Month: November 2007

Kosovo: Russian Armed Threat

From the RFE/RL Newsline:

BRITISH OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS OF RUSSIAN ARMED THREAT

Britain’s “Daily Telegraph” reported on November 29 that Conservative Party leader David Cameron argued in Washington on November 28 that “Western forces, which could include British troops, must be sent into the Balkans to prevent Russia sparking a new European war” over Kosova. Cameron said “let me make it clear: there could be a new crisis in the Balkans by Christmas…. That [would be] a direct threat to our national security, and we must therefore take decisive action now to prevent it. We need to reinforce the military presence in the region now, by drawing on some of NATO’s dedicated operational reserve, to prevent trouble later.” The daily suggested that “British diplomats privately share Mr. Cameron’s fears of a Balkan crisis, but ministers have stopped short of proposing a further military deployment, and the Tory leader’s call could dramatically increase the diplomatic stakes over Kosovo.” PM

The Telegraph report is here.

Foreign Body

An “information and guidance document” (pdf) for British state schools, issued by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), demonstrates with graphic clarity why the religion of Islam will never be accepted or integrated into the British education system on the terms it demands – the strictures and regulations it seeks to impose on the social environment of its hosts are simply impossible to accommodate within a liberal and pluralistic context.

Islam in the North Caucasus

In Chechnya Weekly, Andrei Smirnov looks at the role of Kabardino-Balkarian rebel leader Anzor Astemirov in the founding of the “Caucasian Emirate”, and concludes:

It looks as if Astemirov, following Basaev’s death, gave Umarov an ultimatum in an attempt to force him to “bury” Ichkeria and to declare the Emirate. Umarov, who needs the support of non-Chechen fighters in Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, had no alternative but to agree.

The declaration of the Caucasian Emirate clearly demonstrates the rising influence of non-Chechen rebel leaders inside the Caucasian insurgency. For non-Chechen fighters, Chechen independence means nothing, and they do not want to fight any longer under the Chechen flag. Indeed, from the very beginning, the Caucasian insurgency, unlike the Chechen separatist movement, showed more signs of being a radical Islamist movement than a nationalist one.

The Corruption Tsar

As Anders Aslund points out in the Moscow Times this week, the view held by some in the West of President Putin as “an authoritarian reformer who has brought economic growth and stability to Russia” does not bear up under scrutiny. Not only has Putin presided over a staggering growth in corruption in Russia – to levels that far exceed those that prevailed under President Yeltsin – he has also visibly failed to introduce law and order in the country. Aslund makes reference to a recent analysis by Syracuse University professor Brian D. Taylor, and it may be useful to review that here. An excerpt from a Kennan Institute briefing follows:

The highly centralized system Putin has put into place has improved the state’s ability to conduct certain actions, according to Taylor: “It is clear that the central government can mobilize large numbers of police to deal with opposition protests, or to bring criminal cases against political and economic adversaries.” The police can function as a tool of foreign policy, Taylor observed, in cases such as Russia’s recent dispute with Georgia. During the height of tensions, police harassment of Georgians in Moscow ranged from document checks to tax police raids. “Whether that came from the Kremlin, I don’t know,” said Taylor, “but certainly the police felt that they were able to engage in such an operation during this foreign policy dispute.”

In terms of enforcing society’s laws, Taylor continued, Russia’s law enforcement structures are still very weak, both in specific and general terms. Specifically, in cases of high-profile assassinations or terrorist attacks, there are doubts about police capacity to solve or prevent such incidents. In general terms, such as fighting overall crime, the police are not sufficiently effective, as evidenced by consistently high murder rates under both Yeltsin and Putin.

Taylor questioned why law enforcement structures have not done better, given the centralization reforms that were designed to improve their effectiveness, and given the growing economy that is providing significantly greater resources to those structures. The key, he emphasized, is the “commercialization” of the enforcement structures, which was not undone by Putin’s reforms. In fact, Taylor said, there is little evidence that Russia’s law enforcement structures are getting any cleaner—the police remain one of most distrusted institutions in Russia.

There are both internal and external methods of monitoring law enforcement structures that can help reduce corruption, Taylor noted. External monitors—such as the media, non-governmental organizations, and opposition parties—have been consistently weakened in Russia over the last seven years, he noted. Taylor cautioned that exclusive reliance on internal monitoring and self-policing by the Russian state will make it more difficult to weed out corruption. So long as state officials are able to exploit state institutions for personal gain, he predicted, Russia will have persistent corruption and weak rule of law. “Recentralizing coercion does not reduce illegal state activity, and thus does not strengthen the state,” Taylor concluded.

Defending the Absurd

“The way the British think of the teddy bear – as far as Christmas is concerned, and toys are concerned – we don’t have any teddy bears over here, so in Sudan, for us, it is a fierce and dangerous animal.”

Dr Khalid al Mubarak, a spokesman for the Sudan embassy in London, quoted by the BBC in the case of Gillian Gibbons, incriminated by the Sudanese government, and facing a possible jail term or lashing for allowing the schoolchildren in her care to name a teddy bear “Mohammed”.