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Newsline - June 15, 2001




PUTIN-BUSH SUMMIT SEEN AS 'CHEMISTRY TEST'

According to an article in "Vremya novostei" on 14 June, the summit meeting on 16 June between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart George W. Bush in Ljubljana will be short, not focused on major issues, and represent a kind of "chemistry test" of the relationship between the two men. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on the same day, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov called on the two presidents to focus on economic cooperation rather than on political issues. PG

CHECHEN LEADER APPEALS TO U.S. PRESIDENT...

In a letter addressed to U.S. President Bush, the text of which has been made available to RFE/RL, Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov appeals to him to try to persuade Russian President Putin during their 16 June talks in Ljubljana to end the war in Chechnya. Acknowledging that the Chechens have been constrained in the face of Russian brutality to resort to "legitimate self-defense," Maskhadov again affirms his readiness for "a negotiated and honorable conclusion of hostilities that would preserve the independence of our people and restore stability to the greater Caucasus region." He also points out that, contrary to Russian claims, the practice of Islam in Chechnya is "among the world's most tolerant forms" of that religion. LF

...AS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS APPEAL TO WORLD LEADERS

Russian human rights groups organized as the "For an End to the War and for Peaceful Regulation in Chechnya" committee appealed to the leaders of the G-7 plus Russia countries to push for a political settlement in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 14 June. They called for an end to human rights violations there and for negotiations with Chechen leader Maskhadov. PG

DOES PUTIN SUPPORT THE DEATH PENALTY?

SPS Duma deputies Dmitrii Savelev and Vera Lekareva say that Putin supports their bill calling for the introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking and other crimes, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Lekareva said that Putin told her that "we will probably be forced to reintroduce capital punishment" to deal with drug trafficking. But the two parliamentarians want the death penalty extended to cover such crimes as child molestation and trafficking in women, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 June. SPS leaders have indicated that they do not support the measure. VY

PUTIN SAID PUSHING HARD FOR ADOPTION OF LAND CODE

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on 14 June that Putin is pushing hard for the adoption of the new land code to be debated on 15 June because it will improve the investment climate in the country, ORT reported. Communist and Agrarian leaders sought to organize opposition against it, but a measure to postpone consideration failed in the Duma on 14 June. VY

CABINET CONFIRMS RULES ON DUAL-USE GOODS...

The Russian government has confirmed the statute governing the export of dual-use technologies, Interfax reported on 14 June. That ruling sets up a system of licensing and customs arrangements to ensure that technologies that might be used for military purposes are carefully regulated. PG

...AND PLANS FOR CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION

The cabinet on 14 June approved a plan to prolong the destruction of chemical weapons by five years to 2012, Russian and Western agencies reported. The plan will cost less because Russia will have to build only three instead of seven destruction facilities. Moscow earlier agreed to carry out the destruction of these weapons sooner but has pleaded poverty as the reason for the delay. The new plan calls for the destruction of 1 percent of the stocks by 2003, 20 percent by 2007, and all by 2012. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER WANTS CENTRAL BANK TO REGULATE SPENDING

According to an article in "Tribuna" on 14 June, the Audit Chamber has concluded that "everything is being done improperly" with respect to government spending. The chamber, which is headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, has concluded that the Finance Ministry is incapable of monitoring government disbursements and has decided that this function should be performed by the Central Bank, which in that event would become a state enterprise. PG

DUMA AGAIN FAILS TO APPROVE CALL FOR CONDEMNATION OF NATIONALIST AND RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

For the fourth time, the Duma failed to pass a draft appeal to President Putin calling for combating manifestations of nationalist and religious extremism, Interfax reported on 14 June. Only 163 of the needed 226 deputies voted in favor of the measure. Unity deputy Aleksandr Fedulov, who wrote the appeal, said he will resubmit the measure. In another action, the Duma failed to approve a call by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia to lift international sanctions on Iraq, the news agency said. That measure attracted 204 and 206 votes, again short of the 226 needed for passage. PG

DUMA VOTES FOR BILL TO LIMIT SMOKING

The Duma approved on second reading draft legislation that restricts the use of tobacco and controls its production, Russian agencies reported on 14 June. The bill includes a ban on smoking in the workplace, on public transportation, and on commercial flights of less than three-hours duration. It also prohibits the sale of tobacco products to children under 18 and requires cigarette producers to lower the amount of nicotine and tar in their product. VY

UNITY, FATHERLAND TO DECIDE ON 12 JULY ON UNION

The central council of Fatherland and the presidium of the political council of the Unity party will meet in Moscow on 12 July to decide on the question of the union between them, Interfax-Moscow reported on 14 June. PG

YABLOKO MOVES TO LEFT, GAINS ON SPS IN REGIONS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June, Yabloko is shifting to the left and adopting a more populist platform, one at odds with the Kremlin. The paper said that as a result, Yabloko now is pulling ahead of the SPS in some regions. PG

HELSINKI GROUP HEAD WARNS AGAINST COOPERATION WITH BEREZOVSKY

Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, on 14 June said that many human rights groups will not support Boris Berezovsky if he attempts to form an opposition party, Interfax reported. On the one hand, she said, most of them want to avoid politics as such, and on the other, many of them have concluded that their reputations would suffer if they cooperated with him. PG

PROSECUTORS WANT COURTS TO SEIZE ASSETS THAT OWNERS CANNOT PROVE ARE LEGITIMATE

Issa Kostoev, the head of the international law department of the Prosecutor-General's Office, said that the parliament should give courts the right to seize assets if their owners cannot prove that they have been acquired legitimately, RIA-Novosti reported on 14 June. Kostoev said that such an arrangement, which already exists in several European countries, will help the fight against money laundering. VY

MOSCOW EXTRADITED 1,614 PEOPLE IN 2000

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 14 June that Russia received 4,225 extradition requests from foreign countries and agreed to extradite 1,614 persons, Russian and Western agencies reported. The largest number were sent to Ukraine. International law department head Kostoev said "Russia extradites about 10 times more people than other countries give to us." PG

MORE FUNDS MOVE INTO RUSSIA THAN OUT DURING FIRST QUARTER

According to a report in "Vedomosti" on 14 June, Russian exports during the first quarter of 2001 amounted to $21.5 billion but some $27 billion came into Russia from abroad. This development, which various banking analysts labeled as "somewhat surprising," reflects increased confidence in the Russian economy and growing reluctance by Western banks to hold money of whose provenance they are unsure, the paper said. PG

RUSSIA MAY IGNORE VERDICTS OF FOREIGN COURTS

The Duma Committee on Legislation is preparing legislation that will abolish an existing law that requires Russian officials to accept the verdicts of foreign courts, RBK reported on 14 June. The law was adopted in 1987 under then-CPSU Central Committee General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to allow foreigners the opportunity to sue Russian companies. Committee members indicated that they are also working on legislation that will prohibit foreigners from launching bankruptcy proceedings against Russian firms. VY

CANDIDATE'S DISQUALIFICATION LEAVES FAR EAST, MOSCOW IN UPROAR

A court in Primorskii Krai on 14 June disqualified Viktor Cherepkov as a candidate for governor only three days before the vote, Russian and Western agencies reported. The court held that he violated election laws by appearing for free on a popular radio station and receiving money from anonymous donors. As a result of the court decision, Gennadii Apanasenko, who finished third in the first round of voting on 27 May and who as a deputy presidential envoy is widely assumed to have the backing of the Kremlin, will now face Sergei Darkin, who led in that round. Cherepkov said he is outraged, many political figures in both the region and Moscow said that they suspect official interference in the court hearing, and Apanasenko said that he is at a disadvantage because he is entering the runoff so late. PG

OSCE MISSION TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA AFTER PROVIDING FUNDS FOR THEIR GUARDS

A small mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is to return to Chechnya, but only after the organization provided Russia with funds to buy weapons for a 25-man force that Moscow said is necessary to protect the mission during its work, Reuters reported on 14 June. OSCE officials denied that they are buying arms. They said that the organization had no choice but to "buy a whole package," including money for arming their guards. The mission will be based in the northwestern town of Znamenskoe in Nadterechnyi Raion. PG

ALTAI REPUBLIC MAY SEEK PASSPORT INSERTS

The government of the Altai Republic plans to survey its population and to consider the costs involved of having inserts in the Altai language for Russian passports that are to be distributed to its residents, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 14 June. Of the 204,000 residents of the republic, approximately 70,000 are Altais. PG

DIPLOMATS SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR SERVICE IN CIS, BALTIC, FORMER BLOC COUNTRIES

The Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) has begun the large-scale training of Russian diplomats who will work in the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Baltic countries, CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE and Mongolia, Interfax reported on 14 June. The first graduates of this program received their diplomas on the same day. PG

KREMLIN PUSHES FOR MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION WITH CIS COUNTRIES

According to an article in "Vremya novostei" on 14 June, the Kremlin has been pushing the Russian government to accelerate the development of a program for expanding military-technical cooperation with the other members of the CIS. Moscow needs such a program, the paper said, to allow Russia to participate more actively in rearming the militaries of these countries and influencing the policies of their governments. VY

MOSCOW ADOPTS STRATEGIC PLAN FOR ARCTIC

The Russian government has approved a draft program on the development of Russia's economic and geopolitical interests in the Arctic region, Interfax reported on 14 June. The measure stresses the importance of the region for Russia and also calls for creating a government commission on Arctic questions. PG

PROTESTS AGAINST PAPAL VISIT A 'SLAVIC INTIFADA,' PAPER SAYS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June, the protests organized by the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine against the upcoming visit there by Pope John Paul II are nothing other than "a peaceful Slavic intifada." The paper claims that the visit represents a Catholic assault on Orthodoxy and has been instigated by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as part of a plan to replace Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with a pro-U.S. politician. VY

U.S. EXTENDS IMMUNITY FOR RUSSIAN URANIUM

To allow Russia to continue to export highly enriched uranium to the U.S. as part of the program for reducing the amount of such materials in Russia, U.S. President George W. Bush has extended the immunity of such materials from seizure by the courts, Interfax reported on 13 June, citing the Dow Jones report. Bush's measure was necessitated by the risk that lawyers for the Noga firm may seek a court order to seize these valuable materials to satisfy Russian debts to the company. Moscow had indicated that it would not ship more such materials if the immunity arrangement, first established in 2000, were not extended. PG

IS THE U.S. IN FAVOR OF WRITING OFF RUSSIA'S SOVIET-ERA DEBT?

Interfax reported on 14 June that Richard Perle, the head of the policy planning group at the U.S. Defense Department, told a meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Lisbon that Washington will insist on writing off Moscow's Soviet-era debt in order to facilitate Russia's economic development. According to the news agency, Perle said Washington would go ahead even if its European allies were against this step. But both smi.ru and polit.ru noted the same day that the U.S. has relatively little to lose if this information is indeed correct: The U.S. now holds less than 10 percent of Moscow's Soviet-era debt, while European countries and Japan hold most of the remainder. VY

MOSCOW HOPES FOR 'DEBT FOR NATURE' SWAP WITH FINLAND

Deputy Environment Minister Yelena Kataeva said on 14 June that Finland may be prepared to write off some Russian government debt if Moscow agrees to finance environmental projects in the Arctic region, ITAR-TASS reported. Norway and countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America have used this strategy to lower their debt burdens. PG

SHANGHAI FORUM ACQUIRES NEW MEMBER

The five leaders of the Shanghai Forum member states -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- admitted Uzbekistan to their number on 14 June at a summit in Shanghai and changed the name of the organization to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ITAR-TASS reported. The group seeks to strengthen ties among the member countries and to fight terrorism and international crime. The next meeting of the group will be in Moscow in 2002. On the sidelines of the meeting, Putin met with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and restated their opposition to U.S. plans for national missile defense, dpa reported on the same day. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS MORE MILITARY SALES IN AFRICA, ASIA, LATIN AMERICA...

