Weekly Media Roundup: The Russian media focused on Russia’s performance at the G20 Summit in Australia, as well as attempts by the EU to pressure Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves his hotel en route to Brisbane Airport as he leaves the G20 leaders summit early, November 16, 2014.  Photo: Reuters

This week the Russian press covered the G20 summit and the situation surrounding EU pressure on Serbia, which has adamantly refused to impose sanctions on Russia.  

Analyzing the results of the G20 Summit

The question of what interested the Russian press more – understanding what world leaders thought and talked about in Australia at the G20 summit or how adorable these same leaders looked with koalas pressed to their chests – remains open. One thing is sure: the meeting held on Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane attracted more attention than G20 events of recent years.

The opposition press (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Novaya Gazeta) focused on the frosty reception of Russian President Vladimir Putin by the West as well as on Russia’s further slide into isolation. In contrast, the pro-government media (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Channel One) considers the results of the summit to have been a success.

“The G20 summit in Brisbane became yet another demonstration of the difficult situation for Russian foreign policy in the international arena. Russia was unable to neutralize the Western pressure related to the Ukrainian problem,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes in its editorial.

At the same time, Novaya Gazeta's columnist Yulia Latynina thinks that the “problematic position of Russia” in the global arena is best manifested in how the Russian press covered the G20 summit.

“Everything that the world does in geopolitics is the opposite of what the Kremlin does, whose catastrophic provincialism, medievalism, and parochialism are perfectly characterized by a single event: At the end of the G20 summit, we were discussing not the appearance of a new superpower in the world but why Putin did not stay for breakfast,” Latynina wrote.

Meanwhile, Channel One reported on the summit’s positive outcome and decided to focus on what Putin has referred to as the growing understanding of the ineffectiveness of sanctions against Russia.

“Although neither the anti-Russian sanctions nor the Ukrainian issue were on the summit’s main agenda, the leaders of the G20 discussed these problems, primarily in bilateral meetings which Putin had with [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and British Prime Minister David Cameron," Channel One's website reads. "According to the Russian leader, it is becoming increasingly clear in the West that sanctions are the common problem not only of Russia, but also of Europe.”

Boris Mezhuev of Izvestia calls for the situation not to be dramatized. As he sees it, the media should not be exaggerating the desire of world leaders to isolate Russia as a whole, or Putin specifically.

“Overall, the game is more or less understood and much in this game depends on our calm and restraint. Hysterics are in fashion and only the Russian president resists this widespread epidemic,” he argues.

In addition, Mezhuev points out that the world is only at the start of changes in the coalition of partners and it is too early to talk yet of some sort of isolation of one or another of the players.   

Will Serbia impose sanctions against Russia under EU pressure?

After Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Belgrade, where he was welcomed cordially and with obvious eagerness to cooperate, European leaders intensified their pressure on Serbia, trying to make the country join in the sanctions against Russia. The Russian press discussed Serbia’s chances of “holding out” with significant interest.

The opposition media outlets (the Echo of Moscow radio station) focus attention on the complexity of Serbia’s historical choice. The pro-government media (Rossiyskaya Gazeta) strongly emphasizes the conspiratorial intent in the actions of the European leaders and voices doubts as to the ability of the Serbs to survive the EU pressure. The leading business newspaper, Vedomosti, calculates the mutual possible losses on both sides.

Echo of Moscow's Anton Orekh argues in his blog post that “bringing sanctions against Russia is nearly as difficult for Serbs as recognizing the independence of Kosovo."

"But in order to comfortably and logically enter into a unified Europe, Serbs must impose these sanctions on us," he wrote. "This is imposing sanctions on your closest friend in order to enter into a marriage of convenience. But it is a very profitable calculation. And going against friendship for the sake of such emerges as a human story that is abundantly clear to every one of us.”

Konstantin Volkov from Rossiyskaya Gazeta sees the EU’s stance as unprecedented in its nature.

“Earlier Brussels demanded that Serbia join in the EU sanctions against Moscow in advance, as Belgrade is preparing to become a member of the European Union soon," he wrote. "The move was unprecedented – a demand was made of a country-candidate as if to a full EU member.”

The author also cites a Serbian journalist Dushan Janich, who argues that the current Serbian leadership can withstand the pressure coming from the European Union through March 2015.

"If Russia and the EU do not find a mutually beneficial solution for the resolution of the situation by that time, Belgrade will be forced to toughen its stance towards Moscow in favor of Brussels,” Janich predicts.

Meanwhile, Elizaveta Bazanova of Vedomosti quotes Alexander Knobel, the Director of the International Trade Research Center at RANEPA, who argues that even if Serbia imposed sanctions, this would be a symbolic gesture politically not economically. However, Serbia will lose economically when and if sanctions are imposed against Russia.

"The sanctions Russia would levy in retaliation would be a serious blow to Serbia. The country has been profiting considerably from Russia’s ban on food imports from the EU. Its supplies to Russia have grown, says Knobel," Bazanova's article reads. "Based on data from the Russian customs service, the trade turnover with Serbia for June-September grew by 16.5 percent, imports to Russia increased by 39.6 percent, and exports to Serbia decreased by 0.8 percent.”