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What U.S. newspapers are saying

May 15, 2002 at 9:53 AM   |   Comments

New York Times

One of the iconic images of the Cold War is of a grimacing Ronald Reagan bidding farewell to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, after the collapse of their summit conference in Reykjavik in October 1986. Yesterday the Icelandic capital was the scene of a very different moment, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization welcomed Russia into a new partnership that Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev could not have imagined on that afternoon nearly 16 years ago. In the wake of Monday's nuclear arms reduction agreement between Washington and Moscow, the NATO action makes plain that a constructive and potentially historic new era has begun in relations between Russia and the West.

The NATO-Russia partnership promises cooperation on a range of critical issues, including terrorism, arms control and the handling of international crises. For the first time, Moscow will have a place at the NATO table for discussions about peacekeeping missions, counter-terrorism activities and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Appropriately, Russia for now will not be a NATO member, and the alliance will remain free to add new members and make its own decisions about combat operations in Europe or elsewhere. The agreement, to be signed outside Rome later this month by President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Bush and the 18 other NATO government leaders, caps months of negotiation that gained new urgency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Considering that NATO was created in 1949 to defend Western Europe against a potential Soviet attack, and served throughout the Cold War as both the symbol and sinew of Western determination to oppose Moscow, yesterday's agreement shows how far Russia has moved since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Though still struggling economically, and trying to establish the rule of law, Russia today is a democratic nation moving ever closer to Europe and the United States. Important differences remain, especially over Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran and its lingering sympathy for Saddam Hussein's repressive regime in Iraq, but Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin are well on their way to ending Russia's longstanding estrangement from the West.


Washington Times

The North Koreans who have been fleeing to embassies and consulates in China have been literally running for their lives. Over the weekend, two North Koreans successfully scaled a high fence around the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and sought refuge in the diplomatic compound. Over the past two months, at least 28 North Koreans have successfully entered foreign embassies in Beijing and been permitted to leave for South Korea. The defectors' desperation to leave, in addition to their public testimonies regarding life behind the Korean iron curtain, is a source of humiliation for Pyongyang.

Yesterday, three North Koreans who had entered the U.S. consulate in the Chinese city of Shenyang last Wednesday were allowed to travel to South Korea via Singapore. A North Korean family, including a young child, that had sought asylum in the Japanese consulate in Shenyang that same day were much less fortunate. Chinese soldiers entered the consulate without Japan's permission and arrested the asylum seekers, an action Japan said is a violation of the Vienna Convention. Japan has been calling on Beijing to return the North Koreans to its custody.

The accounts of defectors who recently visited The Washington Times make clear that asylum seekers could face execution if returned to North Korea. ...

Kim Suong-min, another defector from the North Korean military said, "When you live in North Korea you are taught Kim Jong-il is god, but now, since my conversion (to Christianity), I realize Kim Jong-il is not god. He is the devil."

Littering Mr. Kim's legacy are the 2 or 3 million North Koreans who have died at the hands of the dictator. "There's no place on earth like North Korea," noted Daryl Plunk, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation. "No regime is killing people the way the North Korean regime is killing people today."

It is little wonder North Koreans are risking everything in their exodus for freedom.


Boston Globe

The treaty on reductions in strategic nuclear weapons that President Bush and Russia's President Vladimir Putin will sign next week in Moscow, like yesterday's announcement of agreement on a new NATO-Russia council, should be regarded as an effort by statesmen to catch up with history.

Bush and Putin are not agreeing to end the Cold War. That nasty chapter of the last century ended more than a decade ago. By agreeing to cut their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons from between 5,000 and 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200, the two leaders are merely certifying how excessive and unnecessary the arsenals they inherited from the bygone era of the Cold War have become.

