Prague, 20 July 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press turns its attention today to the coming Group of Seven plus Russia summit in Okinawa. Commentary also focuses on Russian oligarchs, the U.S. national missile defense shield, and the OSCE.
Today's International Herald Tribune runs an editorial by the Washington Post that says the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial countries and Russia could prove useful even if its agenda "seems so broad as to be vague." The group includes the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada. The Post writes:
"The mere act of assembling the world's most important leaders creates an opportunity for informal consultations on issues ranging from arms control and missile defense to genome research. It provides a chance to communicate disapproval for Russia's war crimes in Chechnya directly to President Vladimir Putin, although it remains to be seen whether the group has the fortitude to do that."
Th editorial also says the summit will provide an opportunity for world leaders to tackle other global priority issues like disease, such as AIDS, the threat of terrorism, environmental degradation and the challenge of new technologies.
International Herald Tribune:
The International Herald Tribune runs an editorial today by Mike Jendrzejczyk on how Japan can boost its international profile at the G-7 plus Russia summit. Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director for the Asian division of Human Rights Watch.
Jendrzejczyk says that the summit will give Japan a forum to show that it is ready to play a greater role in global problem-solving. He says the real test for Japan will be whether it uses the summit to address reform in China and Russia's war in Chechnya. Jendrzejczyk writes:
"Neither topic will be easy, but progress could lay the groundwork for future efforts. It could also demonstrate Japan's willingness to take on tough questions involving promotion of democracy and human rights....But is Tokyo willing to use its diplomatic and economic clout with some of its most important neighbors and trading partners to promote broader international principles?"
Jendrzejczyk says that Japan should use the forum to call on China to bring its human rights record and legal practices into conformity with UN standards. He says the country should also lean on Russia to investigate military abuses committed in Chechnya and to allow unhindered access to the republic by UN officials.
Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato contributes an editorial to the International Herald Tribune that says the Group of Seven plus Russia summit should follow Italy's lead and cancel debt for some of the world's poorest countries. Amato writes that ahead of the conference Italy passed a law to cancel up to $6 billion of poor countries' debt in the next three years. He says the leading industrial countries should also ensure that as many countries as possible can obtain similar debt cancellations. He writes:
"Debt cancellation is a necessary but only a first step on the way to development. It is clearly not sufficient to achieve our shared objective, which is to halve poverty by 2015. There can be poverty reduction without growth. Reviving growth in the poorest countries of this planet is the biggest challenge of this new century."
Amato writes that to achieve these objectives Italy will promote a strategy at the summit based on trade, investment and aid.
Wall Street Journal:
Today's Wall Street Journal Europe runs a commentary by Thomas Graham on President Vladimir Putin's attack on oligarchs in Russia. Graham, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was the chief political analyst at the U.S. embassy in Moscow from 1994-1997.
Graham writes that Putin's offensive against oligarchs puts the West in a "tight spot." He says that while we believe in civil liberties, free speech and the due process of law, "many of us have cheered the Russian president." Graham writes:
"Since the Bank of New York scandal broke last summer, these tycoons have been demonized as a source of rot that has marred Russia's transition to market democracy. Some hope that the recent 'investigations' mark the beginning of a campaign to root out corruption, as well as to create a level playing field for all businessmen, both Russian and foreign."
Graham says that the trouble with this approach is that it is still unclear whether the Kremlin is taking true aim at the structural conditions that gave rise to the oligarchs in the first place. The oligarchs, Graham writes, are only the most visible and powerful products of a pervasive phenomenon: "the intertwining of power and property."
Graham says that unless the tie between power and property is broken, any crackdown on today's oligarch will only make room for new oligarchs tomorrow. To break this tie, Graham says Russia must make a clear separation of government from business. To do this he should build an independent court system, encourage honest law enforcement agencies and reduce government interference in the economy.
