Cold War Warmed Over

Cold War Warmed Over

Cold War Warmed Over

What the foreign papers are saying.
March 26 2001 9:30 PM

Cold War Warmed Over

The Financial Times' editorialists fretted that the United States' move to expel about 50 Russian diplomats marks a "return to the symbolism of the cold war." The order came in the wake of the espionage indictment of FBI agent Robert Hanssen. The Russians "probably provoked" the United States, said the FT, but the scale of the U.S. response was "ill judged." Since the United States claims it has far fewer intelligence agents in Russia than Moscow had in Washington, the inevitable tit-for-tat expulsions from Moscow will remove key non-intelligence staff—disarmament monitors, for example—as well as spies. The FT concluded, "So large an expulsion suggests that an influential body of opinion in Washington still thinks of Russia as the Soviet Union."

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An International Herald Tribune op-ed by two Brookings Institution fellows published under the headline "Get Over It, Mr. Bush—the Cold War Has Finished," declared: "In emphasizing weapons, spies and traditional security issues in its bilateral relations with Russia, the Bush administration is trying to transpose yesterday's agenda into tomorrow's world. That misses the point. Russia is not the Soviet Union—at home or abroad. It has given up global pretensions." The authors maintained that modern-day Russia is driven by pragmatism, not ideology—relations with the European Union are emphasized over relations with the United States because the EU will soon account for 50 percent of Russia's trade; visits to former allies such as Cuba are intended to encourage debt repayment rather than solidarity. "Weapons sales to Iran are sources of hard cash, not geostrategic moves to outflank Washington."

Britain's Guardian crowed, "The cold war is dead but won't lie down. … The Mir space station, it seems, is not the only chunk of the recent past falling about our ears." Echoing the Cold War throwback theme, the Khaleej Times of Dubai said, "[T]here is little place for vengeance in this post-Cold War age of globalism." Izvestiya speculated that President Bush appears to have inherited his father's views on Russia and that relations will be tougher during the current administration. "They're saying it's time to stop cooing to Russia as some kind of infant democracy and certainly time to stop giving it aid, which will only be stolen anyway." (Russian translation courtesy of the BBC.)

Shawinigate: A slowly developing Canadian conflict-of-interest scandal broke into the open Friday, when the National Post claimed that, contrary to his representations, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien held shares in a golf club in his parliamentary district after he became prime minister in 1993. The timing of the share sale is key because despite years of denial, Chrétien admitted last November that in 1996 he personally lobbied the president of the federal Business Development Bank of Canada to approve a C$615,000 (US$393,000) loan to the hotel adjacent to the golf course. The prime minister's opponents claim his involvement was motivated by financial self-interest since the value of his shares in the golf course would plunge if the hotel went bankrupt; Chrétien maintains he was simply serving his constituency. (For more background on the complex story, see this timeline from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) Frustrated by the prime minister's refusal to show the share ownership documents, all four Canadian opposition parties have demanded a public inquiry into "Shawinigate" (named for Chrétien's Quebec district, Shawinigan), and on Friday Progressive Conservative Party leader Joe Clark called on the prime minister to step down until the ethical issues were resolved.

The National Post supported Clark's demand, declaring, "The time for stonewalling and dissembling has altogether passed." Le Devoir of Montreal also recommended an independent inquiry, noting: "With half-truths and half-lies, the prime minister and his entourage have given the very disagreeable impression of continually seeking to cover their tracks. This must end." The Vancouver Sun spoke out strongly against the prime minister: "In this case, there are many unanswered questions, and the stench of scandal grows ever stronger. The most powerful politician in the land … is tightly linked to this unseemly affair. If he cares a fig about parliamentary tradition or public perception of the office he represents, he'll step aside until the matter's resolved. And if he hesitates, his caucus should feel obliged to push him." The Toronto Sun said an inquiry was "badly needed," but the size of the Liberal Party's parliamentary majority means the chances of getting one are "next to nothing." Toronto's Globe and Mail came out against the prime minister's removal: "Mr. Chrétien has resorted throughout this 'Shawinigate' affair to obfuscation, bluster, bullying and outright prevarication. But reason to resign? No." However, the piece concluded, "[I]t is incumbent upon Mr. Chrétien to clear the air. At best, he has been incautious in his exercise of power and cavalier in allowing this sideshow to capture the public agenda. … Canadians deserve closure on this matter."

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Pride and prejudice: On the day German far-right parties fared poorly in two state elections, Britain's Observer examined Germany's attempt to define acceptable expressions of patriotism, when declarations such as "Ich bin stolz ein Deutscher zu sein" ("I'm proud to be a German") are part of the racist far-right's lexicon. Last week, President Johannes Rau told a TV news crew one could be "pleased" or "grateful" to be German, but added: "In my view, one cannot be proud of this. One is proud of what one has achieved oneself." German Prime Minister Gerhard Schröder called for a parliamentary debate on German patriotism this week. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung found that while Germans are very proud of their culture, cathedrals, and cars, only 53 percent of western Germans and 56 percent of eastern Germans said they were "very" or "quite" proud to be German. The Observer concluded its piece with a slightly puzzling what's hot/what's not list: In, apparently, are Wagner, Denglisch (a mixture of German and English), and garden gnomes; out are the German flag, the German language, sausages, and white socks.