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    CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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    ESTONIA

    The mass media continue to censure Moscow for its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia drawing parallels with the Kosovo precedent. "Of course, Russia "created Kosovo" in Georgia. It's a message for the West (especially the U.S.) rather than Georgia itself: You did it, why can't we do the same? We are able, and can do it. Russia even managed to arrange it so that the EU sounded slightly uncertain when assuring Georgia of respect for its territorial integrity. If Russia has no right to do it, what right did the West have in Kosovo?" ("Eesti Paevaleht", September 3)

    Columnists see no point in the Kremlin's recognition of the new states. "Recognizing South Ossetia appears so absurd that even Russia's closest allies refused to do it. The West regards Russia's war against Georgia as a battle to restore Russian imperialism, with Ossetians being manipulated as pawns. However, visiting Vladikavkaz and Tskhinvali, you realize that Ossetians themselves are politically proactive. As to territorial expansion, Tskhinvali and Moscow's interests fully coincide." ("Eesti Paevaleht", September 4)

    LATVIA

    The press is upset about the behavior of both Latvia's government, which became far more emollient after its cascade of anti-Russia rhetoric, and Europe's "old democracies", which preferred to neglect their intention to impose sanctions on the "aggressor" at the EU emergency summit. "You should be blind if you haven't spotted the obvious changes in the minds of the country's leadership ahead of the Brussels summit. All August long they practiced their anti-Russia rhetoric, suddenly getting far more reticent in the end, and sent Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis to Brussels with an utterly toothless declaration. At the last moment Latvia simply sided with "old Europe", with its moderate views. The EU virtually admitted having no influence over Russia. The EU's decision to postpone the negotiations on coordinating the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is to become the major punishment for Russia, which is in fact a positive outcome to Moscow, rather than punishment." ("Telegraf", September 3) "The summit ended in a compromise according to the "We'd rather be friends" principle. The growl of the British and Polish-Baltic lions was lulled by the purring of Europe's astute old big cats" ("Business&Baltia", September 3)

    However, behind the summit resolution, several experts discerned a shrewd policy of the Europeans, who didn't yield to Moscow, sagaciously halting the escalation of tensions at the same time. The outlook is gloomy for Russia: it is most likely to capitulate in the face of Europe's sophisticated diplomacy. "If Russia feels the taste of blood after all these events, it'll try to take advantage of Europe's impotence. Russia should not be allowed to get away with it, but imposing ineffective sanctions is senseless as well. First of all, Europe must elaborate a common energy policy to become less dependent on Moscow. The European leaders used the tools and language of diplomacy to bring home to the Russian elite that unless it reverses the process, Kremlin-associated groups' businesses will suffer. Imposing any kind of sanctions immediately is no good solution. Rather, you should work out and select "smart sanctions", which will affect targeted establishment groups and people." "Smart sanctions" require time, and they are not always announced publicly at EU summits. Rather, sovereign states agree to undertake certain steps without attracting the general public's attention. ("Diena", September 3)

    LITHUANIA

    From the experts' viewpoint, the West is doomed to an eternal confrontation with Russia - a country it once failed to pull out its imperial fang. "Russia simply can't help being an empire. After its half-voluntary and half-forced rest, Russia is returning to the international arena. In the 1990s the West missed a perfect chance to neutralize the "Russian threat" once and for all. The Russia we have now, with its vast areas and energy resources, can't help being an empire. Feeling the might secured by petrodollars, it attempted to defend its interests. Apparently, the authoritarian regime, which has rooted in Russia, is a natural development of resuming an imperial identity and policy." ("Veidas", September 5)

    Experts point out that the Europeans always talk much without doing anything concrete to punish insolent Moscow. "Anti-Western views and nationalism are dominating the Kremlin once again. However, the West tries to make believe nothing is wrong, and it keeps seeking to come to agreement with Medvedev and Putin. EU leaders have been puzzling over a suitable way out so that they would appear to have punished Russia. The West doesn't seem to have found an adequate reply to Moscow's challenge." ("Vilniaus diena", September 6). "The peaceful tone, when trying to avoid any condemnation of Russia's intervention of Georgia, will be regarded by Moscow as its diplomatic success, and can bring about further aggression and a threat to other neighbors of Russia. The leaders (of the European Union at the emergency summit of September 1) would rather feign unity." ("Atgimimas", September 6)

