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RIA Novosti

Analysis & Opinion

What the Russian papers say

20:00 02/03/2009

MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) Crisis offers new chance for Russian foreign policy/ Medvedev's first year unsuccessful for vertical power system/ Government changes anti-crisis strategy/ Canada trying to justify its expanded military presence in the Arctic

Kommersant

Crisis offers new chance for Russian foreign policy

In the United States, voices are increasingly being heard, claiming that a U.S.-China tandem should determine the world's destiny, writes Anatoly Adamishin, a former deputy Soviet and Russian foreign minister.

Clearly, it is not a matter of the immediate future, but the time for choosing the size and direction is not far away. It is not accidental that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already visited China. However, the prospect of a world divided into two spheres of influence is unlikely to suit everyone. An alternative to the new global tandem could be the idea now being developed by Russia: collective leadership of key powers.
The path to this world order is a long and tortuous one, but leaders of 20 countries accounting for 95% of global GDP have already started it by holding regular meetings. So far they are discussing economic and financial problems, but further steps could be cooperation in areas where interests coincide: anti-piracy measures, drug control, the fight against international terrorism, or energy security. President Medvedev's idea for collective security in Europe is a step in the same direction.

Could the U.S. be persuaded to adopt such a structural design in which it would play a leading, but not a commanding, role? There is a chance. The crisis (an ultimate common enemy that can rally everybody) is opening up new opportunities for Russian foreign policy, including in shaping a more democratic global order. A key pre-condition is the restoring of the badly dented trust between Russia and the U.S. A meeting between Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton on March 6 will make the first contribution to this long-range campaign.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Medvedev's first year unsuccessful for vertical power system

The election of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia's president appeared to be a major success for the system of "controlled sovereign democracy." Operation Successor was a miracle of modern political technology, with no problems encountered in getting the required number of votes. However, a year later the picture no longer looks so rosy, a Russian analyst writes.

Konstantin Remchukov, chief editor and co-owner of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, writes that Medvedev is looking weaker than his predecessors. His ability to influence developments in the country appears restricted, possibly because of commitments, a lack of desire to change key points, or the absence of a clear vision on his presidential role.

No serious decisions have been made apart from extending the presidential term to six years and recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence, which may have dramatic consequences for Russia's territorial integrity, Remchukov writes.

Vladimir Putin, who became prime minister, is not doing well in tackling the financial and economic crisis either. His cabinet is ineffective and is not aimed at reforms or development.

Another mistake Putin has made is reliance on state capital and state corporations, the analyst writes. The concept of development ordered "from above" is an illusion of the possibility of repeating the achievements of the 1950s, the era of industrialization and the state sector. But practice long ago exposed the ineffectiveness of that model.

The crisis has also spotlighted the initial weakness and limitations of the vertical division of power. Parliament's upper and lower houses proved unable to efficiently discuss the government's anti-crisis measures, and the Public Chamber, another brainchild of "Putin's golden age," has had no influence on the drafting of anti-crisis measures.

Why has the president and prime minister's positions and ratings plunged over the year? According to Remchukov, the reason lies in the weakness of the system they created, a system based on accountability to superiors and suppression of low-level initiatives. This system is unable to operate effectively during a crisis, when deliberateness and lack of the "can do" spirit stand out like a sore thumb.

Vedomosti, RBC Daily

Government changes anti-crisis strategy

The government won't be able to help everyone, so large businesses and regions will have to shoulder part of the responsibility. This blunt statement was made by presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich at an economic forum in Krasnoyarsk.

A Kremlin source said the government's new policy would be to help people, not company owners or investors.

"Business leaders come begging to the president and prime minister, asking for money. This is absurd," the source told Vedomosti. "They won't take anything less than $100 billion."

The first shock over, most people have assessed the situation correctly. "Our prime goal is to see that our earlier cash injections in the economy are effective," a government official said.

The government has found itself unprepared for a long struggle with the global financial crisis consequences, Dvorkovich admitted.
He is the first high-ranking official to publicly recognize a weakness in the face of the crisis. Until now, officials preferred to reassure the nation that they were in control and would certainly bail out ailing companies.

Regional governors seem to have been taken unawares by the change in the Kremlin's rhetoric. "The Russian regions are now dealing with the first wave of the crisis, but even the strongest are unlikely to hold out for more than a month," said Alexander Khloponin, governor of the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

December statistics show that the crisis has only just begun in Russia's constituent regions, said Alexander Andryakov, general director of Economic Expert Group. They are being hit by a shortfall in taxes and growing unemployment, and things are going to get worse soon.
"The regions will have to revise their budgets, both income and spending, set in the fall of 2008 and based on the Economics Ministry's overly optimistic forecasts," Andryakov said.

Analysts agree that the regions will face a shock in April, when the second wave of the crisis hits the country. Khloponin's pessimistic forecast could materialize then.

Kommersant

Canada trying to justify its expanded military presence in the Arctic

Late last week, Canada accused the Russian Air Force of "aggressive" actions. Ottawa became irritated after a Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber flew near the Canadian border on February 18.

Canadian fighters climbed to intercept and forced the Tu-160 to make a U-turn.

Moscow called Ottawa's statement on the Tu-160 flight a farce. Analysts say the Canadian government is looking for a pretext to justify its expanded military presence in the Arctic where large oil and gas deposits may be located.

The Russian military said a Tu-160 bomber had taken off from the Engels base in the Volga Federal District and was flying on a routine Arctic combat-training and patrol mission on February 18.

"There can be no talk of violating Canadian airspace," Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's press and information department, told the paper.

A source in the Russian government said the Canadian Defense Ministry's statements "merely cause dismay and can be called nothing but a farce."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which was tracking the Russian bomber, said it had remained in international airspace all the time, and that it flew 190 km from Tuktoyaktuk in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Analysts explain the nervous Canadian response by more active struggle by regional countries for Arctic resources. Scientists believe the Arctic is rich in oil and gas and other mineral resources, which will soon become easily accessible due to global warming.

The incumbent Canadian government has announced its intention to spend billions of dollars to protect its national interests in the Arctic. For instance, there are plans to finance construction of a new deepwater port and to expand Canada's military presence north of the Arctic Circle.
Against the backdrop of the global financial and economic crisis, Canadian taxpayers are bound to ask questions, all the more as the existence of hydrocarbon deposits has not yet been confirmed. Consequently, Russian bomber flights play right into Ottawa's hands, helping it to justify its Arctic plans.


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