The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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ESTONIA

The media have lashed out against the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and a presidential nominee, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who urged Russians in Estonia to create their own republic.

"'Russians in Estonia have many more rights to establish an independent small state than the Kosovo Albanians.... There are legal grounds for this,' said State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky." (Delfi, February 20)

"Russian high-rankers have repeatedly warned: 'Just try to recognize Kosovo, you'll get lots of problems.' Usually they referred to conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.... Now that Kosovo's independence has reached the point of no return, Estonia has been mentioned. If national minorities enjoy the right of self-determination in the heart of Europe, why should our North-East be an exception?" (Parnu Postimees, February 20)

Some publications have been writing that Russia has somewhat downgraded its anti-Western rhetoric, and will not respond to the Kosovo precedent by recognizing South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdnestr.

"Does the end of the Kosovo saga mean that Russia is adopting a new foreign policy?... The ruling elite is surrounded both by the advocates of Putin's tough line bordering on isolation and those who believe that Moscow should cooperate with the West and should not threaten anyone with nuclear weapons." (Postimees, February 22)

LATVIA

Experts believe that recognition of Kosovo's independence will increase tensions in multi-ethnic countries, including in Latvia.

"Kosovo is a mirror in which states see their misfortunes.... We can see ourselves in this mirror. Why shouldn't our nervous non-Latvian compatriots, who feel tortured and humiliated here, try and declare their sovereignty on densely inhabited territories?... 'politically-minded' Russian linguists paint the east of our country a different color on the map to denote a territory under the influence of the Russian language." (Latvijas avize, February 20).

Commentators are pessimistic about the future of international law.

"Kosovo's independence has created a minefield.... EU countries with smoldering hotbeds of conflicts and separatism will fall victim to the process that has got underway.... If international law is violated, it will be very difficult to curb the destructive attitudes that have been awoken in the people." (Biznes & Baltiya, February 25)

The media believe that the United States and Russia will get the main dividends from these changes.

"Europeans will pay for everything, and will build Kosovo - they do not stand to gain anything unlike the United States, which will receive a loyal strongpoint in the Balkans, and, strange as it may seem, Russia - these American and European moves give it carte blanche. If need be, Moscow will be able to manipulate its recognition or non-recognition of small states." (Republika.lv, February 22-28)

LITHUANIA

Commentators are explaining Serbia's tough reaction to the declaration of Kosovo's independence by Belgrade's confidence in Moscow's support.

"Serbia has recalled its ambassadors in response to Kosovo's recognition. It was not afraid to recall even the ambassador to the United States. Serbia does not care for authorities because of Russia's strong support. The United States has not made any response because it is afraid, or does not know what to do in this critical situation." (Respublika, February 20)

Experts have expressed regret that frozen political relations between Vilnius and Moscow are preventing the development of economic contacts which Lithuania would stand to gain from.

"Russia and other CIS countries are important for us not only as raw materials suppliers, but also as importers of goods. In this context, good economic ties are more important for Lithuania than for Russia.... We should try to make the best possible use of the available opportunities." (Vaidas, February 20)

A number of publications have been wondering whether Dmitry Medvedev may decide to oust Vladimir Putin's team from power and bring to ruin those who have made their fortunes during his rule.

"Tensions are mounting behind the high green fences that conceal Rublevka residents.... Those who have become wealthy during Putin's rule - Kremlin officials and several mafia bosses... fear that Medvedev may turn out to be much less benevolent than he seems to be. What will happen if he decides, God forbid, to take away their billions?" (Lietuvos zinios, February 20)

BELARUS

The opposition press believes that the Kremlin is artificially fanning up tensions around the Kosovo events, using them as yet another factor of ensuring the success of Putin's successor in the presidential election.

"The international political crisis that has been triggered off by the declaration of Kosovo's independence is largely artificial. It has been provoked by Russia's actions, and is primarily designed in its own interests as a skilful PR campaign before the presidential elections." (Telegraf, February 22)

Many observers have qualified a series of Alexander Lukashenko's critical statements on Russia on the eve of an informal CIS summit in Moscow as a standard trick, which he has been artfully used in relations with the Kremlin for a long time.

"It is clear that Russia will not be happy to hear what he says. But it will have no time to deal with its 'disloyal ally' because of the forthcoming elections.... This policy of official Minsk has justified itself for many years - to promise something, receive some benefits, and disappear. The most surprising thing is that Russia swallows the bait every the time. If it does, why not use the same trick over and over again? Sooner or later the Kremlin's mouse trap may shut but its spring is so rusty and cheese looks so tempting that it would be simply stupid to miss this chance. To sum up, Moscow has been fooled once again, and the timing was right - before an informal CIS summit." (Solidarnost, February 20)

UKRAINE

Some observers believe that President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are secretly fighting for Moscow's favor. The press predicts that Moscow's support will play a key role in the presidential election in 2010.

"The final results of the meetings [with Russian leaders and Gazprom executives] in Moscow may hint at who it will support as Ukraine's next president.... 'Cooperation' between Ukraine's president and prime minister has reached such a point that Moscow has received an opportunity to choose its own candidate for top-level contacts.... The vague agreements which Yushchenko has reached on gas are partly a result of the Kremlin's skilful maneuvering. They are evidence of Moscow's readiness to listen to both claimants to the presidential position, who are now torn apart by contradictions." (Rupor.com.ua, February 20)

The media have come up with several pessimistic scenarios for the development of bilateral relations, primarily economic contacts during the rule of Putin's successor.

"Judging by everything,... Ukraine is being perceived as a source of political instability, and a graveyard of productive reforms. Considering our energy dependence on Moscow, unstable financial status, and inability to play an independent geopolitical role, it would be right to assume that a new team of the Kremlin's pragmatics will not stake on relations with us. This country will continue to be a 'desert.'" (Kiyevsky Telegraf, February 25)

MOLDOVA

Commentators believe that the absence of Transdnestr President Igor Smirnov at the consultations in Moscow with the participation of the leaders of self-proclaimed Abkhazia and South Ossetia is an indication of change in the settlement of the Moldovan-Transdnestr conflict.

"Transdnestr has become a stepdaughter, if not an orphan. During the official visit of Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev to Moscow, his partners talked about settlement of the Transdnestr problem based on the observance of Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity.... Drawing parallels between 'the Kosovo and Transdnestr conflicts is just a failed mental exercise.'" (Moldova Suverana, February 21)

"The Russian Federation is deaf to Tiraspol's appeals to recognize Transdnestr's independence in the wake of the Kosovo precedent. At best, Russia is ready to discuss the region's special status in Moldova, but not its recognition as an independent state." (Nezavisimaya Moldova, February 21)

Observers believe that separatism is Russia's headache as well.

"Pristina's cessation from Belgrade should scare Russia most of all. The conquered nations have not accepted Russian occupation to this day.... The North Caucasus continues to be a real powder keg, ready to explode any moment. Centrifugal trends are gaining momentum in Tatarstan and other regions. The Kosovo model cannot be applied to democracies - it is nothing but a surgical operation on the body of a territory that is either torn apart by genocide or is suffering under tyranny." (Jurnal de Chisinau, February 22)

ARMENIA

The media believe that the Kosovo precedent is fraught with instability not only in the CIS countries. It is a problem for the whole world.

"It is hard to believe that Washington will prevent GUAM [Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) from using the Kosovo precedent.... The alarm is on, and the clock is ticking. The Kosovo precedent may turn into the Kosovo syndrome and cause a bad headache on all continents." (Novoye Vremya, February 21)

Experts believe that the recognition of Kosovo's independence gives Nagorny Karabakh a chance.

"While insisting that the Kosovo pattern may be used in Abkhazia, [South] Ossetia, and Transdnestr, the Kremlin is skillfully avoiding any parallels with Karabakh. But even despite Moscow's double standards, Yerevan may boldly declare its support for Moscow's efforts to legalize the sovereignty of self-proclaimed republics." (Novoye Vremya, February 23)

The press is urging the government not to make concessions to Russia on the questions of principle.

"Friends are all right when they don't get in the way. Allied relations between Yerevan and Moscow should not limit our right to have a clear-cut idea about our own national interests." (Novoye Vremya, February 21).

"What should Yerevan do in this situation - argue with its strategic partner or accept the Russian version, which does not correspond with our idea of the priority of a nation's right to self-determination?... Armenia is afraid to recognize Kosovo's independence because of apprehensions about Russia's reaction, but thereby it is acting against its own interests." (Novoye Vremya, February 23)

GEORGIA

The media have been writing about Russia's pragmatic policy toward Georgia. They attribute it to the forthcoming change of power in Russia - the president does not want to leave unresolved problems to his successor.