    An interview of the Ossetian Diaspora members in Lithuania reveals the republic's media biased approach towards covering the conflict in the South Caucasus. "They kill people there, but no one speaks about it and Georgia is considered "good and kind"... What sort of war is it when they cut the heads off those killed? ... Saakashvili killed the people who, in his opinion, belong to Georgia... The strangest thing is while saying that Russia allegedly bombed the Georgian town of Gori, all TV channels broadcast Georgia bombing the South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali. We know our town well. Gori and Tskhinvali look completely different." ("Republika", September 6)

    BELARUS

    The media resumed the discussion about military cooperation with Russia. Most experts negatively reacted to Moscow and Minsk's plans to set up a joint air defense system in the short run, claiming that it jeopardizes Belarus' future as an independent state. "There will be hardly anything left from the independent republic of Belarus; everything may turn into a strategic 'Belarusian corridor' at the approach to Moscow. Why should we defend Russia's natural resources we have nothing to do with, rather than our own sovereignty? Is Russia an unqualified guarantor of Belarus' existence as an independent state? I'm afraid it will last until the time comes. And the time may come soon." ("Telegraf", September 8)

    Opposition editions are indignant at the Kremlin's policy, which is trying to involve Belarus in a cold war with the West - something that may lead to a real armed conflict. "Finally they have ceased to play the Union State. It's time to pay the bill. Americans deploy their missile shield in Poland. In response, Russia moves its missiles along Belarusian roads in the western direction. At the head of the Russian missiles column, Belarus staggers with its hands tied up and its mouth gagged. Everything is carried out in the "heroic traditions" manner where a country's army uses the civilian population of another country as a cover in most cases. Who would you choose to die with, compatriots? With NATO or Russia? Of course, we got more accustomed to Russians. But shouldn't we opt for life?" ("Belorussky partisan", September 5)

    UKRAINE

    Experts argue that, having staged a provocation in the South Caucasus, Moscow violates the agreements reached during its meetings with EU emissaries. "Russia seems to be defeating the EU in settling the Georgia-South Ossetian conflict it unleashed itself. How can you expect observing the sixth point (of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan) envisaging a launch of international discussions about South Ossetia and Abkhazia's future status after Russia recognized the independence of these two Georgian provinces?! How can the European community trust a partner who signed a document being aware that it will violate it? Which government can agree to a foreign state's troops being deployed on its territory? Even more so, these troops, hiding behind the notion of 'a security zone on the Georgian territory' attempt to recognize a new state, which has superpower ambitions and fought against Georgia." ("Den", September 9)

    MOLDOVA

    Analysts are apprehensive that Russian-Georgian hostilities might prelude Russia's big war with the West for global domination. The opposition press assumes that Moldova and the other former Soviet republics will be hit first. "The Russian strategy is not defensive. Russians are out not merely to stop the West but also to undermine its strength in every field and so dominate the world. Russia will try to seize the Crimea-by force of arms, if need be; dismember Ukraine using Transdnestr as a bridgehead, and secure the rear in the Caucasus by annexing the two separatist republics in Georgia. Western Europe will come next by subjugating it through energy intimidation, whipping up domestic tensions and bribery." (Jurnal de Chisinau, September 9)

    As journalists see it, Moldovan politicians are again using the Transdnestr conflict in the pre-election campaign. "All have suddenly remembered that we have a never ending conflict in Transdnestr, and now have rushed to their country's rescue. The Russian trump card is played again before the election." (Nezavisimaya Moldova, September 5)

