CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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ESTONIA

Certain local media sources criticize the EU and NATO for having "forgotten" the war in Georgia too soon and "forgiven" Russia which has not at all abandoned its geopolitical ambitions.

"It is highly regrettable that Western countries have been appeasing Russia again so soon after the conflict in the Caucasus, and that they are back to their former relations with Moscow. Russian troops have pulled out of Georgia, but Russia is still far from abandoning its stance, according to Sven Mikser, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee." (Eesti Paevaleht, October 23)

Estonian media voice concerns over a sharp fall in the number of "non-citizens" wishing to obtain Estonian passports. Local analysts expect Estonia to have even more reasons to be wary of a Russia that is capable of standing by ethnic Russians living abroad.

"Estonia's integration policy is in jeopardy, as people have realized now in light of the Georgian events that it could have grave consequences. According to reliable sources, at least 600 Estonian residents have been granted Russian citizenship this year. There could be more but the Russian Embassy does not publish these files. The number of Russian citizens permanently residing in Estonia began to grow rapidly from the estimated 100,000. Now, one can put two and two together and ask oneself where Estonia will end up if this is only an initial stage in a trend. The numbers of residents carrying Russian passports can double if more 'non-residents' apply for them.

"This is exactly what Russia did to Georgia - distributed Russian passports to everyone who wanted them in regions dominated by separatist sentiments, and then used the protection of its 'citizens' as a pretext for invasion." (Eesti Paevaleht, October 27)

LATVIA

Local journalists tell their readers about the Kremlin's consistent propaganda in the Baltic region.

"There are obvious and alarming changes in Russia's political strategy. Alongside a rapid centralization of state power in Russia, they are apparently back to hailing Stalinism and Russian imperial ambitions.

"The atrocities documented in the Latvian Occupation Museum's displays are referred to as 'hostile' and 'anti-Russian' propaganda, which has to be condemned and fought wherever encountered... Dr. Igor Panarin, department head at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy, said Russia needed to counter the 'information activity of Russia's geopolitical adversaries' by restoring a Soviet-style foreign-policy propaganda system and attracting resources of private businesses along with government resources." (Diena, October 23)

LITHUANIA

Certain media sources forecast another "sovereignties parade" in Russia. Analysts warn that negative global economic trends may lead some Russian regions to want to become independent from the "aggressor."

"Russia's territorial integrity may come under trial. Things might get so bad soon that the regions least dependent on the federal government but having developed relations with more progressive neighbors will have better chances of survival. Kamchatka may strengthen its links with America and Japan. This example can inspire other regions, and seats of separatism may easily emerge all over the place. Extremely tight federal control may only destabilize the regions prodding them to revolt.

"But that may be all for the best. The instability may activate some dormant potential for a renaissance in a declining nation. Whatever the case, the issue of rescuing Russia is back into the limelight, and that is less likely than ever to be accomplished from beyond. For one thing, everyone has their own plates full, and for another, why should they bother to help an aggressor?" (Delfi.lt, October 24)

Most media sources are reassuring their readers that Russia is not going to attack Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia any time soon. However, analysts believe that in the long run, a Russian aggression against the Baltic nations is possible.

"An attack on one of the Baltic countries would have been a flagrant challenge to the entire western civilization, which Russia is unlikely to venture. That Russia itself is not ready for a final battle with the United States and Europe is also a reassuring fact. If Russia were to choose the Baltic countries as a target for attack, they would be 'honored' to go down in history as a place where World War III began." (Runet.lt, October 23)

BELARUS

Local media sources argue that the Union State concept is incompatible with the current political system in Belarus, based on the unlimited personal power of the president who is compelled to imitate some integration effort for purely economic reasons.

"Any options including a strong supranational government body, even if they do not involve Belarus' accession to Russia, put Minsk in a disadvantageous position, because any controlling body over which Minsk has no power will be regarded as a threat to its consolidated political elite. Even a partial loss of control over economic resources is seen by the ruling class as a threat.

