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Friday, November 19, 1999 Published at 11:51 GMT


Russian press split over 'haughty' West

Russia and the West: Is Chechnya forcing the gap wider?

"It is autumn in relations between Russia and the West. The weather is gloomy, rainy, with thick cloud. Cold winds are about to blow. It will soon be getting really frosty."

Battle for the Caucasus
These words sum up the generally pessimistic line taken by the leading Russian daily Izvestiya on the Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Under the headline "Turkish March", the paper says the summit "has brought the West and Russia up against a barrier which could become a dividing line worse than the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain".

"Contemporary Russia", the paper says, "had an unenviable role in Istanbul. It was on trial. Europe had plenty to say. Europe no longer has Kosovo, but it does have Chechnya now.

"To some extent the Istanbul summit could not have taken place without Russia. What else would replete and haughty Europe have had to talk about?

"The victorious war in Kosovo is over, justice has prevailed, as it were. What else has European officialdom got to occupy itself with other than mysterious, unpredictable and hardy Russia?"

'No public whipping'

The business newspaper Kommersant, which leads with a report headlined "The president accomplished everything", and the mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda, take a different line.

Komsomolskaya Pravda focuses on the new lease of life which Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been displaying of late.

Its article on the Istanbul summit begins: "President Yeltsin knows how to surprise the world - and his own country!

"When he arrived in Istanbul, everybody saw an extremely cheerful and energetic politician who is determined to have his own way, having left his physical and political ailments behind in Moscow."

The paper says the public whipping which Russia was expected to get at the OSCE summit never transpired.

"Istanbul did not become another Fulton [the venue for Winston Churchill's speech about an "Iron Curtain"], as the pessimists feared, and it does not seem as though a second round of the Cold War threatens us yet ...

"The public execution of Russia to the accompaniment of slogans about human rights did not take place.

"The complaints made at bilateral meetings between Yeltsin and Western leaders don't count. Diplomatic incantations don't spoil the general picture. Russia has not been sidelined or whipped like a naughty Milosevic."

US 'preaching' resented

In an article headlined "Russia needs dialogue and not moralisations", the Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda notes that the speech made by US President Bill Clinton to the summit was "noticeably milder" than some of his recent pronouncements.

According to the paper, Mr Clinton acknowledged that "Russia is not only entitled but obliged to defend its stability" in Chechnya.

However, it takes the American president to task for "preaching" to Moscow about the inadequacies of its Chechen policy when he said that "the means which Russia has chosen undermine its aims".

Noting Washington's desire to play an active role in Chechnya and other trouble spots in the former Soviet Union, the paper says "the situation in these regions is also dominating the Istanbul summit.

"According to reports, a new term in the vocabulary of Western expansion is being bandied about there - "humanitarian intervention" - a concept which does not recognise international borders and which gives the West the right to use force wherever it wants to."

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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