Eurasia: The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Nov 22 16:08:06 UTC 2008

The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

16:03|21/ 11/ 2008


Journalists are worried that the EU's international standing has
visibly weakened, and its attitude to Russia has become exceedingly
soft. They write that the Europeans have resigned themselves to
letting developments in the Caucasus take the path mapped out in the
Kremlin. The Nice summit "has given its silent approval to Russia
keeping its troops in Georgia. The EU has retreated from its old
position which stipulated that the PCA talks would not resume until
Russia fulfilled its obligation to pull out of Georgia." (Postimees,
November 15) "Lack of consistency in relations with Russia has become
one of the biggest problems for the EU." (Eesti Paevaleht, November
15) Coverage of that subject includes an interview with Enn Eesmaa,
the Estonian parliament's head of foreign relations, who said Estonian
politicians were not objective in assessing the sides' actions in the
Georgian-Russian conflict.

"Estonian politicians have gone so far in their unconditional support
for Georgia that they are hard put to recognize their mistakes, Eesmaa
said. In his opinion, there is not much more than speculation and
guesswork regarding Russia's actions [during the conflict], which
keeps the highlight on Georgia's arguments. Estonia's position is a
black-and-white policy." (Eesti Paevaleht, November 13)


The media comment on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's words about the
possibility of terminating the Nord Stream gas pipeline project,
writing that Gazprom will be unable to fulfill Russia's alternative
proposal for LNG deliveries. "Russia is angry at the EU's intention to
conduct an additional inspection of possible environmental hazards of
Nord Stream. Several countries are against the project. Analysts say
Gazprom will be unable to quickly build gas liquefaction plants to
provide a serious alternative to the gas pipeline." (Dienas Bizness,
November 17)

Journalists of periodicals catering to ethnic group interests write
that failure to correctly assess the propaganda effect of the
Russian-language media may eventually change Latvia's policy.

"The Ukrainian authorities became truly worried about the influence of
the Russian TV channels only before the elections. Russian television
broadcasts to Latvia are a long-term ideological project whose effects
the Latvian politicians can definitely see but prefer not to speak
about. The struggle against the political influence of Russian TV
broadcasts will not be easy." (Latvijas Avize, November 14)


The press writes about President Dmitry Medvedev's new image at the
G20 anti-crisis summit in Washington.

"On his first visit to Washington as Russian president, Medvedev was
polite and diplomatic, not the president who denounced the United
States in Moscow. After the August conflict, Medvedev abandoned the
image of a liberal politician and took up aggressive rhetoric
previously used by Vladimir Putin. But in Washington he again put a
diplomatic mask on his face. He spoke in a language of compromise with
Barack Obama." (Lietuvos Rytas, November 17)

Observers write that the use of the East and West special Chechen
battalions during the conflict with Georgia may lead to major problems
for the Kremlin.

"The loyal Chechens helped Russia win the war against Georgia, but the
Kremlin may have to pay for this. The expanding powers of Chechen
President Ramzan Kadyrov may soon become a major headache for Russia,
because the cruelty of his henchmen is consolidating the rebels, above
all Islamic ones. In addition, the Chechen leader may declare
independence [for Chechnya]. This is why the Russians are maneuvering
between Chechen clans that hate each other. They are using this tactic
throughout the Caucasus, but failure is only one small step away, or a
move that may infuriate a clan leader... Russia has more problems with
separatists than Georgia does." (Lietuvos Zinios, November 15)


Observers are discussing the consequences of the potential deployment
of the Russian Iskander missiles in Belarus.

"This may affect our relations with the United States and the EU. Oil
and gas privileges will not make up for the problems this project will
create for Belarus." (Solidarnost, November 14)

"Servicing non-nuclear missile systems is not expensive. But servicing
nuclear-tipped missiles is not only expensive but also dangerous."
(Belorussky Partizan, November 13)

Journalists are disappointed that privileges for individual
businessmen importing goods from Russia will be cancelled on January

"The innovation will hit not only individual businessmen, but also
consumers, because prices will grow and shelves in shopping centers
will become empty." (Solidarnost, November 12)


Some publications continue to cover the accident on the Russian
nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa. Those who think it was not
intentional think it is bound to undermine the international esteem of
the Russian defense sector, which most Ukrainian experts have
denounced as overblown.

