Russian media backs Medvedev, wary of reaction from West

August 27th, 2008 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 27 (DPA) Russian newspapers Wednesday supported President Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to recognize the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but expressed fears the move could harm Moscow’s relations with the West.”Goodbye America, Goodbye Europe?” led the popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, while business newspaper Kommersant splashed “The President of Russia is ready for confrontation with the West”, across its front page.

Most analysts were caught off guard by the president’s announcement Tuesday, expecting the Kremlin to delay such a move and use the threat of recognizing the two Georgian regions to enhance its bargaining position with the West.

Recognizing the two breakaway provinces “is a bomb, set between Russia and the West’s relations for many years to come”, wrote the newspaper Vedomosti.

Medvedev, dubbed a liberal by the West in the first days of his presidency, took a page from the book of his tough-talking predecessor Vladimir Putin.

“We are not afraid of anything,” Medvedev shot back when asked by state-television if he was worried the decision could evolve into a new Cold War.

“If (our partners) want good relations with Russia, they will understand the reason for our decision, and things will be calm, but if they choose confrontation, well, we have lived under such conditions, and we can do so again,” Medvedev said.

State mouthpiece Rossiskaya Gazeta appraised the president’s words: “Russia does not count on wide support for its initiative. It is simply doing that which it has become impossible to avoid.”

“Formal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the fulfilment of a moral and political obligation to them. No more, no less,” it said.

Behind the headlines, commentators asked whether the recognition was a turning point after years of what the Kremlin perceived as humiliation by the West dating back to the country’s indebtedness in the 1990s.

“It is rather curious, if one remembers that less than one month ago the Kremlin actively spoke of the need to build a new system of European security and to conclude a new partnership agreement with Europe,” Kommersant wrote.

But the newspaper said the freeze in ties with the West was not as deep as it appeared since Russia continues to allow NATO safe passage through its territory for operations in Afghanistan, “the only thing that counts for the alliance”.

“This means Moscow doesn’t intend to completely break with the West, but is now ready to hold negotiations only on its own terms,” the daily said.

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