    The press insistently calls on Europe and the United States to open their eyes to the global danger and take preventive measures against Russia. "Precise rules should be imposed upon the Kremlin concerning oil and gas sales. There are sufficient levers to pressure Russia, which may be called to order by economic means since its considerable revenues come from oil and gas exports to Europe. The West should merely display willpower and solidarity to take Russia in hand." (Jurnal de Chisinau, September 9)

    ARMENIA

    Media outlets quote an expert who thinks Washington sanctioned the Tbilisi aggression of Tskhinvali, and that Russia has suffered a political setback with its military victory over Georgia. "Georgian action against South Ossetia was certainly provoked by the United States. Neither Mikheil Saakashvili nor his American benefactors considered that Russia had nowhere to retreat. Previous years have shown that if Russia has imperialist ambitions, it would stop being spineless, holds Suren Zolyan, the rector of the Yerevan Bryusov Linguistic University. Georgia had a crushing military defeat because Russia neutralized its army, which American had organized on NATO patterns, with the least possible losses. Despite that, Russia suffered a diplomatic defeat as its leaders could not prevent a negative international response to its action against Georgia." (ArmInfo, September 8)

    GEORGIA

    Experts assess the results of the extraordinary summit of the European Union positively, on the whole. They stress, however, that Georgia expects tougher EU measures against Russia. "The summit did the most it could do. If anything effective and acceptable to us is done, it will be done in the bilateral format. Europe has ample experience of relations with Russia, and it knows that harsh anti-Russian public statements won't work and will even be detrimental. Germany will not oppose Russia in bilateral contacts, for the time being, but it might torpedo the project for a Russian-German gas pipeline. Sweden will also undermine the project if necessary as it suspects that Russia is using project work for espionage." (Pankisi.info, September 3)

    Analysts discern a negative impact of the events in South Ossetia on the Russian economy even now. "Russia should not expect large investments from the West in the near future. True, the European Union has not introduced sanctions. This does not mean, however, that such sanctions cannot be imposed or don't work. Mere talk about them was enough to start capital outflow from the Russian market. So many days' heated discussions of the issue have done their bit. It is highly probable that though severe anti-Russian sanctions might be blocked, all initiatives to smooth out Europe's relations with our northern neighbor [Russia] will be thwarted-suffice to mention the indefinite suspension of talks on the framework Russia-EU agreement and the buried idea of simplifying visa procedures." (24 Saati, September 5) "We may talk endlessly that the index crush at the Russian Stock Exchange was due to unfavorable global economic trends totally independent of Russia's foreign policy in the Caucasus-but the EU, the principal importer of Russian oil and gas, will spare no efforts to finish its energy dependence on Russia." (Georgia Online, 07.09)

    AZERBAIJAN

    Media outlets criticize Russia for recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saying that no party stands to gain of it. "Russia has had problems even with its long-established allies ever since it stayed alone on the international scene with the recognition of the independence of separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia." (525-ya Gazeta, September 3) "A question remains in the air: what have the Abkhaz and South Ossetians gained with Russia playing the strongman? They have not obtained valid passports and a legal status that would allow them to develop contacts with any country of the world beside Russia, and they will hardly get it all later." (Ekho, September 4)

    The press considers that Moscow is anxious to regain the influence of the U.S.S.R. and threatens both former Soviet republics and Western countries. "Russia wants to announce that it will reinstate its former authority as 'master' of the U.S.S.R. and that is it strong enough to do so. The reason of such an aggressive policy lies in certain enfeeblement of the West. Russia uses the situation to restore the U.S.S.R. and acts from an imperialist position." (Azadlig, September 3) "Russian leaders are recurring to the good old stick and carrot. The Kremlin prefers to use the carrot on Central Asia and Azerbaijan-at any rate, it promises to buy their natural gas at world prices, while those who withstand its generous impulses have the stick. Russia is doing what it can to regain certain positions in the Middle East and challenge America, the only superpower in the region." (Shlomo Ben-Ami, vice-president of the Toledo International Center for Peace. Zerkalo, September 3)

    KAZAKHSTAN

    A policy of cultivating good relations with Kazakhstan is vitally important for the Kremlin, which has not been able to find a way of confronting the West without conflict in asserting its interests since the Soviet Union's collapse. "Having amassed petrodollars, Moscow has started to loosen the tension which has been growing since the 1990s between the East and the West. However, Russia is unable to fight for its interests alone against a big, though heterogeneous, coalition of countries. Russia is in urgent need of allies. China is interested only in economic collaboration, Armenia is a geopolitical lightweight, while Belarus is like a bullet with a shifted gravity center: you never know what to expect. So Kazakhstan appears to be Russia's only real ally." (Zona KZ, September 4).