Defense Ministry official Mikhail Dmitriev said on 14 June that Moscow hopes to sell $4.5 billion in arms to African, Asian and Latin American countries in 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Yurii Khozyainov, the deputy chairman of the Russian Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, said that at least seven new agreements on weapons sales with African countries are in the works. In addition, Iranian officials announced that Tehran will increase its purchases of Russian MI-8 helicopters this year, the news agency said. PG

...AND LOOKS TO EASTERN EUROPE, ASIA, AND FINLAND FOR NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS

Yurii Bespalko, press secretary for the Atomic Energy Ministry, told ITAR-TASS on 14 June that Russia is exploring the possibility of storing spent nuclear fuel from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Finland. He said that his ministry would like to attract imports from other parts of the globe, including the United States, but that competition in that sector is "rather strong." PG

ILLARIONOV SEES NO THREAT OF FASCISM IN RUSSIA

Andrei Illarionov, the presidential economic adviser, said in an interview published in "Ogonek," No. 24, that he sees little danger of fascism emerging in Russia. He noted that he had prepared a report on fascism in the 10th grade and had also written a university thesis on fascist economics. On the basis of what he learned at that time, he said that the only thing Russia shares with Germany of the 1920s is a sense of defeat. Illarionov also said that many of the Russian politicians who once called themselves liberals in fact have pursued and continue to pursue populist programs. PG

RUSSIANS INCREASINGLY CONFIDENT ABOUT FSB

Nearly 60 percent of Russians now say they have confidence in the Federal Security Service (FSB), up from 44 percent in 1995, according to a report in "The Christian Science Monitor" on 13 June. Sergei Grigoryants, the head of Moscow's Glasnost Foundation, told the newspaper that "members of the security services are not only proud of themselves, they are also sure that they have come to power in the past couple of years." PG

BEREZOVSKY, GUSINSKY SPEAK ON MEDIA'S ROLE

In a documentary film on the development of the Russian media over the last decade, two embattled media magnates describe how they view the role of the press in their country, Interfax reported on 14 June. Berezovsky said that he "never in the course of the decade viewed the mass media as a business." Instead, he said he considered it "a powerful lever of political influence," one that would promote political reforms. Vladimir Gusinsky for his part said that in 1996 the Russian government suddenly realized that the media could be a political weapon. "But as soon as [the government] used it as a weapon, we began to die. There remain only means of agitation and propaganda which people ceased to believe. And they began to listen to the Voice of America at night." PG

RUSSIA LACKS NEEDED HIGHWAY INFRASTRUCTURE

Deputy Transportation Minister Oleg Skvortsov said on 14 June that Russia has been able to spend only 48 percent of what was planned for highway construction and maintenance from 1995-2000, Interfax reported. He said that as a result and because of the Soviet legacy, Russia's roads "do not correspond to international standards." At present Russia has 925,000 kilometers of highways but it needs 1.5 million kilometers, Skvortsov said. PG

GORBACHEV IN 1988 KNEW DETAILS OF BALTIC DEPORTATIONS

Despite his protestations of ignorance to the contrary, in 1988 Soviet leader Gorbachev knew the details of the Soviet deportations from the Baltic countries in the 1940s and early 1950s, according to an article in "Vremya MN" on 14 June. At the insistence of the communist parties in the three Baltic republics, the KGB under the leadership of Viktor Chebrikov prepared a top-secret report on the subject in 1988, and archivists have now found Gorbachev's signature on that document. PG

ZINAIDA SHAKHOVSKAYA BURIED IN PARIS

Princess Zinaida Shakhovskaya, the longtime editor of the Paris newspaper "Russkaya mysl," and a distinguished essayist and historian, was buried at the St. Genevieve des Bois cemetery outside Paris, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Shakhovskaya, who was born in 1906, fled Russia after the revolution, fought in the French Resistance, was in Moscow in the 1950s with her Belgian diplomat husband, and worked in French state radio during a career spanning more than 60 years. PG

97 PERCENT OF DRIVERS TRY TO BRIBE POLICE WHEN STOPPED FOR TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS

Aleksandr Gurov, the head of the Duma Security Committee, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 14 June that "corruption is a way of life in Russia nowadays. The Interior Ministry once did an experiment: 100 cases of traffic violations were monitored -- and in only three of those cases did the drivers not offer a bribe to the traffic police." He said that such bribes are to be found almost in almost every sphere of life and now constitute "a threat to Russia's national security." PG

TWO MORE LOCAL OFFICIALS MURDERED IN CHECHNYA

The mayor of the village of Beloreche in Gudermes Raion and a village official in Urus Martan Raion were killed in separate incidents late on 13 June, AP reported the following day. Those murders raise the number of pro-Moscow Chechen officials killed so far this month to four. LF

GANTEMIROV APPOINTED TO SOUTHERN FEDERAL DISTRICT HEAD'S STAFF

Former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov has accepted a position as a senior federal inspector in the South Russia federal district under Viktor Kazantsev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. His duties will reportedly include relations between the local population in Chechnya and the Chechen diaspora and helping to organize elections to local bodies of power in Chechnya. No date has yet been set for those elections. Predicting Gantemirov's new appointment on 2 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Gantemirov will be based primarily in Moscow. LF




INCUMBENT REJECTS PROPOSED CURBS ON ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S POWERS...

