Prague,17 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday heard a plea from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to broaden their vision. But Western press commentary and analysis today suggest that the secretary got more rolling of eyes in response than widening.
NEW YORK TIMES: Albright's words met with interest but also reserve
In a New York Times news analysis, Craig Whitney writes from Brussels: "As the NATO allies signed agreements (yesterday) with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to bring them into the alliance, (Albright) urged a wider NATO strategy to deal with the threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Albright was clearly referring to countries like Iraq and Iran, which the European allies have been increasingly uneasy about confronting with ultimatums and sanctions. And historically, the United States has never been able to get the allies to agree to let NATO play even a supporting role in the Middle East. So Albright's words, as the allies prepare to revise a NATO basic strategy that was last changed just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was met with interest but also reserve, diplomats said."
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The principal achievement of the meeting was the signing of protocols of accession
In the Chicago Tribune, Ray Mosely writes in an analysis that Albright's timing may have inhibited her reception. Mosely says: "The secretary of state's remarks about U.S.-European cooperation came just weeks after most European nations reacted with a lack of enthusiasm to U.S. threats of military action against Iraq when it temporarily suspended cooperation with United Nations weapons inspectors." Instead of her emphasis, Mosely says: "The principal achievement of the meeting was the signing of protocols of accession to NATO by Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic. This opens the way to ratification by NATO parliaments of membership for these nations, which NATO hopes will happen in time for its 50th anniversary summit to be held in Washington in April 1999."
WASHINGTON POST: Albright's call for NATO to expand its strategic domain into the Middle East caught her colleagues by surprise
U.S. impatience may have contributed to Albright's agenda, William Drozdiak's analysis suggests in The Washington Post. He writes: "Albright's remarks reflected U.S. frustration in sustaining an international coalition against Iraq's refusal to allow U.N. inspectors full access to all suspected weapons storage sites. She stressed that the Clinton administration viewed the Iraqi crisis as a key test of NATO's willingness to stand together to defend vital Western interests." Drozdiak says: "Albright's call for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to expand its strategic domain into the Middle East caught her colleagues by surprise. NATO's European members historically have been skittish about objectives or missions that stretch beyond Europe."
The analysis says also: "But Albright appeared to be laying the foundation for an expanded security framework at a time when the alliance will need to consider a second round of expansion to embrace more countries in Eastern and Southern Europe."
GUARDIAN: There was no hint of any renewed determination to arrest the remaining war criminals
London Guardian correspondent Martin Walker writes from Brussels that the NATO ministers also grappled with extending the SFOR mandate in Bosnia but were virtually silent on the issue of war criminals there. He writes in an analysis: "NATO began drafting a plan yesterday for a long-haul military commitment to Bosnia with a slimmed-down force remaining indefinitely, but the U.S. secretary of state warned that for the United States to stay the course, its European allies 'must do much, much more.' " The analysis continues: "However, beyond building an extra courtroom for the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, there was no hint of any renewed determination to arrest the remaining war criminals, nor to press the French to pursue arrests in their zone."
LOS ANGELES TIMES: 'It ain't over 'til the president says so.'
The Los Angeles Times' Norman Kempster quotes Albright as telling the foreign ministers in Brussels that the United States supports the Bosnia SFOR presence because NATO needs to face the real challenges of the present as well as hypothetical future challenges. "With words like that," Kempster writes in an analysis, "it would seem to be difficult for Washington to pull out its troops until stability is restored in Bosnia, but Albright told a news conference at NATO headquarters here: 'It ain't over 'til the president says so.' Although the military commanders were told to consider four options --including withdrawal-- the ministers and their advisers made it clear that some sort of NATO-led military force, probably somewhat smaller than the one now in place, will remain in Bosnia."
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Europe needs to come to grips with creating a firmer special relationship with Turkey
The Christian Science Monitor links in an editorial the issues of European Union rejection of Turkey's application for membership and Turkey's role as a strategic anchor for NATO. The U.S. newspaper says: "Europe, having depended heavily on Turkey as NATO's strong anchor during the cold war, kept delaying the marriage it had dangled in front of Ankara. There was engagement, yes: a customs union, and promises of more. But the ceremony date was ever receding. And last week the fianc�e rebelled. Turkey angrily rejected a proposed conference with Europe that looked like a sop to cover the fact that Cyprus and five nations from the old Soviet bloc had been invited to start membership talks with the European Union and five others were offered preparatory talks."
The editorial says: "Europe needs to come to grips with creating a firmer special relationship with Turkey, which has served so faithfully in NATO, supplied guest workers, and tried over many decades to become more European. Obviously there must be some bounds to the EU. No one is suggesting a Europe from the Sahara to the pole and Atlantic to Urals. But the deal worked out with Russia on NATO suggests that a way could be found to bring Turkey a step nearer, economically, culturally, and politically."
TIMES: Bosnia is becoming Britain's second Northern Ireland
A columnist for The Times of London argues that Britain, for one, is being embroiled in a Bosnian mission without a foreseeable end. Sarajevo is becoming Britain's Ulster of the Balkans, he charges. Commentator Simon Jenkins writes: "This week marks the anniversary of the breaking of the first deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Bosnia, in December 1996. The Government is soon expected to announce the breaking of the second, which expires in June next year. This is anticipated in a report from the House of Commons Select Committee on Defense. It says the troops should stay there for ever, or words to that effect. Britain now has 5,300 soldiers in the Balkans, half as many as in Ulster. (When) Douglas Hurd sent the first 1,000 in 1992, he promised that their mission was limited to escorting humanitarian convoys. A year later the number was 2,500. Since then the expedition has experienced the usual mission creep. Bosnia is becoming Britain's second Northern Ireland."