The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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ESTONIA

Local media are worried about Russia using force against other countries.

"The international community is following with apprehension Russia's violent aggression against Georgia, which is an independent sovereign state. A world governed by international law is history. A Pandora's Box has been opened and the Evil Empire's old sprit has been released. New democracies are threatened everywhere." (Postimaes, September 17)

According to the local press, the global financial crisis exacerbated by the recent armed conflict in South Ossetia has dissipated illusions about the Russian stock market's reliability. Commentators dismiss Russia's generally believed social and economic stability as a "myth."

"Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's recent attack on the Mechel steel giant was yet more proof that Russia is a non-transparent, corrupt state, not governed by rule of law.

"The recent war in Georgia certainly played a role here. Russia has acted as a violent country with very aggressive rhetoric. Western politicians were very discreet toward it, but markets are affected by a different set of factors. The stock markets are closed in Russia, they no longer exist. Banks cannot cope with the situation.

"Mounting oil prices, a crisis of confidence, a banking crisis - problems are snowballing, and investors are leaving Russia in a hurry, the risks being too high.

"Putin has made a grievous error by putting everything into the energy basket: even in 2001, Russia's economy was more versatile." (Postimaes, September 19)

"The Russian government could partially stabilize its banking sector with the help of the oil proceeds, but will it save the stability myth from disintegration? What they call "certain economic difficulties" may still grow into a doomsday for those who have so far been enjoying the Putin era. What do they think of their stability now? The Russian government, which is throwing about billions of dollars, must certainly be thinking of other things besides financial markets." (Postimaes, September 23)

LATVIA

A number of Latvian media admit that former partnerships are splitting within the European Union and NATO. The split is caused by Washington's attempts to pass its own interests and decisions over those of the alliance as a whole, and by the military defeat of U.S.-backed Georgia.

"Georgia counts on an early accession to NATO... But France and Germany are blocking the way." (Business & Baltia, September 17)

"The EU wants peace and stability in the region and partner relations with Russia. NATO and its political establishment, accustomed to being U.S. foreign-political tools, have interests in stark contrast to Europe's. It is a conflict of basic interests. Only time will show where it will lead them if top EU and NATO officials continue their brawl over Russia." (Business & Baltia, September 18)

Neutral media describe Russia's response to Georgia's aggression in South Ossetia as insufficient.

"[President Mikheil] Saakashvili's military fiasco has led to a very real schism in the EU and NATO, even though this term is not used publicly. Countries which have enough common sense did not want to bear responsibility for a protege of the U.S. Republican administration.

"[Concerning Russia,] while preventing spontaneous violence against the civilian Georgian population in South Ossetia, it should have damaged the regime's military and political infrastructure beyond repair. As it is, that small but vicious predator, although wounded, can still do much harm to Russia's interests in the Caucasus and to the region as a whole." (Vesti Segodnya, September 17)

LITHUANIA

Local media supporting Russia's interests have condemned the harsh statements Lithuanian government officials made about Moscow in a bid to dodge responsibility for inept economic policy.

"They are trying to portray Russia as a bloodthirsty aggressor ready to tread on poor, tiny Lithuania. Our country's top politicians used several incredible epithets about Russia last week.

"Minister of National Defense Juozas Olekas, who speculated about rebuffing a potential Russian aggression, concluded that Lithuania would have handled it more effectively than Georgia. This discussion trailed and was fueled by more intimidating rhetoric from the Lithuanian conservative party who stopped just short of urging Lithuanians to start digging trenches to defend themselves from Russian invaders.

"So what interests does Lithuania's foreign policy serve? Can it be the people's? Or, isn't it being used to justify the economic blunders made by the government? They seem to be doing everything to annoy Russia, prodding it to constrict Lithuania's economic windpipe." (Litovsky Kuryer, September 18)

The media holding an aggressive anti-Russian position do not slam just Moscow. "Old" Europe is also criticized for its mild response to the Kremlin's policy, which could lead to the third world war.

