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Press Review: Wary Glances At Former Communist Nations

Prague, April 5 (RFE/RL) - The Western press in recent days has cast a series of wary glances at the former communist nations of Eastern and Central Europe - covering such issues as NATO expansion, new Russian hegemony, and communist resurgence.

Adrian Bridge writes today in Britain's The Independent: "Although the drive to restore the Soviet Union is being spearheaded by Russian communists, the cause has been taken up in part by President Boris Yeltsin, anxious to boost his chances in June's presidential election.... Baltic leaders stress that after 50 years of enforced incoporation into the Soviet Union, they have no interest in joining another Moscow-led alliance."

The Suddeutsche Zeitung said yesterday in an editorial signed by Thomas Urban: "The task faced by Poland's Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski on his visit to Moscow was no easy one. On the one hand, he could not allow the slightest doubt to surface about Warsaw's intent to join NATO. On the other, he was on a shopping-trip for spare parts- for the Soviet-made fighter airplanes Poland had to buy during the time it belonged to the Warsaw Pact.... Even now, as it attempts to revive military cooperation with Moscow, the Polish leadership can be sure of the West's support in seeking an arms deal of manageable proportions which does not oblige NATO-candidate Poland to commit itself any further neither contradicts this concept nor undermines Warsaw's credibility."

The London Times editorializes today: "(Prime Minister) John Major's soon-to-be-announced decision to spend a day in Kyiv on his way to the Moscow nuclear summit underlines a vital British interest. Ukraine is the pivot of the changing East European balance. The Russian Duma vote to reconstitute the Soviet Union has alarmed all the former Soviet republics; and Tuesday's decision by Russia and Belarus to take the first steps towards reunification has boosted the nationalist cause in both countries and sharply increased pressure on their southern neighbor, Ukraine."

Mathias Brueggmann wrote yesterday in the German daily Die Welt: "Both the link-up between Russia and Belarus agreed in Moscow on Tuesday and the greater economic integration decided at the end of last week between four CIS states - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, who have formed the Commonwealth of Independent States -- highlight the economic development of the successor states to the former Soviet Union. The collapse of the USSR led to a severe crisis for the young post-Soviet republics."

In The Independent, Helen Womack reports today from Moscow: "Adopting a harsh tone reminiscent of the Cold War, the hardline leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, yesterday threated to expel diplomats and journalists who attended demonstrations against his policy of tigher integration with Russia.... Mr Lukashenko was especially angry that Russian television failed to point out that he had banned street marches after a similiar protest of nationalists in Belarus last March.... Along with Uzbekhistan... Belarus is among the most conservative former Soviet republics. This is thanks to Mr Lukashenko, whose eccentric behavior prompts comparison with Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovsky."