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Western Press Review: Albright Moves On, But NATO Retains Attention

Prague, 24 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has moved on to Asia and other issues in her first world tour as head of U.S. foreign policy, but much Western press commentary continues to focus on the issue of NATO expansion to the East.

WASHINGTON POST: Russian leaders appear divided over whether to strike a deal with the West

Michael Dobbs and David Hoffman wrote in an analysis in Saturday's edition: "After two days of talks between Albright and Russian leaders, it was clear that Moscow remains as hostile as ever to the Clinton administration's plan to extend NATO to the western borders of the former Soviet Union by 1999. At the same time, however, U.S. officials depicted the visit as a success because Albright was able to get down to the detailed work of discussing a proposed NATO-Russia charter with her Moscow counterparts that would define the relationship."

Dobbs and Hoffman wrote: "Two days of meetings between Albright and (Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny) Primakov have provided U.S. officials with the first real opportunity to address the substantive issues of NATO expansion in detail with their Russian counterparts and negotiate seriously on the proposed Russia-NATO charter." The Post writers said: "U.S. officials are hopeful that the differences over the charter can be overcome well before the (NATO summit scheduled for July in Madrid), which will enable NATO expansion to go forward in a relatively placid fashion, even if Russia does not entirely drop its objections to the idea. But without strong leadership from the top, Russian officials appear divided over whether to strike a deal with the West."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Yeltsin reaffirmed Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement

In the British newspaper today, Chrystia Freeland analyzes a speech yesterday by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. She writes: "He reaffirmed Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement, but appeared to accept that Russia had no hope of preventing expansion and must instead focus on timing and conditions." Freeland writes: "Russia's ability to offer a coherent response to NATO's enlargement plans has appeared compromised by the ailing president's prolonged absence from the public stage. But Mr. Yeltsin yesterday seemed ready to take back the reins of state and lead Russia's NATO policy."

WASHINGTON POST: Russia's ruling elite cannot reconcile themselves to the loss of their empire

A World War II Polish resistance fighter and former director of Radio Free Europe's Polish Service, Jan Nowak, wrote in a commentary published yesterday: "The humiliation or isolation of Russia would not serve the interest of its neighbors and certainly is not a goal of those seeking to join NATO. There are no hostile feelings toward the Russian people in today's Poland. More than two million Russians visit Poland every year to do business. It is not the Russian people but the ruling elite who cannot reconcile themselves to the loss of their empire."

Nowak asks: "Can any Russian with a sense of reality truly believe that some day the Western democracies would invade his country?"

He says: "The present protracted conflict over NATO will be brought to an end only when Moscow loses hope of derailing or slowing down the process of the NATO enlargement. But if expansion does not happen soon, we may well see a revival of the Cold War in the next two years."

WASHINGTON POST/LONDON TIMES: The cost of NATO expansion to the U.S. will be $200 million a year

The paper yesterday reported that the Clinton Administration will report to Congress today that the U.S. costs of NATO expansion will be about $200 million a year for at least the next 12 years. In an analysis based on The Post's report, Tom Rhodes writes from Washington in today's Times: "The White House, facing growing Russian opposition to the swift expansion of NATO, today presents a report to Congress designed to bolster American policy and calm critics at home and abroad. Offering a moderate assessment of U.S. costs for extending the alliance, the study on strategic security in Europe aims to send a message to Moscow that NATO forces will not establish large new military installations close to the Russian border."

Rhodes writes: "The report appears only weeks after George Kennan, the U.S. eminence grise of superpower relations, said NATO expansion would encourage anti-democratic forces in Russia and described the proposal as the greatest error in Western policy since the end of the Cold War."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Albright is an iron, but constructive, lady

In a commentary today, Tyler Marshall writes: "If part of successful diplomacy is creating the right atmospherics, (Albright) is off to a great start. One month into her job as secretary of state, she has capitalized on her star quality, plain talk (in several languages), savvy and a slight seasoning of what the British would call cheek to charm her counterparts from Rome to Tokyo on her first foreign trip -- a foray that is laying the groundwork for the U.S. global agenda under her leadership. (Today) she completes an 11-day, nine-nation tour in Beijing."

Marshall says: "So far, Albright's profile could hardly be higher or the pace of her journey quicker. At one point, she quipped that she was moving so quickly from country to country that her soul and body were in different places. Along the way, her countenance has graced the front pages of major newspapers at virtually every stop."

He writes: "After more than four hours of meetings with Albright in Moscow, Russia's normally sardonic foreign minister, Yevgeny M. Primakov, smiled briefly as he referred to Albright as 'an iron lady, but a constructive lady.'"

WASHINGTON POST: Albright should take up Hong Kong and civil rights with China

The paper editorialized yesterday: "Albright is to reach China tomorrow, the last stop of her nine-nation, 11-day tour. This will give her an early chance to gauge the Chinese government's mood in the post-Deng Xiaoping era, as well as to advance the Clinton administration's goal of warming relations with this prickly totalitarian giant. Her interlocutors won't want to hear about Hong Kong or human rights. But important questions are pending with regard to both, and we hope Secretary Albright takes them up directly."

The Post says, "There's not much dispute about China's record," and adds, "No one expects China suddenly to open its prison gates because Mr. Deng has died, nor because Ms. Albright has come to town. But there are steps China could reasonably be expected to take."

The editorial concludes: "If such meaningful steps aren't forthcoming, the secretary should make good on her promise of a "multifaceted" approach to China and push forward on human rights. The worst possible outcome would be to allow the token release of a few prisoners to divert the United States from speaking out for oppressed Christians, Muslims, Tibetans, democracy activists and other victims of Communist rule."