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Russian Press Hails New Arms Treaty

  • Kevin O'Flynn

"For Dmitry Medvedev, it is a huge foreign policy success. For Barack Obama, it is proof that the Nobel Peace Prize was not given to him for nothing," gushed one newspaper.

"For Dmitry Medvedev, it is a huge foreign policy success. For Barack Obama, it is proof that the Nobel Peace Prize was not given to him for nothing," gushed one newspaper.

MOSCOW -- Russians woke up the morning after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama to local newspapers praising the treaty, viewing it as another step in the "reset" of relations with the United States.

All the Russian papers reported the treaty positively, although some were more positive than others.

"For Dmitry Medvedev, it is a huge foreign policy success. For Barack Obama, it is proof that the Nobel Peace Prize was not given to him for nothing," gushed the mass market "Moskovsky komsomolets," which is usually more stridently nationalist in its reporting on the United States.

The state-owned "Rossiiskaya gazeta" did not gush, instead it was keen to show that the treaty with the United States was not one that saw Russia lose any advantage. It "does not contradict the interests of the security of the country," the paper wrote.

"It is very important that the document requires Russia and the United States to keep nuclear complexes on their own territory. This means that new silos and nuclear rockets will not appear on our borders," the paper wrote.

Mikhail Margelov, the head of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, hailed the treaty in a column in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" as the real start of the reset in relations between the United States and Russia. He also took pains to deny that the United States had won the fight over the treaty.

The financial newspaper "Vedomosti" said that the treaty was the last of the Cold War and that Russia would have to make few cuts, because its ageing missiles are set to be retired anyway.

Progress, But More Work Needed

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Center in Moscow, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the treaty was an opportunity for further improvement of U.S.-Russian relations, but others warned that a lot more work needed to be done.

"Thanks to the treaty, a basis has been created for the further movement in Russian-U.S. relations," Trenin said. "A positive dynamic has appeared. If it can be developed, then maybe the relationship will be able to reach, if not to a higher level, a calmer area. But that will depend on further actions."

Mikhail Vinogradov, the head of the Petersburg Political Fund, said that the treaty was symbolically important, noting that state television showed the ceremony live, but that the "reset" should not be overstated.

"I think that economic or general political questions are more important today for Moscow and Washington, but politicians and diplomats tried to get a theme for agreement that they are used to speaking about and have been speaking about for many years," Vinogradov said.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine, said that the two countries needed to find a new basis to deal with their relations on Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Iran on the international front.

"So far I do not see any understanding [of this], not in Washington and not Moscow," Lukyanov said. "That is why I am moderately optimistic about the impact of this treaty. The real work needs to be relaunched now. This treaty can create good preconditions, but not much more."

How 'Smart' Will Sanctions Be?

Meanwhile, newspapers debated the meaning of President Medvedev saying that he was in favor of smart sanctions against Iran if they did not comply with international demands regarding its nuclear program.

Opinions differed. The "Kommersant" newspaper reported that there was an "impression that Russia and the U.S. have reached in principle an agreement on the necessity of punishing Tehran for its intractability," while "Rossiiskaya gazeta" wrote that Russia's stance "did not undergo any major changes."

Noting that Medvedev had called for smart sanctions, "Kommersant" sarcastically noted that with sources in the Russian camp saying that they would continue to build Iran's controversial nuclear power station at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, then "sanctions will have to be 'smart' enough so that they don't interfere with that."

Despite the positive tone in the newspapers, readers' comments showed a distinct suspicion of U.S. motives.

"The army has collapsed, we are cutting nuclear arms, our resources have been sold away, and we are inviting the armies of NATO to the victory parade. Is the next step direct intervention?" wrote "Yelena" in a comment after top-selling tabloid "Komsomolskaya pravda's" article on the treaty.

"Nuclear rockets are the only thing that deters our enemies," wrote "Sergei," using a pejorative term for Americans, "The Amerikosy are developing their missile-defense system and that's why they are trying to reduce the number of our rockets."

However, Vinogradov saw that as a minority view, with most people not that interested in a complicated arms treaty:

"Russia has seen a good personal relationship between Medvedev and Obama. Most Russians don't accentuate the fact that the U.S. aims to work more with Medvedev than with [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin, but for most experts it is pretty clear," Vinogradov observed.

"As a rule, if it is not of a scandalous nature then reaction to international events is pretty formal. They met and they signed."