Russian press review, 31.01.07

Russian dailies lead with the U.S. anti-missile deployment plan and the Middle East settlement. Also in the news: Russian vodka is emerging as the world's number one tipple.

Commenting on plans to deploy the first phase of the U.S. anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, the army newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda, claims it is intended for use against countries other than those in the so-called “axis of evil”. The daily believes the system will give the Pentagon definite advantages over Russia. As for Europe, the paper says it is going to end up as a hostage to the Americans.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily says the anti-missile facilities located not far from the Russian border will be used for bringing political and military pressure on the Russian leadership. The paper predicts a further cool-off in Russian-American relations because Moscow continues to harbour an utterly negative view of any U.S. anti-missile deployment.

In the meantime, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper carries the opinion of the commander of Russia's Space Troops, Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, who says the plans to station anti-missiles in East Europe are a clear threat to Russia. According to Colonel Popovkin, Moscow repeatedly stated that an anti-missile system in Europe would tip the strategic balance of force on the continent and was likely to lead to a new arms race.

Sovetskaya Rossiya daily says the bitter Hamas-Fatah infighting in the Gaza Strip and the escalation of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis perfectly fits the U.S. strategy in the Middle East. The paper maintains American policy is aimed at destabilising the region and plunging it into chaos. According to Sovetskaya Rossiya, the U.S. is currently getting ready to attack Iran and thus destabilise the situation even further.

The Noviye Izvestia newspaper quotes Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, as saying the two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, might soon come to an agreement if “other forces” do not intervene. Mr Lavrov did not specify which forces stood in the way of the peace process, but he would hold Middle East talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the U.S. soon.

Trud daily breaks the news capable of making all true patriots proud: last year Russian vodka assumed the world lead in sales growth among spirits, squeezing out rum, whisky and gin. Unlike the West, writes the paper, Russia demonstrates a decline in vodka trading and a surge in beer consumption.