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Europe

European Press Review: The Changing Face of NATO

European papers commented that despite the attempt to mend transatlantic ties, the rift is still causing problems in NATO. The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the Yukos affair in Russia also topped the news.

"The controversy over the war in Iraq has shown that transatlantic ties have fundamentally changed," wrote the Financial Times Deutschland. "NATO has gone from an unconditionally unified alliance against the hostile Soviet Union to a loose coalition with different answers to existential questions," it commented. Europe has pinned its hopes to deploying its own military alliance which will operate independently of NATO, the FT observed and predicted that both sides of the Atlantic will eventually have to go their own ways militarily.

"Most defense strategists are united on the fact that the U.S. government, in particular the Pentagon, has seriously messed up the post-war situation in Iraq," De Telegraaf in Amsterdam commented. However, the paper noted that the Bush administration has no other option but to stick to it’s current strategy. It argued that a premature pull-out from the country would leave a void that would be filled with thousands of fundamental terrorists. What the U.S. government could do, the paper suggested, is agree to increase international participation in establishing Iraq’s autonomy. A multi-national peace force would help stabilize the country better than the coalition force because it’s plagued by anti-American feelings in the country, the paper prophesized.

Iraq might not have weapons of mass destruction, but Afghanistan does, argued The Guardian following Monday’s release of Afghanistan’s draft constitution. "It’s not a vile of liquid or nuclear devices. It’s a naturally grown weapon: opium," the British daily reported. The paper estimated the trade to be worth 2.5 billion dollars annually and said the money feeds the regional warlords and militias who pose a serious threat to a successful transition to democracy. The paper expressed its dismay that the United States and NATO have reportedly declined to take on the drug issue. Paradoxically, the paper pointed out, the opium trade, which feeds addicts in Europe, was almost eradicated by the demonized Taliban government. However, since the U.S.-led forces toppled the regime, Afghan opium has again become big business.

The Financial Times expressed similar concerns that the United States and it’s allies are not doing enough to stop Afghanistan from becoming a failed state nearly two years after they intervened to topple the Taliban. The paper noted, the calls coming from international leaders to increase and expand the security force beyond the capital Kabul are basically falling on deaf ears. The country’s regional warlords barely co-operate with President Hamid Karzai and are financed by a bumper crop of opium which gives them a vested interest in lawlessness, the paper lamented.

Moscow’s Iswestija referred to the Yukos affair is being no where near finished. In a new twist, the head of the oil company, Michael Chordowkowski -- who is currently in jail -- has resigned to concentrate on promoting democracy in the country. But as far as the chief prosecutor is concerned, the paper wrote, his interests won’t change his criminal charges which range from fraud to tax evasion. Even though he stepped down, Chordowkowski still owns a large part of shares in the country’s largest oil company which is why the paper was convinced the conflict between the state and the oil giant will continue.