Cheney on Russia, Georgia and Israel; Venezuela-Russia exercises

At the Ambrosetti Forum being held at Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, Italy, US vice president Dick Cheney has made a statement on the current situation in Georgia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Excerpt:

In the space of the last 30 days, Russia has violated the sovereignty of a democracy; made and then breached a solemn agreement, in a direct affront to the European Union; severely damaged its credibility and global standing; and undermined its own relations with the United States and other countries.

This chain of aggressive moves and diplomatic reversals has only intensified the concern that many have about Russia’s larger objectives. For brutality against a neighbor is simply the latest in a succession of troublesome and unhelpful actions by the Russian government.

Haaretz reports that

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met with [Israel’s] President Shimon Peres on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti forum on the edge of Italy’s Lake Como on Saturday, telling the Israeli leader that Russia is selling arms to Damascus and Iran with the clear knowledge that they are being channeled to Hezbollah and terror groups in Iraq.

The American vice president later reiterated these remarks in his address at the economic conference, saying that “Russian arms dealing in the Middle East has endangered the prospects for peace and freedom in the region.” He added that the Russian leaders view democracy as a direct threat to their regime. Russia crossed a clear line when it invaded Georgia and attacked democracy and the rights of innocent civilians, Cheney said.

Meanwhile, The BBC reports a senior Venezuelan naval officer as saying that four Russian ships will take part in joint naval exercises, which will also involve Venezuelan aircraft and submarines, to be held in Venezuelan territorial waters (i.e. the Caribbean) in November. This can perhaps be seen as Russia’s response, flagged by Putin on September 2, to NATO’s current presence in the Black Sea.

Kremlin propaganda intensifying in Europe

In his Postimees blog, Estonian MP Marko Mihkelson has commented on the recent interviews given by Russian leaders: Vladimir Putin to German television (ARD) and Dmitry Medvedev to Italian television (RAI). The Russian leadership is evidently investing a great deal of time and money in foreign propaganda, in an attempt to show the citizens of what they believe is a divided Europe “who is boss”. The latest series of interviews amounts to a kind of “media show” by Russia’s president and prime minister. Mihkelson writes (my tr.):

The interviews are a skilful smokescreen. The aim is to deceive the simple-hearted West by the use of philistine methods of the type — “if it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t interest me.” Or in other words: the best defence is attack. At any rate, the Kremlin’s tactics are transparent. Moscow is trying to do everything it can to play on the weaknesses of Western democracies and open societies, both internally and internationally.

In the most recent interview it’s worth mentioning Medvedev’s statement today which was directed at the Baltic States.In his interview for Italian television (RAI) the Russian president said that the fears of the Baltic States that they may be the object of an attack by Russia are like “phantom pains”. In Medvedev’s opinion they are a means by which the Baltic countries keep their political elites “in slightly excited state”. To which one might simply reply: look in the mirror, comrade president.

The English-language transcript of the RAI interview is here.

Il Padre

This year sees the 20th Mondomusica international exhibition of handcrafted musical instruments, especially violins, in Cremona, Italy. This year the fair will be held on October 5-7.

The Triennale will launch its third exhibition devoted to the Amati family. Carlo Chiesa writes in the Strad that Andrea Amati was an important violin maker,

Maybe the most important in the history of violin-making… Amati was widely believed to have invented the violin, but this is inexact: it is a complex instrument, developed progressively over a long period of time by several artisans. However, a few violin makers made exceptional contributions to defining its general look,shape and character. Amati was one of these, and posterity has decreed that ‘his’ violin, with the proportions, the roundedness and the sound properties that he selected, should become ‘the’ violin.

Considering the future

From Paolo Guzzanti’s recent interview with Vladimir Bukovsky [my tr.]:

Is it your view that, as Michael Ledeen says, we are on the eve of a great tragedy which no one wants to see, as in the 1930s?

“It depends. I don’t think there’s an intention to unleash a war. Russia wants the wealth and technology of Europe, intends to dominate Europe and is already doing so with some success. No, I don’t think there’s a military catastrophe in the offing – just a democratic one.”

The Scaramella Affair – II

In the comments, pentolecoperchi writes:

Paolo Guzzanti is now reporting that Mario Scaramella is not only in Hospital for having suffered of a new heart attack but in the past weeks he had got many other illnesses such as tachycardia, collapses, high blood pressure, blackout, thyroid and prostate swell and hair loss. Nobody took him in Hospital.

His ex-girlfriend visited him two days ago and she reports that he has told her:“I will come back soon, I only have to tell them (to the Prosecutors, en) what they want and they will let me come back”.

She also says “…he told me that if he continues believing these tales (that he must trust the law. My note) they will keep him in prison as long as two years, and he cannot make out of it! Unfortunately this is the truth. I realised today that he will not came out of it. The reason and the truth don’t give him any hope. These are instead his weakness”.

Paolo Guzzanti adds that it seems now essential to clear and make known that captain Talik, the slandered, is one that has been working in former Soviet Union, in the once called IX KGB Directorate and that today has assumed the denomination of FSB, that is to say the service for presidential security. The fact is that in that same service have been working also two well known gentleman: Andrey Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, both of them investigated in Great Britain as material killers of Litivinenko. We also know that Talik, still furious for having read one year ago an interview of Litvinenko to Novosti in which he was described as a terrorist and a weapons contrabandist, told by phone to his cohabitee: “We must shut up this asshole. I want to know where he lives and exactly all the rest: I have many friends among generals in Moscow and I have sent somebody to tell them what I think” – Talik said.

Mario Scaramella, Italian citizen, with a clean record, former fellow-worker of the Italian Republic Parliament, is victim of a system and of a juridical practice we all are ashamed of, and that is even impossible to explain to all the foreign journalist colleagues who ask for information on this matter, buried in Italy under the most obscure (but not so much) manoeuvres of political back-lines.

See also: The Scaramella Affair

The Scaramella Affair

On March 10 the Italian newspaper Panorama published an article by Senator Paolo Guzzanti, who headed the so-called ‘Mitrokhin Commission’ for the investigation of the activity of the KGB in Italy. Guzzanti suggests that the death of Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, and the murder of FSB General Anatoly Trofimov in spring 2005 are all links in a single chain, and that all three men were killed because they possessed information that compromised Italian prime minister Romano Prodi. In a interview broadcast on the same day, intelligence historian Boris Volodarsky talked about his recent meeting with Mario Scaramella, who worked closely with Guzzanti, was the last person to meet with Litvinenko, and is now being held in an Italian prison on obscure and not fully specified charges that are quite unrelated to the Litvinenko poisoning. In the interview, Volodarsky suggests that Scaramella may have fallen victim to a disinformation campaign organized by the FSB.

Update: Mario Scaramella is currently in hospital after suffering a series of heart attacks, Paolo Guzzanti reports.