What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti) President Putin could visit Iran this year/ Iran is Russia's only ally on the Caspian/ Old World needs no new deterrence policy against Russia - expert/ Aeroflot to buy Boeing and Airbus airliners/ European Commission sides with Lithuania in its oil dispute with Russia


President Putin could visit Iran this year

Russian President Vladimir Putin could make an official visit to Iran before the end of 2007, something Iran has long been waiting for to strengthen its position in its standoff with the West.
Putin has found more than one reason to avoid the visit until now. This time experts say the president could consent to visit Iran at the close of his second term in office.
The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan met in Tehran Wednesday to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The ministers discussed the upcoming preparations for the second summit of the five Caspian littoral states to be held in Tehran. No crucial decisions are planned to be made there.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the five leaders would propose adopting a document stipulating some general regulations for using the Caspian Sea's resources. The date of the Tehran summit would be announced later.
It follows that Putin is now facing his first chance in the past eight years to make an official visit to a country the West has labeled a "rogue state" and "a threat to international security." The Russian Foreign Ministry does not see any obstacles to the visit, and its deputy press spokesman Andrei Krivtsov said Putin would go to Iran if they reach a decision on the Tehran summit.
Russia and Iran regularly mention their friendly bilateral relations, but Putin has never made an official visit to the country. His visit was planned two years ago, and slated for January, then April, but never actually took place.
Middle East expert Arkady Dubnov said the current Tehran talks of the five Caspian states' ministers would pave the way for President Putin to attend the projected summit.
Another expert, Radzhab Safarov of the Center of Modern Iranian Studies in Moscow, echoed his colleague, saying the Caspian summit in Tehran would provide Putin with a good opportunity to visit Iran and preserve his reputation of a moderate politician.


Iran is Russia's only ally on the Caspian

Russia has decided to move discussions on the Caspian issue to the very top, presidential, level.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday the five countries having access to the Caspian Sea (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan) should address two problems: defining the Caspian Sea borders and military operations in the area.
Moscow does not accept the suggestion being promoted by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan that the sea should be divided into national sectors. These countries have unilaterally established sovereignty over "their" sectors.
According to informed sources, dividing the sea into national sectors would seriously affect Russia's fishing industry, because the sector proposed for Russia has limited fish stocks.
The division would also make it easier to lay pipelines along the sea bed from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Europe bypassing Russia.
In addition, the coastal states could agree to the military presence of non-Caspian countries on their territory, which Russia wants to prevent at all costs.
Moscow believes that the weak links in the five Caspian countries are Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which have been moving closer to the West over military issues.
Baku has devised several pretexts to reject Russia's proposal for an agreement preventing foreign warships entering the region and setting up CasFor, a joint naval force of the Caspian Sea countries. At the same time, it favors the U.S.-funded Caspian Guard Initiative, which envisions improving the capabilities of the naval forces of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan, whose policy on the above Russian initiative appears to be a bit more flexible, is promoting the idea of leveling off the coastal countries' armaments. Under that initiative, Russia would have to seriously cut its military weapons in the region.
So Iran appears to be Russia's only ally in the Caspian region. It likes the CasFor idea and does not support plans for building pipelines bypassing Russia. The next Caspian summit will be held in Tehran, where Moscow may have more chances of getting the upper hand in debates with its opponents.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Old World needs no new deterrence policy against Russia - expert

Until 2006, the European Union was steadily moving towards an energy alliance with Russia, writes Alexander Rahr, program director for Russian and CIS affairs at the German Council on Foreign Relations. The situation has dramatically changed in the wake of the so-called energy disputes between Russia and transit countries (Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania) and trade wars with Moldova and Georgia.
The former Soviet satellites, as soon as they joined the European Union and NATO, adopted their own eastern policy. One element of that policy was defending countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova against Russia's imaginary imperial pressure. Warsaw started talking about an energy NATO. When the EU's senior members asked the new Europeans to be more diplomatic when dealing with Russia, Poland, and the Baltic countries lashed out at them, insisting that Europe should align itself with its new members. Today Western Europe agrees with its eastern members on almost all issues. But how far can this alignment go if it provokes new conflicts on the EU's eastern borders in the future?
Poland, Lithuania, and Romania have taken the lead in lobbying for GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) countries to join NATO and the EU. It looks as though the United States is fully behind these two political ambitions. Russia has given its answer to these proposals. At the G8 summit at Heiligendamm, Vladimir Putin invited the West in general and the U.S. in particular, to go back to the idea of a common defense space as part of a joint anti-missile defense shield in Azerbaijan, that is inside GUAM.
A Putin-Bush meeting, scheduled to take place in three weeks' time, should clear up the situation and relieve new tensions in Europe. No one should oppose the diversification of east-west energy transport flows. If GUAM wants to tackle alternative transit routes, it is welcome. The only thing needed is to attract investors. But what Europe does not need is a new deterrent policy against Russia, the so-called peaceful existence in Europe, something beginning to be discussed in the West.


