Prague, June 7 (RFE/RL) - As the United States and its European allies confer and confer on a new face and what they are callling an altered "command structure" for NATO, Western press commentary examines the alliance's present workings and long-term prospects.
The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday in an editorial: "NATO was created nearly 50 years ago to provide for the collective defense of its 16 European and North American members in the face of a (now-moot) military threat from the Soviet Union.... But NATO remains, an organization in the process of redefining itself and an alliance that virtually all of the former Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe are clamoring to join.... In a meeting in Berlin this week, NATO has gone a long way toward reorganizing itself to deal with new challenges in a strategically changed world.... The role of NATO's European members is certain to grow under this more flexible operational concept. That's a major reason that France, which 30 years ago withdrew from NATO's integrated military command structure in resentment over what it saw as U.S. dominance, is now preparing to expand its cooperation with the alliance."
The Suddeutsche Zeitung carries today this commentary by Stefan Kornelius: "(NATO's) wheel turns full circle to the last area of confusion -- the international integration of France and its role in NATO. The reform of the command structure agreed at the NATO Summit in Berlin is explained by the French desire to return to the 'new alliance.' But there is a lack of clarity about how the reform is to be implemented. Before the summit the sticking points between France and the United States in particular were so numerous that the German delegation, in the role of mediator, noted resignedly that compromise on structural reform had been so hard to reach that there was hardly a sound basis for the next steps.... Once more the fact is that France's aims are not really clear, the cards are not on the table.... What is at stake is no less than a re-assessment of forces, the question of influence, access and weight -- which is why there cannot be enough meetings and communiques in future either."
London Independent Europe editor Tony Barber writes today in that newspaper: "An emerging deal with Russia to allow a limited expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe runs the risk of dividing the region into winners and losers. Countries that stand to gain include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which are the most likely candidates for early NATO membership; while countries whose security problems may increase if the deal goes through include the Baltic states and Ukraine.... Limited NATO enlargement may pose problems for Bulgaria and Romania. Russia views that part of the Balkans as an area of traditional influence, and President Boris Yeltsin recently enraged Bulgarians by suggesting their country might like to join the CIS."
In today's issue of the British newspaper Financial Times, Bruce Clark writes from Berlin: "Rarely in NATO's 47-year history can a single, ambiguous slogan have been called on to bridge so many almost unbridgeable gaps between nations. The slogan is 'comman structure.'"
Philip H. Gordon. a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, commenting today in the International Herald Tribune, calls the Europeanized NATO command structure "a conventional myth." Gordon writes: "The truth is that the reorganization of NATO... is being undertaken vary much on American terms.... Like all useful myths, Europeanization has its downsides.... So long as Europeans think they can now count on NATO to do their regional police work for them, they will be unlikely to take the steps toward real military capabilities and organization that would be useful to them and Americans alike."
Writing today in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Robert Fox comments: "The NATO commander of the international peace force in Bosnia, Admiral Leighton Smith, is to step down this summer.... The change comes at a delicate time for the peace mission, and amid growing criticism of Admiral Smith's command and the condct of American forces in Bosnia."
Julian Borger writes today from Sarajevo in Britain's The Guardian: "The Hague (war crimes) tribunal yesterday stopped up its campaign for the arrest of Balkan war crimes suspects.... Its president, Antonio Cassese, said he would call for renewed international sanctions against the Serbs for failing to cooperate with the United Nations court.... NATO officers confirmed yesterday that more IFor troops would be deployed in Pale, the village stronghold of the Bosnian Serb leader and twice-indicted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, as part of a dispersal of peasekeeping forces around the country."
The International Herald Tribune published yesterday this commentary by William Pfaff: "The NATO implementation force has been in Bosnia for nearly six months now, but the NATO powers remain divided on what they want from this exercize in peacemaking -- or truce-making, if that is all it turns out to have been.... A proposal now is on the table from the Helsinki Human Rights Federation and the American and European Action Councils on Balkan Peace. (It is) for elections only in places where the OSCE honestly can certify that conditions for a free and fair vote really exist. Elsewhere they should be postponed.... Selective postponement would turn domestic political pressures in the West on those now procrastinating about enforcing real change, and who hope (Serbian President) Slobodan Milosevic will pull their chestnutsout of the fire.... It would put pressure on NATO's commanders and the politicians in charge of NATO."
Michael Binyon in Istanbul comments today in The London Times on another NATO-related development. "Turkey's tottering goverment is likely to collapse before the end of the week," he writes. Binyon says: "Such a move would send shock waves throughout NATO, and could call into question the pro-Western policies and orientation that have made Turkey a bedrock of the Atlatnic alliance since World War II. The advant of an Islamic government could also alarm investors.... It would undermine the West's attempt to protect Iraqi Kurds from President Saddam Hussein, and give comfort to Islamic funamentalists throughout the Middle East."