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Western Press Review: Moment For NATO Rebirth Is At Hand

Prague, 8 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO's two-day Madrid summit, which began this morning, continues to dominate Western press commentary.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: NATO as means of regeneration after the Cold War

An editorial today sums up the situation as follows: "NATO is set today to extend a historic invitation to three Central European countries to join the alliance. This is a political rather than a military decision, a recognition by Western democracies of the transformation that has taken place in the East since the collapse of the Soviet empire." The newspaper adds: "The Madrid summit sees NATO extending a hand to the East as a means of regeneration after the Cold War. (It won't) be easy, but the choice is right."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Albright responds to critics of NATO expansion

U.S. critics of NATO expansion --including the influential New York Times -- contend among other objections that the Administration of President Bill Clinton has never made a strong public case for the action. In the International Herald Tribune today, Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agrees that "we have a responsibility to explain."

Albright offers this response: "The first reason is that enlargement will make NATO stronger and more cohesive." She continues: "The second reason is that enlargement lessens the chance American soldiers ever again will have to fight in Europe." Albright says "the third reason is that NATO enlargement will help us defend Europe's gains toward democracy, peace and integration." She concludes: "The final reason for enlargement is to right the wrongs of the past."

TIMES OF LONDON: New democracies will flourish if secure in NATO

Former British Secretary of State for Defense (1995-97) Michael Portillo offers another - or at least more pointedly stated - reason today in a commentary. He writes: "We cannot allow the Russians to believe they have a continuing sphere of influence over sovereign nations."

Portillo contends: "We must not allow the world to be frozen in the Yalta pattern of 1945." He writes: "Stability in Europe depends mainly on entrenching the new democracies. They will flourish only if they feel secure, and as NATO members they will."

Portillo goes on: "(NATO) has a whiff of decadence and its forces have become hollow; they look fine on paper, but they lack numbers, training, spares and mobility." He says: "It is in America's interests to ensure that NATO can fight coherently and this means that, despite Washington's reluctance to share know-how, it must at least put its allies in a position where their unit commanders can receive and decode essential battlefield data."

WALL STREET JOURNAL OF EUROPE: Testy relations between the U. S. and France

The newspaper points today in an editorial to a speed bump on NATO's road to Madrid - testy relations between the United States and France. The newspaper says: "If NATO enlargement is expected to be the high point of the Madrid meeting, the subject of France's aborted bid to return to full membership is certainly the bugabear." The editorial concludes: "Conceding to French demands is impractical for Washington (and) modifying those demands is undignified from the point of view of the Elysee. This leaves France on the sidelines again."

WASHINGTON PRESS: A rare consensus

Two newspapers in the U.S. capital -- the liberal Washington Post and the conservative Washington Times - achieved rare consensus in editorials published yesterday. The Post editorialized that NATO expansion could be denied now only at unacceptable cost. The Times called expansion essential to U.S. vital interests.

WASHINGTON POST: NATO expansion a necessity for new democracies

The newspaper said: "It is a chilly and exclusive world that the opponents of NATO expansion would build in Europe. A whole row of emerging or re-emerging democracies of a European tradition aspire to the manifest psychological, political and - in a pinch - military comforts of alliance membership. The opponents would have these candidates forgo the confidence that membership would surely convey to their democratic and free-market elements. (The opponents) say Russia will be provoked, its nationalists stirred and its own democratic prospects perhaps checked. It is a serious consideration, not to be glibly dismissed. But NATO has taken this into fair account by its deep consultations with Moscow." The editorial concluded: "The United States joined the rescue of Central Europe from two great wars and two tyrannies in this century. Only at great cost could it now deny the rescued the infusions of confidence and support that will help them to fulfill a Western destiny."

THE WASHINGTON TIMES: NATO expansion serves U.S. vital national interest

The newspaper said: "Let's hope that Madrid, 1997 will come to stand for the day the West enlarged its borders, bringing in from the cold countries that by culture and tradition are anchored to the rest of Europe, but which the 20th century has treated so harshly." The editorial concluded: "It remains in the vital national interest of the United States to be firmly linked to a peaceful, prosperous and secure Europe. This century has seen the loss of some 500,000 American lives in the two World Wars. An enlarged NATO filling the power vacuum of Central Europe remains absolutely the best way to make sure that this chapter of history does not repeat itself."

LE FIGARO: NATO already has too much influence on Europe

The French daily today published an interview with French diplomat Gabriel Robin, his country's ambassador to NATO from 1987 to 1993. Robin suggests that U.S.-led NATO already has too much influence on Europe. He says: "The final result seems programmed in advance. There will be no reform of command such as France wished and the enlargement of NATO will be limited to three countries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Period." This, he says, "imposes NATO as a key structure on the organization of our continent on all matters of collective security." He concludes: "(France's) mistake was to believe that our European partners were going to support us and that Washington would be willing to please us."