Monday's Russian Press Review

This Monday, Russian newspapers report the results of the Munich Forum and discuss its meaning for Russia’s relations with the West.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA writes that the Munich Forum, which is often called ‘The Political Davos,’ hosted a greater number of delegates at a higher level of representation than Switzerland did. The report concentrates on the speeches by the Russian representative, deputy prime minister Sergey Ivanov and his US counterpart, the vice-president Joseph Biden, who both agreed that in recent years too many problems have accumulated in bilateral relations and that the time has come for negotiations instead of arguments.

The paper also publishes a comment by Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, the Russian Senate, who writes that in our world where all nations are interlinked and every policy affects all, contradictions and controversies should not be hushed down or hidden but should be removed. The senator says the Munich conference was dedicated to this process.

IZVESTIA says the hotel in Munich where the forum was held, looked like a ‘political anthill’ for three days. The paper adds that the organisers of the forum had done all in their power to change the forum’s international image as ‘the conference of defence-industrial complex lobbyists,’ which they, it seems, succeeded in doing.

The paper writes that even with a lot of other matters to discuss, one topic became dominant and interest in it was evident in the discussion of every other topic: the new architecture of world security. The paper notes the idea of a ‘security network’ to be built with the participation of the EU, the US, Russia and other countries, suggested by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, as a progressive idea in which NATO would only play the role of an instrument of power.

Apart from that the paper says the forum also showed that European countries, on the one hand, feel more independent from the US than before, but on the other, they are ready to do their best to help America restore its economy and its influence.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI writes that the Munich Forum ended on a loud and positive note when Russia and the US agreed that they are capable of achieving mutual understanding on key international issues and are ready to further develop their relations, starting ‘from a blank sheet of paper.’

The same newspaper also publishes an interview with Henning Rikke, a security expert of the German Foreign Policy Society, who says that the policy on Russia is still a matter under discussion in Washington, and it is hard to predict it in full, but it is clear that during the term of the new administration America will be talking to Russia more than before and it will be talking to Russia as an equal.

However, he continues, it would be naïve to suggest that the Obama administration will completely stop the missile defence programme initiated decades ago to please Russia, or that the US will allow Russia to do whatever it pleases in neighbouring states. The US, repeats the expert, will not put the post-Soviet space at Russia’s complete disposal, especially as some countries there want to get closer to the West. But the US itself, he continues, is deprived of the possibility to do whatever it pleases anywhere in the world by the current crisis. So, continues the expert, the new administration will have to concentrate on the bigger problems, like Afghanistan, and ‘big’ operations.

KOMMERSANT writes that at the Munich Forum the Western leaders showed that they are ready to implement President Medvedev’s initiative on the new architecture of security, but they are going to do it their own way. For instance, says the paper, Angela Merkel said that the task of the creation of the new security architecture should be delegated to NATO.

Meanwhile, says the paper, the US representatives demonstrated a much deeper understanding of Moscow and of the necessity to maintain good relations, especially in the face of a crisis. The American delegation repeated Barack Obama’s phrase about the ‘reset’ button which both sides need to press simultaneously to begin the relationship anew.

The paper also notes that among the speakers at the forum there were twelve foreign ministers, four defence ministers, four prime ministers and five presidents. One more president, says the paper, prowled the corridors waiting for an opportunity to speak to Joseph Biden who, when they finally met, greeted him with the utmost coldness. That sixth president, says the paper, was Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia who had not been invited to speak.

The same paper publishes an op/ed article by Anatoly Adamishin, the former deputy foreign minister of Russia who says it’s now high time to re-establish Russia’s friendly relations with the West. He writes, ‘the crisis has given us a unique chance’ to build co-operation and adds that we should ‘get rid of caveman anti-Americanism in our propaganda, which doesn’t mean that we should stop all criticism of US policies that we do not like.’

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that Russia and the US are likely to negotiate and may even reach an agreement on missile defence and strategic assault weapons’ limitation. The paper says a significant part of Joseph Biden’s speech was dedicated to Russia.

The paper quotes Russian experts as saying that positions of the US and Russia on strategic assault weapons are close enough to hope for the new agreement to be born by the end of the year, when it is due. On the missile defence issue, continues one of the experts, the two sides may find a mutually acceptable solution if the US returns to the conditions of control suggested by Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice in October 2007, and if the US agrees to accept various limitations in the number of anti-missiles they can deploy in Eastern Europe (for instance, not more than 10).

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.