Month: February 2007

Blogger Bildt

Carl Bildt, who became Sweden’s foreign minister in October last year when Fredrik Reinfeldt’s centre-right Moderaterna party came to power, has recently come in for criticism because of his blogging activity. Some time ago, Bildt stopped posting to his English-language blog, Bildt Comments, and started a new Swedish-language one, where he now makes his own personal observations on issues of Swedish foreign and domestic policy on a day-by-day basis. Bertil Torekull, former editor-in-chief of the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, has published a long article in the other main Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, criticising Bildt’s blogging activity, and asking whether it’s right for a government minister to lead a “double life” in this way, making official statements and then, in Torekull’s view, at least partly undermining them by private ones. Torekull even draws an analogy with the “off-the-cuff” statements and activities of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez (an analogy that seems more than a little far-fetched, it has to be said). Today Bildt responds in his blog, remarking [my tr.]:

And in the last analysis everyone can choose, after all. Those who don’t want to read this or other blogs can refrain from doing so. Those who don’t want to read a newspaper don’t need to.

Freedom of choice. And openness.

It will truly be interesting to see how this discussion develops…

MSNBC on Litvinenko

On Februrary 24, MSNBC’s Dateline aired an in-depth investigation of the Litvinenko poisoning affair by Ann Curry, with contributions by security expert Paul Joyal, among others.

As a subsequent NBC news report pointed out, however, there appears to be little likelihood that the assassins will be brought to justice, even though all the evidence appears to point to Moscow and the Kremlin as the likely instigators of the murder:

“Everything what happened in Russia, if it’s happened, it’s Putin decide to do it,” Marina Litvinenko, who speaks broken English, told “Dateline.” “Because without him, it’s just impossible.”

It is an assessment shared by Oleg Kalugin, the onetime top spy for the KGB.

Litvinenko “was a traitor. So was I and a number of others. They have a list,” Kalugin said. “They would love to kill him.”

And it is an assessment shared by Paul Joyal, the Russia specialist. Joyal believes the Kremlin is resisting the British investigation because it is guilty and is hoping to run out the clock.

“It’ll go away in time,” he said. “Maybe not this week. Maybe not next week. But if you just hang in there and deny, at the end of the day — if there’s no one stepping forward saying, ‘I know’ — it will be forgotten.

“And there’s nothing anyone can do.”

Thirteen Years

Today is February 23, the anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechen people in 1944. and Prague Watchdog has published a special feature to commemorate the event.

Tamara Chagayeva has recorded the recollections of Nura Tsutiyeva, one of the witnesses of the deportation, who describes the month-long train journey into the unknown, and the “grey and monotonous life in an alien land”: Thirteen Years Spent in a Reservation.

Going Ballistic

Russia is serious about abrogation of the INF treaty, Pavel Felgenhauer suggests in a new Eurasia Daily Monitor article, asserting that “the Russian military always disliked the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987 by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.”

From later in the piece:

During the invasion of Chechnya in 1999 and 2000, the Russian military used SS-21 (Tochka-U) ballistic missiles to attack Chechen towns and villages (Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, October 29, 1999). Russian Air Force attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are old and badly maintained because spare parts are in short supply. The pilots are untrained, because they lack adequate flying practice. Russia does not have modern, airborne, precision-guided weapons. But ballistic missiles can fill the gap.

The SS-21 has a range of 120 kilometers. Using mobile launchers deployed in North Ossetia and in Dagestan, the Russian military could effectively cover all of Chechnya during the 1999-2000 offensive. But should a conflict erupt elsewhere in the Caucasus or, perhaps, in Crimea near Sevastopol, the SS-21s deployed in the North Caucasus will be of little help, and the Iskander-M will be useful only with a range enhanced to 500 kilometers.

While the Kremlin rhetoric is today aimed at Washington and its possible strategic missile defense deployments, the true target is the INF. Moscow wants to deploy new missiles that cannot reach the United States, but are designed for neighbors. That was in essence the thrust of Putin’s Munich speech, aimed at the West: Accept us as equals and give us at last our sphere of influence within the region. Keep out! Stop poking into our neighborhood — or we may go ballistic.