Varied welcomes for Medvedev

The Baltic Times
In association with BNS
March 4, 2008

TALLINN – Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed hope on March 3 that the election of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s new head of state will improve relations between Russia and the West, and also affirmed Estonia’s readiness for dialogue. “Hopefully the Russian presidential election’s taking place and the new president’s assuming office means a change toward improvement in the relations between Russia and the West, but also between Russia and Estonia,” Ilves told reporters.

He added that Estonia wishes to have constructive, pragmatic, good-neighborly, mutually respectful and mutually beneficial relations with all its neighbors, including Russia.

“In the name of that we are always ready for a dialogue, which, however, is a bilateral process,” Ilves said.

Jaak Allik, a policymaker of the opposition People’s Union party in Estonia, was less reserved in his welcome for Medvedev. In an article published in the daily Eesti Paevaleht he hailed Dmitry Medvedev as the only correct choice as Russian president. “I’m congratulaing all my Russian friends on yesterday’s choice, and not only because against the backdrop of rival candidates Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Medvedev indeed looked like dear Jesus on the hill of Golgotha,” Allik said.

Allik added that even if the “joint candidate of democratic forces,” former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and chess champion Garri Kasparov had been able to run in the election, the preference of not only the Russian people but also of his Russian friends would have belonged to Medvedev.

“Because the election of Misha ‘Two Percent’ Kasyanov — as he is called after the commission he charged on each transaction — or of the chatterbox Kasparov, who spoke at a joint meeting with neo-Bolshevik Eduard Limonov, could not have been to any real benefit in Russia,” Allik said.

It will become clear in the next couple of years how unfaltering a personal authority Medvedev will acquire and what it will be based on, he said.

“In any event he has said in the pre-election speech laying out his program that if Russia wishes to become a civilized country it must first become a country of rule of law, and that today the country can exist only in a free information field, of which an influential and independent media is an integral part,” Allik said.

Allik added that for Estonian politicians, provided that they really wish to improve relations with Russia, it would be the best time now to show their good will.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas was more guarded in his comments, noting that the Russian presidential elections were not completely democratic and did not fully correspond to Western standards. “I will name just one aspect. All of [Medvedev’s] opponents named it as well. Whether, for example, all four candidates were provided with the same time slot, the same possibilities to advertise on television or radio”, Kirkilas told Lithuanian National radio on March 4.

However, the prime minister remarked, Lithuania hopes that constructive bipartite relations with Russia will be maintained.

Kirkilas expressed his opinion that the entire European Union (EU) would enjoy better relations with Russia, and predicted that the negations which failed last year over the strategic EU-Russia agreement should see a new light of day this year.

Official comment was slower to emerge in Latvia, where more than 14,000 Russian citizens residing in Latvia took part in the presidential election. Russian embassy’s representative Sergey Dyachenko told BNS that 70.35 percent of Russian citizens residing in Latvia had participated in the election, with Medvedev attracting an overwhelming 85 percent of votes.