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CIS and Baltic Press on Russia

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Estonia

The media are reporting that Estonia has no interest in aggravating tensions between Russia and the West. "The paradigm of relations between the United States and Russia and generally between the West and Russia will largely depend on their future presidents. It is important for Estonia to be considered an integral part of the West, and not to be sacrificed in the process...A serious confrontation between the West and Russia is not in Estonia's interests. It may turn us into a country on the front line." (Postimees, July 4)

Observers have linked the victory of Sochi's Olympic bid with Vladimir Putin's plan to return to power after 2012. "The Russian authorities have promoted the idea of hosting the Olympics on a national scale...This is a good argument for those Russians who credit President Putin with Russia's rebirth from the ashes." (Postimees, July 5)

"Putin and Russia wanted the Games in order to prove to the West that such a fast developing nation can no longer be ignored...For Putin, it was like a vote of confidence before the eyes of the world. Some people in Moscow are already asking whether Putin will be back as president in 2012 to open the Olympics. After all, this is his brainchild." (Eesti Paevaleht, July 6)

Latvia

Commentators are making sarcastic comments about the selection of Sochi for the Winter Olympics in 2014. "An avalanche of Russian rubles has leveled everything in its path; the Olympic ideals have been forgotten; nothing matters but money and broadcasting rights." (Latvijas Avize, July 6)

They are also convinced that Putin will become president again in 2012. "Putin has secured Sochi's victory in the vote for the Winter Games in 2014 confident that he will rule the country in 2014." (Telegraf, July 9) It is already clear that the Russian people will vote for Putin, who will simply go by another name for four years - be it Ivanov or Medvedev. Putin's approval rating has risen recently, and the majority [of Russians] have a positive view of his presidency because Russia has been on the way up. The trend is obvious - nobody can threaten the achievements of Putin's entourage...The opposition is not real and has no power... Public demonstrations by this mismatched alliance are prompting pro-Putin analysts to ask rhetorically: ‘Who is going to vote for these people?'" (Neatkariga rita avize, July 4)

Lithuania

Analysts are worried that the efforts of the European Union (EU) to further liberalize its energy sector in order to create competition on EU markets may increase Lithuania's energy dependence on Russia. They believe that the new EU directives will be useful for Lithuania only after Russia deregulates its domestic gas market. "Gazprom has openly declared that its priority is to trade in energy resources on the liberalized European markets. By reforming its energy markets and opening them to Russian companies, the EU is losing its levers for convincing Russia to follow suit. Russia is already ousting European companies from its own market while strengthening its grip on the EU." (Veidas, July 7)

Belarus

The media are reporting on Putin's decision to give up the Lukashenko project. "Russia has kissed Lukashenko good-bye...It has dropped him quickly and easily...The minuses of the friendship with the Belarusian ruler were much bigger than the pluses...To all appearances, in Russia nobody doubts that the losses from the Belarusian project far exceed any political or economic gains from supporting Lukashenko." (Belorussky partisan, July 5)

"Lukashenko hates Putin for many reasons, but primarily because the Russian president has trampled on his cherished dream - not to be president but to be the sole ruler of a Russian Empire that everyone fears and that has nuclear arms...Lukashenko has many other reasons to hate Russia. It is too strong and is gaining more weight in the outside world...Lukashenko is suffering from a major inferiority complex...Moreover, [Russia] has the resources. Lukashenko will never forgive the Kremlin for its ability to move the world with its gas and oil pipes...He knows full well that he can do his little thing when the Kremlin is preoccupied with big geopolitical games. But he also understands that in the last few years the Kremlin has been tough and consistent in pursuing its strategy in ex-Soviet republics. There is no room for Lukashenko anywhere." (The United Civilian Party of Belarus web site, July 8)

Moldova

After Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin presented a narrow circle of Moldovan politicians with a number of Russian proposals for a final resolution of the Transdnestr problem, the pro-Romanian press lashed out at him for betraying national interests. "Judging by what the head of state said, there is only one way out - to give separatist leaders, that is, agents of the Russian Federal Security Service, access to Moldova's central administration. But this option will fail to win support both in the West and in Moldovan society." (Flux, July 4)

Georgia

The press is running diametrically opposed editorials on how the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict will be affected by the decision to hold the Olympics in Sochi, next to the breakaway republic. "This will encourage Russia to play a positive role in settling the existing conflicts...Obviously, it would be absurd for Sochi to host the Games with a frozen Georgian-Abkhazian conflict that may flare up at any time." (Sakartvelos Respublica, July 7)

"The Games will help the situation both politically and economically...Money will be invested in the development of the Caucasus and large-scale construction programs will get under way...This will help jobless Georgians, among others." (Novosti-Gruzia, July 5)

"Russia has won the latest round of the fight for Abkhazia...The only plus of the Olympics in Sochi is that there will be no hostilities before 2014. Russia will guarantee absolute order in the conflict zone. Its influence on Abkhazia will grow. It will become impossible to settle the conflict in Abkhazia without Russia's participation." (Rezonansi, July 7) "The Olympics in Sochi will move us [Russia and Georgia] even further away from each other. Russia's influence on the international community is increasing and Russia will be forgiven for more than it is now...The West will be ready to shut its eyes to many things. We should try to find a common language with the Abkhazians, although the Olympics in Sochi will push Abkhazia closer to Russia rather than us." (Kviris Palitra, July 9)

