BOB GARFIELD: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. Europe and the rest of the world have now had some time to react to last week's NATO summit in Prague where the alliance welcomed seven new members. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Rumania, Slovakia and Slovenia were invited to join the alliance in two years. Martin Walker is chief international correspondent for UPI. He's been tracking reactions to the Bush appearance at the summit, and he joins us now with a report. Martin, after long last, welcome back to the show!
MARTIN WALKER: Nice to be back on the air with you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So what do you think? Bush won what he wanted at NATO, right?
MARTIN WALKER: Well certainly that's what the conservative European newspapers are saying. The, the Times of Britain and the Telegraph of Britain were both talking about Bush's diplomatic triumph. Simia [sp?] of, of Slovakia wrote an editorial in which they said that we, we find that once again, when the United States takes a firm position and sets a firm lead, the rest of the allies will follow along. And although the liberal European newspapers seem to agree that this was a diplomatic success for President Bush, many of them said a success -- but. For example, the Guardian of Britain said in an editorial: "By enlisting in the Pentagon's foreign legion, European NATO allies will now march to Washington's latest political tune. By imposing streamlined U.S. command, there'll be no repeat of the Kosovo war by committee. By defining required capability and burden-sharing, Europe will both pay more and increasingly be locked into acquiring U.S.-made materiel and weapons systems." "By co-opting NATO coalitions of the willing, accusations of American imperialism will in theory be harder to sustain. But a green light in Prague is going to be seen as a political endorsement of President Bush's aggressive global security strategy."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Martin, I'm curious -- how does this view of NATO as an American proxy differ from how NATO's been viewed in the past? Is this more of the same or is there some advance here that I'm not picking up?
MARTIN WALKER: Well I think the advance is, is one that was spelled out by the, the Daily Telegraph in, in London which said that this is a "clear attempt by Washington to trump Europe's effort to create its own European Union force of 60,000 men. What we're seeing here is a clear American lesson: either the Europeans remedy their operational deficiencies, or the alliance will become irrelevant, because quite simply, the Americans no longer really need the Europeans."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:And if the Europeans feel that way, I would imagine that the Russians would feel much the worse, since NATO has now expanded to the very edges of the former Soviet Union.
MARTIN WALKER: Again, it depends on your political point of view. Writing in Moskovskii komsomolets, Mel Austerua [sp?] whom many of us remember as a, a very loyal Communist commentator back in the old days is now saying that Russia has no choice but to become an ally of this American-led world.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Moskovskii komsomolets has been traditionally a liberal paper, so that can't be a unanimous verdict in Russia.
MARTIN WALKER: It absolutely isn't, and in fact there are some very, very hostile statements, for example one that was printed in Spain's El Pais came from the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, General Uri Balayavski [sp?] who said that, I quote, "In my view NATO is now so big it's become impossible to govern. Expansion will only make this worse. The measures NATO is supposed to be taking to combat international terrorism simply do not respond to the real threat."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Let's turn now to the Arab press. They've had some time now to react to what seems to have been an American media blitz -- the war for hearts and minds that we've talked about. It doesn't seem to be going very well.
MARTIN WALKER: No. In fact this 15 million dollars the, the State Department's new propaganda office being run by under-secretary of state Charlotte Beers to produce advertisements in the press and TV -- TV clips, video clips of, of happy American Muslims is, is getting pretty much thumbs-down throughout the Islamic world. Morocco's Demain Magazine says "The U.S. government invested 15, or rather wasted, 15 million dollars to publicize the joy of American Muslims who live in the USA to better the image of America in the Islamic world. The money has all been wasted. But if the Americans want us to love them, they need to start being fair in the Middle East and impose some legitimacy on their Israeli ally. All Arabs know the military hardware used against the Palestinians is made and paid for by the U.S." Alhayat, which is a London-based paper and one of the outstanding Arab newspapers says, I quote, "The U.S. media campaign to improve its image so far has been a complete failure, because it depends upon political propaganda which is connected in the minds of the people as a means to protect lies and to twist the facts. The Americans, who do have arguments to make, have done themselves no favors with this particular campaign." In Tunisia's Le Quotidien, which is normally a very pro-Western paper, says of the campaign "This is so funny. The Americans seem to think that they can polish their image with just a tiny little cloth, and that's all that's needed. In fact if the Americans want to improve their image, they really should work at giving the United Nations its role as a guarantor of international law. They should stop using as an alibi the struggle against terrorism in order to interfere in other countries' sovereignty."
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, once again, Martin -- a thorough and fascinating job. Thank you very much.
MARTIN WALKER: My pleasure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Martin Walker is chief correspondent for UPI. [MUSIC]