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Western Press Review: Missile Defense, EU-U.S., Global Warming

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 15 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Today's Western press continues to focus on the issues under discussion this week between U.S. President George W. Bush and European leaders. Commentaries discuss missile defense systems and finding solutions to global warming. Commentators also look at the trans-Atlantic relationship as a whole, at how it is changing under the new U.S. administration and what form it will take in the future. Other analysis looks at tomorrow's Ljubljana summit between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.


An editorial in "The New York Times" looks at attempts by U.S. President Bush to convince European leaders that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is what he calls a "Cold-War relic that bars the way to a new era free from fear of nuclear missile attack." Bush's portrayal of the treaty, the paper says, "is bad history and bad policy."

The paper notes that for decades, the ABM treaty restrained the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to build increasing numbers of missiles. In the future, it writes, the treaty could "serve as a bridge to a new era in which further reductions in offensive missiles could be accompanied by [building] limited defensive systems" to address threats from rogue states. In order to do this, the paper says that the U.S. must "stop maligning the treaty and engage in constructive discussions with Russia and China [to] field a minimal number of offensive weapons and reasonable defense systems [in] a new strategic equation." The paper concludes that "amending or replacing the treaty is a better course than simply abrogating it."


Commentator Bret Stephens of "The Wall Street Journal Europe" looks at the belief that Europe has an anti-American attitude and says that this perception is mistaken and a product of media spin. Of the protests that have greeted U.S. President Bush on his European tour, Stephens says that "despite some sporadic clashes between demonstrators and police, things [were] fairly tame." "So where is this fabled tidal wave of European anti-Americanism?" he asks. The answer, he writes, is that it can be found in three places: "in the media, among left-leaning nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and among a handful -- albeit a much-quoted handful -- of European politicians."

Stephens comments that "one looks in vain for any reliable survey of European views on the Kyoto Protocol, missile defense, [or] any of the other issues about which 'the Europeans' are said to have strong views. Instead," he says, "what goes by the name of 'European opinion' ends up being what the editorial pages of 'Le Monde' and the 'International Herald Tribune' [or] media-savvy NGOs [say] it is. These groups fancy themselves the consciences of the Continent and the voice of 'civil society.'"

Stephens acknowledges that "Europe's mostly center-left political leaders have become more vocal than ever in denouncing U.S. actions," but says the reasons for this are "widely misunderstood. They have more to do with domestic political concerns than with deep-seated opposition to U.S. policy."

In response to whether the anti-American rhetoric might have a negative effect on trans-Atlantic ties, Stephen quotes EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana as saying, "I cannot conceive of a really important strategic issue on which the U.S. and Europe will not be together."


An editorial in "The Economist" dismisses recent pledges by President Bush to take global warming "seriously," saying the U.S. leader has failed to take any decisive action or formulate a workable plan to address this issue. Bush sparked controversy at home and abroad by repudiating both a campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the Kyoto Protocol, the journal writes, adding, "the next round of negotiations on climate change will take place next month in Bonn -- and yet the Bush team has not come up with even an outline of a plan."

It continues: "This inaction comes even though the case for doing something to tackle global warming is growing stronger. President Bush, unwilling to accept the opinion of international scientists, asked leading American climate experts to produce what the paper calls a "red-blooded, all-American analysis." The conclusion of this analysis was crystal clear, "The Economist" says -- that "global warming is real, man's role in it is real and the dangers it poses are serious."

The journal adds that there is indeed a need for continuing research on this issue, but "that does not justify demanding repeated scientific proof that the problem exists before being ready to take any substantial action to deal with it."


An editorial in the "Financial Times" looks at relations on the Continent between the U.S. and the EU, and says, "even as they gripe about Washington, European leaders refuse to take real responsibility." The magazine cites former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's characterization of the trans-Atlantic relationship, an analysis the paper calls "brutal." Brzezinski calls Western Europe an "American protectorate," and says that the U.S.'s relationship with Britain "needs to be nourished but [Britain's] policies do not call for sustained attention."

The paper adds: "From time to time, U.S. presidents must pay lip service to the fiction of an equal partnership with its European allies. [The] U.S. will consult its European allies on issues as diverse as missile defense [and] relations with Russia, [and it] will take care to avoid the mistake it made over the Kyoto Protocol when it spoke first and only later sought to explain."

But the actions of EU leaders, it says, are allowing Europe to "surrender the chance to determine its own character." The approach to enlargement the paper calls "as slow as it is sullen," while the realization of a credible European defense force exhibits what it refers to as "the same sorry abdication" of responsibility.

"No doubt Mr. Bush's visit will be followed by more hand-wringing about U.S. unilateralism," the paper concludes, adding: "Many of [those] concerns are justified. But I wonder how many Europeans admit the obvious. As long as they duck the opportunity to shape the destiny of the Continent, Washington will do it for them."


In a contribution to "The New York Times," former U.S. Ambassador at Large for the Soviet Union Stephen Sestanovich says that Saturday's (16 June) meeting between George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin should address whether and how Russia can be integrated into the West.

He writes: "Russians doubt that in their impoverished state the West will ever accord them the large international role they deserve. [They] argue that the United States, by enlarging NATO, by waging war in the Balkans and now by planning a system of missile defense that will (so they say) neutralize Russian nuclear forces, has shown that its goal is to weaken Russia." Sestanovich adds that "for Americans, there's growing doubt that any Russian government will -- or wants to -- implement the commitments that would make integration a reality."

What Bush should do at tomorrow's meeting, he says, is "to set out how the United States expects relations to develop if Russia pursues the goal of integration and if it does not. Both positive and negative outcomes need to be part of tomorrow's discussion." Getting real results on integration, Sestanovich writes, "hasn't been done enough and needs to be."