Pointing to the need to reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies, experts recommend the Baltic countries to consider the expediency of joining the North-European gas pipeline. "Energy security has to take into account the risks emanating from Russia. This year, Russia has disrupted gas supplies to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia at least once. Though technical and legal problems were officially cited as an explanation, there might have been political reasons at play, due to deteriorating relations between Russia and these countries." "The Baltic states constitute a relatively small gas market that is not linked to any trunk gas pipeline. All sorts of crises, failures or disruptions may provoke serious problems with gas supplies to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It is necessary to consider the expediency of building extensions from the Russian-German gas pipeline, which is being laid under the Baltic Sea." (Eesti Paevaleht, September 21.)
Commentators say the government's inertia is the cause of escalating nationalism in Russia. "Xenophobia is gaining momentum with the silent support of the government, which is damaging the Kremlin's image. In light of the recent events, it seems that Moscow cares more for the neighboring countries than for its own ethnic minorities" (Postimees, September 20.)
The national press claims that Russia is torpedoing its agreements with Western companies on product-sharing projects on the pretext of environmental safety concerns. Journalists believe the Russian government is trying to strengthen its hold on the oil industry and warn that the country's investment reputation may be damaged. The Sakhalin-2 project has been repeatedly criticized by environmentalists, who insist on stopping the construction because it is allegedly damaging the environment... Moscow is reaping huge profits from oil exports, regarding the earlier signed contracts a relic of the age of national humiliation and trying to gain full control of its natural resources. Gazprom, which does not conceal its intentions to prevent companies it does not control from exporting Russian gas, has also contributed to this... Now...[Russia's] reputation will be marred as much as it was when the Kremlin ruined the oil giant Yukos." (Dienas bizness, September 21.)
"Russia is eager to discard the unprofitable practice of product-sharing agreements even to the detriment of its relations with Japan, the Netherlands and Great Britain... The essence of [Russia's new energy policy] is that national energy corporations should develop the country's energy resources. Foreign companies can participate and are invited to do so, but Russia will hold controlling stakes." (Business & Baltija, September 22.)
The media stress that Russia's increasing involvement in European politics is aimed directly against the U.S. "The summit of the Russian, French and German leaders was an unpleasant surprise for America. After the so-called troika meeting Washington expressed its irritation with Russia's strategy, which may be especially damaging to the United States. Americans were indignant at both priorities on the agenda of the summit in Compiegne: Russia's plans to export natural gas and invest in Europe's largest Aeronautic Defense and Space Company EADS... Analysts said the plans to channel the bulk of Russian gas to Europe would hit the hardest two U.S. companies - Chevron and ConocoPhillips." (Lietuvos rytas, September 26.)
Lithuania's dependence on Russian oil and natural gas encourages the press to actively cite global media outlets in order to discredit the Kremlin's energy policy. "Italy is alarmed over the gas agreement recently signed by Russia and Algeria, which jeopardizes the EU's plans to reduce its energy dependence on Moscow. With this deal, Russia has challenged the European Union, which intended to import gas from Algeria as an alternative to Russian gas. Germany's Handelsblatt reports that Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema shared Rome's concerns over the Russian gas monopoly with EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana." (Lietuvos rytas, September 23.)
The media believe that the economy, rather than politics is the key to stabilizing Russian-Ukrainian relations. The lack of gas supply agreements has led the media to allege that contradictions may be removed only through economic concessions on Kiev's part. "What Russia wants from Ukraine is not abandonment of its plans to join NATO or the European Union, not the failure of the Yushchenko team, not the Russian language as a means of communication between the two countries... Russia, or rather its masters and overlords of its political elite, are after Ukrainian property." (Glavred, September 22.) "Kiev has only one argument in negotiations with Moscow - its gas transportation system and gas storage facilities." (Den, September 23.)
Journalists believe that the referendum on the Transdnestr independence has completely discredited Russia as a go-between in settling the conflict. "Impact of political shock was enough to tear down the incredibly thin fabric of trust and rationalism, which covered up the foreign policy of the great eastern neighbor. Once it was gone, we saw the repulsive leftovers of tsarist geopolitical ambitions, which fit in perfectly well with Leninism, Stalinism, and now Putinism." (Flux, September 21.)
