Friday's press review

This Friday Russian newspapers are discussing a new stage in post-Soviet integration, look into the future of Ukraine and forecast the outcome of the Munich Conference.

IZVESTIA writes that the creation of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation Rapid reaction forces became the main event of the past week. The paper quotes Russian military experts as saying that in fact, ‘we are present at the birth of a NATO-type military bloc in the post-Soviet space. It means that in case of an internal or external terrorist threat to one of the member states, all others get involved in countering it. ’

The paper says that despite the evident domination of Russia in both political and military elements of the CSTO, the organization is not meant as a tool for Big Brother’s control over former Soviet territories but a pragmatic military union of neighbors sharing interests and facing the same threats.

The paper also notes that the CSTO includes only those post-Soviet nations which support the idea and spirit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, more dead than alive in the past few years due to the domestic and international problems experienced by its two significant members: Georgia and Ukraine.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA says that the success of the CSTO summit has shown that Moscow and its post-Soviet partners have many common goals. The paper continues saying that the summit itself, as well as the creation of the CSTO Rapid reaction force, became a real breakthrough, the opening of a new era in bilateral and multilateral cooperation of post-Soviet states.

The paper publishes an opinion article by Professor Aleksandr Zapesotski, Member of the Russian Academy of Education, who writes that the West is intentionally turning Ukraine into a zone of instability. The academic says, Ukraine has slim chance of ever being accepted into the EU, in fact, its chance is much smaller than that of Turkey, which, being economically and socially ready to become an EU member, still is very unlikely to join any time soon. He continues to say that the EU resources necessary for adoption and incorporation of new members expired years ago, and the acceptance of Ukraine would be catastrophic for the Union.

Meanwhile, Ukraine may very soon be dragged into NATO despite the protests of at least a half of its population. NATO membership without the membership in the EU would make Ukraine even more volatile and vulnerable than it is now. The most important and value-creating economic ties with Russia, mostly in the form of industrial cooperation, would have to be severed, as Russia can hardly afford dependence of its military-industrial complex and hi-tech industries on a NATO member.

The instability can also cause deployment of non-Ukrainian NATO forces in Ukraine, on the very border with Russian , under pretext of policing an unstable area and protecting the gas pipelines going into Western Europe.

The academic also says that Ukraine, being part of the Slavic civilization, will never be accepted into the Western civilization as an equal, but the West will continue luring Ukraine into its fold with the sole purpose of weakening Russia as an alternative power center.

The paper also has an article by Dr. Alexander Rahr of the German Foreign Policy Council, who writes that this time the Europeans expect the Munich conference to reveal the plans of the new U.S. administration for leading the world out of the economic recession, U.S. relations with Europe, including the future plans for NATO, and U.S. relations with Russia, including nuclear disarmament, missile defense and cooperation in Central Asia.

The German academic says that ‘both Europes – the old and the new are ready to recognize Barack Obama as their leader capable of leading Europe and the world out of the economic crisis,’ and their only fear at the moment is that in exchange for the leadership he will ask for additional European troops to join the allied operation in Afghanistan. Besides that, many expect to hear ideas about the future of NATO, its status and goals in the next few years. Rahr also quotes rumors about a ‘revolutionary package regarding U.S. – Russia cooperation in missile defense.’

Concluding the article, Rahr calls the belief of many Europeans in Barack Obama naïve, and asks the question: what if the U.S., even under Obama, fails to deliver the expected leadership? What nation will then become a locomotive for the world economy? China? Europe? Or maybe someone else?

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA’s Deputy Chief editor Yulia Petrovskaya writes on the same topic. She says most experts expect two results from the Munich conference: the clarification of the new U.S. administration’s foreign policy plans and a clearer understanding about Russia’s foreign policy. Petrovskaya says that the delegates of the conference are looking forward to hear the details of the new American initiative on nuclear disarmament, and that everyone speculates if the tone of the speech of the Russian Deputy Prime minister Sergey Ivanov would be as soft as the tone of Prime minister Vladimir Putin was in Davos.

The writer notes that by now Russia has completely come out of diplomatic isolation it found itself in immediately after the conflict in the Caucasus, however there are no definite answers yet to the questions, how U.S. – Russia relations will develop in the near future, will the nuclear disarmament offer turn out feasible and realizable, and will there be improvements in mutual understanding on other bilateral issues? She wonders, whether these matters are going to become clearer after Munich?

In response to this question the writer points out the known priorities of the Obama administration, particularly one of the most important among them – the operation in Afghanistan. She says, the U.S. needs Russian support regarding the supply routes, while Russia is interested in stopping the deployment of the elements of the U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe and a freeze on the negotiations about Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO. In conclusion Yulia Petrovskaya writes that it is quite unlikely that Obama will make significant concessions to Russia, especially when there is no consensus on the Russia policy in Washington.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.