Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Russian actions no self defence", Bildt states

Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Carl Bildt (Swedish Foreign Minister), has submitted a fresh report to the ministerial committee on of August 2008:
"South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia are integral parts of Georgia and the military actions undertaken by Georgian forces during the conflict thus concerned Georgian territory". “[T]he military actions undertaken by Georgia, on its territory, cannot be seen as an aggression towards the Russian Federation which would trigger the latter’s right to self-defense. It is furthermore clear, that since it contravenes International law when a state uses military force to protect its citizens in another state, the Russian large-scale military actions in Georgia can not be justified as self-defence”. And further: ”Nor is the protection of peace-keeping forces as such a basis for the use of force under international law. [..] The large-scale military action by the Russian Federation against Georgia cannot be justified on these grounds. ”
Carl Bildt has been clear in his statements since the beginning of the conflict. Being one of the very few high level politicians with his personal blog, many have had the possibilities to follow negotiations and political mood swings in the conflict close through his many posts on the subject.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boris L. Vishnevsky - Public attitudes in Russia

Today I want to publish a comment posted on my blog by Boris L. Vishnevsky. I think it deserves better than being buried in the "comment field".
Boris L. Vishnevsky is Member of the Bureau of the Federal Council of the YABLOKO party, and the Head of experts of the YABLOKO faction in the Legislative Assembly of St.Petersburg. Expert of the State Duma, and Doctorant of the sub-faculty of political science of the St.-Petersburg University of economy and finance.
“Sadly, public attitudes are more distorted than they have ever been. For the ‘malformed’ –those among us who have somehow retained the strength not to give way to mass madness – these are very difficult times. Because we feel desperately lonely even in a crowd of our fellow-citizens”
“I say ‘Well done’ that they gave Saakashvili one in the kisser”, stated my uncle in a satisfied way as he sat opposite me at the dinner table loaded with party fare for his son’s birthday. “That’s propaganda speaking,” responded his wife with a note of scepticism. But it was a minority voice: most of those present held to the view that while Putin and Medvedev are, to put it mildly, not a bed of roses, at least they did right this time. Attempts to explain that the picture of the events in the Caucasus presented to Russia’s television viewers was radically out of line with reality met with little success. For the record, the members of the gathering (your traditional democratic voters), had never voted for the Communists, for United Russia, for the LDPR [Zhirinovsky’s party], or United Russia. But still they had this most peculiar way of looking at things…
A month ago, in conversation with [well-known Russian science-fiction writer] Boris Strugatsky, I compared the situation in our country with the world presented in the film of Inhabited Island which Fyodor Bondarchuk is currently shooting.
Please forgive the multitude of quotes from the book.
A giant network of towers transmits signals which act on the nervous system of every living being in such way that every living being within coverage loses the capacity for critical thought. “Thinking people turn into believers, more particularly into dumb, fanatic believers against all the real evidence their eyes deliver”. This field “sucked out from millions of souls all and any doubts about what the newspapers, leaflets, radio, and television ranted about”. Twice a day, the giant “vacuum cleaner was set to full power and for half an hour humans ceased to be human”. The only danger came from people who were non-receptive. These exceptions were called the malformed. The broadcast didn’t work on them at all and all the radio waves did was to cause them intolerable headaches. These malformed constituted only a tiny percentage of the population, about one percent, but they were the only conscious people in a kingdom of sleepwalkers…
So I said that in Russia today most of the population, when it comes to the Russo-Georgian war, have been behaving as if such transmission towers are being run in full-power mode and only a handful of ‘malformed’ have desperately tried to escape the torrent of official lies… “People are so constituted that they first hear what they actually want to hear,” Boris Strugatsky said. “In order to dispel lies and to make sense of what is happening around us, a quite different mentality is required. One need to know how to seek out, find, and analyse information. One needs to be ‘malformed”…
Yes, one does. But the ‘malformed’ are tiny in number. Furthermore, many whom we would previously have thought were of that number are today behaving as if they have ceased to be (at least in matters pertaining to the five-day war in the Caucasus).
People who found the inner strength to resist the mass hysteria of autumn 1993 with its cries of “Crush the snake!” [the attempted coup d’état], who refused to paint anyone as “red-brown” who did not agree with Yeltsin’s right to cause chaos in the name of reform, who demonstrated against the war in Chechnya and did not let themselves sink into the mire of military psychosis in autumn 1999 [‘terrorism’ in Moscow and war in Chechnya], who were not affected by Leontiev, Sokolov, Dorenko [TV presenters], have let their guard down today, unable to withstand the intensity of the transmissions.
