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Western Press Review: Montenegro, Arms Control, Zimbabwe

Prague, 21 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A variety of issues attract the attention of Western commentators today, from the fate of Montenegro to arms control to the continuing strife in Zimbabwe.

NEW YORK TIMES: The West needs to subsidize Montenegro

The New York Times appeals to Western nations and institutions to rescue Montenegro from the clutches of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The paper notes in an editorial that Milosevic is once again trying to take control of Montenegro, undeterred by his failure to do so during the war with Kosovo last year.

Milosevic has stationed 10,000 Serbian soldiers in the republic, and the editorial says, "He seems to be trying to provoke [Montenegro's leader, Milo] Djukanovic, into overreacting, which could offer a pretext for a coup." It adds: "Mr. Milosevic is also undermining the economy in hopes that Mr. Djukanovic will lose public support to Mr. Milosevic's allies."

The paper warns that if Milosevic succeeds, he will further destabilize the Balkans. To prevent that possibility, it says, "The West essentially needs to subsidize Montenegro until Mr. Milosevic leaves power." The United States and Europe have been generous, the New York Times says, but it adds this: "But because Montenegro is not a country, it has not gotten desperately needed money to rebuild infrastructure or restructure industry from the World Bank and other lending institutions. They should make an exception for Montenegro, as they have done for Kosovo."

The newspaper concludes: "Unless America and its allies make clear that they still care about Montenegro, Mr. Milosevic will move to gain control of the republic."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton's deal promises to be the worst arms control agreement in American history

U.S. President Bill Clinton attracts some harsh criticism from a Washington Post commentator, who accuses him of planning a "grand compromise" on arms control with Russia that would gain the U.S. little and lose it much. Charles Krauthammer argues that Clinton is seeking to give away too much to Russia by cutting the U.S. nuclear weapons force and by pledging to create no comprehensive missile defense. The U.S. in return would merely get Russian permission to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow a limited missile defense.

Krauthammer's argument is threefold. First, he says, the U.S. does not need Russian permission to build limited missile defense. He says the 1972 ABM Treaty is legally questionable and logically obsolete, as it was intended to prevent an arms race in a bipolar world that no longer exists.

Second, he says, the type of missile defense that Clinton wants to persuade Russia to let the U.S. build -- fixed, land-based missiles in Alaska -- would be almost useless. In Krauthammer's words: "It is the worst possible choice. Fixed missiles are expensive, because the whole infrastructure has to be built from scratch, and limited, because from Alaska there are parts of the United States they could not defend." He says missile defense would best be launched from the sea.

And third, Krauthammer says this inadequate missile defense which ought to need no permission from Russia will be bought by strengthening the ABM treaty to prevent any larger-scale U.S. missile defense. Further, Clinton would push ahead on START-3 nuclear arms reductions, which Krauthammer says would only affect the U.S. because Russia cannot build new missiles anyway.

He concludes: "The deal Clinton is angling for would both decimate [the U.S.] offensive nuclear deterrent and cripple any future president's ability to build an effective missile defense. It promises to be the worst arms control agreement in American history."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The decision is responsible and measured

The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal Europe take opposing views on how U.S. arms sales to Taiwan could affect relations with China. Earlier this week (Tuesday), the United States agreed to sell new military equipment to Taiwan but postponed a decision on whether to sell the island four sophisticated naval destroyers. The Los Angeles Times sees the decision as "responsible and measured," and says the United States should rely on diplomacy to discourage an arms race between China and Taiwan. It says: "If changing conditions indicate that more help is needed, then more can be given."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Countering threats to Taiwan is the only response that Beijing will respect

But The Wall Street Journal Europe warns that the U.S. decision could turn out to be a bad strategic move that brings China and Taiwan closer to war. In an editorial, the paper says: "It raises doubts about American willingness to take even mild risks to defend a young democracy." Instead of deferring arms sales to Taiwan, it says, the U.S. should provide the island with the latest weapons. In its words: "Some officials in the State Department and White House seem to think meeting U.S. obligations to help Taiwan defend itself means 'provoking' China, and so shouldn't be attempted." Not so, it concludes, "it is Chinese threats and missile deployments that provoke; countering them with defensive weaponry is the only response that Beijing will respect. To act otherwise allows the risk of war to ratchet upward."

Turning to Zimbabwe, two editorials call on the international community to increase pressure on President Robert Mugabe to stop the violence against his political opponents and white farmer.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The time has come to isolate Mugabe

The Los Angeles Times declares: "The international community must not stand by in silence as [Zimbabwe] slides into despotism. The time has come to isolate Mugabe diplomatically and deny him financial assistance until free elections are held."

With elections scheduled for May, the newspaper notes, "there is growing fear that Mugabe, facing strong opposition for the first time in his 20 years in power, is fomenting racism to stave off electoral defeat." What's more, it adds, "the state-organized chaos has little to do with land reform. Most Zimbabweans, white or black, simply do not trust Mugabe anymore." The editorial concludes with this: "The president has squandered the trust of the international community as well as of his countrymen and deserves no support."

TIMES: Those whose voices matter should intervene

An editorial in The Times, London, argues for political intervention by what it calls "those whose voices matter." The newspaper expresses some sympathy for Britain's reluctance to take direct action in Zimbabwe, a former British colony. The Times says: "Nothing would give greater credence to [Mugabe's] bogus claims of colonialism and racism than imperious condemnation by the former colonial master." But it adds that efforts to restore calm in Zimbabwe cannot just be left up to leaders of other African states. As the editorial notes: "The chanting of the thugs from around burning farms echoes far beyond Zimbabwe's hills." The best candidates to help, it concludes, are Zimbabwe's churches and the leader of the British Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, who could denounce President Mugabe and work to support a fair election.