Tuesday, 18 of February of 2020

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FSU and Baltic News on Russia

ESTONIA

Local media sources point out that both Tallinn’s anti-Russian rhetoric and Moscow’s response are highly damaging to bilateral economic contacts.

“Russia has declined proposals of many Estonian entrepreneurs wishing to implement joint business projects. Every time a business leader has a major idea about doing business with Russia, they start hissing in his ear: Estonia must abandon its Russo-phobic policy in favor of a friendly one. Estonia would only benefit if its hostile slogans were replaced with more creative ones. Otherwise, Estonia will only be left with two conflicting options, both unproductive: either sell itself to Russia, or unleash a pointless war, like [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili.” (Erileht, October 15)

Analysts believe that the fear of potential Russian aggression against Estonia has led to an excessive militarization of the country.

“Estonia is trying to arm itself. It wants to purchase 40 tanks and invest 60 billion EEK in defense over the next decade. And we have chosen a perfect time, too. Russia is our largest, and only, adversary. Estonia must arm itself to be able to withstand an invasion until NATO forces arrive. However, this massive armament campaign leaves the impression that Estonia is a highly militarized country. Even if we take a small portion of the 60 billion and spend it on education and healthcare, and reduce anti-Russia rhetoric, it would do us much more good than tanks.” (Ohtuleht, October 17)

Commentators claim that Moscow is capable of using capital for political ends.

“The financial market turmoil has forced Iceland’s government to ask Moscow for a loan. It has long been known that nowadays, countries are conquered by money, not tanks. We can only hope that Iceland will prevent Russians from including ambiguous, open-ended clauses, or insisting on political support for Moscow’s policies instead of loan interest. Business is business, even when done by Russia. Although Iceland cannot be bought for 60 billion kronas, this amount may be enough to make it dependent on Russia.” (Ohtuleht, October 16)

LATVIA

Russian-language media sources indignantly condemn officials in Riga for their anti-Russian stance, which, they argue, prevents Latvia’s mutually beneficial cooperation with former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

“Central Asia opens incredible prospects for Latvia. However, to embrace those prospects, we’ll first need to befriend Russia, but our government is doing its utmost to spoil relations with our eastern neighbor… It isn’t clear why [President Valdis] Zatlers chose to criticize Russia with such impertinence [during his visit to the region]. Does he really think he can get away with this sort of behavior in Central Asian countries, which are all long-standing and faithful partners of Moscow?” (Vesti Segodnya, October 16)

LITHUANIA

Some writers believe that during the financial crisis, Moscow will definitely take advantage of Iceland’s request for a 4 billion euro loan.

“It is strange that Russia, which is itself suffering from the crisis, would be the first to offer help to this small country. Moscow makes no secret of the fact that its help will not be selfless. Moscow will try to occupy a NATO base in Iceland that was abandoned in 2006, and Russia is also interested in Keflavik International Airport, which was closed after American troops left the base. Russia sees Iceland as a good springboard for its further expansion into the Arctic region. Presence in Iceland would allow Moscow to compete for Arctic oil and gas more effectively. Experts say that the Arctic has a one-fourth of the global oil and gas reserves. By helping Iceland, Russia mocks at solidarity declared by the West and NATO, and says: ‘We have been acting aggressively toward Georgia, but at the same time we are extending a helping hand to a NATO member-country.’ This means that the West has lost again - maybe not the war, but a small battle for influence in the modern world.” (Runet.lt, October 19)

BELARUS

Opposition media laughed at Alexander Lukashenko’s speech at a meeting of the National Security Council, where he emotionally spoke about the possibility of a NATO attack on Minsk.

“Lukashenko’s speech…could have been a good screenplay for an apocalyptical thriller. The world is on the brink of catastrophe, all countries are preparing weapons of mass destruction, NATO stands at the Belarusian border, and what is most important - the Union State of Russia and Belarus is under threat. The enemy, of course, is creeping from the West. The Apocalypse is near. According to Lukashenko, ‘the growing role of Moscow on the international scene was one of the things that irritated the West.’ To give battle to the enemy, Lukashenko considers it necessary to discuss ‘Russia’s offer to create a united air defense system against the West.’ We are lucky to have a leader who can oppose this all-powerful evil.” (”Solidarnost,” October 16).

Political scientists are discussing a thaw in relations between Minsk and the European Union. However, most remain skeptical about a possible alliance with Europe, recalling the experience of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

“We need investments and technologies, we need western support in the fight against Russian pressure. We became expert in marking time during the ‘brotherly integration with Russia.’ There were certain ‘road maps,’ for example, for adopting a common currency. But in the meantime, Minsk was milking Moscow while feeding it a rhetoric of unity. You can be sure, Brussels will experience this, too. Belarus will not push Europe away, but turn the formal Euro-integration into something like a viscous joint project with Russia. Europe needs to establish a safe cordon against unpredictable Russia. After this, things will change for the better, European strategists think.” (”Belorusskie Novosti,” October 16)

UKRAINE

The press traditionally writes about Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s dependence on Moscow. “They count on Tymoshenko. First of all, because she is considered to be the winner of the Ukrainian politic struggle, and it is very profitable to be a winner. Besides this, she can speak to the Russian leaders in their business language.” (”Segodnya,” October 17)

Political scientists connect Russia’s unexpected decision to subsidize Iceland’s economy with the Kremlin’s intention to attract a new exotic ally - a NATO member that opposes the bloc’s military initiatives.