“You just don’t understand!”, they say to me. “Russia simply had to intervene!”“But why bomb Gori and Senaki, and occupy Poti?” I respond to their question with another.“If aircraft are coming from somewhere to bomb our army, we need to destroy their military infrastructure!’“Are you saying that we declared war on Georgia?”“Georgia was making war on South Ossetia!’“How can you make war on a part of your own country?”“The Ossetians didn’t want to live side-by-side with Georgians.”“So that’s why Kokoity chose ethnic cleansing, drove all the Georgians out of South Ossetia, and burnt down Georgian houses?”“They started it…”
A dialogue with the deaf: arguments do not get through to them.
They bring up “Tskhinvali raised to the ground” (when anyone can see on satellite photographs that this is a lie: if anything was raised to the ground, then it was Georgian villages), the “genocide” undertaken by Georgia (for which there is no evidence), the “two thousand killed” (another lie which has been exposed repeatedly), the “bestial behaviour of the Georgian occupiers”, the “lies in the Western media”, and the “American marionette Saakashvili”. Not to mention of course the “sacred right of nations to self-determination”. I can bear it no longer: “I’m all for that right as well – but where is the nation in this case? Thirty thousand people, a third of whom are Georgians who have now been driven out of their homes, ruled by a ‘government’ composed in the main of former Russian military personnel and chekists living on Russian handouts, contraband, and the production of moonshine. You call that a nation? And I don’t recall that the Kremlin being very keen about that particular right in Chechnya, where crimes were committed that make a pale shadow of anything that happened in South Ossetia…”
No reaction.
It isn’t worth explaining to my interlocutors that you can’t just go out and occupy part of another country under the excuse of “defending” fraudulently created “Russian citizens” who inhabit the place, that it is wrong to bomb towns and loot them, that it is out of order to set up guard posts in someone else’s country and that one should not lie through one’s teeth about the facts.
It’s pointless to try to tell them about the railroad branch line restored by the Russian army purportedly to carry gravel to Olympic building sites in Sochi. This line was used to carry the tanks which Abkhazia used (and note that no one had ‘attacked’ them) to seize the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge where only Svanis and NOT Abkhazians had lived from time immemorial.
The people under the influence of the transmissions (not from towers now but from Channel One, Vesti, Izvestiya, Rossiskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and the Russian News Service) are impervious to such arguments. They believe the lies in the official Russian media against the evidence available to their own eyes. More to the point, they are unable to see this reality. They live in a virtual world. One in which “Russia is rising from its knees”, is a country surrounded by enemies, and where the the cursed West is at the root of every unpleasant problem. No matter that this is the same West to which they travel for their holidays and dream of sending their children and grandchildren to be educated and then stay on to work…
Sadly, public attitudes are more distorted than they have ever been. For the ‘malformed’ –those among us who have somehow retained the strength not to give way to mass madness – these are very difficult times. Because we feel desperately lonely even in a crowd of our fellow-citizens (despite realising why this is so). But we need to stay strong. Not spout rubbish, like [National Bolshevik Party chairman and MP] Eduard Limonov (who warmly supported the the Kremlin’s moves in the Caucasus and criticised liberals who thought otherwise), saying “isolation from one’s own people is far more dangerous than isolation from the world community”. Not go madly patriotic, like Sergei Dorenko, who declared that “for the first time in years, I am not ashamed of Russia, for the first time in years I am not ashamed of the Kremlin, for the first time in years the president has done what I would have done in his place”.
We should not be surprised that Limonov supports the Kremlin’s actions, that’s par for the course and we have seen it before. One only has to remember how back in 1995 he came out fully in favour of Russian military involvement in Chechnya, saying “for the first time in his presidency, the president has taken steps to ensure stability, to protect our frontiers, and to unite Russians in the Russian state”. He went to to propose “the introduction of censorship for the mass media in all matters concerning the situation in Chechnya and a total prohibition, on pain of severe punishment, on Russian journalists attaching themselves to Dudayev’s forces and reporting from their side, and the dismissal from their posts of any military personnel or civilians for opining that the government’s, president’s or Russian army’s actions in Chechnya were criminal”.
Dorenko, of course, has already received a rebuttal by my friend Andrei Piontkovksy in “Why does he say ‘for the first time’? He used the selfsame words, with the same tone of dignity and fairness, on air in his reports from a blazing Grozny, when he was as a TV hatchet-man for Berezovsky. He was on-side back when Basayev was marching into Daghestan, when the buildings were blown up in Moscow and Volgodonsk, when Grad missiles flew and Putin was carried to power”…
I am prepared to join on the same side of the barricade (though I may not necessarily do so) those standing against the Kremlin’s actions in the Caucasus.However, I will most certainly take my place on the opposite side of the barricade against those who actually support them.

