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Western Press Review: Kiriyenko Establishes Himself; Mystery Surrounds Plavsic

  • Don Hill

Prague, 8 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A smorgasbord of events from the detention of Bosnian President Biljana Plavsic to the new Russian cabinet attract Western press commentary.

DIE WELT: Was there once an arrest warrant ?

Boris Kalnoky writes in a commentary from Budapest in Germany's Die Welt that the action of the "conscientious Austrians" in detaining Plavsic is an international mystery. He says: "Ten minutes in the life of Bosnian President Biljana Plavsic have caused the Hague War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia serious embarrassment -- either that or it is the Austrian police who badly need to come up with an explanation. The only thing that is clear is that Austrian border officials detained Plavsic for about 10 minutes at Vienna's Schwechat airport on Wednesday. "The reason, officials in Vienna said, was an international arrest warrant for her dating from August 1995 issued because she was suspected of having participated in genocide. Austrian authorities later said that, after a telephone talk with two tribunal judges, the green light was given for Plavsic to travel on. Her arrest warrant was still valid but could not currently be executed. The situation was odd enough as it was. It became even more curious when a little later the tribunal officially and categorically denied having ever even applied for an arrest warrant for Plavsic."

Kalnoky writes: "It is clear that the conscientious Austrians did not hold a state president just for the exercise. Was there once an arrest warrant which is no longer politically expedient to have?"

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO's future as a security management institution could be even brighter

Two U.S. professors take up the question of NATO expansion in the Los Angeles Times. It makes sense, they say, only if you think of NATO no longer as an alliance against a common enemy but regard it now as an institution for managing the common security. Robert O. Keohane, professor of political science at Duke University, and Celeste A. Wallander, associate professor of government at Harvard University, write: "Now that the U.S. Senate has approved the expansion of NATO, we may ask: What sort of NATO is expanding?"

They say: "If NATO were simply a military alliance, the most plausible interpretation of its expansion would be aggressive: that NATO members were taking advantage of Russian weakness to expand NATO's sphere of influence at Russia's expense. No wonder Russian politicians and generals have been vehemently opposed to NATO's plans. NATO expansion makes more sense if we see NATO as in the process of being transformed from a military alliance to a security management institution. Security management institutions develop procedures that facilitate joint operations and promote trust among the bureaucracies of the countries involved."

The writers conclude: "Viewing NATO as an emerging security management institution makes sense of U.S. policy. As Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said last year, 'NATO does not need an enemy. It has enduring purposes.' Alliances are pointless without enemies; security management institutions seek to create situations in which enemies do not arise. NATO's future as a security management institution could be even brighter than its past as a military alliance."

DIE WELT: Newcomers to power bring their cronies from back home with them

The new Kiriyenko government in Russia elicits commentary from Jens Hartmann in today's Die Welt and an editorial in yesterday's Washington Post. Hartmann says the appointments are merely traditional Russian cronyism with new and younger cronies. He writes: "It is something of a tradition in Moscow that newcomers to power bring their cronies from back home with them and appoint their own people to key positions."

The writer says: "Newly-elected Premier Sergei Kiriyenko has now brought a new team with him to the Russian capital. It hails, as he does, from Nizhny Novgorod. Yesterday, at the first meeting of the new cabinet, a beaming Boris Nemtsov took his seat alongside Kiriyenko as deputy premier. Nemtsov used to be governor of Nizhny Novgorod, where he and Kiriyenko knew each other."

Hartmann writes: "Kiriyenko must also take care to ensure that he is not crushed by the power captains of industry in Moscow. Opposition leader Gennady Zyuganov has dubbed him 'head of a kindergarten,' while "Nezavissimaya Gazeta" mockingly asked whether the next head of government might not be a tamagotchi (eds: Japanese computer-driven pet). Over and above his crew from Nizhny Novgorod Kiriyenko so far has only President Yeltsin himself on whom to rely for support. But Yeltsin is so unpredictable that he is hardly a safe guarantee of political survival."

WASHINGTON POST: The newcomers are almost uniformly young and pro-reform

The Washington Post' editorial hailed the new team as pragmatic, non-ideological and free of the old oligarchic control. The newspaper said: "Russian President Boris Yeltsin yesterday was putting the finishing touches on his new cabinet -- and it's a striking team. Past Russian governments have been coalitions of pro- and anti-reform elements, almost designed to produce stalemate. The newcomers are almost uniformly young and pro-reform, with experience not in Communist bureaucracy but in post-Soviet business and local government. They are pragmatic, not ideological, and they are not under the control of Moscow's oligarchs."

The editorial said: "Youth and inexperience can be handicaps, of course. But in Russia, so can experience; anyone with more than a decade of government service grew up with five-year plans and crackdowns on "speculators." Just as important, the new team seems relatively independent of the financial titans who amassed wealth by buying state assets cheap as the Soviet system crumbled and who now expect favored access to the public trough in perpetuity. The Kiriyenko government can be expected to promote a fairer, more open and hands-off relationship with business."