    Supporting Russia's international policy is advantageous for Kazakhstan authorities, experts say. "Kazakhstan's only alternative to forming an alliance with Russia is joining the anti-Russia coalition, thereby fulfilling an unappealing role of an 'advance outpost.' This is clearly a losing option, considering Kazakhstan's closeness to Russia. In this regard, the only possibility is forming an alliance between the two countries' ruling elites, which will reap political dividends first. In this regard, Russia has a number of geopolitical trump cards: the country will receive peaceful conditions at its strategic flank and Kazakhstan's pro-Russia position on the international scene." (Zona KZ, September 4)

    Commentators are linking the issue of NATO's expansion by accepting former Soviet republics to the future of international relations in Asia. The rationality of Russia's policy in the East will be determined by the West's ability to avoid aggravating relations with Moscow. "Admitting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO puts Russia in a deadlock, with President Dmitry Medvedev having only to increase his activities within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to create an alternative military political alliance. While the question of the two countries' admittance into NATO is delayed, Russia's President has room for maneuver and will not take any actions to oppose NATO." (Gazeta.kz, September 3)

    According to specialists, the United States used the South Ossetian conflict to investigate the situation by using others, and to get the idea of what Russia would do in a critical situation. The next attempt will involve Abkhazia, they say. "Tbilisi has proved its intention to take revenge. We are talking not about another provocation against Russia but about the West preparing another war in the Caucasus by Georgia's hands. The next military operation will take place in Abkhazia. Several days will be enough to figure out the Russian army's efficiency, so the United States' next military operation implemented by Georgia's force in Abkhazia will soon be over, and it can happen in the near future." (KKB.kz, September 4)

    UZBEKISTAN

    The international community's response to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's appeal to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia has received a highly negative response from the media. "Russian leader's colleagues in CIS countries have mostly remained indifferent. The cynical and hypocritical international community, which calls itself civilized, will not start World War III defending the English-speaking Georgian's ambitions." (UzMetronom.com, August 27)

    TAJIKISTAN

    In connection with the South Ossetian conflict, the local media are blaming the West for using double standards. "By invading South Ossetia, Georgia violated the international law, as well as humanitarian and moral principles. The Russian army managed to stop Georgia's plans to invade South Ossetia. The West is using double standards towards the South Ossetian conflict. The western countries recognized Kosovo, while in a similar situation they consider Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia as an attempt to restore the constitutional order." (Business and Politics, August 28)

    Analysts speak in favor of expanding the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) by accepting Iran, since a strategic partnership with it can totally alter the world's current geopolitical situation. A hypothetical alliance of Moscow and Tehran will make it possible to bring the West to its knees. "Russia has a lot of opportunities to create counterweights in response to the U.S. and NATO's aggressive plans to push it out of Europe and Asia with the help of satellite states, such as the controlled regimes of Georgia, Ukraine and other countries. The possibility of Russia revising its policy towards Iran might be a bombshell for the U.S. and other NATO countries, especially Israel. The newly established allied relations between Russia and Iran would mean placing at least two military bases in the latter's most strategically important areas. Taking account of new circumstances, Russia may speed up accepting Iran in the SCO as a full member." (Vecherny Dushanbe, August 28). "[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad hopes that his country will become a full member [of SCO] at the 9th SCO summit in Yekaterinburg next June, with Russia presiding. Iran has already joined the organization's activities by proposing that SCO introduces a single currency in its zone of responsibility and sets up a bank to invest in the region's economic projects." (Sobytiya, September 4).

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