Armenia cannot at present risk the transformation into a parliamentary republic because it needs a powerful head of state to successfully complete the transition to democracy and a market economy, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau quoted Robert Kocharian as telling journalists in Yerevan on 14 June. A presidential commission established in 1998 to draft proposals on constitutional reform, including reducing the powers of the presidency, submitted its conclusions to President Kocharian in March 2001. Those recommendations have not yet been made public. LF

...AS NEW OPPOSITION GROUP CALLS ON HIM TO RESIGN

Speaking at what Noyan Tapan described as a "poorly attended" meeting in Yerevan on 14 June, leaders of the opposition pro-Russian National Accord Front created earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 13, 30 March 2001) argued that Kocharian and the government bear responsibility for the "social, economic, moral, and psychological crisis" in Armenia's regions and should therefore step down. The meeting was the first in a series of rallies the organization intends to convene throughout Armenia this summer. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE OFFICIALS DENY PLANS TO INVADE ABKHAZIA

Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze and one of his deputies, Gela Bezhuashvili, on 13 June both rejected as a fabrication the claim published in "Izvestiya" that the joint naval and land maneuvers with NATO that began on Georgia's Black Sea coast on 12 June constitute the preliminary to a military attack on Abkhazia, Georgian media reported. Also on 13 June, Abkhaz Premier Anri Djergenia met separately in Sukhum with the head of the UN Observer Force in Georgia and with the commander of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia and asked them both to monitor the ongoing maneuvers carefully. CIS peacekeeping forces commander Major General Nikolai Sidorovich said on 14 June that with 2,000 men, his force is strong enough to repulse any incursion by the combined NATO and Georgian forces into the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN BEGINS LEGALIZING SHADOW CAPITAL

The law passed earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2001) permitting the repatriation with impunity of funds illegally transferred to foreign bank accounts went into effect on 14 June, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Over a period of 20 days, 16 banks will accept payment into accounts with them of unlimited sums that will not be subject to tax or penalties. Nor will the provenance of those funds be checked. Financial experts estimate that between $500 million and $3 billion may be repatriated. LF

KAZAKH MOTHERS AGAIN DEMAND ALLOWANCES

A group of 22 women from South Kazakhstan Oblast convened a press conference in Almaty on 14 June to report on their five-month campaign to compel the oblast leadership to pay them their overdue social allowances, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001 and "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 20 April 2001). Some women have had their passports confiscated, while local officials have denied in conversation with others that they are entitled to any allowances. In Astana on 14 June, Labor and Social Protection Minister Alikhan Baimenov and South Kazakhstan Oblast Governor Berdibek Saparbaev incurred criticism from parliament deputies after delivering a report on the social situation in the oblast. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CLARIFIES POSITION ON CHINESE BORDER ACCORDS

The parliamentary press service issued a statement on 14 June denying that at the previous day's session of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) deputies appealed to President Askar Akaev to disavow the 1996 and 1999 border delimitation agreements with China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). Nor did the assembly formally request the Prosecutor General's Office to open legal proceedings against those government officials responsible for drafting those accords, the press service said. LF

KYRGYZSTAN MOVES TO REDUCE BUREAUCRACY

Government department head Azimbek Isabekov told a government meeting in Bishkek on 14 June that the process of slimming down the country's bureaucracy is underway, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. He said 1,200 jobs in the national government have already been abolished and a further 2,000 posts will be cut soon. Local district administrations will be cut from 150 to 80 persons. According to the EBRD, Kyrgyzstan's civil service employs some 250,000 people, or one if four of all persons currently employed. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SACKS MILITARY OFFICIAL

Saparmurat Niyazov announced to a Security Council session on 14 June the dismissal of Colonel General Annamurad Soltanov, commander of the Balkan military district, for having sold armaments abroad in 1993-1994, ITAR-TASS reported. At that time Soltanov was deputy defense minister in charge of armaments. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO TRADE GAS FOR ARMAMENTS

Sergei Chemezov, the first deputy general director of the state arms export monopoly Rosoboroneksport, told journalists in Ashgabat on 14 June that during talks with President Niyazov and other senior officials earlier that day agreement was reached on a five-year cooperation program, Interfax reported. Under that program, Turkmenistan will supply Russia with unspecified amounts of natural gas in exchange for upgrading its existing Soviet-era weaponry and for supplies of advanced military hardware including coastal patrol boots. LF

UN ENVOY DISCUSSES AFGHAN SITUATION WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT

UN envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell told President Niyazov during talks in Ashgabat on 14 June that he anticipates protracted heavy fighting this summer between the warring factions in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he does not believe a dialogue on ending the conflict is currently possible. Ashgabat earlier hosted unofficial talks between the two warring Afghan factions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SET TO WITHSTAND 'ONSLAUGHT' BY FOREIGN MEDIA IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Alyaksandr Lukashenka told workers of the Vavilov Mechanical Factory in Minsk on 14 June that he "feels nationwide support" in the runup to the 19 September presidential elections, Belarusian Television reported. Referring to the appearance of four of his potential election opponents on Russia's ORT television on 10 June, Lukashenka accused them of resorting to "dirty [campaigning] techniques." He assured his listeners that the authorities are able "to withstand the [propaganda] onslaught" that has already begun and is being planned "from the side of foreign media, including Russian ones." On 11 June, four Russian television channels suddenly went off the air in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2001), spawning rumors that it was Lukashenka's revenge for ORT's promotion of his opponents. JM

MORE ASPIRANTS SEEK TO RUN IN BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL RACE

The number of people seeking to register their presidential campaign groups at the Central Election Commission amounted to 13 as of 14 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001), Belarusian media reported. New aspirants to run for the post of Belarusian president include Leanid Sinitsyn, former chief of President Lukashenka's administration; Mikhail Marynich, Belarus's current ambassador to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; and Uladzimir Hancharyk, head of Belarus's Federation of Trade Unions. According to the election schedule, 15 June is the last day to file applications for the registration of campaign groups. The Central Election Commission is to conclude the registration process by 20 June, and after that date registered groups will be allowed to collect signatures in support of their candidates. JM

ATTACKERS OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS

The Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Court on 14 June sentenced two brothers, Serhiy and Volodymyr Ivanchenko, as well as Andrei Samoilov to 15 years in prison each for organizing and carrying out a grenade attack on presidential candidate Natalya Vitrenko on 2 October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 October 1999), Interfax reported. The court found Serhiy Ivanchenko guilty of organizing the attack, while Volodymyr Ivanchenko and Andrei Samoilov were found guilty of throwing two RGD-5 grenades into a crowd and injuring some 40 people, including Vitrenko. According to the court, the perpetrators' motive for the attack was to "help" Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz in his election campaign. Serhiy Ivanchenko repeatedly denied his guilt during the seven-month trial, accusing Ukraine's special services and President Leonid Kuchma of fabricating the case in order to discredit Moroz. JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS UKRAINE HAS NEVER STOLEN RUSSIAN GAS

