Tag Archives: Russia

Medvedev and Putin explain the world

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”.

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Propaganda and Satellite Imagery in Georgia

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…

Kosmolinks #18

  • This looks interesting. Don’t forget the other 5 parts! “Kevin Cyron, an American living in the Russian Federation who recently graduated with a Masters degree in Sociology from St. Petersburg State University, has agreed to Russia Blog publishing his thesis titled, “The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism (doc)“.

  • More on the difficult relationship between Britain and the EU: “Britain is becoming semi-detached from the rest of the EU – and an establishment in denial of the political nature of the European project is to blame, argues Peter Sutherland”. Also read the response by Certain ideas of Europe here.

  • An opinion piece by Lisbeth Kirk: “In a word, the danger is not so much that the EU is perceived as undemocratic but that it is seen as increasingly boring and irrelevant.” She continues by asking “What if the US were like the EU?”

  • The European Commission will publish a progress report later this month, hopefully with some clear statements regarding corruption. A strong statement could be to trigger the safeguard clauses…

  • The Black Sea region, once on the periphery of European consciousness, has become the next frontier in transatlantic strategic thinking in terms of energy security, trade, migration and other key policy areas. In this volume leading international experts examine the new dynamics of the Black Sea region, including perspectives from the region, trans-regional issues such as energy security, cross-border conflicts, democracy, civil rights, the rule of law, and future relations with Russia, the EU, NATO and other key actors.

  • EU – Russia relations: A period of stagnation (2003–2006), followed by a period of depression (2006-present)…

  • The formation of a new government in Serbia offers modest hope of progress in its path to European Union membership, say Daniel Korski & Ivan Zverzhanovski.

  • Is the label “euroscepticism” misleading? The idea is that labels such “anti-EU” or “anti-Europe” would be more suitable to describe “Eurosceptics” since most people that would put themselves in this category actually oppose any Europe wide approach. Very interesting thought!

  • Interesting essay by Saskia Sassen: “It is surprising to see the high price in terms of ethical and economic costs that powerful ‘liberal democracies’ seem willing to pay in order to control extremely powerless people who only want a chance to work. Immigrants and refugees have to be understood as a historical vanguard that signals major ‘unsettlements’ in both sending and receiving countries.”

  • Populist movements are a threat not because they raise the issue of direct democracy, but because they advocate nationalist mobilisation based on xenophobia, writes Antony Todorov. Given the failure of the leftist projects of the twentieth century, it is telling that far-right populism is more anti-democratic in the new democracies of central and eastern Europe than in western Europe. Is populism identical to the crisis of democracy or rather a symptom of it?

Kosmolinks #15

  • “A fashionable idea is circulating among Balkan-watchers: “Belgianisation”. This is not meant to suggest complex federalism. Instead it implies that different nationalities whom history has left sharing a state are at last behaving like Belgians, reaching for ballot boxes and courts, rather than guns and bombs.”
  • It is gonna be a close race. And it seems that No voters don’t know anything about the treaty: “The reason most often cited by No voters is that they don’t know what they are voting for or they don’t understand the treaty – with 30 per cent of No voters listing this as the main reason for their decision.” I have argued before that referendums and uninformed publics do not go well together, moreover referenda over several hundred pages of legal text will never cause any enthusiasm… Let’s see on Thursday…

  • The logo of the French EU presidency…it is actually quite ugly…

  • “The west could be sleepwalking into a war on the European continent. Georgia, which burst into view with a moving display of democratic ambition during the Rose Revolution of 2003, is teetering on the brink of war with Russia over the separatist Georgian enclave of Abkhazia. The outcome of this crisis – involving a fledgling democracy with aspirations to join Nato and the European Union – will help determine the rules of the post-cold-war security system. But western diplomats are not sending strong enough signals to either side.”

Kosmolinks #14

  • The state of the elites in Eastern Europe. It seems as if especially anti-corruption agencies and justice ministries are very reform resistant. Or as the Economist puts it: “Yet from the Baltic to the Balkans, even politicians facing the most startling accusations of corruption seem not to suffer at the polls. A bit like Italy, really.”

  • “A survey made amongst Romanian judges showed that most of them don’t consider corruption as being a serious crime. “It’s not like you kill someone. And how can I sentence someone to many years of prison for corruption, when I have to bribe myself nurses and doctors if I go to the hospital”, said a judge as quoted by a German expert who ran the survey.”

  • A Chatham House Report that sets out ten key policy recommendations for the EEAS.

  • A customized google search drawing on 172 websites (at the moment), including EU Blogs, Industry Federations, NGOs, Think Tanks, etc. Brought to you by the guys behind “Blogactiv”. It is certainly an interesting tool, however, it would be very helpful to have access to the list of these 172 websites… otherwise it is a bit difficult to suggest new content!

  • Another critical analysis of the developments during 8 years of Putin written by two former ministers.

  • Indeed an argument that should not be forgotten despite all the shortcomings of the EU…

  • Interesting but lenghty think tank paper…

  • After 18 months of opposition, the 27 European Union member states finally agreed to launch strategic partnership talks with Russia. But how did the EU manage to get its act together? – A Lithuanian diplomat explains the procedure: “Now all of our concerns have been put into the annexes, we are happy.”

  • The latest “news service” discovery and it looks as if it could become my favourite news aggregation page…

  • “This issue of the Russian Analytical Digest analyzes Gazprom’s strategy toward foreign markets. It considers Gazprom’s perspective on international markets and examines the natural gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, the publication includes statistics on Gazprom sales and the Russian–Ukrainian natural gas trade.”

  • Undergraduate essay on the concept of sovereignty with an emphasis on “internal sovereignty” with chapters on history, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, French Revolution, Soviet Revolution, National Socialists, Liberal democracy…

The new cold war

Edward Lucas talks about his new book (The new cold war – How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West) at Google HQ:

Kosmolinks #12

The “Kosmolinks” are finally back, and with the help of diigo I will try to make it a weekly feature! You can also watch and navigate through a slide show of all live pages of “Kosmolinks”: Just click here to start the “WebSlides”!