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Western Press Review: Commentators Highlight Asian Nukes, Kosovo And France

By Joel Blocker/Lisa Kammerud

Prague, 5 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today covers a variety of international subjects. Editorials and analyses touch on yesterday's high-level Geneva meeting of the five long-established nuclear powers, which urged India and Pakistan -- recently added to the list of nations possessing nuclear weapons -- to refrain from further testing and open negotiations with each other. Other comments deal with the continuing crisis in Serbia's southern province of Kosovo and strike-ridden France as it prepares for the opening next week (June 10) of the month-long World Cup soccer tournament.

NEW YORK TIMES: A nuclear South Asia still crackles with danger

Addressing the nuclear proliferation problem, the New York Times says that "now that India and Pakistan have at least temporarily halted their nuclear tests and toned down their rhetoric, there is an opening for diplomacy aimed at freezing further weapons development." In an editorial, the paper calls the Geneva meeting of the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. "a modest step (toward the signing) of international treaties banning the testing and spread of nuclear weapons." The editorial goes on to say: "(Achieving this) will not be easy, and a newly nuclear South Asia still crackles with danger. India and Pakistan are both working to miniaturize their nuclear bombs to fit on missiles; their troops trade fire across a tense border, and they cannot even agree on a format for discussing their conflicting claims to Kashmir." The paper concludes: "Congress should give President (Bill) Clinton authority to lift sanctions against India or Pakistan if either signs the (test-ban) treaties. Russia has special ties to this region, as does China. Beijing helped Pakistan develop its bomb, but now wants to show it can act responsibly against the spread of nuclear weapons. They should act in concert with Washington to help edge South Asia back from the nuclear brink."

WASHINGTON POST: Almost everyone overlooked the element of status-seeking

The Washington Post today carries commentaries on the same subject by two of its regular columnists. Stephen Rosenfeld says that "a telling defect in Western thinking about nuclear weapons has been revealed by the furor over the testing programs of India and Pakistan." He writes: "Almost everyone assumed that possession of these weapons was mostly about (strategic and military) security....Overlooked, however, (was) the element of status-seeking that can invade the judgment of non-nuclear powers. India, for instance, lives in...a relatively safe, tranquil and improving environment of a sort many other nations might envy..." But, Rosenfeld adds, this "was not enough for India. It did not feel it was getting the broad respect -- the place at the table -- it felt it deserved by virtue of its traditions and size and its economic and democratic attainments." The commentary continues: "India is not the only large, proud and strong country to suffer recurring pangs of self-pity. But the consequences are what concern us....India has ratcheted up its nuclear status, creating a crisis condition in South Asia and in global non-proliferation policy. Large doses of diplomatic therapy and straight talk are indicated. It will take years."

WASHINGTON POST: The business of America is business

In his Washington Post commentary, Charles Krauthammer puts the blame for the spread of nuclear weapons directly on President Clinton. He declares that, "by shamelessly courting the world's worst proliferator of weapons of mass destruction...he is guilty of fueling...the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race." The commentary continues: "China purveyed nuclear power to Algeria, poison gas to Iran and, most ominously, nuclear technology to Pakistan. (The U.S.) winked. Why? Because not since (President) Calvin Coolidge (in the 1920s) has an American administration lived more by (Coolidge's) credo that the business of America is business." Krauthammer says further that, for Clinton, "the single most important consideration has been the promotion of trade and exports. Rather than seeing China as a potential rival, a rising superpower, a notorious proliferator and a potential destabilizer, Clinton sees nothing more than a market. For Clinton, it's the economy stupid (a slogan from Clinton's first presidential campaign in 1992) -- always."

FINANCIAL TIMES: South Asia could eventually have three possessors of nuclear missiles

In a news analysis today in Britain's Financial Times, Alexander Nicoll and Mark Nicholson say that nuclear "testing is one thing, but delivery matters as much." They write: "Western analysts are gloomily concluding that India and Pakistan have come closer to putting nuclear warheads on missiles by carrying out tests last month... Both countries have the (necessary) materials: Pakistan mines and enriches uranium, and India is believed to be able to make weapons-grade plutonium.... Analysts have assumed for years that India and Pakistan were capable of constructing nuclear bombs which they could deploy on aircraft.... (Now) the evidence suggests both countries have attained considerable sophistication (in missiles). This means that South Asia, with multiple regional tensions, could eventually have three possessors of nuclear missiles, including China."

