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Western Press Review: Press Fires Scattershot At Issues

  • Don Hill



Prague, 16 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary today and over the weekend ranges widely, with some emphasis on Russian politics, Dagestan and Kosovo.

SALZBURGER NACHRICHTEN: Impact of Russian chaos on the rest of the world is not so drastic

The Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten contends in an editorial today that the world has little to fear from chaos in Russia as long as the West sustains its tolerance and continues its aid. The editorial observes that widespread predictions of spreading disruptions at the time of the Soviet Union's fall never came true. It says that the Western world now, in the phrasing of the editorial, "has got quite used to [Russian President] Boris Yeltsin cutting capers at ever shorter intervals." The Salzburg newspaper goes on as follows: "True, Russian chaos has erupted -- and this not in spite of, but because of Boris Yeltsin's politics -- yet it seems that the impact on the rest of the world is not so drastic."

But the editorial adds this: "[This will last] as long as the West tolerates Russia's pride as great power..., does not interfere in the inner affairs of Russia, [and continues] to supply the sick Russian economy and the ill Russian state with financial injections."

LES DERNIERES NOUVELLES DALSACE: Dagestan's Islamic revolt amounts to an act of Chechen aggression

Russia's military actions in Chechnya and Dagestan, says an editorial in the French paper Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace have one thing in common. The rebel leaders say they are acting in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. Dagestan, however, can't become a new Chechnya, the newspaper says. In the editorial's words: "Chechnya has been one nation in opposition to Russia for ages. Dagestan consists of a mosaic of about 30 peoples with as many languages." What is supposed to be Dagestan's Islamic revolt, says Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace, amounts to what the editorial calls "an act of Chechen aggression with a precise aim," which is access to the Caspian Sea and its oil.

LE MONDE: Dagestan crisis may be an excuse to declare a state of emergency

Paris' Le Monde puts Russia's politics and Dagestan's insurrection in one pot in an editorial. The newspaper says that Boris Yeltsin may be, in Le Monde's terms "making an attempt to use the crisis in Dagestan as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and so prevent parliamentary elections in December." The editorial says that this could be a Kremlin effort to regain the political initiative.

TIDENDE: The conflict will spiral out of control

Tidende in Denmark says that Russia's Prime Minister-designate Vladimir Putin is likely to be approved by parliament but unlikely to enjoy his new appointment. The trouble in Dagestan will see to that, the newspaper says. It says that if the Yeltsin-Putin administration fails to handle Dagestan effectively, as Berlingske Tidende puts it: "Brutality will be countered with brutality and the conflict will spiral out of control. Moscow will realize that it will be unable to handle it with military means." Then any remaining hope that Putin can lead effectively will die, the editorial says.

INFORMATION: KFOR should protect everyone in Kosovo

Denmark's Information says in an editorial that it would have been naive to think that the continued violence in Kosovo would suddenly halt. But, adds Information; "The trouble is that this anarchy still is widespread in spite of the United Nations Resolution 1244 of 10 June, which was supposed to guarantee 'the public order'." KFOR should use all necessary force to protect everyone in Kosovo -- Albanians, Serbs, and gypsies. Otherwise, in the editorial's words: "It would be difficult to understand why there has been a humanitarian intervention at all."

LA STAMPA: This is not the peace the NATO alliance envisaged

Turin's La Stampa examines ethnic violence against Serbs in Kosovo and comments in an editorial: "This is not the peace the (NATO) alliance envisaged."

ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Greek business interests are endangered in Kosovo

From Greece this weekend, two newspapers carried comment on business developments in Kosovo. Eleftherotypia said in an editorial the country has practical concerns about continued Kosovar violence. The newspaper says: "Greece's interests in the Balkan region have been dealt a major blow, and the country's Balkan policy is in a difficult position". The editorial says that the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has emerged as the province's dominant political force, as Eleftherotypia puts it, "with NATO's toleration." It says Greek business interests are endangered in Kosovo by the UCK's emergence and in Serbia by what the editorial calls "the fluid political situation."

COSTAS IORDANIDIS: American and European competitors are moving into the free market

Commentator Costas Iordanidis wrote in Kathimerini that Kosovo is becoming, as the writer put it an "Anglo-American economic protectorate," where the Germans are spectators and the French can only express annoyance. The disadvantage to Greek business, Iordanidis says is that, in his words, "American and European competitors are moving into the free market."

NEW YORK TIMES: The United States should pursue a diplomatic solution to Iraq

A former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, comments in today's New York Times that a statement last week by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress was, in Ritter's words, "rightly critical" of U.S. policy toward Iraq. But, the commentator adds this: "Unfortunately they fail to propose a clear alternative." Are they prepared to commit more U.S. warplanes to control Iraq, he asks. How about ground troops and in what numbers, he challenges. Ritter's commentary puts it this way: "The United States should pursue a diplomatic solution to [the Iraq] problem" and thus, in his terms: "bring credibility to [U.S.] foreign policy in ways that the current military intervention never can."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The domestic tone contrasts sharply with China's war of words abroad

The Wall Street Journal Europe carries a commentary by staff writer Ian Johnson saying that China's rhetoric about Taiwan reverses the usual approach. China's international bark is worse than its domestic bark, the writer says. Johnson writes this: "While most countries are bellicose domestically and talk peace overseas, Beijing [says] little to its people about any imminent attack on Taiwan. But, as Johnson puts it, "[this] tone contrasts sharply with China's war of words abroad." The commentary observes that U.S. officials say they haven't seen any indications that China actually has plans to make a military move against Taiwan.

(Dora Slaba, Anthony Georgieff, and Alexis Papasotiriou contributed to today's review)

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