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Updated: 08-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

8 March 2004

  • U.S. expects Taliban offensive but plays down threat
  • Report: Rumsfeld wants U.S. soldiers off PRTs


  • Russia: NATO bases in Baltics would be “incomprehensible”
  • Foreign Minister Fischer proposes new transatlantic relationship


  • Iraqis receive new constitution


  • Greeks end Socialist rule


  • According to Reuters, the U.S. military said Monday a series of deadly attacks on Afghanistan aid workers and foreigners in recent weeks could signal the beginning of a new spring offensive by remnants of the Taliban. However, it played down the threat posed by Islamic militants bent on disrupting reconstruction and assistance in the country. The dispatch quotes a U.S. military spokesman saying: “We do believe that there will be isolated violence directed against Afghan people on the road to the election this summer. They do not represent a concerted threat against the elections…. There cannot be perfect security in the world, but we are working hard and we have the majority of our forces where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are.”

  • On a Feb. 26 visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld made no secret of his desire to get U.S. troops out of PRTs as quickly as is feasible, says the March 15 edition of Army Times. The article notes that the long-term plan is to turn over control of as many teams as possible to NATO and other non-U.S. forces.


In an interview with Paris’ Le Figaro, March 6, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov stressed that Russia would not understand NATO’s installing bases in the Baltics. “The threats are now linked to terrorism and to the key problem of nuclear proliferation. Russia no longer threatens anyone. This is why nobody in Russia could understand enlargement being accompanied by the establishment of NATO bases in the Baltic countries,” Ivanov was quoted saying and adding: “The threat is the Near East. Therefore we could, at most, understand bases being established in Bulgaria or Romania or along the route of possible terrorists, but it is incomprehensible in Poland or the Baltic countries.”

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 6, Foreign Minister Fischer proposed rebuilding the Western Alliance to establish new transatlantic relations able to cope with the new challenges posed by the end of the Cold War and the dangers of international terrorism.
Fischer was quoted saying: “We do not have to rebuild everything totally from scratch, but use an impetus emanating from the process of European unity, and the positive shaping of globalization. A new importance accrues in this respect to the Near and Middle East…. What is required is a new transatlanticism, taking on board both the changes in Europe and the new strategic situation regarding threats. This is linked to the idea of modernizing the Middle East.” According to the article, Fischer suggested that the U.S. Greater Middle East Initiative could be an opportunity for a renewed transatlantic partnership in the 21st century.


  • All media report the 25 members of Iraq’s governing Council unanimously approved a landmark interim constitution Monday. AP notes that the interim constitution is a key part of U.S. plans to hand power to the Iraqis on June 30. In a similar vein, CNN observed that the temporary constitution—also known as the Transitional Administration Law—sets out the framework for how Iraq will be governed after the U.S.-led coalition ends the occupation on June 30 and before a new government is chosen by national elections, supposedly by early 2005.


  • Reuters reports that Costas Karamanlis led his New Democracy Party to a sweeping victory in Sunday’s general election in Greece. The dispatch adds that Karamanlis immediately met the chief organizer of the Athens Olympics to plot strategy to get stalled work up to speed on the August Games. “We must make the best efforts so the Olympic Games are the best and safest ever held,” he reportedly told cheering supporters. Karamanlis takes power just five months before the Olympics, the dispatch notes. It adds that Greece also faces a major foreign policy challenge in brokering a deal with Turkey to help reunite Greek and Turkish Cypriots before the island joins the EU in May.


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