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Given Lincoln Chafee’s record of being willing to buck the system and the Chafee family’s reputation, Rhode Islanders were jarred to hear the independent gubernatorial candidate being accused of consorting with someone who might have ties to organized crime.
But on Oct. 7, GoLocalProv, a five-month-old local news website, published the headline “International Intrigue: Chafee Consults to Controversial Ukrainian Billionaire.” It reported that its investigation had revealed that Chafee earned “as much as $100,000” from a three-year-old foundation established by “a Ukrainian billionaire with widely reported ties to organized crime.”
The foundation is The Foundation for Effective Governance, established “to facilitate systematic dialogue between experts, government, business, civil society, organizations, and mass media.” Its website says the foundation is the private initiative of Rinat Akhmetov, who established it with a $50 million gift, designed to cover five years.
Akhmetov is the billionaire son of a coal miner whose empire includes steel, iron and coal operations. Forbes.com regularly includes him in its list of the world’s richest people. In the 2010 ranking, he was pegged at number 148, with an estimated net worth of $5.2 billion.
The GoLocalProv story
To back up the suggestion of an organized crime link, GoLocalProv cited — and offered links to — English language versions of two stories, both from 2005, one from Kiev and the other from Russia.
One, at Kommersant.com, reported that Akhmetov had been called in for questioning by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. The ministry did not give a reason. That story quotes Sergey Kornicha, head of the ministry’s Economic Crimes Department as saying, “I am deeply convinced that Akhmetov is the real head of an organized crime group,” a quote repeated by GoLocalProv.
Omitted from the GoLocalProv account is information in the same paragraph reporting that Kornicha’s boss, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, had said he personally had not seen any evidence that Akhmetov was implicated in any criminal offenses. The minister had said that Kornicha was promising that he would prove his case or apologize to Akhmetov. Five years later, we could find no evidence that either has occurred.
The second story is on the website of the Kyiv Post, also from July 2005, which offers the even more inflammatory suggestion — but not directly mentioned by GoLocalProv — that Akhmetov was suspected of being involved in the 1988 shooting of Serhiy “Botsman” Chernyshev.
That story also reports that Akhmetov’s Washington law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was asserting that it had a sworn statement from Botsman insisting that Akhmetov had no involvement in the shooting. The firm also said that Botsman had given the same assurance to prosecutors.
The Kyiv Post story cites political analyst Vadym Karasiov as saying that it is no secret that Ukraine’s elite has, in the past, been closely tied to organized crime groups. It quotes Karasiov as predicting that Akhmetov would likely be arrested in early 2006. We were unable to find any evidence that Akhmetov was ever arrested for anything.
GoLocalProv also said that “Akhmetov was named as a suspect in a murder investigation,” citingan article about former presidential candidate John McCain in The Nation. But that article offers no details and GoLocalProv offers none.
In the Kyiv Post article, Akhmetov’s law firm suggested that the government was pursuing Akhmetov because he had been an active supporter of the previous Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The 2005 allegations came after Yanukovych was overthrown as part of the so-called “Orange Revolution,” which began in November 2004. When officials tried to question Akhmetov as part of a murder investigation, he was out of the country. When Yanukovych’s party regained power in 2006, Akhmetov returned to Ukraine, according to the article in The Nation, which mentions Akhmetov in passing.
Akhmetov was then elected to the Ukrainian parliament and continues to serve there.
The billionaire, now 44, has not taken crime allegations lightly. In 2008, a London court awarded him $100,000 after he objected to stories in the Ukrainian paper Obozrevatel, according to a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, at ReportingProject.net. In January 2010, after the French daily newspaper Le Figaro described him as “a bandit in the past,”he got a retraction.
Cianci picks up the story
After GoLocalProv released its story, its media partner, WPRO-630 radio, gave it wider distribution by airing an interview with Taras Kuzio, a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., and editor of the Ukraine Analyst newsletter.
Kuzio told former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, now a WPRO talk show host, that Akhmetov hails from Donetsk, a large industrial town in Eastern Ukraine. “Donetsk was basically the wild east in the 1990s and many people who were involved in so-called business were also involved in corruption and organized crime,” Kuzio said.
