Prague, 5 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary today in the Western press looks at the dubious results of Georgia's local elections, the U.S. administration's expanding foreign policy goals and its recent reversal on the issue of global warming, simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, and EU versus national policy.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
An editorial in "The Washington Post" today says that over the weekend, U.S. President George W. Bush "offered a rhetorical outline that, if realized in practice, would make him one of the most aggressive of internationalists among presidents."
Bush's address at the West Point military academy enumerated three fundamental goals, and the "Post" says each one of them is "extremely ambitious." Bush made clear that the United States, first, "would act pre-emptively against its terrorist enemies and the regimes that back them." Second, it would "end the threat of war among the world's great powers, in part by maintaining its own military supremacy, and build coalitions with those powers to solve regional conflicts." Finally, it would "promote moderation and tolerance and human rights" in the Islamic world and elsewhere where freedom is curtailed.
The "Post" remarks with some irony that "the presidential candidate who once suggested that America approach the world with greater humility now argues that 'moral truth is the same in every culture.'" But the paper says given the new security threats the U.S. faces, "such presidential determination [is] welcome." The true challenge, it says, will be "preserving the clarity and focus that Bush speaks of."
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In a piece in "The New York Times" reprinted in today's "International Herald Tribune," Michael Krepon of the Henry L. Stimson Center says that as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld head to the subcontinent in the next few days, the path away from India and Pakistan's "nuclear precipice" is now clear. But a peaceful agreement must be brokered quickly, he says, "because spoilers are now in Kashmir who would like nothing better than to spark a war that destabilizes Pakistan, kills Hindus, and disrupts American military operations against the Al-Qaeda network."
Krepon says Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's announcement that infiltration of Pakistani militants into Kashmir has ended "clearly implies what is well-known but cannot be publicly acknowledged by his government -- that the army and intelligence services have long provided logistical and military support for these crossings."
Musharraf's pledge to end this type of assistance "is an important start," says Krepon -- but needs to be built upon. He adds, "Militancy cannot be turned on and off like a spigot to accommodate political pressures." Musharraf's pledge "will mean little unless he is willing to close down the training camps and staging areas for militants on the Pakistani side of the Kashmir border."
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:
An editorial in "The Christian Science Monitor" discusses the Bush administration's recent shift on the issue of global warming. In a recent report the U.S. submitted to the UN, the administration acknowledges some of the negative effects global warming could have on America, including increased drought and flooding. The report also admits that human activity is partly to blame for these possibilities.
The paper encourages the U.S. administration to pursue alternative energy sources as part of its plan to mitigate the effects of warming temperatures. Last year, it opted out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, claiming that the substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions it mandates would have too adverse an effect on the U.S. economy. But the U.S. government could implement curbs on greenhouse gases on its own, the paper says.
It suggests that what is needed is "a U.S. policy on global warming that's integrated into the country's long-term energy plans. A firm national commitment to more fuel-efficient vehicles -- culminating in pollution-free technology, possibly fuel cells -- and cleaner, more dispersed sources of electricity would go a long way toward cooperating with the effort against global warming." This would have the added benefit of moving the U.S. "toward a future energy system that's less vulnerable to terrorist attack and less politically manipulated by a few big players."
Commentator Nikolaus Blome writes in Germany's "Die Welt" that after years of wavering, the EU has openly admitted that "the gloves are off" and that it is time for the union to enter the arena of global power politics. Blome writes that the EU must take strides to be a strong, unified force "if Europe ultimately wants to be mighty and not sink to the level of playing an insignificant role as an undersized factor between America and Russia."
But in the debate over what political model the EU should follow, Blome writes that all sides are disillusioned. The governments of individual member states argue against putting all decision-making power in a Brussels-based commission that answers to no electorate. The EU, in turn, condemns a federal government model as "politically dead" and incapable of acting on the behalf of 500 million people.
In the fight for power, Blome concludes, EU members involved in age-old conflicts are wasting valuable time. As the EU carves out a new role for itself in the world, it is crucial that all sides make every effort to find solutions to all points of contention.
