Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest - 07 January 1997

U.S. Information Agency Office of Public Liaison

President Yeltsin's return to office Dec. 23 following heart surgery and Russia's push to forge new links with China and Iran in the past few weeks captured the interest of analysts around the globe. They saw in these developments an attempt by Moscow, Beijing and Tehran to create a "club of nations" to counterbalance U.S. "hegemony" and, for Mr. Yeltsin himself, a new opportunity to build "a real democracy and a liberal market economy" in Russia. Journalists divided, though, on whether Mr. Yeltsin would succeed in these tasks and in curbing the excesses of "the new, profit-oriented elite."

The media in Russia, China and Iran made no secret of their countries' eagerness to band together to restore a "multipolar" world and avert what Moscow's centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda dubbed "the danger of universal subservience to a global monarch's will." Several Moscow publications and their counterparts in other countries judged that Chinese Premier Li Peng's visit to Moscow Dec. 26-28 and Russian Foreign Minister Primakov's sortie to Tehran a few days earlier were warnings to the West and NATO. Reformist weekly Moskovskiye Novosti noted, "As for Moscow starting to woo Tehran and Beijing, this depends on the West: Such contacts will become possible, if NATO goes ahead with its expansion plans." Not all Russian analysts, however, were satisfied with the Kremlin's strategy: Reformist Segodnya deplored the "reflex anti-Americanism, which...has become a distinctive feature of (Russia's) new policy." Reformist Izvestia poked fun at the muddled signals sent by Defense Minister Rodionov's mention of Iran, China, the U.S. and NATO as "potential external threats" while President Yeltsin was meeting with the Chinese premier: "Isn't that too many enemies for a country in crisis, whose army's sorry plight is the talk of the world?" Beijing's official Xinhua news agency emphasized that "the development of a strategic partnership with Russia is...a long-term policy of China," but carefully insisted that this alliance "is not directed against any other parties." Tehran's government controlled press, however, was not at all reluctant to name the target of all these diplomatic doings. Tehran radio asserted that the Russia-China accord constituted "an alliance against the united Western front" and radical Salam said improved links with Moscow "could help Iran increase its capacity to maneuver against the U.S."

Just as in Russia, pundits in other countries disagreed as to the importance and strength of these newly formed ties. Karachi's independent Dawn found the Sino-Russian reconciliation "of particular significance," particularly for Asia, while centrist Beeld of Johannesburg declared it had "the potential to become the most important international power shift of 1996." In Bangkok, the independent Nation hoped that a Beijing-Moscow axis would give ASEAN "more leverage" in its relations with Washington. Editorialists in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and India were not as impressed by the potential, in the words of right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin, of "the Euro-Asian elephants' wedding to give NATO and the USA a big fright." Right-of-center Newstime from Hyderabad concluded, "If nothing else, both China and Russia need the U.S. far more in economic terms than they need each other."

This survey is based on 65 reports from 18 countries, Dec. 11-Jan. 7
EDITOR: Mildred Sola Neely

EUROPE RUSSIA: "Global Solidarity Needed To Avert Subservience To U.S."

Vadim Markushin held in centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda (1/6): "As things go, the world's political evolution may follow the worst of scenarios, with U.S. policy transforming into a diktat.... The new U.S. administration, as its priorities show, is determined to adjust and improve its leverage to secure its interests in every strategic region. What can the rest of the world do to meet that challenge? Some kind of global solidarity is apparently needed to avert the danger of universal subservience to a global monarch's will. Compared to any alliances, pacts and memorandums, solidarity probably suggests a bit more sensitivity and an appropriate reaction to Washington's crude pressure."

"U.S. Out To Gain World Hegemony"

Centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda (1/6) ran this comment by Gennady Obolensky: "The United States, no longer regarding Russia as a partner, is out to gain world hegemony, global strategic stability not among its top priorities any more. Proof of that is the Pentagon's plans, which are at variance with the ABM treaty, as well as its earlier intentions regarding non-strategic ABM defenses.... Those plans cannot but worry the world public, as they pose a threat to global stability."

"Russia Must Promote Ties With Neighbors In East, South"

Nationalist, opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (12/31) said in this comment by Vasily Safronchuk: "The most effective way to counter NATO's aggressive plans would be for Russia to develop ties with neighbors in the East and the South and restore her influence in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.... Time will show if the current regime has enough resolve to resist Washington unceremoniously meddling in Russia's relations with her neighbors."