"Russia's promises to pull out from part of invaded Georgian territories while retaining presence in the two regions it recognized as 'independent states' made certain European countries euphoric. They seem to have forgotten the arrogant statements by [Vladimir] Putin and his clone [Dmitry] Medvedev humiliating all civilized countries, or their threats to aim missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic, or the entire previous experience of dealing with Russia, which seems to understand no language except curses and strikes.

"If it hadn't been for those countries' pragmatism, which is nothing but a cover for their conformism and dumbness, Russia wouldn't have been able to prod the planet toward a third world war now." (Atgiminas, September 20)

BELARUS

The media note the Russian economy's excessive dependence on western financial institutions pointing out that, in turn, the Belarusian economy similarly hinges on Russian investments.

"Capital flow links us to Russia, and Russian banks are contingent on American credit and financial institutions. Russians have already lost $50 billion with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They will be losing in the future too. Belarus should have planned its monetary policy properly in advance. We could have switched to the gold standard, introduce the golden ruble, gradually eradicate the practice of using bills and dollars." (Zavtra Tvoyei Strany (Your Country's Tomorrow), September 19)

"Under such circumstances you can barely hope that the waves of the crisis will pass over Belarus. The country's economy is export-based, after all. Should Russian companies' stocks depreciate in value, it would mean that those consuming Belarusian output are in the red. There is little cash reserve in Russian, European or Asian banks, which is another impediment to our economic growth - it is secured by foreign credit to quite an extent." (Belorussky Partizan, September 20)

Several editions argue that separatist movements in the Russian Federation have become more active even forecasting North Ossetia's impending declaration of independence and creation of a united Ossetian state.

"The recognition of South Ossetia as a sovereign subject of international law will bring about the emerging of a dwarf state, which can later annex a part of Russia. Inspired by South Ossetians' independence, North Ossetians will not deny themselves seceding from Russia to join their fellow countrymen. No one will prevent them from doing it so as not to be accused of double standards." (BelGazeta, September 21)

UKRAINE

Most analysts doubt the possibility of a Russian and Ukrainian leaders' meeting in the near future. "The pro-presidential party, guided by some 'secret data', 'traced' a threat posed by neighboring Russia. The argument to knock you out is that Russia has dedicated some $1 billion 'to realize the project of supporting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.' Indeed, should you wonder that the Kremlin press service sent a clear message that Medvedev is highly unlikely to come to Kiev? The visit will take place only after all disputed issues in bilateral relations are settled by the 'experts.' 'When will it happen?' we should ask." (Stolichnye Novosti, September 17)

Sources mention Georgia's reorientation from the Russian market to the Ukrainian one.

"According to Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze, Russian commodities will be mostly replaced with their Ukrainian analogues. If the Georgian government's plans happen to come true, Ukraine may become Georgia's biggest trade partner as early as next year." (Gazeta, September 23)

According to observers, the Russian government seeks to demonstrate its peacekeeping capacity in Transdnestr at the same time keeping its interests in mind.

"Russia's decision not to extrapolate its line in the Caucasus onto Transdnestr can be easily understood and explained. Unlike the Georgia-South Ossetian and Georgia-Abkhaz relations, the attitude of the people on both banks of the Dniester toward each other is not marked by hatred. The peculiarity of the Transdnestr conflict is that both parties are wise enough to abstain from using force. The wars between Tiraspol and Chisinau are based mainly on the economy, communication and transportation." (Kiev Telegraph, September 19)

"The Kremlin decided to demonstrate that it can mediate between neighbors, rather than separate them. If someone behaves differently from Russia's plan, we all know what the consequences might be." (Gazeta 24, September 18)

MOLDOVA

The resolution of Gagauzia's legislative assembly to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia has once again drawn attention to the conflict between Russia and Georgia. National columnists complain that Gagauzians will try to take advantage of the issue to exert pressure on Chisinau.

