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Western Press Review: Trans-Atlantic Relations, Poland's EU Bid, Dostum In India

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 5 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press today includes discussion of trans-Atlantic relations following the 11 September attacks; taking a creative approach to the antiterrorism campaign; and Poland's road to European Union accession. Other topics include the Wehrkunde security conference in Munich over the weekend and Afghan interim Defense Minister Abdulrashid Dostum's visit to India.


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," columnist Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger looks at trans-Atlantic relations in the wake of the September terrorist attacks. He says the attacks led some to believe that the U.S. and Europe would move closer together, united within the antiterror coalition and against a common threat. But Frankenberger says differences of opinion have surfaced, particularly regarding U.S. treatment of suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members at a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and disagreements over the Middle East.

Frankenberger writes: "Nor is it likely that Europeans will adopt [U.S. President George W.] Bush's turn of phrase 'axis of evil.' Politicians on this side of the Atlantic do not consider Iran a paragon of democracy or Iraq and North Korea harmless countries. They are well-aware of [their] efforts to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction." But if the Bush administration pursues a policy beyond containment, Frankenberger says, Washington will find little support in Europe.

Differing visions of NATO's role also divide the trans-Atlantic allies. Frankenberger says policy-makers in Europe view the alliance as a guarantor of peace on the continent, and less as a means of dealing with security implications and defense policy beyond Europe. But "this, however, is exactly what the United States feels is urgently needed," he writes. "If NATO limited itself primarily to European concerns and gaining new members, [it] would become in essence a political organization with a military sub-organization, which would probably not hold Washington's interest long," he says.


In a contribution to "The Washington Post," Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace discusses U.S. President Bush's proposal to allocate additional defense budget resources totaling $48 billion to fight the war on terrorism.

McFaul questions why this sum is being allocated only to the armed forces. He says it is "disturbing [how] little creative attention or new resources have been devoted to the other means for winning the war on terrorism. The Bush budget is building greater American capacity to destroy bad states, but it adds hardly any new capacity to construct new good states."

McFaul says the Cold War "offers sad lessons of what can happen when the United States carries out state destruction of anti-Western, autocratic regimes without following through with state construction of pro-Western, democratic regimes."

Past U.S. policy in Afghanistan is one example. Bush's budget increase "does not constitute a serious, comprehensive strategy for state construction in Afghanistan or the rest of the despotic world," he says. "It is absolutely vital that the new regime in Afghanistan succeed. [The] new regime there must stand as a positive example to the rest of the region of how rejection of tyranny and alliance with the West can translate into democratic governance and economic growth. And the United States must demonstrate to the rest of the Muslim world that we take state construction -- democratic construction -- as seriously as we do state destruction."


An editorial in the "Financial Times" looks at Polish accession to the European Union and says that the European Commission's recent proposals for the financial terms of enlargement have caused disappointment. New members will not receive the full benefits of membership in terms of agricultural and regional aid until 10 years after joining.

The paper says that while it may be possible for Poland to negotiate a better deal, "real work must be done [in] preparing the country for membership." First, after passing EU rules into law, Poland must successfully implement these rules. Polish leaders should also do more to prepare voters for accession. "They must explain that painful compromises will be required in crucial fields such as agriculture. Otherwise, there will only be shock and disappointment," the paper says.

"Poland needs more economic reform," it writes. "Loss-making state-owned enterprises, red tape, official corruption and excessive taxes all hold Poland back. Without change, the country will be in no condition to compete in the EU."

But it adds that the EU can help, notably in agriculture. Instead of phasing in direct payments for accession-state farmers over 10 years, it says, "it should do it in five -- and then abolish these wasteful subsidies for everybody. Accession-state farmers will then have a fair chance to compete."


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" discusses European complaints of U.S. unilateralism at February's Wehrkunde security conference in Munich. It notes that at the conference, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said that warfare in the future will involve not single coalitions but different coalitions for different types of missions -- leading many to question whether NATO is still relevant.

