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Press Review: G-7 Nuclear Summit Acheves Modest Results

  • Don Hill



Prague, April 22 (RFE/RL) - A summit of the heads of government of the G-7 group of industrialized nations in Moscow over the weekend attracts worldwide press comment.

"Have we stepped back from the nuclear precipice?" asks the British newspaper The Guardian in an editorial today. The newspaper goes on to respond to its own question: "The summit talks in Moscow barely grappled with the real issues.... Ukraine finally has agreed to confirm the closure of Chernobyl by the year 20000.... Discussion of nuclear and fissile materials security was even more perfunctory, out of deference to the election candidate whom the West pretends not to support.... A comprehensive test-ban treaty to which Russia formally assented in Moscow, is a step forward. Yet this has been left on the agenda for so long that it now may be frustrated by India and other nuclear-threshold countries."

Britain's Financial Times says today: "By inviting world leaders to Moscow for a meeting on nuclear security, President Boris Yeltsin probably has boosted his own chances of remaining in the Kremlin after the forthcoming elections. But it is much too early to say whether the world has been made any safer for anybody else.... The Western nations have little choice but to press ahead with the search for a basis on which they and Russia can manage together the legacy of the cold war. Russia is entitled to insist on taking the main responsibility for its own nuclear stocks. But this does not preclude rational cooperation, nor exonerate Russia from its responsibility to avoid exposing the whole planet to danger."

Wall Street Journal Europe writer Claudia Rosett says in the newspaper today: "Alongside this nuclear conclave, which turned out long on pomp and short on substance, the more-focused agenda appeared to be a push by President Bill Clinton to bolster reelection chances for... Yeltsin this June, and by extension for Mr. Clinton himself this November.... On nuclear issues, such as applications of the antiballistic missile treaty, the summit managed little more than to confirm commitments to negotiations previously set in motion, and due to be continued on future dates."

Michael R. Gordon wrote yesterday from Moscow in The New York Times: "Concluding their summit meeting, President Boris Yeltsin and the leaders of major industrialized nations called on Saturday for a speedy enactment of a nuclear test ban and announced measures to stop the smuggling of nuclear bomb ingredients. But the session was also noteworthy for its warm embrace of the embattled Yeltsin, who is running for re-election in June, although President Clinton was careful not to declare his preference for Yeltsin openly.... The substance of the summit, however, was the subject of considerable debate. American officials insisted that the meeting had made important, if undramatic, strides toward stanching the spread of nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union and improving nuclear safety on a range of fronts. But public interest groups criticized the meeting for being long on ceremony and short on concrete results."

The Washington Post editorialized Saturday: "It is fitting that the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations, including President Clinton, are meeting in Moscow to discuss nuclear safety. If Russia's many critics are to be believed, radioactive materials are so poorly guarded there that each G-7 president could go home with a plutonium souvenir in his suitcase.... Of all Western aid programs, those aimed at preventing nuclear smuggling, Chernobyl-style accidents and radioactive pollution are most evidently in the Western interest. The West should push hard to have Russia behave responsibly, but it should not reduce aid out of pique. The question is not whether Russia is cooperating as fully as others would like. It is how the West - for the most selfish of reasons: its own safety - can prod Russia toward further progress."

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun said recently in one of a series of environmental editorials: "Our planet is permeated with the dangers involved in nuclear energy, among them the potential dangers of nuclear reactors, problems in keeping track of nuclear materials released in the process of dismantling nuclear warheads and nuclear facilities, and problems in safe handling and disposal of nuclear wastes. It has never been more urgent than now for mankind, regardless of nationality, to find solutions to these problems on a global scale. International control of nuclear resources must now be pursued from a new perspective. We would like to characterize the summit of leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and Russia on safety of nuclear energy and nuclear materials that (opened) Friday in Moscow as a nascent attempt at such an enterprise."

Richard Beeston writes today in The London Times: "Aside from the nuclear issues, the Kremlin leadership will be anxious to see what effect the summit has on the political fortunes of President Yeltsin, who hosted the meeting in part to boost his June re-election hopes.... Certainly he performed creditably before the cameras, projecting himself as a statesman on the world stage, (but) if the Russian people perceived their president as too close to the G-7 leaders, the summit could turn out to be a political liability."

The German newspaper Die Welt, in an editorial Saturday signed by Manfred Rowold, wrote of :what it called the "Atlantic Election Alliance." The editorial said, "Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton... have one thing in common. They both want to be re-elected this year, one in June, the other in November. Both... have a vested interest in there being no change either in the Kremlin or in the White House. One, because the patient manner in which Moscow is dealt with in Washington would come to an end. The other, because the alternative to Yeltsin could be a Communist renaissance and a drop in the temperature prevailing in the general East-West political climate.... Numerous incidents are putting a strain on Clinton's indulgence of the Kremlin. The war in Chechnya is one example.... Other examples are Yeltsin's sacking of reform politicians, the non-ratification of the Start II treaty and Moscow's entrenched resistance to an eastern enlargement of NATO. Ill-feeling has also been caused by reports of a secret underground military installation in the southern Urals."
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