The CIS and Baltic press on Russia




The media are alarmed over Russia's plans to develop its nuclear energy projects near the border with Estonia instead of closing the outdated nuclear power plant near St. Petersburg. Another cause for concern is that Chernobyl-type reactors will stay in use for up to 15 years, until new ones have been commissioned. "Two out of the four reactors at the nuclear power plant in Sosnovy Bor have been used for 30 years already. Estonia will continue to be endangered by the NPP in the Leningrad Region at least until 2021. By that time the last reactor, which is similar to Chernobyl's, will have been closed." (Postimees, September 14.)

Commentators say Madonna's concert in Moscow had political implications as the Kremlin is making efforts to portray Russia as a developing democracy. "The political significance of the concert may be compared to Paul McCartney's performance in Red Square three years ago. The fact that the concert had taken place next to the Mausoleum showed that Russian authorities no longer considered the square, where the former Communist leaders were buried, an untouchable holy place... Among other things, Madonna told the audience at the concert that Russia had been a democratic country for 15 years now. This encouraged Kremlin political strategists, who hold debates about sovereign democracy now and then. And if teenagers do not care about the political rhetoric by United Russia activist Vladislav Surkov, Madonna's concert was the very venue for such people." (Postimees, September 14.)


The media say that despite opposition from the United States, Russia is trying to pressurize the EU for an early accession to the WTO, using tariffs on trans-Siberian flights for European air carriers as an instrument for that. If the EU fails to influence the U.S., economists say Moscow may toughen its sanctions. "Russia does not intend to lower tariffs on trans-Siberian flights for foreign airlines gradually... Observers believe this is a reaction to the refusal of both the EU and the U.S. to accept our eastern neighbor as a WTO member. The United States has been the biggest opponent of Russia's accession to the WTO. Most European air carriers fly across Siberia... The Old World is not so categorical against Russia as Washington. This indicates that Russia's pressure on the EU has the aim of forcing the alliance to influence the United States and obtaining its concessions. Unless this happens, economists say Russia may impose stricter sanctions on Western companies." (Business and Baltija, September 12.)


Analysis of personnel reshuffling in the most lucrative sectors of the Russian economy has lead the press to the conclusion that the country's ruling elite continues consolidating major sources of income in its hands. "Russia's ruling elite has found a new way of consolidating major sources of income in its hands. High-ranking officials are increasingly involving their children in this process... Andrei, the son of the Federal Security Service's Director Nikolai Patrushev, has been appointed advisor to Igor Sechin, chairman of the board of the state-owned oil major Rosneft. The national press described the move as consolidation of family power... Russian government officials seem to be trying to secure their clout in strategically important businesses through their children." (Lietuvos rytas, September 14.)

Russia's integration policy in the former Soviet Union is seen as a failure. "2005 was a fiasco year for Russia in integration processes within the post-Soviet blocs, first of all, the Common Economic Space, the Eurasian Economic Community and the CIS. Or, to use politically correct wording, it was the year of reorganization within these blocs. Further polarization of the post-Soviet space, spurred by the color revolutions, has been formally manifested in the constituent meetings of the GUAM and the Commonwealth of Democratic Choice, on the one hand, and in a number of reorganization events within the post-Soviet blocs, on the other hand." (Vilnius Forum, September 18.)


Some publications believe that the outcome of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's visit to Brussels, where he actually refused to start implementing the Plan of Action on NATO Accession, shows that Ukraine is going back to the multi-vector doctrine. Yet it is very unlikely that Kiev will be able to reap major political dividends by playing on contradictions between Russia and the European Union. Moreover, both Moscow and the West will make the most of the Ukrainian premier's political mistake, the press emphasizes. "The question of how useful the role of a bridge between Europe and Russia could be for Ukraine remains open. Independent Ukraine, which is neither Russia nor Europe nor a sanitary cordon between them, is too ambitious a project in the modern global game." (Glavred, September 15.)

"The government's position... plays into the hands of European Atlanticists, who did not have enough power to block Ukraine's accession to NATO under pressure from [George W.] Bush, but realized that Kiev would be... a burden. Russia, which has learned how to bargain, will demand adequate compensation for allowing the West to shoulder the responsibility for Ukraine's security and sustenance." (, September 15.)

Some publications are positive that Yanukovich's statement was to a large extent addressed to Moscow, given the pending Russian-Ukrainian gas talks. Delaying the settlement of the gas issue, Russia nudged him toward "necessary" statements and thus guaranteed the adequate rhetoric from the West. "Russia has understood that relations between Ukraine and Europe can develop only provided there are stable gas agreements. So now, with the winter approaching, it just suspended the prospect of signing them." (Obkom, September 15.) "Gas prices set by Gazprom-controlled RosUkrEnergo depend directly on the pace of rapprochement between Ukraine and NATO." (From-ua, September 19.)

