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Western Press Review: OSCE Summit, International Issues Evoke Commentary

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill

Prague, 17 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- There is lively discussion in the Western press of international affairs today, led by comments on the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which convenes in Istanbul tomorrow.

AFTENPOSTEN: Never since the end of the Cold War has the relationship between Russia and the West been so bad

Norway currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE. In the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, political analyst Halvor Tjonn, says the summit tomorrow may become a kind of trial of Russia. As Tjonn puts it in a commentary: "Never since the end of the Cold War has the relationship between Russia and the West been so bad. Tomorrow's summit of the OSCE in Istanbul may well turn into a trial where Russia will stand accused."

The commentator adds this: "To find anti-Western rhetoric similar to that being emitted by Moscow, one must go back all the way to the times of Ronald Reagan. The examples are numerous. Russia's deputy foreign minister, Alexander Avdeev, has said that the United States and Russia are moving toward an open military conflict. Mikhail Oparin, the strategic air force commander, has confirmed that Moscow plans to send strategic missiles to Cuba and Vietnam. And the deputy commander of the Russian general staff, Valeriy Manilov, has stated that the United States has an interest in prolonging the war in Chechnya in order to weaken Russia."

The writer asks, in his words: "Is a new Cold War, with a weakened Russia in the boots of the old Soviet Union, inevitable?" He answers that many in Moscow would say so.

FINANCIAL TIMES: The stage has been set for a clash between Russia and the West over Chechnya

Analysts in two British newspapers concur. Staff correspondents write in a Financial Times analysis: "The stage has been set for a clash between Russia and the West over Chechnya at tomorrow's summit of the 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

The analysis says this: "The West wants some Russian assurances about military withdrawals from Chechnya as the price for signing a revision of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and for endorsing a new European security charter."

And this: "But Russia is not expected to offer any big concessions [and instead] is likely to argue that the threat to its national security interests in the north Caucasus is serious enough to warrant such a temporary breach of the treaty."

INDEPENDENT: Most Russians support the tough message to the West

Writing in a news analysis from Moscow in The Independent, London, Helen Womack says that Russian President Boris Yeltsin hopes to be persuasive at the OSCE summit. In her words: "Having kept Russians guessing for days, the ailing [Yeltsin] has decided he will lead the charge against Western criticism over Chechnya at the [summit]. Mr. Yeltsin is keen to bring Western colleagues round to his view that a massive bombing campaign is the best way to fight terrorism in the Caucasus." Womack also writes that most Russians would rather see Prime Minister Vladimir Putin represent them than the protocol-clumsy and often befuddled Yeltsin, but, as she puts it, "Most Russians support the tough message that Mr. Yeltsin will take to the West."

WASHINGTON POST: In the Slavic heart of the old Soviet Union, there isn't much to celebrate

The Washington Post takes a broader perspective on the OSCE summit. In an editorial, the newspaper says that some time ago the summit, in its words, "might have been cast as a celebration." As the editorial puts it: "The conference organizer, the [OSCE], fought for human rights behind the Iron Curtain, and that divider is long gone. The term dissident ought to have become quaint by now."

The editorial continues: "But in the Slavic heart of the old Soviet Union, there isn't much to celebrate, and Mr. Clinton and his fellow leaders shouldn't pretend otherwise. Russia is waging a brutal war against the people of Chechnya. Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma just won re-election in a contest that was decidedly less fair and democratic than previous ones. And in Belarus, any supporter of democracy becomes automatically a dissident and every dissident is in danger from authorities."

WASHINGTON POST: There is no better strategy for subverting Communist rule in China

This has been a good week for American internationalism, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius writes. Writing as a U.S. citizen and resident, here's how he puts it: "If you believe that international engagement is America's best hope for the future, then this is a week to savor. For beyond the headlines, you can see the possibility for a restoration of the confident, outward-looking U.S. consensus that our history teaches is a requirement for global peace and prosperity."

The columnist is writing primarily of the agreement reached by the United States and China in Beijing Monday that will enable China to join the World Trade Organization.

The columnist contends that the new agreement is good for the United States, for China, and for the world. In his words: "Americans who are confident about the world-changing power of our capitalism and democracy will welcome the agreement. China will now have to live by the free-market rules of the WTO. It will have to accept international investment in its major industries, including banking and telecommunications; it will have to abide by international arbitration of its trade disputes; it will have to accept the Internet and its instantaneous access to information. If you can devise a better strategy for subverting Communist rule in China, I'd like to hear it."

Ignatius continues with this: "This week brought other signs of renewed political support for a pragmatic internationalism. The administration cut a deal with House Republicans that will allow the United States to pay nearly $1 billion in back dues to the United Nations, in exchange for a ban on funding any international organization that promotes abortion."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Kosovo has slipped into a chaotic, quasi colonial limbo

In London, the Daily Telegraph looks at Kosovo, which, the newspaper says in an editorial, too many people have forgotten about. The editorial puts it this way: "The outlook for Kosovo as winter sets in is exceptionally bleak. For the more than 800,000 refugees who have returned, there will be no major program to rebuild shattered houses before heavy snows descend."

Western neglect and indecision, the editorial contends, in its words: "encourage Slobodan Milosevic, leader of the country still credited with sovereignty over Kosovo, to meddle in its affairs, with the goal of achieving a de facto partition."

As the editorial puts it: "The outside world has made matters worse by ignoring the wishes [for independence] of those it has rescued from Mr. Milosevic's clutches and by failing to make efficient use of the financial resources at its disposal. Five months after the end of the air war, Kosovo has slipped into a chaotic, quasi colonial limbo."