Month: January 2011

Not terrorism, but an act of God

Writing in ej.ru, analysts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan suggest that by placing the blame for the Domodedovo tragedy on lax airport security, the Kremlin has finally come out into the open and has opted to classify terrorist acts of this kind as natural disasters rather than planned attacks. The security services will no longer work to find the culprits, but will hide behind a mask of official impenetrability, making the guardianship of “security” their number one priority instead.

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Piontkovsky: Putin will use Domodedovo to return to Kremlin

Via Interpress News:

Russian political scientist Andrei Piontkovsky is convinced that Russia’s de-facto leader PM Vladimir Putin will use the Domodedovo tragedy to get back to Kremlin .

“The occurrence once again proved that the Russian Security Service is totally incompetent. However, it is the Russian paradox that the Interior Minister and the Security officials won’t be punished and dismissed”, Piontkovsky stated in his interview with InterPressNews.

He considers that it was the full scale of the terrorist act that caused astonishment not the act itself.

Russian land sales ban upsets Finland

On January 9, Russia’s President Medvedev signed a new decree which specifies border areas where foreign citizens are not allowed to purchase land. The areas include nearly all the regions of the Russian Federation bordering on Finland and Norway, all the way from Pechenga in northern Russia to the Gulf of Finland in the south (near Helsinki).

Finland has asked for an explanation of the new law, according to the Barents Observer, with foreign minister Alexander Stubb making an official representation to the Russian authorities, as quite a few Finns have already bought land in the areas that are now banned:

What will happen to those foreigners that already own land in this areas is highly uncertain. The Finnish Embassy in Moscow is examining the significance of the decree, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

– We stick to the principle of reciprocity as long as it is realistic and possible, says Alexander Stubb, interviewed by YLE.

– We’ll talk with Russian authorities about how this can be realised. If one can buy land here, then of course one should be able to buy land on the other side of the border as well, says Stubb.

Mistral and Sweden’s security

Ever since the announcement of the controversial Mistral arms deal between France and Russia on Christmas Eve 2010, the Swedish press has been publishing articles about the implications of the deal for Baltic security, and Sweden’s security in particular. On January 7 Dagens Nyheter noted that concern about the sale of the Mistral assault ships to Russia was high because these helicopter carriers can be used for landing operations – presumably in the course of a military invasion. Bo Pellnäs, a Swedish defence analyst, commented that although the carriers will be based in Murmansk, they can be moved anywhere. This, against the background of reports that Russia is to increase its military expenditure by 60 percent, and last fall held its largest military exercise in the Baltic Sea since the 1980s, is giving rise to fears in Sweden that the country’s security may  be compromised.

On January 5 a member of the Swedish parliament, Mikael Oscarsson, requested a statement from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on what the deal means for the security of the Baltic Sea as a whole. Oscarsson also said that it was necessary to ask Russia about the purpose of the invasion capability, and that a tightening of Sweden’s defence with Poland might be needed.

Now, in an interview published in the Swedish current affairs journal Världen idag (The World Today), Oscarsson says that his concerns are heightened by the internal political situation in Russia in the aftermath of the recent unsolved murders of journalists and the sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

"We need greater cooperation between Sweden, Poland and the Baltics, but we should also invite Russia to talks. I’m not one of those who say that the Russians are coming, but we cannot assume that anyone else will defend us. Therefore, we need to respond and ensure that we have a fleet that works."

In Poland, Polskie Radio has taken up Mikael Oscarsson’s question, and there are reports that the military ties between Sweden and Poland may strengthen in response to Russia’s investment in the new warships.

he U.S. think tank and news agency Stratfor’s East Europe analyst Marko Papic says that just five days into the new year Mikael Oscarsson’s question to Carl Bildt shows that the geopolitical map may be redrawn.

"The area of Sweden, Poland and Russia will be crucial for European security and political issues in 2011," he said in a statement.