Category Archives: Russia

Half Of The World Meets, European and American Newsmedia Not Interested

Government representatives of more than 3.3 billion people have recently met in Yekaterinburg, Russia, for the first BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) summit (16 June) and the ninth Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’s Heads of State summit (15 June).

One for all major Western anglophone news channels, you’d think? Think again.

The only reason I have learned about it is because Iranian President Ahmadinejad attended the SCO summit in the middle of the election crisis. And the only reason why I remembered to mention it is an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, mysteriously available on the web only in Russian.

What is this sorry episode but another example of how the “free world” is victim of its own propaganda, that depicts a subservient, hapless globe whilst in reality there are powerful people seriously discussing how to contain the USA?

McCain’s Strategist Agrees With Putin

Political statements do sound truer if they come identical from actual or potential enemies. Is there therefore a high chance that Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia a month ago, has been “encouraged” by people trying to support McCain, as Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin has recently suggested to CNN (Aug 28)?

In an interview in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin said his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush — although he presented no evidence to back it up.

“U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict,” Putin said. “They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader.”

Just listen now to Thomas Rath, “leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire” according to Bloomberg news and the IHT (Sep 7):

“If in October we’re talking about Russia and national defense and who can manage America in a difficult world, John McCain will be president,” predicts Thomas Rath, the leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire. “If we’re talking largely about domestic issues and health care, Barack Obama probably will be president.”

In other words, as explained by article’s author Albert R Hunt:

If Russia invades another country on Oct. 20 or Iran detonates a nuclear weapon, advantage McCain; if there’s another Bear Stearns meltdown, or a stock market crash, put a few points on the Obama side.

A similar point is made rather more forcefully by leftist Tony Wood in the pages of the London Review of Book (Sep 11):

So why would the US approve a military adventure it had no intention of materially supporting? Not every development is part of an infernal neocon conspiracy, but it is nonetheless clear that the White House would make palpable gains from the Georgian crisis, whatever the outcome. If Saakashvili succeeded in retaking South Ossetia, he would have faced down Russia and demonstrated Georgia’s increasing readiness for Nato membership. If, on the other hand, Russia defeated Georgia, it would re-emphasise to Eastern Europe the need for US security guarantees. Sure enough, within two days of the start of fighting in Tskhinvali, Poland and the US finally reached agreement on the missile shield. Georgia itself appears all the more in need of US backing, and several politicians and commentators have suggested that the crisis is grounds for the country’s immediate admission to Nato. It could also justify the US increasing its military presence in Georgia, from a mere 100 Special Forces troops to, say, a long-term base. Moreover, the war has created ample opportunity for ramping up the discourse of a New Cold War – considerably improving the electoral prospects of John McCain, whose foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann worked for Saakashvili until May this year. All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight.

“All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight”.

Litvinenko: Case Closed?

In these days of heavy anti-Russia statements from most of the EU, and from the USA, how strange to read that the case of poisoned ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London on 23 Nov 2006, is still pretty much a mystery…

[…] Today, despite the popular misconception that the case has been solved, little, if any, forensic evidence has emerged that explains how, or even when, Litvinenko was exposed to Polonium 210. […]

In the Litvinenko case, the coroner’s report has never been completed. The crucial autopsy data has been denied not only to journalists and Litvinenko’s family on the grounds that it is part of an ongoing investigation, but also to Britain’s erstwhile partner in the investigation, Russia. While there may be good reason to keep an autopsy report secret from the public, keeping it secret from its investigative partner is mystifying. […]

This medical stone-walling left unanswered why British doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed Litvinenko, and, despite his symptoms of radiation exposure, did not test his urine specimens for alpha as well as gamma radiation, and never gave him the antidote Dimercaprol, which might have saved his life. When I examined the British police report sent to Moscow in June 2006 in support of its extradition request, I was stunned to see that without the medical reports, there was an almost total evidentiary vacuum, at least in terms of conventional evidence. The report cited no eye-witnesses, surveillance videotapes, fingerprints, Polonium container, or smoking teapot. Instead, the police report made it clear that the case was based on radiation traces. What made this kind of unconventional evidence vulnerable to misinterpretation, if it could be introduced in court at all, is that almost all the crime scenes at which the radiation was found were compromised. […]

I won’t be surprised if the Litvinenko case will be turned on its head in a few years’ time…

ps Is this blog turning into a pro-Russia platform, I wonder…

Will Putin’s CNN Interview Herald a New Era of Media-Savvy International Leaders?

