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10 Apr, 2009 10:30

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.10

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.10

This Friday ROAR offers two opinions on Iran, a street-level practical view of the events in Moldova, and an estimate of what may happen in Georgia.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA’s Evgeny Shestakov writes that Washington is ready to demonstrate unprecedented tolerance in the issue of the Iranian nuclear program if Iran helps the U.S. overcome the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran, too, is changing the tone of its rhetoric in regard to ‘the Great Satan;’ it is hardly the beginning of a friendship, but at least today the feeling of an imminent war between the U.S. and Iran has receded and is slowly becoming history.

The writer says that in spite of the fact that neither of the six parties in the talks on the Iranian peaceful nuclear program has softened its position so far, the very event of negotiations about to be resumed brings hope that somehow eventually everyone will agree, Iran will get its green light for the peaceful nuclear program, and join international efforts in Afghanistan. Even if that doesn’t happen very soon, the U.S. will have at least an opportunity to talk with Iran about Afghanistan in the six-party negotiations format.

Nikolay Surkov of NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that the decision to include U.S. diplomats in the six-party negotiations with Iran became Washington’s first practical step towards establishing a direct dialogue with Tehran. The writer says that the Russian Foreign ministry has expressed its support of the new American position.

However, says the writer, experts think that official Tehran is still excessively cautious and careful about the idea of resuming the six-party talks on its nuclear program. Surkov says that Iranian leaders and diplomats have already expressed their doubts about the new policy of Barack Obama’s administration, saying that words are not enough, and that a true change of practical policies is necessary for Iran to believe that the U.S. and others mean what they say.

IZVESTIA’s Anatoly Maksimov asks why Europe hasn’t spoken a word about the events in Moldova? Indeed, he writes, whatever is heard about Moldova from the EU is pronounced by low-level officers of the Union, and doesn’t contain the EU’s definition of what is happening in Moldova. No member of the European Commission has said a word so far.

The writer says that the Euro-silence looks even stranger given the fact that Vladimir Voronin, the president of Moldova, is no Kim Jong Il, Europe never called his country a ‘rogue state,’ and always supported him in his differences with Moscow. Now, when protesters call for a merger with Romania (I think no one would argue, it is dangerous for Moldova’s sovereignty), the leaders of Europe are silent.

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA interviews the chief of the electoral staff of the Communist party of Moldova Mark Tkachuk who says that the Romanian trace in the recent troubles is no conspiracy theory, it was seen with a naked eye. He says that since 2006 Romanian leaders and diplomats have been promoting the idea that Moldova’s route to EU membership goes through a merger with Romania. He insists that a significant number of the ‘street protesters’ were in fact Romanian citizens who entered Moldova as tourists, and many more were stopped at the borders by Moldovan border guards.

The politician says that everyone in Moldova knows who among the local political figures have direct links to the Romanian leadership, and that is not any kind of spy mania or witch hunt, that these people were simply there, and they were behind the events. He continues by saying that it is not the West in general, or the EU or the U.S., but Romanian nationalists who unleashed the chaos and destruction on the Moldovan Capital. Moldovan oligarchs, mainly those who operate huge businesses abroad, and are not dependent on the performance of the Moldovan national economy financed the demonstrations and pogroms, he says.

Asked if the peak of the events has passed, Tkachuk says that no political analyst can predict what’s going to happen next and how soon something will happen. The street riots were a provocation, he says, to which the government showed no reaction whatsoever, and that helped end the turmoil. But provocations can be repeated. He says he has seen the ringleaders, the ‘field’ or ‘street commanders’ of the youth gangs throwing bricks: those guys worked quietly and efficiently, issuing commands with signs that were incomprehensible for outsiders but well known to the ring members. That all speaks of the long preparation and training of the rank and file, says Tkachuk.

He also says that at the moment the leaders of the unsuccessful revolution, including the oligarchs who had provided financing, are already outside the country: they fled as soon as it was clear that victory had escaped them.

In KOMMERSANT, Valery Khomiakov of the Council for National Strategy, writes that the current actions by the Georgian opposition may not end in the resignation of president Saakashvili. The writer says the incumbent Georgian president’s situation may turn out to be more in his favor than many think. He still has support from Washington and the EU. He may be a ‘lame duck,’ and he won’t be invited to visit European Capitals as an equal, but the principle ‘he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’ still stands in the case of Mikhail Saakashvili.

The writer also says that the fall of Saakashvili may not be as beneficial for Russia as some may think. In fact, it may even be quite the opposite: as long as Saakashvili is in power, there’s no way Georgia can enter NATO as a member. As long as Saakashvili is in power, Western investors are going to avoid Georgia as much as possible because investment strives on stability and that is what the Georgian president cannot guarantee. It is especially true for the plans for the gas and oil pipelines that would bypass Russia – under Saakashvili they have no chance of being built.

The writer concludes the article by saying that if Saakashvili goes, a power vacuum may form in Georgia and if it forms, it will stay for quite a while. That, he says, is not in any way beneficial to either Russia or the West.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT