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19 December 1997
United States Information Agency
Foreign Media Reaction Report
<center>18 December 1997
<bold><bigger><bigger>RUSSIA: ASSERTIVE DIPLOMACY WITH AN AILING HEAD OF
Foreign commentators have been paying careful attention to Russia's
energetic search for allies and for a heightened influence on the
international stage, as well as to Russian President Yeltsin's most
recent bout of illness. The majority of journalists did not expect
many gains from Moscow's recent diplomatic forays in Turkey, the
Baltics, Latin America, Western Europe, or even with Iraq. They were,
however, decidedly concerned by Mr. Yeltsin's ailment. Following are
some of the more interesting assessments made by observers:
'WHEN THE CZAR CATCHES A COLD"--Everyone agreed with centrist
Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich that, "when Yeltsin is sick, it becomes
clear how much everything has concentrated on him." They pointed out
that fears over stability at the top following the announcement of his
hospitalization immediately gave Russia's already shaky financial
markets the shivers. Mr. Yeltsin's illness, added conservative
Catholic La Libre Belgique, "poses the problem of the future of
(Russia's) democratic experiment...and consequently of Europe's
'THE BEAR IS OUT OF HIBERNATION'--Although the media jury was still
out regarding how much influence Russia had regained in the Middle
East with Foreign Minister Primakov's intervention last month with
Iraq, no one doubted that a more assertive Russia is "flexing its
muscles" on many fronts abroad. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is
currently wooing the Turks during his visit to Ankara. Foreign
Minister Primakov's November tour of Latin America allowed him to sing
the praises of the so-called "multipolar world"--making it clear that
Russia would be one of those poles--and exude what centrist
Nezavisimaya Gazeta of Moscow dubbed his "sympathy" with Latin
American countries opposing the U.S.' Helms-Burton Act.
The two initiatives that piqued the interest of pundits most, however,
were those designed by Mr. Yeltsin to woo the Baltics and two of the
U.S.' leading NATO allies--Germany and France. The Russian leader, in
a visit to Sweden early this month, surprised everyone (most of all
his own staff) by offering to reduce Moscow's nuclear warheads and its
conventional forces. Portrayed by one Russian writer as a bid to nudge
the Baltics to join "a club of Russian friends," it was seen
everywhere else as a ploy "to keep the U.S. out of the Baltic region"
by impeding NATO enlargement in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, as well as
Finland and Sweden. Most onlookers were convinced that Mr. Yeltsin
would find no takers. Liberal tabloid Expressen of Stockholm, for
instance, asserted, "Sweden no longer is a neutral country. Sweden is
a member of the EU and we are also taking part in NATO PFP exercises."
Mr. Yeltsin's next move, his announcement that a "troika" formed by
Moscow, Bonn and Paris will hold its first meeting in Yekaterinburg
next spring, also raised the hackles of European columnists. One
Polish onlooker held that Moscow's aim was simply "to question U.S.
leadership" in Europe and "adjust European architecture" to suit its
interests. The French media apparently ignored the issue, but, in
Germany, a disgruntled centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung and others
concluded, "It is not in the interest of this republic to let itself
be used for anti-American actions."
This survey is based on 68 reports from 14 countries, Nov. 26-Dec. 18.
EDITOR: Mildred Sola Neely
RUSSIA: "NATO Express Moves On, Despite Our Efforts"
Vladimir Mikheyev said in reformist Izvestia (12/18): "All efforts by
Russian diplomacy to stop NATO's advance to our borders have gone down
the drain. Yevgeny Primakov at some point managed to slow down its
progress, but that only delayed what the opposition in this country
likes to call restoring a sanitary cordon around Soviet Russia. Even
so, the tone Russian diplomats choose in talking about NATO has been
more restrained both in form and substance. While being opposed to
NATO enlargement in principle, Moscow has to resign itself to what has
happened. Evidently, part of the reason the Kremlin has softened up is
that our North Atlantic partners have been so delicate about it all."
"Why Does Eastern Europe Fear Russia?"
Aleksandr Bovin suggested in mainstream weekly Itogi (12/16): "Rather
than killing our nerve cells by railing against NATO, we should try to
answer the following questions: Why are almost all our Eastern
European neighbors longing to be in NATO? Why do they see danger in
the East, not in the West? Why do they mistrust and fear Russia? If we
screw up our courage and answer those and many other questions, we
will make our foreign policy more purposeful and effective."
"Yeltsin's Ailments Will Forever Cause Monstrous Rumors"
Mainstream Itogi (12/16) ran this comment by Dmitry Pinsker: "From now
to the end of Boris Yeltsin's presidential term, any ailment in him
will provoke monstrous rumors and rock stock exchanges. There,
objectively, is one reason which partly explains skepticism regarding
the efforts by the presidential press service to assuage concern over
Yeltsin's health among the interested public. That very public will
not for a long time, if ever, forget the wild and clumsy lies fed to
it for months before the plans for heart surgery were announced in the
fall of 1996."
