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Western Press Review: U.S. Vote On NATO Enlargement Imminent

By Joel Blocker and Esther Pan

Prague, 11 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- With the critical U.S. Senate debate and vote on NATO enlargement due within the next several days, U.S. newspapers have been voicing their opinions on the issue. And in Western Europe as well as the U.S., the crisis in Serbia's southern province of Kosovo continues to evoke much commentary.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Although the measure looks likely to pass, opposition seems to be rising in both parties

Yesterday's edition of the U.S. daily Christian Science Monitor said that some of those following the question of the Atlantic Alliance's planned expansion to Central Europe are "calling it the most important decision about NATO since its founding in 1949." In an editorial on the issue, the paper wrote: "If the Senate ratifies --and other NATO members concur-- Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will join next year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee already has voted 16 to two in favor. Although the measure looks likely to pass, opposition seems to be rising in both parties."

The editorial continued with analyses of the positions on both sides in the coming Senate debate. Without itself taking a position for either side, the Monitor said: "Senators who agree with the Clinton administration that NATO should expand will argue: Now that major countries of Eastern Europe are democracies, why have an alliance with Western European democracies but exclude Eastern ones? Since the new members will be allies, they expand the area of Europe where wars will not happen. A bigger NATO becomes a stronger super-NATO, adding about 200,000 troops." As for the other side, the paper summed it up as follows: "Senators who disagree with the Administration and want to delay NATO expansion will argue: It will poison relations between the US and Russia and hold up passage of the Start II arms-control treaty that would cut Russia's stockpile of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A change of government in Russia could find these weapons pointed at the US again."

NEW YORK TIMES: The issue before the Senate is the commitment the enlargement of a military alliance carries

The day before (Mar. 9), two other U.S. national dailies spoke out for delaying the Senate vote on NATO. The New York Times' editorial asked, "What's the rush on NATO?" The paper said: "As more members of the Senate realize a vote on NATO expansion is barreling toward them, they are understandably asking for more time to consider a decision that is likely to be among the most important they make as lawmakers. For all the talk about using NATO to consolidate democracy and unity in Europe, the issue before the Senate is the enlargement of a military alliance and the commitment that it carries to use American soldiers and weapons, including nuclear arms, to defend new members in Eastern Europe." Consistent with its months-long strong opposition to NATO expansion, The New York Times continued: "Many senators have just begun to address the complexities. It seems reasonable to give them a chance to study the matter carefully before they vote. It is hard to imagine any senator...telling voters that he or she agreed to commit American forces to the defense of Warsaw, Budapest and Prague after a few days of debate and without really knowing how much it would cost."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The reverse can also be argued for each of these claims of benefits

The Los Angeles Times titled its editorial "Go Slow on Expanding NATO." The paper wrote: "The expansion of NATO is the most significant foreign policy issue to arise since the end of the Cold War. The Senate by all means should take a few more months to better understand its implications." It argued: "The Clinton Administration and other supporters of enlargement have recited a list of generalities about supposed benefits. What's needed instead are specific answers to basic questions about just what NATO's growth will mean, involve and cost. President Clinton contends that expanding the 16-nation alliance 'will make NATO stronger, Europe more stable and America more secure.' But the reverse can also be argued for each of these claims." The paper concluded: "About NATO's mission, the costs of expansion and what new commitments the United States will assume, little can be said with confidence. That's why some troubled senators are seeking fuller answers before voting for enlargement. What they want to know is what the nation must know before this fateful step is taken."

WASHINGTON POST: NATO's military machine is getting closer to the boundaries of Russia

The Washington Post yesterday carried a commentary by Russia's Ambassador to the U.S., Yuli Vorontsov, summing up his Government's opposition to NATO expansion. Vorontsov wrote: "NATO is a military alliance, and its military machine is getting closer to the boundaries of Russia --mind you, a military machine, not university centers. Strictly speaking, a Polish tank, even if it is a Soviet-made T-72, automatically becomes a NATO tank after that country joins the Alliance. Whether we want to or not, we shall be obliged to react to these developments if the process goes on. The more so that one explanation given for enlargement is that 'there are still doubts regarding the future of Russia.'" Vorontsov's commentary continued: "Few people take into account the psychological factor --the historic memory of Russians. It was from the West that real threats continuously came to Russia, bringing to our people immeasurable losses and destruction. This memory cannot be deleted or subdued by any parliamentary hearings....Enlargement is a serious attempt to achieve political dominance of the Alliance in Europe --to create a NATO-centrism, so to speak, backed up by a military force unparalleled in the world."

ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: Collective security will be greatly enhanced

In a news analysis Monday for the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, an influential regional newspaper, Jack Payton summed up the arguments for NATO expansion. He said: "Expanding NATO is not --as its critics like to portray it-- some poorly thought-out, will-o'-the-wisp goal desperately sought by Clinton as his first major foreign policy accomplishment after six years in office. It is supported, with great enthusiasm, by the secretaries of state of the eight previous presidential administrations --both Democratic and Republican. More than 130 prominent and high-level former government officials --again from both major parties-- have gone on record favoring expansion."

Payton continued: "Perhaps even more important, the heads of state and government of all other 15 current NATO members are firmly behind expansion and their legislatures are expected to ratify expansion by wide margins. The thrust of all their arguments is that expanding NATO will not only benefit the countries taken in as new members but the Alliance's present members as well. New democracies will be safeguarded in regions where they hadn't existed for almost half a century. And most important, according to advocates of expansion, collective security, the heart of the NATO alliance, will be greatly enhanced."

Assessing the latest developments in the Kosovo crisis, two British newspapers call for a show of force by the international community to deter Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from continuing his repression of the ethnic Albanian minority in the province. But in its editorial yesterday the Daily Telegraph bluntly recommended, "Bomb the Serbs," while today's Guardian editorial is concerned only with "Containing Milosevic."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: We have an obligation to use our air protect the civilian population from being massacred

The Daily Telegraph wrote: "It is probably going to take a degree of military force to stop Mr. Milosevic using tanks, artillery and helicopters against the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo, just as it took NATO air strikes to help bring an end to the war in Bosnia and prepare the way for the Dayton peace accords." The paper argued: "The international community will have no excuses if it allows Mr. Milosevic to ravage Kosovo. After the atrocities of Vukovar and Srebrenica, we know exactly what the Serb forces are capable of doing." According to the paper, "the (Kosovo) Albanians have shown heroic self-control under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova. Encouraged by the European Union, they have resisted the call to arms on the understanding that forbearance would be rewarded in the end." It concluded: "If the (ethnic Albanian) civic opposition has now been pushed aside by the hard men in the Kosovo Liberation Army, it is partly our fault. At the very least, we have an obligation to use our air protect the civilian population from being massacred."

GUARDIAN: Diplomats should be planning to take tougher steps

The Guardian is more cautious in its view, asking only for the extension of the United Nations mandate on Serbia's border with Macedonia, which has allowed for the stationing of some 750 UN troops there. The paper calls such an extension "vital" and urges that it be taken "quickly and visibly." The Guardian writes: "It was wrong to begin winding down this unique 'preventive deployment' force even before the latest crisis (in Kosovo)....Now it is likely to provide the indispensable basis for a follow-up force which can be coupled to the extension of military links with Albania." The editorial continues: "This new 'fire-wall' will provide at least a military buffer to reduce the possibility of Kosovo conflict spilling over into western Macedonia and across the Albanian border. It is an important physical symbol too of the UN commitment." It concludes: "The whole package of sanctions now cobbled together (by the six-nation Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia) is a modest start but it requires a response (from Serbia): the diplomats should be planning to take tougher steps next --and signaling them too-- if Belgrade says no."

LIBERATION: It's also necessary to prepare for the worst

In yesterday's edition of the French daily Liberation, an editorial signed by Jacques Almaric calls Kosovo a real international "headache" and "delayed-action bomb." Almaric wrote: "Despite the violence of past weeks, the worst is possibly still to come. That's why the six nations of the Contact Group are sparing no time and energy in order to convince and constrain Slobodan Milosevic to give back to Kosovo the autonomy status he abolished in 1989....Milosevic now has 10 days to withdraw his special police units from the region and to open the door --especially to the Red Cross and Contact-Group representatives-- to Kosovo he had shut to conceal his repression." Almaric concluded: "It's also necessary --right now, because Milosevic is Milosevic-- to prepare for the worst and not be content with big words or mere saber-rattling...The creditability of the entire (Contact-Group) exercise is at stake."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Mrs. Albright should not begin another process of conscientious hypocrisy

The U.S. International Herald Tribune today carries a New York Times commentary on Kosovo by Peter Maass, a journalist who covered the war in Bosnia, that also warns against mere verbal warnings to Milosevic. Maass asks: "What does (Secretary of State Madeleine) Albright mean when she says the United States is 'not going to stand by (and watch the Serbian authorities do in Kosovo what they can no longer get away with doing in Bosnia)?' Does the Administration plan to litter Belgrade with (UN) Security Council resolutions?" He answers: "Most likely, she hopes that Kosovo will quiet down, averting the need for hard decisions, but she may not be so lucky." Maass advises Mrs. Albright: "She should keep in mind a lesson from Bosnia. At the outset, it may be better to tell the truth than say the right thing. The strong expression of moral outrage, without an accompanying will to do anything of substance, can be worse than useful. It can be harmful." He concludes: "Mrs. Albright, who knows the lessons of Bosnia, should not begin another process of conscientious hypocrisy."