Press review (October 2009)

Two great powers now pursue wiser policy

Boris Makarenko, Kommersant

The visit of the US secretary of state to Russia has made clear what "reset" means. American policy does not cease to be American, nor Russian policy Russian, but both sides are now following a more intelligent path.

The first example is the growing hope that a treaty on strategic nuclear weapons will be signed. Progress in this direction helped the United States modify its position on missile defence by reversing the lack of wisdom of the former administration, which tried to pursue the initiative unilaterally, without the support of allies, exasperating Russia.

The dialogue on Iran is also important. The Americans wanted to use these defences against Iran. Russia did not want its southern neighbour to acquire nuclear weapons, and even in the worst of times brought pressure on Iran together with the Americans and Europeans. But today the degree of understanding on Iran is greater, meaning there is more hope for the tactics of the good and bad cops to prove effective.

Jonathan Swift once said that a person need not be shy of acknowledging his mistakes. It only means that today he is wiser than he was yesterday. Russia is all for a wise policy. If the Americans are for it, too, then the "reset" will continue.

Dmitry Medvedev is creating a stronger team

Elina Bilevskaya, Izvestia

In the next two to three months, Dmitry Medvedev will continue building his team. Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG) has been told that the minister of justice, Alexandr Konovalov, will be the new head of presidential administration. However, his department will remain in the hands of the president. Konovalov will be replaced by the recently appointed deputy minister of justice, and Medvedev's former student, Yuri Lyubimov.

A Kremlin source noted that it was important for the president to first strengthen the PR focus of his administration, then to build up cadres. Medvedev is not satisfied with how the current head of the administration, Sergei Naryshkin, has been promoting his initiated projects, mainly the anti-corruption campaign. The problem is that the government's corruption-fighting efforts have not produced any tangible results.

Russia's nuclear doctrine will not get tougher

Alexei Nikolsky, Vedomosti

The new concept for Russia's use of nuclear weapons, now under consideration by the Security Council, will not radically differ from the old one and is unlikely to provide for preventive strikes. According to Nikolai Patrushev, the organisation's secretary, the president will adopt the new doctrine late this or early next year.

One need not expect any radical or tough changes in Russia's nuclear doctrine amid ongoing talks with the US on a new treaty to limit strategic offensive arms, warns a source in the Defence Ministry. New ceilings on delivery vehicles and warheads to be fixed in the new treaty will certainly call for changes in nuclear planning, but are unlikely to produce substantial shifts in the political doctrine of nuclear deterrence, the source believes. General Makhmut Gareyev, president of the Academy of Military Science and a member of the Security Council's Scientific Council, does not expect a radicalisation of the doctrine, either. According to him, the discussion of the new doctrine resulted in leaving the issues of using nuclear weapons unchanged.

Moldovan region wants to be a part of Russia

Vlamimir Popov, Gennady Sysoev, Kommersant

Igor Smirnov, President of the breakaway Transdniester Moldovan Republic (TMR), has announced the region is ready to join the Russian Federation. Experts believe his strong statement was timed to gain Moscow's support for the recent CIS summit in Kishinev.

"We are ready to change our state symbol and willing to join Russia," said the leader during a visit to Tskhinval for the anniversary of South Ossetia's independence. Smirnov explained that the TMR is prepared to negotiate, but the republic's position will be based on a 2006 referendum in which more than 97 percent of the population voted for independence and eventual accession to the Russian Federation.

Smirnov linked the willingness to be part of Russia with the outcome of recent parliamentary elections in Moldova, saying the rise to power of right-wing forces could entail further violation of Russian citizens' rights. Drawing parallels between the "nationalist policies of Georgia and Moldova," Smirnov said that under new leadership, Kishinev's attempts to reduce Russia's influence in the region would continue. In this situation, Transdniester must prepare itself to defend state borders.

In Kishinev, the reaction to Smirnov's statement was calm. "The ideas expressed by the Tiraspol administration are not new and cannot be fulfilled," said Viktor Osipov, deputy prime minister of Moldova. "There are similarities between the separatist movements of South Ossetia and Transdniester, but there is no reason to believe the situation will be resolved by the use of military force. We will be moving toward the ultimate goal - resolution of the Transdniester problem - only through negotiations."

Russia's Foreign Ministry reacted calmly to Smirnov's statement, noting this isn't the first time the TMR leader had made similar remarks.

The West does Russia's dirty work for the first time
Sergei Markedonov, Vremya Novostei

The project of bringing democracy to Afghanistan has so far failed. Not one of the intractable problems on the Afghan agenda has been resolved since the NATO operation began. However, Russia should not be happy with the United States' failure, especially since they have agreed to reset bilateral relations.

Afghanistan is exerting substantial influence on the political situation in Russia. Drugs from Afghanistan are invading Russia, and the country borders three Central Asian members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Russia should be aware of the danger of a powerful Islamic front on its border.

The signing of the Collective Security Treaty by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in May 1992 was largely a response to the drug trade in the CIS.

Can the Collective Security Treaty Organization, set up in 2002, stop the "Afghan export" if the United States and Britain fail in that country?

We must admit that the West has agreed to do Russia's dirty work for the first time in history. Today the West is prepared to share Russia's responsibility for security in Central Asia, and this shared responsibility should not be squandered.

Nuclear doctrine will not get tougher

Editorial, Vedomosti

The new concept for Russia's use of nuclear weapons, now under consideration in the Security Council, will not differ radically from the old one and is unlikely to provide for preventive strikes.

According to Nikolai Patrushev, the organization's secretary, the president will adopt the new doctrine in late 2009 or early 2010. The document, he promises, will be open.

Anatoly Dyakov, director of the Center for Disarmament Studies at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, said a "preventive strike" differs from "first use of nuclear weapons." The Soviet Union in the past, like China now, declared it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. But Russia (like all other nuclear nations except China) now allows for the first use of weapons. Russia may resort to such use if its security is threatened with an attack involving both nuclear and conventional arms. A preventive strike is made before the attack happens.

One need not expect any radical or tough changes in Russia's nuclear doctrine amid ongoing talks with the United States on a new treaty to limit strategic offensive arms, warns a source in the Defense Ministry. New ceilings on delivery vehicles and warheads to be fixed in the new treaty will certainly call for changes in nuclear planning, but are unlikely to produce substantial shifts in the political doctrine of nuclear deterrence, the source believes.

General Makhmut Gareyev, president of the Academy of Military Science and a member of the Security Council's Scientific Council, does not expect a radicalization of the doctrine, either. According to him, the discussion of the new doctrine resulted in leaving the issues of using nuclear weapons unchanged.

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