Dmitry Medvedev joined Vladimir Putin in interpreting world affairs “in a Russian way”. Or is it just a ‘lecture’ in international politics for Sarah Palin?
“Just by getting closer to Russia’s borders, NATO is not becoming stronger,” Medvedev said. “…what if Georgia had a NATO membership action plan? I would not wait for a second in making the decision I made at that point.”
Vladimir Putin also tried his best to defend the war in Georgia:
“What did you want us to do? Wave our penknives in the air and wipe the bloody snot off our noses? When an aggressor comes into your territory, you need to punch him in the face – an aggressor needs to punished.”
I just have some objections about “the aggressor coming in your territory”, Mr Putin, somehow that explanation does not really convince me. Apart from that little “twisted fact”, I particularly like the diplomatic language in this statement.
The Russian President has another interesting analogy:
“Immediately after the events in the Caucasus it occurred to me that August 8 was for us almost what 9/11 was for the United States. There were many useful lessons from 9/11 in the United States. I would like the world to draw its own lessons from what happened. The world changed.”
Yes, the world is always changing. Interesting, first the “genocide” label, now the 9/11 analogy, any deeper meaning or just because it is September? Russia as the victim? And what about these “useful lessons”? I can’t think of ‘many’.
I guess statements like the ones above show that Russia is trying desperately to tell its side of the story. But somehow it always sounds clumsy, undiplomatic, arrogant and based on ‘wrong’ realities (at least in our view). However, any ‘legitimacy’ depends on perceptions abroad. And Moscow is loosing ground there. It becomes obvious that Russia simply has neither the tools nor the allies to dominate a “global information war”.
There has been a lot of talk about the role of information/propaganda during the war in Georgia. The question what information is actually correct has been one of the major problems in analysing the conflict. Robert Amsterdam posted a translation of Propaganda 2.0, a good article on the topic (here the original in German).
Via Paul Goble’s blog I discovered some interesting data from UNOSAT, that is the” the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme”. Basically they released satellite images that were taken during the conflict in the region. Paul Goble explains the implications:
Satellite photographs analyzed by United Nations experts show that only five percent of Tskhinvali was destroyed during the fighting there but that 50 percent of ethnic Georgian villages were destroyed in that region by Ossetian marauders behind Russian lines, a pattern that undercuts Moscow’s claims about what took place. (…) But these photographs taken over the course of August also call into question repeated Russian claims that the Georgian army had destroyed much of the South Ossetian capital – the satellite photographs show only five percent of its buildings having been damaged — and that Georgian forces had carried out a systematic genocide there.
Human Rights Watch also offers some further explanations here.
I am pretty sure that we will see more of this kind of data in the future, also for other conflicts. Satellite technology has been developed rapidly and quality improved considerably in the last years. And when free services such as Google Earth already show quite detailed images, what about high quality, high resolution satellite images frequently used by governments? Propaganda and the spread of false information will definitely get more difficult.
I also wonder whether the EU Satellite Centre has similar evidence regarding the conflict in Georgia? Never heard of this EU agency? Here the short mission statement:
The mission of the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) is to support the decision-making of the European Union by providing analysis of satellite imagery and collateral data. The EUSC is an Agency of the Council of the European Union. It is one of the key institutions for European Union’s Security and Defence policy, and the only one in the field of space.
At least with that in mind the proposed EU “fact finding mission” in Georgia could get quite interesting…