The main event of the week was the scandal around Estonian Education Minister Mailis Reps' interview broadcast by the Rossiya TV channel, where she praised the education system in the Russian republic of Mari El. "The Estonian education minister is either stupid or so afraid of Russia because of the agreement signed by the Russian party of power [on cooperation between the Centrist Party of Estonia and United Russia] that she thinks it necessary to approve even of the repression of the Mari." (Delfi, August 18.)
The Moscow Human Rights Bureau's research titled "Racism, xenophobia, ethnic discrimination and anti-Semitism in Russia" provided another occasion for anti-Russian propaganda. "After Vladimir Putin came to power, xenophobic sentiments in Russia have mounted." (Eesti Paevaleht, August 17.)
The press suggests that the Kremlin will use Estonian nationalists to prevent the "orange revolution" scenario in Russia. "The authorities' lenient attitudes towards radical groups can be viewed as an intention to use them in their own purposes. Scaring people with the "brown plague," the ruling elite, which is afraid of "orange revolutions," can ensure its future: look what may happen if you don't elect us." (SL Ohtuleht, August 17.)
Another anniversary of the Russian default gave rise to the discussions about the possibility that the events of 1998 may repeat. "There is a danger that the significant amount of money accrued in the Stabilization Fund will get out of control and being pouring into the economy. And stagnation will ensue." (Delfi, August 18.)
Commenting on Gazprom's deal to buy into Sibneft, the Estonian press publishes the opinion of British analysts. "After selling Sibneft at a knockdown price under Boris Yeltsin, the Kremlin is buying it back for enormous money under Vladimir Putin. As a result, Roman Abramovich will get rich and Russia will lose money that could be used to finance schools and hospitals." (Delfi, August 23.)
The anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact contributed to the rise of revanchist sentiments in the national press. "The Latvian government should demand a compensation from Russia for people who due to slave labor became disabled or got incurable diseases." (Latvijas Avize, August 23.)
Russian-language papers in their turn give arguments to prove that these financial claims are groundless. "Russian 'occupants' did not bring anything valuable out of the country; moreover, they invested in Latvia more actively than in their own economy." (Biznez I Baltija, August 18.)
The aggravation of Russian-Polish relations and the creation of a new alliance, the Commonwealth of Democratic Choice, by Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Georgia, provided an occasion to forecast that the belt of countries feeling hostile towards Russia would be growing. "Radicalization of Poland's anti-Russian policy helped Washington create a belt of states totally hostile towards Russia separating it from the EU. There is information that Finland can also be included in it. If the Christian Democratic Union wins the elections in Germany and Angela Merkel becomes Chancellor, the US positions in Europe can be considered secured for at least five years." (Vesti-Segodnya, August 19.)
"The union of Ukraine, Poland, Georgia and Lithuania (and in the future possibly of Moldova, Latvia and Estonia) actually isolates Russia from its main trading partner, the European Union. The countries of CDC will decide how much charge Moscow for transit of Russian gas, oil and other commodities." (Telegraf, August 22.)
There is negative response to the statement of an anonymous representative of the Russian president's administration that economic sanctions can be used against Latvia. "This shows attitudes not only towards Latvia, but also towards the EU. Because any sanctions against our country will immediately affect the entire Union." (Telegraf, August 19.)
The Crimea summit of the presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Georgia was not anti-Russian and focused on the "Belarussian issue," mass media maintain. "Our common endeavor is not directed against Russia. We do have to look for a compromise without abandoning out principles. The conflict with Belarus should be resumed in the same way." (Verslo Zinios, August 22.)
The press once again discusses that Lithuania is being ignored by Russia's supreme leadership. "During the 15 years of independence Lithuania has been visited by leaders of almost all large countries, sometimes more than once. However, the leader of our closest neighbor, Russia, has never been to this country." (Kauno Diena, August 22.)
The Crimea summit of the presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Georgia was another step to set up an anti-Russian Baltic-Caspian-Black Sea coalition, the press believes. "The initiative of the Ukrainian and Georgian presidents about setting up an 'alternative CIS without Russia' is being carried out. The new structure is shaping in the form of a "sanitary corridor" dangerous for Moscow." (ProUA, August 19.)
There is a huge response to Ukrainian Economics Minister Sergei Terekhin's statement that the country will withdraw from the Common Economic Space (CES). Moscow's inability to reassert itself politically in the project will mount all-round pressure in Kiev from its part. "Russia wants to get Ukraine's clear answer to the question 'are you in the CES or not?' as soon as possible so that then it can close its market for our goods and raise prices of gas and nuclear fuel with clear conscience." (Segodnya, August 22.)
The hasty "correcting" response in the higher echelons of power to Terekhin's statement allowed the press to say that Kiev understands its energy dependence on Moscow and wants to "sit on two chairs," the Russian and European ones. "So far Kiev is not ready to launch a tough dialog with Moscow, which is inevitable if we withdraw from the Common Economic Space." (ProUA, August 22.)