"Stop Baltics From Joining NATO"
Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/17) front-paged a report by Dmitry
Gornostayev in Brussels: "After signing the Founding Act in Paris,
resisting the Baltics' possible admission to NATO has objectively
become Moscow's principal aim on the Western front."
"Good Neighbor, Business Partner"
Under this headline, official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (12/17)
ran a comment by Aleksandr Shinkin: "Economic priorities require that
Moscow and Ankara maintain calm, balanced, non-confrontational
political relations. Moscow and Ankara have a lot of mutual and
"Ties Free Of Outside Influence"
Georgy Bovt held in reformist Segodnya (12/17): "Turkey's role in
Russia's geopolitical strategy in the Caucasus and the Caspian area is
too important to need bolstering through implicitly or explicitly
contrasting her relations with Russia and Europe. As Viktor
Chernomyrdin stated in Ankara, 'We in Moscow are firm in our desire to
have stable good-neighbor relations with Turkey, hoping to see them
grow into a friendly partnership. We want our economic cooperation and
political relations to be free of transient outside influences."
"Moscow Offers Ankara Strategic Partnership"
Reporting about Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Turkey,
Leonid Gankin remarked in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant
Daily (12/16): "In planning the visit, Moscow could not possibly tell
how well things would turn out in the end. Rejected in the East [a
reference to the latest OIC conference] and the West, Turkey has to
adjust its foreign trade priorities, at a critical moment at which
Russia, talking through Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, offers a
strategic partnership in the economic area."
"Ball Is In The Baltics' Court Now"
Dmitry Gornostayev pointed out on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya
Gazeta (12/5): "There has been much elation over the proposal of more
than a 40 percent curtailment of Russia's land and naval forces in the
Northwest as evidence of Moscow's resolve to have the military-
political situation in the Baltics stabilized. Now it is for Latvia,
Lithuania and Estonia to decide. Addressed mostly to those countries,
the proposal is meant to persuade them to accept the idea of Russian
security guarantees. The talks in Stockholm might influence their
standing in an indirect sort of way."
Under this headline, reformist Segodnya (12/4) front-paged a comment
by Pavel Felgenhauer: "The Yeltsin-announced unilateral measures are a
result of an internal crisis. They are addressed to Washington, of
course. Clinton, a once peace champion dodging military service in
Vietnam, may now remember his young days and have pity on the Russian
president, who is working for disarmament, too, and come to Moscow.
And, as he does so, maybe he will help the Russians also to get the
IMF to bolster the ruble."
"Yeltsin Makes A Mistake"
Dmitry Gornostayev stated on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya
Gazeta(12/4): "Only a country with a monopoly on nuclear weapons can
afford such drastic cuts in its arsenal. But Russia has no such
monopoly. Worse still, it has fewer warheads than Washington. Yeltsin
made a mistake which may result in retarding the START III
negotiations process. The Americans, not ready even for the ceiling of
2,000 to 2,500 warheads, will hardly accept bigger reductions.
Moscow's public statements and commentaries may give the U.S.
congressmen the idea that Clinton and Yeltsin are preparing to disarm
America behind their backs. The Duma deputies may be thinking similar
things with regard to Russia. The Stockholm impromptu is certain to
screw up an emerging agreement between parliament and the government
on START II--the Duma will simply not ratify it."
"Sweden Invited To Join Russian Friends' Club"
Natalia Gorodetskaya of reformist Segodnya (12/3) underlined about
President Boris Yeltsin's visit to Sweden: "Russia and Sweden share
many concerns: peace in the Baltics, economic cooperation, the
protection of the environment. There is much in common also in their
approaches to those problems: self-reliance, non-involvement in
military blocs. This gives hope that their leaders will be able to
determine 'coincident national interests and develop coordinating
approaches.' Those are not relationships between allies, as pointed
out by members of the presidential administration. 'We don't want
cooperation with Sweden counterposed to relations with third nations.
It is just an invitation for an influential EU member which happens to
be a non-member of military blocs to join a club of Russian friends.'"
"Business Is Business"
Reformist Izvestia (12/3) ran an article by Stanislav Kondrashov:
"Business is business. Adding
part of the former Soviet Union to the sphere of America's vital
interests has been a shot in the arm for its oil industry. If it has
any luck in the Caspian region, U.S. business will prod Washington to
alter its policy for Iran so it can build an oil pipeline via its
territory.... For Russia a pipeline through Turkey means not only
financial losses but an escalated drift of several post-Soviet
republics to Ankara, away from Moscow. That would only add to 'the
arch of instability.'''
"Primakov In Latin America: Russia Sympathizes On Helms-Burton"
Viktor Sokolov commented in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/3) on the
Russian foreign minister's South American tour: "Yevgeny Primakov was
quite consistent in upholding the view that, in an emerging multipolar
system of international relations, a policy whereby interests and
influence are divided and some countries (Iraq, Cuba) are isolated
will wither away to give place to dialogue, compromise and trust.
Russia, he said, sympathizes with the majority of Latin American
countries opposing the Helms-Burton Act on certification, since no
country's laws shall have an extraterritorial quality. As Latin
America plays an ever greater role in world affairs, opposing
aggression and facing new challenges, its non-aligned countries, just
like neutral European nations, will increase the number of advocates
of a new global security system, one without NATO."
"Primakov's Style Wins Sympathy"
Vadim Markushin commented on the Russian foreign minister's South
American tour in centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda (11/29): "Yevgeny
Primakov's clear and articulated diplomatic style continues winning
sympathy, with Russian foreign policy increasingly viewed as an
alternative to, not the antipode of, American foreign policy. His
latest tour abroad is quite indicative in that respect. South America,
traditionally, is a kind of backyard for the United States. Nobody has
ever tried to question Washington's influence there.... Perhaps this
is exactly why the Russian foreign minister's ideas evoked such a
vivid and warm response wherever he went."
"U.S. And Russia's Clout In World Affairs"
Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (11/28) front-paged an article by Aleksei
Pushkov: "The Primakov-aided settlement (temporary?) of the Iraq
crisis is proof that Russia, weak as it is today, has retained clout
in world affairs. But the more it shows, the more strain it might
induce latently in our relations with the United States. Primakov,
however, did nothing that might be interpreted as acting over
America's head or behind its back. People in the Russian Foreign
Ministry insist on Primakov having reached a good understanding with
Madeleine Albright and prizing their relationships. If there is
something the Iraq story shows, it is that America has failed as the
world's sole and absolute leader. The rift in the anti-Iraq coalition
is not so much due to the Iraqi dictator's political talents as to
America's reaction being inadequate to Hussein's actions. A growing
number of countries refusing to follow submissively in America's wake
and a mounting allergy to the American presumption of force are an
inevitable 'compensation' for the United States posing as the world's
leader. 'The only superpower' would do well to think about that,
rather than about non-existent intrigues by Moscow.
"On its part, Russia will have to resign herself to the idea that
attempting to regain her prestige and assert herself as a vigorous and
independent force is bound to evoke displeasure in the United States.
As a former superpower, we are no longer in vogue there. A new,
emerging superpower, China, is. Talking of things Russia can still do
and the United States yet cannot do goes against the grain and makes
the Americans unhappy. America does not want us for an ally. Nor do we
want it for an enemy. Under the circumstances, we would do best, while
cooperating with the United States, to try to 'correct' the excessive
and not always reasonable American might, including by acting as a
mediator and alternative diplomatic and political center. Given the
Americans' claims to absolute leadership, many countries, from France
to China, would like to see Russia play that balancing role.
"And it seems like we have no choice, that is, if we want to remain a
"Interest In Russia Wanes"
Stanislav Kondrashov remarked in reformist Izvestia (11/27): "It is an
open secret that America's interest in Russia has been waning,
indifference being a more common feeling among the public, with a
chance to grow into irritation somewhere down the line. We respond in
kind as much as we can, even though, for us, who have a peculiar
predilection for emulating others, to show indifference is certainly
an unaffordable luxury.... In the former Moscow-Washington-Beijing
'triangle,' China constantly changed its stand in keeping with a
'policy of pragmatic balancing.' Its alliances were always phony,
'quasi,' since it always took care not to lose room for maneuver, its
'national egotism' made into a law. China is like the proverbial cat
walking by himself. The trouble with that giant cat is that it needs a
lot of room. Sounds almost threatening. But the imperatives of fast
and stable growth are that being well aware of one's own interests
makes one want to join a common system of equilibrium and security. In
that sense, cooperation between Russia and America would be quite
useful and mutually beneficial."
"U.S. Jealous Of Russia's Success"
Valeria Sycheva said in reformist Segodnya (11/26): "Jealous of
Moscow's diplomatic success, Washington may toughen its stand and halt
the settlement process."
"South America Hails Multipolar World Concept"
Commenting on Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov's South American tour,
Yevgeny Bai asserted in reformist Izvestia (11/26): "Primakov's visits
to Brazil and Argentina gave the media little food for thought. It was
mostly protocol, with real political and economic results hardly
visible. What commentaries the Russian minister made on the tour were
mostly on Moscow's diplomatic victories in the Iraq crisis. That and
Russia's international prestige, possibly, dictate the Kremlin's
geopolitical interest in that faraway continent. The South Americans,
just like our neighbors in Asia, welcome a multipolar world concept
and want to be in big-time politics."
GERMANY: "Once The Czar Catches A Cold..."
Moscow correspondent Miriam Neubert filed the following editorial for
centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (12/12) under the headline
above: "If reports on Yeltsin's sick leave signal the beginning of new
times of uncertainty, accompanied by hypocritical appeasing reports
and adjourned decisions, we need to be alarmed. When Yeltsin is sick,
it becomes clear how much everything has concentrated on him.... If he
can no longer act as president...a destructive standoff will be
looming in Russia.... However, for the time being, the latest illness
of the president has no direct political effect. In contrast to 1996,
the country has calmed down--primarily because of Yeltsin's new tactic
of making compromises. This refers to his attempt to bring the
national and communist opposition for talks to the negotiating table
and to integrate them into government decisions. The danger of a
return of the communists to power seems to have been warded off....