"Our Reply To Solana"

Under this headline, reformist weekly Moskovskiye Novosti (# 1, 12/31, 1997) published a comment by Denis Baranets: "The growing number of agreements among Russia, China and Iran on conventional arms and nuclear technologies creates a sort of club of nations capable of altering the alignment of forces in regional conflicts. That causes doubts about the West having preponderance in arms.... As for Moscow starting to woo Tehran and Beijing, this depends on the West: Such contacts will become possible, if NATO goes ahead with its expansion plans."

"Anti-Americanism: Feature Of Russian Policy"

Vladimir Abarinov and Leonid Velekhov, giving an overview of Russian foreign policy in 1996, asserted in reformist Segodnya (12/31): "Reflex anti-Americanism, which shows invariably--no matter how insignificant the cause--has become a distinctive feature of (Russia's) new policy.... Of this year's most memorable events in Russo-American relations, endless spy scandals stand out the most.... Madeleine Albright, with her remarkable political temperament and conviction in the U.S.'s right to global leadership, will be a lot harder to deal with than the cautious, conflict-fearing Christopher. Considering her unpopularity in the Arab world and Primakov's special relations with local leaders, the Middle East may become an arena of an intensive Russo-American rivalry. Russia's relations with NATO is a classic case of deja vu. Every time NATO officials appear in public after meeting with Primakov they look inspired--Chamberlain-style, their radiant faces suggesting that Moscow all but agrees to the expansion plans, but each time the Russian Foreign Ministry restores the situation to a standstill."

"NATO Stimulates Russo-Chinese Rapprochement"

Dmitry Gornostayev held on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/29), "Obviously, Moscow has set its heart on strategic partnership with Beijing.... NATO expansion will most definitely prompt Russia to seek closer ties with China."

"Alliance Impossible Soon"

Dmitry Chernogorsky opined in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/27): "Growing cooperation between Russia and China might be seen by the West as a reaction to NATO expansion and hence affect the global situation. So, there's practically no chance of a political alliance between Moscow and Beijing, not yet. But steadfastly working on the idea of a strategic partnership is sure to bring Moscow political and economic dividends in the long term."

"Rodionov Lists Russia's Internal, External Threats"

Yury Golotyuk wrote in reformist Segodnya (12/26): "Addressing a conference in Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov urged a CIS military bloc and explained that it was necessary to avoid internal strife and repel external challenges.... Referring to potential external threats, Rodionov mentioned Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Japan and China. But the chief threat, he pointed out, came from the U.S.' attempting to enhance its global leadership via NATO expansion eastward."

"Russia Can't Do Without Enemies"

Konstantin Eggert said in reformist Izvestia (12/27): "A great power must have enemies. Otherwise, the world might question its status.... The United States, NATO, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Japan, China.... Isn't that too many enemies for a country in a crisis, whose army's sorry plight is the talk of the world? Who does the minister suggest should finance confrontation with so many well- trained adversaries?... This is more evidence that the Russian army command is living in a world of its own, detached from reality."

"Guess Who Hates Rapprochement With China?"

Commenting on the Rodionov remarks, Sergei Nikolayev remarked in reformist Izvestia (12/29), "There is one question...Rodionov evidently did not ask himself--who can benefit by provoking complications and suspicions in relations between (Russia and China)? It is they who hate to see our rapprochement with China. Guess who?"

"Primakov Against Foreign Presence In Persian Gulf"

Under this headline, Vladimir Abarinov commented in reformist Segodnya (12/24) on Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov's visit to Iran: "Primakov said that Russian-Iranian relations were on the upgrade. He did not hide that there was a lot of confidence between Moscow and Tehran, stressing that Russian-Iranian relations were not directed against the United States. His counterpart, referring to Iran's position, stated that security in the Persian Gulf was a job to be done by the countries of that region. Both, obviously, implied U.S. military presence in the Gulf area. As a matter of fact, countries in the Persian Gulf believe the chief source of danger was Iran, not the U.S. Navy, which is working day and night to ensure the security of that region vital to the world's economy.... Meanwhile, Russia is out for more arms contracts with Iran. Its intentions, being at variance with Russian-American top-level accords, are likely to dent its prestige among countries in the Persian Gulf and bring about more complications in Russian-American relations."

