The media believe that President Dmitry Medvedev's decree on visa-free travel for Estonia and Latvia's non-citizens will slow their naturalization. They point out that this Russian initiative has caused serious concern for Estonian travel agencies. "By this decision Russia delays the granting of citizenship to these people; it deprives them of a major motive to seek Estonian citizenship...because now they can travel to Europe and Russia without visas." (SL Ohtuleht, June 18)
"A number of Estonian travel agencies have found themselves in a predicament... Many non-citizens hastened to withdraw their applications for a Russian visa." (Postimees, June 19)
Some publications devoted to the annual report of the security police (KAPO) call into doubt the influence of Russia's secret services on Estonia's domestic policy. "KAPO may be right in saying that Russia's political intelligence has targeted the 2011 parliamentary elections, but it is somewhat ridiculous to call it all-powerful. We do not have the facts, but judging by Russia's conduct towards next-door neighbors and other countries, we can say that it has been trying to help certain politicians, parties, and parliaments since 1991. This happened not only in Estonia but also in other countries. In Estonia, this is being done not only by Russia but also by other states." (SL Ohtuleht, June 20)
Some observers believe that by talking about interference of Russian business in Latvia's domestic affairs, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers may damage partnership with Russia. "Statements about the risk brought about by Russian investment reeks of cheap anti-Russian propaganda... Can our president quote at least one case whereby Russian businessmen intervened in our domestic policy? He made these statements for home consumption because he is dying to become a people's president. For some reason, he believes that people will fall for...a president with anti-Russian views...But he has been in his position for a year, and it is time he realized that our eastern neighbor is not blind or deaf; if he goes on like that, he may never visit Moscow. This will be a pity because the sides are planning to sign...an agreement on mutual investment protection during this visit." (Vesti-Segodnya, June 17)
Some publications believe that Russia's decision to introduce visa-free travel for non-citizens is a response to the Baltic countries' integration policy. "Latvian non-citizens have suddenly become people of the world... Indifference to obtaining citizenship rests on economic rather than political considerations... A question of why non-citizens are not joining citizens in orderly columns should be addressed to economy and finance ministers rather than a minister in charge of integration...Unlike the Estonian government, the Latvian authorities adopted a philosophical attitude to Medvedev's initiative. Well, our Slavic non-citizens will visit their historic homeland, eat their favorite okroshka with meat pies, drink tea with biscuits, and return to Latvia. After all, all those who wanted to leave Latvia, have already done so." (Telegraf, June 19)
"Russia has abolished visas. Baltic authorities have already accused it of hypocrisy. They claim that this decision will substantially impede naturalization by removing the motive to seek citizenship. In the meantime, the Latvian and Estonian authorities are doing all they can to restrict naturalization of Russians, and deny them the right to elect and be elected." (Telegraf, June 19). "The Schengen countries have also extended visa-free travel to non-citizens. But our diplomats did not lash out at Brussels for depriving non-citizens of a desire to naturalize." (Vesti-Segodnya, June 21)
The media have a mixed reaction to the Seimas's recent legislative initiative. It wants to compel Germany to pay reparations for the occupation during WWII. Some analysts believe that by doing so, Vilnius wants to exert pressure on Moscow so as to make it pay as well (this time for the damage done to the republic during Soviet years).
Others think that Vilnius wants to take revenge on Germany for its cooperation with Russia on the Nord Stream gas pipeline. "Lithuanian politicians continue racking their brains over ways to squeeze money out of Russia for the ‘Soviet past.'... Germany must be compelled to pay for the Nazi occupation. They believe that if they lay claims to Germany, it will start dialogue, and Russia will have no choice than to follow suit and start talking... It is assumed that both countries will pay a handsome sum, inflation will go down, wages will go up, Lithuania will be saved from an economic crisis, and will happily live on the fat of the land ever after... MPs have probably done it because of Nord Stream. Lithuania, Poland, and other Baltic countries felt bitter when they learnt that the gas pipeline would bypass their territories. The Putin-Schroeder agreement was compared to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. It is possible that Lithuania is angry at Germany because of this project." (Litovsky Kurier, June 16)
The media had an ironic response to a bill on banning Soviet symbols. "The funniest thing is that the Soviet and Russian anthems have the same music... Imagine a soccer match between Lithuania and Russia in Vilnius. The national teams come out on the pitch, and we hear their anthems. Is it the Soviet anthem that is strictly banned, or is it the Russian one? So, what should we do - arrest the whole guest team?" (Litovsky Kurier, June 19)
The media are commenting on a report about potential deployment of U.S. missile defense elements in Lithuania, which appeared on the eve of the meeting between the Belarusian and Russian presidents. Some journalists believe that this is a good piece of news for Belarus. "Missile defense elements are not likely to be deployed in Lithuania. But there is no doubt that Minsk will use this news in full measure... It is easy to predict Moscow's reaction to the discussion of a possibility of U.S. missiles being stationed in a post-Soviet republic. This is what Minsk needs, particularly on the eve of Medvedev's visit...He is bound to hear that if NATO tanks (aircraft or missiles) move to Russia, Belarusians will not spare their lives to stop them. The news about U.S.-Lithuanian talks on missile defense will come in handy. Hence, Minsk will have more bargaining chips for getting benefits from Moscow, such as discounted gas prices." (Solidarnost, June 18)
