Monday, October 30, 2006

Vladimir, you naughty boy! II

For those of you remembering my first story about how Norwegian salmon all of a sudden became contaminated and banned from import to Russia, this is a follow up, and some new developments in other matters of Russian Norwegian peaceful co-existence.
IMPORT / EXPORT of Norwegian salmon
Russia stopped imporing Norwegian Salmon after discovering some "mysterious" contamination of the fish. The salmon were tested in several laboratories in EU, and found not to be contaminated. Then Russians demanded to control all fishfarms exporting to Russia before giving permission to export. That included that Russian inspectors had to be treated with food and drinks at the plant. Ok. So the thing was settled. We thought. But no. Last week Russia found a new way. Now they demand that all exporters have to EXPORT to APPROVED Russian IMPORTERS. That means chaos, because there are VERY few approved Russian importers. So again a big loss of export for many Norwegian fishfarms
In the Barents sea Norway had a lot of problems with Russian trawlers fishing illegally. The estimate of this illegal fishing is 100 tonnes. Russian denies of course, as any five year old would do, and says 20 tonnes. And because of this "horrendous accusation" they also demand to put Russian inspectors on all Norwegian vessels fishing in Russian zone as punishment. The problem is that the differance (80 tonnes) have to be taken off the Norwegian fishers, because Norway conducts professional control with quotas to maintain a sustainable development of fishing resources. A big loss for Norwegian fishers.
Norsk Hydro and Statoil have worked with the Russians to develop the Shtokman oil and gas field in the Barentssea. The verbal agreement was that those Norwegian companies were going to be partners in developing the field. Suddenly all deals were off, and Gazprom said they would develop it themselves, although lacking the technology and skills.
We all have our Russian neighbor. And to all you Georgian reading this, wondering about the development in the Russia-Georgia relationship: Rely on the worst case scenario. Apply the psychology of Ericssons second stage development theory :-) in your analysis.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Vladimir, you naughty boy!

"Insiders' reports from EU leaders' dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday suggest Europe's diplomats have begun the week suffering from diplomatic indigestion. Challenged about corruption and failings in the rule of law in Russia, he asked why officials had been sent to jail in Spain, and annoyed some in Italy with his quip that "mafia is not a Russian word". Challenged over the economic embargo on Georgia, he accused that tiny state of planning to settle its disputes with Russia with bloodshed. Some of the Europeans were shocked." (BBC News. Read the rest of the story)

I really hope they hadn't dropped their pants allready...

(more about that in the post below)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

EU courts Vladimir

Once I read a story, well it was more like an anecdote. “The Scorpion and the Frog” describes the nature of things. The nature of things is how nature is, not what we are made to believe it is. So why did I suddenly remember this story when I saw the EU-representatives with special guest Putin on the summit in Helsinki tonight?
First the story...
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks:
- How do I know you won't sting me?
- Because if I do, I will die too, the scorpion replies..
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp:
- Why did you do that???
- I couldn’t help it, it’s my nature...

It must have been todays Putin scandals in Helsinki
First it was on the national news: NRK reported that Putin congratulated the Israeli prime minister for raping several women in his office, and laughed loud as he expressed his envy for such a deed, and wished he could have done the same. The Israeli Prime minister was not at the meeting, but judging from the expression on the Israeli representative at the table it was an extremely embarrassing moment. The microphones was not turned off, as Putin obviously thought, so the embarrassment went public and a nice Russian journalist translated the conversation to the broadcasting community of the world. Maybe this awkward incidence lead to the next embarrassment later today: A direct threat to Georgia, where Putin warned against a possible bloodbath, and stated that it was NOT Russias fault. All together not a star quality performance of Putin today. He even managed to NOT answer question about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.

And did someone react?
Oh no. The EU ministers are careful, and tries not to upset the almighty Vladimir in any way. After all he is only deporting Georgians, and generally harasses Georgians living in Russia all possible ways. So the EU ministers are quiet. They don’t want to upset the big Russian Bear from it’s sleep, so it can start closing valves or do other terrible economic distressful things to the European community.

“You know what happens when they get in the same room as Putin. They all drop their trousers and say 'I love you Vladimir'”

This is the gloomy and cynical view from a senior EU insider, of the leaders of the European Union's 25 countries. Perhaps it's intended to chivvy rather than insult. But there is no doubt that the EU summit in Finland is a rather odd event. The 25 prime ministers and presidents talk about their policy towards the Russian president over lunch. And at dinner a few hours later their guest of honour is none other than Mr Putin himself. The European Commission is worried this will mean that unity goes out the window as they all jostle to be the Russian president's best friend. It's not just that Russia is a powerful country and Europe's big neighbour. The leaders all believe in the European values of fraternal solidarity but Vlad has something they value more. Gas. (BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell 19 October 2006 on the EU's awkward relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the power Moscow projects through pipelines.)
The main concern of the EU ministers is of course GAS and OIL. They need to be sure that Putin doesn’t blow up pipelines or shut down supplies like he has the nasty habit of doing lately to punish disobeying nations. Then the rest is of no concern. EU is in fact begging on their knees for permission to transport Putin across the river.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"The First Kill"

I admit there has been somewhat depressing themes on this blog for some time. Therefore I would like to invite my readers to share some bright moments with me.

