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27 Mar, 2009 14:10

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Mar. 27

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Mar. 27

This Friday ROAR presents the picture of the Arctic region as a potential ‘hot spot,’ a German Minister’s view of Russia-NATO relations, and a journalist’s impressions from the Brussels Forum.

KOMMERSANT writes that the latest moves by the nations bordering the Arctic region and claiming various parts of it are turning the land of permafrost and ice into one of the ‘hot spots’ of the world. The paper says NATO maneuvers under the Norwegian flag, as well as Russia’s new Arctic strategy that includes the creation of Arctic forces in the Russian Army, are signs of a future clash of interests of leading powers of the North Hemisphere in the Arctic region.

The paper points out that not only the interest in mineral resources but the possibility of year-round navigation through the Northern route from Western Europe to the U.S. and Canada resulting from global warming may become a driving force behind the future rivalry of nations with direct access to the region.

In the same issue of the newspaper, former Russian Deputy Foreign minister Andrey Fedorov writes in an analytical column that if Russia manages to prove its rights for its claim in the Arctic region, it may become an important stimulus for the economic development of the country.

The former top diplomat says that in spite of the global financial crisis, the world powers are ready to invest in their Arctic programs. However, he says, there are too many unsettled international legal issues about the Arctic, so at the moment, most of the disputes over the region are limited to negotiations on the status of various parts of the vast Arctic area. So far, he says, the Artic has been showing signs of being a source of potential international conflicts rather than international cooperation.

The writer says that there is always a possibility that the U.S., Canada, and Norway, already cooperating with each other through NATO and other bodies, may form an alliance opposing Russia’s policies in the Arctic region. To be prepared, Russia, which owns the biggest claim in the region, must be ready to start negotiations, multi-lateral as well as bilateral, in order to define its common interest with the other players, and the differences they have. In that case, it would be much easier to defend Russia’s own national interest in the Arctic region.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA publishes an interview with the German Minister of Defense, Franz Josef Jung, who insists that NATO needs Russia as a true strategic partner and is not going to start any new programs that would jeopardize Russia’s interests.

The Minister says that the latest British proposal to create a new 3,000-strong NATO force for Eastern Europe is only a part of the process of strengthening the rapid-deployment forces NATO already has, and that the step will not be aimed against any particular nation, but is a means for tackling unexpected emergencies.

He also says that in his opinion, it is highly possible that the U.S., NATO, and Russia could agree on some form of cooperation in such a controversial issue as missile defense, because the danger it presents is common for all three. Of the situation in Afghanistan, the Minister says that the problem of Afghanistan is a challenge for the whole world community, however, answering it with war would only be counterproductive. So Germany, together with its NATO allies is going to employ a mixed civilian-military approach.

The same paper publishes an article by former Ambassador Victor Trifunov, now an academic with the Institute of the Far East. He writes that the participants of the special conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Afghanistan in Moscow are convinced that if the current allied military operation against the Taliban collapses for any reason, it would be a disaster for Afghanistan itself and for the neighboring countries.

The academic says that for Russia, one of the main areas of concern is the narcotics traffic supported by the Taliban: according to the data presented by the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service, more than twice the number of Russian citizens die of the effects of heroin addiction in one year than Soviet soldiers died in Afghanistan for the whole duration of the war (9 years).

NOVAYA GAZETA’s Alexandr Mineev shares his impressions from the Brussels Forum organized by the German Marshall Fund. The writer says that the forum, planned by its organizers as an event on the scale of Davos and Munich, this time was completely dedicated to Russia as one of the three pillars of European security alongside the U.S. and Europe itself.

The writer points out the opposition of a significant part of the European audience to Russia’s idea of a new architecture of European security based on a reformed OSCE instead of NATO. He also writes that Russia’s wish to correct the mistakes of its former leadership and put the security arrangements between Russia and Europe in the form of binding legal documents is met with a lack of understanding.

Mineev writes that Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov found himself in Brussels surrounded, if not by enemies, then by highly inquisitive opponents. In spite of that, continues the writer, the forum raised a few ‘theoretical’ questions that may in due time move into the practical sphere, such as the question: why shouldn’t Russia join NATO? The forum admitted that Russia has never applied for membership, but despite that, the alliance should keep its door open for Russia because, as the German representative put it, ‘without Russia the West cannot solve even a single problem of the modern world.’

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.