The Bigger Picture
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Sara Stanley

House votes to expand military ties to Taiwan

On Feb. 1 the House of Representatives approved the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act by an overwhelming vote of 341 to 70. The bill calls for the US to establish direct military

connections between Washington and Taipei, expand American training of Taiwan’s military officers and conduct an annual review on threats to Taiwan’s security. The bill is more symbolic than substantive yet it could aggravate regional tensions and jeopardize a landmark trade agreement.

The move towards formal military relations could have damaging diplomatic consequences with China. Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a renegade province since the defeated Chinese Nationalists fled there in 1949. China has not renounced the use of force to achieve eventual reunification. Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority whip, chose this bill for floor consideration precisely because it would challenge China.

The bill comes at a poor time as American officials have been attempting to mend relations with China after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia last May. If enacted, the bill would upset Washington’s deliberately ambiguous “One China” policy, which treats Taiwan as a part of China and recognizes Beijing as China’s capital, but also allows the U.S. to provide Taiwan with defensive weaponry. Most importantly, critics of the bill fear the measure could imperil the vote on China’s trade benefits, a step American and Chinese negotiators agreed to last November that cleared the way for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. This considered, President Clinton’s national security aides have still advised him to veto the measure if Congress approves it.

Chechen rebels retreat from Grozny

Chechen rebels have pulled out of the capital city of Grozny and headed for the mountains and countryside where they will continue their fight against Russian troops. There has been a reversal of roles as rebels claim to have been hit hard by the loss of several key leaders, including the mayor of Grozny, but Russian military leaders are suspicious that it is a trick to entice them to let their guard down. This symbolic victory for Russia marks the beginning of a critical phase of the four-month war. The Russians succeeded in taking Grozny before its goal of March 26 when the Russian presidential elections will take place.

With the tentative cease-fire in Grozny, it is becoming apparent that the city has been devastated by the war. The infrastructure has been shattered, water and power supplies are nonexistent, and thousands of homes have been completely destroyed. Refugees suffer from a lack of food amidst the destruction.

Austria’s new coalition causes stir in Europe

On Feb. 1 the Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party of Jorg Haider announced that they would become part of the democratically elected Austrian government, despite threats from Europe and the US. There is much controversy over the validity of Jorg Haider and his party’s claim to office. The Freedom Party won 27 percent of the vote in a free and open election. Many Austrians are outraged by the presence of Haider’s party in the government, when only one in four Austrians voted for him. Haider and his party have been condemned as xenophobic and extremist for their platform which is based on curbing immigration into Austria, to stop what Haider calls “over-foreignization.” Haider himself was quoted making statements that downplayed the crimes of the Nazis, though he claims his party has no sympathy for totalitarian regimes.

The European Union (EU) has had a strong reaction to positions taken by Haider’s Party. The EU announced that their bilateral relations with any government integrating Haider’s party would be compromised. The European Union does not want to allow an extreme right-wing, intolerant

and anti-immigration party to take root at a time when the region is permeated with fears that a rightward shift on the continent could take place, driven by aging populations and high unemployment. The Christian Democratic Union scandal in Germany, for example, has thrown the nation into disarray and prompted fears that voters will migrate to rightist parties. Germany’s fears are based on history and their first-hand experience with the horrors that can be ushered in by democracy.

Many analysts find that the European Union’s blunt interference on a member country’s national politics on essentially moral grounds amounted to a radical departure, suggestive of an embryonic European government. After implementing the euro, Europe has awakened to its political, military and moral identity. This monetary unit removed the sovereignty of member states, and Dominiqe Moisi, a French foreign policy expert, believes it is reducing the sovereignty of political states.

Some pundits are disturbed by the prospect of big countries joining together to try to dictate the results of a free and open election. The moral justification for the European Union seems to be based on the notion that it is a big international club and can control who has earned membership. It is less clear what premise the US is using. Austrians are indignant that other nations wold dare dictate whom they could elect. Moreover, Austrians feel that the foreign media whips up the specter of Nazism in its coverage of Haider, whose appeal, they say, is more complex. Die Presse, a Vienna daily, opined that it is easier to rail against fascism than inform oneselves. Austrians are also quick to point out that European countries have had full diplomatic relations with Stalinist, Maoist and fundamentalist dictatorships, including Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Augusto Pinochet’s Chile.

Gore and McCain come out on top in New Hampshire primary

Vice President Al Gore held off a strong challenge by former senator Bill Bradley while Arizona senator McCain swept Texas governor George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 1. With 83 percent of the vote counted, McCain had 49 percent to Bush’s 31 percent, while Gore’s 52 percent barely ousted Bradley’s 48 percent. The upcoming month of March is critical as more than half of the party’s convention delegates will be elected on the first and second

Tuesdays. Both Democrats will use rest of February to fundraise. The Republican race moves to Delaware, South Carolina, Michigan and then Arizona. Bush has been widely viewed as the clear front-runner with financial advantages as well as endorsements from many elected Republicans. It was McCain’s reputation as a man of unshakable convictions, however, that brought him victory in New Hampshire. It is yet to be seen if his reputation can earn votes in the South.

Self-rule threatened in Ireland unless IRA disarms

Britain, Ireland and the United States have struggled this past week to preserve the power sharing government in Belfast after the leader of that two-month-old government said that a shut-down had become inevitable. At a news conference with somber party members flanking him in the Stormont Parliament Building in Belfast, David Trimble, the First Minister of the Northern Ireland assembly, said that he expected Britain to suspend self-government in Northern Ireland. London may then reimpose the direct rule that it relinquished only two months ago.

The crisis developed when the Irish Republican Army signaled its unwillingness to begin disarming. Supervisors of the disarmament process cite no evidence that the I.R.A. had made any move to begin scrapping its arsenal. The I.R.A. has long considered disarming a gesture of surrender, and has issued a statement in Belfast tonight that made no mention of arms turnover but pledged its belief in a “permanent peace.”

In November, Trimblc took a gamble in convincing his party to enter government with Sinn Fern. the political representatives of the I.R.A., though there had been no turnover of paramilitary arms. To persuade his party members to go against what had been a bedrock conviction, he promised that he would resign his position as First Minister of the Assembly in February if there were no matching I.R.A. move by that time. The leading contenders to succeed him as party leader are opponents or only mild enthusiasts of the peace settlement. They would be less willing partners in the pursuit of a peace based in balancing power between the rival Catholic and Protestant panics.

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