Month: November 2006

Ban on Display of Nazi and Soviet Symbols

Via Ynet :

The Estonian government on Thursday approved a change to the penal code that would ban the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols and flags, saying the hammer and sickle and swastika both incite hatred.

Both the Nazi and Soviet regimes occupied Estonia at various times from 1941 to 1991, leaving bitter memories behind.

When Extremes Collide

In the Spectator (free reg. required), David Selbourne looks at the disturbing ascendancy of unreason in the blogosphere, both right and left, and considers that some sobering up may be required:

The feeling of world-endingness, of apocalypse, is rife on the sites of the ‘right’. For some, it is ‘the West’ which is done for. ‘We have allowed Islam in. We have sentenced ourselves to death’ is its voice. For others, it is Islam which faces Armageddon. ‘The final day of Islam will arrive very soon’ and it ‘will be vanquished utterly’, a blog prophet promises in biblical tones. Or another American civil war is foreseen. ‘If it breaks out,’ declares a would-be recruit, ‘my only comfort is that the left will be killed first, since most of them don’t carry guns.’

Moreover, just as the Islamist can assert that ‘we will not rest from our jihad until we have blown up the White House’, so non-Muslim terminators look to the day of a nuclear exchange. ‘I just hope the nuke attack comes soon. Let it be on the East Coast where it belongs,’ prays one; ‘I hope I wake up to Washington a glowing hole in the morning,’ prays another, almost in the same terms as the most violent of jihadists. ‘We would be able to fight back even with millions dead in our cities,’ predicts a third, ‘then we’d go get the oil fields.’

In this war of words as well as of worlds, reason is under pressure on all sides. The true complexity of things is being given short shrift by ‘experts’ and by vox pop alike: after all, London is no more ‘Londonistan’ than Israel is a ‘cancer’ and America the ‘Great Satan’. In particular, frustration at America’s reverses is driving many round the bend, if the torrent of opinion in the blogosphere is a guide. Or, as one poster demanded to know, ‘What the hell is our oil doing under their sand?’

Litvinenko, Russia, and the West

Mark Pettifor has sent the text of the following open letter:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

National Review more or less has asked the question recently “What has happened to the conservative movement?” American Spectator has yet to mention (to my knowledge) anything of the Litvinenko murder, which could play out to be a far-reaching event regarding our policy toward Russia. I mention these two magazines because they are probably viewed by most as central publications of the modern conservative movement. (I am sending this to many who work at each of those magazines.)

While domestic policy and politics is covered in these magazines with the same degree of detail as can be seen on the latest HDTV screen, discussions of foreign policy and geopolitical analysis of what is going on in places other than the Middle East is somewhat lacking. Arguably, events in Russia and China and other “non-Western” regions will have more profound effects on America and the West in the near future than anything coming from Islam, Al Qaeda, or even Iran (who would not have legs to stand on were it not for Russia).  These effects will not be good ones.

One reason why the conservative movement ignores such things is that it has its own “utopian vision” of the world, which does not make it conservative in the sense that Russell Kirk and others like him defined it. It has become an ideology – one of spreading democracy and free market capitalism everywhere, in the hopes that peace and security will follow, and that all future wars will be won or lost on the battlefield of ideas, and not on real battlefields of blood and guns and sacrifice.

Almost all conservatives believe that Communism has already lost on the battlefield of ideas, and that freedom and capitalism have won. While that is obviously not true (just look at Central and South America for starters), even worse is the assumption that because of this supposed victory, a real war on a real battlefield with those who still cling to such “outdated” and “discredited” ideas will never again happen. This is starting to become an indefensible position, as not only are countries still dropping like dominoes to Communism and Marxism, but ones thought “immunized” from such ideas are seemingly rising from the dead and going back to their old ways (Russia).

To see the trouble ahead (which conservatives are obligated to do, if trouble does indeed exist), we must admit some errors of judgment. I am hoping that the following two articles will help you ponder what those errors of judgment may be. Here are the links:

Why Poisoned Kremlin Can’t Be Trusted – by Caspar Weinberger

A New Methodology For Wet Affairs – by J. R. Nyquist

It’s time for conservatives to take a hard look at their presumptions regarding the Cold War and the “End of History.” If we keep going on as if the only enemy is Islamism, and that past enemies are dead and gone, we will be ill-prepared to defend the West against what may possibly be the greatest onslaught it has ever faced.

