Monday's Russian Press Review
IZVESTIA writes that the Georgian opposition believes President Saakashvili will resort to his usual method of dealing with parliamentary dissent: at the height of the economic crisis in the spring he may again dissolve parliament and call an election.
The paper says that on February 7 the Georgian leader will acquire additional powers when several constitutional amendments become law, including one that allows him to dissolve parliament without giving any reason.
Quoting a Georgian opposition source, the paper says that where Saakashvili had to go through a lengthy legal procedure to dissolve parliament in the past, on 7th of February he’ll be able to do so simply by applying his signature, thus giving him dictatorial power.
KOMMERSANT reports on the first weekly radio address by President Barack Obama, in which the newly elected leader frankly told the people of the U.S. about the severity of the current economic crisis and the measures the U.S. government is taking to fight it.
The paper says the president confirmed his decision to close the Guantanamo prison within a year and announced a few other policies, some of which may prove unpopular among many Americans. The paper says one of the policies – lifting the ban on American aid to foreign organisations promoting abortion – has already caused concern in the more orthodox circles in the vast Catholic community of America.
Despite that, the paper says, Obama’s approval rating is still very high after the first week of his presidency. His 68 per cent is comparable only to that of John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 had an approval rating of 72 per cent after his first week in office.
NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA says in an editorial that the new trend, the primacy of diplomacy over military solutions, evident in the first steps of Barack Obama’s foreign policy team, calls for a positive response from Moscow. The paper quotes the U.S. vice-president Joseph Biden as saying that it’s necessary to revitalize American diplomacy and that a ‘new era of American leadership in the world’ has begun,’ so diplomacy, not military actions should be placed at the front of the U.S. foreign policy.
The paper says the new administration is planning to reinstate the close cooperation between the State department and the National Security council, and that budget allocations to the State department are going to be increased. Apart from that, even the Pentagon chief Robert Gates is now agreeing to ‘let diplomacy play the leading role in the fight against terrorism.’
Having noted the active role taken up by the American diplomatic service from the first days of the new administration, the paper says it means revitalization of international interaction on the most important problems of the modern world, and Russia should be playing an active role in this process.
The paper says, as Russian participation is vital for the process of decision-making on such issues as the problems presented by the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea, Russia should show more initiative and take some steps towards a renewed dialogue with the U.S., even if so far there have been no direct signals to Russia by the new U.S. administration.
ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO, who says that the meeting of the NATO-Russia council (the first such meeting since relations between the two turned cold) has been convened to address such problems as the worsening of relations after Georgia’s aggression in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (which Rogozin calls the biggest political mistake made by NATO in recent years).
Cooperation in the fight against piracy off Somalia, Russia’s assistance to the NATO operation in Afghanistan, and regional security – including Russia’s initiative on the suggested reload of the matrix of European security – are also on the agenda.
Dmitry Rogozin says dialogue with NATO is necessary for Russia; it is the best way to make Russia’s partners understand that accepting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO will mean crossing a virtual red line after which no cooperation is possible. He says failing to build dialogue and cooperation is counterproductive for both Russia and the alliance.
He adds that NATO is not the monster that ‘sits in our minds since the Cold War,’ it’s an organization composed of the states with which Russia enjoys mostly friendly relations and shares huge trade turnovers: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway. Is it possible, he wonders, that we will fail to find common language with the same countries united in a regional security organization?
Rogozin is optimistic about NATO. He says neither Ukraine nor Georgia has received any concrete confirmation that they’ll be accepted into NATO from any member of the alliance. He says this shows NATO understands the consequences of such a step.
VREMYA NOVOSTEI publishes an article by professor Georgy Bulychev who says that the situation around North Korea’s nuclear program has received a new angle after the election of Barack Obama as the U.S. president. The paper says, North Korea may be intentionally escalating its conflict with South Korea to draw the attention of the new U.S. administration to the problems existing in the region.
The academic says North Korea is trying to manipulate the U.S. into a deal that would look perfectly honest for Pyongyang: denuclearization of North Korea against normalization of relations with the U.S. and American economic aid.
The author says that in that sense North Korea may be playing a long game, because while Kim Chong Il is leader, no compromise is possible. This is because North Korea’s nuclear program is the only weapon with which it can counter any attempts by the U.S, Japan, South Korea or China to gain control or influence over it.
Only when Kim leaves office and the country embarks on a new and more open path, will it become possible for Pyongyang to trade its nuclear program for foreign investment and development.
The academic also says that if Russia’s role in the nuclear issue is not that great, because it is not the primary concern in Russia’s Korea policy, still Moscow is a necessary partner for the U.S., Japan, China and South Korea in solving any problems with the North.
In time, the author says, change will come to the Korean peninsula and the six-party negotiations may slowly evolve into a fully fledged regional security mechanism.
Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.