Unofficial press has long been writing about the failure of the Russian-Belarusian integration project. "This is a big retreat after Lukashenko-Yeltsin accords on setting up a union state... But Medvedev continued the ritual chant, although his visit supposedly had other aims... As long as Lukashenko controls Russian gas transit to Europe, he will remain a strategic partner for Russia. No matter how much Putin or Medvedev may dislike Lukashenko, they will have to stick to the ritual in order to prevent him from cutting off the tap and leaving half of Europe without gas because there is no gas pipeline bypassing Belarus, at least for the time being." (Belarussky Partizan, June 24)
Some media explain integration difficulties by the attitudes of the ruling elites in the two countries. "The trouble is that since 2002 Russian-Belarusian integration has been stagnating. Numerous problems have piled up since then, and all of them are of critical importance for Belarus...The first Belarusian president, who is now in his third term, and the third Russian president, who is in his first term, will find it very difficult to achieve political integration. Our political and economic systems are poles apart. Our economy is government-run, while Russia's is based on the free market. We do not have a single joint corporation. A host of problems are not being resolved because our ruling circles, political and business elites do not trust each other." (Telegraf, June 24)
Many experts are concerned about active operations of Russian capital in Belarus. "It will be increasingly difficult for Belarusian commodities to compete in the Russian market. Russians have enough petrodollars to produce any tractors, cars, or buses. If they do not make them themselves, Chinese will bring them cheap versions...Aggressive young Russian capitalism is bound to reach out to the Belarusian market because we have free movement of goods and services... This is inevitable." (Khartiya '97, June 20).
Many Ukrainian journalists are convinced that Russia's negative reaction to Ukraine's growing cooperation with NATO will only encourage Kiev to join the bloc. "Unfortunately, relations between Ukraine and NATO are relations not between two, but between three partners. Russia is waging an aggressive information campaign aimed at discrediting the policy of Euro-Atlantic integration. High-ranking Russian officials keep saying at various international levels that Russia is categorically opposed to Ukraine joining the bloc. They often use barefaced disinformation ... to present NATO as an aggressive military bloc. Statements by Kremlin officials, which directly affect the image of NATO in the post-Soviet countries, infringe on the interests of the alliance, which has confirmed in its Bucharest Declaration that Ukraine will eventually become a member of the bloc." (Gazeta po-ukrainsky, June 23)
"Any attempts by Ukrainians to discuss in their home territory the possibility and probability of joining NATO invariably provoke an outcry by pro-Russian forces. What is the reason behind Russia's hyperactivity? Russia's revenge-seeking tendencies and extreme self-confidence are apparently rooted in the daily growth of oil and gas prices." (Gazeta po-ukrainsky, June 23)
Some observers note with regret that tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which have so far not crossed the boundaries of full-scale information warfare, may soon have far-reaching negative consequences. "The atmosphere of information warfare in the Moscow-Kiev relations is creating a feeling of palpable physical danger. The number of anti-Ukrainian publications in the Russian media, all of them worded offensively and full of threats, is growing. Ukraine's politicians and media community are adding fuel to the fire by presenting Russia as the most probable adversary. It seems we are moving to a point of no return, where the notion of fraternal relations will disappear from our countries' dictionaries. In the short term, we risk creating a situation where Ukrainians and Russians will have no fraternal feelings left for each other, but will see each other as enemies or, at best, as most probable adversaries. It will be too late then to try to fight these stereotypes." (ProUa.com, June 20)
The bulk of the local press hailed the Russian football team's victory over the Netherlands in the European football championship. "The Russian Football Federation has unofficially instructed Hiddink to at least break through to a higher league, and the Dutch coach has done the impossible." (PRESS obozreniye, June 20)
"The Dutch have fallen. This is a victory for every Russian. The Russian team has made it to the semifinals, becoming one of the championship's four leaders. Russia has shown Europe what football should be like." (Lenta PMR, June 21)
"Fans applauded every good pass by Russian players and mistakes by their adversaries, chanting ‘Russia!' And when Arshavin scored the third goal, the ‘Russia' rallying cry drowned out all other sounds in Chisinau. People were jumping, whistling, shouting, congratulating and embracing each other. Chisinau seemed to have gone mad." (Komsomolskaya Pravda v Moldove, June 23)
Journalists write indignantly that friendly Russia has become the most dangerous place to live for Armenians. "Over 90% of Armenian migrant workers go to Russia." (Novoye Vremya, June 19)
"It is a fact that Russia, the most friendly country to Armenia, relations with which are becoming closer at the highest political and economic level by the day, is also becoming smaller and more dangerous for Armenians. This is not an exaggeration, because Armenians are not killed in race-related crimes anywhere but in Russia." (Golos Armenii, June 24)
The media are skeptical about a remark made by Russian political and military analyst Pavel Felgengauer that Russia has decided to declare war on Georgia. "For Russia... a military operation against Georgia would be a no-win step... Influential political quarters in Russia want to regain the country's status as a military power and are giving little thought to cooperation and trade with the West. It is quite likely that Moscow might use military force against Georgia... To begin a war is in Putin's interests because in such a case the Russian train will switch to tracks beyond Medvedev's control. It is cannot be ruled out that in a Medvedev-Putin duel Georgia will be the weapon... Putin needs such a policy to reinstate himself as a president with a slogan of emerging from the crisis of his own making." (Sakartvelos Republic, June 21).