With highest regards,

Mark Pettifor

Bush-Ilves Press Conference



National Bank of Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia

November 28, 2006

11:00 A.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT ILVES: (As translated.) Again, I’m very happy to greet the President of the United States, George W. Bush, in our fall weather here in Tallinn. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t better than it is, but that’s how it happens. This visit and these very open meetings that we have had, President Bush has had with me, as well as with the Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, truly prove that Estonia and the United States are close allies.

One of the main messages today was the message of freedom to those states who, like us, have chosen the way to democracy and freedom and will not bow to pressure from any of their neighbors, and by these countries we mean Georgia, Ukraine, the Balkan States. We should not hesitate to support these states. And we should not falter when any of our allies are losing hope or faith, and we will help them in every way we can.

We will also not falter in making Afghanistan more secure, where Estonia soldiers are helping to protect the welfare of Afghan citizens, again, together, hand in hand with the United States. NATO’s greatest foreign operation in the post-Cold War period, it is the greatest challenge of the postwar period. It is a challenge not only for the neighbors of these countries, but also for the whole world, as was proved by September the 11th.

We are hoping to strengthen the ties between European countries and the United States. Conflicts between us are minor or nonexistent, and any issues will be easy to resolve. President Bush’s visit to Tallinn is taking place at a time immediately before the summit of NATO in Riga. This summit shows how far the Baltic States have developed and how strong the support of our allies is for us. We want to give a strong message at the summit, and that is that the doors to NATO are not closed and this is becoming a very mature, good organization.

And I want to tell Mr. Bush, welcome to Estonia.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I’m proud to be the first sitting American President to visit Estonia. I’m really glad I came. Yours is a beautiful country and a strong friend and ally of the United States. I appreciate the warm welcome I’ve received. My only regret is that Laura is not with me. She’s receiving the Christmas tree at the White House. She sends her very best, Mr. President.

We had a lot — we had a really good discussion. The President and I spent a lot of time talking about the issue of freedom and liberty and peace. I appreciate very much the leadership Estonia is providing inside NATO.

We talked about how our nations can cooperate to achieve common objectives and promote common values, values such as human dignity and human rights and the freedom to speak and worship the way one sees fit.

Estonia is a strong ally in this war on terror. I appreciate so very much the President’s understanding of the need to resist tyranny. Of all the people in the world who understand what tyranny can do it’s the Estonian people. I appreciate very much the fact that Estonia is helping others resist tyranny and realize their dreams of living in a free society. In Afghanistan, Estonians are serving as a part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in a dangerous province that the extremists, the Taliban, seeks to control. I appreciate the fact that your forces are serving bravely, Mr. President. The people of Estonia need to be proud of their military. It’s a fine military. And the commitment of your people is important to helping secure the peace.

I appreciate the troops that you have sent to Iraq. I also understand Estonian soldiers have been wounded and two soldiers have given their lives. We hold their families in our hearts. We lift them up in prayer. And Americans are grateful to be serving alongside such brave allies.

Estonia is sharing its democratic experience with other nations. You have made a very successful transition to democracy, and you’re helping other nations do the same, and that is a vital contribution to world peace. I appreciate the fact that you’re training leaders from Georgia to Moldova to the Ukraine. I appreciate the assistance programs you’re providing to the Afghan people. I also appreciate the fact that you work with your neighbors and through the European Union to promote freedom in this region and around the globe.

This morning the Prime Minister and I had a chance to meet, as well, and he introduced me to some of your citizens who are helping to build democracies, and I thanked them for their work.

We also discussed how Estonia has built a strong economy and raised the standard of living for the people. I appreciate the fact that you got a flat tax, you got a tax system that’s transparent and simple. I also am amazed by the e-governance you have here in your country. You really are on the leading edge of change, and you’re setting a really strong example.

We talked about the fact that Estonians want to be able to travel to America visa-free. Both the President and the Prime Minister made this a important part of our discussions. They made it clear to me that if we’re an ally in NATO, people ought to be able to come to our country in a much easier fashion. It is clear to me that this is an important issue for the Estonian people, as well. I appreciate their leaders being straightforward and very frank. There’s no question where they stand.

I am pleased to announce that I’m going to work with our Congress and our international partners to modify our visa waiver program. It’s a way to make sure that nations like Estonia qualify more quickly for the program and, at the same time, strengthen the program’s security components.

