Wednesday's press review

U.S. soldiers at the Manas air base, Kyrgyzstan (AFP Photo / Vyacheslav Oseledko)
This Wednesday Russian newspapers explore the Central Asian area of Russia-U.S. relations and look into the effects of the successful lift-off of the Iranian satellite.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA writes that the new U.S. administration, having decided to shift the emphasis of the American military involvement from Iraq to Afghanistan, now fears that it may fail to present the Afghan operation in a positive light to the American general public. As some experts have already hinted at a parallel between the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam, Barack Obama’s team is looking for counter-arguments.

The paper says one such counter-argument is the fact that in this case Russia is on the same side as America, which makes the situation totally different. The paper continues saying that Washington has been sending signals to Moscow about the de-facto temporary discontinuation of its Eastern European element of national missile defense, which could become permanent if proven financially unfeasible. In such circumstances, writes the paper, the rumours of future U.S. military presence in Georgia most probably represent only the wishful thinking of the Georgian political leadership.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA also reports that as a result of the meeting with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the president of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiyev is going to close down the U.S. base at Kyrgyz airport in Manas which the American military is using to transport supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The paper says Bakiyev is doing it in exchange for Russia’s writing off his country’s debt and issuing a 2-billion-U.S. dollar long-term loan.

The paper says the Kyrgyz president may count his Moscow visit as a success. Besides, many people in Kyrgyzstan see the U.S. base as a threat to the moral unity of the nation after the murder of a Kyrgyz citizen by a serviceman from the base two years ago, which the American side failed to investigate properly. The paper says that after the loss of Manas the U.S. will have to apply again, now to both Russia and Kyrgyzstan, for support of its further steps in the Afghanistan operation.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes under the headline ‘The Manas Air Base under Attack from the South’ that for the past seven years the annual rent on the base that the Kyrgyzstan state budget has been receiving from the U.S. amounts to 150 million U.S. dollars. That, says the paper, explains why Kyrgyzstan had to bargain with Russia and as a result received a two-billion dollar loan on top of a debt write-off.

The same paper writes about the ‘missile race’ in which there are two participants – North Korea and Iran – who do not compete with each other but make separate statements to the rest of the world. The paper says both Tehran and Pyongyang have the same goal: to attract the attention of the new U.S. administration.

Iran’s satellite launch, continues the paper, means that in just a couple of years the country will possess ballistic missiles capable of reaching any spot in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East or Central Asia – meaning that no U.S. or Israeli military installation in the region is now safe.

North Korea’s preparations for the launch of its biggest missile so far, confirms the rumors and existing intelligence data about the fact that North Korea too may in two-three years develop a fully-grown ballistic system capable of delivering its payload to Los Angeles. The paper says, the only thing experts consider unlikely is that by the time either Iran or North Korea finishes tests of the missiles it will have nuclear warheads small enough to fit into them.

IZVESTIA writes that the Ayatollahs of Iran have finally realised their long-time dream of outer space. The paper quotes experts who say there are only two alternative ways events can follow from now on: one, the U.S. and Israel accept the emergence of one more nuclear power in the region, start a dialogue with it, make significant political incentives and seek compromise in the hope that in the near future milder politicians will be elected to positions of power in Iran. That, says the paper, is the way events will unfold around the North Korean nuclear program. Two, Iran needs just two more years to develop the capability to inflict ‘unacceptable’ damage to the U.S. and Israel. That would mean the U.S. and its allies have only two years during which they can ‘solve the problem militarily.’ After that it would be too late. The paper says if the second point of view prevails that would mean the world is on the brink of such a war before which the ‘regime change’ in Iraq would look like a war game for children.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI quotes Russian experts who say that it is unlikely that Iran can produce a delivery vehicle for a long-range nuclear weapon, as technologically it is still on the level of producing nothing more sophisticated than medium range ballistic missiles. Besides, the same experts insist that Iran cannot produce modern nuclear warheads.

KOMMERSANT says Pyongyang is trying not only to attract Barack Obama’s attention but to keep it with the Korean issue as long as possible, depriving the new U.S. administration of the time and means necessary for finding solutions in other ‘hot spots’ on the globe.

The paper considers that the preparations for the launch of a new ballistic missile as well as the intentional escalation of tensions between the two Koreas, are all parts of the plan by the North Korean leadership aimed at squeezing as many incentives, money, food and political advantages out of its American, European, Japanese, Chinese and Russian partners, as would be possible in order to guarantee for itself smooth sailing through the world economic crisis.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT