Accessibility links

Western Press Review: Dailies Offer Varied Topics From Yeltsin To Estonia

By Jeremy Bransten/Dora Slaba

Prague, 27 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- After weeks of commentary concentrated on Iraq, the pages of Western dailies offer a little more variety today. Russia, Albania and even Estonia are all featured, in addition to continuing commentary about the Gulf.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yeltisn's like a king playing with soldiers

Vanora Bennett, of the Los Angeles Times, reports from Moscow on what she terms the "latest bizarre behavior" of President Boris Yeltsin. After a 90-minute scolding of his ministers on Thursday, and a warning that heads were about to roll, the Russian leader suddenly walked out of a top-level cabinet meeting, leaving Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to pick up the pieces. Bennett quotes Russian political observer Leonid Radzhikhovsky who says that 'like a king playing with soldiers, Yeltisn's playing with his toy ministers, reshuffling some, hiring some, firing others. Like this, he creates the illusion of tireless activity and at the same time entertains himself."

NEW YORK TIMES: Chernomyrdin's speech seemed to serve as a dress-rehearsal

Alessandra Stanley, writing in The New York Times, notes that Chernomyrdin's speech after the Yeltsin walk-out, which was carried live by two state-owned television networks "seemed to serve as a dress-rehearsal for a more visible, touchy-feely presentation by the stolid prime minister."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE RUNDSCHAU: The President fancies himself in the role of an absolute Tsarist ruler

The Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes in a combined report and editorial from Moscow: "Yeltsin again displayed his unpredictability and his bent for ad hoc policy. His behavior arouses misgivings as to whether the President is holding the reigns of power in his hand."

The paper continues: "The Russian President presents himself and his government under Byzantine TV direction as ridiculous. Under the eyes of his underlings, Yeltsin declares that one or the other minister will be banned from politics, then does it, or doesn't - and is amazed that the Duma dominated by the opposition takes the decrees from the Kremlin ever less seriously. The authority loss of the cabinet makes Russia...more and more of a farce, while the President fancies himself in the role of an absolute Tsarist ruler."

The paper notes that although Chernomyrdin is being positioned as Yeltsin's heir-apparent, he too is suffering from the Russian leader's strange behavior: "Here even the patient Chernomyrdyn is beginning to suffer which is indicated by his most recent appeal to the ministers to take as their example the legendary Field Marshal Suvorov and like him on behalf of Catherine the Great to fight the great battle to beat the Russia of Tsar Boris. It cannot be disputed that the present obstacles to reform are in some respects similar to those days. That they are difficult to surmount can be ascribed less to the cabinet than the politically erratic behavior of the top ruler."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: The ever same conspiracy theories clarify nothing...

Meanwhile, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine, in a report on the latest disturbances in Shkoder, Albania, says the only thing that is certain is that events and their causes remain as confusing as ever in that country: "This is not the first time that the background, events and the consequences of an important event in Albania remain in the dark, or at least in semi-darkness. It is difficult to judge what brought the unrest in Shkoder about, who was pulling the strings and what impact it will have in the aftermath. The explanation given by Interior Minister Ceka, according to whom the unrest was the work of Albanian terrorists, backed up by foreign secret service, holds little water."

The German paper continues: "The ever same conspiracy theories clarify nothing... And there is one more thing worth noting. In Albania the battle is simultaneously unrelenting and in a strange way unusual. It is no contradiction that the top bickerers who during the day stand on the public stage accused of the betrayal of the nation...carry on animated conversations in the evening at a reception for the diplomatic corps in the Platze Hotel, as if they were all the best of friends."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Those who depend on America at least have the right to expect a leadership that is strong and beneficent

Shifting back to the Gulf, Ray Moseley, chief European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, mulls over the broader question of American might in the 1990s. Mosley says the recent crisis over Iraq "raises familiar questions as to why other people, and other nations, are often so hostile to this seemingly well-meaning colossus" that is the United States. Moseley notes that the long-term record of the United States "is one of pride" but, he adds, "its present behavior sometimes can seem appalling." Moseley says America, following the end of the Cold War appears to "be turning toward a kind of selfish nationalism with overtones of big-power arrogance." And, he adds, "when other arguments have failed to persuade, U.S. officials sometimes have resorted to the assertion that because the U.S. has strongly held beliefs, the actions that flow from those beliefs are self-evidently right.

Moseley notes that this attitude, combined with a "lack of coherence" in American foreign policy often results in a negative attitude from many of our once staunch allies. "In short," he writes, "a failure of the world community to march in lock step behind the U.S. in its handling of this crisis should not be seen as due entirely to a lack of courage on the part of other nations...Those who depend on America at least have the right to expect a leadership that is strong and beneficent and doesn't offend by an overweening sense of importance."

IRISH TIMES: Estonia has provided an example of what a small country can do if allowed to go about its business without interference

Lastly, the Irish Times today devotes one of its commentaries to what it terms "Estonian Success." The paper uses the occasion of Estonia's recent 80th anniversary celebrations to marvel at the country's progress, since it regained its independence seven years ago, especially in the sphere of economics: "While its Baltic neighbors in Latvia and Lithuania busied themselves with changing street and road signs in the immediate aftermath of Soviet withdrawal, Estonia set out on a more practical course by introducing the extremely stable kroon...consequently it gained a truly remarkable success by being included in the first wave of countries with which the European Union will negotiate membership beginning in April."

The paper continues: "In emerging from the dominance of its neighbor and satisfying the EU that it is a serious contender for membership, Estonia has provided a striking example of what a small country can do if allowed to go about its business without interference." And the Irish Times concludes by noting that Tallinn may even offer an example for Dublin: "By achieving so much in its short period of independence, Estonia may have provided this island with some important lessons."