A Russian minister has paid an unannounced visit to Norwegian owned Svalbard, much to the Norwegian government’s annoyance.
But said Russian minister also seemed to be suggesting Norway does not really have sovereignty over Svalbard. However that is not really what the Svalbard Treaty says, not that the Kremlin is known for worrying over much about such niceties.
First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov contested the full sovereignty of Norway to Svalbard. Norway previously demanded an explanation after a visit to the archipelago Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is part of the EU sanctions list
Under the Svalbard Treaty the peninsula is not supposed to host bases but is not actually ‘demilitarised’ as such, so now might be a nice time for the Norwegian army to send a company on an extended posting up north.
Rather than engaging Russia in a futile pre-modern discourse about race and ethnicity, Ukrainians should integrate into multicultural, multiracial, tolerant Europe.
As for Russia, it would have done a lot better if after the collapse of the Soviet Union it had declared itself a new nation, born on the day it rose up to defeat the hardline communist coup in August 1991. Had it started from a blank page, the way the United States did in 1776, it might have freed itself of its damaging 19th century imperial hangups.
– Alexei Bayer
When the Kremlin says something like this…
In an interview in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the Russian ambassador to Denmark, Mikhail Vanin, said he did not think Danes fully understood the consequences of joining the programme.
“If that happens, Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles,” Vanin told the newspaper.
What exactly are people supposed to hear? What I am hearing is…
“Yes I know you would rather spend your taxpayer’s money on outreach programmes for gay radical muslim single parent transgendered climate change threatened whales, but we really really want you to get those defence budgets up to the NATO required 2% figure!”
What reaction are they expecting to overt threats pretty much explicitly saying “if you, as a NATO nation, assist NATO with the deployment of a defensive weapon system within NATO borders, we will point nukes at you!”
Might this not be a tad counter-productive when the Russian Troll Army are tirelessly trying to convince assorted useful idiots to push the line that “Russia is no threat to anyone, honest guv!”…?
I guess the the Russian ambassador to Denmark did not get the memo
One of the oddities (well, it may not be that odd) of our time is when people who wax lyrical about liberty or the evils of oppression of certain kinds seem to be, well, rather weak at the knees when certain “tough guy” rulers flex their muscles in ways that seem hard to justify by reference to any sort of principle other than naked territorial aggression.
And sometimes defenders of these “tough guys” (or women) are so appalled at what they see as the behaviour of the “other side” in a dispute (such as the European Union or the current leadership of much of the West) that they want to make excuses for such tough guys’ actions, often excusing behaviour that one might assume they would, in other cases, condemn or at least question. . There has been a fair amount of “we had it coming and you cannot really blame X or Y since they were were brutalised by us” sort of thinking long before 9/11. (People sometimes excused Germany’s aggressions in the 1930s by invoking Versailles in a knee-jerk fashion, and for all I know, the Ancients were indulged in similar ways.)
A recent example of this sort of behaviour comes from Peter Hitchens, a columnist who, for those who haven’t encountered him before, is almost self-parodic in his scolding right wingery. (He’s the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens). Peter Hitchens is a lapsed Marxist and I sometimes wonder just how deep any conversion away from that intellectual foolishness has ever taken place. Anyway, it appears Mr Hitchens has big man love for Vladimir Putin, so to speak:
Col. Putin, he says, is at odds with the West because he feels unloved. By us, that is. This is an injustice Peter has set out to correct, sticking out for his bit of rough. Vladimir, according to his swain Peter, is like a murderer who, according to his lawyer, only killed because his Mummy was a whore, he never knew his Daddy and the flat-screen TV set in his room was only a 19-inch.
Thus the object of Peter’s affection is only raping the Ukraine the way he previously raped Chechnia, Georgia and his own people because “We have been rubbing Russia up the wrong way for nearly 25 years.” Had we been rubbing Russia up the right way, Col. Putin wouldn’t be murdering everyone he dislikes, including, incidentally, dozens of Peter’s Russian colleagues. He wouldn’t have blown up blocks of flats in his own country to provoke aggression against Chechnia. He wouldn’t have turned Russia into a giant crime syndicate. And he wouldn’t have waged nuclear war in London by using polonium to murder Litvinenko.
This broadside comes from some fellow called Alexander Boot, of whom I had not heard before. Judging by some other postings, I suspect I won’t be in much agreement with Mr Boot about a lot of issues, but he’s right here.
Some weeks ago, when the issue of Russia’s activities vis a vis the Ukraine came up, one commenter sniffed that we libertarians should not be so beastly about Russia, since for all its brutality/corruption/etc, that we must focus our efforts more on Islamic fanaticism, and that Russia, because of its brutality under Col Putin, was a sort of useful, if rather unwholesome, ally. I don’t fully buy that analysis on even the most hardnosed basis, and on a more highminded view, think that genuine defenders of liberty and justice should raise the bar a bit. Part of the dislike of the Putin regime and what it represents on my part comes from a disappointment in what now holds sway in Moscow. It could and should have been far better than this. Much better.
Like so much electronic chaff dropped out of the back of a Tupolev bomber to confuse an incoming heat-seeking missile, the idea that there are multiple interpretations of the truth has become the founding philosophy of state disinformation in Putin’s Russia, designed to confuse those who would seek out the truth with multiple expressions of distracting PR chaff. The tactic is to create as many competing narratives as possible. And, amid all the resultant hermeneutic chaos, to quietly slip away undetected. It is a tactic straight out of Mr Putin’s KGB playbook from the 1970s. Generate a plurality of narratives, so the truth can be obscured.