The paper writes: "NATO matters less and less, as the war in Afghanistan has shown. With the exception of the Brits and the Turks, Europeans have been less relevant to waging that war than the Uzbeks and the Kazakhs and the Pakistanis. [Europeans] themselves don't want to spend what it takes to be relevant," says the paper. Instead, they delegate their security to U.S. resources -- as in Bosnia -- even while complaining that the U.S. is not consulting them enough, says the editorial, adding: "[You] can't have it both ways."

The paper goes on to say that except for the British, European military forces are "antique."

It notes that Europe has been pledging to modernize its military for more than a decade, "but it never seems to happen." The European rapid reaction force "remains a pipe dream," it writes.

The editorial concludes by saying that, until the Europeans take action to modernize their military forces, they "lack the standing" to criticize the U.S. for acting alone.


Michal Stuermer in "Die Welt" also looks at the Munich security conference, where he says two views prevailed: that the U.S. regards security as defense policy and prevention, whereas the Europeans call first and foremost for a United Nations mandate before taking action.

"The Munich conference on security was never a place to celebrate victories. The issue is always strategic prospects and allies' anxieties. Seldom has the latter been more justified than this time around," he says. "The technological gap is growing into a strategic gap. From there -- if the Europeans fail to overcome their realism gap -- a breach in the alliance will soon emerge," Stuermer predicts.

Whatever the differences in views, Stuermer points out the nuclear danger for the whole world. The idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists would have an apocalyptic effect both on the Middle East and the West, he says. "Declarations of agreements and sanctions are of no avail in such a case. The Western alliance faces the moment of truth now, this year."


In "Eurasia View," journalist and Indian affairs analyst Agam Shah discusses Afghan interim Deputy Defense Minister Abdulrashid Dostum's recent visit to India, which ended 2 February.

Shah says this visit "appears to have had several aims. On an official level, Dostum's visit sought to strengthen Afghan-Indian diplomatic ties. At the same time, Dostum seems to have pursued a personal agenda, hoping to gain favor with New Delhi in order to fortify his domestic political position."

Dostum's forces continue to control Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan's main northern city. Dostum was reportedly seeking to have an Indian embassy opened there, arguing that such a move would bring the economic benefits of increased trade between India and Afghanistan.

Shah goes on to say that Dostum's meeting with Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes "provoked the most speculation. The two reportedly explored the potential of setting up an army in Afghanistan with training facilities in India," he writes. But Dostum said military cooperation with India was restricted to medical supplies and personnel training.

Shah says some observers saw Dostum's trip as "a reflection of his desire to increase his influence over Afghanistan's reconstruction process." While Dostum supports the interim administration of Hamid Karzai, he advocates a decentralized leadership structure for Afghanistan, arguing such a system would give Afghan reconstruction efforts the best chance for success.


A commentary by staff writers Nathalie Dubois and Marc Semo in France's daily "Liberation" says that a hard-line, liberal, and populist trend has emerged within Europe to replace the centrist Social Democrats who used to rule supreme on the continent.

The first shock came from Austria, say the authors, with Joerg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party. "Haider's xenophobic and anti-Semitic speeches [won him] 27 percent of the votes." They note that the rest of the European Union nations "were indignant and imposed temporary symbolic sanctions, hoping that it was an isolated case."

The authors go on to say that in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also triumphed over the center with his party, which is a perfect example of this new European political breed. Having ridden to victory on a platform promising less government and fewer taxes, "Il Cavalier" might worry the Europeans, but his popularity after eight months of governing remains high, they say.

In Denmark, too, the liberal-conservative coalition of Anders Fogh Rasmussen constitutes a turning point after nine years of Social Democratic reign. Dubois and Semo remark that the first law passed by the new government "restricts the right of those from abroad to enter the country."

Economically "ultraliberal," they add that Rasmussen's draft budget cuts 5,000 civil posts over four years and seeks to eliminate public agencies considered useless, including the Danish Center on Human Rights.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)