- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Realist from Finland
Martti Ahtisaari became an international broker of peace even before his term as president of Finland ended in February 2000. He looks ahead of events to try to find a solution to conflict. He calls himself a realist.
So on September 11, he did what has become routine for him. He was in a meeting at the British prime minister's office in London when he learned of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He said he returned to his hotel room and thought, "What good can come out of this?"
He made a list. He predicted U.S.-Russian relations would improve. Russia is now a partner with NATO. He foresaw better U.S. relations with China. China is an ally in the war against terrorism. He believed the attacks on the United States would result in greater cooperation among democracies.
Mr. Ahtisaari also predicted the disaster would help bring about peace in the Middle East.
"I was wrong on that one," he told Embassy Row yesterday.
Mr. Ahtisaari, chairman of the International Crisis Group (ICG), is turning his attention to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He met yesterday afternoon with Vice President Richard B. Cheney to discuss his concerns about the future U.S. role in the country.
Earlier, he outlined his prescription for recovery at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Ahtisaari, who helped bring a negotiated end to the war in Kosovo three years ago, cited some lessons from the Balkans for the crisis in South Asia.
"The Bosnia and Kosovo peace processes demonstrated, sometimes in very, very tragic and painful ways, that it is outside support and security that makes the difference between hope and fear, between refugee returns and refugee massacres, between governments that can focus on a peaceful future and governments that cannot escape the murderous past," he said.
He is concerned about local conflicts leading up to the loya jirga, a major meeting of Afghan tribal leaders from June 10 through June 16 to help plan for a future government. The United Nations says eight candidates for the loya jirga were killed during the selection process in April.
"The hopes of the Afghan people are running very high, but so are the power struggles locally, nationally and internationally aimed at shaping or subverting the results," he said.
Mr. Ahtisaari recounted the words of one Afghan journalist, who told a member of his ICG staff: "'The best thing the world can do right now is to have an American B-52 fly overhead once a day. It doesn't need to drop anything. Everyone just needs to know that the Americans are still here and paying attention.'"
Mr. Ahtisaari added, "The international community must show that it is willing to stay in the thick of the peace process and whether with B-52s, soldiers or peacekeepers nip factional fighting in the bud."
He noted that the pace of reconstruction and reconciliation is slow and the cost is high.
"But we also know what unrestrained civil conflict in Afghanistan looks like, and we know that its cost for Afghans and ourselves is far higher," he said.
"We must make sure we win the peace in Afghanistan now and for the long time to come."

Live from Latvia
Do you have questions about Latvia's ambitions to join NATO?
You can ask them tomorrow in a live webcast with a former Latvian ambassador to the United States, Ojars Kalnins.
Mr. Kalnins, director of the Latvian Institute, will discuss preparations for the July 5 and 6 summit in the Latvian capital, Riga, with representatives from 10 countries that want to join the alliance at the NATO summit in November.
The webcast is organized by the Joint Baltic American National Committee and can be viewed at https://jbanc.org beginning at noon.
E-mail questions to Mr. Kalnins can be sent to [email protected]
The Riga summit will include delegates from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
"The theme of the Riga summit is appropriately titled 'The Bridge to Prague,'" the committee said.
Mr. Kalnins, Latvia's first ambassador in Washington after the collapse of the Soviet Union, joined the Latvian Institute 1998. The institute was created by the Latvian government to promote all aspects of Latvian society.

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