Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 234

For the last several days, the Russian media has focused primarily on the U.S.-British air strikes against Iraq. And, like the Russia’s government and its politicians across the political spectrum, the Russian press was virtually uniform today (December 18) in its condemnation of the strikes. A newspaper headline read: “To escape from impeachment, Clinton committed an act of aggression.” According to the daily, “the chronology of events testifies: The operation against Iraq was planned before the report of [UN weapons inspector Richard] Butler, which became the formal pretext for the missile strikes” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 18).

A Russian daily led today with an article headlined: “War-sex romance–Iraqi children suffer for Clinton’s love.” Underneath was a photograph of an Iraqi mother holding her child in a hospital. The article largely consisted of straight reporting on the conflict, but added: “Only the lazy are not talking about the ‘strange’ concurrence of the strike on Iraq with the planned vote on impeachment.” The same paper featured another article in today’s issue, which noted that because of the air strikes, the State Duma is likely to refuse to ratify the Start II Treaty (see previous story). This, according to the newspaper, will lead directly to Russia defaulting on its sovereign debt, since Washington has made ratification of Start II a condition of further credits from the International Monetary Fund, and without the IMF’s seal of approval, Russia will not be able to convince foreign creditors to restructure its debts (Kommersant daily, December 18).

“Segodnya,” for its part, wrote that President Clinton would have bombed Iraq in any case–impeachment or not–given that he “does not submit to the new rules of the international game, which are, sad to say, dictated by the United States.” The daily said it was also “sad to admit” that Russia’s “ruling elite” is incapable of opposing Washington either on the diplomatic or the political level (Segodnya, December 18). “Novye izvestia,” which also led today with reporting on the conflict in the Persian Gulf, included an article claiming that the air strikes against Iraq were aimed at forwarding the interests of American oil companies, “whose position became wobbly in recent months” because of falling oil prices. The daily noted, however, that oil prices continued to drop on Thursday, after the first wave of air strikes: “It is obvious that this will hardly suit the United States, which means that new strikes can be expected” (Novye izvestia, December 18). The paper wrote that the attacks threatened to create “an unprecedented crisis in the relations between Russia and the West,” one that could become “the most serious of the whole post-Soviet period” (Izvestia, December 18).