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December 2007

Time names Putin Person of the Year (The Moscow News)
The Real Values in Kosovo (Kommersant)
UN at a Loose End (Kommersant)
The West brushing aside Moscow’s arguments (NG-Dipkurier)

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The Moscow News, 24.12.07

Time names Putin Person of the Year.

By Anna Arutunyan


President Vladimir Putin appea­red on the cover of Time this week as the magazine's "Person of the Year," the first Russian to hold the title since Mikhail Gorbachev was nominated twice (1987, 1989), at a time when the idea that the Soviet Union could collapse was practically unthinkable.

Featuring an icy photo of Putin seated in an armchair and staring at the camera, the piece began by stating that "No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin's. It's a gaze that says, I'm in charge."

The article called Russia a nation "that had fallen off our mental map," but was led by one "steely and determined man."


The magazine has been naming a Person of the Year since 1927, but explains that making the cover is not necessarily an honor, but a "clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world." Time's choice underscores the importance that Russia has gained on the international stage since Putin came to power, as well as the many things that are still left to be done.


As managing editor Richard Stengel explained in an accompanying article, "If Russia fails, all bets are off for the 21st century. And if Russia succeeds as a nation-state in the family of nations, it will owe much of that success to one man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin."


An in-depth profile by Adi Ignatius, who stinted as a correspondent in Russia for several years, described Putin as an intense, complex and intelligent ruler with just a hint of the unknown. "He is clear about Russia's role in the world. He is passionate in his belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, particularly since overnight it stranded 25 million ethnic Russians in ‘foreign' lands. But he says he has no intention of trying to rebuild the U.S.S.R. or re-establish military or political blocs."

The interview, conducted on Dec. 12, came just a little over a week after the latest parliamentary elections, in which the Putin-backed United Russia won in a landslide, and just days after Putin endorsed Dmitry Medvedev as a potential "successor" in the March 2 presidential elections. Medvedev himself reportedly  praised Time's choice. "Vladimir Vladimirovich is doing a lot for our country, and since his rule Russia's authority on the international arena has established itself considerably," RIA Novosti quoted the presidential candidate as saying. "If an authoritative magazine gives such an assessment, I agree with it," he added.


When asked in the Time interview if he would like to "correct any American misconceptions," the Russian president reportedly said, "I don't believe these are misconceptions. I think this is a purposeful attempt by some to create an image of Russia based on which one could influence our internal and foreign policies." 


Analysts described Putin's statements at the interview as an outline of his mission as Putin sees it. "It's a declaration of his mission to serve Russia," the Vedomosti business daily quoted political expert Dmitri Badovsky as saying.


Kommersant, 21.12.07

The Real Values in Kosovo.

By George Kunadze, senior fellow, Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences


The price of the question


The problem of Kosovo is not unique. What is unique there? Everything is usual human affairs. Removal of autonomous status within the “mother state,” introduction of the troops of the “mother state,” ethnic cleansing and similar abominations by those troops, “disinterested” help from outside, repulsion of members of the “mother” ethnic group, poverty under the cover of friendly arms and the result? They can't live together and they can't live apart. Who is that? Kosovo? Abkhazia? Maybe Northern Cyprus or Nagorny Karabakh. It's typical everywhere.


The choices for settlement are typical as well. They are all to some degree flawed and the most contentious is the worst. That is declaring the rebellious former autonomy independent without the agreement of the “mother state.” The most dangerous precedent: If one can do it, they all can do it. In teaching states to multiply by dividing, who or what will stop the irresponsible separatists and their backers?


But that is theory. In practice, everything depends on who acknowledges the new “state,” only its sponsor and backer or the majority of neighboring states. In the first case, it turns into a legal pariah, like Northern Cyprus. In the second, a real new state, theoretically illegitimate and most likely nonviable and nationalistic, but in practice a national entity, at least in the eyes of those who acknowledge it.


In that sense, the acknowledgment of independent Kosovo, when and if it happens, will not be a precedent for Russia, which has long backed the Abkhazian separatists. Russia may have risen from its calloused knees, but not so high that it can attract other countries to its choice.


And if someone was able to steal a purse and go unpunished, does that mean we have to follow their bad example? Wouldn't it be better to become an example of a different kind? That of a country trying to help the rebels in the former autonomy cone to an agreement with the “mother” state? And ready to be the guarantor of their hypothetical agreement? There are models of such agreements in international relations. Look at the legal status of the Aland Islands within Finland.


The unbecoming fuss about Kosovo only increases the moral and political value of such a response from Russia. But first, it is necessary to stop the hysteria and ridiculous discussions about how Abkhazia or South Ossetia have as much grounds for independence as Kosovo. In the final analysis, honesty, principles and, a frightening word – disinterestedness are more valuable in international relations than cheap demagoguery and helpless buffoonery.