The new security component of the visa waiver program would use modern technology to improve the security regime for international travelers to and from the United States. In other words, we need to know who is coming, and when they’re leaving. And the more we share — can share information, the easier it will be for me to get Congress to make it easier for Estonians to travel to the United States.

We want people to come to our country. We understand a lot of Estonians have relatives in America. It’s in our nation’s interest that people be able to come and visit, and it’s important, at the same time, to make sure that those who want to continue to kill Americans aren’t able to exploit the system.

I’m going to go to Riga right after our lunch. We have an ambitious agenda there. More than 50,000 NATO soldiers are providing security in six missions on three continents. These deployments have shown that our alliance remains as relevant today as it was during the height of the Cold War. Our alliance defends freedom, and so doing helps make us all more secure. We will discuss NATO’s largest deployment, and that is Afghanistan. We’re partnering with Afghan security forces to defeat the Taliban and strengthen that young democracy. To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO allies must provide the forces NATO military commanders require. I appreciate Estonia’s commitment. Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful.

In Riga, we’ll discuss how our alliance must build on what we have learned in Afghanistan. We will continue to transform NATO forces and improve NATO capabilities so that our alliance can complete 21st century missions successfully. The threat has changed. Our capabilities must change with the threats if NATO is to remain relevant. The President understands that, and I appreciate our discussion along those lines today.

We’re also going to discuss NATO’s further enlargement. By inviting qualifying democracies to join our alliance at the next NATO summit in 2008, we’ll continue to build a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.

I want to thank you for your hospitality again. I know the people of this country are proud of their accomplishments. The American people would be amazed at what your country has done, and I’m proud for you. And I’m proud to call you friend. Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Any questions?

Q I have a question for both Presidents. Mr. Bush, you said that you really appreciate everything that Estonia has done, and that the U.S. is very interested in seeing Estonians visit your country. But you, as President, when will you be proposing to Congress this change in the visa laws to give us visa-free travel? And the second part of the question is, what should Estonia do in order to help you resolve this issue more quickly?

PRESIDENT BUSH: — to work on our 3 percent requirement, and, at the same time, assure members of Congress that in loosening the visa waiver issue, or changing the visa waiver issue, that we’ll still be able to protect our country form people who would exploit the visa waiver program to come to our country to do harm. And that process is beginning shortly.

PRESIDENT ILVES: And I may add that Estonia is constantly — has been raising this question. I had a very long discussion, even back when I was a delegate in the European parliament. I would say that we have come quite a long way from the time we started these discussions two years ago with Nick Burns, and we are prepared when the security requirements have been clarified, have been explained, then we will be able to implement them in our passports. And that is simply a technical problem, but it is resolvable.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Are you going to call on anybody?

Q First, my respect to both of you, Mr. Bush, Mr. Ilves. A question for Mr. Bush. You said that you discussed with Mr. Ilves the situation in Georgia. Estonia and the United States have helped in the development of this country of Georgia, and we are hoping to see some progress in this country. But the conflict between Russia and Georgia is putting a stop to this. What do you think we should do to help resolve this conflict between Russia and Georgia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Precisely what we ought to do is help resolve the conflict and use our diplomats to convince people there is a better way forward than through violence. We haven’t seen violence yet. The idea is to head it off in the first place. I spoke to Vladimir Putin about this very subject when I saw him in the Far East last week. I know that the President has spoken with President Saakashvili, as well. The tenor of the conversation appears to be improving to me, that people understand that the best way to resolve their differences is to sit down at the table and solve them diplomatically. And so we’ll continue to work along those lines.

I don’t know if you want to add anything to that.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Briefly, just that we sincerely hope that Russia will understand that a democratic state on its borders is not a danger to Russian security. And we hope Russia will understand that authoritarian states at its borders will not guarantee its own stability.


Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. What is the difference between what we’re seeing now in Iraq and civil war? And do you worry that calling it a civil war would make it difficult to argue that we’re fighting the central front of the war on terror there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That’s what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we’ve been in this phase for a while. And the fundamental objective is to work with the Iraqis to create conditions so that the vast majority of the people will be able to see that there’s a peaceful way forward.