Azerbaijan

The United States' refusal to accept the Russian proposal on the Gabala radar has prompted the media to predict that the Pentagon is going to gain control over it after the Russian lease expires. "Washington has decided to snatch the Azerbaijani radar from Russia. The news from Washington came as a surprise, but it largely explained the delayed response to the Russian proposal...At first, American military experts rejected Russia's gift for reasons of age - the station was built in the Soviet years and its equipment has become obsolete. Now it turns out that the Americans have their own plans for Gabala. The Russian lease expires in 2012. Why negotiate with Russia if it is possible to gain access to this radar without sacrificing the ABM [anti-ballistic-missile] system in Poland and the Czech Republic?" (Bakililar.az, July 6) "Experts do not believe that Baku will renew Russia's lease after it expires in 2012." (Express, July 10)

Kazakhstan

The press is discussing Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov's visit to Uzbekistan in the context of the Kremlin's efforts to restore its position in Central Asia. The media are interpreting Russia's attempt to expand military-technical cooperation as a prelude to potential debates on the desirability of the American military presence in the region at the next summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). "Today, Moscow is trying to conclude new agreements with Tashkent in order to draw it closer into its orbit of influence...Given the complicated situation in Iran and Afghanistan, one could surmise that the Putin team is touring SCO countries in order to establish a united front. At the next SCO summit, a group of states could make a statement on the situation in Central Asia and lash out at the policy of some Western countries." (Gazeta.kz, July 9)

Uzbekistan   

The press continues to discuss the program to resettle Russians residing in former-Soviet republics in Russia. While pointing out that the Kremlin's plan to make Russian regions economically profitable requires a huge inflow of qualified manpower, commentators also believe that Russia is not ready to accept expatriates - it does not have enough affordable housing for them, nor adequate jobs with decent salaries. "The cost of housing may be a stumbling block for those who do not know much about prices in the regions. Meanwhile, the hospitable hosts are ready to help them only with basic things (mortgage and youth programs). The first group of participants in the voluntary resettlement program for expatriates from the former U.S.S.R. was welcomed in Kaliningrad with much fanfare...But the rose-colored glasses have fallen off fast. First, without re-qualification, finding a job is out of the question... Second, people's personal savings will not last long, but nothing has yet been done about distributing the program's benefits (relocation allowances and compensation)...There is a real possibility that these people will be bums by the New Year." (Ferghana.ru, July 6)

Kyrgyzstan

The media have paid a lot of attention to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's decision to sign a bilateral energy agreement with Russia in the near future. Some experts are pessimistic about the future energy union with Russia because it may lead to foreign interference in the Kyrgyz economy. "The coming of new owners will automatically deprive Kyrgyzstan of the keys to Central Asia.  The foreign partners will obtain the right to influence hydroelectric policy...Clearly, the new owners - Russia and Kazakhstan - will play the game according to their own rules and act primarily to further their own interests, which will conflict with those of Kyrgyzstan...In the future, the investors are bound to attempt to reduce Kyrgyzstan's share in the project." (Obshchestvenny reiting, July 6)

Turkmenistan

The press is discussing the country's energy resources in connection with the Turkmen president's forthcoming visit to China. Many experts believe that Sino-Turkmen cooperation may harm Russian business. "Today, Russia's Gazprom is the main importer of Turkmen gas (50 billion cubic meters a year). Its pipelines limit the possibilities for export, compelling Ashgabat to sell gas at far below world prices. For its part, Gazprom doubts whether Turkmenistan has enough hydrocarbon reserves to meet its export commitments...Under the Sino-Turkmen agreement, if Turkmenistan does not have enough gas to fill the pipeline, it will have to provide it from other sources. In practical terms, Ashgabat will have to reduce its gas sales to Russia, which is now paying $100 for 1,000 cubic meters of Turkmen gas, but this price may go up." (Turkmenia.info, July 4) "Moscow is not happy about the frequent visits by foreign delegations to Turkmenistan to discuss gas exports. Today, Russia is the number one importer of Turkmen gas. It pays Turkmenistan $100 for 1,000 cubic meters, then resells it to Europe for $250-$300. If Turkmenistan diversifies its export routes, Gazprom may lose huge profits and Russia will no longer be able to dictate prices in Central Asia." (Vatan, July 4)

Tajikistan

Journalists say that Moscow should take part in the settlement of the Tajik-Uzbek conflict, although Russia's position is not entirely clear to them. "Russia, with its wide historical experience, could be a mediator in the normalization of Tajik-Uzbek relations and could help resolve current disputes, for they hinder Russia's policy in the region and obstruct the promotion of Russian interests. For instance, Dushanbe is jealous about almost friendly relations between Russia and Uzbekistan. Earlier, Tashkent, in its turn, was jealous about good relations between Russia and Tajikistan. But is Russia concerned about its presence in the region?" (Vecherny Dushanbe, July 5)

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