"All the above in fact preclude any further progress in the Union State development. Why has the concept been brought back to the spotlight? Evidently, because new players have emerged, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and also because autumn is back. The autumn means heating will be turned on, and the new players which provides a new opportunity to play with the structure and functions of the Union State." (Nashe Mneniye, October 23)

Local media sources trace a direct dependence between the size of Russia's next loan to Belarus and President Alexander Lukashenko's de facto refusal to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states.

"The Belarusian government is augmenting the country's foreign debt with mind-boggling speed. Last year, Belarus borrowed from Russia $1.5 billion. This year it is asking for another $2 billion. A few days ago [Russia's Finance Minister Alexei] Kudrin said Russia agreed to issue a $1 billion loan.

"The amount is just enough for survival, and obviously too small for development. It must be the result of President Lukashenko's backtracking on his earlier promise to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"With that decision suspended, Russia acted likewise about the loan. However, since Moscow is not interested in destabilizing the Belarusian economy, it provided an amount which would prevent it from collapse but would still make the country's economy feel tight." (Solidarnost, October 23)

UKRAINE

Local analysts write that the Kremlin's efforts to strengthen defenses will fail in conditions of the global financial crisis, which has affected Russia.

"Deliberations about military bases in foreign countries and large rearmament programs are no more than Moscow's declaration of intentions that it is unable to implement. Russia's striving to demonstrate its growing military might does not fit in with the current developments in the global economy. Over the past six months, Gazprom has lost as much as $200 billion, or five of the country's defense budgets. This trend may persist, given falling oil prices, and so new naval bases and rearmament programs will remain nothing more than words." (Kommentarii, October 23)

The media write negatively about Ukrainian government's instructions to stop broadcasting the Russian cable TV channels from November 1. According to them, the true reasons for this decision are political.

"What are the reasons behind the current attack on the Russian channels? The reasons are primarily political. The head of state and the National Security and Defense Council have repeatedly called for ensuring the country's information security, inferring that the main threat comes from Russian TV channels, which broadcast information that Ukrainian channels do not provide. This became clear when Russians announced that Ukraine supplied weapons to Georgia. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainian channels broadcast lopsided information, and only Russian journalists working for the channels that 'have not been adapted to Ukrainian legislation', as it suddenly turned out, presented the other side's views. At the same time, the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council gives all Ukrainians, from toddlers to seniors, a chance to watch two erotic channels - Spice (The Netherlands) and Adult Channel (U.K.) - and the religious CNL TV (New Life Channel, U.S.)." (2000, October 25)

ARMENIA

Some analysts try to predict possible developments in Nagorny Karabakh, saying that others, in addition to Armenia and Azerbaijan, will get involved.

"The inviolability of borders and territorial integrity, the fundamental principles of international law, have been violated twice, first by Americans (in Kosovo) and then by Russians (in Abkhazia and South Ossetia)... The events of the past three months have changed the region's political map. Now, no one should be surprised if the world's great powers use force routinely. This can put to rest the once inviolable principle according to which the conflict can be settled only with the agreement of both sides, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This principle can now be amended to include the phrase, 'with the support by a third party.' And this 'third party' will see itself as the ultimate judge." (Azatamtutyun, October 22)

But analysts see a silver lining in that cloud. They say that the conflicting parties have room to maneuver as long as Russia and the U.S. fight over Karabakh.

"The battle over Karabakh is being waged not by Armenia and Azerbaijan, but by the U.S. and Russia, each of whom wants to force its settlement model on the sides. This gives Armenia and Azerbaijan room to maneuver, because nothing is being coordinated in the OSCE Minsk Group, where the two key members torpedo the rival's initiatives. So, nothing so far threatens Armenian-Russian strategic cooperation." (Hayots Ashkhar, October 23)

According to the local media, any settlement model implies the loss of Moscow's influence in the South Caucasus.