Aeroflot to buy Boeing and Airbus airliners

On June 20, Aeroflot Russian airlines, the largest national carrier, and European aviation giant Airbus signed a contract for the purchase of 22 A-350XWB airliners at the Le Bourget air show.
Under a framework agreement, signed this March, Aeroflot is to receive the planes in 2014-2017 and will operate them in accordance with a financial leasing contract.
Although the Le Bourget contract's terms are unknown, the catalogue price of 22 A-350XWB airliners is about $3.5 billion. A source close to Airbus said the company was ready to sell its planes for unprecedented low prices in early 2006 and that Aeroflot was still entitled to a substantial discount.
Earlier, Aeroflot ordered 22 Boeing B-787 Dreamliners with a catalogue price of $3.3-$4.1 billion. A year ago, when talks between Aeroflot and Boeing were in progress, the leading U.S. aircraft manufacturer offered to deliver the first planes in 2010 with a $10 million discount on each aircraft.
Aeroflot will not receive the first B-787s before 2014-2016 because it took Moscow too long to approve the deal. A source close to Boeing said the discount would remain the same.
On June 20, Aeroflot signed another contract to lease five A-321 medium-haul airliners. Moreover, the Aeroflot board of directors approved the purchase of 10 A-330 long-haul planes in the run-up to the Le Bourget show. An Airbus press release said the planes would be supplied under an operational leasing contract. The catalogue price of the 15 airliners is $1.3 billion.
Aeroflot board member Leonid Dushatin recently said the first A-330s and A-321s would arrive in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
By signing contracts with Boeing and Airbus, Aeroflot risks nothing. Oleg Sudakov, an analyst with Ak Bars Finance brokerage, said the company needed at least 15 planes to renew its air fleet and that the rest could be leased out, if Aeroflot buys Italian carrier Alitalia or Serbia's JAT Airways.

Novye Izvestia

European Commission sides with Lithuania in its oil dispute with Russia

The European Commission plans to straighten the situation out regarding Russia's oil supplies to the Mazeiku nafta oil refinery through the Druzhba pipeline.
Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition, demanded Wednesday that Russian authorities provide Lithuania with in-depth information about the oil pipeline and find a solution acceptable to all.
Russian experts, however, doubt the move will succeed, because the Europeans have no real means of pressuring Russia.
The scandal broke out a year ago, in July 2006, when Russia, following an accident on the pipeline, stopped supplying the Lithuanian refinery. Vilnius dropped poorly veiled hints that the actual reason for the halt was the failure by Russian companies in their bid to buy the plant at auction. Now oil to Lithuania is being delivered by tankers across the Baltic Sea.
In experts' view, the European Commission has no leverage to sway the decision. "Energy matters are the responsibility of national governments, not the Commission," Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for Globalization Studies, said. "Just the request to provide information looks pretty strange. When the gas industry in Europe went through reforms a few years ago, the Russian government tried to obtain information on how successful the reforms had been, but was refused. The EU is a closed organization, and it is somewhat surprising that it demands that others do what it itself never does."
"This is a traditional stance by Europe, which believes that only consumers have any interests, while the seller has only obligations," Anatoly Dmitriyevsky, director of the Institute of Oil and Gas, said.
"The problem of under capacity use is a matter for the refinery itself, and shifting the blame to others won't do," Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the CIS Institute, said. As for possible complications with the signing of a treaty between Russia and the EU, the expert said that both sides are interested in it and the refinery crisis in Lithuania is unlikely to affect the course of the political process.

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