Prague, 21 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- We begin today's survey of Western press commentary with an assessment of NATO's announcement yesterday that preparations are in the works for a troop deployment to Macedonia. Other commentaries continue to look at U.S.-Russia relations in light of the two countries' ongoing differences over the implementation of a missile defense strategy. Additional topics considered are the recent transformation of the Shanghai Five into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with its inclusion of Uzbekistan, its newest member, as well as suggestions that the United States is in the midst of what is referred to as "a new China crisis."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG:
Commentator Thomas Schmid says in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that NATO's decision yesterday to deploy troops in a non-military operation in Macedonia is largely "a rhetorical one, important only for the message it sends." He recalls that when NATO-led troops moved into Kosovo in June 1999, they did not immediately disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was fighting for independence. Schmid calls this decision a "mistake which has contributed to creating unrest in Kosovo," and notes that the West is eager to avoid a similar oversight in Macedonia.
Schmid also says that yesterday's decision on possible deployment indicates "NATO's willingness to intervene and puts pressure on the negotiating parties in Macedonia." The alliance, he continues, is "demonstrating more clearly than before that it will not accept a civil war in Macedonia."
He notes, however, that "NATO only wants to take action once the weapons fall silent and need to be collected, [once] the parties to the conflict [have] agreed to stop fighting. [But] if the alliance really is needed," Schmid writes, "It has to help create the conditions under which weapons can be collected in the first place."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" considers President Putin's warning on 18 June that he is willing to reject U.S.-Russia arms-control agreements from 1993 by rearming Russia's warhead missiles, should the U.S. go ahead with its plans for a missile defense shield. The paper says: "Have no fear, there's no new arms race afoot." Instead, it suggests that it is the fear of an arms race that President Putin wants to provoke.
The paper writes: "[Putin] doesn't see missile defense as a threat to Russian security. [He] seems to be signaling that Russia is at a crossroads. It can either forge a closer relationship with China, try to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S. and try to regain some form of superpower status, or it can be a partner with the U.S. in a bold new effort to confront nuclear proliferation and foster economic growth." The editorial concludes: "Russia is in play."
Analyst Padma Desai writes in the "Financial Times" that Russia's economic woes are the reason behind the "mildness" of Russian President Putin's objections to the proposals for a missile defense system. Desai describes what she calls the "failure of U.S. security specialists to recognize the importance of economic factors in undermining Mr. Putin's opposition to NMD" as "puzzling." S
he writes: "The Russian bear is trapped between a failing economy and pressing defense needs on the non-nuclear front." She adds that Russia's defense priorities have "shifted to reflect the country's growing concern about neighbors such as Tajikistan and Georgia to the south." The Russian president, Desai concludes, "has little choice other than to accept NMD, even if he tries to secure some concessions along the way."
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In "The New York Times," analyst Anatol Lieven writes that U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield place Russia "in a complex situation -- especially [with] regard to China." He says that Russia's proposal for a "tightly defined" amendment to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- that would allow "limited protection against a few missiles from 'rogue states' but would explicitly exclude future development toward a fuller shield" -- is dictated by both Russia's interests and China's.
Lieven writes: "Russia cannot afford to make a deal with the United States at Beijing's expense. In part, this is because Moscow needs China to counter American global influence. But even if that were not so, Russia could still not risk angering China on a vital matter, not with a long common border and a huge and growing disproportion in population and non-nuclear military might." He concludes that "American negotiators must recognize that their Russian [counterparts] will, to some extent, represent Chinese interests."
A news analysis in the "Eurasia Review" says that Moscow's foreign policy establishment has "misgivings" about the recently regrouped Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO. The group, which comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, was formed with the mandate "to promote greater regional economic and security cooperation, [and to] address the threat posed by radical Islam" in the region.
But, the publication writes, citing a diplomatic source, "a growing concern for Russia is China's expanding influence, and some in Moscow are worried that the SCO could end up abetting Beijing's efforts to expand its influence in Central Asia." It adds, "Beijing's growing relationship with Central Asian states has already created difficulties for Russia," a reference to past disputes over the use of water resources originating in China.
The paper notes that it is China that seems poised to benefit the most from the alliance, and remarks that it is ironic that China initially opposed the formation of the SCO, adding, "Beijing's position changed only after the election of U.S. President George W. Bush."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
A piece in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" by columnist Claudia Rosett looks at the United States' diplomatic efforts to secure the release of four U.S.-based scholars of Chinese descent currently being detained in China under suspicion of spying. She writes: "It is time to stop talking in dainty terms about 'the detained scholars' and to start dealing in blunt truth: The U.S. is in the midst of a new China crisis."
She adds: "whatever quiet diplomacy President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have been carrying out to help these scholars, it's been so tranquil it's not working. [It] is time for Mr. Bush to get past his polite hope, which he expressed back on 11 May, that these jailed scholars will receive [what he termed] 'whatever due process the Chinese can offer.'"
She adds that China's insistence that those detained are spies "shields Beijing from direct confrontation with the U.S. It plants just enough doubt so that Washington is likely to be overprudent in its rescue attempts." Through its inaction in dealing with this crisis, Rosett continues, "the U.S. undercuts its own credibility as leader of anything at all -- let alone the free world."