At the BBC, William Horsley writes that some kind of turning-point or watershed in Russia’s relations with the West appears to be approaching, and points to the upcoming 45th Munich Security Conference as the next arena where some new moves will be made by both sides.
In the aftermath of the killing of the journalists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, Gasan Guseinov has published at Grani.ru a Letter of Advice from Stalin to Russia’s Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. An excerpt in my tr.:
…One might have thought that a sensational political assassination would free your hands for a mass purge of the bureaucratic organs. But what do we hear from your representatives? That the responsibility for it all is borne by a certain Boris Abramovich Berezovsky, who resides in London. The question arises that if he is such an influential comrade, why is he working not for you but against you? And why are the comrades, who should have complied with your instructions for comrade Berezovsky long ago, not even able to catch his hirelings from your own, Comrade Putin, reserve of cadres?
Comrade Putin, today you do not have a dialectical answer to my questions. Nor do you have a metaphysical one. The other day Comrade Churchill invited Comrade Molotov and myself to visit him – simply for a smoke and a chat. An out-and-out imperialist, but he supports the interests of post-Soviet Russia, and even said that in the lands of bourgeois democracy the politicians, unable to cope with their work, are resigning, declaring general elections and waiting for the voters to decide.
You and I understand that the people now entrusted to you do not yet have the legal means to prevent them seeing any more of the mournful members of your cabinet on their screens. We like you, but we, I am afraid, are dead. And the populace expects from you, if not humanity – we have given up such expectations for three generations into the future – then at least the expression of a careful compassion – either for the victims of the murder which your employees are unable to solve, or for the heroic Chekists who deserve a sheriff’s star, so to speak, for precisely fulfilling the leadership’s cherished dream. There is no third way, comrades: if it is humanity you want, then learn to leave, as Churchill did, or if it is only power you want, then cut off the decomposing cadres, as we did the comrades by using the bared sword of the working class.
A few words about television. Do not forget, please, to tell the masters of the television camera that your joint press conferences with Comrade Timoshenko are not to be broadcast live any more. Semyon Mikhailovich [Budyonny] here says she is a good-looking woman whose words have logic and whose mind has skill. “But our Pan sportsman,” says Comrade Budyonny, “ just sweats and looks nervous all the time.” The whole Politburo advises you, even urges you, to go to Tskhaltubo [a spa resort in west-central Georgia] for medical treatment. Demyan Bedny was recently sent there. He returned like a man alive. Transfer the discharge of your obligations for a while to Comrade Sechin, who is glowing with health and the subdued charm of the steppes, take the other political mountain skier – Comrade Medvedev – with you, and go to Tskhaltubo.
Hat tip: Jeremy Putley
Commenting on Moscow’s recent announcements concerning plans for military bases in Abkhazia, Pavel Felgenhauer has noted that these official statements appear to indicate a hardening of policy which may have consequences both for Georgia and for other countries that neighbour Russia:
It seems that Russia is building up a case and capabilities for a possible new armed conflict to finally overrun Georgia. At the same time, Moscow is seeking a tacit understanding from Washington to allow it a free hand in the Caucasus in exchange for detente on other contentious issues.
Deployment of unit of the Russian air forces on Bombora airdrome [in Gudauta] is being considered in consultations with the Abkhaz side, along with creation of a naval base in Ochamchire,” Interfax reported quoting the source.
According to this report, Russia wants to deploy up to 20 planes on the Abkhaz airfield, including Su-27 Flanker fighter jets; Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft and military cargo planes.
At Window on Eurasia, Paul Goble writes about Moscow’s plans to take formal control of the tunnel that runs from Russian territory into South Ossetia, thus effectively annexing a part of Georgian territory:
Because of Russian power and its control of the situation on the ground, Moscow almost certainly will not only get away with this action but will be spared criticism by countries which in their desire to move forward in their relations with the Russian government want to put the Georgia affair behind them.
But Tbilisi has international law on its side. In 1931, in response to the Japanese invasion of China and Tokyo’s establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria, the United States articulated the Stimson Doctrine, which holds that the world must not recognize territorial changes achieved by force alone but insist that any change be by negotiations.
That principle, which was the basis for the US-led non-recognition policy with respect to the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, is the legal foundation of the unwillingness of the entire international community — except for the Russian Federation, Nicaragua and Hamas — to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In her speech to the assembly,[Professor Gabriela] Shalev [Israel’s Ambassador to the UN] said the world has the “responsibility not to remain silent” to the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.
“To remain silent and indifferent to the horrors of the Holocaust is probably the greatest sin of all, let alone denying it,” she said. “We have a responsibility to act against the forces of anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism in any form.”
Haaretz notes that UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann skipped the ceremony
after American Jewish leaders threatened to demonstratively exit Tuesday’s if he used the podium to attack Israel.
D’Escoto, who has repeatedly made virulently anti-Israel statements, was to be the event’s host by virtue of his official position and was scheduled give the opening speech.
It looks as though Iceland’s troubles may be about to take a turn for the worse: in the aftermath of the resignation of the country’s prime minister and government yesterday, a minority Red-Green coalition is in the process of being formed, and is likely to govern after the elections scheduled for May. The FT has some comment here.
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) said on January 27, that a Russian soldier, serving in the South Ossetia-based military unit, had defected from the Russian army and sought shelter in Georgia because of “unbearable conditions” in his military unit.
The Georgian television stations aired footage, disseminated by the Georgian Interior Ministry, showing a young man in the Russian military uniform named as Alexandr Glukhov and identified as a Russian soldier who served in the unit deployed in Akhalgori.
“There are bad conditions, no bath; lack of food,” he says in footage. “I request the President of Georgia to let me stay in Tbilisi.”
The Georgian Interior Ministry said in a statement that efforts were underway to arrange his stay in Georgia.
Abkhazia’s Sergei Bagapsh has confirmed that Russia is to begin work this year on the construction of a naval base at Obamchire, on the Black Sea.
In the Spectator, a British soldier who served with the army’s Intelligence Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan gives his perspective on Israel’s Gaza operation. In the problems faced by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead he sees direct parallels with the difficulties that were encountered by British forces in Iraq, including the public relations dimension opened up urban warfare and the methods needed to combat an enemy such as Hamas, which “is willing to dress in civilian clothing, attack from legally protected sites and use civilians as human shields”. He also addresses the issue of so-called “disproportionate” firepower:
A fact often unappreciated by those with no military experience is that the selective use of overwhelming force, aimed at key targets, actually shortens conflict and saves lives. In Basra in 2003 the USA and the UK chose to use extreme force against locations that had been fortified by the Ba’ath Party, in order to spare our troops and the people of Basra the horror of a drawn-out street battle. It appears that the IDF made the same choice in Gaza.
Via Z-Word Blog