Friday, September 26, 2008

No Genocide - ethnic cleansing of Georgians, PACE says

Council of Europe Parliaments website: Head of a PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) delegation, Luc van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD) comments on the fact finding mission in Georgia at a press conference in Tbilisi at the end of the second part of the visit (24-25 September). He stressed the importance to understand events leading up to the outbreak of war: “This conflict didn’t start on 7 August,” he pointed out”. As well as meetings with the authorities in Tbilisi, the nine-member, cross-party delegation visited villages in South Ossetia and the so-called buffer-zone, and spoke to residents who had experienced bombing during the war as well as looting in its aftermath., one of the few independent media in Russia cites van den Brande after returning from Tskinvali, saying that ”there was no genocide in South Ossetia in August 2008. What have taken place is closer to ethnic cleansing. Though not of South Ossetian nationalities [but Georgians].”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Doctor Who?

BBC World 15.09.2008 have an article about a potential mood-swing against Georgia in the EU:
In a potentially significant swing of expert Western opinion, a leading British think tank has urged that Nato membership should not be granted to Georgia or Ukraine. "The policy of Nato enlargement now would be a strategic error," said Dr John Chipman, Director General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). "There is no case for accelerating membership for Georgia and Ukraine. There is a strong case for a pause," he said in remarks introducing the IISS's annual review of world affairs, the Strategic Survey.

The IISS is highly critical of Georgian actions - in contrast to the support Georgia has received from the US and some European countries, notably Britain. Naturally, if Georgia is faulted, then less blame can be put on Russia, whatever its reaction or, as some hold, its over-reaction.Dr Chipman said that the "balance of evidence suggests that Georgia started this war".
Cogito ergo sum
In order to blame anyone for starting the conflict obne need to look at the timeline and how Russia planned the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia years ago. But does it even matter? Isn’t the question more “Should Russia be allowed to occupy a souvereign country?” Should ethnic cleansing be rewarded with silent approval from the EU? Isn’t the question how to deal with the aggressor Russia in the future, especially in the Arktis, in the Baltics in Crimea, Moldova and in the South America to mention some? As for who started the war: The Russians started it several years ago by provocations, ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia, troop build-up in Abkhazia, armouring of the separatists in both rebel regions, airspace violations, economical sanctions, presecution of Georgians in Russia, among other things, and is only a clear sign of Russias modus operandi in future conflicts. I also want to urge Dr. Chipman to spend a couple of extra hours in his tank wondering why Putin increases Russias defence budget with 27% next year.

Descartes stated: ”I think, therefore I am”. For think-tank Chairman Chipman it obviously might be more appropriate to say: "I think in a tank, therefore I am a bit limited".

“Business as usual”

Etnic cleansing formalized

Eduard Kokoity, the South Ossetian separatist leader, stated that Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) could return to their homes in the villages where they have been subjected to burning, looting and killings by the separatists and Russians ONLY if they abandon Georgian citizenship and become South Ossetians (Civil Georgia, 20.09.2008):

“As far as ethnic Georgians, who lived on the territories occupied by Georgia [referring to Georgian villages inside the breakaway region] are concerned, we are giving them such an opportunity [to return], but let them give up the Georgian citizenship and take the citizenship of the Republic of South Ossetia.” ( Georgia Online 19. september)

The September agreement reached between the Russian and French presidents says that “return of refugees based on the internationally recognized principles and practice of post-conflict settlement” will be discussed during the international discussions. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 17 that although return of displaced persons and refugees was guaranteed under the international law, it “as a rule is a long process.”

Things are lightening up for Putin
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) from Radio Free Europe September 20, 2008 - French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said talks on a Russia-EU pact, postponed after Russia's invasion in Georgia, could resume in early October.

"The EU position is clear: We hope the talks will resume as soon as the provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan are carried out," Fillon told a news conference after talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The pact is due to regulate relations in the energy sector and on trade. This EU deal is important for Putin in order to prohibit the US from forming a united front with the EU to put joint pressure on Moscow.

Russia and France have put aside disagreements over the August war in Georgia in a move to promote bilateral relations, especially in key energy projects, judging by Fillon's statements in Sochi. The final document of the meeting said the two countries will focus on developing relations in the high-tech, energy, and space sectors, including cooperation in developing the Shtokman gas field and a joint project to launch Soyuz spacecrafts from a French launching pad. "We will conduct with Russia a direct and tight dialogue of true partners. Differences happen, indeed, but they should be resolved through a dialogue," he told the gathering of government officials and businessmen co-chaired by Putin. Putin said relations with France were not affected by the Georgian crisis.
"I believe the events in the Caucasus did not affect our cooperation in any way," Putin said. No projects have been put off or suspended between France and Russia in the wake of the Georgia conflict. (Civil Georgia, 21.09.2008)

”Business as usual”
To me this looks like “business as usual”, and that France, like I all the time have believed, not only brokered a poor ceasefire agreement, but also uses this as an opportunity to establish closer ties with Russia as if nothing has happened. But then EU is about business, and not about human interests or ideology. We should bare that in mind too when assessing Germanys statement that “Saakashvili was not little to blame” in the conflict that erupted in august. This is a wrong assumption if you draw the timeline a bit further than the August 2008. In the light of all the provocations, recent military build-up in Abkhazia, sanctions and violations imposed to Georgia, and Georgians in Russia during the period from 2003-2008, this is only a convenient stand opening for German business talks with Russia. It is wise to remember that former chansellor Gerhard Schroeder, now employed by Gazprom and Putins hubby, still have some influential contacts within politics and business in Germany.
Finally Putin also decided to celebrate his budget of 27% increase in military budget by sending a brand new nuclear rocket, thoroughly exploding on the Kamchatka peninsula.

