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Western Press Review: A Chilly NATO Expansion; Thoughts On Elections

  • Don Hill

Prague, 30 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A voice from the past, that of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, sounded in England yesterday, warning that eastward expansion of NATO could re-chill the Cold War. The British press carries commentary today on NATO expansion. Other Western commentators look at current elections and campaigns, including those in Lithuania, Bulgaria and the United States.


LONDON TIMES: Gorbachev warns of new cold war

Gorbachev's remarks came in a speech to a forum sponsored in part by the Times. Diplomatic editor Michael Binyon writes today: "Gorbachev last night gave an impassioned warning that if the West expanded NATO into Eastern Europe, hardliners in Russia would be tempted to tear up arms accords, build new nuclear bombs and artillery, and do all they could to tighten their stance against the West. (He) sounded an apocalyptic note in warning the West of the dangers of expanding NATO membership, of which he said he was 'the Number One critic.' "

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Russian leaders appear to quietly accept NATO's expansion

Defense correspondent Christopher Bellamy, in a news analysis today, quotes NATO Secretary General Javier Solana as saying yesterday that "NATO intends to conclude an agreement with Russia before the summit meeting next spring when invitations to Eastern European countries to join the Western alliance will be issued."

Bellamy writes: "Russian leaders have criticized publicly NATO's intention to admit East European states as full members but they now appear to have accepted quietly that NATO will expand. (One) powerful incentive to conclude the NATO-Russian deal is the risk that individual states, especially the United States and France, will be tempted to conclude bilateral deals with the Russians, sidelining the alliance."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Joining NATO will be very expensive

In another news analysis, Central Europe correspondent Adrian Bridge writes today: "The joy of former Warsaw Pact countries at the prospect of joining NATO by the turn of the century is being tempered by the realization that it is going to be very expensive.

"The Polish president, Alexander Kwasniewski, has told defense leaders Poland must double its spending on military modernization over the next five years to stand a chance of fitting in with NATO structures.

"Vaclav Havel, his Czech counterpart, also warned his countrymen that they will have to dig deeper into their pockets in order to carry their weight in the Western alliance.

"(Big) military expenditures in countries undergoing tough economic transition are not popular. In the Czech Republic opinion is divided on the merits of joining NATO, while in Hungary many support the idea of neutrality."


Commentators in the U.S. press examine today the presidential election campaign in the United States and the recent reverses for post-communist parties in Lithuania and Bulgaria.

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton can claim credit for Democratic fundraising success

Michael Wines calls U.S President Bill Clinton "Dollar Bill." Wines writes: "A review of presidential documents indicates that Clinton has spoken at some 180 political money-raising events -- receptions, dinners, meet-and-greet affairs for other Democrats -- since he took office. Ninety of them have been held this year alone."

The Times' writer says: "Experts predict that each party will have raised a record $100 million for these elections, beyond what their national and state candidates collect. For Democrats, who usually trail Republicans in fund-raising, that is quite an achievement, and Clinton can claim much of the credit."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton will try to clean up campaign financing

The paper editorializes: "The public clearly needs to know more (about campaign fundraising in the United States). The Federal Election Commission, with White House cooperation, can determine whether the laws on foreign contributions were broken and whether there were any illegal promises of government action in exchange for contributions. Voters also need to know that Clinton, if re-elected, will launch a historic effort to clean up campaign finance and end the revolving-door profits for hucksters in both parties. The American people have been ready for clean politics for a long time. Through Republican and Democratic occupancies, the only holdouts have been the elected officials in Congress and the White House."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: It takes more than a new president to revive Bulgaria's economy

On Bulgaria, the paper editorializes: "When Russian President Boris Yeltsin wanted to drive home the dangers of voting communist earlier this year, he called on Russian voters to consider the plight of their old comrades in Bulgaria. If only Bulgarians had been similarly warned. It is, at least on the surface, encouraging to see Bulgaria's anti-communist candidate, Petar Styanov, take a firm lead in the first round of voting in Bulgaria's presidential elections Sunday."

The Journal says: "But it will take much more than a new president to revive the Bulgarian economy -- and the confidence of its beleaguered citizens."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: A viable, moderate alternative to post-communists brings their defeat

Kestutis Girnius, director of the Lithuanian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, writes in a commentary: "The Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, the first post-communist party to return to power via the ballot box after Central Europe's velvet revolution, has been the first to be voted out. The magnitude and totality of its defeat was as stunning as its unexpected triumph four years ago. And the reasons for its defeat, like the causes of its victory, are not unique to Lithuania but endemic to the region."

Girnius concludes: "In order for post-communists to be voted out, there must exist a viable and moderate alternative. In Poland, for instance, the right-of-center parties have not united, thus boosting the chances of the post-communist Democratic Alliance of the left in the next elections. But (in Lithuania), the conservatives under (Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas) Landsbergis toned down their rhetoric, united most of the right wing forces under their party, and are on their way to victory."