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The CIS and Baltic press on Russia




The media are discussing the law on the moratorium of Russia's participation in the CFE in the context of the Russian-U.S. geopolitical confrontation. Commentators are furious that under the circumstances Estonia has to set up a commission on preparations for its membership in the adapted treaty. "U.S. diplomats are losing nerve. They say Moscow has been promised that the Baltic nations will start getting ready to join the treaty and that some of its provisions may be revised. This explains why Estonia made the decision to form the commission. Estonia must do everything to implement the previous provisions of the treaty. But its new version cannot be regarded as natural. Estonia is not a pawn in a political game between Washington and Moscow." (Eesti Paevaleht, November 17).

The media believe that Russia needs the moratorium in order to revise the adapted treaty once again and include provisions convenient for it. "Russia's aim is clear - to turn the existing security structure upside down and start new talks in order to lay down its own terms. Russia is a champion at playing such games." (Eesti Paevaleht, November 17).


Local political scientists are attributing the visa problems of the OSCE-delegated international observers to Russia's desire to conceal the results of the elections from the world. "Every country can decide for itself whether to invite OSCE observers or not. But feigning the impression that they are welcome and trying to prevent them from coming is something new... The OSCE cannot pretend that nothing has happened. It may react by refusing to send its observers. This is exactly what Russia wants." (Diena, November 16).


The media are closely watching the situation in Russia on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections. Observers believe that the conduct of major Russian businessmen illustrates the real situation in the country. "The number of oligarchs in Russia is increasing with every passing year, but the majority of them consider it unsafe to stay in the country. They keep their money in foreign banks and regard London as their second home... Almost all Russian citizens are worried about the question: 'Who will replace Vladimir Putin?' The future is vague and oligarchs are fleeing the country en masse before it is too late. British realtors that have Russian clients say all those who have the money want to invest it safely." (Lietuvos rytas, November 16).


Opposition analysts believe that the attempts by the Belarusian president to move economically and politically closer to China may cause a negative response by Moscow. It is important for Russia to be friendly with China in the context of a probable crisis, which it may face in the near future. "In general, it is important to display caution in dealing with 'junior' and 'senior' brothers. The Kremlin is slow in reacting but may deal heavy blows when offended... A line towards rapprochement with China is important for Russia geopolitically. It is playing a big game in order to remain among the world's key players in the middle of this century when it is no longer able to have a huge territory and be economically inaccessible." (Nashe mneniye, November 15).


The press has focused on the situation in the Kerch Strait, where a storm wrecked several ships. Commentators primarily blame the situation on the poor technical condition of the Russian vessels, which require major repair or replacement. "Tankers like Volgoneft are so worn out that... their operation has long been dangerous. A wreck like the one in the Kerch Strait could happen with any other tanker similar to Volgoneft-139. (From-ua, November 14).

The deterioration of the ecological situation in the Kerch Strait has drawn media attention to the need for the early completion of the talks on delimitating the Russian-Ukrainian maritime border. Some newspapers have urged Kiev to establish de facto control over the strait. "If Ukraine declares its sovereignty over the strait, it should behave as the owner and give up its ostrich-like policy." (Den, November 20).


Experts believe that the conflict with the self-proclaimed Transdnestr republic may soon be settled because there are no serious contradictions between Russia and the West on the ways of resolving it. "Russia agrees with Transdnestr's return to Moldova. The EU principles of settling this issue do not differ much from the Russian position." (Moldova suverana, November 15). "After the Russian troops withdrawal from Georgia, Moscow cannot insist forever on its military presence in Moldova; it will gain much more by accepting the proposal on Moldova's total demilitarization and 'permanent' neutrality in exchange for Transdnestr's broader status within Moldova. (Jurnal de Chisinau, November 20).

Journalists believe that Russia's ban on Moldovan wine exports has encouraged its trade diversification. "Moldova has managed to make up for half of its losses from a ban on wine exports to the Russian market... Our economic agents working with liquor were used to rushing everything to Russia without thinking about other markets. Now the ban has compelled them to look around." (Vremya, November 19).


Analysts agree that a statement by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov about Russia's possible recognition of Abkhazia's independence is a clear-cut warning to the world community about the inadmissibility of double standards in approaching territorial issues. "Such statements are not improvised but prepared at a high level. It is no accident either that the Abkhazian leader recently admitted that the constitution will soon allow Russian citizens to acquire real estate in the republic. To all intents and purposes, the Kremlin no longer hopes to normalize relations with Georgia and is hinting at potential consequences of its malevolence towards Russia." (Azg, November 20).