"Yeltsin Back At Work"

Tatyana Malkina said on page one of reformist Segodnya (12/24): "The president's long absence from work may soon be compensated for by a series of steps that will give Russians, especially some of them, a lot to think about.... The social aspect of Russian reforms, evidently, will become the linchpin of the Kremlin's policy for the next couple of years."

"Wages, Pensions Come First"

Reformist Rossiyskiye Vesti (12/24) pointed out in a comment by Pavel Anokhin and Lev Chernenko: "However important international questions, the problems the president is going to address first are of an immediate, vital interest to people--wages and pensions."

"No Change"

Alexander Budberg lamented on page one of reformist, youth Moskovskiy Komsomolets (12/24): "What is happening in the Kremlin and the government shows that the president is not going to give up the old methods, looking for checks and balances among members of his palace guard. The 'divide and rule' policy has always been favorite, be it in ancient Rome or Communist Russia. It also helped Yeltsin retain power before the election. After the election, it seemed that the president, now backed by the majority of voters, would risk replacing the many teams with one and forge ahead with reform. It turns out, however, that he wanted a strong and loyal team only for the duration of his illness. Too bad."

"CIA Agents Less Active In Russia"

Igor Korotchenko, reporting on a press conference of the chief of Russia's federal security service (FSB), Nikolai Kovalyov, remarked in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/18): "Curiously, General Kovalyov has contributed substantially to the FSB's accomplishments this year. For instance, there has been a sharp reduction in the activities of CIA agents with diplomatic passports in Russia following his personal meetings with the U.S. ambassador to Moscow."

"Civilian Attire For Minister: There's More To It Than Meets The Eye"

Yury Golotyuk held in reformist Segodnya (12/17): "An end to Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's military career has more to it than just a formal ritual involving a change of clothes. Changes in the chain of command of Russia's strategic nuclear forces are going to be a whole lot more serious.... That a civilian defense minister may have to give up his 'nuclear briefcase' may become a basic change in the customarily three-element conference communication system."

"Russia May Have To Build Up Nuclear Forces"

Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/17) cited the commander of Russia's strategic missile forces, General Igor Sergeyev, as saying in an interview with Igor Korotchenko: "Depending on the military and political situation in the world and the condition of Russia's economy, the development of our strategic missile forces, in the short term, can proceed within the limits set by START I and START II, if ratified by Russia, or under new START agreements. We also have to consider the possibility of a global contingency. Russia may have to build up its strategic forces on the basis of the existing infrastructure, should the START and ABM treaties be broken off and Russia's vital interests threatened."

"Pseudo-Civilian Defense Minister"

Under this headline, reformist Segodnya (12/15) ran a comment by Pavel Felgenhauer: "By discharging Defense Minister Igor Rodionov from the military service (and keeping him in office), Boris Yeltsin finally redeemed his promise to give Russia a civilian defense minister.... As he became a civilian person last Wednesday, Rodionov joked, 'I have changed clothes, but am none the better for this.' He is right, of course. He is no economist and will hardly feel more comfortable with the army's economic problems as a civilian. Retired, he has, in effect, lost part of his authority in the army, without having acquired any new qualities. Many army generals, though, see a real need for a civilian defense minister who will take care of the army's financial problems, while leaving the military its due, combat training and troop control. Having a civilian defense ministry and an army general staff separated is becoming reality in Russia, as in the West."

"Military Ready To Accept Civilian Control"

Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/15) front-paged this comment by Vadim Solovyov: "Over the four years of its existence, the Russian army has found that it can function just as well under civilian control.... What matters, however, is not who, a military or civilian person, will head the defense ministry, but what functions this ministry and its head are supposed to perform and in whose interests, those of civilian society or the military.... In Russia's case, a transfer of a military defense minister to civilian status will not solve the problem of a civilian defense ministry, as such. We need a new legislative concept of the civilian (political) responsibilities of a defense ministry.... Formally, Rodionov's civilian status has changed nothing. But the fact that the president has decided to keep him around shows that he trusts him. It attests also to Rodionov's enhanced position in the upper echelons of power."

"There Was No Other Way To End War In Chechnya"

Ilya Maxakov stated on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/11): "The actions of Chechen leaders working for independence look logical and consistent, contrasting with the ill-conceived policy of the Russian leadership, which continues making conflicting moves and statements.... The voices of the advocates of the Kremlin's latest decisions on the Chechen settlement are clearly drowned out in the chorus of critics of accords with Grozny. Mortifying as seeing Russia fall apart may appear, one must admit that, under the circumstances, there was no other way for Moscow to end that war."