– Guardian editorial. Yes I know, chaff only confuses radar-guided missiles, you need flares for heat-seekers, but hey, this is the Guardian after all. Mangled metaphor aside, this is a very good editorial that will enrage all the right people.
Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on the northern end of the Moscvoretsky Bridge, directly in front of the second closest to the camera of the green lamp-posts. In the background: St Basil’s cathedral on the right, the wall of the Kremlin on the left, Red Square in the centre. A more dramatic backdrop for an assassination in Moscow is hard to imagine.
… and twenty years ago today, TV journalist Vlad Listyev was also murdered in Moscow. No one was ever convicted. And there was investigative reporter Paul Klebnikov in 2004, no convictions. Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, with the alleged murderers convicted but not whoever ordered the hit.
No doubt opposition leader Boris Nemtsov‘s assassination will be put to good use though. Perhaps some expendable dupes can be found and somehow linked to the Ukraine because, well just because. I expect we will soon see arguments appearing like “Putin is so smart he would not have a political enemy killed in a well policed area near the Kremlin, so therefore it must be the
CIA/ International Zionist Conspiracy/Ukrainians”.
Nice work by Bellingcat showing what anyone not wilfully blind or on the Kremlin’s payroll already figured out, that Russian forces have been firing across the border into Ukraine.
If Russia now presumes to dictate what should be the constitutional order in Ukraine and if he has gained the assent of the German chancellor and the French president, Landsbergis continues, then the world has the right, even the obligation to ask, “when will you begin to observe the [Russian] Constitution, Mr. Putin?”
The Lithuanian leader said that he was disappointed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently accepted Putin’s “puppet theater” when she suggested that the Kremlin leader had put pressure on the separatists to sign the agreement. To say that is also to give them a status independent of Moscow which they do not deserve.
– Paul Goble discussing the views of Vytautas Landsbergis
Oh good, a peace deal has been hammered out for the Ukraine.
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France announced that a ceasefire would begin on 15 February. The deal also includes weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges, but key issues remain to be settled.
… and in other news that is no doubt unrelated…
Around 50 tanks, 40 missile systems and 40 armoured vehicles crossed overnight into east Ukraine from Russia via Izvaryne border crossing into the separatist Luhansk region, a Kiev military spokesman said on Thursday.
Thank goodness we have Putin’s word for it that Russia is not sending troops and large quantities of equipment into the Ukraine as part of a barely disguised invasion, for a moment then I thought there might be vastly less to this ‘deal’ than met the eye.
Putin’s Russia has crossed a Rubicon: it now has sanctioned the Anti-Maidan Movement, a domestic version of Hitler’s storm troopers, and thus created a monster that almost certainly will engage in pogroms against one group or another in the future, according to Moscow commentator Matvey Ganapolsky.
Despite Putin’s ratings in the polls and the power of various state agencies, the Kremlin leader has clearly decided that it needs another weapon to control society and direct it along the lines it wants, and he clearly could think of nothing better than to adopt one of the “attributes of the Third Reich.”
“The times have passed” when the Putin regime used informal groups of bullies against those it doesn’t like or approve of, the Moscow commentator says. Now, those bullies are being officially recognized and legalized, they are holding press conferences, and they are “talking but the salvation of the Motherland.”
As Ganapolsky reports, “the new Russian storm troopers call themselves ‘the Anti-Maidan Movement” and have ostensibly been created by the Militant Brotherhood, the Union of Afghanistan Veterans, the Central Cossack Forces and the Night Wolves, thus allowing the Kremlin plausible deniability about who and what is really behind them.
– Paul Goble
A few months ago, Nigel Farage, the grinning leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, in one of his many contributions to the gaiety of nations, said – about the time of the annexation by Russia of Crimea – that he “admired” Vladimir Putin. Farage said that he did not admire the goals of VP, oh no, but he did have a sort of admiration for the ruthless determination of the man. (One wonders whether Farage rather liked the idea of having the power to bump off opponents and over-inquisitive journalists. Politicians who grin as maniacally as he does make me nervous.) Those who must abide by the messiness and compromises of Western liberal democracy can sometimes, no doubt, dream of the sort of ruthless power wielded by a Putin, Stalin or a Mao. (We tend to forget, by the way, that even a supposedly tough politician such as a Reagan or Thatcher were more hemmed in by circumstances and debate than some of their more fervent admirers and detractors care to admit.)
Alas, it appears that the image of Putin as this ruthless, chess-playing genius wrongfooting silly old Cameron, Merkel, and the chap with the funny moonface from France is not quite standing up to scrutiny. Here’s a report by Bloomberg:
“The foundations on which Vladimir Putin built his 15 years in charge of Russia are giving way. The meltdown of the ruble, which has plunged 18 percent against the dollar in the last two days alone, is endangering the mantra of stability around which Putin has based his rule. While his approval rating is near an all-time high on the back of his stance over Ukraine, the currency crisis risks eroding it and undermining his authority, Moscow-based analysts said.
In a surprise move today, the Russian central bank raised interest rates by the most in 16 years, taking its benchmark to 17 percent. That failed to halt the rout in the ruble, which has plummeted to about 70 rubles a dollar from 34 as oil prices dived by almost half to below $60 a barrel. Russia relies on the energy industry for as much as a quarter of economic output, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Dec. 9 report.
Now might also be a good time to remind ourselves of the “curse of natural resources”.
It would be worth wondering what are the odds that Putin can last a lot longer in power. That said, a sobering thought is that when regimes are in deep trouble, they can do desperate, crazy things, as Argentina did in 1982 by invading the Falklands. If I were a planner for NATO right now, I’d be having a nervous Christmas and New Year ahead of me.