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Western Press Review: Commentary Looks To Baltics

  • Don Hill



Prague, 16 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Commentators and analysts in the U.S. and British press give considerable attention in recent days to the Baltic states. The Western press ranges also over a variety of other issues.

WASHINGTON POST: Baltic leaders collect a consolation prize

Thomas W. Lippman wrote yesterday in a Washington Post news analysis about a visit today by the presidents of the three Baltic republics -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- to the U.S. White House. He said the Baltic leaders were "to collect a consolation prize in their quest for full integration into the economic and security institutions of the West." Lippman wrote: "Each of the countries wants membership in NATO. What they will get, in a White House ceremony with President Clinton (today), is a 'Charter of Partnership' in which the United States will endorse their aspiration in principle while making clear that membership in the Atlantic alliance is at best a long-term proposition."

WASHINGTON POST: They have been rebuffed because they are smaller and closer to Russia

The Washington Post said in an editorial yesterday that the charter signifies a new recognition of U.S. partnership with the Baltics. It said: "Of the newly liberated nations of Europe, none has worked harder or staked a more deserving claim to be included in the institutions of the democratic West than the tiny Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania." The editorial said: "To the extent they have been rebuffed, it is not because they are less deserving than Poland or Hungary but because they are smaller and closer to Russia. Many in Moscow still regard the three Baltic nations as lying within Russia's sphere of influence. This may be historically understandable, but it is morally unacceptable."

The newspaper concluded: "As Estonian President Lennart Meri pointed out this week, the three Baltic nations, by championing democracy and free markets, are in fact strengthening European and thus U.S. security in a very real way. Perhaps the most important aspect of this charter is that it recognizes that fact - recognizes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania not as problems to be managed but as partners to work with."

GUARDIAN: The charter signing comes closer to reality

In a news analysis from Moscow, James Meeks contends today in The London Guardian that the charter signing has long-term significance for NATO expansion. He writes: "A further eastward expansion of NATO's borders, taking it within two hours' drive of St. Petersburg, comes closer to reality today when (U.S.) President Bill Clinton signs a charter promising U.S. support for the membership applications of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

WASHINGTON POST: The Baltic countries have been a kind of litmus test



Estonian President Lennart Meri himself comments in the Washington Post yesterday that NATO should act promptly. Meri wrote: "The U.S. has put far more energy into freeing our nations than would seem plausible simply judging by our small size. That is because both the American government and the American people have long understood that for much of our history in this century, the Baltic countries have been a kind of litmus test about the direction in which Europe was moving." He said: "Within a few weeks, the U.S. Senate will begin pondering full NATO membership for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, a development applauded by the Baltic states. At the same time, an equally challenging issue, that of future accession for the Baltic states to the Alliance, looms on the horizon."

Meri recalled: "When NATO, led by the United States, committed itself in Madrid to a Europe without buffer zones, the Alliance indicated that it sees the Baltic states as prospective members of NATO." And he concluded: "NATO is not given to empty declarations. Rather, it maintains credibility through action. So does the United States. It is time to implement NATO's call for integration of the Baltics. It is time to turn our backs on the Cold War and face the future."

WASHINGTON POST: Adamkus's electoral success arose from a struggle over Lithuania's identity

U.S. emigre Valdas Adamkus retired last year after a career as a U.S. bureaucrat. Now, on returning to his native Lithuania, he is a political phenomenon, Daniel Williams writes today in a profile in The Washington Post. Williams says of the newly-elected Lithuanian president: "Adamkus's electoral success arose from a struggle over Lithuania's identity. The country desperately wants to leave behind any vestige of its Soviet history, Lithuanians say, and an Adamkus presidency lets them project a new image to the world."

The profile says: "His platform, while pro-market, was more vague than his rival's. As an outsider he carried little political baggage and campaigned as an independent, even while bearing the standard of the Center Union party. He also could maintain distance from a series of corruption scandals in recent governments." It quotes Adamkus as saying that "realistically, his country will not be invited to join NATO until sometime early in the next century. In the meantime, he said, Lithuania should build up its strength. 'That way, we won't go in as beggars,' he said."

TIMES: Mr. Milosevic's regime received a stinging rebuke

The Times of London carries a news analysis about the Balkans today by Tom Walker, who writes that "Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic came under personal attack from Robert Gelbard, the U.S. envoy to the Balkans." Walker writes: "Mr. Milosevic's regime received a stinging rebuke from Mr Gelbard, who blamed him and his Socialist protege, Momir Bulatovic, for fomenting riots in Montenegro. Forty-four injured policemen were recovering yesterday in Podgorica, the capital, after hired Socialist mobs stormed the government offices of Mr. Djukanovic. Washington and international monitors insist he is the legitimately elected successor to Mr. Bulatovic."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Will Croatia's nationalist government protect Serbs ?

From Vukovar in Croatia, the Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson writes today in a news analysis: "The Croatian government took control of its entire territory (yesterday) for the first time since declaring independence six and a half years ago and was admonished by U.S. officials to protect the rights of its minority Serbs." She says: "The test now is whether Croatia's nationalist government, which has often worked to rid the country of its ethnic Serb citizens, will live up to its promises to protect Serbs from vengeful Croats and include Serbs in Eastern Slavonia's police force, judiciary and public administration."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: It is difficult not to become cynical

The Frankfurter Rundschau focuses on Algeria today in a commentary from Madrid by Axel Veiel, who says the situation in Algeria following horrible massacres is virtually hopeless given the resistance of the nation's leaders to a realistic investigation of the terror. Veiel writes: "It is difficult not to become cynical. After all, here is a country negotiating for a treaty of association with the European Union (EU) in which people are being massacred in their hundreds almost every day." He writes: "So what can be done to exert influence? Economic threats are hardly likely to have any effect. The Algerian coffers are bulging because of record income from gas and oil. Sanctions would run a risk of weakening even further a discredited regime, of strengthening the terrorists and encouraging them to even greater acts of barbarism."
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