Prague, 30 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today focuses in part on the NATO ministerial meeting in Budapest and the U.S. effort to convince its allies of the viability of its projected missile defense system. Other comments deal with Ukraine's new prime minister, Germany's decision to begin making compensation payments to World War II slave laborers, and European Commission President Romano Prodi's proposals, unveiled yesterday, for the future of the European Union.
NEW YORK TIMES:
A news analysis by Marc Lacey in "The New York Times" says that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "failed [yesterday] to pierce NATO's sharp opposition [to missile defense]. He could not even convince [NATO members] that a threat of a missile attack against their countries actually exists."
Lacey writes from Budapest that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, ranked among the skeptics, is concerned about the U.S. plans and will "continue challenging them until he is sure they add to NATO's security and stability." He quotes Fischer as saying: "It must not lead to another arms race."
Lacey also says that NATO members "tried to paper over the discord by issuing a statement in which they said they were pleased by the Bush administration's consulting them as it moved forward with missile defense."
A similar news analysis by William Drozdiak in "The Washington Post" speaks of the "deep misgivings in European capitals" over U.S. proposals for a missile defense system. Drozdiak writes from the Hungarian capital: "European allies, notably France and Germany, rejected [Secretary Powell's] appeal that they embrace the same security-risk assessment that the United States holds. They said raising the level of perceived threat was unreasonable because they did not feel endangered and did not deem it wise to provoke a potential confrontation by declaring that they were."
The Bush administration says that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- designed to restrict the development of national missile defenses -- "has become obsolete and no longer corresponds to post-Cold War security threats," Drozdiak writes. "But many European governments," he notes, "still refer to it as 'the cornerstone of strategic stability.'"
In a commentary for the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Peter Muench reviews NATO's record in the Balkans. He writes: "The 10 years of confusion in the Balkans have had a paralyzing effect on the NATO organism, which now only reacts by issuing appeals -- appeals for territorial integrity, dialogues, reforms, preventing catastrophes, negotiations."
He goes on: "The Balkans have become a broad field of disinterest for the Western military alliance. Laurels are not to be harvested quickly [in that region]." NATO unity on the Balkans, he says, is now confined to "resolutions on troop reduction. This was demonstrated in Budapest by a further limitation of the SFOR contingent for Bosnia. At the same time," he adds, "the [projected] U.S. retreat from this inhospitable region is crippling NATO as a whole."
NEW YORK TIMES:
Other comments today address yesterday's approval by parliament of Ukraine's new prime minister, Anatoly Kinakh. In a news analysis, "The New York Times" correspondent Michael Wines writes from Moscow that, as the head of the powerful Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Kinakh "can be expected to follow a big-business agenda." He says that Kinakh's confirmation may also help bring stability to a government wracked by scandal, including allegations of the president's involvement in the murder of an opposition journalist.
"As prime minister," Wines continues, "Mr. Kinakh's biggest task may be to try to add [ousted former Prime Minister Viktor] Yushchenko's core of centrist and right-wing backers to his ranks. That would let him assemble the nation's first true coalition government and perhaps push a legislative reform program through a parliament long dominated by a Communist minority."
Gerhard Gnauck, writing in "Die Welt," says the motto underlying Kinakh's government is: "The reforms are dead. Long live the reforms." The writer sees little prospect of any basic policy changes. He says: "Kinakh is not a man of stature, but simply a follower of [President] Leonid Kutchma, who has again strengthened his position after the crisis brought about by the disappearance of a journalist."
Gnauck adds: "The new premier must, however, at least present some kind of policy. This is indicated by Kinakh's warning against the 'dictate' of international financial institutions." He concludes that even though Kinakh derives his power from the president, "one can [still] do business with him."
An editorial in "The Irish Times" considers the proposals for the future of the EU made yesterday by European Commission President Romano Prodi. It notes that Prodi's remarks came on the heels of suggestions for EU enlargement from French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on 28 May. "Both men," the paper says, "emphasized the time has come for a more political vision and definition of the EU as it is about to enlarge. Mr. Prodi insists that the 'pre-political era' of the EU is over."
The editorial calls Prodi's proposals "provocative." It says that Prodi relates the EU's "political capacity [to] security and defense, asking whether citizens of its member states would be prepared to die for common EU objectives." The paper also says: "The old method of incremental growth of more integrated policies guided by political and bureaucratic elites should give way to a more political vision of the EU's purpose and activities, with a greater involvement of its citizens."
A commentary by Nathalie Dubois in the French daily "Liberation" also looks at Prodi's proposals in light of those made by Jospin the day before. The paper says that Prodi emphasizes a more communal vision of the EU than the "federation of nation-states" suggested by Jospin. She quotes Prodi as saying: "Without common objectives, without common policies, Europe will not be strong, [but] without strong institutions, without financial means, Europe will not be powerful either."
The commentary continues: "While Prodi approved of two of Jospin's goals -- a government for the euro-zone and the building of a real common foreign policy -- he sharply distanced himself yesterday from the inter-governmental solutions that are favored by Paris." It adds that if Jospin suggested improved diplomatic dialogue among member states, "Prodi continues to insist that the high EU representative for foreign policy become a member of the commission."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG:
In a commentary for the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Juergen Jeske calls Germany's decision to compensate wartime slave laborers "a respectable gesture." He writes: "More than half a century after World War II ended, another chapter of Germany's history -- left open by the Cold War and the absence of a peace treaty -- has been closed at last. When the Bundestag, or parliament, determines today that German businesses have protection from future lawsuits in the United States, nothing stands in the way of compensating about 1.5 million aging foreign slave laborers and other victims of the Nazis. For more than 100,000 of them, this gesture of reconciliation comes too late. They have died since negotiations began in 1999, and every day others die."
The commentator goes on: "Germany sees this compensation as an act of political wisdom, national responsibility, and defense of its economic interests -- no more and no less. It is better not to speak of morality when referring to this high-stakes poker game that was started by U.S. class-action suits and brought together a heady mix of blackmail, rainmaking, political miscalculations, and myopia." Jeske describes "the final decision [as] a creditable compromise of 10 billion German marks ($4.4 billion), to which must be added the 2.5 billion marks already paid for this purpose to West European countries and Eastern European foundations."
He concludes: "The resulting maximum compensation of 15,000 marks per person can make up in no way for the injustice and suffering. It is, however, a respectable gesture that is supported by the German government -- the legal successor to the Third Reich -- and German industry."
NEW YORK TIMES:
An editorial in "The New York Times" looks at the verdicts returned in the case of the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The paper calls the guilty verdicts "fully justified" while noting that "diplomatic sensitivities and legal barriers make it difficult for the American government to prosecute terrorist attacks against United States citizens and institutions abroad."
It adds: "Terrorism trials, especially those with foreign-born defendants, place a special burden on prosecutors and the court to ensure that the rights of the defendants in a criminal case are protected. Those rights were protected in this case," the "Times" adds, and have allowed for "a measure of justice for horrifying crimes."