The principal accomplishment of the treaty is that it requires each side to cede something it did not want to cede. Bush balked at having this reduction of strategic nuclear weapons enshrined in a signed and ratified treaty. He had campaigned on a platform of doctrinal distaste for the encumbering, laborious, frustrating business of negotiating and being constrained by treaties. He only recently announced that his administration will be withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with its limits on missile defense systems.

Putin, however, needed a treaty. He had to be able to show critics at home that his decision after Sept. 11 to cast Russia's lot with the West, and particularly with the United States, would not subject Moscow to the dictates of the superpower that won the Cold War. ...

Nevertheless, there are serious drawbacks to the treaty. In the name of maintaining flexibility, the United States refused to dismantle all the warheads that will be taken out of service. Understandably, the Russian side views this insistence on retaining removed warheads as ''spares'' as a lingering threat, a source of instability. This was the crucial concession Putin made to Bush.

Bush also passed up an opportunity to slash the strategic arsenals of both countries to lower levels. The Russians, who would benefit economically from steeper reductions, were eager to cooperate, but Bush refused. Old Cold War reflexes seem still to haunt the hawks in the conservative camp.


Los Angeles Times

We have to wonder whether Fidel Castro knew what he was getting into when he offered former President Jimmy Carter a chance to address the people of the nation over which he has reigned as dictator for 43 years. What he and the island's oppressed population got was blunt rabble-rousing--in Spanish no less--in support of those brave Cubans striving for democracy, free speech and respect for human rights. Carter's bold move, however, was accompanied by blunders during his visit.

In welcoming the American on his historic arrival in Cuba Sunday, Castro invited Carter to bring in whomever he chose to investigate whether the communist nation had or was about to cross the line from researching biotechnology to researching (and possibly exporting) bioterrorism. Let's hope Carter has been on the phone to the U.S. government's best specialists and they've already booked flights to Havana.

On May 6, John R. Bolton, undersecretary of State for arms control, suggested in a speech that Cuba had "at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort." He also said Cuba had "provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states."...

Carter showed dismal judgment in standing on Cuban soil and publicly siding with the hemisphere's last remaining dictator against accusations raised by officials of the U.S. government at a time of genuine concern about international terrorism. Carter's complaints that Bush administration officials apparently misled him during pre-trip briefings only makes us want to shout: Jimmy, it's not about you!

Carter put his foot in his mouth. But he also has one foot in Cuba's door. His speech helped redeem him. He can do even better by testing the sincerity of Castro's offer to allow in legitimate bioweapons inspectors.


San Antonio Express-News

After Sept. 11, first lady Laura Bush, who had not sought the spotlight, emerged as a person of common sense and uncommon compassion, stepping forward in her calm and reassuring way to comfort the nation.

This week, she moved onto the international stage, once again offering her own brand of wisdom on one of the world's toughest problems: terrorism.

For the first lady and former teacher, the answer -- not surprisingly -- is education.

The case she made during a speech in France was simple: "Education can help children see beyond the world of hate and hopelessness."

She said, "A lasting victory in the war against terror depends on educating the world's children because educated children are much more likely to embrace the values that defeat terror."...education that focused on values such as respect for human life, self-respect, understanding and tolerance.

What if conservative Muslim schools in nations such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia taught such values? As this nation has become all too aware recently, fundamentalist schools instead have fostered hatred toward the West and a narrow view of the world.

And what if these values prevailed in the troubled Middle East, where it appears to be difficult for people to walk in each other's shoes?

Bush did not skirt that explosive topic. The first lady told an interviewer that it was easy to empathize with families in Israel and around the world "who literally would be afraid to send their children to the grocery store or the bowling alley" because of suicide bombers.

She had no such understanding of those who would incite a young person to become a suicide bomber.

"Can I empathize with a mother who sends her child out to kill herself and others? No."

But she then expressed sympathy for both sides, because their people have been victims of violence.

While a speech touting education might appear innocuous, its application touched on the world's most basic problems in terms not heard from diplomats or politicians.


(Compiled by United Press International)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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