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Western Press Review: The Bali Bombing, Carter's Nobel, High Stakes In The Caspian

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 14 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Several Western dailies over the weekend and today comment on the award of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on 11 October, for his continuing efforts to foster human rights and fledgling democracies around the world since he left office in 1981. Other discussion focuses on the apparent terrorist attack in Bali, which killed over 180 people, mostly vacationing foreigners; Russia's interests in Iraq; the future of the EU; and great games and high stakes in the Caspian.


An editorial in "The New York Times" says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter "well deserves the Nobel Peace Prize." In the over 20 years following his term as president, he has been "the most active and civic-minded ex-president of modern times, [and] has contributed substantially to peace, democracy, and human rights."

Carter's 1976-81 presidential term produced "the pathbreaking Camp David peace agreement in the Middle East and a human rights policy that saved lives and hastened the return of democracy in Latin America." After losing a 1980 re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, Carter "energetically sponsored election monitoring around the globe and successfully mediated crises in Haiti and North Korea that might otherwise have exploded into armed conflict."

"The New York Times" remarks that Carter had been nominated for the peace prize several times before. One reason he was chosen this year was to send a message to the current administration of U.S. President George W. Bush that peaceful resolution is preferable to armed conflict, in Iraq and elsewhere. The editorial says the Nobel committee thus followed the "tradition of using the prize to send a contemporary message, exemplified by such past recipients as Martin Luther King, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela." But in awarding the prize, the committee was unusually explicit in its criticism of the current administration, prompting the paper to remark, "Jimmy Carter's achievements are big enough to stand on their own."


In Britain's "The Guardian," columnist Richard Norton-Taylor says the overnight attack in Bali on 12-13 October is evidence of the strategic flaw in the U.S. administration's focus on Iraq. For months, he says, Western governments have been "increasingly obsessed" with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, while their intelligence agencies have been warning about the likelihood of attacks on Western targets around the globe.

Originally, Islamic militants such as those suspected of being responsible for the Bali bombing were targeting bases and embassies, targets connected to the West's governmental and military presence in Muslim countries. But Norton-Taylor says, "The awful message of the bombing of the Bali nightclub is that Islamic extremists appear to have changed their tactics with horrific implications." The nightclub "was the easiest and softest of targets," he says.

Western governments remain "preoccupied" with Iraq, and "short-sighted politicians," including U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, are trying to argue there are links between Iraq and disparate Islamic militant groups. Norton-Taylor says an "invasion and occupation" of Iraq is "likely to encourage further recruits to the cause of Islamist extremism," and notes that terrorism and failing states are related dangers. He says, "Terrorism may never end, but at least there are ways to limit it other than throwing around one's military might."


In the German daily "Die Welt," Andreas Middel discusses a future European Union potentially headed by a single president. It seems, says the writer, that London, Madrid, Paris, and now also Berlin are agreed that an EU president would assist in lending this a single "image and a voice" to the overly complicated organization. But actually much more is at issue than choosing a mere figurehead, he says. The future of the EU depends on the deciding on the "division of power between member governments, the commission, and parliament, or a Europe of national governments in which the states and government leaders will have the sole right to determine policies."

Middel views the creation of a presidential body somewhat skeptically. For many, this would be a step backward to the Europe of the last century. A president would not solve the problem of a lack of democracy in the EU. It remains an open question regarding to which parliament such a president would be responsible. Who would oversee the president's responsibilities? Even though everyone agrees that the EU should be more efficient, more transparent, and closer to the people, Middel says creating yet another high-level authority is not the answer.


In "Eurasia View," Russian and Eurasian issues analyst Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation says that in the month since construction began on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, "the major competitors in the contest for regional economic and political influence are already jockeying for position" in securing interests in Caspian energy resources. Cohen says at a September conference sponsored by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, "the consensus among participants was that the Caspian Basin could probably only support one main export pipeline" in addition to the one from Baku through Tbilisi to Ceyhan in Turkey. The direction of a second pipeline "remains in question, and thus holds the potential for fierce competition among regional and global powers."

Cohen goes on to address several suggestions for various pipeline routes, and points out the weaknesses of each. The issue of transnational security "dominates pipeline strategy," he says. Cohen says some observers now believe that modifications of existing routes may better satisfy both investors and energy importers.