The urban life can be tough. So can the rural, and in Norway even more so. We fish a lot. So it is natural for us, when we get celebrities from Georgia ..or in this case a "Georgienne" who has been living in Paris for some years on visit, to invite on a fishing trip. Now this can be a traumatic event for some. I hope Teona forgive me for sharing the moment.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


"EU special representative to South Caucasus Peter Semneby told the Brussels-based that Russia’s recent policy towards Georgia undermines Moscow’s role as a neutral peacekeeper in the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflict resolution process."
Source:Online Magazine - Civil Georgia

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Saakashvili on BBC News LIVE

While Putin has been busy “taking care” of the press the traditional KGB way, Michael Saakashvili spent his afternoon on BBC News LIVE answering questions from people all over the world.

“Georgia is punished for being a successful democratic nation”.
With these words Saakashvili explained the Russian embargo, and pointed to Estonia, being submitted to the same Russian embargo when they turned to the west after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The president also pointed out that "the Estonian way is the Georgian way", and made a point of the successful economic development Estonia had in spite of the Russian embargo“. Georgia is a successtory”, he said, and cited figures from international banks and analysts claiming Georgia to be the top European reformer in 2005. “The embargo has proven a success of survival in Georgia”, Saakashvili said, claiming that in spite of sanctions Georgia manage to stay alive, and shows independency from Russia. But later in the broadcast he expressed the need for normal trading relations to Russia.

Recognition of Kosovo; presedence for breakaway republics?
On the question about the recognition of Kosovo as setting a precedence for recognizing the breakaway republics, Saakashvili could not see a direct parallel. “Georgia has always been a multiethnic society. The processes in the breakaway republics have lead to monoetnic societies there”, he said, avoiding the use of the expression “ethnic cleansing”, and claimed that the breakaway republics are Georgian territories. He avoided further elaboration on the issue, as he continued to speak about the recent investments and development of the region near Abkhazia. The President also urged Europe to be “louder” in criticizing Russia.

Promoting Georgia
During answering, and between the questions Saakashvili promoted Georgia in all thinkable manners. “Georgia is friendly, Georgia has the lowest corruption in Europe, Georgians are so friendly, and our country is very beautiful”, avoiding to answer some of the more delicate questions. In this way Saakashvili ended up looking unprofessional and, like Putin calls him; “an emotional man”.

The killing of Anna Politkovskaja
Saakashvili also commented on the killing of the Russian dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaja, and said it was a big loss for Georgia and the Caucasus region. Politkovskaja was about to publish an article about Russian torture of civilians in Chechenya when she was brutally murdered in Moscow. An earlier attempt of killing her with poison had failed earlier. Also the Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre today deeply regrets the killing:”This killing is yet another expression of how vulnerable the free press is in its’ work in Russia”. Russia will notice that the whole world will react, Støre says to NTB.
Anna Politkovskaja is the 14 th journalist being killed/executed in Russia since Putin became President in 2000.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Putin initiates ethnic cleansing?

For us, not understanding how Russia can hold an UN-mandatory of peacekeeping in breakaway republic Abkhazia, the feeling of absurdity is growing. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin has started to deport Georgians living in Russia in a large scale operation.

[..]The Georgians were rounded up in police raids and accused of immigration offences, according to media reports. Meanwhile, in Moscow police have reportedly asked schools to draw up lists of pupils with Georgian surnames. A Russian opposition leader has accused the government of mounting a campaign of discrimination against immigrants. In a statement, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, an erstwhile key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the anti-Georgian measures amounted to indecent chauvinistic hysteria, Moscow Radio reported. "Russia does not want to be provoked, Russia wants to be respected. Russia wants the anti-Russian campaign to stop", the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko said[..] (BBC NEWS, 06.10.2006).

So it's a question of respect? It is also a question about dealing with domestic problems in their own backyard. Then it might help to introduce Georgia as a common enemy of the state. Putin has increased his popularity during the conflict with Georgia, the latest polls show. But Russia also suffers from a democratic problem which the former KGB leader Putin has introduced through his power-pyramid. On a direct question live on BBC in the spring 2006 he answered to the allegations of him controlling the press that it was “better that the state controlled the media than a few rich media moguls or oligarks”. Russian journalists also reports of an “invisible hand” (not Adam Smiths) controlling the media, enforcing increased self-censorship on the journalists. That is imperative when you want to introduce a common enemy of the state. Diverting views should not be presented.

(Picture curtesy of Russian Embassy)