GERMANY: "The Dragon And The Bear Embrace"

Jens Hartmann commented under the headline above for page one of right-of-center Die Welt (12/30) of Berlin, "After months of maneuvering, it seems that Russia has finally found an answer to NATO's decision to expand to the East.... Russia will seek a strong ally to the East in China. Moscow and Beijing want the Euro-Asian elephants' wedding to give NATO and the USA a big fright.... The rapprochement of the dragon and the bear is unusual, following three decades of frozen relations and will probably pose a difficult challenge for NATO strategists.... Amid all the euphoria in Moscow over the coup by Boris Yeltsin, who wants to create a new world order in April in summit talks in Moscow with the Chinese state and party leader, Jiang Zemin, nevertheless there are still major question marks hanging over the project for the next century. The fact that Russia is traditionally more orientated towards the West and that Moscow and Beijing represent totally different geopolitical interests is an argument against the partnership being a success. Whether the lowest common denominator of facing up to the United States will be sufficient as the basis for a strategic partnership is being viewed skeptically in Moscow too."

"An Alliance Spurred By Western Arrogance"

In an editorial, left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau commented (12/30), "The visit of Chinese Premier Li Peng to Moscow has symbolic value. Li is the first visitor from abroad to see President Yeltsin after his heart operation. This kind of visit is not left to chance--neither by Russia nor by China.... The event shows the high importance attached to the Sino-Russian relationship by both capitals. The leaders of both states consider themselves to be victims of the 'new world order' which was proclaimed by President Bush, and on which the Clinton administration is working on with other means and which is characterized by the U.S.' worldwide leadership.... The idea of a strategic partnership...against the Western globalists is likely.... This alliance was not just formed out of need; rather, it is also a consequence of Western arrogance."

"Doubtful Yeltsin Will Concentrate On Needed Reforms"

Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich's Moscow correspondent Miriam Neubert filed (12/24), "Russia has wasted the last two-and-a-half years with elections and with a sick president. Now there is a chance to concentrate on the needed reforms. However, it is doubtful whether the government will be able to exploit the opportunity. For the one problem that overshadows all the others, is the state itself, which has developed into an all-stifling bureaucratic apparatus.... In 1991, Yeltsin was elected by the people because they thought he would fight against the nomenclature and its privileges. But the new, profit-oriented elite has long since learned how it can use the president for its own ends. The more the reforms falter, the greater will be the trend towards more government--a development that pleases the Communist opposition.... It would be tantamount to a revolution if Yeltsin succeeded in turning the tables on the apparatus. But Yeltsin has never been that kind of revolutionary, even as a healthy, younger man in his political prime four years ago."

"Yeltsin's Last Chance"

Centrist Cologne/Bonn Express (12/24) declared: "Boris Yeltsin is back again, promising better times for Russia. Nicely said, but the Russians cannot buy anything with words.... They want to see deeds.... If Yeltsin does not succeed in quickly dismantling the political mafia and strengthening the reformers, his days in the Kremlin will be numbered. He won't get another chance."

BRITAIN: "Yeltsin's Job: To Create Real Democracy, Market Economy"

An editorial in the independent Financial Times remarked (12/24): "Mr. Yeltsin's first term record is impressive enough. Five years after he defied a hardline coup from astride a tank in front of the White House, he has systematically dismantled Communism.... There are no more villains threatening to pull the country into dictatorship or war, for Mr. Yeltsin to conquer. His job, as he begins his second term in earnest, is no longer to destroy but to build; not to vanquish enemies but to tame his friends. To create a real democracy and a liberal market economy in place of communism, Mr. Yeltsin must today restrict the powers and wealth of the new elite he himself has brought to power.

"To make a mark with his second term, he will have to confront the subtler and more ambiguous challenge of limiting the powers of his closest allies. This is a job only Mr. Yeltsin, the patriarch of the current regime, can accomplish and it could be the hardest of his career. The winter holidays, traditionally a season for rebirth and reconciliation, are a good time to begin."

FRANCE: "How Is The Tsar?"

Michel Schifres asked in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/24): "Can one be at the head of a superpower while convalescing?... We would so much like to see Russia able to function and govern itself even if its leader is ill. But if we listen to the fears expressed by some and the hopes of others, we must conclude that in that country the same question comes back across the centuries: 'How is the Tsar?'"

