The media are sensitive to Russia's successes in the European energy market. They are comparing Europe to a drug addict that has become hooked on Russian oil and gas.
Experts believe that the Balkans is the region that is the most exposed to Russia's influence. "Bulgaria's accession into Russia's gas transit camp is a breakthrough, but Moscow wants more than that. It is looking at Serbia, a key country in the West Balkans... A stake here is more than simply an economic benefit... Serbia will have to pay for Russia's support by moving away from Europe... Russia's involvement in the game will substantially change the situation. Before, Moscow was futilely trying to get ex-Soviet republics into its orbit... Now the Kremlin has understood that Europe's soft underbelly is easier to get and is a bigger gain." (Eesti Paevaleht, January 23)
The media have concentrated on the expulsion of second secretary of the Russian Embassy Alexander Rogozhin.
There are two contradictory views of the case. The Russian language media consider it a bow to the West made by those who are against better relations between Moscow and Riga. National publications are emphasizing that relations with the West should be a priority in the foreign policy of a country, which is a member of the European Union and NATO.
"The ruling politicians have gone too far in improving relations with Russia. Fearful that better contacts with the East may aggravate relations with the West, they have decided to redress the balance. A diplomatic scandal in this case is like a cold shower - it will not have long-term consequences, but will demonstrate to Western partners that not everything is good in relations with Russia." (Chas, January 23)
"The Russian language press in Latvia writes that the diplomat has fallen victim to the deterioration of Russian-British relations because of the closure of the British Council offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. It is assumed that the diplomat was sacrificed to divert attention, and Latvia subserviently helped Britain. Of course, this is nonsense, but it is not ignored... Needless to say, Russia wants to have its own Trojan horse in the EU, probably even several. Today, Latvia with its extremely attentive attitude to the interests of its eastern neighbor is a good candidate for this role." (Diena, January 24)
The media are still discussing compensation for the "Soviet occupation."
They are writing that for the time being, Lithuania is the only country in Eastern Europe that has made official demands to Russia on this issue. Experts are predicting that Moscow will not make concessions on this issue and the Russian-Lithuanian dispute may have to be resolved by future generations.
"The Lithuanian authorities have not seriously thought about the strategy for talks with Russia on compensation for the occupation-inflicted damage; nor have they changed this strategy. This problem may become a headache of our children and grandchildren... The Kremlin is absolutely against creating a precedent. Otherwise many Eastern European countries or former Soviet republics may demand multi-billion compensations." (Vaidas, January 26)
Analysts are criticizing the Belarusian government for its intention to get another Russian credit.
"Belarus will not be able to reduce its dependence on energy resources, and there will be no incentives for reforming its economy. A "steroid" will have a short-term effect, and it is even possible to increase living standards - so, why reform anything at all? Russia does not want us to do anything. It will then be able to take our best assets for next to nothing." (Khartiya-97, January 24)
Many media have qualified the arrest of the Interpol-sought businessman Semion Mogilevich (unofficial sources report that he is the real founder of the RosUkrEnergo company) as Moscow's response to repeated statements by new Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko about her intentions to get rid of mediators in gas supplies to Ukraine.
In addition, commentators are linking his arrest with the presidential campaign in Russia. "The story with Semion Mogilevich's arrest is picking up steam. Isn't it Russia's answer to Tymoshenko's rise to power? ... Considering a change of government in Ukraine and the final stage of the ‘successor' operation in Russia, it would be naïve to assume that a man with seven faces has been arrested for no particular reason... He was probably arrested because before leaving his post, Vladimir Putin wants to clean the territory for his successor so that Dmitry Medvedev can start his rule from scratch. Interestingly, in recent times Gazprom was somewhat tired of RosUkrEnergo's activities. (Podrobnosti, January 28)
The media have dismissed Tymoshenko's idea to build a White Stream gas pipeline, which would supply gas from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to Europe via Ukraine, as utopian. They do not think that Brussels and Washington are likely to give up the idea of building a trans-Caspian gas pipeline bypassing Russia. "Russia and the EU are fighting for Azerbaijani gas... It is ridiculous to talk about one more pipeline. After all, the EU and Russia have detailed projects and their influence cannot be compared with Kiev's dubious diplomatic charm." (ProUa, January 28)
Observers are strongly critical of Moscow, which has not officially recognized the sovereignty of unrecognized republics (Transdnestr, Abkhazia and South Ossetia), but is giving them political and economic support.
