The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

July 28, 2007


The press has been paying a lot of attention to the festival of Finno-Ugric peoples in Mordovia. Newspapers have published an article by an Estonian member of the European Parliament, Katrin Saks, in which she argues that Russia refused to invite Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to the event because it feels threatened by Estonia’s effort to protect related ethnic groups. “The big neighbor is worried that airing their grievances may weaken its arguments in defense of the rights of the Russian minority in the Baltic countries. But that is no big deal. …They haven’t even thought about the boomerang effect – refusing the invitation has drawn much more attention to the problem than any window dressing.” (Postimees, July 18)

The press is worried about the future of the Estonian railroad because of the decline in Russian transit. “The infrastructure is subsidized in practically all EU countries…Up to now, the Baltic nations have not done the same because we could afford to keep up our infrastructure using Russian transit money.” (Postimees, July 18)


The press describes the session of the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission as a landmark in the history of bilateral relations. At the same time, journalists regret that Russia has not accepted Latvia’s proposals on the transit of oil products and ignored its requests to include its gas depot in the Russian-German Nord Stream project. “Russian policymakers and officials always express themselves in favor of the expansion of cooperation and elimination of obstacles. But their enthusiasm dissipates when verbal readiness must be translated into concrete deeds.” (Neatkariga rita avize, July 23)

Experts have proved wrong in their forecast that Moscow would change its policy after Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga left office. “After years of boycott, the Kremlin is extremely cautious in its policy towards Latvia.” (Telegraf, July 23). “Problems at road transport border checkpoints are compelling businessmen to opt for marine shipments.” (Neatkariga rita avize, July 23).

Political commentators continue to discuss the problem of Vladimir Putin’s successor as Russian president. “The Russian political and economic elites believe that after the election, Putin’s successor should continue his policies…The presidential election will have one main issue: how to continue Putin’s policies without him. It will be won by whoever gives the best answer to this question. Whichever candidate the current president likes more has the best chance of victory.” (Latvijas avize, July 20)


Commenting on the Russian-British diplomatic conflict, analysts hope that it will not have serious political and economic consequences. “Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas believes that there will be no serious Cold War and that Russia’s escapades are no more than an attempt to secure foreign aid for domestic problems. The political forces close to the Kremlin are very interested in flexing Russia’s muscles in the run up to the approaching presidential and parliamentary elections.” (Respublika, July 20). “The Kremlin’s number one goal is to quickly militarize Russia by using its oil and gas resources…and force the world to consider its geopolitical interests.” (Veidas, July 21)

However, experts believe that Russia’s desire to enter the WTO shows that economic relations with the West now override political confrontation. “Political relations between the West and Russia are chilly. Both the European Union and Russia are aware of this. But they are trying to find common ground wherever progress is possible, or at least they are thinking about how to preserve what has already been achieved.” (Verslo zinios, July 18)