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Western Press Review: Madrid Triggers A Torrent Of Commentary

  • Don Hill

Prague, 9 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Although the outcome was as expected, NATO's deliberations in Madrid triggered a torrent of commentary in the Western press.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Lukashenka stands apart from optimistic leaders

The newspaper published yesterday a round-up of comments by international figures. Most emphasized the peaceful, stabilizing intent and probable effect of NATO enlargement. But Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenka remained irascibly opposed. The round-up quoted Lukashenka as saying: "NATO enlargement is probably the most questionable and short-sighted decision made by Western statesmen in the 20th century. The consequences of this step --the historic erroneousness of which I am deeply convinced-- will be borne by both today's and future generations."

Other, more affirmative comments in the WSJ's round-up:

Czech President Vaclav Havel: "What is now at stake is explaining the idea of collective European defense to citizens of all NATO member nations. Those who still have their doubts should understand that NATO membership is the best way to safeguard still-fragile democratic freedoms."

Vytautas Landsbergis, chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament: "Russian opposition to NATO's extended hand is an expression of the old xenophobic view of the evil West as the eternal enemy. This concept must pass."

Romanian President Emil Constantinescu: "The process of preparing for NATO enlargement has led, in less than four years, to a broad and profound stability and solidarity in Central Europe. Notably, this process started in the East and moved West."

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski: "The Madrid Summit is providing the right answer to the right set of questions concerning today's European dilemmas. (The Polish people) shall jointly contribute to making the new NATO a success."

Estonian President Lennart Meri: "The opening up and transformation of NATO is a necessity. It reflects the changed conditions in Europe, and its stated aim is to increase security in Europe. (Europe now is) looking beyond Madrid to the next round, where we see the Baltic States, Romania and Slovenia lining up."

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek: "I strongly believe that the early accession of Slovenia to NATO would add credibility to the enlargement process by confirming the alliance's basic purpose of enhancing peace and stability in Europe."

Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn: "The pillars of NATO and the European Union are the rule of law, democracy, pluralism, the market economy and respect for human rights. There is no gray zone along the perimeters of democracies."

Slovak President Michal Kovac: "It is extraordinarily important for candidates that will not be in the first wave of NATO enlargement that the process of close cooperation and communication with the North Atlantic Alliance not only continue but intensify in the near future. For that reason, I am especially pleased that the alliance plans to devote special attention to its future relationship with the out countries."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Madrid only ratifies the inevitable

The U.S. newspaper says today a changing NATO was a given and that the Madrid summit only ratified the inevitable. The daily's editorial says: "Tomorrow's NATO could be an insurance policy against a breakdown of order within Europe's wider neighborhood --benefiting everyone, non-members, members, those with a special relationship (that is, Russia), and neutrals alike." It continues: "NATO couldn't retain its cold-war identity. Change was inevitable, and not according to a clearly articulated step-by-step plan. Rather, it's coming ad hoc, on the heels of events. The end result could turn out well -- if the partnership with Russia is carefully nurtured, and if new members realize the responsibilities are at least as great as the benefits."

WASHINGTON POST: Controversial expansion dictated by history

Columnist Richard Cohen yesterday wrote that history dictated the Madrid decision. He wrote: "The list of reasons not to expand NATO is long and, in some cases, troubling. An expansion would be expensive, might antagonize Russia, might jeopardize arms control treaties and obligates the U.S. to come to the aid of people we hardly know in places both distant and unpronounceable. The list of reasons to expand NATO is much shorter but, in the end, persuasive --history." Cohen continued: "The risks attached to NATO expansion are outweighed by the benefits to Central Europe and, in the end, to the United States itself. It is best we stay involved now rather than, as twice before, having to get involved later. This debate about NATO enlargement is really about history --about making sure it stays in the past."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Alliance's mechanisms alien to disgruntled French

Commentator Josef Joffe writes in the German newspaper: "Like one of Pavlov's dogs, France has again reacted in its own sweet way, trying to run counter in the home stretch to decisions agreed long beforehand." Joffe says: "In three years of arduous negotiation NATO had agreed on three new members: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. France suddenly wanted to include Romania and Slovenia in the new membership package. France, which has since 1966 been only a half-member of the North Atlantic alliance, has clearly forgotten over the past 30 years just how the pact works. The tricky mechanisms by which measures are agreed upon and the process of give and take before they are reached have grown alien to the French."

He writes: "France is in an orbit all of its own and, as it continues to stay away from the pact's military integration, the ironic outcome is that in NATO's military bodies Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will soon count for more than 'la grande nation.' "

LONDON INDEPENDENT: NATO perhaps to embrace Russia in future

The newspaper says in an editorial: "With Russia's sulky acquiescence, NATO is expanding, and will expand further in the future -- perhaps, one day, to embrace Russia itself. Lost amid the quarrel over numbers is the far larger question of what the Alliance is for anyway." the newspaper says: "The minimalist answer is that the Alliance at least protects its members from each other and from themselves." It concludes: "Ever more probably, the military future of NATO lies as peacemaker and peace enforcer."

NEW YORK TIMES: Expansion only redraws European divisions

The NATO-expansion-skeptic New York Times stays consistent today. It says in an editorial: "Wherever expansion stops, a new division in Europe probably will develop. Draw the line at Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and the rest of Eastern Europe will be left out. Push it farther south, and Bulgaria may still remain outside. Move it east, and it hits the Russian border. From any such division, economic and political isolation of those left outside is bound to grow. Absent the Cold War with its hard military boundaries, Europe has slowly been moving toward the state of unity and peace that Bill Clinton seeks. Russia, the giant in the East, is today more democratic and less threatening than at any time in its history. Expanding NATO now may well complicate, if not undermine, the transformation of Europe."
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