Prague, 13 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western newspapers today are writing extensively about Nato's proposed eastward expansion. In particular, journalists are analyzing Washington's announcement yesterday that the United States endorses only Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the first wave of expansion.
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Surprise and dismay among NATO allies
William Drozdiak writes an analysis in today's International Herald Tribune saying that the announcement provoked "surprise and dismay" among European members of Nato. Drozdiak notes that Europeans are accusing the Clinton administration of "short short-circuiting a debate about enlargement ahead of next month's Madrid summit."
He writes: "The strong rebuttals expressed by some (European defense officials) indicated that an alliance consensus was far from secure" about which countries should be among the first in an expanded Nato. Drozdiak notes that "all Nato members must approve any enlargement agreed to by Western leaders in Madrid on July 8-9." But he says: "Washington's decision was certain to carry large influence despite a push by several others to admit five new members" in the first wave of expansion.
LONDON INDEPENDENT: Washington has opened a breach in NATO ranks
Mary Dejevsky, a Washington correspondent for the London Independent, filed a news item on yesterday's developments. She writes that "the United States opened up a public breach in the ranks of the Western alliance by formally supporting the candidacy of only three new members for the first round of Nato enlargement." Dejevsky says "a majority of Nato's 16 members -- France and eight others, but not Britain -- have argued for Romania and Slovenia to be admitted at the same time."
LONDON GUARDIAN: Washington's NATO allies are angry
David Fairhall, a defense correspondent for the London Guardian, says European allies are angry about Washington's announcement because "it had been agreed within Nato that the names of those who should or should not receive membership invitations should only be discussed in private until consultations are completed just before the Madrid summit." But Fairhall also quotes U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen as saying yesterday that "the issue was so important that only those candidates on whom everyone was already agreed should be considered."
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Romania's and Slovenia's dashed hopes
Hugh Davies, a Washington correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph writes today that the U.S. announcement "dashes the hopes of Romania and Slovenia." Davies quotes British Defense Minister George Robertson as saying: "The American decision is not necessarily the Nato decision." But he also notes that Clinton wants to limit the first expansion to only three countries because it would "make it easier to win Senate approval of a treaty amendment to enlarge the alliance."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: But does U.S. public want bigger NATO?
Syndicated columnist Flora Lewis writes in the International Herald Tribune from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia today, where she interviewed President Petar Stoyanov about his country's Nato aspirations. Lewis said Stoyanov appeared stunned when asked: "What if, after all the talks, the U.S. Senate does not ratify the expanded Nato?" Lewis writes: "It is not an idle question. The Western debate on Nato expansion and transformation has barely begun. The United States will be the critical focus for constitutional reasons that make ratification more difficult than in parliamentary regimes." She goes on to say that opposition to any expansion of Nato now appears to be gathering momentum in Washington.
Lewis says: "There will be a disastrous American and Western problem if Washington fails to start soon to explain to the public why the Nato decisions have been made. The way things are going, and with the sour partisanship in the capital, the treaty could be lost. It would be an international blow as serious as the failure to ratify the League of Nations after World War I, and it would be a demonstration that the United States could no longer be relied upon as a power for peace and stability in the world."
FINANCIAL TIMES: Soothing news for Yeltsin before Denver summit
Bruce Clark, a Washington correspondent for the Financial Times of London, offers some analysis on the Nato debate in a news item today. Clark says: "U.S. officials have argued that a relatively small first wave of expansion... should lend plausibility to the promise that others will follow. This will reassure the Baltic states, which have lobbied strongly for membership but were ruled out of the first wave, against a background of strong Russian objection." Clark concludes that "By announcing a relatively modest expansion plan yesterday, instead of waiting until the Madrid conference, the (Clinton) administration will help ensure a smooth atmosphere when Russian President Boris Yeltsin meets western leaders in Denver, Colorado next week."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Double standards
Jasper von Altenbockum writes an opinion piece in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which criticizes Nato for what he says are "double standards." He writes: "The picture of the 'open door' to NATO places the reality upsidedown. It is asserted everywhere that the door remains open for all willing to enter, although it was shut for some candidates from the very start, and still is. This image was valid at all times for those states which will not be included in the first round of the eastward expansion. Some persuasive coaxing should now keep awake the hope of a second round. Nowhere has the double standard of this attitude been so apparent as in the Baltics."
Von Altenbockum says: "The three Baltic states see themselves in a special role which they have been endowed with during the course of the expansion debate between Moscow and nato. They are competing for acceptance into NATO as former Soviet-occupied states which have the most compelling grounds for concern. Yet they have received the least assurances."
The opinion column notes that Ukraine has not even formally applied for membership but has "been endowed with a special status within Nato by virture of a charter. Not even this much was possible for the Baltic states. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will have to come to terms with an alliance free situation which - contrary to their Scandinavian neighbours - they do not want."
Von Altenbockum says the Baltic states are now aware of other signals which recall another past. He says: "It is not Nato but Russia which is showing a generous willingness to guaranbtee the security of the Baltic states. Such advances from Moscow coincide with recommendations from the West that the three Baltic states would like to adhere to a foreign policy in the same way that neutral Finland has managed for years." Von Altenbockum concludes that "Europe is faced with a choice between a Baltics that is the way the Baltic states desire it, or a 'Balterization' which the Russians want."