The question is: Who cares?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dead Man Talking

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday called President Saakashvili “a political corpse”. “For us, the present Georgian regime is bankrupt,” he said in an interview broadcast on Russian television on September 2. “President Saakashvili no longer exists in our eyes. He is a political corpse.”( Civil Georgia, 3 Sep.'08 / 12:22)That of course leads us to assess the doings of this dead man Saakashvili. Yes, he has erratic behavior. Yes, he acts funny sometimes. Yes he never stops talking when he should. But really: He has managed to stand upright through the worst nightmare any leader could face through war and occupation and still have a united country behind him in his obvious military defeat. In his naïve and enthusiastic way he also has managed to be a mirror, to hold all the western leaders political gala speeches about democracy and sovereignty up in front of them and in that way captured them in their own rhetoric. He has managed to get Georgia and Ukraine (who knows what happens there with the loose canon Tymoshenko who is flirting with the Russian party these days) a lot closer to NATO membership, got a free trade agreement with the EU, put Russia in a very difficult position, and finally get observators from OSCE in the rebel regions: a goal he has persued for many years.
I’d say that not bad for a corpse.

Monday, September 01, 2008

"New Russian world order: the five principles"

I really think you should read this dystopic scenario, "The Five Principles" Medvedev have presented us today. Paul Reinolds (BBC news summs up the challenge western countries are facing regarding Russia. The article also interprets the 5 principles: Everything is going to be OK as long as Russia gets what it wants. Exactly like the situation we had 65 years ago with The Third Reich.
Europe has to take the confrontation in order to avoid becoming a slave for the Putinocracy, or the Souvereign Democracy which he calls it ( another woprd for dictatorship). Wilhelm Konnander explains on his website what this really means. He even presents a paper worth reading for those who are more than mildly interested in how the Russians try to formalise their FSB oligarchi:

Steinmeiers lack of creativity

Allready in 2006 I considered Germany (Remember Gerhard Schrøder, former Chansellor of Germany is Putins pedigree and one of the chiefs in Gazprom) and France ( Putin and Sarkozy / Chirac have exchanged honors, medallions and champagne frequently) as the weakest link in the EU - Russia relation. it's of no surprice to me that Germany and France now voices an unison aversion against sanctions on Russia. Speaking earlier in the week, the German forreign minister Mr Steinmeier rejected the idea of sanctions, saying "someone should first tell me what a sanction against Russia could be". BBC (
But of course Mr. Steinmeier, I will enlighten you with some humble suggestions. Suggestion 1 I think you are familiar with (otherwise please review "Sanctions imposed by Russia on other countries last 3 years": Import/Export: Georgia-wine/ mineralwater/ airtraffic/ eletricity/gas, Norway - salmon, Ukraine - gas, Moldova - wine..and so on....)
Suggestion 1: Economic sanctions on export ( The easy solution)
Norway has foought a decade against sanctions on salmon imposed by the EU. The sanctions used was extra taxes du to allegations of dumping salmon into the EU. (Now this allegations have been thoroughly rejected by an EU commission)
Suggestion 2: No WTO, G8 and other club memberships.
Suggestion 3: Reevaluation on the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi
Suggestion 4: More rigid VISA rules to EU for people from the Russian federation.
Suggestion 5: Freezing of the many KGB-accounts the current leadership in Moscow personally have in Europe. ( Might take some pressure to convince Switzerland though..)
Suggestion 6: Calculate and reasess the strange knowledge that the quarter of energysupplies from Russia will create disaster in Europe: It means that a substantial amount of oil will not be sold, bringing in much needed money to Russian economy.
Suggestion 7: Impose a review of the "environmental consequences" of the pipeline from Russia through the Easter Sea to Germany, bypassing Poland.
Suggestion 8: Punish EU and US based companies with economic sanctions, (deny governmental contracts) that invest in Russia.
Really, Steimayer. You don't expect me, an average Joe, to come up with this in five minutes, and still tell the world that you havent thought of this? I guess not. You just demonstrate what I have said before: It's the will that is the real problem here. It's the question of money and reelection before the basic principles of democracy.