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Western Press Review: Sultry Breeze Across Europe Follows The Cold War

  • Don Hill



Prague, 28 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- "NATO and Russia blew away the last breath of the Cold War yesterday with an accord cementing East-West relations with a new security partnership," a staff-written news analysis in "The Times of London" says this morning. Most Western commentary today agrees.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yeltsin delivered a bombshell at an orchestrated signing ceremony

Carol J. Williams and Jonathan Peterson write in a news analysis that Boris Yeltsin managed to steal the show with an enigma. They say the Russian president "signed his country's historic post-Cold War charter with NATO (yesterday) and then upstaged even that act with a stunning declaration that he will remove all nuclear warheads currently threatening nations belonging to the Western alliance."

The writers go on: "Yeltsin's bombshell, delivered in Russian, met polite and confused applause from those gathered to endorse the charter that allows Russia to live with NATO expansion into East European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union's political orbit. It also set off a furious round of explanations among Russian and Western leaders and their top security advisers. Taken literally, Yeltsin's remarks suggested a step that would go beyond anything yet agreed to in arms-control negotiations.

"But doubts about their precise meaning, as well as his ability to carry them out, added a mystery to what was supposed to be a meticulously orchestrated signing ceremony."

TIMES OF LONDON: Yeltsin's penchant for springing surprises has recovered

The paper editorializes: "Boris Yeltsin's penchant for springing surprises on foreign leaders has recovered along with his health. His unscripted offer yesterday to cease targeting Russia's nuclear missiles at NATO members was of limited military significance; retargeting is an easy task. As has happened before, what Mr. Yeltsin actually said was more ambitious and had to be 'clarified' by his aides. But politically, this was a deft move."

WASHINGTON POST: The U.S. is not exactly sure what Yeltsin meant...

The paper excerpts a press briefing yesterday in Paris by U.S. presidential spokesman Mike McCurry illustrating that the White House was as mystified by Yeltsin's ad lib as were reporters. In the excerpt, McCurry says: "(Regarding) President Yeltsin's impromptu reference to removing warheads, we are not exactly sure what he meant by that. Apparently, the Russian presidential press spokesman has indicated now that he was making a reference to additional detargeting that the Russian Federation might undertake with respect to nonnuclear members of NATO. We still are not precisely sure what that clarification means."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: NATO should treat applicant nations respectfully



The paper editorializes that the NATO leadership, having treated Russia generously, now should seek to treat respectfully those nations that will be invited to join NATO in the first round, and those that will not. The newspaper says: "Once NATO has decided this summer on which countries will be invited to join, it should arrange for them to have some kind of presence at its Brussels headquarters." Also, the editorial says, the NATO Partnership for Peace ought to be used to link Ukraine and the Baltics more closely to the alliance. It says: "It would be tragic if the alliance's historic enlargement to the East were to confined them to a limbo susceptible to Russian bullying."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yeltsin can be applauded for his Paris surprise

Kurt Kister comments that the Yeltsin surprise was only symbolic but was importantly symbolic. Kister writes: "Yeltsin's gesture -- and that's all it was -- created some happy confusion and guaranteed he would be at the center of attention." The writer says, "In terms of realpolitik, deprogramming the target data from nuclear missiles does not mean much," but concludes, "Yet in nuclear strategy, even symbols have a certain meaning. Yeltsin can be applauded for his Paris surprise."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: A stable NATO-Russia partnership will not come merely from signing a document

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana says in a commentary that the signing is only a first toddle forward. Needed, he says, are strides in using the devices just created. He comments: "Clearly a stable and enduring NATO-Russia partnership will not come into being merely by signing a document, no matter how detailed and forward-looking. The partnership will grow by making full use of the new mechanisms."

Solana says in the commentary: "I am looking forward to Russia being represented at NATO on a standing basis, to make its points and to see with its own eyes what NATO is really about."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Albright knew Yeltsin's remarks were mistranslated



In a news analysis, Ray Mosely notes that the United States' matter-of-fact Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did not join the general confusion in Yeltsin's august international audience. He writes: "Later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who speaks Russian, said there had been a mistranslation, and American officials had received a clarification within minutes -- the warheads weren't being 'removed' but retargeted." The ceremony, Moseley writes, was " a scene impossible to imagine before the Berlin Wall collapsed just 7.5 years ago."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Clinton strains to sell his new vision for Europe as a kind of Marshall Plan II

Tyler Marshall writes in an analysis that President Clinton stretches history in linking the NATO-Russian Founding Act as a natural extension of the Truman-era Marshall Plan. The writer says: "From the start of his present European swing, President Clinton has tried to convey one overriding message: The historical parallel for his controversial initiative to redraw the security map of Europe is the Marshall Plan. Tactically, the comparison makes political sense."

He writes: "But as Clinton strains to sell his new vision for Europe as a kind of Marshall Plan II, it is the differences, not the similarities, in circumstances after 50 years that stand out."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: The signing opens the door for NATO to invite new members

Looking ahead, Gail Russell Chaddock writes in an analysis in the U.S. newspaper that the signing. "also opens the door for NATO to invite new members to join at a July summit in Madrid." She says: "While Yeltsin was in Paris signing an expanded NATO agreement, presidents of the Baltic countries, Poland, and Ukraine fired rhetorical shots from Tallinn, Estonia, underscoring their resolve that NATO should be open to them."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Slovenia -- the only country whose NATO candidacy does not antagonize Russia?

And Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, writing in a commentary makes a unique case for his Adriatic nation's bid for NATO membership. Slovenia, he writes, "is probably the only country whose candidacy does not antagonize Russia."

Drnovsek concludes: "We desire to join NATO because we wish to rejoin -- formally and institutionally -- the part of the world with which we have always shared the same basic social, economic, and political values. And we believe that with the inclusion of Slovenia, NATO would acquire a reliable ally and Slovenia would become a firm and stable component of NATO structures."
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