WPRO’s online summary of Kuzio’s comment says, in part: “Mr. Kuzio described Rinat Akhmetov as Ukraine’s Tony Soprano.” (Kuzio, in the interview, referred to the fictional crime boss twice.)
Kuzio, a critic of the current Ukrainian leadership, which Akhmetov supports, said in a telephone interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island that there is no solid proof that Akhmetov is a mobster. He claimed that there’s no proof because the Ukrainian system is so corrupt and all the witnesses are dead.
He said the rich businessmen in the country are either former bureaucrats who used their connections or former mobsters who used muscle. Akhmetov wasn’t a bureaucrat, so people assume he became wealthy because he was involved in organized crime.
But that doesn’t make it true.
Another view from Ukraine
For another perspective, we called Brian Mefford, who spent 10 years in Ukraine working for a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and is now a political consultant there.
He said the probes of Akhmetov never went anywhere.
In a telephone interview, he agreed that in the 1990s “all the former Soviet Union was sort of the Wild East. A lot of fortunes were made overnight and (Akhmetov) was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on that.”
Mefford said the laws in Ukraine “are archaic and they create a system where everyone is in violation of the law, so you could find something bad to say about every single businessman in the country because the laws don’t create an environment where you can operate in an openly Western manner. So I think everybody has questions about where people in this country make money.”
“There’s a saying in the Ukraine for these situations,” he said, referring to the millionaires of the region. “Nobody knows how they got the first million. But the second million they can explain. How did Akhmetov get his first million? Nobody knows. But I don’t think anybody knows for any businessman here in this country. But his business now is operating above board. It’s a well-known, respected business employing thousands of people across the country.”
So while some people may suspect Akhmetov of being involved in organized crime, there is no evidence to back that up.
Chafee, who says he wants to fight corruption and refuses to go on WPRO during the time slot occupied by Cianci because of Cianci’s felony convictions and behavior while mayor, went onWPRO’s John DePetro program to explain that he was invited to join the foundation in 2007. At the time, he was working for The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
“I received a phone call from a Washington law firm and they were recruiting individuals to advise the Ukraine on their emerging economy from the Soviet era,” he said.
Chafee said he asked questions about the job but was reassured by the fact that the board included other distinguished people, including Kim Campbell, Canada’s first female prime minister;Frances Cairncross, rector of Oxford University’s Exeter College and a Brown University graduate; and Gyorgy Suranyi, a former president of the National Bank of Hungary.
“These are all very, very distinguished individuals,” Chafee said.
Mark MacDougall is the lawyer who contacted Chafee. He said the former Senator had lots of questions and went to Ukraine before agreeing to serve on the Foundation’s board. “He asked me about Mr. Akhmetov and where his money came from,” said MacDougall. But his chief concerns were about the foundation. “He wanted to make sure his good name wasn’t being misused.”
“Ukraine is thought to be an ongoing laboratory in how democratic institutions develop and I think [Chafee] was very attracted to that,” said MacDougall. “He was never hired as a consultant.”
Chafee, in an interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island, recalled MacDougall saying that Akhmetov had a reputation in Ukraine. “He pretty much shared all the rumors with me. But he said they’re unsubstantiated, and you can take them as you wish.”
Chafee said he can understand the rumors. People ask, “‘How did it happen so fast, from state-owned businesses going into privately owned? How did that happen?’ Those were the questions I had,” he told DePetro.
For as much as $100,000 a year, “We travel throughout the Ukraine to learn about the economy and give our best advice we can,” Chafee told DePetro. He acknowledged that it’s a lucrative position and said he could understand why people are suspicious of Akhmetov because he controlled major industries once owned by the state.
Chafee also told WPRO that he met Akhmetov “very briefly” on one occasion. When we interviewed Chafee, he said he met Akhmetov twice. The first time was when “We just said ‘Hi'” and the second was in the past year when Akhmetov hosted an informal luncheon for the foundation’s board and they discussed issues involving Ukraine.
Chafee said he has never seen any evidence of impropriety at the foundation and would have resigned if he did. “We’re not taking political sides or giving any kind of varnished advice, and I would not participate if I wasn’t comfortable with any kind of contribution I was making.”
Akhmetov checks his own background
In 2005, Akhmetov, sensitive to the allegations of criminal activity swirling around him and eager to do business in other countries, hired Kroll Associates, an investigations firm in London, to look into the billionaire’s background.
