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Western Press Review: Anti-Americanism In Berlin, Western Thinking In Moscow?

By Daisy Sindelar/Grant Podelco

Prague, 23 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Today's review of editorials and commentary in the Western press focuses on the arrival of U.S. President George W. Bush in Europe for a trip that will include Germany, Russia, Italy, and France. Several commentators take note of the fact that times appear to be changing: Met by anti-American demonstrators in Berlin, the U.S. president will receive a much warmer reception in his country's former Cold War foe, Russia.


An editorial in Britain's "The Guardian" says U.S. President George W. Bush has a crucial opportunity when he addresses Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin today. "The U.S. president will not just be speaking to Germany's leaders; nor to the thousands of protesters outside," "The Guardian" says. "He will be talking directly to all the peoples of Europe about a relationship with the U.S. that, since Soviet troops stormed the building in which he will stand, has brought mutual security and prosperity but which is now laboring under unusually acute strains."

The paper says that Bush's opportunity is to convince Europeans that his administration, like its predecessors, is a good friend, not a threat or rival. "He has the chance to demonstrate that his policies will work for the benefit of all, that he realizes that global leadership requires global responsibility."

"The Guardian" says "rhetoric and flourishes" about shared values, common heritage, and collective aims will not succeed, "unless backed by firm evidence of greater flexibility and a more consensual international approach." The paper says Bush's talk of an "axis of evil," his division of the planet into "civilized" and "uncivilized" camps, repels Europeans "both by its simplism and by its implied promise of indefinite mayhem."

Bush must use his Berlin address to stress diplomacy and dialogue, not confrontation. Among other things, he should pledge that no war will be launched against Iraq unless Iraq sets out to attack first; he should say the expansion of NATO is a political, not an imperialistic, event; he should say the U.S. welcomes closer ties with Russia primarily for the economic, human rights, and free speech benefits accruing to Russia's people, not for Moscow's cooperation in missile defense.

"In recent months," "The Guardian" concludes, "trans-Atlantic stereotypes of ugly, arrogant Americans and spineless, racist Europeans have increasingly been allowed to obscure the ties that bind, to exaggerate or distort mutual differences. It is time to call a halt to the name-calling and make common cause. Mr. Bush has his opportunity. Let him grasp it."


In "The Wall Street Journal Europe," analyst and author Walter Laqueur says that, despite his rough reception in Germany, U.S. President George W. Bush can take heart: "Anti-Americanism has an old pedigree in Europe, but it seldom leads anywhere."

Laqueur says the pioneers of anti-Americanism were literary figures, above all Frances Trollope, the mother of the famous English novelist, Anthony. She went to the U.S. in the 1820s and complained of bad manners and boorish behavior. Twentieth-century writers included Knut Hamsun and Maksim Gorky. Later, he says, anti-Americanism was kept alive by adherents of Nazism and communism.

Laqueur acknowledges that American mass culture can be repulsive, and that American cities have been traditionally more violent than European ones, though this is currently being reversed. It's doubtful, though, Laqueur says, that these are the real roots of anti-Americanism.

He says anti-Americanism has had a common thread running through it -- an ax to grind. "Mrs. Trollope went to Cincinnati to make money but had failed miserably," he writes. "Gorky went to America with a lady who was not his wife, and this disturbed the puritan American media, who denounced and hounded him. Hamsun and Gorky were great writers but not great democrats; the first later became an admirer of Adolf Hitler and the other ended his life as Stalin's favorite apologist. As for the Nazis, they saw America as an inferior racial hodgepodge dominated by Jews. The communists, meanwhile, saw in Wall Street the main obstacle to world revolution." Meanwhile, tens of millions of Europeans were streaming to America in search of a better life. Few returned.

"Thus, at present, an upsurge of anti-Americanism -- if that is what we're seeing -- is nothing extraordinary," Laqueur says. "But does it have any political significance?" He says most Germans continue to admire the U.S., even if they disagree with some of the things Washington does from time to time. "Indeed, America has recently misbehaved, violating the spirit of free trade with steel tariffs and subsidies to farmers.

