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    The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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    The media continue writing about the "imperial" ambitions of Russia, which is trying to restore its influence in neighboring countries. "The conviction that one state may dictate orders to others shows the absolute inability to understand what it means to have sovereign neighbors. The Lukashenko regime, instability in Georgia or a difficult situation in Ukraine are seen as pretexts for reaching out to them. The idea that a state should be able to influence the foreign policy of other countries is inherent in Russian policy." (Myte, supplement of Eesti Paevaleht, November 9)


    The media are indignant at the statement of a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry about Russia's intention to demand that Riga give Russian the status of the second official language. Political scientists believe that it confirms Moscow's intention to use the Russian speakers as a lever of political pressure on Latvia. "The Latvian government's current practice of integrating society and the use of language is successful and does not need any changes." (Diena, November 9) "In conditions of political instability, we should thoroughly analyze such signals from Moscow, particularly in the context of a new coalition. There exists a risk that power in Latvia may go to pro-Russian parties, which will not hesitate to pursue Russian interests... There is not a single international norm which would compel Latvia to give Russian the status of a second official language." (Latvijas Avize, November 9).


    The media continue to be concerned about Lithuania's sovereignty and economic dependence on Russia in the context of Russia's deteriorating relations with the West. "The EU countries no longer hope to see rapid democratic reforms in Russia, but would like to use Moscow to their advantage. Lithuania has thus far been unable to do the same." (Veidas, November 5)

    "Without a doubt, it is unrealistic to hope that being an EU member Lithuania will preserve its sovereignty in the traditional interpretation of this word. It is equally naïve to hope that it will get rid of its dependence on Russia or Russia's influence. But instead of talking about Lithuania's statehood, as if it does not yet have it or is about to lose it, it is better to create a political ideal, which would help us to preserve our national identity, even if our country becomes heavily dependent on Russia. Maybe, we should act like Finland during the Cold War." (Respublika, October 31)


    Analyzing the dynamics of Belarusian-Russian relations, the opposition media have arrived at the conclusion that the project of the so-called Union State has no prospects whatsoever. "The main paradox is that despite seemingly different models of development chosen by Belarus and Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the political systems in the two countries are becoming increasingly similar with every passing year. But as this rapprochement becomes more intensive, more sparks occur during contact and mutual alienation is growing... Russia's increasing political similarity with Belarus is making it less and less attractive, especially for the Belarusians... It is even strange to hear about the continued attempts to create a ‘union state.' Who is going to enter this union and with whom --a ‘small' Belarus with a ‘big' one? This is not likely to happen. It is against the laws of physics, not to mention the two similar political elites, which will not be able to coexist in a single country." (Telegraf, November 12)


    Analysts believe that in the near future Kiev will have to pay a great deal for Moscow's consent to a minor increase in gas prices for Ukraine in 2008. "New prices will compel Ukraine to spend additional billions of dollars. With a price of $160 [for 1,000 cubic meters], expenses on gas imports will increase by $1.65 billion to reach $8.8 billion. With a price of $260, they will double to top $14 billion." (Gazeta 24, November 7)

    Commentators are convinced that Ukraine will have to accept the market model of relations with Russia in fuel and energy because it has practically no levers of influence on its northern neighbor. "It is absolutely clear that Ukraine cannot pay more than $200 for a 1,000 cubic meters, but it is not clear how to reduce it. Earlier, Viktor Yushchenko suggested compensating for a price hike by increasing the cost of transit, but his talks with Vladimir Putin on this score have not taken place... It was brought home to Ukraine that it would not be able to dictate anything to Gazprom. (Russian-Ukrainian review Gulyai-pole, October 31)

    "We will not gain anything...even by increasing the price of transit. Russia will instantly raise the price of fuel to the declared $230-$250 for a 1,000 cubic meters." (Ekspert-Ukraina, November 12)

    Many media are of the opinion that today it is absurd to talk about the pro-Russian orientation of any political forces in Georgia. "No matter what trials and tribulations Georgia may go through, the ‘Kremlin's bloody hand' is bound to surface there sooner or later... This hand is seizing autonomies from Georgia, putting packs of dollars into the pockets of ‘FSB agents' and stifling the proud republic with an economic blockade." (From-ua, November 12)

    Having resorted to force, the Georgian leader has discredited the very idea of a colored revolution, and the Kremlin will not hesitate to use this opportunity.

    "Saakashvili did not notice the brink he crossed... He presented Russia with an excuse, which it could have never hoped to get. On hearing the first shots in Tbilisi, people in the Kremlin opened champagne." (Ukrainskaya Pravda, November 9)


    Some commentators believe that Moscow has a secret plan on Transdnestr settlement, which may threaten Moldova's sovereignty.

    "The media have been actively discussing the secret plan in the last few months, although officially no one has confirmed or rejected its existence. The new plan may happen to be an updated version of Kozak-suggested Moldova's federalization, which President Voronin refused to sign in 2003..." (Moldova Azi, November 7) "The idea of demilitarizing Moldova's entire territory is nothing new... This is an intricate way of alienating Chisinau from the Euro-Atlantic space by nipping in the bud any attempt of rapprochement with an agency like NATO ... Its proponents [of Kozak's plan] are Russian agents or people who take part in Moscow's evil games regardlessly." (Flux, November 2)


    Political scientists regret that Russian parties and political alliances did not consider the factor of ethnicity in compiling the lists of nominees for the Duma. It is not easy for ethnic communities in Russia to achieve success in the parliamentary elections, the press sums up.