"However, the consequences of his illness for the economy are graver.
A trend was in the offing on the Russian financial markets....
Investors returned only to be confronted with the news about a setback
of Yeltsin's health. This shows how vulnerable the country with a sick
czar at the top really is. The reforms will be in jeopardy if a
healthy Kremlin leader does not push them. The government is
confronted with the task of integrating the country into the global
economy and, at the same time, of integrating powerful groups...into
showing responsibility for the state as a whole. If the flight of
capital and taxes goes on, the state will go bankrupt. In order to
prevent this, a strong and decisive president is necessary at the top.
The last thing Russia needs is a new time of uncertainty."
In right-of-center Bonner Rundschau (12/4), Sandro Schmidt
editorialized on Russia's announcement to send Russian troops for an
extended Bosnia mandate: "Moscow's official offer exerts additional
pressure on U.S. President Bill Clinton. It would be unthinkable even
after the end of the Cold War that the European NATO states together
with Russia would secure peace in Bosnia without the United States.
Despite all newly gained friendship, the rivalry in the international
arena remains. The recent Russian diplomatic coup in the Iraq crisis
had the United States standing by watching the Kremlin performing.
With its smart move, Moscow used the stage in Brussels to demonstrate
that it is willing to take responsibility and that it asks to be taken
seriously as a political force."
"The Primakov Doctrine"
Werner Adam commented in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine(12/4):
"Talking about Russian foreign and security policy, Yeltsin sometimes
confuses the issues. His ministers and advisers find themselves in
embarrassing and confusing situations in order to correct what he just
said. Lately, they have been referring to the so-called Primakov
doctrine. According to it, Russia wants good relations with the United
States and the West in general, but the Americans need to understand
that, in addition to themselves, there are other countries which have
some influence and political weight. In the recent Iraq crisis this
doctrine became obvious to the world.... Russia could not resist the
temptation to use the growing dissatisfaction in the Arab world
"The cooling in the Russian-American relations is not only due to the
Iraq crisis, but also to the impetuous American striving for influence
on the development in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. There are huge
oil and gas fields that American companies, with the open political
support of their government, would like to develop and exploit. But
Russia, which until recently used to have sole control on the energy
resources of the Soviet republics, views this as an American attempt
to push Russia out of a lucrative business.... As long as the Primakov
doctrine is applied, there may well be tensions and crises between
Moscow and Washington, but we do not need to fear a fall back in the
confrontation pattern of the Cold War."
"Paris, Berlin, Moscow"
Josef Joffe's editorial in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich
read (12/2), "For a long time, Yeltsin, president of the loser state
of the Cold War, has been thinking of ways of building up
counterforces to the...'sole remaining superpower.'... Since Charles
de Gaulle, the French are trying to play a similar game. Despite being
allies of the United States, they rarely miss an opportunity to get in
a dig. 'Balance of power' is the name of the game-- counterforces and
counteralliances. The European integration, if possible without
England, was used to incorporate Germany and contain the big American
brother. The friendship agreement with Bonn, the European Common
Market, the monetary union are all strategies against omnipotent
America. This old--and not very successful--game of Paris is just what
"A new political weight called Paris-Berlin-Moscow? That fits into the
world of the 21st century like a typewriter for the Internet. A
typewriter has the same key board as a computer, but one cannot 'surf'
with it--for two reasons. The first reason is Germany. It is not in
the interest of this republic to let itself be used for anti-American
actions, and that is exactly why one is surprised why Kohl even agreed
to this troika summit. What could be won with this trio? To attack the
long-time ally together with Moscow and Paris? To endanger a relation
which gave Germany more blessings than it could ever hope for after
1945--and the last time during reunification?
"The second reason: this cabinet play does not work anymore. These
days, world politics is not about land, maritime supremacy or
hegemony.... The world game is cooperation, not
confrontation...The game is global, not national and those who try to
shut themselves off or look for bloc-building are losing. Boris
Yeltsin also knows that. He can anger Clinton with a three-party
meeting but what else? To get financial assistance, know-how and
market access from Paris? The EU just refused to give him bigger
import quotas for textiles."
"Not Against America?"
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/3) included this analysis
by Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, "The explosive diplomatic force of this
meeting lies in Moscow's, and possibly Paris's, intention to
strengthen Europe against America. If those three large continental
states intensify their political coordination, that may well be seen
in Washington as an attempt to build a 'counter force.' For quite some
time now, the Clinton administration has been facing Russian
challenges and French contrariness.... Controversial issues among
Russia, France and the United States are not restricted to Iraq; Iran,
NATO enlargement and international trade policy are also controversial
topics. In light of this, the German government can not be seriously
interested in allowing the image of an anti-American coalition. Even
if Germany for some time now has been complaining about American
impatience in dealing with partners and the American penchant for
shirt-sleeved world politics, the wish for stronger European
participation in regional conflicts and transatlantic issues should
not lead to a dangerous self-deception. Germany--and the same is true
diplomatic diplomatic diplomatic diplomatic for France--would only
harm itself were Washington to accuse it of playing Russia's game and
participating in a risky competition for influence in Europe and
beyond. One could consider this as being an exaggeration and take the
`troika summit' for what it is: A therapeutic idea, to make Russia
feel better after the rejection in the argument over NATO enlargement.
But that will barely change Washington's perception. Subsequently,
Bonn is already saying that the German participation is preventing the
new troika from turning against America."
BRITAIN: "Yeltsin's Importance Can Hardly Be Overstated"
In the view of the independent Financial Times (12/12): "The
tremendous powers vested in the Russian presidency, and the fragility
of the country's young democracy and market economy, mean Mr.
Yeltsin's personal importance can hardly be overstated.... It will
take more than mute video footage to reassure jittery markets and
calculating politicians that the Kremlin leader really still rules
"Yeltsin Woos Baltic States With Massive Cut In Troops"
According to the conservative Daily Telegraph from Moscow (12/4):
"President Yeltsin announced a massive cut in armed forces along
Russia's northwest border yesterday, in the hope of proving to the
Baltic region that the 'threat from the East' had disappeared
forever.... His announcement of troop cuts was a blandishment to
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to stop them trying to join NATO."
"Yeltsin Undermines Baltics' Case For Speedy NATO Entry"
The liberal Guardian said (12/4) the announced cuts in armed forces
"undermin(ed) the Baltic states' case for speedy NATO entry and
effectively acknowledging that there is no Western military threat to
"Ceding Influence With Little Debate?"
The right-wing weekly Spectator had this article by the conservative
Daily Telegraph's leader writer Dean Godson (11/28): "Last week it
looked as though the Middle East was under American hegemony; this
week it looks more like a shared U.S. condominium with Russia.... The
Clinton administration thus overturned nearly 30 years of American
policy in the Middle East--whose guiding light was to minimize the
influence of other outside powers.... Several
long-serving diplomats in Washington believe that (Deputy Secretary of
State) Strobe Talbott was able to persuade Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright to allow Russia to play a part in resolving this
(current) crisis--especially after Russia had suffered the humiliation
of NATO enlargement. Unless Primakov appeared to be the hero of the
hour--so the argument ran--America's relations with Russia would
suffer.... Time will tell whether these calculations prove to be
correct. But one thing is certain: For better or worse, rarely can a
superpower have voluntarily ceded influence with less struggle or
debate amongst its political elite."
ITALY: "European Troika"
Left-leaning, influential La Repubblica's editorial mused (12/2):
"They call it a troika, and the name could not be more appropriate,
since it is a plan put forward by Moscow...to counterbalance the
United States in the international arena.... In some regards, it is a
natural event. After a 'honeymoon' which began with the collapse of
the USSR...during which...Moscow seemed like a servant of Washington,
Yeltsin's new democratic Russia is trying to regain some of the
prestige and influence that its ancestor, the Soviet Union, had in the
world.... Nothing strange, or tragic, up to a certain point. But the
new Russian anti-Americanism is also the result of the absent-minded
approach, not to call it something else, with which Washington has
looked upon Moscow in recent years. Faced with the chaos and
difficulties of Russian transition, the United States gave priority in
its foreign policy to other needs, since, even if Russia was unhappy,
what could it do in any case? If they continue to think this way, one
day they might realize that, perhaps with a new leader in the Kremlin,
Russia is again an adversary rather than a partner. And then the
strategists at the Pentagon will remember that it is the only nation
in the world capable of destroying the United States with its nuclear
"Primakov Did Not Succeed In Putting Moscow Back In Mideast"
An analysis in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio (11/28)
focuses on Primakov's recent "mediation" in the crisis with Iraq: "In
reality, Primakov has not succeeded in putting Moscow back among the
group of capitals which indeed play a leading role on the Middle East
scene. The lack of economic means with which to help concretely the
USSR's former allies, mainly Syria, represents a serious limitation to
Russia's chances of exerting its influence. Over the last year, Russia
has been unable to emerge from an impasse somewhat caused by
Primakov's tactical games: It has failed to achieve a position of
influence with Israel and, at the same time, has been unable to
harness Arab dissatisfaction. A sort of quagmire from which Moscow has
temporarily emerged with Primakov's mediation in the crisis with Iraq,
but which continues to represent a problem.... It will be enough for
the United States to rediscover the importance, and the pleasure, of
diplomatic flexibility to prevent Primakov from strengthening his new
bridgehead in the Gulf."
"Yeltsin's 'Troika': To Defy U.S.?"