Mass media suggest that the statement was another populist move on the part of Kiev, which tries to blackmail Moscow in order to bargain acceptable terms for joining the economic space. "The CES is an ambiguous project for Ukraine. On the one hand, it offers obvious economic benefits, but on the other Ukraine clearly does not want to make any political commitments." (Korrespondent.net, August 23.)
The press resumes discussions about the possibility of a crisis of power in Russia ahead of the presidential election in 2008. "The steadily deteriorating governance of the country can lead to hardly predictable scenarios. Together with the policy of silencing channels of public feedback, it can finally lead to more explosive consequences, which, however, are unlikely to be democratic or liberal." (Glavred, August 23.)
According to European experts, a decision by the EU temporarily curbing its eastward expansion can be helpful for Russia. "Russia has a chance to use the time wisely and offer its neighbors new projects. But it should refrain from an aggressive and counter-productive attitude towards its 'next door' neighbors." (Moldova Suverana, August 17.)
The media reports that a conference is planned this fall by the democratic countries of the Baltic, Caspian and Black Sea basins. "The primary issue of the 'summit of the democracies' is to inform neighboring countries about the experience of 'orange revolutions.' According to experts, Georgia and Ukraine are supposed to play a vital role in the West's plans to overthrow power in 'non-orange' countries within the CIS, especially in Russia and Kazakhstan." (PRESS-Obozreniye, August 18.)
Still drawing major media attention is the escalating conflict between Russia and Poland. "Assaults on Poles in Moscow are ways in which Putin is attempting to exert pressure on the EU. He wants to show the West that it should not meddle in Russian affairs." (PRESS-Obozreniye, August 18.)
The press reports that the buyout of Sibneft by Gazprom will be the largest merger in Russia. "Putin is tightening his grip over the Russian energy sector by setting up government-controlled companies large enough to compete with Exxon Mobile and BP." (PRESS-Obozreniye, August 18.)
Recent and frequent top level contacts between Armenia and Georgia disclose theories that Mikhail Saakashvili is persuading Robert Kocharyan to turn westward. Experts are trying to predict the Armenian edition of a "velvet revolution." "Armenia with Russian military bases is complicating the West's' plan in the South Caucasus. There is an impression of a battle for the last remaining stronghold of Russian influence in the region. And there is no Armenian Saakashvili. Kocharyan is aware that the West feels more comfortable about turning him into a charismatic leader rather than looking for one among the commonplace or even inadequate archaically-minded leaders of the Armenian opposition." (Aiastani Antapetutun, August 23.)
However, Armenia's President Robert Kocharyan is categorically opposed to this assessment of the situation. "If there are any areas of conflict they ought to be compromised now, and our current relations may be very fruitful in this regard." (Aiastani Antapetutun, August 23.)
Georgian media are stepping up their criticism of the Russian peacekeeping forces. "The military activities of the peacekeeping forces operating in Georgian territory are becoming legally identical to an outright occupation of Georgian lands." (Abkhazia Info, August 19.)
Russia is being viewed unconditionally as guilty in creating conflict between Georgians and Abkhazians. "Russia's only interest in the Caucasus is its desire to prevent the West from coming. Starting a bonfire would be a good thing, and the motive for it is ready since anti-Georgian propaganda that is making Georgians the enemy is progressing very successfully." (Rezonansi, August 19.)
Experts and the journalistic community have a very negative outlook about a possible military solution of the Abkhazia crisis by Georgian authorities. "War should have been waged five years ago. It is impossible now, since everyone in Abhazia is a Russian citizen. All the systems - economic, banking, social - are integrated with Russia. The Russian Constitution states that they shall protect their citizens anywhere on earth. We will have no argument to confront them here." (Sakartvelos Respublika, August 17.)
The media, commenting on Mikhail Saakashvili's recent unofficial visit to Armenia, was actively engaged in discussions about a possible "threat" for Russia if its long-time ally leans toward Georgia. "The only support for Russia in the South Caucasus today is Armenia. If Russia loses its support, it will not be able to impose its policy on the nations of the South Caucasus." (Rezonansi, August 20.)
The reason for an anti-Russian campaign in the media was caused by the mass deportation of Azerbaijani citizens from Kazan. "Those deported said they had been kept in isolation wards and camps for illegal immigrants for three or four months on average. Many of them had been tortured." (Zerkalo, August 18.)
The media has been closely monitoring the relationship between the Russian political establishment with the ruling elite and the opposition. "Pessimism by Russian experts about the prospects of current officials in Azerbaijan testifies to Moscow's increasing concern about the November parliamentary elections. The political circles in Russia are nervously watching the U.S. as it calls for free and fair elections, and are consulting Ilham Aliyev on how to preempt a revolution. Russia has begun worrying about its crushing defeat in Azerbaijan similar to the one it suffered in Ukraine earlier." (Yeni Musavat, August 19.)