The probe — for which Kroll insisted on being paid in advance to avoid pressure to reach a specific conclusion — took about six months and included interviews with scores of government officials, police contacts and Akhmetov associates, along with records kept by the former Soviet Union to make sure the Ukrainian records hadn’t been altered, according to Omer Erginsoy, a senior managing director who led the investigation.
The resulting report is shown to companies seeking to do business with Akhmetov’s or one of his companies.
“We couldn’t find any basis for supporting the [criminal] allegations,” Erginsoy told us. They all seemed to be cases of “kompromat,” a Russian word for an attempt to compromise a political or business rival, he said. “You try to discredit the guy by coming up with some supposed fact, you can embellish on and place it in the public domain of the media. It goes viral and it gets quoted, and it’s even easier now, with the Internet.”
Such allegations can gain traction because doing business in Ukraine could be rough in the 1980s and ’90s. There were, for example, murders involving rival regional clans of traders who competed to supply goods to various businesses as the old Soviet system dissolved. “It became inevitable that these successful guys, each and every one of them, were variously accused of having ties to criminal organization in the period,” Erginsoy said.
Akhmetov was a trader, but he didn’t remain one, said Erginsoy. “Rather than just supplying goods to these industrial companies that were really faltering, he decided to buy these debt-ridden companies from the state and turned them around. He was one of a handful of guys who had a vision of getting out of the informal economy and owning these assets, developing a real asset base and turning it into a proper company.”
MacDougall said Chafee was shown a copy of the 49-page report, but Chafee said he doesn’t remember seeing it.
(MacDougall’s firm allowed us to read the report. But they would not allow us to copy it. Because we can’t share it with our readers, we are not quoting from it here.)
Ambassador urged Chafee’s involvement
Some may be suspicious of a report about yourself that you pay for, even if you pay for it in advance from a respected investigations firm.
So we spoke with William B. Taylor Jr., U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.
Taylor was at the initial meeting in Ukraine where Chafee was deciding whether to join the foundation.
“Everybody in Ukraine has a history, but we know more about some than others,” said Taylor, now a vice president at the United Institute of Peace in Washington.
“There have been a lot of rumors and unsubstantiated claims about (Akhmetov’s) background. But the embassy has done some checking and other United States government agencies back in Washington have done some checking,” he said. “While there are a lot of press stories, we had nothing to indicate that it would be a problem for people to be dealing with Mr. Akhmetov. Not just Senator Chafee, but others as well.”
Taylor said he met with Akhmetov many times and “he saw that if the country was going in a direction of more openness and transparency in business dealings, it would be better for individual companies like his.”
Taylor said he advised Chafee and others about becoming involved in the foundation.
“I told them this foundation [Akhmetov] was putting together, near as we could tell, would mean good things for the country,” said Taylor. With “the benefit of advice and guidance from internationally known and respected people like Senator Chafee and others, they could do some good things for the country.”
Extraordinary claim, inferior evidence
We contacted the cofounder of GoLocalProv, Josh Fenton, to inquire about the story. He asked us to email our questions. We did. That was Wednesday afternoon. Neither he nor his staff has given us any answers.
We decided not to apply the Truth-O-Meter to this story because while the careful wording of the GoLocalProv headline may be technically accurate, it became clear to us when we probed deeper that key elements of the story are false or unproven.
GoLocalProv offered no evidence that Chafee is paid to directly consult with Akhmetov. He is paid to advise a foundation created by Akhmetov to improve conditions in Ukraine.
As for Akhmetov’s “widely reported ties to organized crime,” we’re reminded of the fact that it can be very difficult to prove a negative. After all, how would you prove to someone that you’re not involved with organized crime?
In the end, we’ve seen no convincing evidence of such a link. As far as we could tell, Rinat Akhmetov has never been indicted or convicted of any crime. We couldn’t find any reference of even a minor arrest.
All we found were suspicions, suggestions, innuendo, and conspiracy theories circulating in the rough-and-tumble world of an emerging Ukrainian democracy.
In the end, what the GoLocalProv story is stating is that Chafee is involved with a mobster.
That’s an extraordinary claim, given Chafee’s reputation.
Astronomer Carl Sagan used to say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
In this case, the evidence doesn’t even rise to the level of the ordinary.
