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Western Press Review: The United States--Bully Or Protector? Clumsy Or Deft?

  • Don Hill

Prague, 25 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - From Russia to Cuba and China to Turkey, in international institutions and in domestic agencies, U.S. foreign policy comes under the scrutiny -- admiring and critical -- of Western press commentators.

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: If one is allowed to grow powerful, everyone suffers

Martin Winter comments today: "(The United States) has never been squeamish in its dealings with other nations. But the increasingly coarse manner in which the United States is attempting to push through its economic and political interests is beyond the bounds of tolerability."

Winter cites U.S. policy on blocking trade with Cuba, the ouster of UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, U.S. efforts to boost NATO expansion by pushing for admission of Turkey into the EU, and U.S. withholding of funds from the UN and World Bank. The commentator calls on the EU to stand firm, at least in the matter of challenging the U.S. Helms-Burton Act on Cuba.

He writes: "From the EU's point of view, it cannot be a matter of severing trans-Atlantic relations in a sort of Gaullist tantrum. On the contrary, the EU must make it its business to set limits for its old friend across the water. For the history of peoples, like everyday life, teaches us that if someone is allowed to grow too powerful, everyone suffers in the end."

FINANCIAL TIMES: How to handle Russia is the critical issue in NATO enlargement

A number of commentators examine U.S.-led efforts to expand NATO eastward in the face of Russian opposition. The British newspaper says today in an editorial: "It now looks almost certain that NATO will agree at its Madrid summit in July to admit several new members -- probably Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary -- by spring 1999."

Among the hard questions, the editorial says, "is the degree of political support in the United States for continued guarantees to Europe." The Times goes on: "The critical issue, however, as NATO enlargement edges closer, is how to handle Russia." The editorial concludes: "In the words of Mrs. Madeleine Albright, the new U.S. secretary of state, Russia must have a 'voice but not a veto' in European security affairs. It is a happy augury for trans-Atlantic cooperation that this phrase was coined by President Jacques Chirac."

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: EU states have muffed the collective security issue by insisting it's not their problem

James Hill comments: "The 'road to Madrid,' as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insisted at all stops on her European tour last week to promote NATO expansion, is paved with good intentions. It is pocked with potholes, as well. For the most part, the European allies, knowing not to bite the hand that protects them, seem intent on following the expansionist course at breakneck speed."

Hill Writes: "Only France and Turkey have raised many flags: France because it is lovable but obstinate France, and thus must get in its digs about the heavy hand of Washington's meddling in European affairs; Turkey because it wants its own entry into the European Union collective as its price for assent on the collective security question."

He says that the EU states "have muffed the collective security issue by insisting it is not their problem, just as they have muffed their own expansion by insisting the Eastern European states are not ready for their club. No wonder they are now so willing to let Washington do the driving down this road to Madrid."

LONDON TIMES: The U.S. rejects the unrealistic French demand for the Southern Command

The paper editorializes today: "President Chirac foolishly (has) insisted that NATO could not be considered Europeanized unless the (U.S.-held) Mediterranean command was turned over to a European." The newspaper says: "The American administration, backed by Congress, has been wholly consistent in rejecting the French demand as unworkable."

The editorial concludes: "If France sticks to the unattainable and unrealistic demand for the Southern Command, it will signal that the country's leaders are less serious than previously was believed about taking a full part in Europe's emerging defense network. That would be a bad blow on all fronts."

CZECH RADIO: Procrastination hardened Russian resistance to NATO

Czech President Vaclav Havel, speaking Sunday over Czech radio, blamed procrastination in the West for hardening Russian resistance to NATO expansion. He said: "Four years ago, Russia did not care whether NATO expanded or not." Havel said Western delay "provoked Russian opposition." He said: "It is the old, very old mistake made by Western democracies, which hesitate, postpone problems, lack courage to realize broad-minded solutions."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: China and the U.S. could go to war over Taiwan

Looking to U.S. policy in Asia, the paper today publishes a commentary by Chalmers Johnson. Johnson is president of the U.S.-based Japan Policy Research Institute. He writes: "The death of Deng Xiaoping may have lit the fuse of a Chinese-American military confrontation that neither side wants but that both appear unable to prevent. As a result of domestic considerations, both China and America have locked themselves into positions over Taiwan."

He says: "The stage is set for a confrontation. The Chinese are willing to give the Taiwanese a great deal of autonomy so long as they do not cause China to lose face by declaring their independence. The United States has a huge stake in supporting China's present course of economic development and cooperation with the rest of Asia. But both China and the United States are so constrained by their domestic political situations that if the Taiwanese took this opportunity to declare their independence, China and the United States would conclude that they had no choice but to go to war. What is needed desperately is quiet diplomacy between Chinese and American leaders."

NEW YORK TIMES: Albright spoke candidly about human rights in China

In an editorial today, the paper says: "The coincidence of Deng Xiaoping's death and the beginning of Bill Clinton's second term offers the hope that relations between the United States and China can be put on a more stable, productive track. Madeleine Albright made a good start in her brief visit to Beijing (yesterday) by talking candidly to the Chinese leadership about its continued abuse of human rights."

The newspaper says: "Her hosts, for a change, did not rudely dismiss the American concerns. That does not mean Washington has restored human rights issues to the center of its agenda with China, much less gained agreement from the Chinese to tolerate democracy and dissent. But at least Albright did not neglect the issue, too often the practice of American officials during the last four years."

The editorial contends: "Albright offered clearer guidelines, discussing the progress Washington would like to see in the human rights, weapons sales and trade areas. She also stressed America's concern that China refrain from further military intimidation of Taiwan and respect the international agreement guaranteeing substantial autonomy to Hong Kong after it reverts to Chinese control this July 1."

It concludes: "With China entering a time of political uncertainty, consistency and clarity from Washington are more important than ever."