February 29, 2008
The media have lashed out against the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and a presidential nominee, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who urged Russians in Estonia to create their own republic.
“‘Russians in Estonia have many more rights to establish an independent small state than the Kosovo Albanians…. There are legal grounds for this,’ said State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.” (Delfi, February 20)
“Russian high-rankers have repeatedly warned: ‘Just try to recognize Kosovo, you’ll get lots of problems.’ Usually they referred to conflicts in Georgia and Moldova…. Now that Kosovo’s independence has reached the point of no return, Estonia has been mentioned. If national minorities enjoy the right of self-determination in the heart of Europe, why should our North-East be an exception?” (Parnu Postimees, February 20)
Some publications have been writing that Russia has somewhat downgraded its anti-Western rhetoric, and will not respond to the Kosovo precedent by recognizing South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdnestr.
“Does the end of the Kosovo saga mean that Russia is adopting a new foreign policy?… The ruling elite is surrounded both by the advocates of Putin’s tough line bordering on isolation and those who believe that Moscow should cooperate with the West and should not threaten anyone with nuclear weapons.” (Postimees, February 22)
Experts believe that recognition of Kosovo’s independence will increase tensions in multi-ethnic countries, including in Latvia.
“Kosovo is a mirror in which states see their misfortunes…. We can see ourselves in this mirror. Why shouldn’t our nervous non-Latvian compatriots, who feel tortured and humiliated here, try and declare their sovereignty on densely inhabited territories?… ‘politically-minded’ Russian linguists paint the east of our country a different color on the map to denote a territory under the influence of the Russian language.” (Latvijas avize, February 20).
Commentators are pessimistic about the future of international law.
“Kosovo’s independence has created a minefield…. EU countries with smoldering hotbeds of conflicts and separatism will fall victim to the process that has got underway…. If international law is violated, it will be very difficult to curb the destructive attitudes that have been awoken in the people.” (Biznes & Baltiya, February 25)
The media believe that the United States and Russia will get the main dividends from these changes.
“Europeans will pay for everything, and will build Kosovo – they do not stand to gain anything unlike the United States, which will receive a loyal strongpoint in the Balkans, and, strange as it may seem, Russia – these American and European moves give it carte blanche. If need be, Moscow will be able to manipulate its recognition or non-recognition of small states.” (Republika.lv, February 22-28)
Commentators are explaining Serbia’s tough reaction to the declaration of Kosovo’s independence by Belgrade’s confidence in Moscow’s support.
“Serbia has recalled its ambassadors in response to Kosovo’s recognition. It was not afraid to recall even the ambassador to the United States. Serbia does not care for authorities because of Russia’s strong support. The United States has not made any response because it is afraid, or does not know what to do in this critical situation.” (Respublika, February 20)
Experts have expressed regret that frozen political relations between Vilnius and Moscow are preventing the development of economic contacts which Lithuania would stand to gain from.
“Russia and other CIS countries are important for us not only as raw materials suppliers, but also as importers of goods. In this context, good economic ties are more important for Lithuania than for Russia…. We should try to make the best possible use of the available opportunities.” (Vaidas, February 20)
A number of publications have been wondering whether Dmitry Medvedev may decide to oust Vladimir Putin’s team from power and bring to ruin those who have made their fortunes during his rule.
“Tensions are mounting behind the high green fences that conceal Rublevka residents…. Those who have become wealthy during Putin’s rule – Kremlin officials and several mafia bosses… fear that Medvedev may turn out to be much less benevolent than he seems to be. What will happen if he decides, God forbid, to take away their billions?” (Lietuvos zinios, February 20)