The CIS and Baltic press on Russia




The press continues to discredit the Nord Stream gas project. Newspapers have given extensive coverage to a letter, whereby members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences protest against allowing Gazprom's subsidiary to study the seabed in the Estonian economic zone.

"The scientists believe that Gazprom's actions do not fit in the EU-accepted business relations. Actively using the advantages of the EU's open energy market, Gazprom is blocking the construction of a gas pipeline from Central Asia to Europe and preventing foreign businesses from developing Russian gas deposits." (Postimees, August 1).

"In plain terms, the Academy thinks that Gazprom is hypocritical, is a weapon of the Kremlin, its pipelines explode but it is not responsible for potential damage to the environment." (Delfi, August 8).

The media are annoyed with Russia and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for strong criticism of the 20th SS division's rally in Sinimae. Commentators are explaining the position of PACE chairman, Rene van der Linden, by his family's economic interests in Russia.

"The PACE chairman's criticism of Estonia is astounding, to put it mildly.... Linden believes that the rally in Sinimae and the Erna Raid [military competition based on the route of a subversive Nazi group] testify to the growing neo-Nazi attitudes in Estonia, and that it is necessary to exert pressure on it in this context. Did he really make this statement because his family has economic interests in Russia? Let's recall that Gerhard Schroeder, whose prosperity also depends on the Kremlin, was one of the few critics of Estonia during the April events." (Eesti Paevaleht, August 3).


Analysts consider inevitable a global conflict between the two civilizations - Russian and Anglo-American. The press is blaming Russia for trying to restore its superpower status at all costs, which has already escalated tensions in Russian-American relations.

"Sometimes, both superpowers embraced each other with passion, while at other times they were on the brink of a nuclear war.... Russia does not consider strong a state if its citizens do not march obediently during parades. For Russians, democracy is no more than a desire of their tsar. In turn, Americans do not understand how people can live without independent courts, the media, real political opposition, etc. Hence, the majority in Russia believe in the need for military parity with the United States. It does not even occur to Russia that it is possible to live without military parity. It is guided by Napoleon's principle - a ruler who does not upkeep his army, has to upkeep his enemy's army." (Nedelya, August 1).


The media are alarmed by plans of the pro-Kremlin Nashi (Us) youth movement to establish a representative office in Lithuania. Viewing this intention as the Kremlin's political expansion, commentators are hoping that the Ministry of Justice will prohibit this youth movement in Lithuania as an extremist organization.

"Russia has been building up its might recently because of soaring oil prices, and its political ambitions have been growing accordingly. The Kremlin is trying to achieve its goals in the Baltic countries not only by using economic and information channels, but also by backing local Russian political and public organizations." (Respublika, August 1).


Experts believe that the recently announced tender for the construction of a Belarusian nuclear power plant is the beginning of Minsk's new political and economic game with Moscow.

"The plant will be built near the Belarusian city of Mogilev, some 500 km away from Moscow. Needless to say, the Belarusian president was bound to use this fact to blackmail the Russian leaders. The French AREVA company is not likely to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus. The tender is just another Belarusian trick. In fact, Russia has been offered a deal - if Moscow forgives Minsk its gas debts today, Minsk will promise Moscow victory in the tender tomorrow. A Russian loan will pay for it. Whether this wonderful 'morrow' will become a reality is a big question. The Belarusian president has been promising Russia full integration 'tomorrow' for more than 10 years, which did not prevent him from getting Russian energy sources at symbolic prices 'today.'" (Narodnaya volya, August 2).


Talking about a new gas conflict between Moscow and Minsk, the press recalls that the January clash ended badly for Minsk - it had to accept a higher gas price and an agreement on the sale of part of its gas transportation network. Fearing that Kiev may land in a similar position now, commentators are warning that it may pay dearly for concessions to Russia.

"Belarus has driven itself into a corner by giving up its all but one trump card - transit. Now it will be swallowed by bits - its businesses will be taken away, its prime ministers reshuffled and gas prices will go up on end. This whole story should give much food for thought to the Ukrainian authorities. It is no secret that Russians regularly approach us with the proposals to own the pipe together. They are using the same arguments as with Belarus - we'll fix a normal price on gas for you and you'll forget about this problem altogether! The example of Belarus shows that in real life this means taking over businesses for debts and establishing outside control over them. Belarus is not the only one. At one time, Russia's 'wonderful' property-for-debts program allowed it to get its hands on Armenia's strategic businesses." (Gazeta po-kievsky, August 2).

Journalists believe that Russian-British diplomatic squabble is no more than a clash of bilateral economic and geopolitical interests.

"As always, money rules the world. The Russians have deprived British Petroleum of access to Siberia's richest oil deposits and London is in anger. Moreover, London has become a global headquarters for shadow Russian millionaires in exile who are pushing up prices for London's real estate and certainly greasing the hands of local politicians. This is enough for the West to launch a new crusade for the 'liberation' of oil from its despotic owners." (2000, August 3).


Chisinau commentators maintain that by and large, Russia has lost its battle for Kosovo. All Tiraspol can hope for is that the United Nations will consider Russia's veto and suspend Kosovo's recognition.

"If the United Nations remains uninvolved and Kosovo's independence will be recognized by those who are working for it now, the process of Transdnestr settlement will become a link in the chain of unpredictable events on the Balkans." (Nezavisimaya Moldova, August 3).


The press is convinced that the Western firm intention to see Kosovo independent is a show of force to Russia rather than demonstrative punishment of Serbia.

"NATO is not granting independence to Kosovo. NATO is punishing Serbia for Russia to get the hint what will happen if it does not become obedient." (Golos Armenii, August 4).


