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Western Press Review: Arms Deals, Spring Talks, Bush's First 100 Days

Prague, 25 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Much commentary in today's Western press looks at yesterday's arms deal between the United States and Taiwan. The agreement will allow the Asian island to strengthen its aging navy but stops short of providing it with the high-tech radar system opposed by mainland China. Analysts see it as an important shift in U.S.-China and U.S.-Taiwan relations. Other comments look at the upcoming Group of Seven spring meeting and George W. Bush's first 100 days as U.S. president.


Analyst Kurt Campbell writes in the "Washington Post": "In the past 20 years, no military establishment in the world has experienced the kind of sustained international isolation that is a daily reality for Taiwan -- not Iraq or even North Korea." He says that the move to increase interaction between the U.S. and Taiwan, sealed by yesterday's arms deal, is important for several reasons.

Campbell writes: "The Taiwan military is an important actor in national security situations across the [Taiwan] Strait, and it is in the strongest interests of the United States to have better contacts and understanding of Taiwan's uniformed professionals. [And] knowing how Taiwan will behave in a crisis helps U.S. forces and contingency planning in innumerable ways and is a prudent step, given the military buildup taking place across the Strait."

Finally, he concludes, "more contact with the militaries on both sides may help promote a degree of military confidence-building -- a distant prospect now, with visas and spy planes flying fast and furious, but something to earnestly work toward once the initial dust from this Taiwan arms sales package settles in Beijing."


A news analysis in Britain's "Financial Times" calls the U.S. decision to offer a substantial arms package to Taiwan a "big deal." Staff reporters James Kynge and Stephen Fidler write: "It weighs heavily in Beijing that the first important China policy decision of Bush's administration has been to offer Taipei enough military hardware to dilute -- if not neutralize -- the credibility of Beijing's threat to take the island by force." The analysts then quote an unnamed senior Chinese official as saying: "We have seen the true colors of the Bush administration. This was not unexpected and it was not as bad as it could have been. But I think that most of our fears have been realized."

The writers also quote an unnamed Republican aide, who confirms that the deal was hailed as a victory by hawks in the U.S. Congress: "'The Chinese drew a bunch of lines in the sand and Bush just walked across almost all of them, which I think is entirely appropriate.'"


An editorial in the "Financial Times" says this week's Group of Seven spring meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Washington risks being "a dialogue of the deaf." The paper says any debate between the United States and Europe over how the U.S. slowdown will affect the world economy will "to a large degree reflect fundamentally different policy perspectives." It says one difference lies in "perceptions of a global role. American and European estimates for euro-zone growth are not that far apart. But while many Europeans will be satisfied [with a predicted growth of between 2 and 2.5 percent this year], others rightly expect them to do more to pick up the slack in world economy."

The editorial adds: "If the U.S. wishes to persuade Europeans to run above trend growth, it must proceed with quiet persuasion, not megaphone diplomacy. It must make the intellectual case for structural reform to increase potential output. And the European Central Bank must explain to the U.S. authorities why it believes the risks to European growth are outweighed by the dangers of inflation." The paper concludes: "The G7 must be about more than a meeting of ministers, bankers, and officials. It must bring about a meeting of minds."


Caroline Atkinson, an international economics analyst, comments in the "New York Times": "Where is Europe when the world needs it? [The] prospects for world growth look gloomier each day." She adds: "Policy makers rightly base their decisions on the needs of their own economies, not those of the world at large. But in this case the European Central Bank" -- which is unlikely to cut euro interest rates when it meets tomorrow (26 April) -- "is shortchanging the European economy, which cannot be isolated from global trends. The main risk for Europe now, as for the world economy as a whole, is too little growth, not too much inflation."

Atkinson continues: "With the global economy now in need of a tonic, it matters for those outside the monetary union as well as those inside that Europe's policy makers get the medicine right. Structural reforms are surely required for long-term growth. But the European Central Bank also needs to cut rates to stop European growth from running out of steam. Inaction in the face of a slowdown would hurt the bank's credibility, too."


As U.S. President Bush approaches his 100th day in office, commentator Jonathan Freedland writes in Britain's "Guardian" daily that the "key expectation" of the U.S. presidential election -- that regardless of who won, Bush or Al Gore, nothing would change -- has proven "spectacularly false."

He writes: "In 100 short days, we have seen the Bush regime establish itself as the most brazenly right-wing of modern times." Freedland cites environmental policy as the area where Bush has made his "strongest" mark, saying: "Since January, [Bush] has trashed the Kyoto Protocol, broken his promise to reduce carbon emissions, proposed drilling in America's last wilderness -- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- called for more nuclear power plants and 'delayed' a demand that the utilities reduce the amount of arsenic in drinking water."

Of Bush's international policy, Freedland writes: "Not content with reviving the Cold War with Russia and triggering a new one with China -- though Tuesday's compromise on arms sales to Taiwan may be enough to prevent relations souring further -- Bush scuppered the growing reconciliation between the two Koreas. That way he can still cite the 'rogue state' of North Korea as the excuse for his ludicrous [National Missile Defense] scheme."

The lesson, the commentator concludes, is that "the left [should] resolve to pursue power as deliberately as [its] adversaries. In the United States, that would mean no repeat of the 2000 split which saw [Green Party candidate] Ralph Nader win votes that might otherwise have gone to Gore. [There] can be only one president: next time the left have to unite behind one candidate."