Prague, 18 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary gives U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright high marks so far on her current world tour. Many newspapers also focus on one of the top subjects of her European stops - NATO expansion.
NEW YORK TIMES: U.S., France Smooth Waters
Steven Erlanger writes in an analysis in The New York Times: "Albright and (French) Foreign Minister Herve de Charette went out of their way (yesterday) to pronounce a working truce in the sometimes strained relations between America and France, praising the two countries' long alliance. As the two diplomats made nods to the other's self-esteem, Albright made a point of speaking the language of the host country in her remarks and some of her answers to reporters' questions."
Erlanger says: "The meeting was in part an attempt to soothe a series of irritants that had accumulated last year, including American policy initiatives towards Africa, which France considers (in its sphere of) influence, and competing efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in southern Lebanon, which the United States ultimately did."
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Juppe Calls For 'Up Period'
Associated Press diplomatic writer Barry Schweid says in an analysis in today's Washington Post: "Speaking French and even a little Russian, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright smoothed over some of the bumps in recent U.S. relations with France." He writes that a pleased French Prime Minister Alain Juppe told Albright at the end of their meeting: "We've had some ups and downs, why not have an up period?"
LONDON INDEPENDENT: Full Steam Ahead
Writing from Washington, John Carlin comments in today's issue of The London Independent under the headline "Full steam ahead for the Albright express": "Albright is a woman with a sense of humor. Lecture she might but a smile is never far from her face and she always has a self-effacing pleasantry at the ready."
Carlin writes: "(Her) greatest strength is her capacity to project a confident, assertive personality without provoking antagonism." He adds: "For now, at least, the world may take comfort in the knowledge that when Mrs. Albright speaks, she does so on most important issues on behalf of the U.S. government as a whole." He says: "Albright is a team player, utterly loyal to the president who made her queen."
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Albright Impressive
In The London Daily Telegraph, diplomatic editor Christopher Lockwood comments: "The new secretary comes with some impressive qualities. A ruthless networker, Mrs. Albright was famous, while serving at the UN, for going over the heads of her fellow ambassadors, nipping out of Security Council sessions to call up their foreign ministers, whom she had assiduously cultivated."
Lockwood writes: "She is a phenomenally hard worker who used to get up at 4:30 every morning to complete her doctoral thesis." He says: "She speaks Russian and four other languages and is a woman of some courage, unalarmed when, in 1994, she was stoned by a mob of Serbs in the town of Vukovar."
He concludes: "All this will stand her in good stead in molding and implementing American foreign policy over the next four years. But no one is too clear what that policy will involve."
HANDELSBLATT: Albright Faces Moscow Test
In the Handelsblatt, Christoph Rabe comments: "The U.S. chief diplomat did not come to Europe to hand over her business card. The lady from the State Department has a clear message in her luggage. The United States will not give up its leadership role in world politics. In Rome, Bonn, and Paris the secretary of state has set a cornerstone for U.S. engagement in Europe -- a push for quick NATO enlargement and a denial for French demands to take over NATO'S Southern Command. Albright speaks a clear language. But the real test has still to come when she visits Moscow. Her performance there will show if she has the needed sensitivity to deal with the Kremlin leaders."
DIE WELT: Born In Europe, Shaped By America
Herbert Kremp writes in Die Welt: "When President Bill Clinton's choice (for secretary of state) fell on Albright, the part of her biography that received most attention was the fact that her parents twice fled totalitarian regimes." He says: "Like many other Jews, (her father) Josef Korbel was assimilated. His homeland was Bohemia, the state he served was Czechoslovakia."
Kremp says: "As a political scientist, Albright is aware of the significance of internal and background knowledge, of the currents that determine the flow of information and are every bit as powerful as water currents." He concludes: "Her life and her thinking have been shaped by America. Not by origin, but -- and this is crucial -- by conviction."
NEW YORK TIMES: Talbott Says NATO Holds Back Bomb
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, in a commentary published by The New York Times under the headline, "Russia Has Nothing to Fear," writes: "NATO has never been solely a military instrument; it has always served a political function as well."
Talbott says: "Some have predicted that enlargement will increase the role of nuclear weapons in European security. The opposite should be true. With the end of the Cold War, the alliance has already reduced the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal by 90 percent. Moreover, if the alliance were not to enlarge, the consequent danger of renewed nationalism and military rivalry in Central Europe would carry with it the potential for nuclear-weapons proliferation."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Russian Identity Crisis
The Wall Street Journal Europe editorializes: "On the European leg of her journey, (no foreign policy issue) carries greater importance for U.S. and Western interests than how she handles the tortured debate over NATO enlargement in the run-up to the organization's Madrid summit in July."
The Journal says: "Far from indulging Russia's portrayal of a threatening NATO, the West should view Russia's objections in the context of the country's internal identity crisis." The newspaper says: "The best way to help Russia along the path to stability and prosperity is not to give in to those who wish to pull the country along a more imperialistic trajectory."
HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO Expansion Ill Considered
But commentator William Pfaff, writing in the International Herald Tribune, contends as he has a number of times previously that the policy of NATO expansion was "launched without serious reflection in Washington." Pfaff says that the United States is "uncertain about its role" in the changing European order. For that reason, he says, "Prudence would counsel holding back from radical and insufficiently considered changes" in NATO.