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Western Press Review: Russia-NATO Accord -- Read Into It What You Will

Prague, 15 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The NATO-Russia accord reached yesterday was "inevitable," "soggy," "historic," portentious, or disputable, depending upon which Western commentary one credits. Some commentators contend that it was all of those things.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The two presidents 'spin' the peace pact to their nations

Writers focus today on efforts by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton to claim the agreement as a victory for their differing positions. Immediately, Steve Liesman and Robert Greenburger write in an analysis, "the U.S. and Russian presidents took to the airwaves to spin (interpret) the peace pact to their respective nations."

The writers say: "Mr. Clinton appeared to be anticipating (Congressional objections) when he stressed that Russia wouldn't have any control over NATO actions." They add: "Mr. Yeltsin, who faces staunch Communist and nationalist opposition to a NATO agreement, has a far tougher sell at home."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Russia gave more than it got

In a news analysis in today's edition, Richard C. Paddock and John-Thor Dahlburg declare NATO to be the diplomatic prize-taker. They write: "With little bargaining power, Russia appears to have given a lot more than it got. Russia gained only an advisory role and no direct power over NATO decisions, according to NATO officials. It also did not win the ironclad guarantees it sought that combat troops and nuclear arms would not be based in former Soviet bloc nations at all."

WASHINGTON POST: NATO accepted no limits on future expansion

The paper editorializes this morning that the pact appears at first perusal to be a win-win-win -- for Russia, for NATO, and for international security. The agreement "suggests the feasibility of something skeptics have long considered impossible: expanding NATO into Eastern Europe without driving Russia into a self-defeating isolation."

The newspaper concludes: "It's also important to note that NATO, in yesterday's agreement, accepted no limitations on future expansion. That means that nations that won't qualify for the first round of enlargement this year, including former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and the three Baltic states, will still be potential NATO applicants. Ensuring their security remains one of the tricky challenges as this process moves forward."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Russia and NATO have demonstrated their importance to each other

Kurt Kister comments today that the outcome, though virtually inevitable, should please all sides. He writes: "Anyone who is surprised that the sun reaches its highest point at midday may also be astonished that Russia's foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana have now arrived at an understanding on NATO enlargement."

Kister says: "Even though Moscow has resorted to trickery, threats and postponements in the process, the Boris Yeltsin government had no choice in the end but to fall into line." He adds: "All the participants ought to be pleased. The new candidates are coming in and, in months of negotiations, Russia and NATO have demonstrated their global importance to each other."

TIMES OF LONDON: The pact cost NATO some cohesiveness as an alliance

The paper says today in an editorial that not only Russia, but also NATO, pays a price for the agreement. The newspaper contends: "The deal setting out a special relationship between NATO and Russia reached yesterday has the potential to lessen the strategic risk accompanying NATO enlargement to Central Europe. This, however, is at some cost to NATO's cohesiveness as a military alliance." It says: "The detail matters less than NATO's formal acknowledgement that Russia must be engaged in the management of European security."

BOSTON GLOBE: The accord may have been intended to halt the public confrontation

In a news analysis today, David Filipov speculates that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana accepted ambiguity in the Russia-NATO document in order to move the deliberations from the agora (public place) into diplomatic chambers. Filipov writes: "A possible explanation for the conflicting interpretations was that the accord, reached after a round of all-night talks between (the two), was intended to halt the public confrontation between Moscow and the alliance, which has clouded Russia's relations with the West. This, at least, was the impression left by (their) briefing (yesterday) outside the Foreign Ministry's mansion in central Moscow, which was filled with upbeat rhetoric, but devoid of details."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Russia's outer empire is gone for good, but the inner empire is a different matter

Ukrainian historian and researcher Igor Torbakov says in a commentary published today by the U.S. newspaper that, viewed from Ukraine, the agreement leaves open more questions than it resolves. He writes: "From my vantage point in the center of Europe, on Russia's borders, it is clear that nothing, really, is settled. Russia will have to swallow this first expansion because it simply doesn't have a choice. Besides, Russian policy-makers have somehow managed to reconcile themselves to the fact that Moscow's outer empire has gone for good. But the inner empire' of the former Soviet Union is a different matter. Russia wants to retain control over that at all costs. Nowhere is this Russian attitude more strongly felt than here in Ukraine. And nowhere is there a clearer test of not only Russian intentions, but the willingness of the West to fill the post-Soviet security vacuum."

NEW YORK TIMES: Threats to peace come from local conflicts fueled by nationalism

Barry Bearak reports in today's edition that Czech President Vaclav Havel agrees. Bearak writes: "An expanding NATO should welcome any European democracy as a member, (Havel said yesterday) in a discussion with editors and writers during a visit to The New York Times." The writer reports: "Many still think of NATO as one of the leftover icicles of the Cold War, (Havel) said, and they cannot see its importance in a world no longer divided into the easily defined spheres of a Soviet bloc and the West. But Europe still has two colliding forces, 'tribal passions and civic principles, Havel said, and the greatest threats to peace now come from local conflicts fueled by nationalism."

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Russia is determined to block the entrance of its immediate neighbors

The paper today headlines a news analysis by Inga Saffron, "Russia Relents. . . " Saffron writes: "In the end, Russia understood that it was unable to block the expansion and decided to get the best deal possible from the West. And the West, which is desperately afraid of damaging Russia's fragile democracy, wanted to make the expansion as palatable as possible to avoid giving ammunition to Russia's anti-reform forces. Now that three East European states are assured membership, Russia is determined to block the entrance of its immediate neighbors, particularly the Baltic states, which are pressing hard for NATO membership."

WASHINGTON POST: Two countries face a summer of soggy compromise

Commentator Jim Hoagland writes today: "The United States and Russia head toward a summer of soggy compromise over war and peace."