"The accident has put the Kremlin in a fix, because President Medvedev
and Prime Minister Putin have been doing their best to demonstrate
Russia's military might. This is not true naval might, but only a
pretense. All these warships are quite old, according to modern
standards, and will have to be decommissioned soon. What will replace
them? Russia has not had any luck with warships or submarines so far."
(Den, November 12)

Other analysts write that the accident on the submarine, which Russia
was preparing to turn over to India, was an act of subversion by an
enemy of India.

"Many countries do not want India to have the submarine. The Nerpa is
a powerful weapon, especially its Shkval anti-submarine
nuclear-capable missiles and the Granit cruise missiles. The Kamov
design bureau, which works for the navy, has even designed a foldout
helicopter that can be ejected from the submarine with the pilot
inside. The Nerpa was designed for special operations. It is easy to
imagine against who India would conduct such operations, what with the
two wars it has waged against Pakistan, and China and Japan growing
stronger." (Gazeta po-kievsky, November 13)


The official media write about the importance of Vladimir Putin's
visit to Moldova for a meeting of the CIS heads of government.

"He was eagerly expected in Chisinau. The Russian prime minister's
visit was a signal event for Moldova. Relations between the Russian
and Moldovan authorities, which had been tense, thawed only recently
and are now regaining sincerity and trust." (Novosti-Moldova, November

The opposition newspapers write that Moscow's patronage is doing
irreparable damage to Moldova's national interests, and think the
government must radically change its foreign policy.

"Moldova is still poor, humiliated and loyal to Russia... despite the
aggression against Georgia." (Timpul de dimineata, November 12)

"Moscow says it is in favor of settling the Transdnestr conflict, but
in fact it is hindering the process. The Dniester is becoming a
frontline in a relatively cold war. Only by clearly aligning with the
West and starting a broad campaign for the withdrawal of Russian
troops will Moldova help the international community force Russia to
pull out of Transdnestr." (Jurnal de Chisinau, November 18)


Publications quote politicians' negative comments on Moscow's role in
brokering negotiations between Yerevan and Baku. They believe that
Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh are just small change for leading world
powers in their political and economic games.

"The Maindorf Declaration [signed near Moscow by the presidents of
Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan] continues the aspirations of
superpowers, first western, and today, of Russia, which pursue their
interests at the expense of the national and state interests of
Armenia and Karabakh." (Azg, November 13)

"Russia has two scenarios. The first - gas for Karabakh - demands
sacrificing Azerbaijan, establishing a union with Turkey, and
neutralizing the Armenian factor. But ignoring Armenian interests will
drive Russia out of the 'big game' ... For Russia and the EU, Nagorny
Karabakh is the only factor that can hamper or help create a South
Caucasian energy corridor." (Hayots Ashkhar, November 12)

Analysts believe that negotiations between Caspian states and the EU
on the Nabucco project are making such headway that Moscow should
exert more efforts to defend its interests on the global energy

"Negotiations on Nabucco have gone so far that Russia cannot any
longer stand idly by. Attempts to expand Europe's gas market could
deprive Moscow of the positions it gained on the global energy
market." (Hayots Ashkhar, November 12)


The results of a Russia-EU summit in Nice have afforded the media an
opportunity to harshly criticize the West's position on the
Russia-Georgia conflict.

"Sarkozy has struck an ostrich pose and declared that the Russians
have fulfilled the six-point agreement. But Russia has simply brought
the 'proud' Europeans down to their knees. Georgia is being constantly
threatened with occupation and annexation by Russia. This is what a
weak Europe has secured from Russia." (24 Saati, November 12)

"Europe is scared witless and is refusing to stand up to Russia. The
West is unaware that the more it cringes away from Russia, the more
Moscow will demand from it. One need only to recall Hitler."
(Sakartvelos Respublica, November 14)


Some authors are concerned about Russia's aggressive foreign policy,
which, they say, is in sharp contrast to the state of the country's
defense sector and armed forces.

