Russian press review, 19.02.07

The Russian press looks at possible changes in Russia’s foreign policy after the new deputy prime minister comes to power, and weighs Sochi’s chances of winning the Olympic bid.

Vedomosti business daily asks whether Russia's new Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Naryshkin, can change the face of the Kremlin's foreign policy. Mr Naryshkin's new post could see him in charge of smoothing the Kremlin’s relations with CIS neighbours like Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus. The paper quotes an analyst as saying that with energy exports still being used as a political tool, Mr Naryshkin could have considerable leverage on Russia’s foreign affairs at the expense of the Foreign Ministry. But with Russia switching to market principles in setting energy prices, the paper says, this tool is losing effectiveness and co-ordinated negotiations are gaining importance.

The Nesavisimaya Gazeta newspaper assesses Russia's relations with the U.S. after the latest verbal volley between the two states. Following the exchange of harsh words between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, both sides were eager to stress opportunities for co-operation. Common ground between the two countries was made out on issues like North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the fight against terrorism, and the Middle East. But, even though the U.S. appears more willing to act in concert with other powers, they still chose with whom to work and within what boundaries. So, while “strategic partnership” will still be used to characterise U.S.-Russian relations, the paper says, the term will carry an increasingly narrow meaning as U.S. elections approach.

Izvestia daily takes a guess at what chance the resort city of Sochi has of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. The paper refers to two websites – Around the Rings and Games Bids – which reportedly provide the most precise appraisals of the candidate cities. They believe Sochi and Pyeongchang in South Korea have equal chances. But Salzburg in Austria is placed several points ahead. The paper fears that two factors might undermine Sochi’s hopes. None of the sports facilities have been fully completed yet. And environmentalists are protesting against construction in protected areas.
 
The Vremya Novostey newspaper reports on how Belarus is dealing with the higher prices for gas and oil supplied by Russia. President Lukashenko has proposed that his country works with Kiev on a joint gas transit strategy against Russia. He is also planning to switch to oil from Azerbaijan pumped via Ukrainian pipes, together with oil from Venezuela and Iran shipped via the Baltic ports. The paper goes on to say that the Belarusian leader has also imposed penalties on company managers. No bonuses will be paid to senior figures until their companies settle their gas bills.