The opposition has lashed out against the president for his anti-Georgian policy. "Putin will not find a better partner than Saakashvili. During his rule, Russia received all it wanted from Georgia. Now, instead of redressing the situation, the authorities are making it worse." (Gruzia-Online, November 20. "This government has done what Russia was dreaming about and unsuccessfully tried to achieve. It has considerably removed Georgia from the West... Russia is not interested in any good developments for Georgia... Now the Russians are very pleased...They may take a break now - until Georgia restores the image of a normal, civilized and democratic country." (Sakartvelos Respublica, November 20). "If this government remains in power, Russia will achieve its coveted goal and the NATO doors will be shut to us for a long time." (Rezonansi, November 20).


Journalists consider Saakashvili no better than any other post-Soviet authoritarian politician and blame him for discrediting the idea of a velvet revolution. "Mikhail Saakashvili... is not simply the same as Lukashenko, Putin, the late Turkmenbashi, Karimov or Nazarbayev. He has surpassed them all and rightfully deserves the status of the most undemocratic post-Soviet ruler... After his doings, few nations would undertake a velvet revolution, a bloodless transition from dictatorship to democracy. This idea has been buried under the Georgian flag... Moreover, the Georgian crisis plays into the hands of those forces in Russia, which would like to seal its departure from democracy." (Day.Az, November 18).

The media are paying special attention to Azerbaijan's cautious approach to all projects that provide energy supplies to Europe bypassing Russia. "As for the global project of the trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Baku does not want to become the locomotive of the American project and takes into account the Russian position. Its official position is as follows: Central Asian countries may transport their energy resources via Azerbaijan if they so wish, but Azerbaijan has not been and will not be the initiator of this idea." (Musavat, November 20).


Analysts believe that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has decided not to send observers to the upcoming parliamentary elections in Russia for a serious reason - to deny international recognition of the fifth convocation State Duma. "Neither the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, nor the OSCE in general would have raised such a scandal at their own initiative without pressure from above...OSCE observers reluctantly agreed to recognize the results of the 2003 Duma elections as legal. Now any information on violations during the voting will be unequivocally interpreted against the new Duma, regardless of whether it is true or not." (, November 19).


Some media are analyzing the pluses and minuses of the Russian national resettlement program. "The program's importance for self-sufficient businessmen or professionals is dubious. The descendants of those who left Russia for Uzbekistan in order to become teachers, doctors and builders do not want to live in their historical homeland like migrant workers... It is unclear who loses more - Russia or compatriots in Uzbekistan. The republic's nondrinking, educated, industrious, and, importantly, tolerant population is a big value... But for the most part, Russia is not interested in it. (Fergana.Ru, November 14).


Some experts are explaining Bishkek's tough position at the extended talks with Kiev on Ukraine's WTO entry by recommendations from Moscow. "Ukraine has paid its foreign debt to Kyrgyzstan -- $27.2 million... Formally, Kiev has not acknowledged this sum as its foreign debt but has already transferred it as humanitarian aid to Bishkek for earthquake victims... It was the Kremlin that had blessed the Kyrgyz leaders to be so unyielding... Moscow did not want Ukraine to join the WTO ahead of Russia." (Bishkek Times, November 16).

Experts are concerned about the continuous migration of the republic's able-bodied population and are skeptical about its ability to preserve its statehood and national self-identity. "About 800,000 of Kyrgyz guest workers and members of their families permanently live in Russia and Kazakhstan... It is alarming that 70% of them come from southern Kyrgyzstan and that the majority does not think of returning home... Residents of neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are actively buying the houses of Kyrgyz migrants. This fact is not making fantastic statements about the partition of Kyrgyzstan, where the southern part would join Uzbekistan, and the northern one would be incorporated by Kazakhstan." (Agym, November 16).


Analysts are referring to the European Union as Russia's main rival on the Turkmen energy market. "Europe is actively trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies. While looking for other sources of energy imports, it is exerting pressure on Turkmenistan. Russia may acquire a strong rival... Turkmenistan may use the option of building a direct gas pipeline to Europe as an argument of pressure during the talks with Gazprom on gas prices for 2008." (, November 14).

They note that the Turkmen partners are not too worried about the violations of international law by the Turkmen government. "[Gurbanguly] Berdymukhammedov knows full well that gas is the only thing he has to provide. This gas loyalty of the Turkmen leaders has again proved to be handy. It is welcomed by Russia and China, the EU and the United States, which are involved in intrigues against each other. The thirst for gas compelled many to ask for it under Niyazov's rule as well, but then only Yushchenko and Saakashvili did not stop at dealing with him directly... The authoritarian Russian and Chinese leaders did not think about corruption or human rights violations in Turkmenistan, but they tried to conceal their contacts with Niyazov." (Gundogar, November 15).


The media are again writing about numerous problems encountered by Tajik guest workers in Moscow. "Our migrants have many problems in Russia. Their semi-legal status is making their stay particularly difficult. They are being harassed... by the police and criminals, along with nationalists and skinheads. We receive hundreds of coffins from Russia every year. Besides, our young people do not know the Russian language or Russian laws. This involved problem has existed for more than ten years and it still remains unsolved." (Asia-plus, November 14).

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