"Russia's military ambitions don't have a leg to stand on. Russia
lacks financial resources to implement its plans. The defense industry
is in crisis. Within it a passive protest is growing against the
Kremlin's warlike policy. This protest means political opposition in
the army. The army is heading for a crash." (Halg Djebhesi, November


Some analysts believe that for former Soviet republics the so-called
"multi-vectored policy" (maintaining equally distant and mutually
beneficial relations with leading world powers) is a utopia. The
leadership of Kazakhstan realizes this.

"Astana's policy is increasingly leaning toward its 'strategic
partner', Russia. The withdrawal of Kazakhstan's capital from Georgia
is a political step which got the disapproval of Washington, but a
positive response in Moscow." (Novoye Pokolenie, November 14).

Opponents argue that a strategic partnership with Russia will return
Kazakhstan to the place of an outlying imperial region.

"Russophile political commentators use the term 'Central Asia' as a
Soviet cliche. Russia is conducting a massive propaganda campaign to
tell the states in the region that it is high time they quit their
multi-vectored policy." (Novoye Pokolenie, November 14)


Commentators explain Uzbekistan's decision to pull out of EurAsEC by
unsolved problems in relations between Tashkent and Moscow. These
problems have prompted President Islam Karimov to adopt a pro-Western

"Uzbekistan's move has been due to a number of reasons. It is not all
plain sailing with Moscow: Tashkent has raised a fence of excise taxes
and duties around its market and turned down some lucrative energy
contracts with Russian business, opting for the Japanese and Koreans.
Karimov's proposal to unite the CSTO and EurAsEC also met with no
understanding from the Kremlin." (, November 12)

Analysts give positive marks to Moscow's calm behavior on Tashkent's
move. "It doesn't worry Russia whether Uzbekistan is a EurAsEC member
or not: it is unpleasant, but not deadly. Thank God that in this
situation the Kremlin, unlike the Russian press, has taken a pause.
The break is needed to think things through and draw the right
conclusions. It will be worse if Uzbekistan continues its
disintegration policy towards the CIS and Russia as a cementing link
of the Commonwealth. Such a prospect is very likely today."
(, November 12)


Publications focus on problems created for the republic by a crisis in
the Russian economy.

"The Kyrgyz government is aware that more and more migrant workers are
coming back as the crisis deepens. This poses a great problem. It is
no secret that the money sent by migrants is of great help to their
families living in Kyrgyzstan. It would not be easy to compensate for
the loss of these funds." (Asman-Press, November 13)


The media harshly criticize Russia for preventing Turkmenistan from
becoming an independent player on the world gas market.

"It is no secret that until the last moment the main gas
transportation infrastructure ... has remained practically unchanged
since Soviet days and was focused on supplying gas to Russia. Russia,
for its part, has monopolized all energy flows toward Europe with
Gazprom's help. Any attempts to break this monopoly have been and are
being bitterly resisted by Russia." (, November 13)

Quoting expert estimates, the writer predicts the inevitable collapse
of Russian policy in the region.

"The skeptical attitude to all routes of gas transportation from
Turkmenistan other than through Russia is now done with and buried.
Even the most pessimistic forecasts show that Turkmenistan ... is
turning into one of the largest gas players in Eurasia ... Russia's
pipeline monopoly on the transportation of Turkmen gas is over ...
Russia is on the verge of discovering that its energy policy and its
geopolitical role in the region have suffered a serious setback.
Considering that post-Soviet policy in Central Asia has always been
flat and uninspired, this will be a natural result." (,
November 13)


The global financial crisis, in the opinion of commentators, threatens
Tajikistan's labor migration to Russia.

"The world financial crisis, which has now spread to Russia, has
reduced demand for workforce, and made migrant workers remit less
money ... In 2007, Tajik workers sent $1.5 billion home, contributing
36% of the country's GDP. As the crisis advances, migrant workers'
contributions to their economy will diminish. The global financial
crisis could force migrant workers to return home." (Nigokh, November

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list