"Putin will leave his office very soon.... It is vital for him to settle the problems that have emerged during his rule.... This is an absolutely pragmatic approach.... Moreover, Russia's WTO entry is a matter of honor for Putin, and Georgia's vote is required for it.... This is why [bilateral] relations have started to warm up." (Rezonansi, February 22)

Experts believe that Russia is more consistent and reasonable in its attitude to Kosovo than Georgia.

"Saakashvili... has actually confirmed that he is not opposed to recognizing Kosovo. Russia is urging the world... not to create a precedent.... Moscow has chosen a correct policy.... It is ridiculous that Saakashvili is backing a model which may be used against Georgia in the future." (Rezonansi, February 22)

Political analysts insist that Moscow does not want the Kosovo precedent to be used in the CIS.

"Russia does not need Abkhazia as an independent country.... As soon as it recognizes Abkhazia's independence, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and other republics in the North Caucasus will want to become independent." (Akhali Taoba, February 20)

However, experts are convinced that Russia will continue blackmailing Georgia with the threat to recognize the independence of breakaway territories.

"Russia will not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia but it will always threaten us with this in order to compel us to make concessions on important issues." (24 Saati, February 21)

AZERBAIJAN

Journalists are pleased to acknowledge that experts' forecasts have come true - Moscow has not recognized the independence of self-proclaimed republics on post-Soviet space; moreover, it has declared that frozen territorial conflicts should be settled on the basis of international law.

"There are separatist regimes in some CIS countries which would like to use the Kosovo precedent.... Having numerous autonomies and ethnic entities, Russia should not forget 'the parade of sovereignty' in the 1990s - it may take place again." (Express, February 22)

"Russia is reaping the first fruits of its policy as regards Kosovo, and may hope to restore the influence that it seemed to have lost in the former Soviet republics." (Zerkalo, February 22)

Journalists believe that after Serzh Sarkisyan, the Kremlin-backed candidate, becomes president, the Nagorny Karabakh conflict will not be settled because Moscow is not interested in that.

"Armenians want the conflict to be resolved and the war ended as soon as possible. For this reason, if our people had a choice they would elect [Levon] Ter-Petrosyan. But Moscow is against the conflict's settlement, and this is why it has chosen its puppet - Sarkisyan.... The negotiations will not produce any results." (Bizim iol, February 21)

KAZAKHSTAN

Some analysts say that the United States will test on Serbia the possibility of breaking up a big country, including Russia.

"The recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state is Russia's defeat in the geopolitical war.... The West has found a universal way to isolate Russia. At the current stage of the Kosovo crisis, it is important not to allow Moscow to take countermeasures. As soon as the separation of Kosovo becomes reality, we can speak of a reduction in Russia's influence in the Balkans and Europe." (Gazeta.kz, February 21)

Experts think that during the CIS summit in Moscow, Russia let Georgia and Moldova know that in certain situations it can use the Kosovo precedent to recognize self-proclaimed republics.

"We think that the Kremlin let his CIS partners know that the Kosovo precedent can help Moscow to recognize self-proclaimed republics. It appears that the conditions for this were discussed by the Russian, Georgian and Moldovan presidents." (Gazeta.kz, February 26)

UZBEKISTAN

The Uzbek mass media have established the reasons why the Russian president is so popular - he has fulfilled all his promises and made Russia an economically developed country.

"The Russians support their president because he did one thing politicians do not usually do - he has kept his promises. Russia is again becoming a major economic power.... Not too long ago Moscow was the only rich city in the whole country. Now, the economic growth is evident all over the country. Construction cranes have become a common sight in all Russian cities." (Novosti Uzbekistana, February 15)

TAJIKISTAN

Experts are criticizing Russian-Tajik relations and waiting for Dushanbe's redirection to other countries, in particular, Iran. The cause is the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov, when, as the mass media think, Russia decided to support Uzbekistan to the detriment of Tajikistan.

"A cooling in relations is clear, and Russian and Tajik mass media's publications are no more than a statement of fact. The evidence of this is lack of development in bilateral relations, especially in the economy, in the last two to three years.... All major Russian companies' activities in Tajikistan, except for RAO UES, were frozen."(Fakty i Kommentarii, February 19)

"Uzbekistan can influence Moscow through gas prices and transit, but it agreed to hand over the controlling stake of the Tashkent aircraft plant to Russia. Experts say that Tashkent has even more serious long-term plans to develop cooperation with its northern neighbor. But what should Tajikistan do then? Enter into alliance with America? The offer to Ahmadinejad to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization means that not all the questions have been answered yet." (Asia-Plus, February 14)

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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