"Gagauzia found itself with Nicaragua, the Palestinian Hamas, Lebanon's radical party of Hezbollah, the self-proclaimed Transdnestr and the Republic of Serbian Krajina among those few who supported Russia's decision to recognize the independence. It was to be expected after the autonomy's parliament practically endorsed Russia's actions in Georgia." (Timpul de Dimineata, September 23)

The press criticizes Russia for manipulating political processes in the sovereign state. "Russians are smart - they do not put all their eggs in one basket. Russians do not stake on President Voronin only - he has been excluded from Moscow's plans. It wants to see less odious, more reliable and younger politicians, who will provide for 'changes' establishing a non-communist, Russophilic and humane regime in Chisinau." (Timpul de Dimineata, September 19)

ARMENIA

According to analysts, Armenia in no way benefits from the deployment of Russian military bases on its territory.

"We have always underestimated our importance to Russia and overestimated Russia's importance to us. With its base in Armenia, Russia pursues its military and strategic policy. NATO and the U.S. did not interfere in the Georgia-Russian conflict due to many reasons. One of the decisive points was the Russian military base in Armenia with its anti-aircraft warfare controlling the whole South Caucasus. Today Armenia covers Russia's southern flank. Russia should have loaded Armenia with money, but they do not even bother to pay for the base. Moreover, we bear considerable costs for it. This base is crucial to both Russia and Armenia. But you should pay for using someone else's territories." (Republic of Armenia, September 17)

Political analysts say that the situation in the South Caucasus after the military confrontation between Russia and Georgia is beneficial to Armenia. "It is the first time since the beginning of the 1990s that the outlook for Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh is quite bright due to the war (in South Ossetia). Military risks are less probable; apparently, Azerbaijan's intention to resume war has been put off." (Azatutyun, September 17)

Experts warn Yerevan against making Moscow's errors. "Is it worth following Russia's line regarding the recognition of South Ossetia when it comes to Nagorny Karabakh? This stance would be wrong as such because Nagorny Karabakh does not want to be aligned with countries recognized by Russia and Nicaragua only. This would ensure its political and transportation isolation." (Azatutyun, September 17)

GEORGIA

Some analysts say Russia, by recognizing Georgia's separatist regions, is opposing the world's leading powers and depriving itself of a major means of pressure on Georgia.

"Russia should understand that by recognizing these regions as independent states, it is only feeding its virtual ambitions, but this is a losing stance. This should outweigh the imperialistic ambitions of Putin and Medvedev. So far Russia is winning only in that it damages Georgia. If the latter is the goal in and of itself, it sounds hollow." (Akhali Taoba, September 19)

"Nobody knows what Russia gains from this war. If the two Ossetias unite, Russia will be divided. The Ossetians will be the reason. The Russians will be told: 'Let go of the united Ossetia.'" (Alia, September 18)

"Russia is impudent: it has launched an attack... In the UN, European Council and OSCE, Russia pursues a brazen, cynical and audacious policy... Russia is publicly extending its influence on the republics." (Rezonansi, September 19)

"The Russians have neither the necessary political-economic and intellectual resources nor the allies to confront Europe and the U.S. They have plunged themselves into absolute desolation by their own rash actions. The population's sentiment is heated up by intense propaganda." (Georgia Online, September 20)

"Georgia's intention to join NATO was the biggest irritant for Russia... If Russia recognizes the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, why does it ignore Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia? Legal recognition of separatist regimes will encourage the split between a Russian metropoly and its regions. While recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, nobody in the Kremlin ever wanted to liberate the people: the main objective to was to take regions away from the hated Georgia, punish and subdue the latter and therefore express the following: You don't want to be with us, you want to be with the West? Let's see who's stronger." (Pankisi Info, September 19).

AZERBAIJAN

Most commentators say that although Russia doesn't want Azerbaijan to move closer to the West and NATO, Moscow has failed to make Baku change its stance.