Matthew Chance of CNN writes about his interview with Vladimir Putin, some 7 years after the last one for the American news channel:

Putin […] was constantly watching CNN to see how the conflict was being reported. And he didn’t like it. He hated it […] there was no one on TV putting across the Russian version of events.

Why was there no one? Because there is no access in Russia, we were not allowed to go to the Russian side of the conflict zone. No Russian officials were available to talk to us, as usual. Georgia played the media game, Russia did not.

A decision was taken then to change tack, to engage with the Western media, to aggressively argue Russia’s side. The Kremlin, which constantly complains of a bad press, could have learned this lesson years ago. But hopefully they see the value of us now. Doesn’t mean we agree with them, or that appearing on CNN will convert the West to Russia’s line.

Putin has made a few allegations, some of them ringing more true than others. But their truthness is not as important as the fact that they have been heard by many people that until yesterday could only get their own Government’s propaganda. Now they can see an actual “foreign” and “enemy” leader speak his mind in front of the cameras, a person and not just a communique’.

Anyway, the simple fact that the American and Russian versions of events cannot be both right at the same time, could and should encourage a little more critical thinkings…and that cannot be bad.

Interestingly, the lesson of how to avoid a bad press has been recently learned by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China too.

Next in line should be Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Mohammed Ahmadinejad of Iran. For some reason neither of them has realized his potential in terms of worldwide media coverage. Perhaps Putin’s experience will change that: they do look like great TV material and if only they’d abandon the more hard-to-digest bits of their ideologies, many more people would watch (and listen) to them.

Serbia: Trapped in the past…by the EU!

I find the IHT’s Feb 25 Editorial on Serbia and Kosovo rather disingenuous (“Trapped in the past“, IHT, Feb 25).

They state that “Every effort has been made by NATO, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to accommodate Serbian fears and sensitivities” but then undermine that very claim by decrying Serbia’s lack of “any willingness to negotiate the province’s independence” (as if this were a fait-accompli from the very beginning: so much for “accommodation“…).

They also accuse Belgrade of having “never demonstrated any remorse for the carnage unleashed by the former dictator Slobodan Milosevic“: thereby forgetting how young the Serbian democracy is, and its obvious innocence with respect to the crimes of a past dictatorship.

Serbia and the Serb may have a lot of soul-searching to do having lost pretty much everything and some in their misguided attempts to restore national pride by way of armed conflicts. But nothing, almost nothing has been done by the EU in primis, and by the USA, to help them out of that trap.

Actually, it is apparent that Kosovo has been recognized by some States, and not by others, only as part of a wider USA/Russia geopolitical game. What trust should Serbia put in such a process, is anybody’s guess.

If that can be the basis against “triggering wider conflict“, it’s very much doubtful.

On Nuclear Hypocrisy

Letter published on the International Herald Tribune, Dec 14, 2007

Regarding “Get Tehran inside the tent” by Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh (Views, Dec. 7): The one underlying issue that the writers do not mention, and that does not appear in the article by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin (“In Tehran we trust?” Views, Dec. 7), is that Iran is alone in a sea of hostile neighbors.

Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb is as logical as Israel’s or Pakistan’s. For the current Iranian regime, and perhaps even for a hypothetical Iranian democracy, it would be extremely foolish to leave the fortunes of the state to the whims of the United States, Europe, Russia, or the Sunni Arab states, especially with troubled neighbors like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is obvious that the West needs a new policy for Iran. Perhaps once – just once – the powers that be will pay attention to the basic needs of Iran, starting by ruling out an invasion.

Isn’t it telling that Nasr and Takeyh repeat the old fairy tale that during the Cold War “confronting Communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy,” forgetting to mention an egregiously contrary example? In a most tragic decision 54 years ago, the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled and an autocratic monarch reintroduced, all in the name of fighting world Communism.

Maurizio Morabito, England