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Western Press Review: NATO Expansion And Bulgaria's New President

Prague, 20 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's high-level meeting in Moscow today draws comment from the Western press, as does the difficult task facing the new Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The West will not station troops in new NATO member states

Elizabeth Pond writes that "the western game plan for reconciling Russia to NATO enlargement has just fallen into place."

She says Solana will offer Moscow a deal, namely a forum to keep Russia involved in common European security decisions, a choice of either cooperation or isolation from emerging European structures, and increased economic help from the European Union.

She writes that while all the details are not yet clear "the philosophy underpinning the plan seems to have jelled."

"At base is the assumption that such cooperation will make it impossible for Moscow to blame any subsequent confrontation on NATO. With its offer, the west is saying it no longer considers Russia to be a threat to western security: indeed after the disastrous war in Chechnya, Moscow has few battle-ready divisions. Therefore, the reasoning continues, as a show of good faith, the west considers there is no need for NATO to station troops in Poland or any other new member state."

Pond continues however that there are several immediate problems with this approach. "The most serious is whether Moscow will find it convincing. With Boris Yeltsin's ongoing hospitalization, the Kremlin may be too preoccupied (and rudderless) to move beyond the protests that have so far been the staple Russian response to NATO's plans."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Russia's political and military elite oppose NATO expansion

In a report on the same issue, Alan Philps says that "the whole of Russia's political and military elite opposes NATO expansion, but alliance diplomats believe that the Kremlin is ready to be tempted into partnership."

He writes: "NATO is hoping to have an agreement with the Russians by June, which could be presented to the Denver summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, to which President Yeltsin is invited. It is hoped that that this would give Mr Yeltsin time to sell the package to his people before NATO enlargement the following month. (However) A question hangs over whether Mr Yeltsin will be fit to travel to Denver, or indeed, still in power by then."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: A vocal minority in the U.S. opposes enlargement

Joseph Fitchett comments on another aspect of the NATO enlargement debate -- namely the resistance to enlargement inside the United States.

He writes: "With opposition to NATO enlargement mounting among a vocal minority in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, the issue has emerged as the most immediate diplomatic challenge for the second Clinton adminstration.

"Last month, signs of a new mood emerging in the U.S. gained sudden international prominence when a debate at the Council of Foreign Relations, a prestigious private body considered a bastion of U.S. diplomatic establishment, showed strong skepticism about expanding alliance. In the debate, Michael Mandelbaum, a prominent liberal scholar, won applause by arguing that Washington has no credible reasons for enlargement and that U.S. motives -- such as finding a new role for NATO after the cold war -- did not adequately address European security. How, he (Mandelbaum) asked, can NATO solve ethnic conflicts in East Europe when it has been unable to find a solution in Cyprus even though Greece and Turkey are both alliance members."


Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov took office yesterday, and how he will contribute to solving the country's crisis is the theme of several commentaries today.

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The Bulgarian people want the parliament dissolved

The paper writes that Stoyanov must name a new government chief. The constitution, in article 99, requires him to seek this person first from the ranks of the strongest party. But referring to the demonstrations against the ruling Socialists under Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, the commentary says "Stoyanov has been elected to ensure the resignation of this party."

"The new president is thus with his first official task forced to commit a calculated betrayal -- either of the constitution or of those who elected him. He will uphold the first of these (the constitution). As a result he has to hope that the Socialist party, which he must name, is in fact unable to build a government. But that party has an absolute majority. That's Stoyanov's dilemma. If he had the power to dissolve parliament so as to call new elections, the problem would be soluble. But he does not have this power."

The paper says the Bulgarian people want the parliament dissolved, but the majority socialists -- still -- do not want it. "The way the party is clinging to power is leading directly to extra-parliamentary fighting, which will tear the people apart," the commentary says.

FINANCIAL TIMES: The new president takes a risk by supporting early elections

Anthony Robinson and Theodor Troev write in a commentary that: "the new President promised in his inaugural speech to represent all Bulgarians.

"But, by stating his preference for early elections, he risks being labelled from the outset by the Socialists as a biased Pro-UDF (Union of Democratic Forces) figure serving partisan interests.

"He is aware of the dilemma. But he clearly sees the protests as an indication of the energy behind demands for early elections and for a new government able to introduce the necessary economic and financial reforms if Bulgaria is to service its foreign debt."