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MOSCOW, September 22 (RIA Novosti) Washington, Moscow must respect each other's interests / More Russians support Kosovo's independence / Russia hastens to pose as conflict settler in Moldova / Gazprom sets up its first South American venture / Russia to finance ESPO project from federal budget / Government enters market like bull in china shop

Kommersant

Washington, Moscow must respect each other's interests

Along with the lingering harsh rhetoric from both sides, Russia and the United States have clearly become more willing to find common ground, said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based magazine Russia in Global Affairs.
This is still far from a rapprochement in their positions, but it gives hope that the two countries will regain their ability to talk, which was seriously undermined over the past few months and especially in the past weeks, he said.
The statements made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Britain could have been described as mild compared with the latest ruthless speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Although criticizing Russia severely, the Pentagon chief made some statements in stark contrast to the U.S. government's predominant attitude.
For example, the idea that authoritarian regimes too have their own legitimate defense interests sounded revolutionary for a member of President George W. Bush's team which in fact has spent two presidential terms trying to prove the opposite.
Gates urged both sides to undertake careful commitments but be ready to make good on the ones already taken. It was no doubt a warning for those who view Ukraine's and Georgia's admission to NATO as an ideological end goal, making no heed for strategic consequences.
The most wide-spread concept in the current debate on Russia going on in the United States is the need to be realistic. The illusions once cherished by the Clinton government about transforming Russia to Western patterns are being criticized, along with the Bush administration's policy of ignoring Moscow completely.
Many now urge the White House to listen to what the Kremlin has to say. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that Russia is different from the Soviet Union, but it has its own interests which need to be considered.
Moscow has been emphasizing its interests for a while now, and has even openly claimed the zone of its "privileged" interests. Therefore, a similar discussion on the other side of the Atlantic must be good news.
However, even if realism does reign in U.S. policy after the elections, it would not necessarily mean an easing of tensions.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at the NATO-Russia summit in Bucharest: "It's the potential, not intentions, that matters." Although the political, economic and military potential of today's Russia has grown, it is still below that of the weakening United States.
If being realistic still means trying these potentials against each other, the consequences will be disastrous.
What both sides should learn from the school of realism is a classic diplomatic rule to respect others' interests to the extent where they still do not harm one's own.
One gets the impression that Washington has recently forgotten this rule. It is important that Moscow does not also become so forgetful, Lukyanov said.

Vremya Novostei

More Russians support Kosovo's independence

The number of Russians who support Kosovo's independence doubled after Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Analysts argue that Russians are now ready to accept an independent Nagorny Karabakh and Transdnestr as well.
Whereas in March, when the United States and several of its allies recognized Kosovo's sovereignty, only 15% of Russians supported the position of overseas partners, now their number has grow to 31%. Around 38% are still against the newly-independent Balkan state, down from 41% in March.
These results came from a survey of 1,600 people in 40 regions of Russia conducted on September 13 and 14 by the VTsIOM pollster, with a statistical error of 3.4%.
"The change is clearly linked to the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states," said Sergei Oznobishchev, the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Evaluation and Analysis. "It is very logical, which proves that public attitudes are often more logical than the reactions of Russian or American politicians."
He said that Russia had honestly warned the West that Kosovo would create a dangerous precedent, but Europe and the United States took no notice.
"Pandora's box has been opened. First Kosovo, now the two Georgian republics. It follows that every region can now claim sovereignty, and the public will take it calmly, be it Nagorny Karabakh or Transdnestr. Political elites keep throwing in unpredictable fantastic projects. This isn't safe, which our politicians should realize quickly before they start fantasizing about the Crimea and a re-division of Ukraine," he said.
This new wave of the "sovereignty parade" is dangerous, according to Oznobishchev: "There are regions in Russia which would also probably like to claim their right to self-definition, and Europe is sleeping on a volcano in this sense."

Kommersant

Russia hastens to pose as conflict settler in Moldova

In the next few days Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Igor Smirnov, leader of the self-declared republic of Transdnestr, will meet for the second time this year. Their meeting is expected to become a prelude to a more important event - the signing of a joint statement on the settlement of the long-running conflict over the territorial integrity of Moldova.
The document, to be signed in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, will launch a process of final settlement of the Transdnestr issue. Moscow is in a hurry to demonstrate progress in this area before NATO foreign ministers meet in December.
While Medvedev looks on, the leaders of the conflicting sides will sign a joint statement on their commitment to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Another key point of the document will be an obligation to open talks on Transdnestr's legal status within Moldova.
Sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry say the three-way history-making meeting will take place no later than November so that Moscow can showcase its peacemaking achievements in Transdnestr by the December meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Neither Chisinau nor Tiraspol minds.
What is more, Vladimir Voronin, who is facing parliamentary elections in the spring of 2009, has accepted Moscow's condition to seal his country's neutral military-political status in a separate document.
Transdnestrian leader Igor Smirnov is also demonstrating loyalty. After a meeting with Medvedev, he stopped demanding independence for his republic.
"Currently, Moscow's wish to initiate a peace process outweighs anything else, and Smirnov and Voronin perfectly realize this," said a high-placed source in Chisinau. "By December, Russia is anxious to show progress and, considering the latest events in the Caucasus, it will be a fine move."
If developments follow the Moscow scenario, Russia will be able to prove to the West that it can resolve territorial problems in the post-Soviet space not only by military force, but also through diplomacy. Moreover, the United States and the European Union will be afforded the possibility of taking a direct part in reconciling Chisinau and Tiraspol. Moscow is not against the process it initiated ending in a 5+2 negotiating format (Russia, Ukraine, Collective Security Treaty Organization, Moldova, Transdnestr, the U.S. and the EU).