Kommersant, 21.12.07

UN at a Loose End.

By Dmitry Gornostaev


The UN Security Council handed the Kosovo issue over to the European Union


The UN Security Council (UNSC) held its nearly most awaited session of this year: the three international mediators on Kosovo delivered their reports. The UNSC failed to solve the Kosovo status issue, and the European Union (EU) is now going to solve it unilaterally. The U.S. completely supported the idea, while Russia spoke against it. RIA Novosti’s correspondent in New York Dmitry Gornostaev, specially for Kommersant, watched the ups and downs of Kosovo debates in the UNSC.


It is no longer a sensation that former field commander of Kosovo’s liberation army Hashim Thaçi appeared in the UN headquarters. Especially as he is no longer a militant, but is an elegant gentleman wearing an expensive gray suit, and almost the prime minister of Kosovo. Thaçi came to New York as a member of the delegation headed by Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu. However, neither of them was allowed to deliver official statement, because they do not have official status from the UN’s point of view. The UNSC listened to them as individuals, because Kosovo is formally still considered Serbia’s part, which means it cannot be officially represented in the UN.

Sejdiu described how Albanians in Kosovo suffer without independence, omitting, however, that life is much harder for Serbs there. Anyway, journalists already had copies of Sejdiu’s speech. Serbia’s delegation as well provided copies of the speech of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. He, on the contrary, was trying to persuade the UNSC that it would be fatal to grant independence to Kosovo, especially without Belgrade’s agreement. Kostunica largely quoted resolution 1244 which has so far guaranteed Serbia’s territorial integrity.


Great Britain’s Ambassador Sir John Sawers was the first to come out to journalists after the UNSC closed session. Sir Sawers said he had been watching the Kosovo situation for 20 years, after which he made the main conclusion: “Events of 1999 changed the local political reality.” Among his other statements are: negotiations failed to bring result; parties failed to find the final solution for Kosovo’s status; further negotiations are pointless. Eventually, the ambassador said: if so, the EU is quite capable to undertake complete responsibility for Kosovo’s further fate, especially as Russians are still being obstinate. Journalists asked him straight forwardly:

“Can you say that negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina are over and will never resume?”

“You see, the matter is…” the British envoy began a long tirade, but did not give any specific answer.


Meanwhile, diplomats from European countries issued copies of their ambassadors’ speeches to journalists. Italians were somewhat haughty: unlike others, they were issuing copies of the speech of their foreign minister. Massimo D’Alema specially came to attend the landmark UNSC session, and sat in the chairman’s seat which belongs to his country this month.


U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spent a couple of minutes with journalists and carried on Sir Sawers’ ideas. A reporter asked him: “What happens to resolution 1244 now when Kosovo becomes independent? Russians say that unilateral declaration of separation from Serbia violates international law.” However, this fact did not perplex Khalilzad. He deeply inhaled and said as loudly as possible: “They…” here he stopped to think for a moment, and exhaled: “…are wrong! What about the resolution? By the way, the resolution does not interdict Kosovo’s independence.”


Khalilzad referred to some U.S. and European experts who thoroughly studied legal aspects of resolution 1244, but did not name the experts’ key arguments. The ambassador also said that he offered to his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin to support the Ahtisaari plan. That offer actually sounded like an ultimatum: “I suggested that Ambassador Churkin should think well for the last time.”


It became clear what Churkin thought at the session after Maria Zakharova, press-secretary of Russia’s UN mission, came out with a pack of papers. They proved that Russia introduces to the UNSC an offer to create a Road Map for Kosovo settlement, similar to the Road Map developed by mediators for solving the Middle East conflict.

The next to come out to journalists was an “individual” -- Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu. He thanked the UNSC for listening to him at least in that category, and promised equality to all ethnic groups in independent Kosovo. However, he immediately warned that Kosovo’s nation, that is Albanians, will never forget what they had to suffer in the 1990s. Apparently, that passage was addressed right to one of the ethnic groups.


Here the doors of the UNSC opened widely. No wonder, actually: diplomats had spent three hours in the session hall. The chairman – the Italian minister – came out first. He read out his statement for the press, underlining that he speaks as the UNSC chairman. However, answering two out of three questions posed to him, he said he cannot answer them because he is the UNSC chairman. When asked to answer them as Italian foreign minister, D’Alema just gave a smile.


A crowd of ambassadors of EU countries appeared next. They encouraged Belgium’s Ambassador Johan Verbeke, who must have been proud to have the honor of reading out what the British and the U.S. ambassadors had already said half an hour ago. His speech boiled down to the following: everyone would like to solve the Kosovo status issue in the UNSC, but the latter is not in a position to make that decision, which all of them, the EU ambassadors and the U.S. ambassador who joined them, regret. So, the EU has decided to undertake responsibility for Kosovo’s fate.


