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JAPAN



Published: Mon, June 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, June 18: U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met June 16 in a suburb of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana for their first summit.

After acknowledging differences of opinion over the planned U.S. missile defense network and the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the two leaders agreed to set up consultative councils comprising a foreign minister, a secretary of state and defense ministers of the two countries to discuss a new security framework.

Nuclear power: Russia is no longer a superpower. But the country is still an impressive nuclear power that can influence the world's security because it -- together with the United States -- possesses most of the world's nuclear weapons. Continued dialogue between the two countries gives the international community a sense of security.

Some say that the U.S. missile defense plan will lead to an expansion of nuclear arms. But at the same time the plan has a positive aspect in that it could meet the security needs of a new age. We hope that Bush and Putin will continue to hold constructive dialogue on the matter.

CANADA

The Globe and Mail, Toronto, June 16: When U.S. President George W. Bush unpacks his bags in Washington this weekend, returning from his inaugural, problem-racked visit to Europe, he may conclude that this was not the most uplifting foray abroad he has ever made.

The list of such trips is, admittedly, short, which is one reason his name stirs some contempt among leaders and voters in Western Europe. An increasingly entrenched opinion of the most powerful man on the planet is that, unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, Mr. Bush is an unsophisticated Texas yahoo who cares much about the United States and little about the rest of the world.

Unilateral policy: Unfair, perhaps. Mr. Bush may be a novice globetrotter, but the same is not true of the foreign-policy experts he has appointed to his cabinet. European animosity to the president, moreover, is lent force by his views on a range of domestic U.S. issues that have little impact abroad: his enthusiasm for the death penalty, his hostility to abortion and his reluctance to champion tougher gun legislation or more lenient drug laws. Yet there is no escaping that during his few short months in office, Mr. Bush has managed to fuel the perception of a White House administration that thinks and acts unilaterally, with worryingly scant concern for its allies.

Protectionism, underscored by soon-to-be-renegotiated trade treaties, is one sore point, particularly in agriculture. Sabre-rattling toward China over Taiwan has evoked European dismay. So has the U.S. stance on the Middle East, a position many in Europe perceive as disproportionately pro-Israel.

The key question is whether Mr. Bush is ready to pay attention to Europe, Canada or anyone else. He should. In our ever-more connected world, shrugging off its friends' worries will take the United States down a lonely road that is increasingly dangerous.

ISRAEL

The Jerusalem Post, June 20: That Israel has reacted with fury to the BBC's propaganda fest this past Sunday evening comes as no surprise. Once considered the leading television station in the world, the BBC utilized its weekly newsmagazine Panorama to launch an unprecedented broadside against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Nineteen years after the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, in which Lebanese Christian militiamen killed hundreds of Palestinians, the BBC suddenly decided to investigate the affair, making the case that Sharon is fit to be indicted for war crimes.

Needless to say, the content and timing of the program are highly suspect, coming as it does when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in the throes of a propaganda war aimed at winning over world public opinion. That the BBC chose to dredge up some old mud from the 1980s to dirty Sharon's newfound positive image is a sad commentary on the anti-Israel hostility that still prevails in certain portions of British officialdom and media.

'Graveyard shift:' The ministry seems to have overestimated the importance of the program in question, since the BBC recently moved Panorama from its prime-time slot on Monday to a late and little-watched hour on Sunday night, the television equivalent of the "graveyard shift." While no doubt well-intentioned, the Foreign Ministry's campaign was doomed to failure from the start, as it could neither prevent the show from airing nor impact on its contents. Hence, one wonders what exactly the ministry hoped to accomplish by focusing so much fire on the BBC program.

Now more than ever, Israel needs an effective and coherent public-relations campaign to counter the PA's efforts. Relying on defensive responses will simply fail to do the trick. It is time for the Foreign Ministry to take off the gloves and start fighting the propaganda war as it was meant to be fought. Rather than directing its energies to lost battles such as the BBC Panorama program, it would do well to invest a little more creativity and judgment, because the battle for world public opinion is one that Israel can ill afford to lose.

JORDAN

Jordan Times, Amman, June 20: Even if it may be seen by some as too little too late, the completion of Syria's troop redeployment from Beirut and its surroundings on Tuesday is an important step in the right direction.

Though the political and military scope of redeployment remains to be seen and caution remains a necessity, the move -- after 26 years of what many Lebanese have come to regard as an occupation -- will ease popular anxiety and tension among many Lebanese over Syria's presence in their country.

It must be recognized that the Syrian intervention in Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war did play a significant role in helping the country out of the worst chapter in its history.

Civil war: And it is on that basis that Syria maintained for well over two-and-a-half decades some 35,000 troops who initially entered the country with Lebanese, Arab and international approval to help defuse the civil war.

It is very encouraging that the partial redeployment is the result of Syrian-Lebanese understandings. It indicates that the Syrian leadership has been giving wise consideration to Lebanese complaints of the presence of troops on their soil, although well past the 1992 deadline set by the Taif Agreement for the withdrawal of Syrian troops.




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