[Should we see the Turkish and US missions as competition, or as the old “one-two-punch”? SEE: Clinton heads to Asia to assure China’s neighbors]
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday. AP photo
With China rising as a world power, Turkey has intensified its efforts to increase dialogue, sending its foreign minister to the Asian nation for a weeklong trip just three weeks after receiving the Chinese prime minister.
Experts say, however, that it will not be easy to establish an equal relationship with Beijing.
“The increase in trade with China is creating a situation [weighted] against Turkey,” Selçuk Çolakoğlu of the Ankara-based think tank USAK, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “Economic targets set by the two countries are not overlapping.”
The trade balance between Turkey and China is heavily in the latter’s favor. Turkish exports to China surpassed $1.45 billion in the first eight months of 2010, compared to imports of $10.67 billion. Statistics show that 65 percent of Turkey’s $28.5 billion total foreign trade deficit from January to June was due to imports from Russia, China and the United States.
Turkey imports natural gas from Russia and technological products from the United States, while the trade deficit with China largely comes from consumer goods.
Though Turkey officially recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1971, the country has not been prominent in Ankara’s strategic vision. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s departure for China late Wednesday indicates that is changing. Turkish businessmen expressed high hopes about the new engagement, saying high-level interaction in the political realm will encourage mutual investment.
“We were continually in the position of being the importing country. Exports were long neglected. Now there’s an awakening,” said Derya Aydıner, head of the Turkish-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We are moving from one-sided interaction toward mutual trade with China.”
Both economic and political relationships between the two countries remained weak until the 1990s, when China stepped onto the world stage after its reform and opening-up drive in 1978, becoming a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001. Turkey and China have set a timetable to increase their trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and to $100 billion by 2020, boldly vowing to trade in their national currencies.
A strategic partnership?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier this month that Turkey and China had agreed to boost their relationship to the level of strategic cooperation, something he hailed as an important sign following the institution of similar policies with Russia and Iran.
Though Western-oriented opinion makers have recently criticized Ankara for moving away from Europe and forging close links with countries in the Middle East, especially Iran, analysts say the warming of Turkish-Chinese relations will not fuel such debates. Instead, they say, the growing ties should be seen as an effort to fill a significant gap in Turkish foreign policy.
President Abdullah Gül visited China in 2009 and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao became the first Chinese premier in eight years to visit Turkey when he traveled to Ankara early this month. Turkey and China have signed eight separate agreements to deepen their ties on issues ranging from energy and transportation to telecommunications and culture. The relationship has also grown in the military sphere, with NATO-member Turkey inviting China to join an Anatolian Eagle military exercise.
Not all analysts think the relationship will continue to progress smoothly, though.
“All this should not be interpreted as Turkish-Chinese relations turning into a strategic partnership. This is not the case at all. Whatever Turkey and China do to improve their relationship, they will remain rivals,” said Sinan Oğan, the chairman of the Ankara-based think tank TÜRKSAM. “In 15 to 20 years time, Turkey will become part of a natural alliance made up of the United States, Russia and Japan against China. The Turkish position will not be for, but against China.”
Energy could be a key part of the two countries’ future relations, but with both dependent on oil and gas, and competing for Caspian-based resources, cooperation will not be easy to come by. Experts say renewable energy and nuclear energy could be more promising.
Uighur Turks a source of concern
Connections between Turkey and Uighur Turks in China continue to be a potential source of problems in Turkish-Chinese relations.
Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighurs in China’s western-most region, known in Turkish as Doğu Türkistan (East Turkistan). There are several associations belonging to Uighur Turks in Turkey.
Ankara was only able to normalize its relationship with Beijing after it made some restrictions on activities of Uighur Turks in Turkey, who protested Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s trip to Ankara early this month. Members of the East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association chanted slogans and unfurled banners in front of the hotel where Wen was staying. One of the protesters attempted to throw a shoe at the Chinese leader but failed to connect with his target.
The relationship with China was strained by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s describing the 2009 ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang region as “a kind of genocide” and granting a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur based in the United States who China has blamed for the ethnic unrest that killed some 184 people.