That is, the EU has unilaterally decided, without the UNSC approval, to solve the issue of Kosovo’s status.


While European ambassadors were listening to their colleague Verbeke, Khalilzad stood a little aside the microphones. He must have been tired after three hours of sitting, and attempted at neck-locking Vitaly Churkin, saying merrily:


“Those key elements of yours! I thought they died long ago!” Khalilzad meant Russia’s new initiative on Kosovo.


“Second advent,” retorted Churkin.


Eventually, he managed to get rid of his U.S. counterpart, and that was when Verbeke’s speech was over. So, the Russian ambassador took a determined step towards the microphones.


Churkin said the discussion was good, and showed there are optimists and pessimists in the UNSC concerning the Kosovo issue. Pessimists think that negotiations have exhausted themselves, and it is now time to decide upon the Kosovo status in favor of its independence. On the contrary, optimists believe it is necessary to carry on the talks. “Certainly, Russia is among optimists, and our position is based strictly on international law,” he said, en passant disproving the opinion that Russia feels isolated in relation to the Kosovo issue in the UNSC.


Churkin confirmed that Russia had distributed among the UNSC members its new initiative for developing a Road Map for Kosovo issue settlement. The ambassador underlined that no unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence, and no recognition of Kosovo’s independence by some countries, will make it a full-right member of the international community, nor will give it a place in the UN. That is, will not provide everything which Kosovo’s Albanians want so much.

NG-Dipkurier, 24.12.07

The West brushing aside Moscow’s arguments.

By Alexander Rahr


EU considers Peace of Westfalia principles to be invalid


Many former irritants of Russia-West relations seem to have disappeared. President Bush is likely to come to terms with Russia concerning BMD and nuclear program of Iran. The only place where compromise is not even expected is the Kosovo issue. Wolfgang Ischinger, a German diplomat, spent three months going around Balkan peninsula countries and European capitals in search of compromise on the future Kosovo status. His mandate expired on December 10, 2007, with no compromise found. On December 17, Ischinger made a report about the results of his unsuccessful mission to the members of German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. The statements made by the diplomat can characterize the overall view of Kosovo problem by chief EU management.


Ischinger strongly denied some suggestions from the West that the USA is to blame for the Kosovo problem, for it supported Kosovo Albanians’ positions too early, and drove the Serbs into a corner again. According to Ischinger, USA and EU cannot return Kosovo to Serbia because of some moral notions. Since 1999, after NATO bombed out Serbia of Milosevic, Belgrade is to admit its historical defeat in the long run.


Ischinger’s respond to the question: if the West is violating international rights at its sole discretion, because even after the NATO war against Serbia UN resolution did not put Serbia’s territorial integrity of that time into question, was that UN had not forbidden Kosovo from becoming an independent state in future, either. Ischinger indirectly criticized Russia for having taken the side of nationalists in Serbia too unilaterally. What reaction can be expected from Moscow if Western Europe acknowledges independence of Kosovo? Surely, USA and EU hope for late consent of Moscow. Diplomats in Berlin have reasons to suppose that Russia is not going to be in constant conflict with Western Europe because of Serbia. What if Moscow starts playing into the hands of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? This is typical Russian bluff: that is what many influential Western politicians think. Russia is going to act as usual: criticizing at first, and then it will calm down. They think that Russia does not want Abkhazia and South Ossetia with their problems: North Caucasus is already a powder keg without them. Another issue is what Europe is to give to Serbia in exchange for its acknowledgement of Kosovo sovereignty. Most European politicians are for pro-European perspective and significant economic support for Serbia. It is better to take Belgrade and Prishtina into EU, a lot of them say.


Is Russia really going to enter an open conflict with Western Europe because of the imaginary solidarity with Serbia? They are sure it can be negotiated with Russia, because independence of Kosovo will be to a large extent a conditional one. Troops and police forces will stay in Kosovo, Serbian minority in the region will get the rights of autonomy which have never been granted to any minority in Europe so far. EU does not want to take into account Moscow’s view that EU is violating international rights. Russia must understand at last that world order and international law have changed in the 21st century; and they are really different from those of the 20th century. The principle of Peace of Westfalia does not have any effect on Western Europe any longer, for it does not comply with human rights and universal human values. According to Ischinger, the most important thing here is that the European Union should remain united: nobody should try to sow discord within EU. Destruction of Orthodox temples in Kosovo, all insults of the Serbs: all these the EU has not been able to prevent in the last years though. Ischinger has nothing to say about it and just shrugs his shoulders. Serbs should give all international criminals to International Court in the Hague; without this measure such liberal countries as Holland are not very likely to grant Belgrade perspective of joining the European Union.

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