Nobody doubts in Georgia that Russian aircraft bombed it on August 6. The media are unanimous in qualifying this incident as an undisguised act of aggression on behalf of Russia. Experts are coming up with their versions of why Moscow has made this provocation.

"The Russian Federation is Georgia's enemy - this is beyond doubt. It will take such an aircraft five minutes to fly from the bombing site to downtown Tbilisi. Nothing is sacred for these people.... This is a test to see how Georgia and the world will react to this with a view to planning more serious actions in the future.... This is one more opportunity to remind the Georgians that Russia is not so weak as some people think.... The military, primarily the generals and certain political forces, may have a stake in it." (Novosti-Gruziya, August 7).

The press views recognition of Kosovo's independence as an all but a fair accompli. Commentators fear that Russia will be next to recognize Abkhazia's independence.

'"Kosovo's destiny has been decided, which means that our future will also be decided in the near future,' said Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh." (24 saati, August 8).

"Kosovo's official recognition will create serious problems for Georgia.... Russia is going to officially recognize Abkhazia in January." (Rezonansi, August 2).


Analyzing the prospects of Azerbaijan's gas exports, analysts have come to the conclusion that it will be able, with U.S. and EU support, to seriously reduce Russia's natural gas exports to Europe, if not oust it from the market altogether in the near future.

"Azerbaijan is finally squeezing Russia from the Georgian market. It supplies Georgia with gas at a price of $63 for 1,000 cubic meters from the Shakh-Deniz deposit. Its national oil company has an agreement with Georgia for the delivery of $120 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas. These figures may seriously interfere with Russia's gambling with prices not only in the CIS but also in Europe. They may deal a heavy blow to the interests of the Kremlin with its stake in high prices rather than bigger volumes... In the future, cheaper Azeri gas from Shakh-Deniz will challenge Russia's gas." (Zerkalo, August 2).


Analysts are surprised that Moscow is not showing more interest in Ashgabat at the time when the United States is being increasingly open about its goals in Turkmenistan. Experts believe that President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov's declaration on gas cooperation with Russia and Kazakhstan in the Caspian will not be an obstacle to Turkmenistan's involvement in a project to build a new gas pipeline on the Caspian seabed, which will allow Central Asia to reach world markets bypassing Russia.

"For the time being, there is nothing more than diplomatic support. Russia has almost no investment or joint ventures in the republic; gas and oil cooperation between Moscow and Ashgabat (except the purchase of Turkmen gas for its resale to Europe) is at its infancy. Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, has made it clear more than once that it is impossible to talk about developing gas cooperation with Turkmenistan until independent auditors find out what gas reserves it has in reality and for how long it will be able to abide by its commitments." (Delovaya nedelya, August 6).

Commentators believe that a meeting of muftis from a number of North Caucasian republics with the U.S. president confirms the threat of separatism in Russia's Muslim regions. They maintain that the United States wants to surround Russia with unfriendly states and destroy it from within.

"Numerous world empires fell apart in the 20th century and Russia is the only one to still have this dubious status. This explains its many problems and contradictions. Some Western politicians do not mind playing it up. Recently, George W. Bush invited North Caucasian muftis to visit him. They met at his family compound with former U.S. President George Bush Sr.. This was a heavy blow to Russia's pride." (Aikyn Apta, August 2).


The media are writing that growing violence towards migrants from former Soviet republics and lack of police reaction to it is compelling them to take care of their security themselves.

"In Moscow, skinheads have been defeated by people from Central Asia.... Judging by all, nationalist-minded young people provoked a conflict with Asians. Some of the wounded belong to informal youth nationalist groups. But migrants from the Caucasus and Asia know better than to walk in Moscow at night without any protection. This time, Asians had a shiv with them." (Musulmansky Uzbekistan, August 2).


Many analysts explain yet another rise in prices for foods and fuels by the Russian preference of the European market.

"As soon as our main suppliers Russia and Kazakhstan increased prime fuel costs, gas and diesel prices skyrocketed. Foreign oil producing and processing companies had to raise wholesale prices because fuel became more expensive all over the world. At the same time, the Russians stand to gain much more by exporting oil to those foreign countries which are paying a lot of money for it...." (web site of the Ar-Namys party, August 3).


Some analysts believe that relations between Russia and Turkmenistan are unlikely to improve soon. "Despite the optimistic forecasts and statements by Russian experts and politicians, Turkmenistan has not become closer to the Russian Federation. True, President [Gurbanguly] Berdymukhammedov maintains friendly relations with the Kremlin and flirts with Russian gas majors. However, the new Turkmen leader's priorities include consolidating the country's position in Central Asia and forging ties with China, which is now often referred to in Ashkhabad as a strategic partner. In addition, Berdymukhammedov is making a point of cooperating with Western companies." (, August 3).


The media believe that Central Asian countries are quite capable of solving their own problems and those of the region without Russian interference. "There is quite a lot of controversy and mutual recriminations in the region, but recent statements by Central Asian leaders indicate that they are willing and able to overcome those barriers. Kyrgyzstan has chosen Kazakhstan as its regional patron, while Tajikistan is apparently eyeing Turkmenistan. Dushanbe has recently assured Ashkhabad of its undying friendship, and will soon start receiving in response the 1 billion kWh of electricity it needs to make up shortfalls. Uzbekistan has forgotten all its grudges and offered President Berdymukhammedov its full support for the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline project in the hope of receiving certain dividends: first, the pipeline, if laid, will cross Uzbekistan, and second, Tashkent will be able to export its own gas to China as a participant in the project." (Sobytia, August 2).

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