Moscow correspondent Enrico Franceschini filed for left-leaning,
influential La Repubblica (12/1): "Strengthened by the successful
peace mediation in the crisis with Iraq, Yeltsin inaugurated yesterday
a new pole aimed at hindering American dominion on the world: a
Russian-French-German troika, with the first meeting to be held next
spring in Ekaterinburg, Yeltsin's birthplace.... For now, the idea of
an annual meeting has a limited objective: to give three European
powers the chance to meet regularly to discuss the problems of the new
world architecture following the end of the Cold War.
"But its symbolic value is much stronger, mainly in the intentions of
Yeltsin and Chirac, who are more interested than Kohl in creating a
political counter-weight to the growing influence of the United States
in international affairs.... A sort of challenge to America's
over-power, a way to remind the international community that
Washington cannot decide alone on the fate of the world. An initiative
which has obvious economic implications, as appears from the recent
French-Russian alliance in beginning a series of agreements and
investments with Iran notwithstanding the strong opposition of the
United States.... In addition to Moscow's hopes to restore its role as
a superpower, perhaps there is also another element to consider in
yesterday's announcement: When a superpower has serious problems at
home, there is nothing better than an ambitious foreign policy gimmick
to try to divert the attention of the local public."
"A Bipolar World?"
Fabrizio Dragosei, commenting from Moscow in centrist, top-circulation
Corriere della Sera (11/30), maintained: "The idea seems to be a sort
of continental Europe super-directorate among Moscow, Paris and Bonn
which, at least in the intentions of Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac,
would serve to balance the influence of NATO. At a time when the
Atlantic Alliance is expanding to include three new countries that
were former members of the Warsaw Pact, Moscow is resuming its
international diplomatic offensive in grand style, in order to
repropose its role as the second pivot point of international
strategy.... This is the line, already announced on several occasions,
of the search for a 'multipolar' world in opposition to the world
characterized by a single hegemonic superpower, the United States of
America. The only thing is that Yeltsin and his able Foreign Minister
Primakov have a view of a multipolar world which closely resembles the
bipolar world of recent memory. This new doctrine has been discussed
and agreed upon with several countries and, in all cases, it always
ended up rotating around a single pivot, Russia."
BELGIUM: "Problem Of Stability Of Power In Moscow"
In conservative Catholic La Libre Belgique (12/17), Philippe Paquet
wrote that President Yeltsin's illness "poses the problem of the
stability of power in Moscow, of the future of the democratic
experiment which is taking place there, and consequently of Europe's
security. By itself, it justifies the continued existence of the
"Yeltsin's Promises Won't Eliminate Russophobia"
Foreign affairs writer Jorn De Cock held in independent Catholic De
Standaard (12/4) and independent Catholic Het Nieuwsblad (12/4): "The
Baltic and Scandinavian nations are certainly happy that the troop
reductions will take place on their borders. However, it is very
unlikely that Yeltsin thus eliminates the Russophobia of the three
small Baltic states. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania consider Moscow as
their only foe.... They see a way out only in NATO and the EU--
notwithstanding all those gifts.... Nevertheless, there is positive
news for the world in Yeltsin's strange mania for promises: A
president with good intentions is less dangerous than a president with
CANADA: "Russian Muscle-Flexing: The Bear Is Out Of Hibernation"
The business-oriented Financial Post (11/25) said: "Increasingly, the
newly converted pro-capitalists in power in Russia seem to be pursuing
foreign policies suspiciously similar to Soviet policies of the past.
The most recent example relates to United Nations' sanctions imposed
on Iraq. It suddenly intervened in the confrontation without prior
consultation with the United States, launching its own compromise to
defuse the looming showdown with Iraq. Despite their ostensible
democratic credentials, it appears the new power brokers in Moscow
believe in the old adage that countries don't have eternal friends,
they have eternal interests.... Bosnia and Iraq were simply foretastes
of what to expect in coming months as Moscow flexes its muscles,
though with markedly diminished clout from its previous incarnation as
the Soviet Union. Nevertheless it is clear the slumbering Russian bear
has awoken from the long hibernation imposed upon it by the collapse
of communism in 1991."
DENMARK: "To Keep U.S. Out Of Baltic Region"
Center-right Berlingske Tidende judged (12/4): "Yeltsin's proposal to
reduce Russia's military presence in the Baltic region seems, at first
glance, dramatic. The military effectiveness of the Russian forces is,
however, extremely limited, and furthermore, it is hard to find a way
to justify the maintenance of such a large number of troops in the
region. Yeltsin is, therefore, making a virtue out of what is, in
reality, a necessity. Yeltsin's proposals are largely of political
significance. By reducing its military capacity in the region, Russia
hopes to convince NATO that Baltic membership is not necessary. If
this strategy is allowed to succeed, Russia will have achieved its
goal--to keep the U.S. out of the Baltic region. It is, of course,
positive that Moscow has confirmed its intention to reduce its
military capacity in one of the most heavily militarized zones of the
Cold war, however, the Russian initiative must not stop the Baltic
countries from achieving their goal of NATO membership."