The bombings that took place recently was a part of a pattern that has been going on for about nine months. I’m going to bring this subject up, of course, with Prime Minister Maliki when I visit with him in Jordan on Thursday. My questions to him will be: What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence? I will assure him that we will continue to pursue al Qaeda to make sure that they do not establish a safe haven in Iraq.

I will ask him: What is required and what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself and sustain itself? And it’s going to be an important meeting, and I’m looking forward to it.

Q — are saying that we’re moving forward to full —

PRESIDENT BUSH: Deb, there’s all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening. What you’re seeing on TV has started last February. It was an attempt by people to foment sectarian violence, and no — no question it’s dangerous there, and violent. And the Maliki government is going to have to deal with that violence, and we want to help them do so. It’s in our interest that we succeed. A democracy in the heart of the Middle East is an important part of defeating the radicals and totalitarians that can’t stand the emergence of a democracy.

One of the interesting things that’s taking place — and people have got to understand what’s happening — is when you see a young democracy beginning to emerge in the Middle East, the extremists try to defeat its emergence.

That’s why you see violence in Lebanon. There’s a young democracy in Lebanon, run by Prime Minister Siniora. And that government is being undermined, in my opinion, by extremist forces encouraged out of Syria and Iran. Why? Because a democracy will be a major defeat for those who articulate extremist points of view.

We’re trying to help get a democracy started in the Palestinian Territory. Prime Minister Olmert has reached out at one point to Prime Minister Abbas — President Abbas. And you know what happens as soon as he does that? Extremists attack, because they can’t stand the thought of a democracy. And the same thing is happening in Iraq. And it’s in our mutual interest that we help this government succeed.

And no question it’s tough, Deb. No question about it. There’s a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal. And we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements.

By far, the vast majority of the people want to live in peace. Twelve million people voted. They said, we want to live under a constitution which we approved. And our objective must be to help them realize their dreams. This is the — this is an important part of an ideological struggle that is taking place here in the beginning of the 21st century. And the interesting contribution that a country like Estonia is making is that, people shouldn’t have to live under tyranny. We just did that; we don’t like it. They understand that democracies yield peace. This President is a strong advocate for democracies, because he understands. He understands what it means to live under subjugation, and he understands the hope that democracy brings to regions of the world. And I appreciate your steadfast leadership.

Toby. Last question? I’ll follow your instructions.

Q Mr. President, would direct talks between the United States and Iran and Syria help stem the violence in Iraq? And would you agree to such a step?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think that, first of all, Iraq is a sovereign nation which is conducting its own foreign policy. They’re having talks with their neighbors. And if that’s what they think they ought to do, that’s fine. I hope their talks yield results. One result that Iraq would like to see is for the Iranians to leave them alone. If Iran is going to be involved in their country, they ought to be involved in a constructive way, encouraging peace. That is the message that the Iranians — that the Iraqis have delivered to the Iranians. That’s the message that Prime Minister Maliki has made clear, that he expects the neighbors to encourage peaceful development of the country.

As far as the United States goes, Iran knows how to get to the table with us, and that is to do that which they said they would do, which is verifiably suspend their enrichment programs. One of the concerns that I have about the Iranian regime is their desire to develop a nuclear weapon, and you ought to be concerned about it, too. The idea of this regime having a nuclear weapon by which they could blackmail the world is unacceptable to free nations. And that’s why we’re working through the United Nations to send a clear message that the EU3 and the United States, Russia and China do not accept their desires to have a nuclear weapon.

There is a better way forward for the Iranian people, and if they would like to be at the table discussing this issue with the United States, I have made it abundantly clear how they can do so, and that is verifiably suspend the enrichment program. And then we’ll be happy to have a dialogue with them.

But as far as Iraq goes, the Iraqi government is a sovereign government that is capable of handling its own foreign policies, and is in the process of doing so. And they have made it abundantly clear, and I agree with them, that the Iranians and the Syrians should help, not destabilize this young democracy.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Thank you very much.