“Iceland is one of the few European countries which keeps neutrality and adheres to the friendship policy toward all civilized countries, including Russia. Few people know that it closed NATO bases in Greenland and on its own territory, and de-facto abandoned the protectorship of pro-NATO countries. Of course, it would be absurd to say that the country’s economy was ruined intentionally as a punishment for its “peace dove” policy, but one cannot deny the political component of the financial crisis. Moscow not only rewards Reykjavik for the eviction of bases, but also hopes for a long-lasting friendship. Well, we shall live and see. It is said that Russian bases may appear in Venezuela, so why not in Greenland?” (”Kiyevsky Telegraf,” October 17)

MOLDOVA

Tiraspol’s media do not doubt that Russia is ready to defend Transdnestr from any political or economic outside interventions.

“In terms of selling its products in Europe, Transdnestr welcomes the involvement of the EU in such aspects of its life. As for issues related to the settling of differences between Tiraspol and Chisinau, it is clear that the deciding vote belongs to Moscow. During the standoff, Tiraspol has never shown any disagreement with Moscow’s views on ways of settling the conflict, as well as its interest in EU’s involvement in the settlement. It is unlikely that Moscow will react to Chisinau’s intention to take part in the “harsh politic and economic pressure on Tiraspol.” Moscow will most likely say that it welcomes joint actions, but only if the interests of people living in Transdnestr are taken into account, including Russian citizens.” (IA “Lenta PMR,” October 16).

Chisinau experts believe that President Vladimir Voronin will play the “Russian card” before the parliamentary election. “Voronin’s reconciliation with Moscow was made to let the ruling Communist party win the 2009 election with Moscow’s help. The Russian-speaking population of the Republic (one third of the whole population), which was disappointed with Voronin and his party’s policy, will face a choice - either not to vote at all, or support Voronin and his party. There are no other big leftist parties in Moldova, and the Russian-speaking electorate traditionally supports left-wing politicians.” (”Press-Obozrenie,” October 21)

ARMENIA

Local journalists write that Armenia is a pawn in the international political game.

“Russia is trying to restore its former influence, while the West is resisting Russia’s efforts. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Armenia not only to promote bilateral relations, but also to strengthen Moscow’s stance in the regional struggle.” (Azg, October 21)

“After the Russian president’s visit, yet another American politician will come to the republic for routine ‘consultations’ with the Armenian president.” (ArmInfo, October 20)

Some publications think Russia will lose interest in Armenia as a political ally as soon as NATO becomes established in Georgia.

“Russia no longer needs Armenia; it has become a surplus territory now that [Moscow] has recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow is now bargaining with the West as a shareholder. The West has ceded Abkhazia and South Ossetia as payment for Armenia. Besides, Russia owns nearly everything in Armenia. In this sense, Armenia is the same as Bulgaria and Montenegro, where Russian capital is particularly broadly represented. In the 1990s, we received money from the West and security from the North, but now the situation is becoming the exact opposite.” (Eter, October 16)

GEORGIA

The Georgian media write that the military conflict has complicated the already unstable situation on the Russian market.

“The Russian economy has recently suffered considerable damage, although not only because of the events in Georgia. Even before the Russian aggression in Georgia, the Russian economy was moving towards a recession and demonstrated other negative trends, largely because of a sharp drop in global oil prices. Against that backdrop, the aggression in Georgia only served to aggravate the Russian economic crisis. Prices of Russian stock started falling, and investment inflow into the country slackened. Russia has sacrificed economic prosperity to attain military goals, but it miscalculated the economic consequences of the aggression.” (Biznesi, October 16)

AZERBAIJAN

Analysts doubt that the Nagorno Karabakh problem can be solved soon, as the intermediaries - the West and Russia - still need to convince the sides to consider a compromise.

“Like us, Armenians have pinned their hopes on Russia as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group. But Russia and the EU have their own interests. After the events in Georgia, Moscow does not want to become involved in a large-scale conflict with the West, which is possible over Karabakh. Europe, in the meantime, is not at all willing to move from one powder keg to another.” (Novoye Vremya, October 21)

Commentators believe that despite Moscow and Yerevan’s declarations on promoting mutually beneficial cooperation, Russia is pursuing a policy of tough economic expansion against its strategic ally.

“The reality of the situation bears little resemblance to cooperation. Moscow is controlling Armenia’s economy and is pursuing a policy of economic expansion against its outpost. The largest Russian companies - Gazprom, InterRAO, VTB, RusAl, VimpelCom, Sistema, RZD and Alrosa - control all the strategic assets in the Armenian economy.” (Express, October 21)

KAZAKHSTAN

Analysts believe that Russia, which is trying to compensate for its geopolitical losses after the collapse of the Soviet Union, needs to maintain the viability of the CIS and other post-Soviet integration organizations to ensure self-preservation.

“Relations within EurAsEC and among Central Asian countries are harmonious because this suits Russia, which has set the parameters for integration and is reuniting the CIS on the basis of economic pragmatism. Russia will not be an ideological center like the Soviet Union, but will take into account the interests of all member states. Russia is trying to grow stronger through economic integration; this is the lesson it has learned in the Caucasus. Alienation of Central Asian states, as was the case with Georgia, will result in total isolation of and a subsequent split within Russia.” (Delovaya Nedelya, October 17)

TAJIKISTAN

Analysts write that Tajikistan is an unwilling participant in the age-old struggle between the West and Russia for geopolitical influence in the region, with Moscow’s behavior in bilateral relations marked by extreme ambitiousness and egotism.

“Tajikistan has huge military-political and geopolitical importance for Russia. This means that the deployment of [military] bases is a ’sacred cow’ for Russia, just as the issue of labor migrants is a ’sacred cow’ for Tajikistan, and sacred cows are never sacrificed because of the potentially damaging effect on bilateral relations. Moscow and Dushanbe are aware of this, which is why the efforts of some political groups in Russia to force Tajikistan to take a stand in the ‘divorce’ of Russia and the U.S. seem odd, to put it mildly.” (FK Capital, October 8)


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