"But whatever happens today in Berlin," Laqueur says, "Mr. Bush should not make the mistake of believing the headlines. The Germans remain essentially pro-American."


A second commentary in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" notes, "When a U.S. president leaves behind throngs of anti-American demonstrators in Berlin for a red-carpet reception in St. Petersburg and Moscow, you know it's a new ballgame."

But despite the fanfare surrounding this week's agreements on reducing nuclear arsenals and bringing Russia into the NATO family, the paper asks: "Does this amount to a dramatically new relationship? Not yet, which is why this summit is worth watching closely." The test of a true partnership, the "Journal" suggests, may be whether more difficult issues can be addressed. By this measure, it says, "the Bush-Putin summit ought to be judged on how often the words Iran, Iraq, Chechnya, rule of law, press freedom, corruption, and free trade are uttered."

Bush, it says, should begin his venture into this "thorny" region by seriously addressing the question of proliferation. The paper takes note of last year's $438 million arms deal between Russia and Iran and says, "the real test of Vladimir Putin's support for the war on terror is not a 11 September phone call, but his cooperation in ridding the world of dangers posed by the 'axis of evil.'"

As for Iraq, which owes Moscow some $11 billion, the paper says, "Assurances that [Russia] would not lose financially from a campaign to depose Saddam Hussein and that it would have a voice in determining the post-Saddam political landscape would probably go a long way toward reassuring Putin."

Supporting Russia's hopes of joining the World Trade Organization, the paper adds, "would be another way of encouraging Moscow to recognize that Russia's new friends have much more to offer than the old Soviet ones."


An editorial in "The New York Times" today looks at Bush's arrival in Russia later today and says, "Building on the political and economic changes that have rolled across Europe since the Cold War ended, Mr. Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia have brought Russia to Europe's doorstep." With further work, the paper says, "they can guide it across the threshold."

Russia's advance to the West has not always been easy, the paper notes, saying: "The introduction of democracy and free markets to Russia after 1,000 years of tyranny has produced painful economic and social dislocation. The sudden contraction of Russia's military power and global reach has left the nation stunned. Even now, vestiges of Russia's historic ambition can be seen in Moscow's nuclear assistance to Iran, its misbegotten romance with Saddam Hussein, and lingering bitterness over NATO's war with Yugoslavia three years ago."

The editorial continues, saying now, as Washington and Moscow approach a state of "nearly normal" relations, Putin and Bush will have to turn to the "tough business of controlling the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, combating terrorism, and enhancing economic cooperation." For Putin, this means setting aside Soviet-era secrecy about the nation's weapons programs. For Bush, this means standing firm on what distinguishes a "carefully managed battle against terrorism," like the war in Afghanistan, from Russia's ongoing military campaign in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, which Putin has long billed as an antiterrorist operation. Bush, the paper adds, "should also speak up on behalf of a free press and the rule of law, principles that Putin has often been quick to bulldoze."


A commentary by Nico Fried in Germany's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" examines the reasons behind the apparent change in Germany's attitude toward the United States in light of the protests which have greeted U.S. President George W. Bush on his stopover visit to Berlin.

Fried recalls earlier visits to Germany by past U.S. presidents who were greeted with jubilation. But, he says, it is not America that has changed its foreign policy. Rather, the current frosty reception is due to the fact that Germans "are sometimes prone to embellishing their buried shame of their Nazi past."

The root of the discontent lies in the altered conditions in Germany, which after reunification and the end of the Cold War was under the illusion that a lasting peace was at hand. The U.S. has to make it plain that a greater role in world politics goes hand-in-hand with more responsibilities. Hence the discussion about the U.S. military policy is actually a debate about Germany's own policies.

The trouble lies in the fact that every time a crisis arises it reflects profoundly on Berlin politics. "The German scruples are out of tune with U.S. resoluteness, says the paper. "There are reasons for the promotion of political solutions, but such considerations do not absolve Germany from a responsibility to consider what comes next should such a solution fail.

