International Papers

America on the Rack

Anti-Americanism gripped Russia and the Muslim world this week. In Moscow, the press heralded Madeleine Albright’s visit Tuesday with gloomy assessments of the state of U.S.-Russian relations. In Izvestia, Vladimir Abarinov wrote that they were going through “a time of trouble” and that disagreements between the two countries had been “snowballing.” He said that their opinions differed on practically every issue and that “Anti-Americanism has become ‘in’ in Moscow political circles.”

An article in Komsomolskaya Pravda said that “differences over Iraq and Yugoslavia, U.S. sanctions against Russian enterprises that allegedly collaborated with Iran, a new U.S. plan to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, and an old one to enlarge NATO have brought the temperature of Russo-American relations to a record low since the end of the Cold War.” The paper also quoted President Boris Yeltsin’s ex-press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky as saying on television that cooperation between the two countries appears to be over. Russian press comment after Albright’s talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was rather more upbeat, though Nezavisimaya Gazeta again described her visit as having taken place “at one of the most difficult moments in Russia-U.S. relations” and described the American plan to amend the anti-ballistic missile treaty as “clearly unacceptable.” It quoted Ivanov as saying, in reference to the American ABM initiative, that it is vital that the two countries “spring no more surprises on each other.”

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald led its front page Wednesday with a report on Russia’s efforts to force the resignation of Richard Butler, the United Nations’ chief weapons inspector in Iraq. The Russian ambassador to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov had described Butler’s report to the Security Council, used by the U.S. and British governments to justify the bombing of Iraq last month, as “not professional,” “biased,” and “provocative,” the paper said. Butler had responded by calling Lavrov’s comments “bullshit.” Lavrov has said he would continue to insist on Butler’s resignation because he didn’t have the confidence of a majority of Security Council members. In its Thursday edition, the Herald led with a revelation that Australian military officers working as U.N. arms inspectors in Baghdad had placed and operated spying devices that were later used by the U.S. to select targets for Operation Desert Fox.

In Pakistan, Dawn condemned Monday’s U.S. air attacks on Iraq, saying Wednesday in an editorial that it was “shocking that not even a whimper has been heard in protest against these blatant acts of terrorism on the part of the sole superpower in the world. … Should the US be allowed to get away with this sort of bullying and banditry?”

Al-Khaleej, a daily from the United Arab Emirates, said in an editorial Tuesday that the attacks demonstrated “the contempt in which Washington holds its Arab allies, even when they do its political bidding. … After applauding the statement issued by Arab foreign ministers on Iraq following their ‘consultative’ meeting in Cairo on Sunday, Washington proceeded to ignore the most important thing that statement had to say–namely, its appeal for the U.S. to desist from military action against Iraq and pursue peaceful diplomacy instead.”

The Pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi said that the closing statement issued at the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting had been “woefully inadequate” and, by failing to condemn Operation Desert Fox, had made it possible for the United States to claim Arab support for further military action.

However, the Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat said Tuesday that Iraq had only itself to blame for the isolation it encountered at the Cairo gathering. It was Iraq that had wanted a meeting of foreign ministers held, followed by a summit, in order to get the embargo against it lifted, the paper said. “That being the case, one would have assumed that Baghdad would have done its best to secure the support of the Arab states, or at least the most important ones, and the goodwill of the Arab League secretary-general,” it added. “But what happened is that Iraq began by denouncing the secretary-general, then turned on Egypt, and then on the other Arab states from the Atlantic to the Gulf!”

Bill Clinton’s meeting with the pope in St. Louis received extensive coverage in Europe (“Most famous sinner meets His Holiness” was the headline in the Independent of London), but especially in Italy where the Corriere della Sera of Milan said Wednesday in a front-page editorial that although no American president had ever met a pope more often, nor made such a public display of his Christian faith than Clinton, “perhaps no president has become so distant from the Holy Father. … Beneath the smiles and formal concord of St. Louis there is a widening gulf between a pope who represents the voice of mankind’s conscience and a leader who hasn’t failed to deliver on his material promises, but who has violated his spiritual ones.” It added that the pope must also have been saddened not only by “Sexgate” but also by Clinton’s attacks on Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, since “in 1993, at the time of their first meeting in Denver, he probably saw in the young Clinton, so socially committed, a potential partner in the reconstruction of a just and peaceful world after a century of hot and cold wars.”

Colombia’s leading daily, El Espectador, bitterly lamented the country’s unreadiness for Monday’s earthquake disaster. “Just when you think things couldn’t be worse, it turns out that they are,” it said Wednesday in an editorial, pointing out that only 13 of the country’s 20 earthquake warning stations had been working at the time. The Caribbean coastal region had been completely cut off from the National Seismological Network, having no money to maintain its equipment. All Colombia’s disaster prevention bodies were on the edge of collapse, it said.