Prague, 11 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- NATO ministers meeting this week in Brussels attract Western commentary, centering on the Alliance's march toward Eastward expansion and its response to unrest in Serbia.
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The OSCE serves as a forum within which a common security structure has been sought
Jochen Siemens, writing this week, questioned the proliferation of acronyms, including that of NATO. He asked: "UN and NATO, OSCE, EU and WEU, North Atlantic Cooperation Council and Partnership for Peace -- with all respect for the tortuous ways of diplomacy, and the obvious, insatiable lust for summits and ministerial meetings, could things not be made a little clearer?"
His answer is: "In the future, perhaps. But for the time being, the tangle of acronyms seems appropriate to a murky historical situation, in which it seems wise to preserve any experience which can remove the obstacles to a new political, economic and above all security order. One set of direction marks toward this future is the OSCE summit in Lisbon, a forum for 54 nations covering the northern half of the earth, from Vancouver to Vladivostok."
Siemens wrote: "It should not be forgotten that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is the framework within which member countries arranged the foundation for democracy and market economies, human and minority rights, the renunciation of violence, and the peaceful resolution of border conflicts. At the same time, it has served as a forum within which a common security structure has been sought."
WASHINGTON POST: NATO promises that no nuclear weapons will be stationed on territory of new members
William Drozdiak writes in an analysis in today's edition: "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in a move to defuse Russian opposition to NATO's expansion into former communist countries in Eastern Europe, promised (yesterday) that no nuclear weapons would be stationed on the territory of new members. The United States and its allies also offered to open talks on a charter setting out a new era of political and military cooperation with Russia. NATO's foreign ministers proposed that a blueprint of the new partnership with Moscow be unveiled at its Madrid summit in July, when the alliance will formally select one or more new members."
The Post's writer continues: "While the ideas of a charter and a pledge to refrain from deploying nuclear weapons in new member countries have both been widely discussed, (yesterday's) action represented their formal adoption by NATO's policy-making body."
LONDON TIMES: The no-nuclear pledge is largely symbolic
The paper carries today an analysis from Brussels by Charles Bremner, who writes: "The decision, which in effect marks a point of no return in the transformation of the old Cold War alliance, was accompanied by new overtures to Russia to drop its fierce resistance to NATO's move Eastwards. These included a pledge not to station nuclear forces in the new member states -- a largely symbolic gesture since NATO's nuclear umbrella is provided by seaborne weapons."
POLITIKEN: Enlargement encompassing only a few countries will probably calm Russia
Michael Seidelin writes today in the Danish newspaper: "From behind the curtains in Brussels, it emerged that Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and perhaps Slovenia will be ready to join NATO in 1999 as U.S. President Bill Clinton wants. It also emerged that the other Eastern European countries aspiring for NATO membership, including the three Baltic states, will have to wait, most likely for a long time."
He says: "While it was decided to scrap Partnership for Peace and establish the new North Atlantic Cooperation Council, it is not yet clear what the substance of this new cooperation will be. Partially, it will be about expanded possibilities for political consultation and Eastern European participation in operations such as IFOR and now SFOR. Partly, (it will be) about increased transparency within NATO's own decision-making process. An enlargement that only encompasses a few countries will probably calm Russia down. NATO promises not to install nuclear weapons in the new members' territories but reserves the right to establish bases there if necessary."
NEWSDAY: NATO enlargement would be easier to discuss if the alliance changed its name
Adam Garfinkle directs the Middle East Council of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in the United States. He wrote recently in a commentary in the U.S. newspaper: "A recent issue of "The Wall Street Journal" published excerpts from an interview with Alexander Lebed, the Russian national security adviser fired in October, but a man still with a future in Russian politics. Lebed showed himself to be possessed of many new and bold ideas. (One, that I also have proposed) is that the whole issue of enlarging NATO would be easier to discuss, and less likely to roil Russian sensibilities, if it were accompanied by changing the alliance's name. 'If you say NATO,' said Lebed, 'all the pseudo-patriots in Russia prick up their horns and run against it.' " Garfinkle commented: "Let's face it, sometimes in diplomacy a little smoke and mirrors makes the medicine go down."
LONDON TIMES: NATO condemned Milosevic for annulling election results
In today's edition, Charles Bremner and Stacy Sullivan write in a news analysis: "NATO yesterday condemned President (Slobodan) Milosevic of Serbia for annulling the results of local elections which favored the opposition, and called on him to reverse the decision." They say: "Leaders from Zejedno, the (Serbian) opposition coalition, vowed to keep up their pressure. (They) organized a boycott of yesterday's parliamentary session, the first (meeting) since last month's contested election."
AFTENPOSTEN: Milosevic's greatest support comes from the West
Per Madsen commented in the Norwegian daily yesterday: "The protests in Belgrade combine the old and the new in Eastern Europe's post-war history." He said: "A lot reminds of Prague 1968, from the picturesque impression the protests create when students fan huge Serb banners and climb up national monuments to the deeper, moral feeling provoked by the regime's arrogance when confronted with the request for freedom of expression. It's like a Serb Charter 77."
Madsen added: "But likeness in manner and matter must not obliterate the typically Yugoslav background combined with the totally different geopolitical situation. Prague 1968 and Gdansk 1980 all lived under the long shadow of Moscow. In Leipzig and in Berlin 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev just pulled the carpet from under Honecker's feet. Milosevic's greatest support comes from the West, not from the East. The United States considers him a guarantor of the Dayton peace accord. But the current protests in Serbia shatter the picture of a leader as a stabilizing force. Now the man in Belgrade is under equal pressure from both at home and from abroad. There is yet another important difference between Prague and Belgrade. In the Balkans, there is not yet a viable alternative to Milosevic's regime."