Accessibility links

Western Press Review: Hatching Europe's Phoenix--The Marshall Plan

  • Don Hill

Prague, 29 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The current issue of the U.S. weekly "Newsweek" says in a special report on the occasion of the Marshall Plan's 50th anniversary: "The Marshall Plan was the work of giants, and a rare act of generosity by one nation to others." Other Western commentary recalls the plan and its effects, analyzes yesterday's celebrations, and critiques today's leadership in comparison to that of 1947.

NEWSWEEK: Eastern Europeans led lives stunted by terror

The commentary continues: "It is right to remember, too, that the Marshall Plan did only half the job. For while the people of Western Europe got rich and happy, two generations of their cousins to the East led lives that were stunted and punctuated by terror. It is fitting that the celebrations of the Marshall Plan should have been preceded by the announcement, last week, of an accord between NATO and Russia -- an accord that will allow Central and Eastern European nations to join the Atlantic alliance and that may forge a new relationship between that alliance and Russia."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Clinton calls for support for the struggles against crime and corruption

The London paper applauds today in an editorial U.S. President Bill Clinton's call in The Hague yesterday for new "concrete support" for struggles in Eastern and Central Europe "against crime and corruption, (for) stronger checks and balances against arbitrary power, and (for) backing for free and fair elections, free media and civic groups."

The newspaper says: "Such support is not as visible as Marshall aid. But if there is one lesson which can be drawn from the post-war experience, it is that the environment in which markets operate is at least as important as the money that is pumped into them."

TIMES OF LONDON: The EU is not ready to go it alone on foreign policy

Writing today, a U.S. scholar takes a less approving view. Yale University historian Diane Kunz writes dubiously of what her commentary calls: "Bill's Marshall Plan -- You Foot the Bill."

She comments: "Yesterday President Clinton used the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan to call for a new venture in economic diplomacy." Kunz says: "He proposes that the European Union and private investors take the lead in creating a new economic initiative, this time to Eastern Europe and Russia." But, she says: "as the events of the past five years have proven, the EU is not ready to go it alone when it comes to foreign policy. For any new plan to succeed, the United States must play a role and pay a share."

Kunz writes: "Perhaps Clinton will be able to break with recent tradition and create an American coalition in favor of a peacetime prophylactic foreign policy. But I wouldn't bet on it."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Clinton's program is designed to glorify its authors

Columnist William Pfaff, writing today, is even more dismissive. He comments: "The new Clinton Adminstration program is spiritually empty because fundamentally unserious, unrealistic and vainglorious, designed to glorify its authors and reward the Administration's clients. There is no need for it, nor any desire for it among either allies or former enemies. Its promotion at the zenith of American power will generate the enmities that the abuse of power invites."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: 1998 may become the year of Russia's 'stab in the back'

David Reynolds is a fellow of Cambridge University's Christ's College. He writes in a commentary carried today that the West's military posture courts the separatist downside of the Marshall Plan without its offsetting benefits. He comments: "The Marshall Plan was a defining moment of Europe's early Cold War. (It) was about reassurance as much as recovery. (But) also division." He asks: "Will historians 50 years from now use the same conceptual dualism to assess the decisions made in 1997 about NATO enlargement?"

Reynolds says: "The key issue for Russian stability and European peace is not whether the West doles out concessions to Moscow -- as it has done of late -- but whether it helps to draw Russia into the practices of democracy, civil society and market capitalism. If the West continues to make military posture the focus of its post-Cold War policy, 1998 may become Russia's equivalent of Germany's 1919 'stab in the back.' "

WASHINGTON POST: The Dutch opened their doors to Americans

Several writers analyze yesterday's celebrations in the Netherlands. Anne Swardson writes: "As part of the Dutch celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, Rotterdam opened its doors to thank Americans just for being who they were and doing what they did." She says: "If the affair smacked a tad of commercialism, if there was a touch of self-promotion for Rotterdam and its port in the whole enterprise -- well, no one here seemed to care. The Dutch didn't build a reputation as traders on nothing, and the good feeling toward the United States seemed sincere."

She writes: "Few nations in Europe have a less complicated and more appreciative relationship with the United States than the Netherlands. In a land where the majority of the population speaks English, American products are consumed without guilt, and the United States is the No. 1 foreign tourist destination, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Marshall Plan has been an occasion for celebration for weeks."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton did not match his declaration with a pledge of funds

Swardson's colleague John F. Harris writes, in a separate analysis: "President Clinton joined some two dozen government leaders from across Europe (yesterday) to pay tribute to the Marshall Plan." Harris analysis continues: "Cutting through the air of nostalgia (yesterday) was a more topical question: What should the wealthy nations of the West do to help lift the new democracies of Eastern Europe, just now emerging from the shadows of Soviet-era repression? Clinton declared that 'America and Europe must complete the noble journey that Marshall's generation began, and this time with no one left behind.' But Clinton did not match the declaration with a pledge of funds."

TIMES OF LONDON: The desire of eastern countries to join the rich Western family was clear

Writing from The Hague, Charles Bremner notes: "The desire of Central and Eastern European countries to be embraced by the rich Western family was clear in the turnout of heads of state and government here yesterday. Twenty Presidents and Prime Ministers from the former Soviet bloc and southeast Europe were on hand to hear Mr. Clinton, while only seven of the EU's 15 leaders made the trip."