Prague, 16 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Our overview of Western press commentary today begins with looks at high and low points of U.S. President George W. Bush's emerging foreign policy and NATO's obligations in the face of increasing violence in Macedonia.
An editorial in Britain's "Financial Times" says that so far the new Bush administration's foreign policy is "a worry" for Europe. The paper writes: "On one hand [there are] signs of an administration seeking dialogue; on the other, indications of a much more assertive American policy that is less responsive to opinion abroad." One bright exception, it says, is Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has shown the United States will take into consideration "European concerns about missile defense, [Arab] leaders' views on sanctions to Iraq [and] the promising groundwork laid by the Clinton administration in North Korea." Powell, it adds, "appears to recognize that U.S. interests are often best served by listening to the views of others."
A news analysis in the "Washington Post" says yesterday's U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings of Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, failed to address a number of serious foreign policy issues. Steven Mufson writes: "[The Committee] did not ask about his statements supporting the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, or his views on Russia, North Korea, Japan, or the Middle East, or whether he thought the United States should sell radar-equipped destroyers to Taiwan. They did not ask about his past, including controversies that took place while he served in the Reagan administration, or about the reconciliation measures he took toward Vietnam that angered many [U.S. prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action] groups. Instead," Mufson says, "the committee members warmly welcomed Armitage and praised his Vietnam War record, his willingness to host more than 50 foster children and his prowess as a weightlifter."
A commentary in the "Financial Times" says the United States must do more to deter Russia and China from forging alliances with rogue nations. Thomas Henriksen, associate director of the Hoover Institution think tank, says this week's agreement between Russia and Iran to resume arms sales is "the latest example of an alarming trend." He writes: "[Moscow's sales to Iran and Iraq] even the political score for NATO's expansion eastward while demonstrating its need for due consideration in the corridors of power."
Similarly, Henriksen writes, "Beijing facilitates North Korea's clandestine missile program because this puts the U.S. on notice for its sales of advanced aircraft and ships to Taiwan." He says: "Washington must pursue forceful diplomacy that divides patrons from rogue regimes and neutralizes rogues. [This can] vary from muscular covert actions to topple a dictator to forms of economic and diplomatic engagement."
Commentator Martin Woollacott writes in Britain's "The Guardian" daily that in the 10-year Balkan conflict, Western governments have continually put one consideration above all others: "What was the least risky and least costly way of responding?" The result, he says, is a self-perpetuating supply of new emergencies like the current crises in Kosovo and Macedonia. He writes: "It is truly a shameful thing that KFOR troops should be watching as Serbian soldiers return to the buffer zone to do the job of keeping guerrillas out of Serbian territory which the international forces were unwilling to do. It is equally shameful that KFOR should have permitted guerrillas to cross into Macedonia and cause increasingly serious trouble there."
On a similar note, an editorial in Britain's "Times" newspaper says NATO has a "moral obligation" not to ignore Macedonia's plight. It says: "[Albanian] militants have chosen to misinterpret NATO's support in 1999 as carte blanche for a Greater Albania." It adds: "The potential consequences are dramatic. States including Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece [may come] under pressure to defend Macedonia by force. The fear is that this would wipe out NATO's achievement in pacifying the region, force it to choose sides, and might lead to more fighting involving NATO, an outcome no one wants." The editorial says the Albanian militants "must be sharply told that NATO would consider a push for a Greater Albania to be as destabilizing as the ruthless drive by the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, to carve out a Greater Serbia."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
A commentary in the "International Herald Tribune" addresses the issue of immigration in Britain, a frequent target of the opposition Conservative Party. Sunanda Datta-Ray, an Indian journalist, writes: "Far from damaging the employment prospects of natives, immigrants keep down inflation and increase the level of productivity through their hard work and spending." Of Britain's projected 180,000 immigrants per year by 2005, he writes: "Foreigners spell money. [British officials say] that 1 percent more people adds 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent to the gross domestic product. That is good enough reason for an open door policy."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
Another commentary in the "International Herald Tribune" says Turkey will be unable to rebound from its recent economic crisis until it addresses the issue of rampant government corruption. Bulent Aliriza of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies writes: "No amount of external financial or political assistance will be sufficient [unless] the struggle against corruption is successful." He adds: "Unlike the Clinton administration, which tended to be uncritically indulgent toward Turkey, [the Bush administration] has reservations about International Monetary Fund bailouts. [But it] is surely calculating the short-term advantages of demonstrating solidarity with Turkey [against] the long-term costs of failing to insist on transparency."
NEW YORK TIMES:
A news analysis in the "New York Times" returns to the topic of Russia's agreement this week to resume arms sales to Iran. Patrick Tyler writes that some Russians seem to be rethinking the wisdom of the deal. He cites Russian newspaper reports calling Iranian President Mohammad Khatami a "patron of international terrorism" and his presidency a "liberal facade for the fundamentalist regime," and adds: "The sense of danger is growing [in Russia], based [on] the fear that Iran's moderates will once again lose power, putting Russian weapons in the hands of hard-liners who might point them at Central Asia or use them to incite Russia's Muslim population. The conflict in Chechnya has intensified this concern."
NEW YORK TIMES:
Also in the "New York Times," commentator Allegra Pacheco looks at the devastating economic impact of Israel's enclosure of the three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. She writes: "On any given day, 200,000 Israeli settlers move freely in and out of the [territories] to go to work, shop, run errands and attend school or university. Israeli trucks supply their settlements with food, fuel and the necessities to keep these areas running, their gardens green and their supermarkets well stocked. [For Palestinians], things don't run so smoothly." She adds: "The closure policy has solidified an apartheid-like system of separate rights and privileges for Jews and Palestinians. [Israelis] must understand that the way to end the cycle of violence cannot be through closure and sieges against entire civilian populations."
A comment in the "Jerusalem Post" says Israel's closure policy has reached "pernicious and horrifying heights." Naomi Chazan, deputy speaker of the parliament, writes: "The blockade of Palestinians is meant to curb terrorist acts. [But] for every terrorist caught in such a net, tens are bred in the morass of hunger, anger and frustration evoked by these persistent restrictions." She adds: "Collective punishment of civilians is a gross violation of human rights. Children are prevented from attending school, people cannot get to work, the sick remain without medical care. [Israel] bears full responsibility for what occurs in the [occupied territories. It] should be neither excused nor condoned."