russians in Kosovo
must be controlled

Bullet The issue: Russian troops entered Kosovo prematurely and are resisting integration into the NATO peacekeeping structure.
Bullet Our view: NATO members should insist that Russian troops be part of the unified command but in a way that is politically palatable to the Kremlin.

THE report that a small contingent of Russia troops rushed into Kosovo before NATO peacekeeping forces to the astonishment not only of President Clinton but of Russia's foreign minister seemed too strange to be true.

This apparently was not a renegade force springing from a post-Cold War Russia in economic and military disarray. Instead it was a Russian unit acting on command of President Boris Yeltsin, reeling from criticism at home about his role in a Yugoslav peace settlement based on NATO demands rather than Russian desires.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at first described the movement of about 200 Russian troops into Kosovo on Friday as an "unfortunate" mistake.

The next day, Yeltsin promoted Col. Gen. Viktor Zavarzin, commander of the early-bird column, which was praised by Communists and nationalists who have been critical of the Kremlin. Yeltsin obviously had ordered the deployment but left Ivanov in the dark.

The Russian soldiers took control of the airport at the provincial capital of Pristina, barring British soldiers from entering.

The British commander engaged in talks with Zavarzin about how to end the stalemate. After speaking with Yeltsin by telephone, Clinton expressed confidence that the military commanders could resolve the airport situation.

NATO took the position that control of the airport was not an immediate priority and the allies could afford to be patient. But how long it will take for NATO's patience to wear thin was uncertain.

Yeltsin had insisted early in the negotiations with Yugoslavia that Russian troops not only be included in the peacekeeping force but be given full control of a sector of Kosovo and not be under NATO command. Members of the alliance are not about to allow Russia independence from NATO's unified command, nor should they.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Ivanov had told him that the Kremlin would cooperate with NATO and that its troops would be absorbed into the peace-keeping operation.

The question is whether Ivanov's assurances have Yeltsin's blessing. If not, further negotiations must be held to clarify Russia's role in a way that will allow Yeltsin to save face politically while not throwing the military alliance into chaos.


Illegal immigrants
arriving by ship

Bullet The issue: The Coast Guard suspects that smugglers of illegal immigrants from china are making contingency plans to bring their vessels to Hawaii.
Bullet Our view: The threat calls for increased vigilance by the government and private ship operators.

THE prospect of illegal immigrants from China coming ashore in Hawaii calls for increased vigilance by government agencies as well as private ship operators. The Coast Guard has asked deep-sea fishing fleets to be alert to suspicious activity. Coast Guard intelligence officers suspect that smugglers are making contingency plans to land in Hawaii.

This would revive earlier efforts that resulted in one vessel entering Honolulu Harbor with illegal immigrants, some of whom tried to escape into the city, as well as other ships that were stopped on the high seas. The smuggling of Chinese immigrants into the United States by sea reached alarming proportions six years ago and is now recurring.

The first target was Guam, where dozens of vessels carrying 600 illegal immigrants have been intercepted in recent months.

In April Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez asked President Clinton for federal assistance to deal with "a crisis triggered by an escalating mass influx of aliens from the People's Republic of China." Clinton responded by giving Attorney General Janet Reno authority to hold illegal immigrants in custody in the Northern Marianas. Some have since been returned to China.

Coast Guard officials on the mainland requested assistance from the Western Fishboat Owners Association, based in California. The association notified the Hawaii Fishermen's Foundation, which is spreading the word to Hawaii-based fishing boats.

One concern of the Coast Guard is the vessels used for the smuggling to Guam are too small for the long voyage to Hawaii and beyond, placing their passengers at risk. The vessels are usually packed with people, who endure miserable living conditions.

The problem made national headlines in 1993 when a ship carrying nearly 300 people ran aground off the New York City borough of Queens after crossing the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Six of the passengers died trying to reach shore. The would-be immigrants had agreed to pay the smugglers up to $35,000 each.

Illegal immigration is a continuing problem that can be controlled but not entirely eliminated. Hawaii has no land border with a foreign country, which gives it a degree of protection, but illegal immigrants can use other tactics, such as this one.

The Coast Guard's concerns should be taken seriously. The smuggling vessels must be stopped before they can unload their human cargo on Hawaii's shores and the smugglers must be prosecuted.

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Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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