"Since the early stages of confrontation, Russia has not wanted the problem to be solved. After all, the Karabakh conflict has been the most effective method of keeping Armenia and Azerbaijan at bay for 20 years, and so it would be naive to think that Russia will abandon this ace in the hole now." (Azatamtutyun, October 24)

GEORGIA

Georgian journalists write that Russia will never admit that its problems were created by men who sit in the Kremlin.

"Russia, which has serious political problems in the North Caucasus and is trying to deal with an economic crisis at home, is searching for scapegoats. But it cannot place the blame on the incompetent chekisti sitting in the Kremlin. So who is the enemy of Mother Russia? Of course, it is Georgia. Moscow's crude actions will set all Caucasian nations against it without our assistance... According to the Izvestia daily, Georgian authorities are selling air defense systems to Ingushetia. Guys, if we had enough air defense systems, your aircraft would not have flown so freely over our territory. Everyone knows that your 'workers' and peasants' army' sells arms even to its enemies. The luxury cottages in Rublyovka cost a lot, so they sell arms to pay for their construction." (Gruzia Online, October 27)

AZERBAIJAN

Local analysts are discussing Dmitry Medvedev's proposal to hold a meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia in November to discuss the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Observers think that Russia may deploy its peacekeeping forces in Nagorny Karabakh to retain control over the region.

"Russia may propose freeing the occupied area around Karabakh and sending its peacekeepers there. The discussion on the region's status will be postponed. In this case, the conflict will be frozen. But the West will not want to lose its initiative and will insist on the deployment of international forces in the region... After the events in South Ossetia, Russia's international reputation was damaged, and Moscow wants to regain it. To do this, Moscow will try to be a peacemaker in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Russia will propose a variant that will allow it to keep control over the region. If Azerbaijan rejects the offer, Russia will say: "We offered a way to settle the conflict, but the parties failed to reach agreement." ("Zerkalo," October 24)

"Russia's Karabakh initiative is a PR campaign, an attempt to demonstrate to the world its peacekeeping intentions, but not to contribute to the settlement of the conflict. Russia is trying to show its supremacy over European mediators." (1News.az, October 27)

KAZAKHSTAN

Speaking of intergovernmental relations within the CIS during the financial crisis, analysts unanimously give Russia the role of "the first among the equal." They believe that Astana could help Moscow support its CIS partners during the crisis. "Russia and to some extent Kazakhstan could act as crisis managers for the CIS, helping their partners survive the crisis and take advantage of the situation to the benefit of their own businessmen. Moscow and Astana could help Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan pay their debt in exchange for economic preferences and shares in industrial facilities, including participation in the energy projects that will define energy set-up in Central Asia." ("Delovaya Nedelya," October 24)

Observers think that during the financial crisis, the CIS has a chance not only to retain its structure, but also to strengthen its position. "It is the moment of truth for the CIS, which will show if its politicians can leave political courtesy behind and move to real economic and financial actions that will unite the Commonwealth. Much will depend on the CIS member-states' leaders. If they fail to unite at a time of trial, then centrifugal tendencies in the region will definitely be back after the situation on the global financial markets is back to normal." ("Delovaya Nedelya," October 24)

TURKMENISTAN

Experts believe that Tajikistan's "multi-vector" policy irritates Russia. "In 2007, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced the multi-vector policy in energy, which boils down to exports of energy resources to any foreign countries on mutually beneficial terms. Turkmenistan has been actively conducting talks with potential buyers of oil and gas and set hydrocarbon prices "with regard to the world tendencies." But the export of Turkmen hydrocarbon resources is restricted by Gazprom pipes built in Soviet times, which transport gas to Russia through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Moscow is doing its best to retain its influence on Ashkhabad and opposes any involvement of Turkmenistan in alternative energy projects. The Kremlin is irritated by the Caspian pipeline project backed by the U.S. and EU, and the prospect of a pipeline construction to China which will supply it with 30 billion cubic meters of the Turkmen gas annually... Political changes in a country involved in the international pipeline network inevitable affect supplies. The recent war in South Ossetia affected the oil supplies through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and in political disputes with Ukraine, Russia often plays the energy card." (Gundogar.org, October 20)

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

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