11:41 GMT +3 hours23 November 2014
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Analysis & Opinion

The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

Analysis & Opinion
(updated 18:23 28.10.2014)
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ESTONIA

The media are concerned over noticeable chilling of relations between Russia and the United States. They are pointing to the trend of the Russian society to divide the world into "friends" and "foes." The democratic West is usually implied in the latter category. "U.S. experts have come to the conclusion that relations between the two countries are deteriorating with amazing speed, and will reach a critical level in 2008, a year of presidential elections for both countries... It is becoming increasingly obvious that both Moscow and Beijing had smarter policies than Washington, and managed to score points in the global game. On the one hand, this is a good thing, but on the other, the Yankees will have to find a way out of the deadlock. When searching for a way out, the U.S. sometimes does not leave the doors in place." (Parnu Postimees, June 21.)

The press sees Russia's intention to concentrate on energy supplies at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg as its desire to meet its geopolitical and economic interests rather than concern about global security. "During the polar days the summit participants may quickly forget how scared Europe was when in January Russia shut down gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova for a couple of days. Some other European countries also received less gas. But their slight shivering from cold was a minor inconvenience compared to what happened with frozen Georgia, when two gas pipelines exploded for unknown reasons... For Russia energy security is an opportunity to quickly find a customer for its commodities anytime. It also means Europe's inability to strike an agreement with the U.S., which is trying to obviate Russia by redirecting supplies from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. But, first and foremost, this is the confidence that together with natural resources, Russia should establish its control over a no less important resource - gas pipelines. For Moscow, energy security also means a bigger share of supplies to Europe." (Erileht, June 21.)

LATVIA

The media comment on a statement by Alexander Ryazanov, Gazprom Board Deputy Chairman, about the company's decision to introduce market prices on gas for everyone. Some publications see it as part of Russia's preparations for the G8 summit. "Experts agree that by making this statement, the executive of the Russian gas monopolist officially sealed the existing practice for the first time, pursuing propaganda goals on the eve of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg." (Dienas bizness, June 21.)

The Russian-language press describes as positive Gazprom's readiness to adjust its prices in view of Russia's payments for gas transit to Europe.

"Some news is good. The head of Gazprom emphasized that in fixing prices the company will consider Russia's payments for gas transit to Europe... Sandra Adamsone, head of PR at Latvijas gaze, ... observed that for Latvia gas would not be as expensive as for Germany or Ukraine (230 USD for 1,000 cubic meters), because we are closer... Latvijas gaze Press Secretary Vincent Makaris said that 180 USD for 1,000 cubic meters would be a more or less acceptable market price for 2007. (Telegraf, June 22.)

LITHUANIA

On the eve of the July summit the Lithuanian press abounds in publications about Russia's relations with the West. "Poor thing, this oil-rich Russia! It is going out of its way to make the G8 elite take it seriously. President Vladimir Putin has come up with an ambitious agenda for the July summit in St. Petersburg. He is going to lead intellectual debates on an alien infectious disease (avian flu), and on energy security - so that nobody falls asleep during his speech. So, what has Putin received for his efforts? Not much. Dick Cheney, with the obvious approval of his boss, recently accused Russia of sliding down to its image of the evil empire. In reply, Putin likened the U.S. to Comrade Wolf, ready to jump down the throat of anyone who will lose for a second his instinct of self-preservation. The future meeting between Vladimir Putin and George Bush is being expected with increasing strain. (Veidas, June 21.)

The media are ironic about the appointment by Vladimir Putin of former Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to the position of the Minister of Justice. "The Tsar is not obliged to explain his decrees - this is how Russian experts mockingly described the strange end of the political drama... Vladimir Ustinov and Yury Chaika switched their seats, while the political drama acquired the features of a comedy, if not an outright farce... But with this step the Russian leader has deprived Ustinov of real power. As Minister of Justice, he will no longer be able to support some Kremlin clans as he did in the post of Prosecutor-General." (Lietuvos rytas, June 26).

UKRAINE

The media are predicting that Kiev-Moscow dialog will primarily determine the implementation of any foreign or home policy scenario. "The government is doomed to be responsible for Ukraine's economic collapse. She (Yulia Tymoshenko) will hold out only if she comes to terms with Moscow, and agrees to unheard-of concessions." (Oligarkh.net, June 22.)

A new round of gas talks with Russia will become the main challenge for the new cabinet. The press writes that the events of the winter 2005-06 are likely to be repeated, because the Kremlin has not lost its levers of exerting pressure on Ukraine, while Kiev is limited in the choice of retaliation, and may again resort to transit blackmail and siphoning gas. In this case Kiev's defeat in a gas war with Moscow is practically inevitable, and will be followed by the cabinet's resignation. "The gas mine is the main threat for the future Prime Minister. The opponents of the current authorities may exploit Gazprom's new prices. Hardly anyone will be surprised if thousands of people in East Ukraine go into the streets to demand resignation of the feeble cabinet. The pipe and underground gas depots will be the only bargaining chips of the new head of government in the talks with Moscow... Might makes right, and it may happen that the Ukrainian government will have nothing else to do but nominate the day for its resignation." (Vlast deneg, June 23.)

MOLDOVA

The press writes that having decided to raise gas prices for Moldova to $160 per 1,000 cubic meters, Moscow has lost an important lever of pressure. Commentators are urging Moldova to get rid of its vassal mentality, and retaliate against Russia. "Moscow is punishing us for our independence, which means that it does not want us to be free, that our sovereignty is a pain in the neck for it...Rather than scare us, gas prices should mobilize us to overcome hostility, blackmail, and the embargo. There really is no such thing as a free lunch." (Flux, June 27.)

