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Western Press Review: NATO Steams Ahead On Eastward Track

Prague, 12 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The apparently inexorable march Eastward of NATO continues to attract Western press scrutiny.

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton is barreling toward NATO expansion

The paper says today in an editorial: "The Clinton administration is barreling toward an Eastward expansion of NATO by the end of the decade without adequate discussion with the American people and Congress." The Times writes: "NATO expansion, among other things, would commit American conventional and nuclear forces to the defense of newly independent European nations and require the costly modernization of their armed services. It would also move the alliance's boundaries considerably closer to Russia, a step sure to strengthen nationalists and communists in an insecure country still traumatized by two German invasions in this century."

The U.S. newspaper contends: "By anchoring NATO expansion on the needs of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as important as those countries are, the Administration has obscured the most important issue for European peace and prosperity. That issue is the consolidation of reform in Russia."

The Times concludes: "Responsible Russian leaders, anxious to avoid the potentially destructive domestic consequences of NATO expansion, are now talking less about trying to block enlargement than modifying it in ways that do not upset the political and economic balance in Russia. (These) overtures, which the Administration welcomed, will require careful study and hard negotiation. They are just the kinds of issues Americans should be weighing in the months ahead. The debate should not be driven by artificial deadlines and a manufactured sense of urgency. Tinkering with the balance of power on a continent that has been the site of so much conflict and violence should be done with great caution and a strong sense of humility."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The Russians privately accept that NATO enlargement will happen

Defense correspondent Christopher Bellamy writes in today's edition in a news analysis: "Relations between NATO and Russia took a step forward yesterday at the second day of meetings between NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, at which first Russia and then other East European nations were present." Bellamy continues: "The Russians privately accept that NATO enlargement will happen, but maintain opposition in public, probably for domestic consumption. Most importantly (Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny) Primakov uncoupled discussion of NATO enlargement from cooperation with NATO on other fronts."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The three Baltic states are unlikely to gain membership

In a news analysis in the paper today, Ray Moseley writes: "Russia agreed (yesterday) to begin negotiations with NATO on a post-Cold War security relationship, but Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said the alliance's decision to expand eastward inevitably would lead to a new division of Europe."

Mosely says: "NATO hopes to have an agreement with Russia on a security charter in time for a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, next July 8-9. But officials stressed that the initial invitation to some East European states to join NATO will be issued then even if there is no agreement with the Russians." He writes: "At next year's Madrid summit, NATO is expected to invite at least Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to apply for membership. Other East European states may be taken in later, but the three Baltic states are unlikely to gain membership because that would be seen as too provocative toward Russia."

POLITIKEN: There should be no new division lines in Europe

Ib Faurby comments today in the Danish daily newspaper: "There should be no new division lines in Europe, says one of the main points in the debate about the Eastward enlargement of NATO and EU. And this is totally right. But it is as important that the old division lines do not get re-established in the new Europe. Therefore, NATO must enlarge but at the same time develop its relationship with those countries that are unlikely to become members in the first round or, as is the case of Russia, have no chance of membership at all." Faubry continues: "It is important to demonstrate to, for instance, the three Baltic republics that the fact that they will not be accepted in NATO in the early enlargement stage does not mean that they are allocated to a new Russian interest sphere."

WASHINGTON POST: Primakov reaffirmed Russia's opposition to NATO's plans

In today's edition, William Drozdiak writes in a news analysis: "Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov agreed (yesterday) to NATO's offer of negotiations on a new charter to define post-Cold War relations between Moscow and the Western military alliance it has long feared." Drozdiak says: "Primakov clearly reaffirmed his country's staunch opposition to the NATO plans to incorporate new members from among former communist states in Eastern Europe, insisting this will create 'a new division of Europe' that Moscow considers unacceptable. But he also pledged to discuss the charter idea constructively even as NATO's expansion plans go forward." The writer says: "Despite Russia's new willingness to open a dialogue with NATO, Primakov gave no indication that Moscow's antagonism toward the alliance's expansion would soften."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Paris and Washington are not on speaking terms

In the British newspaper today, a team of correspondents in Brussels writes in an analysis: "This week's NATO meeting in Brussels has seen Russia and the alliance, for all their differences, very much on speaking terms. But the same can hardly be said of Paris and Washington." The analysis says: "Mr. Warren Christopher, the outgoing U.S. secretary of state, clashed with his French counterpart, Mr. Herve de Charette, over a raft of issues." It continues: "U.S. diplomats were intensely irritated when Mr. de Charette left the room during a specch by (NATO Secretary-General Javier) Solana in praise of Mr. Christopher and accused the French minister of failing to say anything polite about his U.S. counterpart's retirement. French officials insist that there was no intention of snubbing Mr. Christopher."

WASHINGTON POST: Christopher enjoyed a hearty round of farewell tributes

The Post's Drozdiak describes the same incident somewhat differently today. He writes: "Attending his final meeting of NATO foreign ministers before he retires next month as secretary of state, Christopher was enjoying a hearty round of farewell tributes from all of his peers -- except one. As NATO Secretary General Javier Solana raised his glass at a lunch for the ministers to propose a toast in Christopher's honor, French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette stood up and walked out. De Charette's place at the table was taken by France's ambassador, Gerard Errara, who then turned his back on the ministers and carried on a conversation with an aide while Solana delivered his toast. 'It was an incredible display of petulant behavior,' said a senior U.S. official." Drozdiak continues: "French officials acknowledge that de Charette was peeved at Christopher's refusal to consider any compromise in a lingering dispute over who should assume command of NATO's southern flank. But they offered no explanation of whether de Charette was answering an irresistible call of nature or displaying personal pique toward Christopher."