The pro-Romanian press claims that the Transdnestr leaders and Russia are the chief opponents of Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Commentators believe that preserving neutrality is counterproductive, and favor Moldova's entry into NATO. "Russia has never concealed its interests in the region. In their frequent discussions on this subject, State Duma deputies have openly supported the Tiraspol regime... In turn, Chisinau should launch international mechanisms, relying on help from the EU, the U.S. and Ukraine. It would be great to joint NATO but we do not know whether it is possible today." (Flux, September 21.)
"We should take three steps - give up the so-called neutrality, initiate the procedure for joining NATO and leave the CIS. Are the Communist leaders ready for such decisions? What about the opposition?" (Timpul de dimineata, September 22.)
The opposition has lashed out at the authorities for what it sees as an exchange of national independence for Moscow's support. "The current authorities are squandering the national wealth, and can be described as parasitic... They are keeping their seats exclusively thanks to Moscow's support, and are paying for this with the independence and security of our people; the authorities are literally presenting Russia with national wealth... Russia controls Armenia's energy sphere... Russia has been given the right for the perpetual use of land, on which it will deploy its military unit." (168 zham, September 20.)
The press has front-paged the question of the Russian peacemakers. "We will end in violence if the Russia-imposed peacemaking and negotiating formats continue to be used in the conflicts in the self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia... This is a cold war with the elements of the hot one... We welcome greater involvement (of the European Union) in order to balance out Russia's role." (Civil.Ge, September 20.)
Politicians declare that Moscow will have to reconcile itself to Georgia's entry into NATO. "Russia was also irritated when the Baltic nations joined NATO... However, after their entry everything clicked into place. In Georgia's case, Russia will have to follow international rules, or it will find itself out of the game... Russia will have to adopt a constructive attitude in relations with Georgia, because the latter's integration into NATO will provide full guarantees for its security... Russia has already been told to withdraw its military bases from Georgian territory. It will have to face reality in the future, too, and accept the fact that Georgia's positions will continue growing stronger." (Novosti-Gruzia, September 22.)
The press is trying to predict what policy Russia will pursue towards Azerbaijan after its presidential elections in 2008. "Power will change - Putin is in his second and last term. It is not clear how Moscow will change its policy towards Azerbaijan with the appearance of new figures in the Kremlin. For the time being, our northern neighbor does not make life too difficult for us. But will this last, or will the Kremlin start cracking down? ... If, to quote Mikhail Gorbachev, 'the process gets underway,' Moscow will be desperate for a more or less popular figure, on who it could place its bets." (Zerkalo, September 22.)
The press claims that the CIS has outlived itself. "It only remains to state that the CIS has almost completed its historic mission of leading the former Soviet republics to civilized divorce... 'Almost', because the divorce has not proved to be fully civilized... Now it is washing its dirty linen in public in the UN because there are outstanding conflicts in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. During the 1990s Russia had every opportunity to settle the conflicts, but did not use it. This fact shows that if the CIS has merely acted as a funeral team for the U.S.S.R., the separatist puppet regimes in Nagorny Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr have played the same role for the CIS." (Realny Azerbaijan, September 22.)
The issue of establishing a security zone on the Caspian Sea remains relevant. The media praised Russia's initiative to form a strategic naval group for security cooperation on the Caspian Sea without interference from non-Caspian countries.
"Russia's initiative involving the Caspian countries was a reaction to U.S. intentions to implement its security program there. It proposed establishing a naval group for strategic cooperation on the Caspian Sea, Casfor. Russia has taken the right stand: the Caspian countries should protect the region themselves." (Liter.kz, September 21.)
Commenting on Russian-Uzbek anti-terrorist exercises, the press focused on the resumption of Uzbekistan's membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in light of the support of Russia, a key member of the body, for Karimov's regime.
"The Russian-Uzbek exercises ... mark an important stage in bilateral cooperation in the defense, political and strategic spheres... The fact that the exercises are being conducted suggests that Moscow supports President Karimov's policy... the more so since Uzbekistan has resumed its membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Now it will buy Russian armaments at special prices." (Fergana.ru, September 20.)
Experts say China may influence developments in Tajikistan as soon as it wins the support of the Tajik political elite, which has long favored the United States and Russia.
"China is establishing its presence on the Tajik 'front' in light of Russian-Uzbek and Tajik-American rapprochement. Dushanbe seems to be bridging the gap that formed after it decreased its presence in Russia. Can the Heavenly Empire substantially increase its influence over Tajikistan?.. Economic benefits may soon be expected following the issue of a $600 million privileged loan. China may now be helping Central Asia establish an economic infrastructure with the hope that America and Europe will also buy Chinese goods in the future" (Asia-Plus, September 21.)
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