HUNGARY: "Yeltsin, The Great Puppeteer"
This piece ran in centrist, conservative Magyar Nemzet (12/17),
"President Yeltsin feels better, it seems, but it is hard to know with
him sometimes. He, however, cannot stay ill for months this time
because after the holidays, normally in mid-January in Russia, he has
to proceed with major issues. He, for instance, is only halfway
through reshuffling his cabinet.... He realized that he had to choose
between Anatoli Chubais and Viktor Chernomyrdin, which requires
thorough consideration. But reform leader Chubais has only one month
left to put the economy in good shape--not much of a chance there--and
a second dismissal of him might well strengthen the position of
Chernomyrdin.... In Russia, the future of the country is not in the
hands of the people, but in those of the great puppeteer, who
postponed the second act to next January."
"Significant Stockholm Announcement"
Influential Magyar Hirlap carried this op-ed piece by Csaba
Szerdahelyi (12/4): "In any event, Washington did not attribute great
significance to the proclamation in Sweden, while NATO is curiously,
but with some resignation, waiting for details. Yeltsin has already
said things his own men had a hard time 'interpreting' afterwards.
Still, the announcement in Stockholm is significant, and Brussels
should be very happy about it. It is also feasible that Yeltsin has
decided to shape foreign policy all by himself, and stopped listening
to his foreign minister even in the most important issues."
POLAND: "At The Moment There Is Nobody Who Can Replace Yeltsin"
Centrist Rzeczpospolita said in a piece by Piotr Jendroszczyk in
Moscow (12/16), "One can but only admit that beyond Yeltsin there is
no other politician in Russia who could guarantee that the free-
market transformations be continued. Obviously, there are those who
speak openly about the need for still more radical changes, but they
have a meager chance to implement their programs. The conclusion is
obvious: At the moment there is nobody who can replace Yeltsin.
Whether he wishes this or not, he will have to remain in the Kremlin."
"Yeltsin's Health: Serious Political Concern"
Leopold Unger remarked in center-left Gazeta Wyborcza (12/12), "It
turns out that the health of Russia's president continues to be a
serious political concern, which testifies that Russia as a state is
still a very fragile body whose reliability is based solely on one
"Russia Out To Play Crucial Role In Europe"
The announcement of the European "troika" prompted this assessment in
Wyborcza (12/8) by Leopold Unger, "Russia's interest is clear--Moscow
is embarking on a French-German locomotive in order to play a crucial
role in Europe."
"Moscow Sees An Opening?"
Maria Wagrowska cautioned in centrist Rzeczpospolita (12/8), "Russia
is changing its policy towards the Baltic states and Northern Europe-
-but only in appearance. The strategic objective--which is to impede
NATO enlargement with [the future membership of] Lithuania, Latvia,
Estonia, as well as Finland and Sweden--remains the same. Russia's
categorical 'no' to the plans to include in NATO the countries of the
'near abroad' has transformed into a 'yes' for enclosing the eastern
part of the Baltic region within [Russia's] 'zone of trust.' This is
the core of Russia's initiative voiced by Boris Yeltsin during his
visit to Stockholm. And it is only a variant of an [earlier] proposal
by Moscow, already rejected by Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, to give the
post-Soviet republics its guarantee of security. It appears that the
countries of Northeastern Europe do not have their security ensured to
an extent comparable to that of the Western and Central part of the
continent, and that Moscow is taking advantage of this situation."
"Will Russia Find Partners Eager To Divide Europe Again?"
Centrist Rzeczpospolita said (12/3), "Once the Russians believed that
they would succeed in convincing the Americans to establish the
concept of a 'concert of powers,' under which Moscow and Washington
would be expected to divide the responsibility for monitoring the
world order set up by them. When it turned out that this widely
publicized Russian-American 'strategic partnership' was in
vain...Russia hurriedly started to look for new partners and potential
allies: China and Japan--in the Far East; and France and Germany--in
Europe. In both cases, the aim is the same--to question U.S.
leadership. Only then, the Kremlin strategists say, would Moscow have
a chance to maintain its superpower position....
"But what is behind Russia's 'return-to-Europe' slogans is the old
program of adjusting Europe's architecture to the conditions set by
Moscow. Only the methods have changed--the proposal to create the
'great triangle' is one of them, with the threat to reanimate
geopolitical phantoms from the past and another division of the
continent which is just being united. Will Russia manage to find
partners eager to play the game which will eventually lead to the ruin
of the whole of Europe?... It is a futile effort. It is more than
dubious that Moscow would succeed in embroiling Paris and Bonn with
Washington. Warsaw, for its part, has no interest in it."
SWEDEN: "Sweden Is No Longer Neutral, Mr. Yeltsin"
Liberal tabloid Expressen commented editorially (12/2), "Welcome to
Sweden, Boris Yeltsin. You have arrived in a country that speaks with
two voices. We have done this for such a long time that we hardly
think of it any longer. But there must be a purpose for your visit to
Sweden, and we have a feeling that you would like to counter a
possible Finnish, Baltic and Swedish NATO membership. Swedish
politicians might have enticed you to believe that Sweden shares this
aim. But we do not. Politicians do as they usually do, say one thing
and do another. That is why Expressen will tell you how things are.
