Accessibility links

Western Press Review: East Timor, Austrian Elections, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill

Prague, 6 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The nuclear test ban treaty, a political shift to the right in Austria, second thoughts on East Timor intervention, and other topics attract comment in the Western press today. No single topic focuses attention from many sources.

In the Washington Post, the principal newspaper in the U.S. capital, a prominent team of three writers urges delay on U.S. approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- known as the CTBT. The contributors are Henry Kissinger, secretary of state to Presidents Nixon and Ford, John Deutch, CIA director in the first Clinton administration, and Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush. They say that regardless of the treaty's merits, the United States would risk much and gain little from ratification now.

The writers note that the countries who haven't signed up include -- besides the United States -- India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. As long as countries like this continue to seek to develop and test nuclear weapons, the United States must assure that its own nuclear warfare capacity remains safe and reliable. They write: "The scientific case simply has not been made that over the long term, the United States can ensure the nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing."

The Washington Post itself in an editorial supports U.S. ratification as urged by the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton. The editorial disagrees with critics who charge the treaty is little more than a diplomatic device. In the newspaper's words: "Why should the United States, whose global interests make it more in need of a safe international environment than any other country, deny itself a diplomatic device of evident potential benefit?"

The treaty is imperfect but necessary, the editorial says, and some will ignore it or cheat on it. But, as the Washington Post puts it: "The treaty puts an international imprimatur on the United States' immensely superior capacity to check the reliability of its nuclear stockpile. (Therefore) how can Americans spurn a bargain so transparently and even one-sidedly to the American advantage?"

German commentator Torsten Krauel, writing from Berlin in Die Welt, examines the results of Austria's general elections and concludes that rightist Joerg Haider's victory could not have occurred in Germany. He writes: "Parties that combine opposition to immigrants with militant social protectionism -- regardless whether their leaders are Austria's Joerg Haider, Denmark's Pia Kjaersgaard, Pat Buchanan in the United States, or Pauline Hanson in Australia, have emerged as a factor to be taken seriously in the political spectrum." They are, in the writer's words: "the fellow-travelers of globalization."

Krauel says such politicians are elected by minorities protesting the impact of foreign immigration, imports competing with domestic products, and technological marvels. But not in Germany, the writer says. In his words: "Germany alone, regardless of German People's Union successes here and there, appears to be relatively stable. Franz Schoenhuber of the Republicans has almost been forgotten, and the DVU's Gerhard Frey is not a name to conjure with either."

Krauel asks: "Is everything different in Germany?" And he answers: "Yes, luckily, it is. Under pressure, Germany's two major parties, the Christian and Social Democrats, may be prepared to join forces and resolve problems jointly, but they are chary of forming a long-term grand coalition. That is why Germany has always had an effective alternative to the party in power, and thus, all told, a government that is keen to act."

An editorial in Denmark's Information sounds an alarm about the Austrian elections. In Information's words: "A ghost is marching through Europe, from South to North, from East to West. This is the ghost of populist stupidity, which has hoisted its nationalist banners, and does not even attempt to hide its xenophobia, thus destroying the dreams of greater tolerance between the peoples, better understanding between ethnic minorities, and peace based on limited sovereignty within established borders. In Austria, the extreme right wing has emerged -- perhaps only temporarily -- with Joerg Haider's Freedom Party and his uniformed crypto-Fascists. It (the party) got 27 percent of the vote, and looks set to be able to dictate its policies, based on the long history of Austrian anti-Semitism and the other ideas about race supremacy, on a national and even on a European level."

Author Mark Mazower, a history professor at Princeton University, commenting in The Guardian, London, also is dismayed. He writes this: "Sixty years ago, Adolf Eichmann turned his Austrian experience of organized anti-Semitism into a model for occupied Europe. Are we now on the verge of a new wave of European fascism?"

The writer's answer to his own question is a wary "Probably not, but..." In his words: "We may not be witnessing a rebirth of fascism, but something equally disturbing is going on. The new democratic Europe is revealing its own potential for right-wing political extremism." Mazower also writes this: "Austria's politics may have their own peculiarities, but (Haider's) success may move the threshold of what is acceptable in European politics if he should enter government."

On East Timor, commentator Philip Bowring writes in the International Herald Tribune that ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- and Australia are the losers so far. ASEAN loses because it has shown a lack of political will to deal with a problem in its region, he says. And Australia loses, Bowring says, by seeming to act as deputy to the U.S. sheriff. In Bowring's words: "Asian nations put their perceptions of national interest in regional stability and good relations with Jakarta ahead of human rights issues affecting a relatively small community."

The writer says it may be that a new government will be elected in Indonesia that will accept East Timor independence. That would be lucky, he says. He adds, in his words: "But don't rely on luck. Much of today's mess has been the result of well-meaning but ill-considered actions. It's time to ponder the wreckage that this effort at global justice has so far produced in Southeast Asia."