Prague, 23 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today treats a wide variety of subjects. They range from Russia's economic and political troubles through the difficulties in implementing NATO's recent agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the continuing controversy over the British government's arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
FINANCIAL TIMES: Russia has to have a credible president
In an editorial today titled "End Game for Yeltsin," Britain's Financial Times says that "Russia has a moribund president and a bankrupt government." The paper writes: "(Russia) now faces the prospect of renewed hyper-inflation and yet further economic decline. The threatened combination of a collapsing state with thousands of nuclear warheads is terrifying."
But, the FT continues, "no case can be made for further assistance from the International Monetary Fund....What Russia most needs...is not outside assistance but a working government.... Russia has to have a credible president (but) Yeltsin is no longer such a leader."
The editorial suggests that "Western heads of government should try to persuade Mr. Yeltsin...to resign....The priority," the paper concludes, "is not outside aid, but a legitimate and effective domestic authority. Mr. Yeltsin could still leave his country one invaluable bequest: timely election of a desperately needed replacement."
IRISH TIMES: Leaders are seizing the opportunity to move closer to a settlement
The Irish Times is concerned today with the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders that have been going for more than a week under U.S. auspices. The paper says in an editorial that "the talks in Maryland are now facing a clear choice of seizing the opportunity to move closer to a settlement that would end 20 months of deadlock, or of stepping back from the momentum of peace."
The editorial continues: "The Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, has ...tried to make a virtue of his concessions to pressure from (hard-liners at) home by complaining that the Palestinians are negotiating in bad faith and trying to avoid concrete commitments to fighting terrorism....The Palestinians say they are doing their best to stop attacks on Israelis, but like any administration faced with the problem of terrorism, they know they cannot guarantee 100 percent success."
The paper also says: "An agreement...may strengthen Mr. Netanyahu's hand within his cabinet. But Mr. Arafat may well return a sad man, worried that he will be seen by the militants on his doorstep as having conceded too much and gained too little."
GUARDIAN: Basic flaws in the Kosovo agreement have become apparent
Turning to Kosovo, Britain's Guardian daily writes that "it has not taken long for the basic flaws in the Kosovo agreement to become apparent on the ground....Even though diplomats say that the cease-fire is basically holding," the paper adds, "the skirmishing and the shoot-outs that have occurred every day since the agreement was reached indicate the difficulties."
The Guardian's editorial goes on: "But Milosevic knows how reluctant Western countries are to revive the air threat....The inherent messiness of the situation is perfect for Milosevic, who can carry on hostilities at a low level, arguing all the way without reaching the level of provocation that would resuscitate the air threat."
"Air action without ground deployment," the paper says, "is an empty strategy. The threat or reality of (air action) produces a brief crisis resolved by an unenforceable agreement, whose failure leads on to the next crisis."
RHEINPFALZ: NATO should not intervene without a mandate
Two regional German dailies also comment on Kosovo. The Rheinpfalz (published in Ludwigshafen) criticizes NATO's decision to intervene in Kosovo without a mandate from the United Nations. This, the papers says, NATO "should not have allowed itself to do because it makes itself as guilty of ignoring international conventions as the Serbs it is threatening with air strikes."
NEUE OSNABRUECKER: NATO's patience could come to an abrupt end
The Neue Osnabruecker disagrees, noting that Milosevic "has pursued a policy of broken or empty promises....(and that NATO) needs to act now or lose face forever". The paper speaks of Milosevic's "current arrogance" in defying the world, suggesting he may have gone too far this time. "NATO's patience," it says, "could come to an abrupt end."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Crimes against humanity are not subject to a statute of limitations
Two commentaries in today's International Herald Tribune assess the implications of Britain's arrest a week ago of Chile's General Pinochet. Aryeh Neier, who is president of the U.S.' Open Society Institute, writes that "Britain should accede to the Spanish request to proceed (legally) against General Pinochet." He says Pinochet's arrest "reflects a growing trend internationally to hold officials who commit great crimes accountable."
Neier continues: "Bringing General Pinochet to trail for crimes against humanity would provide a measure of justice for the many victims and their families. And it would send a powerful message to the many officials around the world who continue to commit such crimes."
"The message would be," the commentary concludes, "that their crimes are not subject to a statute of limitations, and that the number of safe havens for those committing such crimes is diminishing."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Pinochet's arrest involves a jumble of issues
IHT columnist Flora Lewis writes in her commentary that "the implications (of Pinochet's arrest) involve all the jumble of issues provoked by the collision of demands for pure justice and the demands of politics, the demands of peace, the demands of reconciliation."
She continues: There has been a tendency of late...to proclaim the inevitability of punishment as a kind of consolation for not being able to stop the terror and catch the perpetrators. The Pinochet arrest gives the satisfaction of being able to feel that some day they will get their due."
The commentary goes on: "The new treaty on establishing a permanent international tribunal, which the U.S. has refused to sign, has been hailed as a signal advance that will deter future criminal monsters. This is fantasy. If anything, an advance, locked-in provision for punishment makes it harder to end a conflict short of total victory. It leaves no room for negotiation, which is one reason (it is not) a good treaty."