Vedomosti, Kommersant

Gazprom sets up its first South American venture

Although it is nationalizing its energy sector, Bolivia has invited Russian energy giant Gazprom and France's Total to jointly hold a 49% stake in the Acero block, located in southeastern Bolivia's gas-bearing Subandino Sur basin.
Other foreign companies get only 18% of Bolivia's gas sales revenues.
State-owned Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), which will hold 51% in the joint venture, is to contribute $4.5 billion to the project. Its initial daily production will be 13 million cubic meters of natural gas.
Analysts say high political risks may jeopardize recoupment of the partners' investment.
YPFB's spokesman said the joint venture would be set up soon, but Total and Gazprom are less optimistic. The French company said it would have the same share as Gazprom (24.5%) but refused to comment on its investment. Gazprom described the agreement with Bolivia as a "memorandum" signifying "a new step toward a joint venture."
Analysts cannot say why Gazprom needs to invest in Latin America if its main production assets are located in Russia.
Valery Nesterov, an analyst with Troika Dialog, said: "The political aspect features prominently in all of Gazprom's foreign projects, even though its Russian investments are not always understandable."
Bolivia has proposed tough terms, he said, adding that Russian companies often try to move part of spending to foreign partners, but usually limit themselves to exploration spending.
"The positive thing is that Gazprom will share risks in Acero with Total, which would not have agreed on a losing proposition," Nesterov said.
Mikhail Korchemkin, director of the East European Gas Analysis consultancy, said Gazprom needed to stop the decline of its share on the global gas market, which makes the Bolivian joint venture a strategic move.
However, the recoupment period could be as long as 10-14 years because of the project's low profitability, he said. Bolivian gas sold on the border with Argentina costs nearly 50% less than Russian gas sold on the border with the European Union.

Vedomosti, RBC Daily

Russia to finance ESPO project from federal budget

The Russian government may provide financing for major state projects, notably the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline, in view of the global financial crisis.
Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said the government would take additional measures to finance ESPO. He said that if oil pipeline monopoly Transneft borrowed funds now, this would increase the project's costs and consequently transit tariffs.
Shmatko has promised financial assistance to the company.
The state-run corporation Development Bank (Vnesheconombank, or VEB) has announced its readiness to help out. Its chairman, Anatoly Ballo, said at the investment forum in Sochi that state funds should be allocated for major state projects, including ESPO.
Refinancing loans on market conditions during a crisis can spur inflation, he said, adding that "specific mechanisms" should be used to invest state funds in such projects.
State projects, in particular infrastructure ones, can be affected by commercial interest rates, a VEB employee said. Last July, Sberbank raised the interest rate on the loan facility for Transneft by 145 billion rubles ($5.7 billion), to 12% from 7%-10% depending on loan maturity.
The loan had been obtained specifically for the ESPO project. Such an interest rate is too high for a project of federal importance, the banker said. If necessary, VEB may grant loans for such projects.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has instructed Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to consider ways to finance the ESPO project by October 22, a source in the government said.
The economics and finance ministries are currently analyzing Transneft's investment project.
"We want to know if the company can shoulder the burden," a source from one of the above ministries said, "or the tariff should be changed, or budgetary assistance provided, or new loans attracted."
Nikolai Barkov, Transneft's vice president, said that unless the situation on the market deteriorated, Transneft expected to finish the first leg of the ESPO without obtaining additional loans. But it will need assistance for the second leg and for the BPS-2 Baltic pipeline system, he said.
"The issue is being discussed," he said, adding that no decision had been taken yet.
Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner at the RusEnergy consultancy firm, said Transneft would have to take out new loans, because the construction of additional bulkheads to pump oil from the Samotlor deposit has been assessed at 38.8 billion rubles ($1.5 billion).
A source at Transneft said he had heard about these plans but that the spending is not part of Transneft's plans, so oil companies will have to finance it.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Government enters market like bull in china shop

Far from all stock market players are satisfied with the government's actions aimed at saving the stock market from collapse.
The bulk of all budget funds earmarked for loans will go to the three major banks - Sberbank, Vneshtorgbank (VTB), and Gazprombank. The other banks will get money only if the privileged three giants will decide to credit them.
On September 19, alarming information continued to come from the banking market: managers of some banks admitted, on conditions of anonymity, that there is no money on their accounts.
Many were wondering which of the banks were being prepared for "slaughter" and which would get no loans under any terms to make them more compliant during the merger.
The lucky ones, which managed to get loans from state-run banks, said interest on these loans reached 30% though the state banks borrowed loans at an annual rate of about 8%.
It was announced that mergers and acquisitions were planned in the banking sphere. Thus the state banks acted as devourers, and the banks deprived of state loans as their victims.
Simultaneously, the United Russia party, the "party of power," submitted a draft law to parliament's lower house demanding that small banks boost their equity capital within the next few years. The authors did not conceal in their explanatory note that they wanted the soonest possible merger or acquisition of small banks
The players that are most sensitive to market trends have found themselves in a very difficult situation. Seeing the authorities' inaction, they started short selling. Many of them failed to buy them back in order to return them to their creditors before their surge (by Friday's close, the MICEX and RTS indexes rose by 28.7% and 22.4%, respectively).
Thus, in the current crisis, the state acted unpredictably: first it allowed the situation to worsen uncontrollably and then it intervened in a way that would go hard with many market players.

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

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