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Western Press Review: Assessing Secretary Albright's First Tour

  • Don Hill



Prague, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Czech-born Madeleine Albright, the new U.S. secretary of state, has attracted much Western commentary in recent days as she makes her first overseas tour in office.

WASHINGTON POST: Albright displayed a certain Thatcheresque streak

In this morning's edition, Michael Dobbs analyzes Albright's impact in Italy during her visit to Rome yesterday. Dobbs writes: "Never at a loss for a cliche, the Italian press greeted America's new secretary of state Sunday as the 'iron lady' of U.S. diplomacy. The comparison with Britain's Margaret Thatcher may be a bit of a stretch, but Madeleine K. Albright did display a certain Thatcheresque streak in her ministerial debut on the world stage. She lectured the Italians on not doing business with 'rogue states' like Libya and Cuba, informed Russia that NATO expansion will go ahead regardless of any Kremlin objections, and rejected a French demand that a European be appointed to head NATO's Southern Command."

Dobbs continues: "In the absence of a great deal of new substance, style took center stage on Albright's visit to Italy at the start of a nine-country, 11-day world tour. Albright's aides were anxious to draw attention to their boss's penchant for speaking her mind in closed-door sessions with Italian leaders, and her willingness to depart from her brief."

LONDON TIMES: Albright will take a tough stand toward Russia's NATO stance

The picture of Secretary Albright as tough and forthright precedes her. Two British newspapers forecast that those traits were likely to dominate her current travels. Bronwen Maddox wrote Friday from Washington: "She will take a tough stance towards Russia's concerns about extending NATO membership to Central and Eastern European states, emphasizing that it will be given no veto or lever to slow down the process."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Albright plans to err on the side of activism

In an analysis in today's edition, Bruce Clark and Patti Waldmeir say: "The Secretary of State, who will also visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing after stops in five West European capitals, will need to tread a careful line if unity in the Western camp is to be maintained." They write: "Mrs. Albright has complained several times that whatever it does in the world, the United States is blamed -- either for intervening too much, or else for failing to act as a leader. She also has made clear that she will err on the side of activism."

NEW YORK TIMES: Albright has lived up to her reputation

In an analysis, Steven Erlanger concludes that the secretary lives up to her advance billing, writing: "Albright continued an American effort to get Italy and other European countries to join in isolating so-called rogue nations like Iran, Libya, Iraq and Cuba." He says: "She was no less forthright at the news conference: 'We feel very strongly that supporting states that support terrorism is a real problem for us.' "

Erlanger also writes: "She has been called the iron lady, an epithet used to describe former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, as if any woman of power must be hard as metal. Albright is said by her aides to have lived up to that reputation in her conversations with (Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto) Dini and (Prime Minister Romano) Prodi, both of whom speak good English. Albright's style is to raise areas of contention and disagreement herself and then to expound the American position in frank terms that may go beyond her talking points."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Albright's no-nonsense style had little apparent impact

In an analysis in today's edition, Tyler Marshall also perceives Albright as frank but the Italians as little affected. From Rome, he writes: "Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (yesterday) waded into the transatlantic dispute over how to deal with nations supporting terrorism, but her no-nonsense style had little apparent impact in the first of a series of meetings she plans with European leaders. Using language that one aide described as frank, direct but not rude, Albright chastised Italian leaders for backing Europe's strategy of maintaining trade and political links with Iran and Libya."

THE ECONOMIST: A peaceful and united Europe is within grasp

Albright's outspokenness was demonstrated even before she began her world tour. She contributed a major article to the current issue of the British weekly, published on Friday, and gave interviews to such important journals as France's daily "Le Monde," which published its interview Saturday.

Albright writes: "A goal that would have seemed like Utopian delusion just years ago lives within our grasp: a peaceful and undivided Europe working in partnership with the United states, that welcomes every one of the continent's new democracies into our transatlantic community. An ambitious goal, to be sure. Yet progress towards its realization has been remarkable."

Albright continues: "Too often, the debate about NATO's future reduces the alliance's past to a one-dimensional caricature that discounts its relevance to today's European challenges." She writes: "The new NATO can do for Europe's East what the old NATO did for Europe's West: Vanquish old hatreds, promote integration, create a secure environment for prosperity, and deter violence in the region where two world wars and the Cold War began."

She concludes: "The children of the transatlantic community who are born today have the chance to grow up knowing a very different Europe. In that new Europe, they will know Checkpoint Charlie only as a museum, Yalta as just a provincial city in a sovereign Ukraine, Sarajevo as a peaceful mountain resort in the heart of Europe. The children of the next century will come of age knowing a very different NATO -- one that masses its energies on behalf of integration, rather than massing its forces on the borders of division.

"All this is possible if -- and it is not a big if -- we act now to strengthen the arrangements that have served half of Europe so well for so long and to extend them now to new partners and allies."
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