"The Kremlin is angered by the pro-western stance of the Azeri government. Aliyev was invited to Moscow for a "showdown". If Aliyev doesn't do everything that Moscow demands from him, his power will be undermined. If he accepts the terms without a dialogue, he will accept a yoke around his neck and plunge his country into despair. This means it's necessary to neutralize Russian emissaries in the Azeri government immediately and move toward a closer partnership with the West." (Azadlyg, September 17)

"Russia says 'no' to diversification of energy routes... expansion of NATO... Russia failed to gain public support from Azerbaijan on any of these issues, with Azerbaijan holding back from condemning Russia's actions in the South Caucasus." (Zerkalo, September 17)

This recent test of Russian-Azeri relations resulted in little. (Zerkalo, September 18).

Moscow failed to reach its goals. The two presidents virtually confined themselves to vague ... generalities. It was clear that Russia intends to find out Azerbaijan's attitude toward developments in Georgia. Although Medvedev said: 'Russia and Azerbaijan should coordinate their positions', meaning a closer political partnership, it is obvious that he failed." (Bizim Yol, September 18)

KAZAKHSTAN

Analysts say Russia, unlike China and Iran, has no economically attractive projects to offer the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, besides military cooperation. In Kazakhstan, Russian business is represented only in the hydrocarbon sector. In Tajikistan, Russia has no projects with the exception of a hydroelectric plant, which was handed over to Russia in exchange for debt relief. Roads and tunnels, electric power lines and housing are being built by Iranian, Chinese and Turkish contractors. A similar situation exists in Kyrgyzstan, which Russian businessmen are highly skeptical to invest in, while other neighbors gradually 'link' the country's economy to themselves. Economic partnerships would be much more important for strengthening Russia's positions in any region than supplying large quantities of guns and warplanes or paying rent for airfields and other facilities. Without economic ties, any other area of interstate cooperation would be a smokescreen." (Delovaya Nedelya)

Commentators say denial of direct support to Russia in the "Caucasian issue" by the CIS and SCO members was caused by the governments of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Belarus, who were unwilling to impulsively rend their dissoluble bonds with the West and find themselves in a political, economic and, not least, investment confinement." (Delovaya Nedelya)

Some analysts say Russia virtually threatens Kazakhstan's territorial integrity.

"Russia has publicly announced its intention to dominate the former Soviet territories. Medvedev clearly shows his neighbors, that they will live in constant fear if they don't join an alliance with Russia. The Russian empire is trying to satisfy its great-power ambitions, with its leadership dreaming of revenge for the defeat in the Cold War... We shouldn't forget about the large Russian expat community in our country." (Megapolis)

UZBEKISTAN

Observers are sure there will be no new round of confrontation in the Caucasus in the near future. "The crisis is slowly moving toward a settlement amidst recrimination and moving further away from its 'hot phase.' The course of discussion and debates over the developments following the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia will go on for a long time. Now it's clear that there is no major increase in tensions to expect from the Caucasus in the near future." (Gorizont.uz, September 16)

Additionally, commentators insist that Russia will easily prove its superiority again in case of resumption of the hostilities.

"Even if Tbilisi ventures into a new aggression, the recently shipped weaponry will soon be at the Russian General Staff's disposal again. Besides, we have already heard the funny story of the Pentagon asking Russia to return its Hummvees." (Gorizont.uz, September 16)

TAJIKISTAN

Private media are discussing the possibility of resurrecting the U.S.S.R.

"Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia could join the union before the end of this year. The U.S. fears a resurrection of the U.S.S.R... Before, it was supposed that Armenia and Kazakhstan and even Ukraine (in case a pro-Russian bloc gets into power or the country disintegrates) could join the new union in the long term. In fact, this could be a platform for setting up an equivalent of the former U.S.S.R. This is how the Soviet Union was being created in the early 20th century." (Avesta, September 13)

"There will not be another USSR like it was before. The republics that have tasted freedom will never put their heads in the noose again. Countries like ours, whose independence was hard-won through war and bloodshed, will never accept a flash-back. Russia and Belarus will fail to make their Union State similar to the U.S.S.R., as long as Mr. Lukashenko is alive, as he doesn't want Putin or Medvedev to occupy key positions in the union's joint government, as much as the latter two do not want the authoritarian Lukashenko to do it." (FK-Kapital, September 10)

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

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