International Papers

Apocalypse Now


For Tuesday and Saturday morning delivery of this column, plus “Today’s Papers” (daily), “Pundit Central” (Monday morning), and “Summary Judgment” (Wednesday morning), click here.

While papers across the world led Thursday with apocalyptic headlines about the collapse of Russia, none were more apocalyptic than those in Russia’s own press. Izvestiya warned that the addition of a political crisis to the existing economic crisis might result in “a revolutionary situation.” The possibility that the country might be left without legislative power for the next three months is “fraught with the most dangerous consequences–including the disintegration of the state,” it said.

Segodnya reported that Dagestan is on the edge of civil war and that the halting of ruble-dollar trading on the financial markets means that Russia is facing the threat of a return to a fixed ruble-dollar exchange rate, as in Soviet times.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta said that Russia could be facing hyperinflation, as in 1992, and that the country’s general situation is rapidly approaching the critical point: It faces simultaneous financial, industrial, social, and political meltdowns; it must also deal with the fighting already taking place in the Northern Caucasus, and with the danger of Afghan military action on its southern border.

Wednesday’s Russian papers concentrated on the reappointment of Victor Chernomyrdin as prime minister. Izvestiya said that, with this, President Boris Yeltsin has effectively given up power and Novye Izvestiya that his second coming is attributable not to any failings by Chernomyrdin’s predecessor, Sergei Kiriyenko, but to Yeltsin’s decision not to seek re-election in 2000.

In Rome, La Repubblica said in a front-page comment by Sandro Viola that “seldom in history has a country received from the same person so many reasons for hope and then so many afflictions as … Russia with Boris Yeltsin.”

Under the headline “Stop This Bloody Terrorism,” the Cape Times of Cape Town, South Africa, condemned Tuesday’s bomb blast at the Planet Hollywood restaurant as “cold-blooded, mindless, unjustifiable terrorism” going to “the heart of the tensions in our troubled society.” Making no reference to the United States or to the possibility that the attack might have been a reprisal for U.S. missile attacks in Sudan and Afghanistan, it blamed terrorists who “want our communities to remain divided.” It urged people to “use this opportunity to recommit ourselves to a united city and isolate all those who have different and sinister intentions.”

In an editorial Thursday, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn warned that Pakistan’s economic crisis will reach “a point of no return” by mid-September failing a miracle. It proposed stopping negotiations for a bailout package with the Islamic Development Bank–with which “it is not Islamic fraternal feeling, as some of us would like naively to believe, but pure profit motive which seems to have weighed.” Instead, it advocated a closer look at a prospective International Monetary Fund package, even though “[o]f course, an IMF programme would bring massive hardships for the common people.”

In Canada, the Toronto Star accused Britain and the Irish Republic of riding roughshod over civil liberties in the new laws they are drafting to make it easier for the police and courts to convict suspected terrorists. Referring in an editorial Thursday to the “firestorm of anger and revulsion” that had followed the recent bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland, the paper said that this “new crackdown, so late in the day, smacks of over-reaction.” It concluded, “Civil liberties, once eroded, are not easily regained.” The Irish News of Belfast led its front page Thursday with the news that President Clinton will meet more than 100 members of the new Northern Ireland assembly next Thursday. He will also visit Omagh.