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Heard in Russia: Moscow "Grips Allies By Their Coattails"

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (R) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, 18Nov2009
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (R) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, 18Nov2009

Mixed Messages From Russia-EU Summit

In the opinion column "Expertiza," RFE observer Kirill Kobrin assess the state of Russian-EU relations following the summit in Stockholm on Thursday. Following the conference, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told the press that he was very satisfied with the outcome of the talks. However, following bilateral Swedish-Russian talks, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that there is increasing concern about the human rights situation in Russia. Kobrin says given the complexity and importance of issues between the two sides, there was very little information about what was discussed. At the post-summit press conference Medvedev and president of the European Council José Manuel Barroso quickly dismissed the divisive issue of the Georgian war saying simply that differences of opinion remain and spoke mainly about economic ties. Barroso expressed support for Russia’s troubled bid to join the World Trade Organization and said that the EU was prepared to assist with the modernization of the Russian economy without mentioning any specific plans. "From the point of view of internal Russia politics, it seemed that Barroso followed the line set out by Dmitri Medvedev in his recent address to the Federal Assembly, i.e. the modernization of the Russian economy. It is difficult to say whether or not the EU leadership knows it is playing the game suggested [by the Russian leadership]. However, it certainly looked that way," Kobrin concludes. [read in Russian]

Ukraine And Russia Discuss Economic Relations

On November 19, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko and representatives of their government are meeting in the Crimea, Ukraine to discuss economic relations between the two countries. The day before the conference, Tymoshenko said that gas issues would not be discussed and that the terms of transit of Russian gas through Ukraine have been set out in a recent agreement. "We no longer have problematic issues in this sphere. (Terms of gas deliveries) have been set for the next 10 years and now we're paying on time for Russian gas. What’s more, for the first time in 18 years, as of next year tariffs for the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine will be raised, According to our calculations [tariffs] will be doubled," Tymoshenko said. Ukrainian political analyst Andrei Yermolayev, however, told RFE that despite Tymoshenko's claims, gas will be the main theme of the talks. Yermolayev says that Russia has the legal right to demand Ukraine to fulfill all its contractual obligations to its Russian gas suppliers which were signed at the beginning of the year to resolve the gas crisis. These conditions include Ukraine purchasing a determined quantity of Russian gas which it is not now doing due to lower demand. Yermolayev says that this obligation could be used as a political weapon. "At the first turn of events in Ukrainian politics which is not in Moscow's favor, this card will be played," Yermolayev says. [read in Russian]

Moscow Held Allies By Coattails

RFE continues its series about the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe with an interview with former chief editor of the Soviet Communist Party's daily "Pravda" Viktor Afanasev. Asked what formed the basis of the Warsaw Pact, Afanasev admits that it was an "artificial formation" which didn't have any firm historical, economic, political and ideological fundaments. Asked whether he understood the artificial nature of the pact, Afanasev replies, "There were some doubts. But I must say that thanks to the efforts of our country and the Communist Party, the somewhat mismatched and diverse commonwealth became integrated." Afanasev said that the terms of the economic relations between the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites were tilted in favor of the latter and as a result living standards were higher in the Eastern European countries than in the Soviet Union, a fact which he said was well known by the Soviet people. Afanasav claims that economic dependence and not direct military intervention was the principal tool used by Moscow to keep the block from disintegrating. "...economic dependence was the main integrator of the whole system. We kept a firm grip on their coattails, both in economic and military relations." [read in Russian]