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Western Press Review: Debate On NATO Expansion Rages

Prague, 9 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - On the eve of an important NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, where a short list of candidate countries to be included in an expanded Atlantic Alliance is expected to emerge, the Western press today debates the merits of the expansion policy.

LONDON TIMES: Barely anyone believes NATO enlargement will be a force for European stability

The paper writes in today's editorial that early NATO enlargement could fatally weaken the alliance. The Times says: "When they embarked on this path, Western governments may sincerely have believed that NATO enlargement would be a force for European stability. There is barely a politician, let alone a senior military commander, who believes that now. Instead they refer to NATO's 'obligation to accept the new democracies' or talk about guarding against a new security vacuum, or privately, say simply that for the West to back off now would send 'the wrong message to Russia.' The first two arguments are disingenuous, since the West intends to leave democratic states in the Baltics and the Balkans -- precisely those most vulnerable to a security vacuum -- on the other side of Europe's new dividing line. The third cannot conceivably justify heading into a foreseeable confrontation with Russia that would jeopardize arms control agreements and bolster revanchist anti-Western nationalism. That could prove to be the last, great, geostrategic blunder of this dreadful century."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Eastern Europe is more stable because of the prospect of NATO enlargement

Ronald D. Asmus, a senior analyst at the Rand Corporation, takes the opposing view in a commentary. Asmus writes: "As NATO foreign ministers gather for their fall meeting, the skeptics about enlargement are again sounding their siren calls of alarm, claiming that the alliance is about to commit a major strategic blunder and suggesting that enlargement be slowed. Such calls should be rejected, for the logic upon which they rest is flawed. Enlarging NATO is the right thing to do, and this is the time to launch the process...Eastern Europe today is already more stable, just because of the prospect of NATO enlargement. To slow down, or abandon, this process would surely lead to a backlash producing less, not more, stability in the region."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Western leaders are expected to announce expansion plans in July 1997

Diplomatic correspondent Bruce Clark notes in an article today that a new debate about NATO expansion is pointless because the decisions have already been made. Clark writes: "This week's meeting is expected to agree on July 1997 as the date for a landmark meeting of Western leaders to announce names and a swift timetable for enlargement...By settling on July, the ministers will be virtually locking themselves in to the expansion process, which is expected to incorporate Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and possibly Slovenia and Romania by April 1999."

LONDON GUARDIAN: A shortlist of expansion candidates is expected to emerge tomorrow

David Fairhall and Ian Black report in today's edition that candidate countries for inclusion in an expanded NATO are likely to find out by the end of this week if they will be considered for membership. They say: "The final choice will not be announced until a special summit next summer, but a shortlist of candidates is bound to emerge from the deliberations in Brussels tomorrow, and be passed on to military staffs for assessment. The shortlist can hardly remain secret for long, so unless NATO's door opens wider than expected, the intervening months are likely to see much recrimination among rejected candidates...The 11 countries that have expressed clear interest in NATO membership are: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Slovenia, Romania, Macedonia and Albania. Of these, only the first three are certain to be successful. Slovenia's inclusion would be important in providing territorial continuity."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The EU and NATO have started dating

Lionel Barber writes in today's edition that NATO's expansion is also closely linked to the expansion of the European Union, and both organizations seem to have realized it. "The news in Brussels is that NATO and the European Union have started dating," he writes. "They are shy about revealing how much they have been seeing of each other, but after several sightings around town...something serious is afoot. Remember, for more than 40 years the EU and NATO barely talked to one another. NATO's job was to keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out. The EU brought France and Germany together in a common endeavour to spread economic prosperity in Western Europe. Both organizations succeeded famously. But now the Cold War is over, the EU and NATO have grasped that their civil and military missions are no longer so far apart. The enemy is no longer a Soviet tank column, racing through the Fulda gap. The enemy is political instability in central and eastern Europe, the territory running from the Baltics to the Balkans."


The Serbian Supreme Court decision to back President Slobodan Milosevic and reject an opposition appeal to reinstate its municipal election victories, as well as the continuing protests in the country, also dominates much of the Western press today.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: If strikes are called, Milosevic may feel the need to use force

A report by Julius Strauss warns that he court decision and a tougher stance by Milosevic could turn the mostly peaceful protests more violent. "News of the court decision and the police action fuelled anger among demonstrators who gathered last night in Belgrade, on the 20th day of protests," Strauss writes. "The mood too has changed. A week ago, protesters said they held out little hope they could overthrow Mr. Milosevic. But the size of the crowd and Western pressure on the president to back down has given them new heart...Union leaders said on Saturday they would call a strike for this week, if the government did not grant them the municipal election victories they say are theirs....If the strike goes ahead, Mr. Milosevic may feel the need to use force. He has ordered police to crush demonstrations in the past. In 1991, two died after students were attacked with tanks and a water cannon. But that could lead to international isolation and the end of Mr. Milosevic's image as a peacemaker -- an accolade he has won for his part in ending the Bosnian war."

LONDON DAILY INDEPENDENT: The president will never let the opposition come to power through the ballot box

Tony Barber writes in today's edition that the court's ruling bore all the hallmarks of a classic Milosevic ploy meant to divert attention. "For the court has dangled the prospect before the opposition of having exactly half the seats in Belgrade's city council and thereby acquiring just a taste of political power for the first time in Serbia since 1945. At the same time, by switching focus to the obscure legal processes in the Supreme Court, Mr. Milosevic tried to divert attention from the central issue, whether he should remain in power. The opposition had hoped that, by winning recognition of its municipal election victories, it could build a platform for challenging Mr. Milosevic in national polls next year. However, the electoral commission's announcement suggests the president will never let the opposition come to power through the ballot box."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Milosevic can't do much about the steady flow of pictures and reports out of Belgrade

A commentary in today's edition says the world is watching Milosevic, and there is not much he can do about that. "Slobodan Milosevic has tried everything, short of force, to convince the throngs of Serbs to go home. But while he can order his broadcasters to tune out the demonstrators, or brand them hooligans, there's not much he can do about the steady flow of pictures and reports being zapped across the globe by satellite broadcasters, reporters and Internet users...nor do the millions around the world who have seen broadcasts of the demonstrations -- and recall images of similar protests across Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990 -- buy the official line from Belgrade's Soviet-style state television that these are merely hooligans and fascists. No, for anyone who believes in democratic freedoms, this one is a cinch to call."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The government forced protestors to use new technology to stay alive -- the Internet

Chris Hedges focuses on the use of the Internet to get the message about the Serbian protests out in his article today. Hedges writes: "Local radio stations could broadcast the news from the Internet, and if the stations were forbidden to carry the news reports, groups could gather around a computer and hear the news through the Internet, something many did when the radio (B-92) was closed for two days last week...'The irony is that the government meant to silence us, but instead forced us to build on a whole new technology to stay alive,' said Drazen Pantic, head of the radio's Internet service...Government officials on Thursday ordered the deans of the Belgrade University departments to stop students from using the university computers to send messages and receive information over the Internet. But with nearly all the professors in the universities behind the student protests, the order has been ignored. And university computer centers remain jammed with students."