Russian Ambassador to Kyiv Viktor Chernomyrdin on 14 June made an enigmatic statement regarding the controversial issue of the siphoning of Russian transit gas by Ukraine. According to Interfax, Chernomyrdin confirmed the words of Gazprom former chief Rem Vyakhirev that Ukraine did not siphon Russian gas in 2000 and 2001. Asked by journalists to comment on President Kuchma's recent statement that Ukraine has never stolen Russian gas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001), Chernomyrdin noted that "this did not happen." He added, however, that "there have been hitches, faults, and unsanctioned siphoning" in the transit of Russian gas across Ukraine in the winter periods of recent years. Chernomyrdin said the problem of Russian gas siphoning cannot be tackled with an "easy approach" because, he added, Ukraine's gas-transport system works in a "complicated operation mode." JM

WORLD BANK TO LEND UKRAINE $350 MILLION THIS YEAR?

Luca Barbone, the World Bank's director for Ukraine and Belarus, said in Kyiv on 14 June that the bank may give a $250 million tranche out of a $750 million loan to Ukraine by the end of this year if all disagreements over the reform of the country's largest bank Ukrayina are solved, AP reported. Barbone added that the bank also intends to conclude in December its work on granting a $100 million loan to help Ukraine issue some 6.5 million land-ownership certificates to farmers. Since the beginning of its cooperation with Ukraine in 1993, the World Bank has lent Kyiv $2.1 billion, Interfax reported. JM

ESTONIA ADOPTS UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE LAW

The parliament, in a session that lasted until 5:15 a.m., on 14 June adopted a government-sponsored mandatory unemployment insurance law by a vote of 54 to zero, with four abstentions, ETA and BNS reported. The law, which will go into effect on 1 January 2002, provides that employees pay 1 percent of their salaries into the unemployment insurance fund while employers pay an additional 0.5 percent of the salaries. Unemployment benefits for the first 100 days will be 50 percent of the recipient's last salary and 40 percent for the remainder of the year. At present, unemployment benefits are a symbolic 400 kroons ($22) per month. The parliament earlier rejected a no-confidence motion on Economy Minister Mihkel Parnoja by a vote of 42 to 42. The motion needed at least 51 votes to oust the minister. SG

LATVIA RAISES 2001 BUDGET DEFICIT LIMIT TO 1.8 PERCENT OF GDP

The parliament on 14 June approved in principle and designated as urgent amendments to this year's national budget, which were approved by the Cabinet of Ministers the previous day, LETA reported. The amendments provide that the budget deficit will increase by more 10 million lats ($15.6 million) to 89.8 million lats, or 1.8 percent of GDP. The Welfare Ministry is expected to receive an additional 3.17 million lats, most of which would be for child benefits. Opposition deputies left the session before the vote, protesting that they had insufficient time to review the amendments since they were handed out only that morning. The parliament will vote next week on the final approval of the amendments. SG

LITHUANIA ADOPTS COMPULSORY MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE LAW

The parliament by a vote of 65 to two, with seven abstentions, passed a compulsory third-party motor liability insurance on 14 June that will go into effect beginning 1 March 2002, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. The law fixed the base insurance fee for automobiles at 220 litas ($55), but it can be reduced by up to a half or increased up to three times depending on the driving record of the vehicle's owner. The basic fees for motorcycles, mopeds, and tractors will be 80 litas, for buses 350 litas, and for trucks 375 litas. Farmers will be able to get a joint policy covering up to five pieces of equipment, such as tractors, combines, and harvesters. Lithuania is the only EU candidate country that does not yet have compulsory vehicle insurance and only about 20 percent of the automobiles in Lithuania are insured at present. SG

U.S. PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN POLAND TO PRESENT HIS FOREIGN POLICY VISION

George W. Bush -- accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- arrived in Warsaw on 15 June on a visit that is expected to be a keynote event in his current European tour. Bush is scheduled to meet top Polish officials and deliver a major foreign policy speech to endorse the vision of a "whole and free" Europe in which NATO will open its doors to a further round of eastward enlargement, Reuters reported. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT TO MERGE 28 SUGAR COMPANIES IN CORPORATION

The government announced on 14 June that it will form a Polish Sugar Corporation comprising 28 out of Poland's 49 nonprivatized sugar companies, PAP reported. After its formation, the Polish Sugar Corporation will be the country's biggest sugar manufacturer with a 41 percent share of the market. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT STRESSES PROPERTY RESTITUTION DIFFICULTIES

Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists in Brussels on 13 June that he is willing to discuss property restitution with former owners, but added that he could agree only to compensation at a level of "several percent" of the value of lost assets, PAP reported. Kwasniewski noted that, owing to the considerable changes in its borders after World War II, Poland may face a huge number of property restitution claims from Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Jews and an "extremely complicated" property restitution process. "We cannot be compared either to Hungary or the Czech Republic. We changed our borders, we lost 40 percent of our eastern territories and account for 30 percent of former German territory... Ownership relations in Poland have been changed to a greater extent than in any other country, and it is utopia to expect that all this can be resolved by one legal act," Kwasniewski said. JM

RUML ADMITS TO KNOWING OF FALSE CZECHOSLOVAK SCREENING CERTIFICATES

Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Ruml, who was deputy to then-Czechoslovak Federal Interior Minister Jan Langos prior to the split of the country in 1993, told CTK on 14 June that he knew about false screening certificates being issued (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2001), but did nothing about it as it was not within his remit. As for why he did not deal with the wrongly issued certificates when he became interior minister of the Czech Republic in 1993, Ruml said, "I don't know. The federation split that year. I had a year full of very different worries...then I forgot about it." He added that he had never denied clean screening certificates had been wrongly issued. "I've never tried to hide it. The fact that I didn't deal with the problem is a different matter," he said. DW

SENATE COMMITTEE HEAD: CZECH ARMY TRANSFORMATION WILL TAKE EIGHT YEARS

The chairman of the Senate's Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Security Committee, Michael Zantovsky, said after a committee meeting on 14 June that the planned modernization and professionalization of the Czech army will take two election terms, CTK reported. Zantovsky also said that the army can afford only one academy, where it currently has three. "The army, whose aim [after transformation] is to have about 40,000 soldiers, cannot afford more than one academy," he said. DW

AUSTRIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES MINISTER'S STATEMENTS ON CZECH EU CHANCES

The Austrian opposition Social Democrats (SPO) have criticized statements by Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser of the far-right Freedom Party, CTK reported on 14 June. Grasser said on 13 June that the Czech Republic should not be admitted into the EU unless it abolishes the 1946 Benes decrees and decommissions the Temelin nuclear power plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). The SPO called on Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to "explain who has the main word in the Austrian foreign policy." SPO spokesman Caspar Einem said that the foreign policy of the Austrian government is ambiguous and pointed to the fact that Grasser's statements contradicted Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who has said many times that the Czech Republic's entry into the EU would not be tied to the Benes decrees. DW

IFJ CONCERNED BY CZECH JOURNALIST TRIAL

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed concern over the trial of a Czech journalist accused of revealing classified information, CTK reported on 14 June. Former Nova TV reporter Tomas Smrcek is charged with intentionally jeopardizing classified data by showing a document on TV related to allegations that the head of military counterintelligence had covered up for an agent accused of drunk driving. The IFJ called on the Czech government, parliament, and Supreme Court to recognize public interest as a legal defense for publishing classified information. Senate Deputy Chairman Ruml, who attended the closed trial, said the protection of classified data "cannot be abused to the detriment of a journalist who is obliged to inform the public." DW

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST FORMER ZEMAN AIDE DROPPED

Prosecutors have dropped charges of libel against Vratislav Sima, a former top adviser to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, in the case related to the "Operation Lead" campaign aimed at discrediting Chamber of Deputies Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzkova, CTK reported on 14 June. Prosecutors' spokesman Martin Omelka said Sima is the author of the document in question, "but the behavior is not so dangerous to society to be called a crime." Zdenek Sarapatka, another former adviser to Zeman who initially accused Sima of being the document's author, said he will demand an apology from Zeman for saying publicly that the case "was a kind of a mysterious conspiracy created by myself and journalists." DW

SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER WARNS ABOUT 'HUNGARIAN IRREDENTISM'

Slovak Nationalist Party Chairwoman Anna Malikova told journalists on 15 June that "Hungarian irredentism" will reach its climax with the passing of a bill by the Hungarian parliament on Hungarians living abroad, TASR reported. The Hungarian parliament is currently debating a "Status Bill" that stipulates giving Hungarians in neighboring countries employment rights and other privileges in Hungary. Malikova said Hungarian politicians are promoting the idea of Greater Hungary and seeking support for it from Slovakia's ethnic Hungarian SMK party, a member of the governing coalition. Malikova called for ending the Slovak government's subsidies to the Hungarian minority, saying the Hungarian government intends to allocate 1 billion Slovak crowns ($20 million) to support Hungarians in Slovakia. JM

SLOVAK-EU COMMITTEE TO PROMOTE 'EUROPEAN DIALOGUE'

Slovakia and the EU on 14 June set up a Joint Consultation Committee to promote "European dialogue" at both the government and civic levels, CTK reported, quoting the committee's co-chairmen Peter Mihok and Henri Malosse. "The committee is mainly devised as an information channel between the government and the public," Mihok said. JM

HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRAT LEADER RESIGNS

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky resigned his post as chairman of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) on 14 June, saying that some in the party did not support his efforts to pursue independent liberal policies. In his resignation letter, Demszky wrote that he disagrees with those people in the SZDSZ who "believe that the party must form a left-wing bloc with the Socialists to unseat the present [FIDESZ-led] government." He said he believes that the division of politics in blocs would harm Hungarian democracy. SZDSZ executives are expected to propose former Chairman Gabor Kuncze as interim chairman until the party's next congress in the fall. Demszky was elected SZDSZ Chairman in December 2000, and claims to have raised the party's support to 10-15 percent. Recent polls show, however, that the SZDSZ's popularity remains at 5 percent, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARY'S TORGYAN OUTLINES ASSASSINATION CLAIMS

Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), has accused Agrarian economist Tibor Vaczi of wanting to assassinate him, the FKGP's weekly "Kis Ujsag" reported on 15 June. In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Agriculture Minister Andras Vonza, Torgyan claimed that during a forum in Szekesfehervar last month, Vaczi said in the presence of Defense Minister Janos Szabo and FKGP parliament member Gyorgy Oroshazi that "We were unable to make Torgyan disappear in political ways, therefore we must get rid of his person even at the price of death, either by causing a car accident or in other ways." Vaczi said he was not present at the forum, while Oroshazi firmly denied Torgyan's claims. MSZ




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS EXTEND CEASE-FIRE

The fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement signed by their leader, Ali Ahmeti, on 15 June that they are extending their cease-fire for an additional 12 days "in order to create conditions for dialogue," Reuters reported from Skopje. The UCK added that they are "following with particular interest all developments in the international front and those in Macedonia concerning the stopping of fighting." The previous day, President Boris Trajkovski began two days of talks with the leaders of parties represented in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). PM

NATO OFFERS MORAL SUPPORT BUT NOT PEACEKEEPERS TO MACEDONIA

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Skopje on 14 June that the Atlantic alliance "warns the extremists [of the UCK] against any action they may contemplate over this weekend while the political dialogue is ongoing... We call on the armed extremists to withdraw from the occupied villages and to disarm and decommission their weapons," dpa reported. He rejected, however, a call by the UCK for peacekeepers to be deployed throughout Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). He was noncommittal on Trajkovski's request for help in disarming the rebels. Robertson added: "Trajkovski's plan is the blueprint for the way ahead. We will provide all we can." Javier Solana, the EU's chief security official, stressed that "violence must not be allowed to disrupt the political process." He warned the UCK that "no political goals can be reached through violence." Solana also urged the Macedonian government to seek progress on a political settlement and to show military restraint. PM

