Most publications write about the refusal of Russia's Foreign Ministry to submit the Russian-Estonian border treaty for ratification to the lower house of parliament.
The ministry's refusal is interpreted as blackmail and Moscow making an all-or-nothing gamble. "Russia's conduct may be regarded as blackmail: Brussels, give us a simplified visa regime and we, among other things, will ratify border treaties with Estonia." (Postimees, June 27.) "Very soon Europe will start explaining to us that the wise are the first to give in, after which Estonia will sign a treaty without any additional declarations, which is what Russia wants." (Delfi, June 27.)
A number of analytical articles are devoted to the "sick" (as the local media describe it) state of Russia's economy, which the press associates with the lack of political will to conduct the necessary reforms on the part of the Russian leadership. "The equanimity of the Russian authorities in the face of the growing concern over their confused economic policy is beginning to look like a serious delusion. Russia today is struggling without success both with a sharp rise of inflation and with the painful strengthening of the ruble, which is the price of passive growth for many years driven by high oil prices." (Delfi, June 22.)
The PACE resolution on Russia, which mentions "occupation" of the Baltic states, was in the focus of the press critical of Russia, as did Moscow's rejection of the border treaty with Estonia. "Russia's decision to withhold its signature from the border treaty ratified by Estonia may be regarded as a declaration of a cold war on Estonia and Latvia and as deliberate confrontation with the opinion of the occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union, a fact commonly recognized in the West. It means that peaceful coexistence with Russia is impossible at present. (Diena, June 28.)
The response in the press to the PACE report was seen as evidence of the incompatibility of "Putin's controlled democracy" and European standards. "...Reference is to commitments to democracy, which Russia voluntarily assumed in 1996. Parts of the commitments are difficult, and some are impossible to meet in the new conditions, when the strengthening of the authoritarian regime continues in Russia. (Diena, June 27.)
The media reflected the concern of Latvian businessmen over a possible boycott by Russian consumers of goods produced in the republic. "Patriotic-minded Russians reject our goods not because they are of poor quality but because of bad relations between the two states". (Diena, June 22.)
One of the main subjects discussed during the week is that, unlike Germany, the neighbors of Russia's Kaliningrad Region - Lithuania and Poland - received no invitation at state-leader level to attend the celebrations of the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad on July 3.
Suspecting Berlin of secret collusion with Moscow, the press gives different explanations - including that the Kremlin intends to hand over the Kaliningrad Region to Germany. "Perhaps we are witnessing efforts to form a new geopolitical Moscow-Berlin axis, which is remembered with sadness in history". (Lietuvos rytas, June 22.)
The failure to ratify the Russian-Estonian border treaty provoked a broad response. "Russia has shown the Baltic countries that it is an unpredictable partner". (Lietuvos rytas, June 28.)
Lithuanian media interpreted the PACE resolution that mentions occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union, as further proof of the failure of Russia's foreign policy.
There was also a very negative response to the launch in Russia of the Russia Today television channel, which is viewed solely as a supplier of Kremlin propaganda. "The Kremlin functionaries and media loyal to the authorities welcome the opening of a propaganda channel, and the rhetoric used by the proponents of RTTV, called a Russian CNN, is sometimes similar to the cold war years". (Laikas, June 22.)
Turkmenistan's involvement in the "gas scandal" gave the press a pretext to talk about a "gas war" declared on Ukraine by Russia and Turkmenistan. It is claimed that a scandalous statement by Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov, who accused Ukraine of theft at state level, had been inspired or just invented by the Russian side. "Niyazov said that the Turkmen leaders' negative statements with regard to Ukraine, spread by the Russian media, were not true. In his words, the Russian press used statements made by him several years ago." (ForUm, June 25.)
However, the volume of criticism leveled at Russia is decreasing. Ukrainian experts are advising Kiev to look for a compromise with Moscow. "There will be no full-scale war. However, we will have to make concessions. This is why Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko should not make statements that are seen as anti-Russian." (ForUm June 23.)
The media carry comments by Russian experts that claim that Timoshenko will leave her post in favor of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh. "Professionals coming to power in Ukraine will mean a change of priorities in Ukraine's foreign economic and foreign policy courses: a Common Economic Space instead of an ephemeral EU. However, the most important thing is that Russian-Ukrainian relations will get a chance to become good-neighborly again". (ForUm, June 24.)
