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Western Press Review: Summit Was (Pick One) a. Triumph; b. Giveaway; c. Trap

  • Don Hill



Prague, 24 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The British newspaper "Financial Times" says today in an editorial on last week's Helsinki summit that the Clinton Administration, in managing Russo-U.S. relations, finally "got it just right." The conservative U.S. newspaper "Wall Street Journal Europe" calls for a close look "at what Mr. Clinton gave away." The "New York Times" editorialized two days ago that Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin "accomplished more than they expected."

Western commentary over the weekend generally was cheerful, but a strain of skepticism ran strong in assessments of the meeting..

FINANCIAL TIMES: The summit was a triumph for Clinton

An editorial says: "Triumphalism is not in order. But last week's U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki was in fact a triumph for President Bill Clinton."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The missile agreement was most ambiguous

An editorial looks at the same page and reads an entirely different story: "Bill Clinton returned from the Helsinki summit Saturday claiming achievements that are not altogether evident." The editorial's headline asks if the meeting isn't just "Another ABM Giveaway?" It says: "The most important issue discussed with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, nuclear missile and missile defense, was the one on which the agreement reached was the most ambiguous."

LONDON TIMES: Yeltsin achieved almost nothing on NATO expansion

In an editorial today,the paper warns the world to give a care for "Russia's Wounded Pride." The Times says: "President Yeltsin surprised everyone at Helsinki last week with his physical vigor and political agility. Fit, alert and jovial, he spent long hours negotiating with President Clinton and decided to make the best of a weak hand." It says: "On the crucial issue of NATO expansion (he) achieved almost nothing."

The editorial says: "To Mr. Yeltsin's critics, his performance was lamentable. Accusations of capitulation echoed around Moscow even before he arrived home." The newspaper says: "But the West should not gloat about using this window of opportunity to enlarge NATO while Russia is weak. Russians have long memories, a strong sense of their country's history, and dangerous resentments."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: There's plenty of room for NATO-Russia cooperation

Across the ocean, the paper said in an editorial yesterday: "The advance spin on the Helsinki meeting of President Clinton and Russia's President Boris Yeltsin was that it could prove the most fractious encounter yet between the two leaders. Difficult it may have been, especially when Russia's deep-seated suspicions about NATO's planned expansion eastward ran head-on into Clinton's determination, shared by all 16 alliance partners, that NATO enlargement was unstoppable. But NATO was not the only item taken up in four hours of summit talks. Far-reaching arms limitations issues were considered, and here welcome progress seems to have been made."

The newspaper concluded: "Post-Cold War NATO is very much an alliance in search of a mission, and the focus of that mission is likely to be more on maintaining stability than repelling armed aggression against its member states. Stability in Europe and adjacent areas is also to Russia's benefit. Clearly, there's plenty of room for NATO-Russia cooperation."

NEW YORK TIMES: Russia is Europe's largest country and most important nuclear power

The paper's editorial Saturday continued: "The most encouraging advance in Helsinki was agreement on a set of guidelines for a third nuclear weapons reduction treaty." It said: "Regrettably, the Clinton administration still resists beginning formal negotiations until Russia's parliament ratifies the previous weapons reduction agreement, signed in 1993."

It concludes: "Russia remains Europe's largest country and most important nuclear power. A stable Russian government and economy pursuing a responsible foreign policy is an indispensable condition for achieving Clinton's stated goal of building a secure and democratic Europe. The Helsinki agreements do not eliminate the potentially troublesome issue of NATO expansion, but they make progress in other areas possible."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Clinton is happy to champion Russia's WTO membership

An unsigned staff-written analysis today: "The Helsinki summit has vindicated, at least for now, President Bill Clinton's belief that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can expand eastward while the U.S. still maintains good relations with Russia." The analysis continues: "Even more important, the two presidents were able to look beyond NATO, making dramatic progress on several key arms-control issues."

It says: "Whether the two presidents can now deliver what they promised is a different question." And concludes: "U.S. officials say Mr. Clinton is happy to champion Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization and the Paris Club, so long as Russia works to meet the terms of responsible membership."

WASHINGTON POST: The iconography of summits remains unchanged

The paper said yesterday in an editorial: "Russia's power has faded steadily over the past 10 years, but the iconography of Moscow-Washington summits remains generally unchanged. That has produced an odd phenomenon. It used to be that two leaders of more or less equal geopolitical weight could come to a hard-fought compromise and then go home and crow.

"Now there is not much to keep President Clinton from scoring an easy victory, but he has to be careful not to proclaim it. Such tact allows Russian President Boris Yeltsin to go on cooperating and to claim victory, or at least a draw, when he returns to Moscow. But it also complicates Clinton's efforts to convince skeptics here and in Central Europe that he hasn't sold out U.S. or third-country interests."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The communist leader calls Helsinki a defeat for Yeltsin

Chrystia Freeland analyzes today what a headline called "Communist Flak" awaiting Yeltsin on his return to Moscow. She writes: "President Boris Yeltsin faced a chorus of communist criticism over his NATO policy yesterday after his return from the Helsinki summit, but his more pressing concerns were economic. Western leaders hailed the two-day meeting (as a) breakthrough in Washington's effort to press ahead with NATO's planned eastward expansion without alienating Moscow."

She goes on: "But the deal infuriated Mr. Yeltsin's communist opponents, setting off a wave of criticism over the weekend. The tone was set by Mr. Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist chief, who denounced Mr. Yeltsin's performance in Helsinki as a crushing defeat."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It's a mistake to exclude Russia from America's NATO policy

Commentator William Pfaff writes today: "Russia poses two questions. The first is how a fundamental internal stability will be restored." He says: "the second question is Russia's place in the international system." Pfaff concludes: "Since 1989, Russia has tried to become fully included in the international system of the democracies. America's NATO policy excludes it. That is a fundamental mistake."

U.S. Domestic Matters



U.S. domestic commentary focused over the weekend on the federal budget and taxes.

WASHINGTON POST: Republicans should put a tax cut on hold

In an editorial, the paper said: "It will do him no good for us to say so, but House Speaker Newt Gingrich is right. The Republicans should indeed put their plans for a tax cut on hold for now, concentrate on reducing the deficit and come back to the tax issue later if they can muster the necessary support, find a way to pay the cost, etc."

NEW YORK TIMES: A reduction in the Consumer Price Index?

Columnist Bill Safire wrote: "(Some Republicans) think they have a deal with Clinton for the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- with no pushing from a bipartisan commission -- to surprise us all with a two-tenths of 1 percent (reduction) of the CPI (Consumer Price Index, the basis for calculating many social welfare payments). That would save $16 billion each year, starting -- well, when they get around to it."

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: There's a contradiction in cutting revenues while balancing the budget

And columnists Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover wrote: "Many voters also know there is a basic contradiction in cutting revenues while balancing the budget."
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