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East: Transition Nations Press Review

  • Don Hill

Prague, 3 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Press commentary in the nations of Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia concentrates recently on these nations' relationships with their former patron, Russia, and with the West.


Newspapers in both Belarus and Russia discuss progress in creating a "commonwealth" of the two nations. Belarus's daily Narodnaya Volia says that "Belarusian regional policy in Russia has two goals: [advancing] the personal political ambitions of (President President Alyaksandr Lukashenka) and, to a lesser degree, direct economic ties."

The newspaper says: "By ignoring the [Russian central government], Belarus is rocking the statehood of its super neighbor. Belarus has concluded about 40 agreements with Russian regions. Contacts on such a scale between leaders of unequal official standing is unknown in international diplomacy. By promoting independent political and economic initiatives in the Russian regions, Belarus is helping to create closed regional structures within the Russian Federation."


Russian Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev, commenting in the Parlamentskaya Gazeta, says: "Actually, I'm satisfied with the work of the parliamentary assembly of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, which essentially has created a foundation for the signing of integration documents by our presidents. Neither do I see anything bad in the introduction of a single monetary unit in our countries, particularly since we have the experience of gradual introduction of the euro in Europe. We are not talking about a single state, after all. We are talking a union of two sovereign states."

On a different topic, the honorary director of the Institute of the U.S. and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, scolds his own countrymen over what he calls deteriorating post-Cold War relations between the United States and Russia. The writer, Georgy Arbatov, contends in Vek: "Compared with the Cold War era, our current relations with the United States are much better. [But comparing 1999 with 1991 and '92], it's apparent that during these years, relations between our countries slowly but surely have deteriorated."

He writes: "It turned out that living without the enemy has not been easy, both for the United States and Russia." Arbatov added: "As it turned out, neither the Americans nor we were prepared for the end of the Cold War. Both countries still lack a well-balanced foreign policy, much less a strategy of bilateral Russian-American relations. [In fact], over the years, we've never gone far beyond 'call me Bill' and 'call me Boris.'"

Arbatov says: "The general public in each country views the other country with obvious distrust, and it's particularly alarming. In Russia, this tendency can be attributed to the failure of the economic reforms that Americans -- not all but enough of them -- still approve of and sometimes force on us. I do not remember any anti-American moods in Russia in 1991, but now [Russians] are talking of a plot from across the ocean to disintegrate Russia."

Americans' attitude toward Russia also has worsened, the writer says. He writes: "To a great extent, this is a result of our habit of begging. We beg for this or that all the time. They give us a lot. We ask for more. They give again. And we announce that we cannot repay all our debts on time."

He says: "Of course, we should not obey the United States always and in everything. We should try to commend respect in the international area. But any respect will be possible only after we've restored order in Russia itself."


In Tajikistan, Business i Politika worries that "Russia will withdraw a greater part of its border troops from Tajikistan soon because of [Russia's] economic problems. Guarding the Tajik-Afghan border has become one of the state tasks of the Tajik government. Now Tajikistan border troops guard only 30 percent of the Tajik-Afghan border." The paper says that drug trafficking across the border is bound to increase.


Uzbekistan's Pravda Bostok (Truth of the East) writes there was a great response from readers to President Islam Karimov's idea of renaming the May 9 "Victory Day" as "Memorial Day." The paper quotes a number of letters from readers. In one letter, Olim Amurov, an engineer, says that memorials usually evoke memories of those who died, as during World War Two. Acknowledging that every family in Uzbekistan was touched by the war, Amurov asks when Uzbek victims of the 1930s Stalin repression will be commemorated.


Georgia's daily Resonans contemplates not Georgia's old ties to Russia but its new ties to the West. Resonans' commentary by Eliso Chaphidze says: "[Last Saturday] was a historic day for Georgia. Being Georgian from now on means being European as well. This phrase ["I am Georgian and European"], pronounced in Georgian by Zurab Zhvania in the European Council's parliamentary session hall, became a symbol of recognizing Georgia as a European state."

The commentary continues: "One part of politicians' hopes is that a European Court will become a real possibility to correct all those injustices which have plagued Georgia, a court where a citizen is entitled to file a suit against the state and its officials and duly punish them."


Chief editor Cholponbek Abykeev of Kyrgyzstan's weekly Aalam writes that political aides to Boris Yeltsin are likely to take an advisory part in forthcoming Kyrgyz elections, as Abykeev says they did in recent Kazakh elections. He writes: "The presidential election team of Boris Yeltsin worked in Kazakhstan prior to the last presidential elections. When the results of the election [victory for the incumbent] became clear, they came to Kyrgyzstan and settled in for three days. They say they have promised Kyrgyzstan important help in the forthcoming elections. [Thus], the Kazakhstani scenario would be repeated in Kyryzstan too."

(The Transition Nations Press Review is compiled from contributions by RFE/RL's broadcast services.)