Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has accused Russia of ignoring democratic principles and called on the European Union to formulate a common stance regarding Russia, recognizing it as an authoritarian regime.
"To begin with, it should stop complaining about the absence of Western-style democracy in Russia, because the West cannot do anything to change this situation. A moratorium should be enforced on replying to Moscow's increasingly harsh rhetoric." (Diplomaatia, October 12)
Experts believe that an authoritarian regime is growing stronger behind Russia's democratic façade. "Russia's current political system can be described as ‘Putinism,' a façade for pseudo-democracy elevated to a new level. Pseudo-democracy in Russia is comparable to the regimes in Iran or Venezuela. Russia's federal authorities are establishing seemingly independent parties, which are in fact controlled" by the Kremlin. (SL Ohtuleht, October 12)
The local media were outraged by Vladimir Putin's criticism of Latvian and Estonian governments for extolling the ‘heroism' of the Nazis and the support he expressed for the Baltics Jewish organizations' fight against the propaganda of fascist ideals. The media describe Putin's words as provocative and worsening relations with the Baltic countries.
"The Jewish community of Latvia made taciturn comments on Putin's words, saying that it did not want to take part in political games, which are the main goal of the Russian president's actions. The Russian president outlined the future of relations between our countries. It is not bright, contrary to the hopes of many politicians and businessmen that the border treaty would improve these relations." (Diena, October 12)
The media write that the Vilnius Energy Security Conference 2007: Responsible Energy for Responsible Partners was designed to help energy-dependent countries to elaborate a common stance for talks with Russia and launch projects to diversify hydrocarbon resources.
"Lithuania has grown tired of adjusting to the conditions dictated by Russian energy suppliers. The conference participants were to sign a treaty on the establishment of organizations that would start building an electricity bridge between Lithuania and Poland and the Odessa-Brody-Plock oil pipeline. These would be major steps towards energy independence." (Lietuvos zinios, October 11)
Many observers write about the conference that Lithuania remained an "energy island." They explain failure to reach a compromise needed to sign a Lithuanian-Polish agreement on electricity and nuclear power generation by Poland's refusal to budge. However, some observers hinted at a "Russian connection."
"The Polish president turned the energy forum in Vilnius into political bargaining. The common energy and political front against Russia was split." (Lietuvos rytas, October 11)
"This could be a result of Russia's efforts, which does not want Lithuania and Poland to strike a deal on joint energy projects." (Verslo zinios, October 11)
Experts interpret a series of sharp anti-Russian statements made by the Belarusian president as one more attempt to establish ties with the West. Moscow-Minsk relations are expected to deteriorate in late 2007 or early 2008 due to another round of the "gas war."
"Lukashenko has fired a powerful salvo at the Russian leaders, accusing Russia of all deadly sins. He is probably preparing for a new gas war with Russia ahead of the new round of talks on gas prices next year. He would probably like the European Union to at least remain neutral in this war. This explains his relatively liberal treatment of the opposition, which has held the European March [a rally in the center of Minsk in support of closer ties with Europe on October 14]. The real plans and intentions of the Belarusian leadership will become apparent after the New Year, when the issue of gas prices should be settled, one way or another." (Belorussky Partizan, October 15)
Analysts consider the future of relations with Russia and possible political and economic integration of Belarus in Europe.
"We are falling from a lower height than Russia currently has. While we fall, Russia will continue to grow. Everyone, even die-hard ill wishers, promise it at least five more years of growth. The contrast will be impossible to hide. We should remember that our geographical neighbors will not fly to the Moon even after the most successful European march. Like it or not, we will still have to collaborate and address problems together with them, primarily with Russia, just as the Baltic countries have to do. There are several options. We could cooperate [with Russia] as Estonia or Georgia are doing, or opt for the Finnish or Lithuanian variants. The latter would seem a better option, if only for economic reasons." (Telegraf, October 10)
The press is not optimistic about the agreement signed in Vilnius to expand Sarmatia, a Ukrainian-Polish consortium set up to complete the construction of the Odessa-Brody-Plock-Gdansk oil pipeline. Journalists do not believe the project will be implemented. Kazakhstan's refusal to join it means that there will not be enough oil for the pipeline.
"At first glance, everything looks perfect, with Azerbaijani oil, the pipeline, and the clients - Lithuania and Poland - expecting major revenues. But there is a catch, which few have noted so far, although it may sink the project. It is the absence of Kazakhstan in it. So the signing of the agreement in Lithuania does not mean much, and excessive jubilation is not on the agenda." (Versii, October 11)
Experts recall that Russia may hinder the project by holding bilateral talks with its potential participants.
"Nearly each energy-dependent country is trying not to taunt the Big Brother but to discuss arising problems with him." (Den, October 11)
Local newspapers write that Russia, which has launched a new ideological warfare against the West, should be considered a threat to national security.
"Russians' hostility to the West is written into the new imperial ideology of the Kremlin, which is assuming the form of the so-called sovereign democracy. Russia wants to be ‘the other Europe,' an antipode to the EU, although not to stop its eastward expansion, but to replace it with its own expansion. So beware of Russia, because worse things are in store." (Jurnal de Chisinau, October 16)
The local press analyzes political changes in Russia and their possible influence on Russian-Armenian relations.
"Strategic changes are underway in Russia's relations with the West, which have been described in the world as a new Cold War. Forces believing that they can replace the doctrine of total cooperation with limited cooperation are coming to power in Russia. If the new doctrine takes priority in Russia, its advocates will have to lead their capital out of the shadows in order to ensure additional resources for the country. Taken together, this will inevitably result in a clash with the interests of the team represented by [First Deputy Prime Minister] Sergei Ivanov in Moscow and [Prime Minister] Serzh Sarkisyan in Yerevan." (Taregir.am, October 12)
The report on Abkhazia presented by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is viewed here as Russia's diplomatic victory.