"How Can You Negotiate With The Outside When Things Inside Are Crumbling?"

Jean-Francois Begele noted in regional Sud-Ouest (12/24): "The last card the tired master of the Kremlin holds is the international recognition he still enjoys. He is the one on whom Western leaders are counting to reach a compromise on NATO's enlargement to the East. The question is, how can one negotiate with the outside world when things are crumbling inside?"

"Yeltsin Under Close Surveillance"

Readers of right-of-center Les Echos saw this editorial (12/24): "Yeltsin...certainly will not be granted a second grace period. He is now under close surveillance, medical as well as political."

ITALY: "Russia And China: Common Interests"

The signing in Moscow of an economic-military deal between China and Russia sparked this editorial in leading financial Il Sole-24 Ore (12/28), "Amid drunkenness and heart attacks, Yeltsin has achieved two strategically important foreign policy results: He has obtained the almost unconditional support of the United States and has taken relations with China to an unprecedented level of confidence.... The basic coherence of the Russian president is not matched by Chinese policy.... Chinese leaders are still largely dependent on military leaders, on the bureaucratic leaderhip of the party and on a state industrial complex which continues to destroy weath.... The interest in a Russia-China partnership is born from a comon need: territorial and political stability in Asia..... However, common interests end there. Russia enjoys bipolarism with the United States and does not intend to jeopardize it.... Beijng is instead periodically troubled by the memory of past humiliations and by the fear that the United States, along with other nations, may want to prevent its economic growth and its success on the international level."

BELGIUM: "Dialogue With China Not As Easy As It Seems"

On the occasion of Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng's visit to Moscow, Michel Rosten judged in conservative Catholic La Libre Belgique (12/27): "Yeltsin will probably seize this opportunity to take the situation back into his own hands and assert himself again on the Russian political scene.... The dialogue with Li Peng does not promise to be as easy as it seems. One must consider the fact that Defense Minister Rodionov has taken the liberty of a rather surprising remark, by saying on the eve of the Chinese premier's arrival that the country's security can only be threatened by Iran or by...China. It is true that those two countries are arming themselves with a force that commands attention; but they do so to a large extent thanks to Russia, which sells them weapons on a regular basis!"

CANADA: "U.S. Has To Recognize That Lebed Will Replace Yeltsin"

According to foreign correspondent John Bierman in the business-oriented Financial Post (1/3), "The West, and the United States in particular, will have to recognize the possibility that Yeltsin might not stay the course and that Lebed will take his place. Should that occur, Lebed will undoubtedly prove to be a difficult customer to deal with, for his outlook tends toward the primitive. Still, he has proved to be a quick learner.... A President Lebed might wish for a reassertion of Russian military muscle on the world scene, but given the present pitiable state of the armed forces and the pressing nature of domestic problems, that should not cause any major loss of sleep to the industrial democracies. And the prospect of Lebed in the Kremlin would certainly be preferable to that of the unreconstructed Communist, Zyuganov." SPAIN: "A Partnership Directed Against U.S."

An editorial in liberal El Pais (12/31) maintained, "The 'strategic partnership' jointly announced by China and Russia is directed against Washington, but the differences in motives of the two powers makes one doubt the proclaimed new friendship between these neighboring countries: Russia wants to avoid NATO expansion while Beijing seeks to increase its weight in Asia and thus improve its negotiating power with the United States. China is also seeking to normalize its relationship with Russia...but also with the United States...and so Beijing's current criticism of Washington appears to be rhetoric. China knows that the United States continues to be a key actor in the region although its role is different from the one it plays in Europe because there isn't a NATO structure in Asia."


CHINA: "Brief Visit, Great Success"

Beijing's official news agency, Xinhua, featured this commentary under the headline above (12/28), "The (Li Peng) visit, whose agenda was packed virtually for one working day, was brief indeed. However, it scored fruitful achievements and had a great significance.... Li was the first visiting foreign leader that President Yeltsin has met after his recovery from heart surgery.... Li pointed out that Jiang's visit to Russia next spring will be of great importance to the further development of the bilateral relations, and his visit was a preparation for President Jiang's state visit. He reaffirmed that the development of a strategic partnership with Russia is by no means an expedient, but a long-term policy of China.

