European Press Review: Same War, Different Goals | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.09.2004
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European Press Review: Same War, Different Goals

European editorials on Thursday focused on the hostage-taking in Russia and its place in the global war on terror.

In Poland, Warsaw’s Rzeczpospolita wrote that no terrorism can be justified. “But the Chechens have not only their liberty, but their very existence at stake under Russian occupation," the paper continued. "The Russians have been exterminating the Chechens under the complete indifference of the West, sometimes even with its approval. The leaders of Germany and France, who met two days after the farce of Chechen elections with president Putin in Sochi, supplied the proof. The German chancellor stressed that the elections represented an attempted ‘political solution’, while the French president underlined that Chechnya is an integral part of Russia. This can only mean that the extermination of the Chechens is an internal Russian affair.”

In Paris, Le Figaro tied Chechnya to Iraq. “Two different regions, but one and the same war – without visible opponents and without precise front lines,” the paper wrote, adding that while it’s difficult to see who is controlling the global Islamist insurgence, two key protagonists are easy to see. “George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are playing on the same side, but with different goals,” the daily noted. “For the American president it’s about maintaining the omnipotence of America, while the Russian president seeks simply to keep his country in the top league of nations.” But the paper went on to say that Europe needs to stand by Putin or face the empowerment of what it calls “The Kremlin gentlemen.”

Another french paper, Bordeaux’s Sud-Ouest, tied the hostage-taking to the beginning of the school year in France, and to the ban on wearing religious symbols – including Islamic headscarves – in public schools. “The law will today receive its trial by fire,” the paper wrote. “How many headscarves will be seen? Perhaps fewer than many assume, but here and there problems are bound to present themselves. How will school administrators respond? The law gives them nearly as much room to maneuver as they previously had. That raises the question of whether the law is at all necessary. But the principle of secularity must be defended against the fanatics.”

In the Hague, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant believed that Russian president Vladimir Putin is losing support among his people. “This already began some time before the new series of attacks,” the paper wrote. “The parliament initiated a package of radical social reforms one month ago, taking away from the elderly, the invalid, and the veterans social supports they had enjoyed since Soviet times.” The paper pointed out that opposition politician Vladimir Ryschkow recently compared the current times to those of Leonid Brezhnev in the seventies: “An illusion of stability prevails,” he said, “but the reality is extremely inconsistent.”