Monday's press review

Russia’s newspapers on Monday look at the prospects for further U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament and their joint efforts in the Middle East peace process. They look at the EU’s decision to engage post-Soviet nations in a dialogue that excludes Russia. The

KOMMERSANT publishes a column by Dmitry Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center who writes that from the point of view of U.S.-Russia relations the Bush presidency was a disaster. The academic says, the nuclear arsenals – the only sphere where Moscow and Washington still have parity to this day, is a very good place to start, if the Obama administration is serious about ‘resetting’ the relations between the two nations.

The writer says that due to the fact that in the sense of conditional weapons America is far better armed, any agreement on strategic arms limitation would be holding back the U.S. much more than Russia in the event of a political crisis, and that any agreement of this sort will certainly benefit Russia.

The author says, it will hardly bring relations back on the level of strategic partnership. He doesn’t believe that Russia will be the highest priority on the Obama administration in the first place. However he says that it doesn’t diminish the significance and meaning of the current situation with the nuclear armaments, which are still trained by our nations on each other in their thousands. New limitations, he says, would certainly move U.S.-Russia relations a step ahead.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that the new UN resolution on the Middle East, co-sponsored by the U.S. and Russia, has a good chance of being adopted unanimously in a future session of the Security Council. The paper says the resolution allows for the continuation of the process that was launched at Annapolis in November 2007, and gives a second wind to Arab-Israeli negotiations on the creation of the Palestinian state.

The paper adds that on the one hand, the resolution may become a foreign policy-related success so much needed by the Bush administration during the last weeks of its term; on the other hand it would become a good base for the efforts of the next administration, that of Barack Obama, who has mentioned the Middle East peace process as a foreign policy priority several times during his electoral campaign. Besides, says the paper, the resolution is going to set the new pace for the Middle East peace process, without the acceleration and unrealistic timelines suggested earlier by the Bush administration.

The resolution also supports the efforts of the four international mediators (Russia, the U.S., UN and the EU) towards organizing an international meeting on the issue in Moscow in 2009, the paper says.

NOVAYA GAZETA writes that the EU is planning to create an economic alliance in the post-Soviet space without the participation of Russia. The paper says that the program titled ‘The Eastern Partnership’ intends to involve Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus in direct cooperation with the EU. The paper suggests that the cooperation is meant to be of the same kind as the EU maintains with Norway and Iceland: free trading zones, visa-free travel. The paper notes that the idea, first suggested by Poland and Sweden in the first half of this year, became immensely popular with the EU member nations after the August events in the Caucasus. The first summit of the EU plus the ‘eastern partners’ is planned for April 2009, during the presidency of the Czech Republic, reports the paper.

TRUD publishes expert opinions on the matter of Russia’s OPEC membership. The organization has officially invited Russia to join, says the paper. However, Moscow decided rather to coordinate with OPEC then join it. Experts quoted by the paper say that for Russia there is no need to join as Russia usually follows OPEC away: it cuts oil production to maintain higher oil prices.

This process can be slightly more effective if coordinated directly, say the experts. However if Russia decides to join it will cause multiple legal implications and will also create a third power center in the organization along with Saudi Arabia and Iran. And that cannot be good for the unity of the membership.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI publishes a column by its commentator Arkady Dubnov who criticizes the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordiuzha. He is attacked for his tough rhetoric addressed at Afghanistan’s Taliban. The columnist says that so far in Russia there is no unity about the issue of the extremist religious movement controlling a major part of the Afghan territory: some think that the Taliban has to be destroyed by military force, others think that there is a possibility to negotiate with it.

The column says that if there is a chance to negotiate, then it may be the best option, and refers to the military efforts of the allied forces in Afghanistan which, in the opinion of the columnist, have failed. The columnist says now that everyone, including the Americans, have to follow the policy of negotiations and bribes introduced in Afghanistan by the British.