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16 Dec, 2008 11:01

Tuesday's Press Review

Tuesday's Press Review

This Tuesday, Russian newspapers philosophise about Russian society, continue the discussion on further steps in Russia-U.S. nuclear disarmament and reveal the significance of the Iraq and Afghanistan visits of George W. Bush.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes an opinion article by political scientist Leonid Radzikhovsky who writes that the amount of democracy in Russian society at the moment may be wanting in size but there isn’t much hope – or need – for it to increase right now. The columnist writes that from the point of view of Russia’s powers-that-be, ‘disorder is worse than lack of freedom’ and ‘the Russian Empire died of excessive talking’ – both quotes attributed to one of the leaders of the ‘Whites’ in the Russian Civil war, General Kaledin, who uttered these words half an hour before committing suicide.

Radzihovski doesn’t suggest that Russia is going to collapse any time soon, he says that Russia is a much more solid entity than the Russian Empire at the end of WW II or than the USSR in 1991, it doesn’t suffer from any serious separatism and the ratings of the leaders are higher than ever. However, he also warns that under certain circumstances an unlimited freedom of speech of the kind that existed in the early 1990s can be destructive, because it is certain to evolve quickly into a bacchanalia of unfounded accusations and speculative reporting laced with every bias of every political agenda.

Radzikhovsky says there is no social demand today for any further democratization outside a small group of liberal political intellectuals who have no practical impact on public opinion. Then he asks if there is no possibility of a rise in the political activity of the population, and answers that there is. The economic crisis, he writes, ‘is a test of Russia’s historical survivability.’ In the columnist’s opinion the crisis is an opportunity to shift the nation’s economy from the mode of consuming and distributing oil and natural gas-generated rent into the mode of industrial production.

In that case, he writes, a true, independent middle class will replace the layer of rent consumers that is today mistakenly called ‘the middle class’ of Russia, and only with that would there emerge a strong demand for a bigger amount of democracy in Russian society.

IZVESTIA quotes a recommendation ‘to start a new strategic dialogue with Russia’ issued by an independent congressional commission set up to advise the Barack Obama administration on strategic matters. The paper quotes a report by the Russian Itar-TASS news agency saying that the commission recommends starting that dialogue by launching a new set of negotiations on the further limitation of the two nation’s nuclear arsenals. However, says the paper, experts warn that any limitation or reduction needs to be implemented in such a way that prevents China from yielding to a temptation to start increasing their own nuclear potential.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI says the Russian-American consultations on the level of deputy foreign ministers yielded no immediate results but helped form a base for further consultations and possibly negotiations next year. The participants of the consultations, as well as experts, say that even if the bigger problem, meaning the limitation and reduction of the nuclear arsenals, doesn’t present significant difficulties, there’s still no mutual understanding on missile defence. That is a major difficulty, the experts say, and as the issue of missile defence elements in Eastern Europe is going to have a tremendous effect on the overall state of affairs in the relations between the two countries. The paper says some progress in the matter can be expected only after Barack Obama’s new administration takes power in January.

The same paper reports on the U.S. president’s visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. The paper quotes Andrey Serenko, an expert with the Russian Centre for Modern Afghan Studies who says that the visit was not only a demonstration and a farewell but also an act of diplomacy which produced some practical results, for instance it ‘gave Karzai an opportunity to show that his hopes still lay with the economic and military might of the West, that those hopes are well-funded and that they are forever.’ The paper adds that the visit also demonstrated that with the change of administration in the U.S., America is not going to change its policy in Afghanistan.

As for the Iraqi part of the visit, the paper says its results were obscured by the shoe-throwing incident which is still being discussed in the Arab world today.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA reports on the same visit. It says that in Kabul, George W. Bush spoke of the great success of the U.S. rapid military deployment in Iraq as a positive example for further U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. The paper quotes Bush as saying that the level of violence in Afghanistan is going to rise with the influx of new U.S. units but, as it worked in Iraq, it is going to work in Afghanistan.

The paper also quotes a pessimistic estimate of an Iraqi high official who says that to control the situation independently, Iraqi authorities need at least 10 more years of American presence.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT