Prague, Feb. 23 (RFE/RL) - Press commentary ranges over
international institutions and the challenges they face - NATO with
Russia and the former Yugoslavia, the International Monetary Fund
with Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union.
The German daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau says today in an
editorial signed by Jochan Siemens: "Everyone is talking about
the alliance. Should NATO be extended eastwards? How can the WEU
(Western European Union) become the European pillar of the Atlantic
alliance? Is France to integrate itself fully into the alliance?
These are some, but by no means all the big challenges facing NATO.
In the shadow of these large alliance problems, the question of the
future of national armies, as highlighted by French President Jacques
Chirac's decision to reduce France's armed forces drastically and
remodel them into a volunteer army, will become increasingly
urgent. The end of the Cold War, having reached NATO, is now
affecting the individual armies of its member states. Forces are
shrinking along with military budgets, the question of conscription
comes up almost inevitably, and the trend to professional armies is
hard to ignore."
In a news analysis in today's New York Times, Craig R. Whitney
writes: "Announcing the most sweeping defense changes since
the creation of an independent nuclear deterrent almost 40 years ago,
President Jacques Chirac said (last) night that the French military
would shrink by about a third and become an all-volunteer force, like
its British and American counterparts, in six years.... Chirac, who
announced last year that the French military would partially
reintegrate into NATO 30 years after Charles de Gaulle pulled it out
to protest American domination, told a national television audience
that cutting the 500,000-man armed forces was long overdue five years
after the end of the Cold War."
Herbert Kremp comments today in the German newspaper Die Weld: "(On) his visit to Moscow and St Petersburg, German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl went in for realpolitik... a demonstrative
gesture of German affection for Russia... intended to appeal to the
emotions of all Russians, regardless how they feel about their
president.... Yeltsin, in contrast, behaved altogether differently,
gruffly and snorting with rage about NATO enlargement.... It would
clearly not be a glorious victory for Kohl's realpolitik if the
impression were to be gained in Moscow and Central and Eastern Europe
that Bonn was blurring the process of opening-up on which NATO had
embarked. In Russia, that might give rise to illusions. Among
Germany's neighbors, it would set the alarm bells ringing."
"A new qualifying clause has appeared in Russian statements on NATO
expansion," Max Jakobson writes in a commentary in today's
International Herald Tribune. He says: "The leader of the
Russian Communist Party, Gennadi Zyuganov, for instance, has written
that he takes an extremely negative view of plans to expand NATO into
Eastern Europe 'up to Russia's border.' Was this phrase... drafted to
convey a hint of a possible deal... to let NATO take in Poland,
Hungary and the Czech Republic, provided expansion stopped there
(excluding the Balkan states)?"
The London Times says in an editorial today: "In Turin a
month from now, heads of state will launch the European Union's
latest inter-governmental conference.... The most tenacious of
Euromyths (is) first create an institutional framework, and
automatically there follows the requisite political will.... The
first problem with this reasoning is that it stands history on its
head. Alliances form where vital interests coincide.... EU
covernments can and should cooperate more closely. But the best way
to do so is for governments that are ready to exert leadership on a
particular issue to look more actively for allies."
Another major British newspaper, Financial Times, editorializes
today: "If one thing is clear to most observers of Bosnia's
peace process, it is the fact that a vast, possibly unbearable,
burden falls on the shoulders of Mr. Carl Bildt... the European
Union's envoy to the conflict zone.... Mr. Bildt has justifiably
criticized both Moslem and Serb leaders for not cooperating with his
efforts to create a climate of trust in Sarajevo.... Some U.S.
officials have started a whispering campaign against him, suggesting
he was slow to get started and has focused too heavily on Sarajevo.
This backbiting bodes ill for trans-Atlantic cooperation.... NATO
should do more to help Mr. Bildt.... The underlying problem is the
reluctance of Europe's jealous nations to invest one individual with
sufficient authority to speak in their name."
The International Monetary Fund agreed yesterday to a more than $ 10 billion dollar loan package to Russia. The action drew widespready commentary.
In today's Washington Post, Lee Hockstader provides this analysis: "The deal... will begin in April to pump more than 300-
million dollars a month in credits into the Russian economy during
the critical run-up to the first round of presidential elections
scheduled for June 16. It also will allow Yeltsin to meet his promise
to pay about $ 2.8 billion dollars in back wages owed to workers in
state enterprises in March.... As in the previous IMF loan package,
this one will be delivered in monthly dollops and fund officials will
review Russian compliance with the agreement before each new credit
is extended...(allowing) the fund an extraordinary degree of leverage
over government policymakers, whether they report to Yeltsin or to
some future president."
Phil Reeves writes today in Great Britain's The Independent:
"Boris Yeltsin received a large helping hand from the West
yesterday.... IMF Managing Director Michael Camdessus... said the
IMF's decision had been based on a commitment to making Russia's
reforms 'truly irreversible.' " Reeves says, "(Camdessus) made clear
that if a new government took over the Kremlin - the Comunists are
front-runners - it would have IMF support if it carried on meeting
(the loan's) terms."
In an editorial today, the British newspaper The Guardian says: "There are big risks in extending credit to a government which
may not be there in five months time - but not as big as the risks
of doing nothing. After all 10 billion dollars is peanuts
compared with the reduction in defense spending which the peace
dividend has bought."