"Moscow's position will not change after the Russian presidential elections in March. The Republic of Moldova is not high on the list of Russian foreign policy. Russia is now trying to restore the positions it lost in the 1990s. Considering that a man from Putin's entourage will become the next president, it is clear that the current practice will largely be the same with due account of domestic and foreign policy considerations. Apparently, Moscow will continue pulling the wool over the eyes of Chisinau by giving it hope on the Transdnestr problem, but will delay its decision to the time when Russia is able to gain a lot from a relevant agreement. (Press-obozreniye, January 23)
The media believes that the Kremlin has given up its attempts to openly support a pro-Russian presidential nominee.
"For a considerable number of voters, it is not so important whom they will elect president as who is favored by Putin... But the Kremlin will not bluntly say whom it wants to be the president of Armenia, particularly because no presidential nominee will pursue an anti-Russian policy if elected. Luckily, we do not have such adventure seekers in the Armenian elite." (Aravot, January 23)
"Russia is revising its policy of blind support for the Armenian regime... During the last 10 years, the Russian authorities considered a power change in Armenia risky because of fears that the new leaders would orient Armenia to the West." (Aikakan Zhamanak, January 23)
The media have welcomed statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about Moscow's respect for Georgia's territorial integrity and his promise not to use the Kosovo precedent for recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"Lavrov's statement did not come as a surprise... Russia is a rather pragmatic country with quite clever leaders. They know very well that the Kosovo example should never be used." (Rezonansi, January 29)
Some analysts maintain that now Moscow expects Tbilisi to reciprocate by giving its consent to Russia's WTO entry. "Lavrov has decided to use the situation. He thought that Georgia was in a bad position... They are expecting Saakashvili to make a concession and agree to Russia's WTO entry." (Alia, January 26)
Economic experts are urging the authorities not to prevent Russia from joining the WTO because Georgia has to resolve the very painful problem of returning to the Russian market. "If Russia enters the WTO, Georgia's economic blockade will automatically be lifted." (Rezonansi, January 26)
Moscow's successful gas policy is making the Nabucco project pointless.
Experts believe that there is practically no alternative to Russia as Europe's gas supplier. "After the construction of the South Stream pipeline, Moscow, which owns 25% of the European gas market, will increase its presence to 40%... There will be very little room left for other suppliers... Moreover, the Russian project deprives Nabucco of potential sources of gas... The fact that the South Stream has control over almost all Central Asian gas is making a bad situation still worse... Today, it is abundantly clear that the Nabucco project is probably not on its death bed but has received a heavy blow... With a stroke of genius, Putin has carried out his plan of laying hands on Central Asian gas and establishing control on the European market for decades to come. (Apa, January 29)
The press maintains that a sharp decline in the quotas for migrant labor in Russia will increase the number of illegal guest workers, and compel residents of Central Asian countries to move to Kazakhstan.
"In 2008, Russia will accept two million people - three times less than in 2007... The Federal Migration Service (FMS) is more or less encouraging Russian employers to use illegal guest workers." (Gazeta.kz, January 23)
"Migration flows from Central Asia will grow because of unresolved social problems ... Tougher migration policy makes the Russian market less appealing, and for this reason those who cannot make it to Russia may go to Kazakhstan. Redistribution of migration flows between Russia and Kazakhstan may become typical for the CIS in 2008." (Gazeta.kz, January 24)
The opposition press is critical about the coverage of events in Turkmenistan by the Russian media. Journalists believe that their Russian colleagues are paying too much attention to the new president's insignificant liberal initiatives, and ignoring serious problems in the country. "The foreign press, including Russian journalists, is writing with wild delight about Berdymukhammedov's recent initiatives on reviving national opera and circuses, and returning International Women's Day on March 8 to the list of national holidays (this is an interesting trend, a kind of minor domestic revisionism). But it is completely ignoring such urgent problems... as the crisis of education and health care, or the harassment of dissidents and humiliation of prisoners. " (Gundogar, January 23)
Analysts are writing about the high crime rate among guest workers in Russia. "Every year, more than 500 bodies of guest workers are brought to Tajikistan [from Russia]. But nobody knows how many Tajik citizens are buried at the special Perepechenskoye cemetery near the Sheremetyevo airport... The crime rate among guest workers is so high because of their low wages and arduous working and living conditions. There are cases when guest workers kill each other for a piece of bread or a place to sleep... If a guest worker dies in an accident, his employer often throws his body beyond the construction site in order to avoid unnecessary problems." (Farazh, January 24)RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.