The visit of Modest Kolerov, head of the Russian presidential department for inter-regional and cultural relations with foreign countries, to Transdnestria (an unrecognized republic with a predominantly Russian-speaking population) produced an extremely adverse effect in Moldova. The fact that such a high-ranking executive spoke about the Transdnestrian-Moldovan Republic as an independent state was seen by the media as a pretext for a diplomatic scandal.
"Due to a lack of competence, the Kremlin's slovenly and irresponsible political technologists do not allow Russia to exercise its influence in the Republic of Moldova in the interests of both countries, that is, they let president Putin down". (Nezavisimaya Moldova, June 22.)
Kolerov's meeting with leaders of the Congress of the Russian Communities of Transdnestria and representatives of 13 local youth organizations that are part of the Breakthrough! International Youth Corporation was seen by the media as "a review" of anti-Moldovan forces, ostentatiously held by the Russian representative.
The media are playing up a thesis about a counter-productive policy on the part of Russia, which is striving to aggravate the situation in Transdnestria as far as possible: "Moscow has started violating the rules of the game of late ... one gets the impression that it set itself the task of provoking Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin at any cost". (Journal de Chisinau, June 28.)
Russia's decision to relocate part of the weapons from Georgia to the town of Gyumri is still a very painful subject for Armenia. "The statement by the head of the Russian General Staff on the intention to redeploy a military base from Georgia to Gyumri, made without preliminary agreement with Armenia, demonstrates once again Russia's imperial approach to its 'outpost'". (Aib Fe, June 28.) "Considering the quality of combat equipment that is being relocated to Gyumri, it is safe to say that this is a junk heap. The withdrawal of Russian bases to Armenia is rather a psychological factor, first of all, for Russia". (Aravot June 25.)
The media note Russia's opposition to Armenia's plans for energy independence. "The agreement on the construction of an Armenian-Iranian gas main is humiliating for Armenia because due to the small diameter of the pipe, gas will only be supplied to the Razdan thermal power station, placed under the ownership of the Russian Federation. Hence, Gazprom's monopoly in Armenia will be preserved. In 2-3 years, the Armenian nuclear power plant working on Russian uranium will pose a serious threat to every living thing in the republic". (Aib Fe, June 28.)
Although the sides agreed in principle on the withdrawal of Russian military bases, the general tone of publications on this subject in the press is still negative. Setting out a thesis about the grave ecological consequences of Russian military presence, the press is preparing an information background for demanding compensation from Russia. "They must not only leave us maps of the mined areas but also de-mine them."(Akhali versia June 27.)
Moscow is being accused of manipulating both the Georgian government and the opposition. "There are ample grounds to suspect the Georgian government of being directed by the Russian services, which were brought up by Yuri Andropov and whose aim is to return Georgia to Russia. In this case, the point at issue will be the introduction of troops, not a pullout." (Akhali taoba June 27.)
By tradition, the press lays the blame for the aggravation of the Georgia-Ossetia conflict on Russia. "Such statements [by new Ossetian leader Teimuraz Mamsurov on the possibility of the unification of two Ossetias] may aggravate the situation in the Tskhinvali region, grave as it is, and provoke an international diplomatic and political scandal. When an official representing a Russian region says this, he expresses Russian policy as a whole." (Khvalindeli dge June 22.)
Anti-Armenian sentiments are increasingly shaping Russia's image in Azerbaijan. "Since the 1999 Istanbul agreement, Russia, instead of discharging its obligations, has started to additionally arm its sole strategic partner and a reliable outpost in the South Caucasus - Armenia." (Ekho, June 24). "The reason for Azerbaijan increasing its military spending is that Russia is moving military bases from Georgia to Armenia", said President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan." (Day.Az. June 25.)
The press continues to cover the Kremlin's alleged pro-Armenian course. In particular, the appointment of Margarita Simonyan as head of the Russia Today information TV channel is seen as evidence of an anti-Azerbaijani slant in Russian media policy. "The appointment of an Armenian woman as director of Russia Today should be seen solely in terms of Russia's pro-Armenian policy, since putting an Armenian in charge of state policy propaganda in such a multi-ethnic state as Russia cannot be viewed as anything other than idiotic." (Express, June 24.)
