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Western Press Review: Irish And Russian Affairs Provoke Comments

  • Elizabeth Weinstein

Prague, 4 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Ireland's warm reception Thursday of U.S. President Bill Clinton comes as a welcome relief after his much-criticized summit in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The Western press today focuses mainly on Clinton's influence on the Northern Ireland peace process and the latest disarmament moves by Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams. Commentators also continue their analysis of the Clinton/Yeltsin summit and the Russian economic crisis.

IRISH TIMES: Clinton deserves the thanks and appreciation of the Irish people

The Irish Times today carries a glowing editorial touting Clinton's close relationship with Ireland and his involvement in the peace process. It says: "His (Clinton's) involvement and commitment, as spelled out in his address at the Waterfront Hall, seem certain to copper-fasten the Irish-American relationship, giving it an importance that can be expected to last well into the next century and making this country the envy of many other larger ones for the access it enjoys in the U.S."

It concludes: "Mr. Clinton will naturally hope to gain domestic political kudos from his Irish policy, which stands out as one of his most successful foreign policy involvements. For that, he deserves the thanks and appreciation of the Irish people. We are fortunate recipients of that disposition, never found before in the same degree in any American president."

TIMES: Mr. Trimble cannot permit Sinn Fein to enter the Northern Ireland executive on its own terms

An editorial in The Times of London today discusses Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' statement this week that the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), considers violence to be a "thing of the past." The editorial says leaders in the conflict should treat the move positively, but cautiously.

The paper says: "His (Clinton's) impending arrival was doubtless the catalyst for Gerry Adams' statement on Tuesday -- since reinforced in characteristically forceful terms to his republican opponents-- and for the appointment of Martin McGuinness to liaise with the disarmament commission. The President's unambiguous call for full decommissioning and an end to punishment beatings will have been warmly welcomed by Ulster democrats of all stripes."

The editorial concludes by calling for Northern Ireland Protestant leader David Trimble to focus on the decommissioning process as a way of testing Adams' intentions. It says: "Mr. Trimble cannot permit Sinn Fein to enter the Northern Ireland executive on its own terms as a confidence-building gesture towards skeptical members of the IRA. The process of decommissioning must be initiated before either Mr. Adams or Mr. McGuinness can be permitted a position of power....It would now be legitimate for Mr. Trimble to engage Sinn Fein directly and discuss how decommissioning might be achieved. This is probably the best means of testing the scope and sincerity of Republican intentions. It would, inevitably, be a controversial meeting. There is enough evidence from this week's activities to suggest that it is worth the risk."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: It makes no sense to withdraw from the agreement at this stage

Paul Bew writes in London's Daily Telegraph that "at long last" pressure by the American, Irish and British governments seems to have paid off through Sinn Fein's agreement to participate in decommissioning. Bew writes: "Increasingly, the division is between those who --in principle-- desire to see Sinn Fein in government and those who retain a visceral dislike of that prospect under any circumstances. Some of Mr. Trimble's internal critics are upping the stakes - one senior party officer claimed at the weekend that, even with decommissioning, Sinn Fein should not be allowed into the government of Northern Ireland."

Bew continues: "Even if Sinn Fein is insincere about peaceful methods, or proves to be insincere, it makes no sense to withdraw from the agreement at this stage. In the worst-case scenario --a republican return to violence-- Unionists are much better placed to cope if the institutions of the agreement are in place. One other dangerous scenario - that the political agenda would be determined by the violence of republican splinter groups (in effect, enhancing the bargaining power of the Adams faction within government) - is now less likely as a result of the reaction to the Omagh outrage."

Bew concludes with commentary on Clinton: "Those Unionists who are uneasy about the influence of his presidency might do well to reflect that the United States has acted as a supporter of precisely the sort of constitutional settlement - based, above all, on the principle of consent - that the British Government had in its mind's eye long before the election of Bill Clinton."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Mr. Trimble is expected to move his defenses

An analysis by John Murray Brown in today's Financial Times says that Sinn Fein's declaration has increased the likelihood of a meeting between Adams and Trimble. Brown discusses the expectations each man would bring to negotiations: "Sinn Fein officials insist the ball is now in Mr. Trimble's court, while unionists will want to see more evidence of their conversion."

"Mr. Trimble is expected to move his defenses. The next test will be whether he will agree to sit with Sinn Fein in the executive with the other parties. The process could still founder on this issue. One of Mr. Trimble's key aides said yesterday the party would want to see "verifiable" disarmament by the IRA before Sinn Fein can take its seats."

Commentators also continue analyze today the recent summit in Moscow.

WASHINGTON POST: Why should America stand in Russia's way?

A commentary in the Washington Post by Charles Krauthammer wonders why Clinton flew into what Krauthammer calls a "swamp," to tell Russians to endure more pain in the midst of their economic crisis. Krauthammer says Russia is to blame for its own problems and the West should let Russia learn from its own mistakes.

He writes: "If Russia wants to renationalize industry, default on foreign loans and return to some kind of semi-command economy, why should America stand in the way? The result will be a weak, declining Russia. In the long run and in the coldest geopolitical terms, this is not a bad outcome for America."

"If the Russians choose the easier path --a government controlled and subsidized economy that recalls once common Latin American-style autocracy and stagnation-- that is their choice. It will produce a feeble Russia less able to rebuild its military, threaten its enemies and challenge the United States."

Krauthammer concludes: "If the Russians want to choose the gradual decline that comes with more state control, why say "no"? Why go to Russia and advocate surgery without anesthesia? If they are going to suffer, and they surely are, let it be by a means of their own choosing."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: America must do what it can to get Russia and itself out of their paralyzing binds

Flora Lewis' commentary in the International Herald Tribune takes the opposing viewpoint. She says Clinton, who's presidency is scarred by personal troubles, must spearhead the effort to help Russia out of its current crisis.

Lewis writes: "It (the West) cannot avoid interfering on programmatic issues if it is to keep providing credit. To cut off aid would also be a form of interference. It is something of an irony that at the end of century whose worst problems were caused by autocratic and dictatorial leaders, weakness at the top is the problem now for these two countries. Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin face recalcitrant, hostile legislatures, and legislatures are inherently poor at statesmanship."

She concludes: "The names of the leaders don't matter all that much, but the capacity to make and carry out reasoned policies does matter. America must do what it can to get Russia and itself out of their paralyzing binds."

ECONOMIST: The Russians have now flouted every condition for getting help from outside

An editorial in the latest Economist (Sept. 5th-11th) says Russia has "forfeited hopes for help" from the West.

The editorial says: "The West took a big but reasonable gamble by lending money to Russia when it was led by a team of reformers trying to do roughly the right thing. But the Russians have now flouted just about every condition for getting help from outside. When, in its own good time, Russia has made real reforms and something of a civic order, built a tax base and solid institutions, and learned that honesty in business pays, then the West should come back in. Not now. And things may well have to get a lot worse before then."

The editorial concludes: "Better, perhaps, if a government of national unity could be cobbled together, including the Communists, so that an all-but-neutered Mr. Yeltsin and, it is to be hoped, a more responsible parliament could stagger on. Russians, however, may think otherwise; and one could hardly blame them."