Fried concludes, "it is right to question Bush's policy -- but this does not serve as a substitute for self-inquiry."


An editorial in Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" today looks at mounting tensions in South Asia and asks, "If hostilities break out afresh between India and Pakistan, what is the chance that the war will turn nuclear?" The answer, the paper suggests, may lie in geography.

Soldiers on both sides of the conflict, the editorial says, "almost all belong to the old imperial 'martial races' -- Punjabis, Baluchis, Rajputs, Dogras. They inhabit neighboring homelands, share traditions, look alike, often speak the same languages." In many cases, it adds, the military machinery on both sides is of equal quality and type.

But, the paper says, in the case of a conventional war, India would likely win -- and quickly: "Its army is twice the size of Pakistan's, with nearly twice as much heavy equipment. Its air force is twice the size. [The Pakistanis], who would fight with great bravery, would lose because they are outnumbered."

Faced with this likelihood, the "Telegraph" continues, Islamabad might be likely to resort to its nuclear weapons. But, it adds, "Reason says that sheer proximity -- a jet fighter could fly between the two capitals in 15 minutes -- is sufficient deterrence. Both Pakistanis and Indians volunteer that the two countries are too close together to risk nuclear war."

The paper concludes, "If there is any sanity in those who run the Subcontinent, the logic of nuclear deterrence must prevail."


Commentator Jim Hoagland, writing in "The Washington Post," says bluntly, "India and Pakistan are three to four weeks from a foreseeable war that the United States has done too little to prevent."

Part of the problem, Hoagland says, is the U.S. failure to control Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, whom the author calls "an extraordinary risk-taker." "The U.S. intelligence community now accepts that Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf allowed the 50 to 60 guerrilla camps in Kashmir that harbor some 3,000 fighters to come back to life in mid-March after two months of quiescence. Two other Musharraf promises -- to prevent cross-border terrorism from Pakistan or Pakistani-controlled territory, and to dismantle permanently Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalist organizations that preach violence -- have also withered as American attention has been focused on the Middle East."

Whatever palliative effect last year's intervention by Secretary of State Colin Powell may have had has since been washed away by "U.S. inattention and failure even to acknowledge Pakistan's subsequent backsliding," Hoagland writes, adding that Musharraf "may believe that Washington needs him too much in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to let India come after him. U.S. officials have given him grounds for thinking that."


James Shinn, writing in "The Wall Street Journal Europe," says the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars on the war against terrorism abroad while ignoring the opportunity to create an effective shield at home. He says one thing about the war on terrorism is certain, that "the terrorists will turn our own technology against us again, the way they turned 737s into cruise missiles. Why not turn our technology against them first?"

Shinn -- a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and also a lecturer in Princeton University's electrical engineering department -- says the U.S. needs to get federal computers talking to one another, and then talking with the private sector.

"The days are gone when we could rely on smart analysts to 'connect the dots' and identify a threat from the Soviet Union in Minsk or Novaya Zemlya," he writes. "Now we need smart computers to sift through millions of data-points and mouse-clicks to help flag terror cells in Jersey City or Tampa."

Unfortunately, he says, the fragmented computer systems at agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) rarely share information, much less tap into civilian databases that contain the "electronic footprints" of terrorists.

Shinn says the gap can be plugged quickly and at modest cost by using methods already used in the private sector by credit-card companies and others. "In retrospect," he writes, "the Al-Qaeda cell that attacked on 11 September threw off a string of red flags" that likely could have been detected by a better-networked system.

Under the new U.S. Homeland Security Office, a handful of civilian system designers and programmers should be pulled together in an emergency team charged with putting a prototype system in place quickly. Ultimately, Shinn says, it is a question of political will, not a question of technical complexity.

The Bush administration has made the war on terror its top priority, Shinn concludes. "Now is the time," he says, "to form that partnership -- and fast -- before Al-Qaeda turns our own technology on us again."

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