FM Davutoğlu’s schedule
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday, after attending the National Security Council meeting in Ankara. He will first visit Kashgar, an oasis city in the western part of the Xinjiang region, and then travel to Urumqui, the capital of Xinjiang, on Thursday. Davutoğlu will fly to Shanghai on Saturday and visit the Turkish pavilion at the EXPO fair. On Monday, he will travel to the capital, Beijing, to participate in official meetings and lecture on Turkish-Chinese relations at the Beijing International Studies Institute.
[Tajikistan’s anti-Islam purge stinks of Stalin and his program for the elimination of Christian churches (SEE: USSR anti-religious campaign (1928–1941) “In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500.“).]
The building, adjacent to the party’s headquarters and its main prayer hall, was almost completely destroyed by fire on the afternoon of October 23.
The religious center functioned as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men.
Mahmadali Hayit, a deputy head of the IRP, suggested the building was set ablaze deliberately. “I think it was arson and it was done with some type of fuel,” he said. “The fire started from the back of the building, which does not have any electrical line.”
Authorities in Dushanbe say the incident is under investigation and that “nothing is clear at this point.” Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahhorov visited the site to talk to party leaders and assess the situation.
Religion And Politics
IRP leaders say the incident took place a day after officials from the country’s Religious Affairs Committee visited the center to tell the party to stop using the building for prayers.
“I see a direct connection between the delegation’s visit and this fire,” Hayit was quoted by the IRP’s website as saying.
Earlier in the week, the party headquarters was raided by law enforcement agencies. They disrupted prayers and “also took away some disks and literature on display there for sale,” Hayit said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmadullo Asadulloev said the IRP had repeatedly been told not to use its headquarters for prayers and for selling religious compact disks.
“Such raids were taking place for years. But now they are reinforced,” Asadulloev said. “Tapes and disks that are being sold there illegally should be confiscated.”
The mosque is at the center of a long-running dispute between Tajik officials and the IRP, the only officially registered Islamic party in Central Asia.
The state Committee for Religious Affairs insists the building is not officially registered as a prayer house and that political parties should not have mosques.
Party officials have in the past said the government was seeking to close down the mosque to prevent any future growth in the party’s influence.
Hayit said the party previously had been warned by the Religious Committee that the mosque would be closed by October 13. However, according to Hayit, the party was hoping “the issue will be resolved peacefully.”
According to party officials, between 2,500 and 3,000 people attend Friday Prayers at the party headquarters’ mosque.
At least 100 women took part in Friday Prayers in the adjacent prayer room, which is separated by a partition from the main hall where the men pray. The IRP, however, calls it a women’s religious cultural center.
Tajik religious authorities banned women from attending mosque prayers in 2004. No official reason was given, but pro-government clerics had argued that the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam — followed by a majority of Tajiks — does not require women to attend mosque prayers.
But the decision sparked some protests by women and religious leaders, who criticized it as a violation of women’s rights.
Women and girls in Tajikistan do not traditionally attend mosque prayers.
In certain places, most notably in the Muhammadiya Mosque in the Vahdat district outside Dushanbe, and in a mosque run by prominent Mullah Hoji Mirzo in the southern city of Kulob, some women used to participate in Friday Prayers.
However, in recent years the authorities have ordered both mosques to stop holding women’s prayers.
written by Farangis Najibullah with contribution from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service
[SEE: Parachinar–Pakistan’s Gaza Strip ]
After Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces announced the move on Monday evening at a news conference in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram, five border crossing points- Terimangal, Spina Shaga, Khairlachi, Burki and Shahidano Dand- have been shut, with security beefed up.
“We have done this due to internal security concerns, because there have been sectarian clashes in Kurram and we do not want miscreants from outside to exploit the situation,” said Akhtar.
The blockade comes amid reports that the Turis have once again refused to allow the militants to enter Afghanistan via Kurram.
However, many in Kurram suspect that the government is pressurising the Turis to meet Taliban demands to cross their land, as the blockade means that the Turis are hemmed in by the military on one side and by the Taliban on the other.
After the Taliban blockaded the east of Kurram, effectively cutting off the area from the rest of Pakistan, the tribe had been forced to rely on trade with Afghan towns and villages over the border.
But the government decision to block this route, too, now places the Turis under an economic stranglehold, said the BBC.
Last week, Haqqani network members had held talks with Turi leaders in Islamabad in a bid to strike a deal on gaining access to Kurram, it added.