In the regional daily "Eurasia View," Georgian affairs analyst Jaba Devdariani discusses the results of Georgia's local elections on 2 June 2, which he says are "embroiled in controversy." Devdariani says the ballot controversy has also "dealt a fresh blow to the political prestige of President Eduard Shevardnadze." Shevardnadze opponents have accused the government of rigging the vote. Accusations have been leveled of poor organization, ballot stuffing, the distribution of illegal forms of campaign propaganda, voting in more than one district -- also known as "carousel voting" -- and "disappearing" ballots, among others.
Devdariani says the most hotly contested vote is for Tbilisi City Council, one of the most influential political bodies in Georgia. The Labor party of Shalva Natelashvili took the lead, receiving 26 percent of the vote, followed by the National Movement with 24 percent. The right-of-center New Rights party came in third with 11.6 percent. But voting irregularities have cast doubt on the results, and Devdariani says a fresh round of infighting is likely to break out for control of the council.
Devdariani says while the vote's legitimacy remains in doubt, the elections may nevertheless indicate "serious discontent with Shevardnadze and the government. All the parties gaining seats for the Tbilisi City Council are in opposition to the president." He says the results also indicate that Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili's National Movement, as well as parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania's Christian Conservative Party, "are potentially powerful political challengers to Shevardnadze's authority."
In France's "Le Monde" newspaper, correspondent Alexandra Schwartzbrod writes from Jerusalem on the meeting yesterday between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet in Ramallah. Arafat requested that Tenet pressure Israeli authorities to pull out from the West Bank and end the blockades of Palestinian cities and villages.
The new Israeli offensive of the past week has closely followed its "Operation Defensive Shield" in April, which resulted in the destruction of numerous Palestinian buildings and elements of the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure. Israel justifies its operation on the necessity of keeping suicide bombers out of Israel, Schwartzbrod writes. But for the Palestinians, she says, it is also about "collective punishments and a creeping re-occupation of the West Bank."
George Tenet and Arafat spoke specifically of the need for reforming Palestinian security services to better prevent suicide-bombing attacks. Schwartzbrod says that according to the Palestinian press, Arafat would maintain control over the revamped organization by becoming the leader of a "Supreme Security Council," which would include the security forces, police, intelligence, the preventive security forces, the presidential guard, and military intelligence. Schwartzbrod says that, far from limiting the role of the Palestinian leader -- as Israeli leaders have demanded -- these Palestinian reforms seem set to put the old leader back in control.
LOS ANGELES TIMES:
A "Los Angeles Times" editorial says the U.S. administration has undergone "a quiet policy shift" on the issue of global warming by acknowledging in a report that man-made greenhouse gases will cause global temperatures to rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit (4.25 degrees Celsius) this century, thus wreaking "environmental havoc." The paper notes that the Environmental Protection Agency's report was targeted for criticism by environmental groups, who charged that U.S. President George W. Bush "focused on adapting to, rather than preventing, global warming." But this observation is "unfair," the editorial says. "Even the global-warming bills that environmentalists favor would only slow warming," it writes. And "government has to grapple with ways to save crops and coastal towns and prevent other havoc."
Still, says the editorial, the report "should have included tougher controls on greenhouse gases," and lacks specific emissions-reduction requirements. "Bush officials insist that specific emissions-reduction requirements would only discourage innovative, energy-efficient trading in a free market in which polluters 'buy' credits from cleaner companies. The White House even wants to remove some current regulations, for instance easing the requirement that electric companies install up-to-date pollution controls when they upgrade or expand existing coal-fired plants."
The editorial says the Bush policy's emphasis on self-policing "sounds unsettlingly like [a] 'trust but don't verify'" brand of emissions regulation. The "Los Angeles Times" concludes that Bush "has taken a significant step. He should keep going, to specific, enforceable limits on greenhouse gases."
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
An editorial in "The Washington Times" states that now is the time for the U.S. "to step to the forefront as mediator" in the conflict between India and Pakistan, as their anger over recent attacks by Kashmiri militants shows no sign of cooling off. The paper says America's first resolution should be "to prevent war in the region by insisting that both sides stop their war rhetoric and pull back their troops from the Line of Control." U.S. President Bush should then address the root of the problem in this conflict, which is the dispute over control of Kashmir, the "unprotected homeland of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs who want to control their own destiny."
"The Washington Times" says: "[Two] nuclear powers moving toward war should be given first priority on the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda. [There] is no better time for the United States to encourage both countries to step back from the awful precipice of war."
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)