Tuesday's Press Review

Piece poster, 1980s
This Tuesday, Russian newspapers look into the opportunities opening in Russia – US relations.

They also report on the second thoughts of the US administration concerning Afghanistan and predict the results of the parliamentary election in Israel.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes an opinion article by political scientist Leonid Radzikhovsky, entitled ‘New Détente?’ Radzikhovsky writes that a new détente is quite possible and suggests that it may begin with the improvement of Russia’s relations with the US. He says that in bilateral relations there are spheres of confrontation which can become spheres of co-operation. For instance, there can be an exchange of the discontinuation of US missile defence programmes in Eastern Europe against Russia’s abandoning of the plan to deploy the ‘Iskander’ missiles from Kaliningrad.

The columnist says that both programmes have a limited military meaning, but are important politically, and thus they present the least difficulty in achieving an agreement. The matter of new nuclear arms reductions is more complex. Despite the fact that the world’s two biggest nuclear and military powers between them still have 2,000 warheads, the world will definitely become safer in general terms, though for Russia any drastic decrease in its nuclear weapons may cost the same amount in political influence.

He continues by saying that it is necessary to define what America may need from Russia and what Russia needs from the US, to successfully plan further interaction. The US needs Russia to stop aiding the rogue states – from Iran to Venezuela and to support the non-proliferation regime in nuclear weapons. The US requests are all in the sphere of international security. Non-proliferation is a common goal, so Russia also has an interest in it. However Russia’s other requirements would depend on the path the nation chooses at the moment.

Radzikhovsky says that if Russia is planning to join the global technological civilisation led today by the US, the country will have to pay the price – political, geopolitical, economic. The price, he says, is high enough, but it doesn’t involve any loss of sovereignty, and most of the world powers have already paid it. That would mean the necessity to build better and closer relations with America.

The only way to exist without yielding at all is to continue exporting oil and gas and importing consumer goods. In that case, he continues, Russia needs to continue the confrontational approach, regulating its intensity according to the fluctuations of its domestic propaganda needs. Combining the two approaches, says Radzikhovsky, is going to be a very difficult task.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI says that missile defence, one of the main problems in Russia – US relations, may turn into a cornerstone of future Russia – US co-operation, and predicts that any negotiations on the matter will become for both sides ‘an exercise in flexibility.’ The paper says that technologically and militarily Russia could participate with its own missile defence technology in the creation of a ‘theatre of war missile defence’ for the whole of Europe including the geographical European part of Russia.

However, says the paper, European countries, members of NATO are reluctant to invest in a European system when they can wait for the US to give them part of its ‘global missile defence umbrella’ for free – if that transaction doesn’t mean a quarrel with Russia. But it most probably does, says the paper. That is why the problem of the European part of the US missile defence system has become such an issue.

The paper continues to say there is an opportunity for a compromise. If European nations agree to support President Medvedev’s initiative on the new architecture of European and world security, and abstain from entering any binding agreements before the whole range of security problems can be discussed by Russia and the EU and bilaterally between Russia and the US, it will be possible to find a way to combine the efforts of Russia, the US and the EU in certain aspects of missile defence (for instance, early-warning systems) in a way that would prompt Iran and North Korea, considered to be the main targets of missile defence, to quit their ballistic missile programmes.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA reports from Washington that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about increasing the numbers of US troops in Afghanistan requested by the military. The paper says the new US president’s advisors have started having doubts about the existence of a well-researched, firm and clear campaign plan for the next stage of the military operation in Afghanistan, and decided to ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff about it.

The paper says the leaders of the Democrat party fear that without a clear-cut plan new troops in the theatre may trigger a fast escalation of the conflict and saddle Barack Obama with a ‘second Vietnam.’ The paper quotes its Afghan sources as saying that there is another reason for hesitation on the part of Washington: the US – as well as many people in Afghanistan – is losing confidence in President Karzai. However, there is no evident alternative to him as other candidates in the coming election are either lacking in local support, especially when the support of the Pashto tribes is necessary to win, or, much more often, are not well known or liked by the US.

KOMMERSANT publishes an article by Evgeny Satanovsky, the president of the Institute of the Middle East, who writes that in the coming parliamentary election in Israel the fight for MP seats is going to be tough, but no matter, whoever wins, each party among the campaign favourites has enough Russian-born politicians that further improvement of Russo-Israeli relations is guaranteed. He also says that after the election the ‘peace process’ will not ‘come out of the coma’ and that relations between Israel and Iran are going to get much worse. The writer says that ‘a direct armed conflict between them is only a matter of time; it may happen in the near future.’

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.