Graham concludes that Western leaders should not cheer Putin's crackdown, rather "let Mr. Putin know that we still await clear signs that his main goal is a fundamental reform of Russia, and not simply the undoing of political opponents or commercial rivals."
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher contributes a commentary to the British Daily Telegraph today, applauding U.S. plans for a national missile defense shield.
Thatcher says that the world should be concerned about "unpleasant regimes" such as those in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. She says the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has afforded these countries new opportunities to threaten the West and its allies. Thatcher says retaining and updating a nuclear deterrent is the ultimate guarantor of security. She writes:
"Nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented. Nuclear arsenals can certainly be reduced as a result of the ebbing of the threat of a major nuclear exchange. But a nuclear weapons-free world is an infantile fantasy. That is why all those who shelter beneath America's nuclear umbrella should support its right to test nuclear weapons."
Thatcher says that with the end of the Cold War the nature of the nuclear threat has fundamentally changed, as has the West's ability to respond to it. She says it is now rogue states and the possibility of unplanned missile launches with nuclear warheads that should now be the main concern. Thatcher says the only way to do this is through the construction of a global system of an anti-ballistic missile defense. She writes:
"The proper response by its allies to the American superpower's dominance is gratitude and relief and a desire to improve our own performance... I do not believe that Europe is capable of providing an alternative military power to the U.S. Without access to American intelligence and weaponry, the Europeans would be lost."
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act on security and cooperation in Europe is the subject today of commentaries in Germany's Die Welt and Austria's Der Standard.
Hildegard Stausberg commenting in Die Welt writes that former West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is just as correct in saying today that the Helsinki Final Act marked the start of a fundamental dialogue of dtente in Europe as is former dissident and former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier when he says that the Helsinki process gained in importance as a result of the collapse of the communist regimes.
"Both are right: the Final Act opened creative maneuvering room for many links between East and West that previously had been unthinkable." But Die Welt warns that Genscher risks creating a legend by suggesting that the Helsinki process resulted in an end to the division of Europe. "It would not have happened without Germany's inclusion in NATO, the presence of the allied powers in Berlin, NATO's zero-sum game Doppelbeschluss, the revolt of the Polish workers, the Pope and Ronald Reagan. Mikhail Gorbachev had finally accepted these facts. But one note -- the readiness to discuss, that existed back then toward the communists, today is banned by the EU in relation to Vienna. This irony of history is also part of the truth."
Gudrun Harrer commenting in Vienna's Standard writes: "Twenty-five years after the signing of the Helsinki Final Act and a decade more or less after the gradual disintegration of the East Bloc, the West is painfully aware that the problems that had been associated with state communism did not disappear: racism, suppression of minorities, freedom of speech, press and association, of free elections, and of human rights to do what one wants with one's life and the environment. And the West also knows today that catastrophes of apocalyptic proportions as in Kosovo and Chechnya can occur on OSCE territory." But Harrer goes on to caution, "Those who criticize the OSCE for not being present in Chechnya today are welcome to come up with practical suggestions of how to secure permission for its deployment or better yet, with internationally acceptable norms on how to deal in principle worldwide with separatism".
In Denmark, Information runs an editorial today asking why Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzhic is still free, possibly in some place in Bosnia, walking among 20,000 NATO soldiers.
The paper writes: "It is even more difficult to understand why he should be free while Bosnian sources suggest that NATO does know where to find him. Even if it does not, it should not be too complicated to find out. Follow his wife and children, who live in Pale, and who visit him often."
The editorial says the failure to bring Karadzhic to justice can best be explained by the lack of political will in the West. "It would be logical to conclude that continuing to behave in such a lukewarm fashion," the paper writes "the West exposes itself to speculations that it has concluded some kind of a dirty deal with Karadzhic. It has remained a secret what Karadzhic got in return for his agreement with US peacemaker Richard Holbrooke. He may have been promised to be allowed to go free."
(Anthony Georgieff also contributed to today's press report)