Friday, November 21, 2008

Major update of my Georgia website

I am happy to finally present a major update to my website DISCOVER GEORGIA. It's a redesign with a lot more pictures, thus a bit heavy loaded. It includes presentation of a whole new range of destinations within Georgia, a new section about food and general some more "village life". I think it can be interesting for those of you wanting to know and see more of Georgia than the destruction of Gori. Georgia is so much more. I have tried to capture some of it during my traveling.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

ANALYSIS - Why EU is more negative to Georgia.

Both Estonia’s Minister of defense Jaak Aaviksoo and Georgian opposition politician Nino Burjanadze has stated that some EU countries look more unfavorable at Georgia now. : “We have to admit that the trustworthiness of Tbilisi has suffered. Some countries clearly see that Georgia acted in an unpredictable way,” Aaviksoo said.

"There are of course many reasons behind this trend, including the one involving Russia’s active work in this direction,” Burjanadze said while speaking at a daily program of Tbilisi-based FM radio station, Ucnobi, which is simulcast by the Kavkasia TV.(Georgia Online)
This has also been repeated by Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration.

I have also noticed this trend, and the negative spin does not only origin from the “usual suspects”, the official Germany and France, but also from certain influential media. So what’s really happening? Why this sudden turn, if it indeed has been so sudden?

Nothing has changed
First I would like to bring to mind that the situation and the facts in the conflict isn’t changed: David L. Philips a senior fellow and the director of the Forum on Georgia and the Caucasus at the Atlantic Council of the United States sums up the facts in an interview with Radio Free Europe Nov. ”Let's make no mistake about it. The events of August 7th and 8th didn't occur in a vacuum. There was a consistent effort by Russia over several years to provoke an armed conflict with Georgia. Clearly, there were miscalculations made on behalf of the Georgian government, but we need to be crystal clear. Russia was the aggressor; it attacked a sovereign state in violation of the international law and the UN Charter”.

Der Spiegels nonexisting OSCE report

Der Spiegel, a former trustworthy German magazine, spent two pages describing a very negative (towards Georgia) report that was about to be released from OSCE. Of course they never mentioned that this report only existed in the journalists fantasy, and among Der Spiegel’s owners, Bertelsmann, which is well known for their hard headed liberalistic political campaigning in Germany. OSCE strongly denied such report ever existed the same day Der Spiegel started to promote the upcoming article. That went past most mainstream media like the leading Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten & Dagbladet. They printed the non-existing allegations towards Georgia without hesitating a second. It must be said that Norwegian journalist basically works on cut & paste basis handling politics and conflicts abroad, and happily printed the “news” with their own spin, still regarding Der Spiegel to be a serious magazine like it used to be under their former well reputed ownership of Mr. Augstein.

Think-Tank Chairman Chipman’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Then the English think-tank doctor Chipman enters the scene through a BBC article 15.09.2008 about a potential mood-swing against Georgia in the EU, (already?):

”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".

If you “google” Think-Thank Chipman you will find that a substantial amount of his publications are published by Bertelsmann. Business as usual?

BBC is allowed to enter South Ossetia with critical views

Another example: A couple of weeks ago a Norwegian journalist from Norways second largest TV channel TV2 managed to get permission from South Ossetian authorities to access to South Ossetia with a TV team. This journalist, Øystein Bogen, is critical to Russia, and was stopped at a borderpoint west of Khazbegi by Russian troops, leaving his official South Ossetian welcome committee no other choice than to return home without their invited guest. He had to return to Tbilisi. But this week BBC managed timely seen in context of the British U-turn (calling for a resume of the negotiations EU –Russia trade agreement), to get access to South Ossetia in order to make a critical reportage with a South Ossetian angle to the events. The reportage was aired on BBC World Saturday at 20.30. It was not a very critical reportage regarding the Russians deeds in the area, but still some critic concerning destruction of Georgian villages and ethnic cleansing was politely raised, I’ll give him that. The reporter was granted access to all witnesses he could get hold of, still it was less than conclusive about what actually had happened. It is far too soon to draw any conclusions. In fact Illarionov, Putins former economical adviser has been inside South Ossetia, and says that there is no eyewitnesses around, only people that have heard things from the neighbor who heard it from another neighbor. Besides a lot of the Tskhinvali population was even evacuated to North Ossetia before the shelling begun. But the impression left behind after the reportage was a 1. A reckless Georgian attack on civilians. 2. The Russian forces were not prepared for an attack. 3. Russian troops didn’t enter the Roki tunnel before late august Exactly the same as the Russian propaganda machine to a greater extent communicates constantly. But the reportage didn’t prove anything of the kind, it only hinted about it, and left the topic open for speculation. A nice touch. What did BBC have to promise the Russian authorities in order to get there exclusively as the first media?

What is the goal?