Joining the Democratic Choice block is considered by some of the media as contrary to Azerbaijan's interests. "The coalition is obviously anti-Russian... Nowadays the Baltic states are demanding compensation from Russia for 'Soviet occupation' and 'velvety' Georgians and Ukrainians are ready to establish pro-western governments in all the former Soviet states through revolutions without even giving a thought to the balance of powers in foreign policy and are all in the same boat." (Zerkalo, August 19.)
A Russian-Chinese military exercise, codenamed Peace Mission-2005, is demonstrating to the USA and the rest of the world a new military partnership formed as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SOC). China occupies the leading position, while a weakened Russia has to maneuver between China and the United States, the press has noticed about this relationship. "Such a close military cooperation by the two countries cannot but irritate the United States, which is being closely monitoring all the processes taking place in the SOC. However, despite such an active alliance between Moscow and Beijing, it is too early to conclude that the world giants have divided the zones of their interests and influence. China, which can already offer strong competition to Russia in the Asia-Pacific region, has been claiming the leading role in this alliance of late." (Liter.kz., August 18.)
The press is still criticizing the Russian Alliance company, which has so ostentatiously supported Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the preparation of "undeclared presidential elections." "Why should he need mid-term elections? Perhaps, the initiators have learned about the state of his health or desire to resign for personal considerations? Unless politicians stir up trouble in a bid to play the national, or in our case, 'Russian card' to achieve their personal aims, there will always be interethnic accord in Kazakhstan." (Navigator-II, August 18.)
Against the backdrop of the Kyrgyz leaders' cautious position in the solution of the Russia-U.S. dilemma, the issue of a Moscow-Washington rivalry in Central Asia has become especially acute in the media. "The military exercise really looks like a joint action of Russia and China to counteract the unipolar world... Washington prefers to ignore Russia's point of view, therefore for Russia, such a demonstration of force and partnership with China is one of the few opportunities to make the U.S. take its interests into account." (Gazeta.KG, August 18.)
Some media bodies are warning the Kremlin about the need for political responsibility in working out the correct strategy on the eastern flanks of foreign policy. "China's rise to the level of a superpower creates a new situation in the world, first of all, for neighboring countries... If Moscow is building its contacts with the growing eastern giants in order to 'tease' western partners or strengthen its positions during negotiations, it could lose both games." (Gazeta. KG, August 18.)
The media is expressing concern over a potential cooldown in Bishkek's relations with Moscow. "After the amount of U.S. aid promised by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ronald Rumsfeld was made public, the Kyrgyz side suddenly changed its position. However, no one thought that about a million of our co-citizens live and work in Russia, annually sending $350-400 million home, that is, much more than Rumsfeld promised." (Kyrgyz Rukhu, August 23.)
The media is continuing to write about the theory concerning Moscow's wish to secure Beijing's support in counteracting U.S. influence in Central Asia. "Russia's aim is to show to the Americans that another, 'multipolar', or to be more precise, 'bipolar' force can be used against their 'unipolar' force and make Washington conduct a more respectful and equitable dialog with Moscow." (TRIBUNE-uz, August 18.)
Some of the media is warning Russia to be aware of becoming a pawn in the foreign-policy gambles of the U.S. and China. "Central Asia is a geopolitical battlefield now. China needs to fight the battle in order to assert itself as a great power in its struggle with the U.S. .... China is stubbornly trying to make it into Central Asia. China has borrowed from the U.S. the tactic of a creeping occupation of other countries. Russia is playing an auxiliary role for China... Most probably, the Big Game will be played by using economic and political, not military, methods and it is without doubt that China will be the winner in this case." (Musulmansky Uzbekistan, August 22.)
Some media bodies are expressing the hope that Moscow will take a more active role in the democratization of Uzbekistan. "A leader may appear from the emigre movement for a worthy life and legal status in the country of residence and at home may in future become a political party leader and the driving force of the process of radical changes in Uzbekistan... The Uzbek people have long been waiting for a hint from Russia which they still love and trust and see their peaceful future in a strategic alliance and cooperation with it." (Uzland-uz, August 18.)
The press is actively quoting the statement of U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Richard Hoagland. It contains anti-Russian rhetoric, which the Tajik media leave without comment. "The United States believes in people, whereas Russia believes in existing systems. Therefore siloviki are, in every possible way, trying to start a new larger game in the region... Russia is using Tajik emigrants in order to dominate Tajikistan." (Avesta, August 20.)
The media believes that the Georgian-Ukrainian declaration on the creation of a kind of commonwealth of democratic states in the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas will remain just a public statement. "Any organization needs mechanisms, resources and personnel, which are lacking in this case. The statements of Saakashvili and Yushchenko could have an effect only if Russia pays too much attention to this issue and starts actively criticizing them." (Azia-plus, August 18.)
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