Prague, April 2 (RFE/RL) - The image of a famous former
president returning to work as a shipyard electrician captured the
attention of press commentators. The press continued to ruminate also
on Boris Yeltsin's afterthoughts about the bloody Chechen conflict.
The Wall Street Journal Europe today carries an article by Daniel
Michaels and Neil Bowdler. They write: "Lech Walesa today
returns to the Gdansk Shipyard workbench from which he changed Polish
history. But most shipyard employees and local residents couldn't
care less. With the 7,300-employee yard now under threat of
bankruptcy, they're worried about the future and job losses, not the
past and Mr. Walesa's battle against communism."
Tom Hundley writes today in the Chicago Tribune: "Poland's
Gdansk shipyard (yesterday) was awaiting the return of its famously
unemployed electrician, former President Lech Walesa, who said he
would return to his old job because he needs the paycheck. Walesa,
always a master of the dramatic gesture, is at it again. He hopes
that by going back to work he can shame the Polish Parliament, now
under the control of the reformed communists, into giving him a
pension.... At the shipyard, Walesa would earn about one dollar and
forty cents an hour for a 45-hour week. Until now, he has been listed
on company rolls as being on "unpaid leave." ...His promised return
(today) -- and many in Poland were betting it was a bluff -- would be
as an electrician repairing electric vehicles and fork-lifts in a
drafty, dimly-lit brick building."
The German newspaper Die Welt said yesterday in an editorial signed
by Andrea Wildhagen: " 'Gdansk shipyard has to call in
receivers.' ...In the early 1980s the Gdansk shipyard witnessed the
first hairline rift in the steel shell of communism.... It ushered in
the fall of the communist government in Poland and the collapse of
East Germany and the entire East Bloc, including the Soviet Union....
A few weeks ago the former Polish president, Lech Walesa, brought the
legendary shipyard back into the headlines. Deeply disappointed at
having been voted out of office as head of state, Walesa defiantly
announced that he would be going back to the shipyard to work as an
Jane Perlez wrote in yesterday's New York Times: "Under the
Communists, (Gdansk) and its shipyard served as the fulcrum of
opposition, the center of defiance. Now the city thrives, but the
shipyard is on the verge of bankruptcy and stands, dispirited, as an
emblem of decline. In the coming months at least 2,000 employees will
be laid off, and half of the sprawling site of antiquated cranes,
dank workshops and shaky overhead bridges will be closed.... In
contrast to the dismal record in Gdansk, the Szczecin shipyard 150
miles to the west has flourished in the last five
years. There decisive management transferred ownership of the yard to
a private consortium and laid off redundant workers.... At Gdansk it
takes six months to build the kind of ship that takes only two months
at Szczecin. Even though the shipyard's most famous worker, Lech
Walesa, became president on a platform of market reform, socialist
management methods prevailed at Gdansk."
Britain's Financial Times calls the Chechen conflict "Yeltsin's
Vietnam" in an editorial today. The Times says: "On March 31,
1968, Lyndon Johnson halted the bombing of North Vietnam and offered
peace talks 'any place, any time.' Boris Yeltsin is unlikely to have
had this precedent in mind when he chose the same date to announce
his peace plan for Chechnya. Unlike Johnson, he did not seek to give
credibility to his offer by announcing that he would not stand for
reelection. On the contrary, Mr. Yeltsin's peace plan is
transparently aimed at securing his reelection."
"President Yeltsin's peace plan for Chechnya is a sickly child,"
Alan Philps writes in a news analysis in today's The Daily Telegraph
in Britain. Philps continues: "(It was) conceived in the
cynical atmosphere of the Russian presidential election campaign and
surrounded by enemies waiting to stifle it.... Russian politicians
lined up to declare the peace plan too late to solve the crisis and
too clearly linked to Mr. Yeltsin's campaign for the June elections."
The New York Times says today in an editorial: "Yeltsin is
not the first political leader to discover that it is harder to end a
war then to start one, but he is fast learning that painful lesson in
Chechnya.... As he lunges toward an exit, Yeltsin shows little sign
that he recognizes the mistakes that brought him to this juncture....
Like Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, Yeltsin badly misread
the intensity of ethnic nationalism in Russia and its environs...The
use of indiscriminate force against the rebels, though, was a clumsy
response to the threat. Moscow's brutal military campaign succeeded
only in hardening the Chechen resistance."
An editorial today in The Frankfurter Rundschau signed by Karl Grobe
says: "What Boris Yeltsin begged for on Sunday he could have
had a war earlier.... The Russian president has not even been given a
hearing by his own appointees. Doku Zavgayev, the Chechen president
appointed by Moscow, doubts whether Yeltsin's motives are honorable,
while all that the Russian commander-in-chief, Vyacheslav Tikhomirov,
is prepared to discuss with the 'rebels' is where they are to lay
down their arms....Those who see it as a harbinger of peace, as the
chorus of Yeltsin fan clubs do, either are suffering from a mixture
of Red cynicism and total cluelessness or are deliberately painting
too bright and cheerful a picture in support of Yeltsin's
presidential election campaign."
Lee Hockstader writes today in The Washington Post: "Fighting
eased but the dying apparently did not stop in the breakaway Russian
region of Chechnya (yesterday) after President Boris Yeltsin ordered
a unilateral ceasefire and political steps to end the 15-month-old
conflict there. In Moscow, reaction to Yeltsin's peace plan was mixed
but tended toward skepticism. Most of the president's adversaries, as
well as neutral analysts, regarded his proposal more as a political
gambit 11 weeks ahead of June's presidential elections than as a
serious attempt to resolve the conflict -- the bloodiest, in terms of
Russians killed, since World War II."