CIVILIANS FLEE MACEDONIA

Officials of the UNHCR said in Prishtina on 14 June that there are currently 42,600 refugees from Macedonia in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The UNHCR said in Skopje that some 23,000 displaced persons from the areas where fighting is taking place have taken refuge in other parts of Macedonia. Unnamed Bulgarian officials said in Sofia that they are prepared to provide shelter for some 5,000 refugees. PM

MACEDONIA TO BUY AIRCRAFT FROM UKRAINE

The government is going ahead with plans to buy four Sukhoi-25 jets and four additional MI-24 helicopters, dpa reported from Skopje on 15 June, citing "Dnevnik" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 June 2001). The daily added that pilots have already gone to Ukraine for training. PM

UN POLICE MAKE BIG ARMS HAUL IN KOSOVA

A UN spokesman said in Prishtina on 15 June that police confiscated 318 Kalashnikov rifles, 1,008 rocket-propelled grenades, 512 hand grenades, and an unspecified quantity of ammunition the previous day when they searched a parked truck filled with wood, Reuters reported. The spokesman added that the truck probably came from Bosnia via Montenegro. The driver left it near a customs checkpoint near Pec. The spokesman suggested that the driver "smelled something and ran away." PM

SERB GETS 20 YEARS FOR WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA

An international panel of judges sentenced Cedomir Jovanovic to 20 years in prison for his role in the death of 60 ethnic Albanians in three separate incidents on 25 March 1999, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 14 June. Jovanovic was a paramilitary who wore a police uniform. PM

SERBIAN GENERAL DENIES COVER-UP

General Vladimir Lazarevic confirmed in Belgrade on 14 June that he signed an order during the Kosova conflict to "clean up" combat areas but denied that he was involved in mass killings or attempts to cover them up, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). PM

SERBIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SLAMS ARMY CHIEF

Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 14 June that he is "full of bitterness" over a move by General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff, to replace General Ninoslav Krstic as commander of the joint army and police forces in southern Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). "It was a perfidious move. I have no problem with the army but I do have a problem with Pavkovic," Reuters reported Covic as saying. Pavkovic's order was countersigned by President Vojislav Kostunica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Covic, who has special responsibility for southern Serbia, has previously exchanged barbs with Pavkovic, an appointee of former President Slobodan Milosevic who commanded the army in Kosova during the 1999 conflict. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT BLASTS WESTERN 'OBSESSIVENESS' ON MILOSEVIC...

The Yugoslav government on 14 June approved legislation described as facilitating cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal based in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Kostunica blamed Western demands for serious cooperation with The Hague for the delay: "Things would develop much faster here if it were not for all the conditions and pressures from the outside," AP reported. He slammed the international community's "irrational expectations and obsessiveness" about Milosevic. Kostunica's coalition partner, the formerly pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP), still refuses to endorse legislation that could lead to Milosevic or other indicted war criminals being sent to the Netherlands. The SNP and Milosevic's legislators can still obstruct passage of the law in parliament, which is necessary before it can take effect. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that the country faces "ruin" unless it agrees to cooperate with The Hague, "Vesti" reported. Kostunica regards the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy and gives only grudging support to legislation on cooperation. PM

...PREPARES TO WELCOME PUTIN

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told ITAR-TASS in Moscow on 15 June that the Russian leader "will pay a short working visit to Yugoslavia on June 16-17 at the invitation of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica." The news agency added that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will accompany Putin (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001) PM

CROAT TAKES UP BOSNIAN ROTATING PRESIDENCY

Moderate Croat Jozo Krizanovic assumed the chair of the joint presidency in Sarajevo on 14 June, Reuters reported. He told an assembly of diplomats and journalists: "Building Bosnia as a country uniting all its constituent peoples and citizens is a test of our maturity and responsibility. We should never forget that Bosnia is a complex state, just as we should not let anybody use its rich ethnic and religious diversity as a shield for autocracy, crime, corruption, and the violation of the rights of others." He added that "the creation of our state is a difficult task and our joint responsibility... Whenever we face some complex dilemma, we should ask ourselves what is the best for Bosnia and we will not make a mistake." PM

SLOVENIAN STUDENTS DEMONSTRATE

As the government's plans move along to host the U.S.-Russian summit on 16 June, several thousand students demonstrated in Ljubljana and Maribor on 14 June to protest reports that the government plans to end free education for college and university students, "Delo" reported. The government named Labor Minister Vlado Dimovski to head a committee of government officials and student leaders to discuss the matter. At their protests, members of the student movement Dovolj (Enough) set up a collection box to collect money for the government to help fund students. PM

ROMANIA WANTS TO 'CATCH UP WITH NATO'

The Romanian government on 14 June adopted a strategy aimed at boosting the country's NATO accession bid, Romanian media reported. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said the strategy, called "Romania catches up with NATO," is based on the Romanian plan for NATO accession and on his country's obligations for joining the alliance. Besides fulfilling admission criteria, the strategy also provides for promotion activities in several NATO member countries and the presentation of a list of projects and initiatives in support of the country's NATO membership. Geoana said the campaign will not be "loud or hysterical," but "robust and firm" and is based on the fact that Romania is the largest candidate country. ZsM

CHIRAC IS OPTIMISTIC REGARDING ROMANIA'S NATO ACCESSION CHANCES

Interviewed by Bucharest-based "Adevarul," French President Jacques Chirac on 14 June in Brussels said Romania has the "right" to join NATO at the alliance's Prague 2002 summit. He added that Romania is "naturally" among the first countries that should join NATO. He also said the U.S. administration and President George W. Bush are "more open" to this new wave of enlargement. In spite of France's support, Romania was not admitted to NATO at its 1997 summit. In related news, Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 14 June said that if Romania is not accepted by NATO it "will not make the world disappear." He added that Romania's rejection should not be a reason for "exasperation and despair." Iliescu was responding to Czech President Vaclav Havel's recent declaration that Romania and Bulgaria are last on the list of NATO candidate countries. ZsM

