- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Japan Times

Real leadership for Europe

TOKYO — As European governments wrestle with the problems of an enlarged European Union, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are no easy answers. Despite nearly two years of preparation, a constitutional convention ended in stalemate last year. Last week, “the big three” — Germany, France and Britain — tried to provide some direction for the future and only raised concerns about leadership and the possibility of dividing the union. Fears of a two-speed Europe are understandable, but a failure to streamline decision-making will ensure that the EU does not move at all. Real leadership must be earned: Europe’s big three have a long way to go.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met last week in Berlin to find common ground for cooperation on economic policy. They have good reasons to coordinate. Four years ago in Lisbon, EU leaders agreed to turn the union into the world’s leading economic area by 2010.

Yet today, per capita productivity is still about 20 percent lower in Europe than in the United States. Economies throughout the region are lagging; unemployment in both Germany and France tops 9 percent. The statement released following their conclave noted that “the stark reality today is that unless urgent action is taken by all member states to secure a significant improvement in the rate of employment growth, Europe will fail to meet the targets.”

Coordination on the part of Berlin, Paris and London makes sense. Those three governments represent nearly half the population of the union and account for more than half its wealth. The Franco-German axis has traditionally been the motor of European integration. …

Even without the unity that tends to alarm their European partners, increasing coordination among the three governments is vital to Europe’s future. The big three may not be able to direct Europe, but Europe will certainly remain directionless if they fail to close ranks.

Moscow Times

Defending Soldiers, Not Wars

MOSCOW — On Monday the nation marked a holiday dedicated to the defenders of the fatherland. Regardless of nationality, anyone living in Russia today would do well to reflect on the enormous sacrifice that a generation of Soviet citizens made in repelling an attack of unprecedented barbarity. Russia’s World War II veterans rightfully deserve the gratitude of the country.

And veterans of all wars merit the financial and moral support of the governments that sent them into harm’s way. Sadly this is not the case, neither in [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, nor in [President George W.] Bush’s America. The militarization of the two countries is hard to overlook. …

The pageantry of the weekend’s televised military song-and-dance extravaganzas belies the [Russian] army’s sorry state. The images were a frivolous distraction from reality: the guerrilla war in Chechnya; the navy’s inability to fire missiles during an exercise last week; or the conscript who froze to death… .

Colossal incompetence and a shocking disregard for the well-being of ordinary soldiers are the flip side of Russia’s proud military tradition. …

With the notable exception of the Soviet Union’s heroic fight against the Nazis, there is little glory to be found in the Red Army’s record of armed intervention in Finland, Poland, the Baltics, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. …

The old Soviet guard sees a NATO noose closing around Russia’s neck. More pragmatic Kremlin strategists understand that the East-West conflict is a thing of the past. Like the reformed cold warriors in the White House, they have found the perfect new enemy: terrorists. A never-ending fight against terrorism justifies any military adventure.

Governments will always claim that their soldiers are defending the fatherland. But as soldiers in Chechnya and Iraq are discovering themselves, “defense” is often code for wars of questionable justification. Just ask a veteran of Afghanistan or Vietnam.

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