Prague, 10 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today covers a wide spectrum of subjects. They include the European Union's promised expansion to the East, Russia's economic and political troubles, a possible new U.S. strike at Iraq and a defense of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) role in the world by its Managing Director.
FINANCIAL TIMES: Expanding the frontiers of the EU will be a long, hard slog
Britain's Financial Times discusses EU enlargement under the title, "Growing Pains." The paper writes: "In principle, the ambition of expanding the frontiers of the EU to take in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe is absolutely correct....The sooner it happens, the better. But," the FT adds, "in practice, it is already clear that it will be a long, hard slog --longer and harder than the applicant countries would like."
The paper continues: "The launch of detailed negotiations at ministerial level with the six leading candidates in Brussels today is something of a token gesture.. The seven 'chapters' under discussion are supposed to be relatively uncontroversial, to give the talks a fair wind for the future."
The FT adds: "The EU should state unambiguously that its ambition is to open the door to all 10 Central and East European applicants, as and when they are ready....(It) should also focus today on the critical area of how to deal with its future neighbors, such as Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. They must not be shut out behind a new iron curtain."
The paper concludes: "If countries such as Bulgaria and Romania are also shut out, there is a real danger that the hurdle of entry will become ever higher for them."
WASHINGTON POST: It's a good sign that the strongest condemnations of anti-Semitism have come from inside Russia
In an editorial headed "Moscow Poisons," the Washington Post says: "Economic conditions in Russia are bound to produce unsettled politics. But no economic troubles could excuse a resurgence of anti-Semitism. This is a poison with a long pedigree in Russia, but one that has been blessedly missing for the most part in the cauldron of post-Soviet politics. Now it is, at least for the moment, back in the mix."
The editorial goes on: "Retired general Albert Makashov, a Communist extremist and leader of a 1993 rebellion against President Boris Yeltsin, said last month that 'yids' should be blamed for Russia's economic collapse. Given the source, the comment was not a surprise. What was worrying was the flabby response from the Communist Party and its leader, former and perhaps future presidential candidate Gennadi Zyuganov."
The WP adds: "It's a good sign that the strongest condemnations of Mr. Makashov's remarks have come from inside Russia, starting with a firm statement from Mr. Yeltsin himself....To a large extent, the latest fracas in Moscow must be seen in the context of electoral politics.... The campaign is taking place in a painful environment of falling incomes, rising inflation and broken hopes, under the guidance of a government that seems to have no idea how to (improve) the economy."
HEARST NEWSPAPERS: Anti-Semitism is 'endemic' among all classes and goes back a long time
Anti-Semitism in another European country, Switzerland, is the subject of a commentary for the U.S.' Hearst Newspapers by columnist Bernard Kaplan. He writers: "The recently settled controversy over how much Swiss banks owe the relatives of Jewish depositors later killed by the Nazis has unleashed a strong wave of anti-Semitism in Switzerland, according to a new report."
Kaplan says that "the most interesting aspects of the report are that it was compiled by an official Swiss government agency and that it admits anti-Jewish sentiment among the Swiss was already widespread before the dispute erupted. In fact, the (Swiss) Commission against Racism said anti-Semitism is 'endemic' among all classes and goes back a long time."
The columnist adds: "The official report noted that during the debate over the banked funds 'a wave of anti-Semitism manifested itself in letters to Swiss newspapers, hate mail...and incidents in which individual Jews were insulted and ostracized....Anti-Semitism achieved 'a high level of social respectability...'"
NEW YORK TIMES: Washington's first steps should be diplomatic
The New York Times today discusses the possibility of "another (U.S.) confrontation with Iraq." The paper writes in an editorial: "Even as it considers air strikes against Iraq, the Clinton Administration seems ready to abandon the seven-year-old (United Nations) weapons inspection program there....(But) the new policy Washington is contemplating, which would seek to restrain Iraq from ever using toxic weapons rather than preventing their development, would be far more risky."
The editorial goes on: "Washington's first steps should be diplomatic, building on last week's (UN) Security Council resolution that unanimously condemned Iraq's actions and demanded that Baghdad stop interfering with the inspectors. But getting the inspectors back to work may require a punishing, carefully targeted campaign of air and missile strikes on Iraqi military targets."
The paper concludes: "Washington has a few more days to see whether diplomacy works. During that time, the Administration should move additional weapons into the Persian Gulf region, including stealth fighters and bombers. The inspection system will permanently collapse only if Washington lets it."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The tougher U.S. line seems to have won adhesion
In a news analysis for the International Herald Tribune today, Joseph Fitchett writes of "a sharp escalation of the long-running U.S. confrontation with Iraq..." He says that "the Clinton Administration is readying the strongest military campaign in its six years in office and preparing its allies for a major political gamble in the Gulf..."
Fitchett goes on: "The U.S. envisages an open-ended bombing campaign...as a way of shaking the regime and preventing the military from developing missiles or mass-destruction weapons that could intimidate neighboring Arab governments..."
He adds: "The tougher U.S. line, far from alienating allies, seems to have won adhesion from countries in Europe and the Middle East that sought to keep Washington at arm's length in showdowns with Iraq last year and again last summer.....(European diplomats say that) Washington has been diplomatically astute in phrasing the possible use of force as a gesture supporting the Security Council, not a unilateral U.S. initiative..."
WASHINGTON POST: Asian and Russian countries' 'disorderly" liberalization now threatens to give liberalization an undeserved bad reputation
In a commentary for the Washington Post, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus acknowledges that the fund "has come under heavy criticism in recent months, both for its handling of global financial contagion and its proposals for defending against future crises." But he adds: "While many of the critics have offered constructive advice, at times the discourse has lost sight of the facts..."
Camdessus says a recent (Oct. 5) commentary by former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger "suggested that shortcomings such as cronyism and corruption were little more than the 'cost of doing business' in these (Asian) countries. In fact," the IMF leader says, "they were the rot at the core of economies that appeared almost unblemished on the surface."
He adds: "What Asian countries, Russia and too many other countries did not do was build sound financial systems quickly enough and give enough attention to the proper phasing and sequencing of capital account liberalization. Their 'disorderly" liberalization now threatens to give liberalization an undeserved bad reputation."