"The two leaders have not only reached a strategic consensus on bilateral relations, but also conducted in- depth discussions over important international issues, such as the formation of a multipolar world.... The world is moving towards multi-polarization. Both Russia and China are important countries with great influence in the world...(and) well deserve to be two important and independent poles in the multipolar world.... Leaders of both countries made it clear that they do not favor a world dominated by one power.... The strategic partnership between China and Russia is not directed against any other parties. It is not only in the basic interests of the two peoples, but also conducive to global peace and development."

JAPAN: "Restarting Yeltsin's Diplomacy"

Liberal Asahi's editorial said (12/28), "Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who is shifting to omnidirectional diplomacy from a lean-toward-one-side policy toward the West, recently visited Iran. The foreign minister criticized the U.S. policy of isolating Iran, saying (Russia) opposes a foreign military build-up in the Persian Gulf. Such Russian independent diplomacy with China, India and Iran can be regarded as reinforcement measures for its weak diplomacy in negotiating with the West.... It seems there are growing signs of a (worldwide) trend toward trying to build a realistic order in each region in the post-Cold War world. Japan should pay attention to countries that feel a sense of alienation from the U.S.-Japan security declaration, as well as the expansion (to Eastern (sic) Europe) of NATO."

INDONESIA: "Russia: Democratic Experiment"

In the editorial view of leading, independent Kompas (1/2), "Advancing democratic practices to reflect a civil society is not a one- or two-day exercise but an ongoing process that requires strength and tenacity. What Russia has achieved since it made such an effort five years ago may be minor progress. But, hopefully, the Russian experience will inspire other nations which may still be doubtful about empowering their societies with civil rights, even though such rights are already stipulated in their constitutions."

PHILIPPINES: "Yeltsin's Tough Task"

Editorial consultant Amando Doronila of the independent and second largest circulation Philippine Daily Inquirer (1/3) compared Philippine conditions with those of Russia: "Unlike President Ramos, Yeltsin faces a tougher task in regaining political control and curbing the powers of his caretaker deputies. The Russian economy is in disarray. Russian democracy is undergoing a turbulent consolidation that has been disrupted by Yeltsin's incapacity. Russia is a country that is hard to govern, and the unruly behavior of the Russians has been magnified by their transition to democracy and to the market economy. Yeltsin's prolonged illness did not lead to a takeover by the prime minister, and the fact that a coup did not take place despite the discontent arising from delayed salaries of soldiers and miserable conditions of the army is a remarkable feat.... While both presidents are feisty, Yeltsin is not yet out of the woods. Not only does he need to reassert his power but also he has to pick up reforms that have lost momentum during his absence."

THAILAND: "Better China-Russia Ties Is Boon For ASEAN"

Kawi Chongkitthawon wrote for the independent, English- language Nation (12/30), "Closer China-Russia relations will have far-reaching implications on the region, which to date has largely depended on the good will of the United States for its security. Against this background, ASEAN will also enjoy more leverage in its relations with all major powers in both global and regional contexts.... Together as new dialogue partners, China and Russia have direct access to the hearts and minds of ASEAN's leaders. They can also shape the agenda of ASEAN discussions with the Western dialogue partners.... And after all, ASEAN needs a credible counterbalancing force vis-a-vis the United States.... With common positions on non-security issues such as international economic, social and cultural areas, ASEAN can work with China and Russia on such sensitive topics as human rights and democracy.... Judging from the ASEAN leaders' united stand on Burma, and Singapore's reaction to the U.S. State Department's comment on its elections, this diversionary debate on Asian values versus Western values will not go away."

"Yeltsin Achievements Unlikely"

The mass-circulation Daily News's Lens Zoom commented (1/1), "Despite his recovery from the (physical) overhaul, few believe that President Boris Yeltsin will be able to successfully tackle Russia's various outstanding ills. The Russian economy is believed to remain reeling, as his effort at market reform has hurt the vast majority of Russians so used to depending on state subsidies and unable to adjust.... Infighting and political struggling among Yeltsin's close associates will also work to undermine his leadership and prevent any possible achievements."


IRAN: "A Strategic Alliance Threat To West, Particularly America"

Tehran's Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran network declared (12/29), "China and Russia signed an agreement yesterday and thus demonstrated their will to set aside the rest of their past rivalries and to form an alliance against the united Western front.... The Russian press explicitly reflected this message yesterday and praised the determination of China and Russia to confront the advance of NATO toward Eastern Europe and to put a security stop to America in Asia. Many political experts believe that the quiet transformation, which began in the relations between Moscow and Beijing since Yeltsin's visit to China last year, has been given a new impetus by this agreement.... The use of the word 'strategic' to describe the agreement signed yesterday in Moscow has deep meaning for Beijing and Moscow which the West, in particular America, has to consider as the start of a threat which will end with acceptance of rights and an equal position for China and Russia next to the united Western front and its military organ, NATO."

