Prague, 17 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Press commentary covers a range of issues: The calm, but troublesome election in Bosnia, the evergreen question of NATO's post-Cold War status, and the truculence of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. Clinton Administration.
WASHINGTON POST: U.S. role in preserving and enlarging NATO
An editorial in yesterday's edition asks Should the United States remain engaged in Europe? It explains that this is the question embedded in all the starchy-sounding talk about preserving and enlarging NATO. The Post's answer: "It generally is understood that NATO will persist, despite the Cold War's end; that the United States will remain a member; that Russia should be associated with NATO but not belong to it; and that some, but not all, other formerly Communist nations should be permitted to join. The sooner a real discussion begins, the less chance the United States will make commitments it finds itself, down the road, unprepared to keep." The editorial concluded: "Are Congress and the public prepared to bear (the costs of NATO expansion)? More to the point, is the United States ready to defend Poland against, say, Belarus, or Hungary against Romania? Would Americans be willing to send U.S. troops for such defense, or use nuclear weapons?"
The Post concluded: "These are core questions that, in the (U.S.) political competition for Polish-American votes, attract scant attention. The only thing more dangerous than not committing to sustain these new democracies is to make such a commitment without being ready to live up to it."
THE GUARDIAN: NATO offers Russia an unprecedented partnership
John Palmer writes from Brussels in today's "NATO governments are to offer Russia an unprecedented partnership in jointly managing Europe's security, in return for a limited expansion by the alliance to include countries in Central Europe, according to senior officials in Brussels." In his news analysis, Palmer writes: "A blueprint for a 21st century European security system being finalized by alliance governments envisages a NATO and Russia charter organization with its own secretariat. Russia would have a privileged role in helping shape key political and security decisions in Europe."
Palmer adds, "Western leaders are increasingly confident that Russia will accept a limited NATO enlargement, on condition that no nuclear weapons or foreign troops are based in the new member states -- something NATO is ready to agree (upon)."
BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: Russia should not fear NATO expansion
The Danish newspaper said in a recent editorial: "Russia does not have a (good) reason to feel provoked (by NATO enlargement). NATO is a purely defensive alliance and it is impossible to imagine a situation where it could go to war with a democratically-governed Russia. Originally, the East Europeans wanted to come into NATO as a form of political, military and psychological life insurance, just in case of a coup in Moscow. But as time goes by, this fear gave way to a desire to solve Europe's security problems by building an alliance in which as many countries as possible participate. For while the United States is the biggest player in NATO, the alliance increasingly will be about European security. And Russia, because of its geographical position, can never be a natural member of it. But the Russian concerns against NATO enlargement must be taken seriously as they are an expression of political reality to be reckoned with."
SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Suprises from the Bosnian election
In today's editorial Bernhard Kueppers writes "The Bosnian election (is) good for some surprises even before the results (are) known". The newspaper says: "There are two reasons for this -- Firstly, apart from some minor stone throwing, the violence everyone expected failed to materialize. And secondly, the number of Muslim refugees who ventured into the Serb-controlled part of the country to cast their ballots remained unexpectedly low." The German newspaper contends: "There are going to be some serious problems in setting up the pan-Bosnian institutions, (but) one hope remains, that following their legitimation at the ballot box, and maybe even with a stronger opposition in their own camp, all three Bosnian factions could become more pragmatic and reasonable."
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Criticism of the Bosnian election
Ray Mosely writes today : "Major international organizations (yesterday) condemned the conditions under which Bosnian elections were held, with one of them asserting that massive fraud had taken place in the Bosnian Serb Republic. The chorus of critical reports directly challenged the upbeat assessments offered over the last two days by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the elections, and by the Clinton administration." Mosely says: "As the first returns from Saturday's election were announced, the possibility was raised that Momcilo Krajisnik, a hard-line Bosnian Serb official identified with ethnic cleansing, will become the first head of the three-member Presidency for Bosnia."
WASHINGTON POST: Shock in Sarajevo, hope in the West
In another analysis, John Pomfret writes: " Many in Sarajevo were shocked at the prospect that Krajisnik, an ultra-nationalist Serb businessman, could win the chairmanship of the two-year presidency, which will be shared by one Muslim, one Croat and one Serb. But it also gave some Western diplomats cause for hope that with the highest position in Bosnia, ultra-nationalist Serbs might be convinced to modify their goals to secede from Bosnia and join Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia."
SHOWDOWN IN THE GULF
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Kuwaiti government approves more U.S troops
In his analysis, Storer Rowley writes "President Clinton won approval from the Kuwaiti government (yesterday) to send another contingent of 3,000 U.S. troops from Fort Hood, Texas. (Although) the new troops would bolster U.S. forces (arrayed against Iraq), it was not clear that (they) actually would be sent. Clinton administration officials noticeably (have) cooled their rhetoric over the possibility of a clash with Saddam."
SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: What will Saddam Hussein do next?
An editorial signed by Stefan Kornelius says "Unmoved by Iraq's most recent knuckling under, the United States is moving fighter planes and troops in the Gulf. Secretary of Defense William Perry is sweeping through the region at top speed (seeking) support for the possible attack. However, the probability that the US will really launch a new attack against Saddam Hussein is diminishing. (Saddam) must have recognized its mistake, or (he) would not have expressed his regrets. (And so for) the moment the retaliatory attack against Saddam does not seem quite so necessary, but experience in dealings with Saddam has shown that deterrence works."