"The beginning of large-scale warfare operations in Georgia... will be more than a big political farce on Russia's part. I do not think there is a great likelihood of events developing according to this scenario." (Georgia Online, June 21). "The mechanisms for peaceful settlement of conflicts in Georgia have never been fully exhausted, nor are they today." (Georgia Online, June 22).
Some publications focus on joint celebrations in Tbilisi by Russians and Georgians of Russia's football triumph over the Netherlands. "Russian diplomatic staff... have rented a café in Tbilisi to watch the match... Georgian football fans joined the personnel of Russia's embassy in Georgia. Toasts were made and the words ‘Ole-ole-ole-ole! Russia, forward!' resounded over the Kura River. One of the Georgian fans exclaimed: ‘To the motherland! To Stalin!' Another took up the chant: ‘Russia, no step backward!' When the referee announced the end of the match, all those present rose to their feet, raised their arms and shouted: ‘Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah'." (IA Novosti-Gruzia, June 22).
The Russian-Georgian conflict remains the main talking point. Some experts say it cannot be settled separately from many other keen issues existing in relationships between Russia and the West. "Conflicts are not a separate matter, but only one of many issues in relations between Russia and the West ... They include the spread of nuclear weapons, arms trade in hot spots, Russia's WTO entry, Russia's energy monopoly policy, etc. " (Zerkalo, June 18). "In the view of Akaki Asatiani, chairman of Georgia's Union of Traditionalists, Russia will get Abkhazia and calm down... If this happens, in 10 to 15 years' time Russia will lose the North Caucasus... Russia is playing small, trying to snatch something from Georgia. The West is playing big, wishing to secure a greater part of Georgia... Georgia would do better by giving up its pro-NATO policy and adopting a neutral stance, like Azerbaijan." (Day.az, June 23).
The media continue to discuss gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Russia. "It is not the first time that we have heard our bureaucrats say that Azerbaijan with its natural gas resources is ready to meet all energy requirements of Europe. Figures quoted vary widely: from 1.5 to 3 trillion cubic meters, although no one has heard of an official audit of these figures... It's just a bluff! Producing 12 to 15 billion cubic meters of gas a year, it is ludicrous to discuss exports... A better option would be to distribute what is obtained in the country as it should be, although authorities manage to sell gas both to Georgia and to Turkey." (Novoye Vremya, June 18).
"The latest statements by [Gazprom head] Alexei Miller and his hasty visit to Turkmenistan have increased interest in our gas a good deal." (Ekho, June 19).
"Russia's desire to buy gas from Azerbaijan is prompted by the fact that... output in Russia will be below commitments Gazprom has made for years ahead... Today, the European countries receiving gas from Gazprom are trying to find new sources of gas supply, including in the Caspian area." (Zerkalo, June 20).
Some observers say wide use of the Russian language by members of the ruling elite poses a threat to state security. "It is almost regarded as bad form to speak Kazakh within business and political circles. In these circumstances it is meaningless to speak of information security in our country, with its elite being Kazakh by ethnic background and Russian by language and mentality." (Megapolis, June 23)
Experts talking about a revival of talks between Washington and Bishkek regarding the reconstruction of the Manas military base, say they are worried about the probable consequences of a pro-American decision. "We have to be worried about the consequences... Kyrgyzstan needs to approach the issue carefully, because if we give the green light to the United States for expanding its military presence in the region this would jeopardize development of strategic partnership with Russia." (Information Agency 24.kg, June 18)
"It is not by accident that this happened after... reports that Russia intends to strengthen its air base in Kant... On the part of the Americans, this is a response to Russia's actions." (BPC.kg, June 18). "The ‘great game' between Russia and the U.S. for influence in Central Asia, which started in 2000, has resumed and Kyrgyzstan... is one of the key figures in it." (BPC.kg, June 24)
An opposition newspaper published an article denying reports that the United States plans to expand the base. "There has been no official confirmation, yet most of the Russian media have started an anti-American campaign." (Aalam, June 20)
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