"Moscow, Tehran Trying To Prevent Illegitimate U.S. Influence"

Radical, Persian-language Salam, which reflects the views of the regime's hardliners, ran this commentary (12/22) in anticipation of Russian Foreign Minister Primakov's visit to Tehran December 22: "Now the policy known as the 'view to the East' gives top priority in Russian foreign policy to the promotion of relations with countries such as Iran with a number of objectives: 1. To revive Russia's political and economic influence in areas in which the former Soviet Union enjoyed influence; and to exploit the consequent results. 2. To safeguard Russia's security as well as its political and economic interests in its border regions to the East and the South. 3. To promote relations with Asian countries and enhance Russian influence in this part of the world as a lever for exercising influence over the Western world, particularly the United States, and to score over (Western countries) in regions such as Eastern Europe. As one of Russia's important neighbors, Iran has relatively similar interests and objectives at the regional and international levels. On the one hand, Tehran is trying to prevent the illegitimate influence of the United States in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caspian Sea region, and the Caucasus, and is unwilling, like Russia, to accept the expansionism of the United States and some of its allies in these regions. On the other hand, Tehran welcomes the promotion of relations between countries such as China and Russia, in order to fight against Washington's hegemony in regional and international calculations.... "The progress in these relations (Russia-Iran) is cautious and gradual, but should the two sides use the existing potential and climate properly, such relations could increase Russia's capacity to gain its historic position against the West and could help Iran increase its capacity to maneuver against the United States and to prepare a balanced relationship with other Western countries."

INDIA: "China: Dominant Partner?"

An analysis in the centrist Pioneer by foreign editor V. Sudarshan stressed (1/7), "Both China and Russia have announced that it will be an equal partnership.... In this specific context, China would automatically look like the dominant partner, even if it is not officially acknowledged.... Just as there is bound to be a fallout in the Far East, there is likely to be some reaction in the Commonwealth of Independent States as well.... The temptation is to conclude that there is more political fog than any inherent clarity of purpose in the grand alliance that aspires to Siamese-twins superpower status. Theoretically, multipolarity is certainly better than unipolarity.... As is obvious at this moment, this alleged strategic partnership raises more questions than it answers."

"Protecting Themselves From Long American Reach"

An editorial (1/3) in the right-of-center Newstime from Hyderabad: "There is little chance that Washington will be quaking in fear over the development. If nothing else, both China and Russia need the United States far more in economic terms than they need each other.... Rather it suggests two countries, unsure of their resources and strengths, desperately turning to each other to protect themselves from the long American reach in every sphere. But both will be wary of getting together in the one sphere which will really get America worried: nuclear weaponry."

"Slapping Backs, But Nothing To Lose Sleep Over"

An editorial in the centrist Telegraph from Calcutta (1/1) remarked: "It would be nice to think Russia and China are reliving the spirit of the '50s. But despite talk of a 'strategic partnership' in the communique issued after the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Peng to Moscow, no one in the West will lose any sleep. Li's visit and the summit scheduled in April...for Messrs. Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin will not define a new dimension to Sino-Russian relations.... The bilateral pickings so far have been pretty meager.... Talk of a partnership is all very well but there is nothing tangible among all the rhetoric: No military coordination, no joint policy plans, no real trade negotiations, not even any condemnation of the West on specific issues. This is the stuff of posture, not politics..... "Beijing and Moscow would both like a multipolar world. They both get bullied and pushed around by the United States on a regular basis.... But an effective counter to the West will not be accomplished through speeches.... But it is good that Russia and China are slapping backs. When they are not, the world has real reason to lose sleep."

"Yeltsin Is Back And Ready For Battle"

In the editorial opinion of the right-of-center Newstime from Hyderabad (12/28): "President Boris Yeltsin is back in the Kremlin and 'ready for battle.'... Characteristically, Yeltsin's first priority appeared to be not any of Russia's multiple problems but the hostage crisis in faraway Peru.... Yeltsin offered to send anti- terrorist forces to Lima to help resolve the impasse, something which even American President Bill Clinton has not done so far.... But Yeltsin has always been a resilient figure, and by his foreign policy statements...he has given notice that he intends to [insist on] Russia still being a superpower despite the breakup of Soviet Union. That should be good news for Third World countries who are tired of the Clinton administration's bullying tactics on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to intellectual property rights. Even in a unipolar world, a balancing factor is essential."