    "The United Russia's proportionate list does not reflect the ethnic diversity of the nation at all. The ruling party occupies the last place in the number of Armenians on its election lists among all the associations that have a chance of success. It is easy to guess how they [Armenians] got so high on the Liberal Democratic Party list. Oligarchs Ashot Yegiazaryan and Aram Sarkisyan may vie for the title of this party's chief sponsor." (Novoye Vremya, November 10).

    Some media called Mikhail Saakashvili's allegation that the events in Georgia amounted to Russia's direct and massive attack against it, ridiculous. "In his address to the nation, the Georgian president explained his tough measures by Russia's threat to Georgia's national security. This is a ludicrous assertion because the opposition is not at all friendly to Moscow; rather it is the other way round." (Hayots Ashkhar, November 9)


    Most commentators consider the attempts of the Georgian authorities to lay the blame for the domestic political crisis at Moscow's door absurd. "The government's search for a ‘Russian trace' in everything is turning into paranoia." (Akhali Taoba, November 5)

    Members of the opposition made sarcastic comments about President Saakashvili's statements. Republican Party leader Levan Berdzenishvili said: "I hoped to be accused of pedophilia or rape... But Saakashvili has no imagination - I was charged with being a Russian agent." (24 Saati, November 8)

    Experts are skeptical about Georgia's chances to enter NATO in the next few years after the use of force to scatter the protesters in Tbilisi. "We are eager to join NATO and Georgia needs this, but right now even talking about it makes no sense. This question has been shelved for a long time." (Akhali Taoba, November 13)

    Economists are reminding Tbilisi of one more threat - Russia may switch off gas supplies to Georgia. "Our relations with Russia have again worsened because of the invented political risks... In effect, we have found ourselves in total political isolation. The Georgian government should improve its relations with Europe, America and Russia without delay... If Russia decides to use its traditional pressure and stop gas supplies, we will remain absolutely unprotected." (Rezonansi, November 13)


    The media interpret Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's visit to Armenia as evidence of Moscow's intention to preserve control over its only ally in the Caucasus. "Moscow is using Armenia to gain a foothold in the South Caucasus and thus increase its influence on Azerbaijan and Georgia, which are following an openly pro-Western road." (Ekspress, November 2) "Russia is again fully enhancing its support for Armenia in order to prevent it, God forbid, from switching to the West." (Echo, November 1)

    Analysts believe that Russia is interested in continuing tensions around Iran. "Russia has long relinquished Iran... These permanent tensions around Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, which at first seem to have been provoked by the United States and its European allies, fully meet Russia's interests by increasing the prices of fuel and energy. Moreover, Iran is trying to challenge Gazprom in the European gas market and is therefore Russia's rival... The longer the tensions around Iran continue, the longer Russia will feel at ease in the European energy market. Moreover, it will be able to save face and blame everything on the United States and its European allies." (Zerkalo, November 3)


    The press has not taken President Saakashvili's statement about Moscow's involvement in the protest rallies in Georgia seriously. Journalists attribute the massive riots to the extremely low standard of living and blame the Georgian government for the situation. "Massive unemployment and poverty are striking in that country. Although many people credit Mikhail Saakashvili with good relations with the Netherlands and the United States, it is bad that he lost the Russian market where Georgia used to sell its wines and mineral water. Closed borders with Russia, tougher visa procedures and increased fuel and energy prices have had a most adverse effect on Georgia's economic situation." (Aikyn, November 6)


    The press is urging the government to use Russia's experience in political and party development. "Russia... is resolving one complicated task after another... The Russian leader has managed to avoid a crisis associated with the elections in the transitional period of 2007-2008... Additional revenues from increasing oil prices have started filling the budget. National and big investment projects are underway... We should learn from our neighbor because the road traveled by Russia is a good example for Kyrgyzstan. It is important for Russia and Kyrgyzstan to meet challenges together." (Obshchestvennyi reiting, November 12)


    Nongovernmental publications are paying attention to the political aspect of illegal labor migration. "Our guest migrants are the Kremlin's trump card and it is using it whenever its political interests come under threat. The deportation of Tajik guest workers is also a political move on behalf of the Kremlin... It knows full well that Tajikistan and Tajik workers are not a burden for it because Russia needs manpower and derives handsome political and economic benefits from the migrants." (Millat, November 1)


    The media are writing about the unfavorable aspects of cooperation with Russian Gazprom, which does not wish to change the terms of the agreements that Turkmenbashi signed. "Europe is ready to pay three times more than what we are getting from Russia and Iran. Under the signed contract, Turkmenistan has committed itself to sell to the Russian monopoly 50 billion cubic meters of gas a year at a fixed price [$100 for a 1,000 cubic meters] starting from the beginning of 2007 to December 31, 2009... The new Turkmen leader would like to raise the price to $150, but as Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov admitted in New York, the negotiations with Russia on this score ‘are rather difficult.'" (Gundogar, November 9)     

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