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German Press Review: Is Chechnya an International Problem?

Russian reactions to the hostage-taking in Beslan was still of concern to German newspapers on Thursday. They also commented on Berlin's budget proposals.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily pointed out that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had not promised Russia his unreserved support, as he did with the United States

three years ago. But the paper commented that this was precisely what Schröder was giving to President Putin. Three years ago America wasn’t fighting a nasty war, it remarked; whereas Russia had been fighting one in Chechnya for years. As a result, it wrote, the situation there was more hopeless than ever -- and the terrorists were exploiting that.

The Nürnberger Zeitung newspaper picked up on the announcement by Russian officials that Moscow intended to carry out preventative strikes against terrorist bases worldwide. If Moscow really intended to go through with this, it remarked, the United States would also come into its sights. Not only are Chechen separatists based there, but the American government met with them on a regular basis as well. The paper then advised Putin to follow this example rather than continue to ratchet up the violence.

The Frankfurter Neue Presse, however, found it harder to agree. It opined that you couldn’t, of course, negotiate with terrorists -- but on the other hand, it said, signals for a political future for Chechnya would make it harder for terrorists to find recruits. The paper concluded that Putin should combine both strategies: a firm hand, and the political approach. In the fight against terror, it wrote, the only winners would be hawks who could speak, and doves who could fight, concluded the paper.

Die Welt wrote that Russia had every right to claim support in the fight against Islamist terrorism but it qualified this by saying that such solidarity should not be misused to fulfil post-Soviet superpower ambitions. A Russian world policeman was the last thing our planet needed, the paper commented.

Analysis of the budget debate in the German parliament focused on the confrontation between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and opposition leader Angela Merkel over the government’s unpopular social welfare reforms. The Augsburger Allgemeine thought that their aggressive attacks barely managed to conceal the deep insecurity of both Schröder and his potential challenger. Both had only the partial backing of their own parties with regard to implementing the reforms, the paper wrote. It saw in their mutual criticisms an urgent appeal to their own rank and file for unity.

For the first time in ages, politics had again become a visible process, the Kölnische Rundschau wrote. This wasn’t the case in the final leaden years of the Kohl era, it commented, nor in Schröder’s clumsy first period in office.

The Nordbayerischer Kurier’s editorial writer took refuge in the land of fantasy. “What if Merkel and Schröder had surprised the populists on the extreme left and right by launching a joint offensive against them?” the paper wondered. What if they’d made a joint declaration to say that, yes, they disagreed on many things, but they both believed the labour market reforms were necessary and would bring about a change for the better? But “no”, the paper wrote: instead they just carried on with the usual small-minded squabbling which ordinary people have got so heartily sick of.

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