The media is paying increasing attention to Baltic experience. In particular, it is proposed to lay claims against Russia in line with the 'Baltic model'. "A special commission should be formed to calculate the sum Russia must pay to Azerbaijan to compensate for the damage inflicted on this country when it was part of Russia and then the USSR." (Ekho, June 28.)
A session of the EurAsEC inter-state council (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) is the main topic of the week. Articles point to the positive role of EurAsEC in the economies of the member-states. The agreement to set up a joint Russian-Kazakh investment bank is described as one of the major results of the meeting. It is stressed that the initiative for integrative processes in the financial field came from the president of Kazakhstan. "The performance of participating countries has substantially improved in the recent period. For example, GDP growth in 2000-2004 was 10.3% in Kazakhstan, 6.5% in Belarus, 4.8% in Kyrgyzstan, 6.2% in Russia, and 9.7% in Tajikistan." (Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, June 23.)
The official day of sorrow and mourning to mark the 64th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War was not much of a highlight in the mass media. Opposition publications stress that news services (such as Kazinform, or KZ-today) made no mention whatever of any Kazakh events dedicated to the date. "The impression is gathered that this was not our war and that our republic's human losses did not run into hundreds of thousands. A surprisingly short memory." (Navigator-II, June 22.)
The press takes an understanding view both of Russia's fight against international terrorism and of Moscow's desire to retain its influence in Central Asia. "Threats of Islamic fundamentalism ... scare equally Moscow, Beijing and Washington. If Islamic radical strategists achieve their plans in Central Asia, a new center of power may be formed with a population of more than 60 million people able to develop weapons of mass destruction and aviation and rocket equipment ... Russia has traditional interests and good relations with ethnic elites in Central Asia." (Kyrgyz Rukhu, June 24.)
Experts and politicians are quoted as saying that the Kremlin's tactics of crushing the opposition is leading to growing dissatisfaction in the country, creating preconditions for a revolution. "By stripping the opposition of a role in civilized politics, the authorities are pushing it into the streets. An 'anti-Orange' policy, if continued, may lead the larger part of the elite and society to feel a common need for the right to have an opposition." (Gazeta.KG, June 24.)
The pro-government press focuses on the visit by the President of Uzbekistan to Russia. The media vie between themselves in showing the positive aspects of Russian-Uzbek cooperation. (Vesti Uzbekistana, June 28.)
Opposition publications point to economic reasons for the Kremlin's interest in maintaining Karimov's regime. "The Kremlin, while calculating future revenues from mining and transportation of Uzbek hydrocarbons, fails to see that not terrorists, but currently pro-Russian peaceful civilians turned out in large numbers in the square in Andizhan." (Fergana.Ru, June 28.)
The press also warns Russia against unqualified support for Karimov's regime.
"Citizens of Russia, Karimov does not care a damn for Russia. This hypocrite has counted up and neatly categorized everything. The day will come when he will pull a fast one on you. The anti-American hysteria fanned by you only plays into Karimov's hands and those of his new Chinese friends." (Musulmansky Uzbekistan, June 24.)
Media outlets acknowledge that confrontation between the authorities and the opposition in Uzbekistan reflects a larger confrontation, the outcome of which will determine the future of the present regime. "Now the future of Uzbekistan partly depends on the outcome of great-power struggle between China, Russia and America for influence in this strategically important country whose people are tired of humiliation and poverty". (Uzland-uz, June 22.)
Media give extensive coverage to President Emomali Rakhmonov's visit to Moscow to attend the EurAsEC inter-state council and a session of the council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It is noted that relations between the two states now have no unresolved problems. (Avesta, June 26.)
The press points to Russia's concerns over the existence of terrorist-training bases in Afghan territory. (Avesta, June 23.)
Using materials from Russian sources, the press again raises the issue of labor migrants. It is noted that in Moscow the Tajiks have filled the "social niche" of Tatars and are readily hired as janitors. It is reported that in Yekaterinburg over 60% of the citizens demand the immediate deportation of illegally resident citizens of Tajikistan from the Urals. "Only a small part of the migrants get official permits to work. Last year about 7,500 work permits were issued in the Sverdlovsk region, while temporary registration was granted to more than 122,000 people." (Vecherny Dushanbe, June 24.)
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.