Moreover, strategists must consider new pipelines "in the context of an expanded European Union," which will place the center of Europe closer to the Black Sea. The EU will thus have to "manage regional conflict and poverty issues in the former Eastern bloc while figuring out a way to slake the thirst of its developed members for energy."


An editorial in "The Boston Globe" says Russian officials are making it clear that Russia's approval in the UN Security Council of a U.S.-led offensive in Iraq "may be shaped by crude commercial or national interests." The Kremlin has been "assessing, realistically, what Russia stands to lose" in oil revenues and the over $7 billion in Soviet-era debt Iraq still owes in the event of regime change in Baghdad. Russian oil companies have already signed contracts with the Iraqi regime worth billions of dollars.

As long as sanctions on Saddam Hussein's regime "remain in force, those contracts cannot be exercised." But if the current regime "is succeeded by a pro-American government that cancels the contracts signed by the despised tyrant, Russia's vital oil industry could lose out on an anticipated bonanza."

Russian officials are now "waiting to receive high-level assurances" regarding their oil interests from the U.S. administration. The paper says the United States should grant these commercial assurances. But it adds: "There must be no American sell-out of Georgia's sovereignty as the price for Russian cooperation at the United Nations and no acceptance of Russia's dirty war in Chechnya. Putin may be worth having as a crass business partner, but not as an ally playing the regional bully."


An editorial in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" deals with the question of law and order in the EU. It says by no longer insisting on recognizing the borders that have served as Europe's divisions for centuries, there are no longer geographical limitations on issuing Europe-wide writs.

Fourteen government chiefs persuaded Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to agree to a framework for supra-national legal assistance in Europe. Since then, it has been possible for EU officials to mediate the arrest of presumed terrorists, criminals, and dealers in pornography. The paper says it is to the credit of European justice ministers that they have not focused on petty criminals while allowing larger ones to go free and, in fact, have concentrated on high-level crime.

As EU justice ministers convene in Luxembourg, the issue at hand is that the long arm of justice will now apply to each member state throughout the EU.


In France's "Le Monde," Eric Le Boucher discusses some of the challenges that face the European Union ahead of its largest-ever enlargement, expected in 2004. He notes that, due to the failure of EU decision-making structures to evolve, a 27-member EU may be "paralyzed." And for many economists, he says, enlargement without an adequate economic strategy "threatens to plunge the union into permanent instability."

But, he asks, will enlargement mean the political and economic failure of the union? Enlargement will certainly provide many economic advantages: "It provides new markets. And it will impose new competition, the engine of initiative." But it is also the first time the EU will open its doors to so many relatively poor people. The per capita income of candidate nations averages only 40 percent of that of the current 15 members. Thus, enlargement will introduce two major risks: an influx of immigrants from East to West when the borders are opened, and unemployment in what is now Western Europe, as companies move their factories eastward to cut costs. A successful enlargement will prove a "very delicate balance," Le Boucher says.


Global terrorism and the latest attack on the island of Bali, Indonesia, is the subject of a commentary in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung." Stefan Kornelius writes that terror has become all-pervasive, an everyday occurrence in spite of politicians' rhetoric against such acts because, for the perpetrators, it is not just a pointless, brutal, and arbitrary act. Kornelius cites Bruce Hoffmann, an expert on terrorism, regarding terrorist aims: "It is not helpful to say that they are mindless or irrational," Hoffman says. For radical religious militants, acts of terror are sanctioned by God. They polarize, sow fear, spread instability, and destroy.

Kornelius discusses possible means for coming to terms with terrorism. In the U.S. he says, leaders have decided that it is essential to spread political freedom as the only efficient weapon against fundamentalism and dictators. This controversial change in strategy is leading to a preventive war in Iraq, because in the U.S. view, "Saddam Hussein's overt suppression abets the spread of terror." In contrast, "it is expected that an open Iraqi society will lead to stability and security for the entire region."

But Kornelius says this concept overlooks the fact that "fanaticism does not need the state to express its hate. It overlooks in its calculations that the mere success of the forced opening of a society actually generates a new impetus for fanaticism. No strategy will seriously have an impact as long as the Muslims do not deal with extremists in their own ranks. Until that occurs, fear will prevail."

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