Day: June 2, 2006

The G8 Balance

In a two-part Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal essay on the run-up to the G8 summit, which opens in a few weeks' time, moderate Washington analyst Nikolai Zlobin comments that in Russia (my tr.)

According to opinion polls conducted by the Levada Center, almost 72% of our citizens consider that the USA presents a threat to Russia's security, and 23.5 believe that the main threat from the US consists in the propagation of its influence on the republics of the former USSR. And the policy of limited containment in Eurasia and Asia, which is already balancing on the edge of a limited confrontation between the two powers, the mutual conflict between them which is at present limited by the specific geographical framework of some of the post-Soviet lands, will be strengthened. While the boundaries of limited confrontation will inevitably be enlarged, embracing new regions both in Eurasia and beyond it.

While Zlobin takes a positive view of the forthcoming summit, supposing that "any, even unproductive dialogue is far more productive than confrontation," he wonders whether the present Russian leadership will be capable of taking advantage of the opportunity it offers.

Al-Qaeda Goes Mainstream

Writing in the new issue of Terrorism Focus , Jamestown analyst Chris Heffelfinger notes in connection with Osama bin Laden's latest audio/video tape, presented by the so-called "al-Sahab Foundation for Media Production":

In many aspects […] the presentation and production value of the audio statement are of greater importance than its content (the full audio/video statement can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.jamestown.org/docs/OBL-24May06.rmvb). As one can see, the audio file is accompanied by a photo of the al-Qaeda leader with English translations in subtitles throughout the brief talk. It also bears the statement's title (Shahadat al-Haqq, a Testimony to the Truth) in English, and includes a logo for al-Sahab. The style of the audio file is immediately reminiscent of clips from the most popular Arab media channels. It is clear that this is a step toward legitimizing the appearance of bin Laden (and second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, whose statements have also been produced by al-Sahab) by presenting their communications in the style of other mainstream media outlets.

Considering the production capabilities and increased control of the public communications process by using al-Sahab media, bin Laden seems to be at an advantage both in terms of public relations and his ability to operate his al-Qaeda network.