DERNIERES NOUVELLES D'ALSACE: We have all been totally aware of the problem, but done nothing

Turning to the escalating conflict in Serbia's Kosovo province, Jean-Claude Kiefer says in today's edition of the French regional daily Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace that "the worst has just begun." In a signed editorial, he writes: "For months now, Europe has watched, impotently, what is going on in Kosovo. For months, Europe and the United States have known that the crisis (there) was going to lead to an armed conflict. For years, too, the world has known that it is impossible to deal with (Yugoslav President) Slobodan Milosevic except by forcing him to do what it wants.

Unfortunately," Kiefer adds, "we have all been totally aware of the problem, but done nothing." He goes on: "Worse, since the outbreak of the Yugoslav civil war in 1991, we've known -- down to the slightest details -- the tactics openly used by Belgrade. The demands of a province (in earlier years, those of the federated states of Yugoslavia) are smothered to the point of exasperation, revolt and terrorism. Then comes a proposal for dialogue designed to keep the situation bogged down. And, next, the army goes to work." His editorial concludes: "It's no use dodging the fact: 'ethnic cleansing' is now underway in Kosovo."

GUARDIAN: The strategy is the same as in Bosnia

Writing from Kosovo's capital Pristina in Britain's Guardian daily today, Jonathan Steele expresses the same view in different words: "The Serb strategy," he says in a news analysis, "is the same as in Bosnia -- to terrorize people into fleeing." Steele writes: "Roughly 40,000 ethnic Albanians...have fled in the past week to other parts of Kosovo (as well as to Albania and Montenegro)....For every refugee who has fled to Albania proper, there are six people made homeless in Kosovo." His analysis continues: "From the tales of thousands of refugees who have fled from the big Serb offensive of the past 10 days in Kosovo, it (is) clear that the aim has been to empty a swathe of villages along Kosovo's border with Albania. First comes the shelling and machine-gun fire. Then the houses are looted before being... set afire." Steele adds: "The rape and murder that went with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia seems largely absent, but the strategy is the same. Thousands of people are being forced to move and then having their hopes of eventual return cut off."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: There is a strange mixture of belief in the state and the need to rebel

France's problems this week with striking pilots of the state-owned Air France airline in the run-up to the World Cup has evoked considerable press comment. Today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung carries a commentary by the paper's Paris correspondent Rudolph Chimelli titled, "The French Are Different." He writes: "When the captains of the official airline use the World Cup as an opportunity for blackmail... it raises the question of how people such as metro workers, railway staff and other public service workers, who earn between a fifth and a tenth of what pilots are paid, will take advantage of their unique opportunity." Chimelli continues: "The strong arm of the public service can bring everything to a standstill (in France). The government knows this, but finds itself in a particularly bad position. It cannot afford to give in, but still less can it afford not to." He concludes: "The 'French exception' is a common term in the nation's vocabulary.... What distinguishes French strikes (from those elsewhere in the West) is a strange mixture of belief in the state and the need to rebel. The French deeply distrust their powers-that-be and are always ready to take to the streets. At the same time, as demonstrators they are convinced that problems can be solved with a flourish of (the government's) pen."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Strike is a walk-out by the rich and privileged

In yesterday's International Herald Tribune, John Vinocur said of the pilots' strike: "No-one (especially the French) should be surprised." In a new analysis from Paris, he wrote: "A walk-out by the rich and privileged has resulted in a situation widely described in the local press as a global public-relations disaster for France.... But who could be surprised?" he asked. "The pilots have only replicated the behavior of the country on the widest scale. Rich and privileged in a world made up metaphorically of baggage handlers and airplane cleaners, France has sometime made an eager virtue of doing things in its own interest that do not rapidly translate into benefits for the commonweal (that is, the world)." Vinocur went on: "With its elements of total self-absorption and mildly extortionate behavior... the strike has a familiar feeling. It is arguably driven by the same approach that chose to resume nuclear tests in the Pacific, rejected reintegrating with NATO after announcing that a return was at hand, and blocked the choice of a president for the European Central Bank until France's (EU) partners had given way."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Implications of strike are serious

A day earlier (June 3), the Wall Street Journal Europe wrote in an editorial: "Air France ticket-holders rushing to book rail seats and those traveling between matches in France will have learned by now (that) rail unions are threatening stoppages too... Alas, that's not the end of it. Those grandees of the transportation strikes, France's truckers, were doing their own muscle-flexing last week, blocking 15 major motor ways.... About 100 off-duty patrolmen even stormed the offices of (France's) World Cup Organizing Committee last week demanding bonuses for extra work (during the Cup matches)." The editorial continued: "All this might be comical if the implications weren't so horribly serious. Football (fans) are not exactly known for their bonhomie (that is, good will) toward rival teams' fans. It's hard to think of a more combustible cocktail than ticket-holding fans from (around the world) consuming considerable quantities of wine while being stranded... and forced to watch the game on a giant screen (while) standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the teams' cheerleaders."