Prague, 12 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today looks at the discussion of humanitarian aid to Serbia at Monday's EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, and at the absence of certain Serbian opposition figures from that meeting. Other press commentary continues on the nuclear test ban treaty and the conflict in Chechnya.
NEW YORK TIMES: Washington is right to oppose anything beyond humanitarian aid
The New York Times comments on the European Union's decision to send heating oil to cities in Serbia that are controlled by opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The U.S. government opposes the aid. But the Times says in an editorial that the aid does not go far enough. In the editorial's words, "Heat is a basic humanitarian necessity during the cold Balkan winters, and should go to all Serbs who need it."
The editorial agrees with the Clinton administration's worry that too much aid could help Milosevic. In its words: "The fear is legitimate, as many nations in Europe have been relaxed about aid and trade with Milosevic. Washington is right to oppose anything beyond humanitarian aid until Milosevic is out of power. There should be no restoration of air links to Belgrade, shipments of gasoline or help to rebuild bridges and buildings."
But the Times also states that sending humanitarian aid to opposition cities could help erode support for Milosevic. The editorial says: "It would send a message to Serbs that the opposition can deliver a higher standard of living than their leader can. Such aid will also help people realize that sanctions are targeting Milosevic, not ordinary Serbs."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: It speaks volumes that the opposition leaders did not come to the EU foreign ministers meeting
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung draws negative conclusions from the refusal by some Serbian opposition leaders to attend the Luxembourg meeting. The newspaper says in an editorial today: "The EU wants to support Serbia if it reforms itself democratically, respects human rights, puts on a market economy and seeks good relations with its neighbors. Yet these will remain simply pious wishes, since there's nobody in Belgrade with the power and the will to enforce these principles."
The Frankfurter Allgemeine continues: "Power still belongs to Milosevic, and it is not to be expected that he will lose it anytime soon. And even if that happened, it's questionable whether the Serbian opposition would have the will to push through a thorough change of regime. That the opposition's two most important leaders, (Vuk) Draskovic and (Zoran) Djindjic, did not come to the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg speaks volumes."
The paper concludes with this: "Milosevic may be toppled someday, but that democracy would follow in Serbia is not at all certain."
NEW YORK TIMES: US interests are best protected if Washington does not disavow the treaty
On the nuclear test ban treaty, the New York Times runs an editorial today supporting ratification. But the Times says President Clinton's proposal yesterday to delay the ratification vote in the U.S. Senate was a wise decision, since the Senate would certainly reject the treaty if it voted this week.
The Times is very critical of Senate Republicans. It says: "Republican senators are recklessly insisting on an immediate vote unless Clinton agrees to withdraw the treaty for the rest of his term. That is something that he should avoid, because it would signal to the rest of the world that the White House, not just the Senate, is edging away from the Test Ban Treaty."
Giving up on the treaty, the editorial says, would tempt countries like India, Pakistan, Russia, and China to resume testing.
In the Times' words: "The treaty is backed by America's military leaders, public opinion and Washington's main allies. Good answers are available to the objections so far raised by Senate critics. True, the election-year political calculus is not favorable, and ultimately it may be necessary to wait until a new president and a new Senate take office early in 2001. But US interests are best protected if in the interim Washington does not disavow the treaty."
DIE WELT: Moscow has learned nothing from its experiences
On Chechnya, commentator Manfred Quiring writes in Die Welt that the Russian military action is now being accompanied by a sham display. He writes: "The Russian leadership wants to boost the doubtful legitimacy of this military adventure -- the proof of Chechen responsibility for the terrorist attacks (on apartment buildings) in Russia is still lacking -- by ordering up 'calls for help.' " According to this scenario, he writes, the Chechens have supposedly asked Moscow to free them from "terrorists."
Quiring says this attempt shows that Moscow has learned nothing from its experiences in Prague in 1968 or in Kabul in 1979. On top of that "nonsense," Moscow is installing a vassal regime in Chechnya to replace the elected president. In Quiring's words: "Forgotten are the experiences of the first Chechen war, when exactly this attempt went astray."