Rusian Internatinal Press Agency
March 15, 2008
Quoting examples from history and recent events, a number of publications conclude that genuinely free elections in Russia could have had serious negative consequences for the world community. “Democratic elections in Weimar Germany and in lesser democracies often led to terrible results. Recent examples are Venezuela and Palestine, which have given power to terrorists. As for Russia, it would be logical to ask what is better – free elections or a mild Putin-Medvedev dictatorship?… It was unlikely that Russia would have received a better president in free elections. At best, the result would have been the same, and at worst, we would have seen history repeat itself. This is why it is better for Estonia that Putin has not repeated Hinderburg’s mistakes and did not risk the same defeat in free elections.” (Postimees, March 5).
Most politicians and experts do not expect any changes in bilateral relations, but think that they could be possible in the future. “This [Medvedev’s election as president] is still an opportunity to turn a page in Russian-Estonian relations… However, it would be wishful thinking to hope for a major change because Russia… is neither a democracy, nor a legal state.” (Aripaev, March 5).
“Russia is such a large country that any changes that take place there happen very slowly. Therefore, there will be no special changes in Russian-Estonian relations in the near future. But the fact is that the big neighbor’s presidential chair will be occupied by another man, and he may decide to get rid of his status of Putin’s puppet and start acting as he sees fit. This may mean changes in Russia’s attitude to its neighbors.” (Pohjarannik, March 5)
The media believe that it is vital for Latvia to cooperate with Russia, but it is essential to determine the spheres and boundaries of such cooperation. “Latvia is not at the top of Russia’s list of priorities. For Latvia Russia is possibly a priority, but we do not mean much to Russia… It is clear that politically we are primarily a NATO and EU member… Russian investment in Latvia is permissible in spheres with a broad range of interests – in this way it will be balanced out.” (Dienas Bizness, March 5).
The press is closely following another gas battle between Russia and Ukraine. Experts explain it by the attempts of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to establish control over all gas transactions in the country. “The Orange princess and the Orange prince have fallen out [over gas]… The problem is that Presidents Yushchenko and Putin have come to terms… but Tymoshenko… has decided to change everything her way… Gas routes do not matter as much as the money involved in them.” (Telegraf, March 5).
“The current conflict is politically motivated and reflects the struggle for power between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. She controls Naftogaz and wants it to be in charge of all gas supplies to Ukraine.” (Biznes&Baltiya, March 6).
Some experts believe that Moscow’s actions in the gas conflict reflect the Kremlin’s intention to demonstrate that Dmitry Medvedev will continue Putin’s strong line and attempts to set the Ukrainian president and prime minister at odds with each other. “A closer look at the situation shows that … this time Russia was simultaneously pursuing several economic and political objectives. For a complete success, it had to use the threat of gas supply restrictions. Squabbling over the intermediaries, Moscow is clearly trying to drive a wedge between Tymoshenko and President Yushchenko.” (Lietuvos Rytas, March 8).
Some publications note that Lithuania is in an even worse situation than Ukraine because it is not a transit state and has no serious levers of pressure on Moscow. “Lithuania possibly considers itself a mature democracy and would not like to resemble Ukraine, a country that also depends on Russia for energy. However, Lithuania is not a transit state and it cannot demand, for instance, that the intermediaries be ousted from gas transactions. On the other hand, there are no serious forces here that would wish and be able to change the pattern of payments for Russian gas.” (Verslo Zinios, March 7).