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European Press Review: New Challenges for a New NATO

European newspaper editorials on Friday looked at the end of Afghanistan donor conference in Berlin and the eastward expansion of NATO.

Following the two-day donors’ conference for Afghanistan, Germany’s Berliner Zeitung concentrated on the fact that it has turned once more into a major producer of opium. “If this source is not blocked,” said the paper, “anti-drug programmes on the national level are fit for the wastepaper bin, and the money spent on them is being thrown out the window.” And this consideration led the paper to ask some questions: “Is the elegant Hamid Karzai, a man highly regarded in the West, the right man for the job of president? He may have called the Loya Jirga, and helped give the country a provisional constitution, but is he the man who can take power away from the warlords and disarm their militias, in order to push that constitution through?”

Afghanistan should be the priority for the newly expanded NATO which took on seven new members this week writes De Standaard in Brussels. It thinks the alliance’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer needs to fulfil his promise to send more troops and supplies to the war-torn country, the paper wrote, noting that the war there with Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants still rages. NATO heads the 6,500-strong international peacekeeping force, ISAF under a United Nations mandate to keep the peace in the capital Kabul. But the paper thinks NATO needs to spread that peace throughout the entire country.

Brussels’ other daily, De Morgen, commented on a different aspect of NATO in light of its acceptance of new central and eastern European countries. The collapse of communism and the Warsaw Pact, left the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation without an enemy and, the paper said, a reason for its existence. But now there’s a new dark shadow looming over NATO – George W. Bush. The United States is the only world power left and the paper believes it’s striving to be seen that way. It wants to dominate NATO while at the same time keeping its distance.

As the United States is currently occupied with the upcoming presidential elections, Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta thinks Germany and France should take this opportunity to improve their international influence. Leaders from both countries are holding talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The paper noted that Schröder, Chirac and Putin are all in their second terms and that now is a prime time to hammer out large scale and perhaps even some surprising initiatives.