Prague, 20 June 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Denver summit of seven most industrialized nations, expanded by the presence of Russia's President Boris Yeltsin for all but one hour of the three day conference in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, is the topic of widespread commentary in the US and European press.
WASHINGTON POST: Russia is still a guest, not a member
Peter Baker, commenting from Denver in The Washington Post writes, "imagine one of the most exclusive clubs in the community. You're dying to get in, but the establishment thinks you don't make enough money and your clothes aren't nice enough. Finally, after years of wheedling, they invite you to nearly every function, give you a seat at the table, even rename the annual dinner to reflect your presence. But for all of that, they still won't give you the membership card." Baker says that "on a geopolitical level, that is the situation" in Denver "as Russia joins the world's traditional industrial powers for the once-a-year summit of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations hosted by President Clinton and the United States through Sunday."
Baker notes that "while Western officials believe Yeltsin's government has made progress in stabilizing the Russian economy during its rocky transition from communism to capitalism, Moscow remains a recipient of international economic assistance rather than a creditor like the other countries on hand in Denver."
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Russia's integration with the G-7 remains a hope
Carol J. Williams writing from Denver in the Los Angeles Time comments that "with double-digit inflation, seven years of a shrinking gross domestic product, a propped-up currency and credit institutions still in their infancy in Russia, integration with the G-7 remains little more than a hope."
She notes that "fitting Russia into the fold of rich nations was a promise made by President Clinton during a meeting with Yeltsin in April. The pledge was widely regarded as a sop to the Kremlin leader for his acceptance of NATO expansion into countries that were once part of Moscow's political orbit." Trying to integrate struggling Russia into the world economy at this stage" she concludes, "conjures up an image of Cinderella's ugly stepsister trying to jam an oversized foot into the glass slipper."
NEW YORK TIMES: Russia must recognize its responsibilities
The New York Times columnist Flora Lewis comments: "President Yeltsin has promised President Bill Clinton to push for START-2 ratification, but he isn't doing anything. He should be reminded of his obligation to honor his commitment at the Denver meeting. Russia has responsibilities as well as needs. " She concludes "as they welcome him in Denver, the Western powers should make clear that they wish him well. But he must keep his word."
DAGENS NYHETER: Most important presence not Yeltsin, but Blair
Sweden's liberal daily Dagens Nyheter comments today on expectation for the Denver summit: "attention at this year's edition of the G-7 summit is above all directed at the fact that for the first time Boris Yeltsin is to participate as a full-fledged member... Russia has certainly little in common with the other seven. The Russians are supposedly getting this as a compensation for Yeltsin's having come to terms with the eastwards expansion of NATO...More importantly," the Stockholm daily adds, " will be the presence of a newcomer, British Prime Minister Tony Blair."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Summit will be significant for Blair
In a similar vein, the Wall Street Journal Europe's Nicholas Bray predicts "the most significant outcome of for Europe form the Denver summit is likely to be the opportunity it presents for British Prime Minister Tony Blair to pursue his campaign in favor of deregulation and training as a way of boosting growth and jobs."
LONDON'S FINANCIAL TIMES: Expectations for Summit are not high
Gerard Baker writing from Denver for London's Financial Times comments that expectations for the 'Summit of Eight' are not high. "At an altitude of 5,400 feet, Denver is known as the 'Mile-High City'. The achievements are not expected to match the surroundings, for all the novelty of the Russian's presence", Baker concludes, "mile high but an inch deep."
HANDELSBLATT: Russian role politically, not economically, important
A commentary from Moscow by Markus Ziener in the German business daily Handelsblatt says "the full acceptance of Russia into the Club of what until now has been the G7 is symbolic - it can have no additional significance for the foreseeable future.... Moscow's participation in the summit may be completely justified politically, but it is not quite justified from an economic perspective. Russia is in its sixth year of recession and is struggling to get on with necessary structural reforms."
Ziener says "the admission of Russia does not represent compensation for NATO expansion but rather a further logical step in development." He adds that, "formally expanded, the industrial club remains the Group of Seven in key matters of financial and economic policy.... While Russia can only win and has nothing to lose through membership in the G-8, its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which US President Bill Clinton has set his sights on for 1998, would really be fatal."
Ziener concludes that "In contrast to the G-8, the WTO is not a mere debating club but rather it gives its members rights as well as duties. And these duties such as further liberalization of duties and markets, will hardly be to the taste of Russia's fleeced economy."
DER STANDARD: American and the seven dwarfs
In Austria, the liberal Viennese daily "Der Standard" in a commentary entitled "America and the Seven Dwarfs" says: "today is a special day of triumph for Boris Yeltsin: for the first time he is in the exclusive circle of leading industrial countries as a nearly equal partner, not just as a tolerated guest. It may be all the same that Russia is not sitting at the table in Denver on the basis of its economic power, but rather as the result of political deals which the West paid up on to gain Moscow's agreement to NATO's eastwards expansion."
LA STAMPA: In Denver, G-7 will decide on becoming G-8
The Italian daily La Stampa from Turin comments "The summit in Denver has all the prerequisites for becoming a turning point in the history of the G 7... NATO is expanding and will continue to do so. But in Denver Russia will in exchange get an entry ticket to the most exclusive club of creditors and to international economic and financial organizations. Above all, in Denver the G 7 will decide on becoming eight and that's how it's going to remain." The Italian paper concludes "Boris Yeltsin is the first and the last to join"
The political situation in Turkey is also food for thought for several commentators.
NEW YORK TIMES: Balancing politicians, king makers, and generals
Stephen Kinzer, writing from Istanbul in The New York Times comments that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's choice of successor to the departing Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan "could have profound effects on the future of Turkey." He says that in Turkey's "highly charged climate... the dictates of tradition will probably not weigh too heavily on Demirel's mind. Instead, he must balance the determination of Islamic politicians, the power of various king makers, and the desire of the military for a strictly secular government."
Kinzer notes "all three of the country's major political figures are seen as having heavy liabilities. Erbakan is intolerable to the military, Mrs. (Tansu) Ciller is weighed down by her collaboration with Erbakan and by allegations of corruption, all of which she has denied, and (center-right Motherland party leader Mesut) Yilmaz is seen in many quarters as an ineffective leader."
Kinzer concludes that "if modern Turkey has a political patriarch, it is certainly Demirel. Portly, jowly and quintessentially pragmatic, he is universally known as 'baba,' or father. He has been prime minister seven times, more than anyone else in Turkish history. This week, however, he is faced with a task as weighty as any he has confronted in his long career."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Islamism is at its beginning, not end
A commentary from Istanbul by Wolfgang Koydl in Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says that despite Erbakan's resignation yesterday "the Islamist experiment in Turkey is at its very beginning. The foundations were set years ago, the ground floor of the building was erected over the last 12 months.... Turkey really has changed in the past year. Just the fact that an Islamist was leading the government of the Turkish republic would previously have been unthinkable. For Erbakan every day in power was a day that was won and not even he reckoned that he would be able to rule for so long. Just as the secular parties before them, his Welfare Party used the time to install its own people in the state bureaucracy."