"Partnership Of Paranoia: Can China And Russia Wish Away Washington?"

Under the headline above, the right-of-center Indian Express (12/31) pointed out: "The post-Cold War world is invariably decried in a familiar cliche: a world under the sway of a singular superpower. Though anti-imperialism has long ago ceased to be a decisive motif...shopworn fears about pax Americana continue to be paraded in certain capitals of the so-called Third World. It is less a reality than a habit.... Hence the trend...contain the U.S. tide by seeking new alliances. No surprise then [that] the consolidation of China-Russia friendship, marked by Li Peng's three-day visit to Moscow, is widely seen as a defensive response to an 'insensitive' Washington.... But this not all that inspiring. First, China and Russia can no longer afford to be equal partners. One is a booming market with extraterritorial untrustworthiness. The other, sick and chaotic, is in the first stage of civil society. And both have to face in the near future the trauma of succession.... The currently deionized Washington may still be there--not necessarily as a nuisance, but as a partner worthy of doing business with."

PAKISTAN: "Primakov's Iran Visit"

Under the headline above, an editorial in the radical, pro- Iran Muslim (12/30) stressed: "The timing of the (Primakov) visit (to Iran) is significant. It has come at a time when Washington and its allies in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East seem to be preparing grounds for yet another military operation to knock out oil installations in Iran....

"Through Primakov's visit, a message has been conveyed to the United States that Moscow is not impressed by the U.S. policy towards Iran and it is about time the United states gave up its policy of muscle flexing, military escalation and confrontation in conducting its foreign policy.... It was against this backdrop that made Primakov proclaim from Tehran that he expected a 10-fold increase in the two-way trade between Russia and Iran by the turn of the century. Wisdom demands that the Americans give up the primitive policy of confrontation with Iran and follow the Russian example."

"Sino-Russian Entente"

An editorial in Karachi's independent, national Dawn said (12/30), "Russia and China, who until about six years ago stood on the opposite sides of a deep ideological divide, now appear poised for a strong strategic partnership.... Although it is still too early to expect a return to anything comparable to a bipolar balance of power, Moscow and Beijing should find themselves less and less under pressure from Washington on issues such as nuclear cooperation--which is how it has been in the absence of any credible counterweight to American power in world affairs....

"The coming together of China and Russia should be of particular significance in the Central Asian context, too. The inclusion of the representatives of three Central Asian states in the Sino-Russian talks in Moscow and in last April's summit in Beijing clearly suggests that Russia no longer regards the Central Asian states as its protectorates. It is even seen as the first step towards a new Asian security system, with a strong underpinning of economic rather than military cooperation."


SOUTH AFRICA: "Significance Of Sino-Russian Reconciliation"

Leopold Scholtz, senior political editor for Afrikaans- language, centrist Beeld and Die Burger, commented (1/3): "It might be too early to run with it, but a broad development which has the potential to become the most important international power shift of 1996, is the reconciliation between Russia and China. If it grows roots it can change significantly the political constellation.... Indeed...if China does not disintegrate and if Russia could only partially recover, it could become a serious threat for Western Europe.

"In the smoke-filled rooms of Washington, Brussels, Paris and Bonn, where politics is formulated, policy strategists should be uneasy about this development. It is aimed against them and consequently it is in their interest not to drive Moscow any further in the arms of Beijing. This should become a high priority."


PANAMA: "Yeltsin, Building A Bipolar World"

Conservative El Panama America, in an editorial, held (1/7): "Hardly recovered from his complicated heart surgery...Yeltsin is working at breaking the strategic circle around his country created by the NATO Alliance. Many of the former Soviet countries have requested admission into NATO.... Yeltsin is moving at full speed. He recently met with Chinese President Li Peng...and issued a combined Chinese-Russian announcement on the establishment of a strategic alliance... to create a bipolar world to counterbalance the United States.... China is rapidly becoming Asia's first commercial power and very soon (will be) the second or third in the world.... Meanwhile, Russia still maintains most of the technology that its weakened economy is unable to keep up to date.... Yeltsin (also) met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl...and is promoting contacts with India and Japan."


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