SMIRNOV ACCUSES MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT OF DEMAGOGY

In response to Vladimir Voronin's 12 June comments accusing him of "incorrect behavior" (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 13 June 2001), Transdniester breakaway region leader Igor Smirnov the next day replied that Voronin's declarations were "demagogical," Flux reported. Voronin was angered by Tiraspol's decision to issue separate passports. Smirnov presented the 16 May agreement signed by the two leaders on mutually recognizing documents issued by the other side. He argued that the agreement also includes the recognition of passports. Voronin earlier said that at their 20 June meeting he intends to annul the agreement. In other news, Smirnov on 13 June said he intends to run for the post of "President of the Moldovan Dniester Republic," Flux reported on 14 June. He added that he wants to keep that position until "the republic is recognized." ZsM

FORMER KING'S PARTY HOLDS LEAD ON EVE OF BULGARIAN ELECTIONS

Final opinion polls ahead of the 17 June parliamentary elections in Bulgaria give the National Movement Simeon II (SNM) between 38 and 42 percent support, Reuters reported on 14 June. The polls give the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) between 17 and 21 percent, and about 16 percent for the Socialists. Premier Ivan Kostov was upbeat on 15 June, saying that "all rational arguments" are in the SDS's favor. Finance Minister Mouravei Radev continued SDS's verbal attacks on the SNM by claiming that the SDS's platform is "free of populism and offers only projects with secure financing," alluding to economic promises by Simeon that some view as unrealistic. Simeon has spoken of a possible coalition with the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) as well as the SDS, but cautioned that such an agreement with the SDS will be more difficult to attain after the attacks on his party and him personally over the past few days. It is also not clear if the MRF will reach the 4 percent threshold needed to enter parliament. The daily "Sega" reported that despite the impending electoral loss, both Kostov and Georgi Purvanov, the leaders of the SDS and the Socialists, respectively, will retain their posts. PB

BULGARIA PREPARED FOR REFUGEES FROM MACEDONIA

Minister without portfolio Aleksandar Pramatarski said on 14 June that Bulgaria is planning for the possibility of an influx of Macedonians seeking refuge in the country, "Novinar" reported. In an article titled "Refugee Camps Along the Border With Macedonia," Pramatarski said Bulgaria would be able to accommodate up to 5,000 refugees. He said the costs of taking care of so many people would be 1 million leva (about $440,000) a month and that Bulgaria would ask international humanitarian organizations for help in such a situation. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said earlier this week that he does not expect a wave of refugees from Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). PB




PEACE AND SECURITY FOR THE BALKANS


By Patrick Moore

The Atlantic alliance has played a key role in establishing and maintaining peace in the former Yugoslavia. The continued cohesion of the alliance is essential for the tranquility and progress of the still-troubled region.

The NATO Brussels summit ended on 13 June with a decision to shelve any plans for intervention in Macedonia. But some French, British, and Greek leaders have made it clear that they feel that NATO will have to become involved in that troubled republic sooner rather than later. NATO advance teams are reportedly already in the area, and Britain has said it will "look favorably" on a request by Skopje for help in setting up a counterinsurgency unit.

The calls for NATO involvement reflect the hard-earned knowledge that the international community is effective in bringing an end to Balkan troubles only when the EU and U.S. speak with one voice and act with determination and credibility through NATO. That alliance has, moreover, proven itself for over half a century as what one top Reagan administration official once called "the greatest peace movement of all time."

But much of the political commentary on the eve of President George W. Bush's visit to Europe makes it clear that not all is well in the alliance, which, in turn, has presumably been noticed by those wishing to make trouble in the Balkans. Several observers writing in a wide array of publications on both sides of the Atlantic have nonetheless offered suggestions as to how NATO can put itself on a better footing and hence remain a factor for peace and security in the Balkans and elsewhere.

The first point, these observers note, is that serious issues deserve serious treatment. Emotions should be kept out of the discussions, as should the use of negative national stereotypes best left for the barroom or what the Germans call the Stammtisch. These serve no constructive purpose and only poison the atmosphere.

Similarly, it is perhaps less than wise to treat the various alliance partners in discussions as mutually alien monoliths. One is dealing with complex societies in which governments and laws have been determined through a democratic process. There are shared values of free speech, a free press, a democratic electoral system, and a market economy. Terms such as "the Europeans" or "the French" or "the Americans" tell us little of use. Is one referring to the government of Sweden or the government of Italy? Does one mean the president of France or the prime minister of France? Which society and political culture are at issue: those of California, Mississippi, or Vermont?

The second point, as many observers have pointed out, is that a bit of goodwill and mutual trust are in order within an alliance that has preserved the peace for over 50 years. It seems odd that some voices on both sides of the Atlantic grumble or scream that the partner of yesterday could become the devil of tomorrow. This is particularly so in an increasingly globalized world in which traditional concepts of nation-states, national frontiers, and national or regional interests could become increasingly irrelevant.

Several commentators have pointed out in recent days that a strong and enlarged NATO, together with a strong and enlarged EU, offer the best hope for peace and prosperity. The commentators added that these goals can be achieved only when the partners on both sides of the Atlantic work together. Zbigniew Brzezinski made this clear in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" on 12 June. Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger also pointed out in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" the next day that vital interests require that the two remain "partners, not rivals."

One might do well to recall a bit of history in this regard, namely George F. Kennan's 1979 book "The Decline of Bismarck's European Order." In it he described how irresponsible politicians and demagogic publicists in Germany and Russia contributed to destroying the alliance between the two empires in the late 19th century. The alliance had been crafted years before by cool-headed statesmen in order to preserve peace and stability as well as to defend the vital interests of Berlin and St. Petersburg alike.

In the end, once the politicians and publicists had done their work, the two empires found themselves in rival alliance systems. When a young man -- who was a patriot to some but a terrorist and separatist to others -- shot an archduke in Sarajevo, the former partners went to war against each other. When it was over, both had been destroyed.


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