In order to get something constructive out of this, we need to look at what the EU want to accomplish: Clearly to maneuver out of an unpleasant situation, and also give legitimacy for abandoning basic principles about defending democracy, and their collective U-turn regarding their 1. September minister meetings demand for Russia to withdraw from Georgia before trade negotiations between Russia and EU was resumed. Second: Georgia will not be able to restore their credibility whatever they do. It doesn’t suit France, England, Germany and Italy. They want “business as usual” and not the Georgian problem on their table. They want oil and gas, and no ideological or “naïve” principles about democracy in their way. EU is after all a monumental business construction with a bureaucracy to handle it. They will gain from discrediting Georgia in order to avoid the growing problem with Russia not giving in. I believe there has been a strong WESTERN campaign right from the beginning to achieve just that, because EU had no joint policy on the matter, and were bound to loose a struggle with Russia, mainly because of their dependence of Russian oil and gas.

There is no Russian propaganda.

It is not, as I have shown earlier in this article (like Burjanadze claims), Russian propaganda that drives this negative attitude. The Russian propaganda is far to primitive to have any real impact. Besides, the Russians don’t HAVE to use propaganda because EU does their propaganda for them: When journalists access their governmental and political sources the sources imply a slight doubt, a small hint that “not everybody in EU think that Saakashvili acted rational, and so on. “You know there’s someone to blame in Tbilisi too…”. “ Saakashvili is unpredictable..”. This way the sources influence the media to create an opinion that can legitimize their lack of action. The sources – the politicians - then use the public talk about a “mood swing” to get off the hook by focusing on simple things like “Who started it the or august”, the least interesting point in this conflict, instead of debating more difficult matters of principles. They use the medias need for simplification to avoid the outrageous fact that they must accept that Russia have violated the UN charter and invaded a sovereign state in order to “do business as usual”.There is no Russian propaganda campaign. It’s a negative EU campaign taking place where powerful business interests together with central politicians have an agenda: Business as usual. Follow the money, is a good advice.

Who benefits from the media coverage?
Not Georgia but both EU and Russia, even when Russia has been conducting ethnic cleansing of thousands, violated the UN charter, invaded a sovereign country, and not complied to the brokered ceasefire agreement. No consequences what so ever for Russia. For Georgia: No MAP, because most EU countries also are members of NATO, “an increasing feeling of instability, unpredictable, lack of trustworthiness. This is a way to avoid taking responsibility for basic human and political principles. This is the way the EU countries gives legitimacy to their U-turn and “business as usual” policy. Dr Chipman, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes already of september that the "balance of evidence suggests that Georgia started this war", while Bertelsman , printer of Chipmans books and articles, owner of Der Spiegel, prints the conclusion from the none existing OSCE report.

Finally the EU saves its moral skin by donating money to reconstruct Georgia, which also looks great in the media.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A New Position?

According to Georgia Online today, European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso said after the Brussels summit (commenting on the Lithanian and Polish protest against resuming the EU-Russia trade negotiations) that he had told the Polish and Lithuanian partners that it is “better for us to have a united European position when we speak with Russia, a position which is perhaps not 100 percent of what you would have wanted, than to have three or four positions from Europe when it talks to Russia".
So, is it going to be the kneeling position? Or the arms-around-the-shoulder -position? I am sure this will comfort the Baltics and the Poland a lot to. To me it seems like just another pointless, or should I say reckless act from the French president. After the Swedish prime minister Renfeld walked out of the EU-negotiations about EU's new financial approach in anger over Sarkozy's rather provocative approach, I guess The French president really needed to create turmoil with the Lithuania and Poland by opely changing his views on wheater Russia had fulfilled its commitments on the ceasefire agreement or not.

Business as usual with the gentlemen at the Court.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Growing Russian Nationalism

According to the NTB 04.11.2008: From January 2008 to October 2008 a total of 113 has been killed and 340 wounded in racial motivated attacks by Russian fascists. The majority of the attacked were workers from the Caucasus region or Central Asia. That is 1,5 times more killed than in the whole of 2007.

Putins nationalism is obviously growing among the less intelligent Russians, creating exactly the same climate we saw in Germany during the nineteen thirties. Then it was the Jews being hit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Putin by Proxy

Medvedev had his big day today addressing the Usual Suspects in his State of the Nation speech: “US started the war in Georgia”, “US is responsible for the financial crisis”. His present for newly elected US president Obama was a shiny new missile battery in Kaliningrad, and a promise that Russia never would pull out of Caucasus. As a grand finale he suggested that the presidential period in Russia should be prolonged from 4 to 6 years counting from the next president Putin.

No Change we can believe in, then.

That is also the case with the EU. Britain has, in a spectacular U-turn decided to allow France to lead the European Union back into normal relations with Russia. So the message to Russia is clear: "You can perform ethnic cleansing and occupy your neighboring countries whenever it migh suit you. We don't care. Kind regards EU". I think we have gotten a serious problem with principles and competence among politicians in Europe. This is not politics, it is administration.