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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ah, the Penny has Dropped

The Financial Times reports that Russian newspapers are "shocked, shocked" to learn from Veep Cheney's comments that America doesn't take kindly to Russia giving aid and comfort to its mortal foes Iraq and Iran:

Russian newspapers looked back six decades yesterday as they reacted with alarm and indignation to Dick Cheney's rebuke of Russia in Vilnius, some warning it marked the dawn of a new cold war.

Russia's state-owned Channel One TV news on Thursday night ignored the words of the US vice-president. But most Moscow newspapers - government-controlled and independent - carried it on their front pages yesterday.

They presented it variously as carrying echoes of the speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946 when Sir Winston Churchill warned of an "Iron Curtain" descending across Europe, or the 1945 Yalta conference where Europe's post-war map was drawn up. Some suggested Mr Cheney's remarks would drive Russia into the arms of China.

Many highlighted the fact that Mr Cheney's speech was delivered in Lithuania to the Community of Democratic Choice, the nine-country group of former Soviet republics and satellites set up by presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine. They said it marked a potentially fatal split in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the body grouping 12 former Soviet republics founded in the USSR's dying days.

Kommersant, the business daily, was most strident, headlining its coverage: "Enemy at the Gate: Dick Cheney made almost a Fulton speech in Vilnius". The paper, recently sold by exiled Russian "oligarch" Boris Berezovsky to a business partner and usually considered liberal and anti-Kremlin, warned that Mr Cheney's words showed "the cold war has restarted, only now the front line has shifted".

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's best-selling daily and seen as pro-Kremlin, drew comparisons with the Yalta conference. It published a map highlighting the countries that met in Vilnius, with the sub-heading: "Asia has stayed with Moscow, but former socialist Europe has gone over to the American side." The new pro-democracy group had formed a "powerful cordon sanitaire along our borders".

"What is Russia to do?" the paper asked. "Evidently it needs to strengthen links with Belarus and central Asia. And get friendly with China, to counterbalance this western might."

Vremya Novostei, a popular daily, said the new pro-democracy community was being created by the American leadership "not only to be an alternative to the CIS, but its grave-digger". Trud, controlled by the media arm of Gazprom, the natural gas giant, said a new bloc had formed "the commonwealth of the disgruntled with Russia".

Official reactions were more measured, but no less piqued. Dmitry Peskov, deputy Kremlin spokesman, said the presidential administration viewed Mr Cheney's words with "incomprehension" - particularly his warning over Russia using its energy might to "blackmail" its neighbours.

"We can't agree with a lot of his speech," Mr Peskov said. "We can't agree that Russian companies are intimidating people, intimidating neighbouring countries, which need oil and gas for the development of their democracies and their economy.

"Russia and Russian companies for many decades, including during the cold war, were reliable suppliers of energy resources to Europe. And we remain reliable suppliers," Mr Peskov added.
He said Mr Cheney's speech made no mention of the "successes that Russia has achieved in the area of democracy, in the area of freedom of religion. Fifteen years ago, no one in Europe could have imagined that we would follow such a path."

"If we're talking about some kind of change of approach, this should be officially communicated, and not by means of a speech at a conference," he said

Can you believe America's audacity? Here all Russia has done is to provide U.S. military secrets to Iraq and nuclear weapons to Iran, and America won't even follow the proper etiquette in telling Russia to bend over and kiss it's you-know-what goodbye. What nerve!

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