Some sources maintain that Yanukovich's anti-NATO rhetoric was staged by the Kremlin. "Ahead of Yanukovich's visit to Brussels, he had a phone call from Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who called on President Vladimir Putin's request and asked to "disrupt the Action Plan." Faced with the choice of recommendations from two presidents - Yushchenko and Putin, Yanukovich preferred the Russian leader's advice." (Obozrevatel, September 18.)


The key topic discussed in the mass media is the Transdnestr referendum, where over 97% of people in the breakaway republic voted for independence and accession to Russia. Transdnestr media quote international observers who found the referendum in line with European standards. "Everything was democratic and fair... The conditions and atmosphere in which the voting was held were democratic." (OLVIA-PRESS, September 18.)

The Chisinau press, however, informs its readers that the European Union, the OSCE, and the U.S. State Department a priori refused to recognize the referendum. Experts say that the voting will not lead to anything because Russia will not be able to allow Transdnestr to accede. "What happened in Transdnestr can be described as stupidity, even on the part of Russian politicians... According to current statements of Russian officials, the results of the referendum will not have legal effect. People said "yes" to acceding Russia, but Russia cannot accept them... Russia does not need Transdnestr, it has no common border with it, it would have been just another fully sponsored region." (Novosti-Moldova, September 18.)

Pro-Romanian journalists maintain that the referendum in Transdnestr and the forthcoming one in South Ossetia have been organized by Moscow in order to put pressure on Moldova and Georgia. "Russia will most certainly refrain from unequivocal statements about its intention to accept Transdnestr, continuing its support for the separatist regime in all respects. Russia needs only leverages of pressure on Moldova. It does not need additional problems when its own North Caucasus is the constantly simmering center of tensions." (Press-obozreniye, September 19.)


The opposition discusses Armenia's geopolitical outlook, and advocates the golden mean between the Russian and American development models as the best course for the country. "The political situation in Armenia could follow two scenarios, the democratic one like in the U.S. and European countries and the Russian one, which implies artificial creation of a pro-government party and control over its activities... In any case, it would be better to choose a happy medium for Armenia." (168 zham, September 13.)


The press is actively debating the need to expel Russian peacekeepers from Georgia. "These so-called peacekeepers should be declared outlaws... The world is witnessing that the group in Tskhinvali [South Ossetia] is not struggling for freedom, but is a criminal and terrorist organization, financially and physically supported by Russia." (Akhali Taoba, September 14.)

"Russia, with its exclusive mediator status, is obviously trying to use its involvement in the peacekeeping process to put prejudiced approaches into practice." (Novosti Georgia, September 13.)


The decision to include the issue of frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet territory on the agenda of the UN General Assembly on the initiative of the GUAM member states is viewed as a major achievement. "Open resistance to the imperial heiress, which claims to be Azerbaijan's friend and strategic partner, is a very serious step toward solving the fateful problem of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, which has been hiding until recently behind Armenia's back and secretly supporting its aggressive policy, has finally taken off its mask and has started hindering a fair settlement. The argument cited by the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Mikhail Kamynin, who said that "Russia believes it counterproductive to use external mechanisms in settling the conflict," is ridiculous." (Yeni Musavat, September 15.)

The mass media once again show lack of trust in Russia's reliability as Azerbaijan's strategic partner. "It seems that we have been too happy about our strategic alliance with Russia and the success within the Organization of Islamic Conference. All of them forgot about Azerbaijan's interest after the first test... Moscow is still interested in keeping conflicts frozen and under control... So Russia's and Azerbaijan's opinions had to collide. The Kremlin is annoyed by Azerbaijan's support of Georgia and Moldova." (Ekspress, September 19.)


The media say that the Russian leadership intends to continue using its energy resources as a political tool. Relations between fast-growing eastern economies and their northern neighbor depend on the former's interest in hydrocarbons. "At a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was not interested in the role of a superpower, but wanted to use oil and energy for modernization and diversification of the Russian economy. Clearly, Russia intends to continue using its economic reserves to achieve its goals. So, it is not surprising that our northern neighbor is more active in the East, where demand for hydrocarbons is high, rather than in the West." (, September 12.)


As RusAl has submitted its assessment of the unfinished construction of the Rogunskaya hydropower plant to the Russian Energy Ministry, discussions of bilateral relations have been resumed in the press. Some experts believe the partners' conflicting interests are the reason for difficulties they have been encountering. "Many people believe that as soon as RusAl, Chubais and others have built the hydro power plant for us, Tajikistan will solve its energy problems. But they are building the plant for themselves, not for us! Each of the partners is seeking their own advantage. It would be much better if Tajikistan built the hydro power plant with its own money. This is in our national interests. Turkey, for example, whose potential is smaller than Tajikistan's, has already built some 400 hydro units. We could build twice as many" (Asia-plus, September 14.)

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