"Deputies and officials, who do not speak the state language, should lose their seats; all Slavic universities should be shut down; the streets bearing the names of Russian marshals should be renamed; and the distribution of Russian press limited in Moldova... There are plenty of things -- since 1812 and up to this day - that require clarification; Russia has many debts. Is Voronin ready to demand that the Russians pay them?" (Timpul de diminatse, June 27.)

ARMENIA

Armenian analysts believe that racist attitudes are running high in Russia. "The Russians are no longer able to conceal all acts of violence and murders in respect of non-Slavs in this 'mighty' country. A total of 386 attacks, including 31 deaths, have been registered this year alone. Russia's attitude to aliens is akin to that in the U.S. in the 19th century, when blacks were killed just because of their skin color. It is to be hoped that Russia will eventually see the times of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King." (168 zham, June 21.)

GEORGIA

Local analysts suppose that the confrontation between the West and Russia may bring about the elimination of G8, and trigger off the collapse of the CIS. "The summit in St. Petersburg will lead to the formal liquidation of the club as such. It may be replaced with a revived Group of Seven, or Four, or Three, or an entirely new organization. For Russia it will be merely of theoretical significance, because there will be no room for it in the new club... The disintegration of the CIS will start in parallel. The Georgian parliament does not conceal that it is discussing a possibility of quitting the CIS, and the withdrawal of peacemakers in one and the same context, that these issues will be resolved after Mikhail Saakashvili's visit to Washington... In Washington, Bush and Saakashvili are planning to stage a sort of conspiracy against the Russian President - George Bush will act at the G8 level, and Mikhail Saakashvili, in the CIS." (Kviris kKhronika, June 26-July 2.)

AZERBAIJAN

The opposition media are writing that faced with the threat of the South Caucasus getting completely out of hand, the Kremlin has been trying to fan ethnic and religious strife in the region. "Russia is not strong enough to resist Western, primarily American, penetration of the South Caucasus. This is why it has to resort to other methods. It seems that Russia has already devised a truly devilish tactics of barring Americans from the CIS by turning 'unruly' regions into seats of religious confrontation." (Zerkalo, June 22.)

The press attributes Turkmenistan's decision to double its price for natural gas starting with the latter half of 2006, to Russia's intrigues aimed at destroying Ukraine's economy and subjecting it to political pressure. "Judging by all, Moscow is seriously planning to 'adjust' the political situation in Ukraine by launching another round of the gas war. There are reasons to believe that this time Saparmurat Niyazov has decided to follow Russia's recent example... Moreover, back in the 1990s Turkmenistan became a 'gas slave.' It does not have its own pipe for export, and has to sell its gas to Gazprom directly from the wells... Seriously strained relations with the West do not allow Turkmenbashi to make abrupt moves against Moscow. It means that if he is not persuaded to reduce the price of gas, this has been the plan (of the Kremlin) from the very start." (Echo, June 21.)

KAZAKHSTAN

Analysts are denouncing the results of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit for lack of breakthroughs in regional integration. They explain slow rates of integration by different interests of the participants in the SCO, and, particularly, by contradictions between Moscow and Beijing. It is believed that Russia wants to give priority to military cooperation in the SCO. "Maybe, the members of the Organization of Collective Security Treaty, including Russia, cannot cope with the terrorist threat on their territory, and want to ask China for help, if need be? The latter is not very enthusiastic about the SCO turning into a military bloc." (Gazeta.kz, June 21.)

The press is also writing about Sino-Russian contradictions on the distribution of funds within the SCO. One example is the lack of clarity on a soft loan of $900 million to China. "The loan was designed for China's economic expansion in Central Asia. Naturally, Russia is not interested in this... It is still unclear what has happened with $900 million. The more vague moments the SCO has, the more it will be bogged down in the quagmire of empty political declarations and mythical joint projects." (Gazeta.kz, June 21.)

KYRGYZSTAN

The press has given extensive coverage to the visit of the Moscow City Government delegation, headed by Yury Luzhkov, into the republic. Some media write that Russia is interested in cooperation, and advise Bishkek to avail itself of the Kremlin's ambitions. "One gets the impression that only the Russian side is interested in cooperation... It is no coincidence that more than a dozen major investment projects of 2000 have remained on paper... Russia wants to be back to Central Asia, and is ready to build and use modern technologies there... Russia is ready to invest in order to gain influence in Central Asia." (Kyrgyz Press, June 21.)

UZBEKISTAN

In discussing the SCO jubilee summit, the media are concentrating on the reasons for Russia's reluctance to precipitate Iran's admission into the organization. One explanation is Russia's desire to have a good political situation on the eve of the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg. "Russia wanted to lay the foundation for the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg. On the one hand, it did not want Iran to become a fully-fledged member too fast in order to avoid aggravation with the U.S. On the other, it tried to reach at least some preliminary agreement with Ahmadinejad on united tariff policy in the export of energy carriers." (TRIBUNE-uz, June 22.)

TAJIKISTAN

The media are worried about the development of the military-political leg of the SCO, and point to different positions of its members on this score. "It (the SCO) has every chance to become a military-political organization in order to counter the West's growing influence in the region. But there are some details. Some SCO countries have good relations with the West, while those of others are less clear-cut. If the West exploits these differences, the SCO is not likely to become a NATO opponent." (Asia-Plus, June 22.)

The press is closely following the developments around Iran. "Russia understands that if it loses Iran, it will lose not only the Middle East, but also the entire Islamic world. In this case it will never be able to come back there, just as now it cannot return to Afghanistan, Iraq, or Eastern European countries. Therefore, this time Russia will be adamantly opposed to Washington's venture against Iran." (Vecherny Dushanbe, June 23.)