The last thing we need now are polite diplomatic empty phrases about
Baltic Sea cooperation.
"Sweden no longer is a neutral country. During the Cold War Swedish
membership in the EU was regarded incompatible with our policy of
neutrality. Today the Cold War has ended, Sweden is a member of the EU
and we are also taking part in NATO PFP exercises. We have troops in
Bosnia under NATO command, and will soon begin arms cooperation with
NATO. Swedish generals are planning for defense within a NATO context.
"During the whole post-World War II period, we have had secret defense
cooperation with the West. Everyone but the Swedish people knew about
this. Today our cooperation can take
place in the open, to the benefit of security and democracy.... Sweden
must stop playing the hypocrite, and our politicians must say what
they now think."
"Lukewarm War Over The Baltic"
Readers of conservative Svenska Dagbladet (11/27) saw this in
expectation of the Yeltsin visit, "When Russian President Boris
Yeltsin on Wednesday, December 3, delivers his address before the
Swedish parliament, the Baltic Sea states will follow it closely....
Yeltsin's speech will be the first one delivered in the West for quite
a long time, and his Swedish hosts have repeatedly told the Russians
that they are not keen on hearing about Russian security guarantees,
but rather would appreciate concrete signals about increased civilian
and economic cooperation. From the Russian side the presidential visit
is a part of its offensive in the lukewarm war over the Baltic Sea.
Despite the fact that the Cold War has come to an end, a truly warm
peace has not yet materialized....
"Because of NATO's new eastern border, the big powers' strategic
interests have moved towards Northeast Europe. Russia's interest in
the region and its changing rhetoric should be regarded as a
reflection of an increased American interest in the Baltic Sea region.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "U.S.-Russia Contest In Baltics Inevitable?"
The official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 12/9)
featured this assessment by Xu Hongzhi, "The media believe that
Yelsin's visit to Sweden is a 'new diplomatic campaign' by Russia.
Russia's intention to use the Baltic region as its target of new
diplomatic campaign has some association with its efforts to prevent
the three Baltic states from entering NATO. Apart from waving olive
branches at Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Russia is devoting active
efforts to gain sympathy and support from Finland and Sweden and
counts on them to have indirect influence on the three nations.
However, it is not an easy thing to persuade the three countries to
give up their ideas to enter NATO. The United States, especially, will
not readily give in. It seems that a contest between Russia and the
United States is inevitable in the region."
MONGOLIA: "Russian Foreign Policy Oriented To East"
Independent Unooder (12/4) concluded in a piece by staff reporter B.
Enkhtsetseg, "Moscow is focusing its efforts on a foreign policy
oriented to the East. Following his meeting with Japanese Prime
Minister Rutaro Hashimoto and his visit to China, Russian Federation
President Yeltsin succeeded in having Russia become a member of APEC
at [the organization's] ninth meeting, held in Vancouver....
[Previously] Russia's unstable domestic situation led several APEC
members to oppose its membership bid. But this time Russia has become
an APEC member.... It seems the members of APEC consider Moscow a
EGYPT: "Up To Russia?"
Ibrahim Nafie, editor-in-chief of pro-government Al Ahram, wrote
(12/9): "After the fall of the Eastern bloc and the end of the Cold
War...the world has come to live in a transformation that is full of
immature policies..... The new world should have been based on
peaceful co-existence.... However, the end of the Cold War was
depicted by some Western powers as, not as a victory of sound mutual
thinking and the victory of wisdom over destruction, but it was
building future policies on power. A country can no longer express
disagreement or defend its sovereignty, without finding itself
suffering the American show of power.... Is it time for
Washington to rethink the mode of international relations? Can Russia,
by continuing to be an effective power, renew this mode?"
LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
ARGENTINA: "Russian Rapprochement With Latin America"
An editorial in leading Clarin read (11/28): "Russian Prime Minister
Primakov's Latin American tour achieved its goal in reflecting the
interest in establishing new foreign links, and provided the chance to
observe, through a different looking glass, the opportunities and
challenges offered by the post-Cold War international scene.
Primakov's trip had, also, additional repercussions due to the
unexpected success achieved by Russian diplomacy in the U.S. crisis
with Iraq.... The most recent steps taken by Yeltsin's second
government, in which Primakov's figure appears with growing
leadership, indicates the intention of placing Russia in the position
of autonomous and decisive superpower in its search for international
balance; with influence in Central Asia, the Middle East and the so-
called 'Islamic world.' This is the context of the diplomatic
offensive in Latin America, away from the days of bipolarism,
ideological frontiers and military-political blocs. It is an answer,
at the same time, to NATO's enlargement to include Eastern Europe and
to the difficult dilemma between extreme openness and isolationism. In
sum, an initiative aimed at achieving its place as a power factor has
led Russia in search of economic opportunities in a multipolar
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