END 11:20 A.M. (Local)

An ‘Uncomfortable’ Summit

rom RFE/RL Newsline (November 28 2006)


Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Moscow that the upcoming NATO Riga summit is not a matter of serious concern for Russia, the German weekly “Der Spiegel” reported on November 28. Ivanov added that “the Baltic countries are sovereign nations. They have the right to decide which military and political bloc they want to be a part of. Of course, some Russians feel uneasy about the fact that a NATO summit is taking place so close to St. Petersburg. But I take a more relaxed view. If NATO had staged a major military maneuver in Latvia, with tanks and aircraft, it would certainly have triggered concern within the Russian military. But that is not the case.” He nonetheless added that “the Baltic states…are small countries in a region that is especially free of conflict and tension, militarily speaking. We do not understand why NATO needs its own military infrastructure in this region. Does it intend to wage war against terrorism or influence operations in Afghanistan from there?” Ivanov also said that the closure of a U.S. military base in Khanabad was Uzbekistan’s own decision “because it suspected the government of the United States of trying to destabilize the situation in the country.” Ivanov argued that some people call “the forces active there fighters for human rights, while the Uzbek people themselves call them terrorists who are killing people. I am aware of the real state of affairs…not propaganda. I have read reports describing how these so-called fighters for human rights received instructions from abroad to kill people.” Asked about Russian sanctions against Georgia, Ivanov replied that “these are not sanctions. We no longer operate direct flights to Tbilisi because Georgian airlines owe us money. You were the ones who introduced us to the market economy in the 1990s. Now we are sticking to it and you come to us with accusations. We cannot accept the fact that Georgia continues to insult us. It is clear to us that the Georgian leadership is dragging NATO and the EU into its efforts to solve its internal problems.” On November 28, Britain’s “The Times” wrote to mark the opening of the Riga summit that “much of the corridor talk during this first NATO summit on former Soviet soil will be of the renewed threat from Russia. Moscow’s aggressive use of energy as a political weapon is the most obvious cause for concern…. NATO leaders will be asked to look at possible action to avert potential threats to energy sources by patrolling key shipping lines, or resupplying a victim of an energy suspension.” PM

Yelena Bonner on Litvinenko’s Murder

From The Times (UK):

Yelena Bonner, one of the most famous dissidents from the Soviet era, said yesterday that modern Russia had returned to the practices used by the former Soviet KGB.

“I think the KGB, or the FSB as it is known, killed him,” said Mrs Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov the most famous Soviet dissident of his time.

“The present Russian power structure draws on the experiences it learned from Soviet operations in the past,” she told The Times.

She said that she had met Litvinenko in London two years and was planning to meet his widow Marina to commiserate over the death of her husband.

Defending Putin

Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has written a defence of Vladimir Putin in the Litvinenko poisoning case:

All those suspected for responsibility behind this attack in London will face the full onslaught of a Scotland Yard investigation. Hasty assertions about Vladimir Putin’s guilt are not only inappropriate, but may well backfire. These statements give great play to the arguments of Kremlin hardliners who have been telling Vladimir Putin that he cannot trust his European neighbors; that Europeans are deeply Russophobic; that he must stand apart as an independent center of power in the world. Mr. Putin may well be convinced that he has nothing left to lose in terms of his reputation in the West – and then matters will certainly take a turn for the worse.

See also: Nevzlin: Yukos Connection in Litvinenko’s Murder

Blair: Full Probe of Litvinenko’s Death

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a full probe of the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Reuters reports Blair as saying that “no diplomatic or political barrier” would be allowed to hinder the investigation, and that he will raise the matter with Vladimir Putin if necessary.

President Bush in Tallinn

President Bush has arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, on Air Force One, at the start of an official visit in preparation for the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, which begins tomorrow, Tuesday. He is accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a large delegation of White House officials, who arrived on a separate flight.

The guests were greeted by Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Paet, and by Estonia’s ambassador to the USA, Jüri Luik.

Tomorrow, President Bush will meet with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Andrus Ansipp, and will fly on to Riga after dinner.

Russia’s Real Game

At Counterterrorism Blog, Douglas Farah asks: What is Russia’s Real Game (Again, with Viktor Bout?):

What is Russia’s real role in the efforts to combat terrorism? While the Bush administration seems to cling to the notion that Russia is an ally, there are several developments that point in the opposite direction.

The first, of course, is the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, where the foul play of the Russian security apparatus, closely tied to Mr. Putin, is the prime suspect. The fact that the murder was committed in London and dismissed out of hand as unimportant by Mr. Putin show both a new boldness and the lack of any pretense of accountability by the Russians.

There is also the arming of Iran and help with the Iranian nuclear program, and the close intelligence ties to Hezbollah.

But there is another, barely noticed development in the United States that should be extremely worrisome.

Read the rest, here. And, for the LA Times material by Stephen Braun – here.