"The UN Secretary General has said clearly that we cannot control the situation in the regions adjacent to the conflict zone, which creates problems. He sees a way out in dispatching international observers to these regions. If the initiative is implemented, the observers' zone of responsibility will approach the Georgia-controlled Kodori Gorge. It is expected that Russian peacekeepers will mainly monitor the situation there, which is a victory for the Russian policy." (24 Saati, October 10)
Local experts explain Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's sharp criticism of Moscow's policy regarding Georgia and Ukraine by his energy interests. He will change the tone as soon as the problem is settled, they write. On the other hand, cooperation between Georgia and Belarus offers a chance of implementing regional energy projects without Russia.
"Russia is not budging, which is why Lukashenko is irritated. As to Georgia, Belarus could be a good partner for it in delivering energy to Europe bypassing Russia. Lukashenko is more practical than many believe." (Rezonansi, October 16)
The local media point to Washington's support for the pipeline projects suiting Azerbaijan.
"The United States is ready to support the energy projects of the GUAM countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova). It has been decided to hold a meeting of the western wing of the CIS in Vilnius, where a U.S. representative could be easily invited to reaffirm Washington's support for the GUAM leaders' desire to ‘go West.' Indicatively, the U.S. representatives tried to involve Azerbaijan in rivalry against Russia on the European gas market already on the first day of the energy security summit in Vilnius." (Zerkalo, October 12)
The close positions of Russia and Iran on the project of a trans-Caspian seabed pipeline bypassing Russia is viewed here as an obstacle to making decisions suiting Azerbaijan.
"Despite fundamental differences over the delivery of Central Asian energy supplies to Europe, the tactical interests of Russia and Iran fully coincide. Moscow and Tehran are ready to do their best to torpedo the western route." (Zerkalo, October 12)
Experts are worried about the growing Chinese influence in the region.
"Much is being said about the need to promote trade and economic cooperation between the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). But such cooperation will mark time owing to problems in relations between the SCO and the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), as there is a psychological fear of establishing an integration space with such a huge country as China." (Gazeta.kz, October 10)
Despite mixed views of Vladimir Putin's policy, the majority of commentators recognize his achievements in strengthening Russia.
"Regarding Putin's state capitalism ironically will not make it less effective. The consolidation of resources and removal of oligarchs from politics have allowed Russia to stabilize the internal situation and use the positive situation on the global oil markets to greatly increase the country's capitalization." (Gazeta.kz, October 16)
The decision to establish the peacekeeping forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is Russia's reply to Washington's attempt at domination in Central Asia, according to the local media.
"There is a competition between two projects - one launched by the GUAM countries and NATO led by Washington, and the other underway within the CSTO led by Russia. In fact, it is a reply Russia was forced into by the American policy of unilateral domination. The United States cannot reconcile itself to the failure of its experiment at global domination, made possible by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Changes in the style of relations with the main international partners, and the threats Russia encountered when it tried to regain its international status, forced the Russian leaders to revise their foreign policy and the ideology behind it. The point at issue is not only - and not so much - the restoration of the ‘international balance' of forces, as a new interpretation of Russia's traditional idea of ensuring the safety of its borders by expanding its territory, or at least the zone of tranquility around it." (Ferghana.ru, October 12)
Local experts write that the program of curbing the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials, signed by the United States and Kyrgyzstan, will enable Washington to monitor not only the movement of smuggled goods, but also the Russian nuclear program. (Russian investors hold a 72.28% stake in the Karabalty mining plant.)
"Knowing the volume of imported raw materials and exported output, the United States will be able to draw conclusions on the development of Russia's nuclear program. Since similar control is stipulated for the Kazakh-Russian border, the Americans will know how much uranium is dispatched to different regions of Russia." (Delo #, October 10)
Turkmenistan's decision on the Nabucco project of building a trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline bypassing Russia, to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, clearly outlines the country's choice between Russia and the West.
"The main goal of the Nabucco project, lobbied in the EU with American support, is to build a natural gas pipeline to Europe bypassing Russia. The West has offered Ashgabat to liberate Turkmenistan's energy resources from Russian control, because gas export depends almost entirely on Gazprom. Many experts believe that the decision to export gas through the trans-Caspian pipeline will also determine Turkmenistan's stance in the battle of Russia with the West for Central Asian and Caspian oil and gas reserves." (Gundogar, October 12)
Several national publications have accused Russia of fanning tensions in relations with the United States.
"They have removed ideology and stopped ideological confrontation; capitalism has won. Russia and the United States seem to be interested in stability and in settling local conflicts. Moscow lays the blame on the Untied States, which is recarving the world and ignoring international law. But this cannot explain the nearly hysterical tone of many Russian publications and the sharp and nearly hostile speeches by [Russian] officials. It seems that Moscow is looking for a pretext for a quarrel. This is a battle between two equally strong emotions - the United States' new policy of fighting international terrorism and protecting human rights, and Russia's pining for the lost empire and Soviet great power status." (Nachot, October 11)
Specialists write that the situation of Tajik labor migrants in Russia will not improve unless the Tajik authorities assume responsibility for training professionals.
"Russia needs Tajik migrants, but we should train specialists, rather than send illiterates there. Every year about 500,000-600,000 migrants seek employment in Russia, while we [the Tajik state agency of social protection, employment and migration] can train only 7,500-8,000 annually." (Vecherny Dushanbe, October 11)
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