PRAGUE, March 26 (RFE/RL) - Press scrutiny ranges over
Russia's relations with its own Commonwealth of Independent States
and the European Union, NATO, and other international groupings.
From Oslo, Norway, Carol J. Williams writes in the Los Angeles Times
today: "Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin launched an
ambitious pre-election campaign of diplomacy here (yesterday),
rattling his saber against NATO expansion and brushing off worries
about rebirth of the Soviet Union. His two-day state visit to this
sole NATO country sharing a border with Russia is long on ceremony
and likely to be the least taxing of trips packing Yeltsin's schedule
as he tries to strike a robust pose ahead of June 16 presidential
elections.... As he moved woodenly through the pomp and pageantry of
his Oslo itinerary, Yeltsin looked every one of his 65 years and
little like the brash democratic crusader who came to power five
In a New York Times analysis today, Michael R. Gordon says:
"Russia has dropped a plan for a sharp across-the-board increase in
import tariffs, clearing the way for a 10,200-million-dollar loan
from the International Monetary Fund, Western economists said (last)
night. The election-year loan had been thrown into doubt earlier this
month after Russia's finance minister proposed a 20 percent increase
in the tariffs, contradicting previous assurances to the IMF.
(President Boris) Yeltsin has been gaining ground in the polls
against Gennadi Zyuganov, the communist candidate. One of Yeltsin's
selling points has been his ability to secure Western financial
Michael S. Lelyveld contends today in the U.S. newspaper Journal of
Commerce: " President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has
apparently discovered that if he proposes to the same woman often
enough, she will eventually give in. In this case, the fiancee is the
Russian Federation, which finally agreed over the weekend to a vague
union treaty with Belarus after nearly two years of being asked.
Lukashenko caught Russian President Boris Yeltsin at a weak moment
following the State Duma's vote on March 15, declaring that the 1991
Soviet breakup was, in effect, an illegal divorce. But the treaty set
to be signed April 2 sparked demonstrations in Minsk, the capital of
the post-Soviet republic, which has proved the least able to go it
alone. The independence rally by some 30,000 protesters Sunday
apparently gave Yeltsin a case of morning-after regrets."
"Boris Yeltsin was forced to backpedal furiously yesterday," David
Hearst in Moscow and John Palmer in Brussels write today in the
British newspaper The Guardian. Their comentary continues:
"The Russian president denied that a union treaty with Belarus he
will sign on April 2 will mean the merger of the two countries....
Russia's cold feet derive from the knowledge that Kazakhstan and
Kyrgestan... now are interested in no more than a concept of 'deeper
cooperation.' ...The European Union signed a trade agreement with
Belarus yesterday after reciving assurances from MIkhail Chigir, the
prime minister, that his country was not about to merge with Russia."
The Los Angeles Times today carries an analysis by Carol J. Williams
of the record of Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov.
Williams writes: "After more than a decade of whiplash-inducing
swings in Russian foreign policy, says prominent Sinologist Mikhail
L. Titarenko, this country's trademark eagle finally has its heads on
straight.... Since fellow Asian scholar and erstwhile intelligence
chief... Primakov took over the Foreign Ministry a mere two months
ago, Titarenko (says), Russia has repaired damaged ties with China,
put new emphasis on neglected relations with former Soviet republics,
capitalized on its clout with rogue Middle East states and re-emerged
as a premier power in the Eastern Hemisphere. The sudden swing from
West to East in foreign policy priorities apparently also is turning
human heads in this country."
The analysis continues: "To the extent that Russia's role on the
world stage is an election-year issue..., Yeltsin suddenly has stolen
his opponents' thunder and removed just about every contentious
international issue from the resurgent Communist Party's campaign
agenda.... Russia remains vehemently opposed to any eastward
expansion of NATO to include countries on its borders. But a
cooperative deployment of Russian troops along with NATO forces in
Bosnia-Herzegovina apparently has pushed that most contentious of
issues onto a back burner."
"President Yeltsin yesterday voiced his concern about NATO war
exercises and the alliance's plans to embrace former Warsaw Pact
states when he arrived in Norway for a state visit," Leyla Linton
writes in today's The London Times. She adds: "The Russian
leader opposes NATO plans to extend membership to former Soviet bloc
countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Mr. Yeltsin, who faces in
elections in June against tough communist opposition in Gennadi
Zyuganov, will use the visit to raise his profile as a world leader."
John Thornhill writes today in a commentary in Britain's Financial
Times: "Yeltsin yesterday held out the possibility of a
compromise solution to the vexing issue of NATO expansion, suggesting
former Warsaw pact countries could join the alliance's political
committee without being integrated into its military structures....
Yeltsin... has been fiercely opposed to NATO's plans to expand
eastwards, warning the move might fan the flames of war."
European unity was the subject of a New York Times editorial
yesterday. The Times said: "The 1991 Treaty on European
Union set out an ambitious plan for political, economic and monetary
union by the end of this decade. With the decade more than half over,
much of that agenda remains wishful.... This week, the 15 member
governments open what amounts to a yearlong constitutional convention
with a mandate to revise the treaty.... Creating a common European
currency would be a convenience to international businesses and would
force close coordination of economic policies. But it is not a
necessity for continued union.... A realistic retreat now on currency
targets will not shatter the European dream. On the contrary, it will
conserve strength for the expanding challenges of the future."