Though the Taliban allegedly offered safe passage for Turis travelling overland from Kurram to Peshawar in return, they reportedly rejected the Taliban approach- for at least the fourth time since 2008.
While the Turis, who follow the Shia branch of Islam, have traditionally abhorred the Taliban, who adhere to a hardline Sunni form of the faith, many Taliban consider Shias to be non-Muslims. (ANI)
London, Oct 27 – Twenty years after the Soviet army quit Afghanistan, the Russian military may resume training Afghans, the Guardian reported Wednesday.
But NATO officials said the plan did not envisage having Russian troops in Afghanistan.
The Red Army was forced out by US-backed mujahideen in 1989 after fighting the guerrillas for about a decade.
The Guardian said the proposed plans precede an alliance summit next month to be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Several joint NATO-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the cards including the use of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian training of Afghan national security forces and increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, officials said.
But the officials said there was no question of Russian troops coming back to Afghanistan.
‘There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – (it’s) not part of Russia’s intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself,’ a NATO spokesman said.
‘In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan.’
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying: ‘Russia is strongly interested in increased cooperation… Last December, when I visited Moscow, I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army.
‘Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the US. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the NATO-Russia council.’
Officials feel that Russian-made helicopters were more suited to Afghan conditions than their Western equivalents.
A diplomat pointed out that the Hamid Karzai government’s attitude would be key to the Russian plan to get involved in training Afghan army recruits.
London, Oct 27(ANI): The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations with Russia for a joint initiative in Afghanistan.
According to the Telegraph, a formal agreement may be reached at NATO’s two-day summit, which will be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Lisbon from November 19.
“The summit can mark a new start in the relationship between NATO and Russia,” the newspaper quoted Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary-General, as saying.
“We will hopefully agree on a broad range of areas in which we can develop practical co-operation on Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics,” he added.
According to reports, the deals would include supply of Russian helicopters and Russian crews to train Afghan pilots.
Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov hopes that Western peacemaking troops will not withdraw before they have fulfilled their mission in the region.
“We are watching things in Afghanistan very closely and we are exchanging our experience with the Americans. Russia is ready to pass on to America the experience gained by our veterans of the war in Afghanistan,” the Independent quoted Serdyukov, as saying.
“Withdrawal of the [Western] troops would naturally affect the situation in central Asia, we currently cannot even imagine how. For this reason we want to help the West, among other things with helicopters, whose delivery we are now discussing,” he added.
Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com
Ukrainians have their own heroes and vision of history
Last days saw, so to speak, a “sign of de-Stalinization.” What prompted some writers to focus on this was an important event in Russia’s public life — a statement by Mikhail Fedotov, the newly-appointed head of the Human Rights Council under the president of Russia, which was in many ways groundbreaking. He said that it is necessary to “de-Stalinize the social mentality of Russia’s citizens.” Ukrainians are especially interested in Russia finally opting for a democratic system. It is clear that Stalinism today is, above all, an imperial mentality that endures and rejects the Ukrainian identity, recognizing the Holodomor as genocide, and the right of Ukrainians to have their own heroes. It is a reason to impose on us their ideology in the form of the so-called common history manual.
We have already written about the Big Politics program on the Inter TV channel, which triggered a hot-heated debate. There was a particularly interesting moment in it: Sergei Uvarov, a Moscow guest and, presumably, a Ukraine expert, was outraged that his speech drew no applause. He exhibited an emotional reaction and began to suspect that he had spoken to a handpicked audience.
A young man from the audience raised his hand and replied with outstanding personal dignity. It took us quite an effort to track him down: he is a Kyivan student, Nazar Lytvyn. This program featured the very rational political scientist Vadym Karasiov, whom The Dayhas already interviewed, and the historian Vladyslav HRYNEVYCH, who agreed to answer The Day’s questions about the show, de-Stalinization and other topics.
THE UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENTSIA MAY ONLY SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT IF IT REVERSES ITS MEMORY POLICY
Mr. Hrynevych, why do you think there is so much trickery in today’s Ukraine in regards to the topic of de-Stalinization?
“As a matter of fact, we have not heard the term ‘de-Stalinization’ since the new team came to power. Moreover, the leadership is always trying to adjust to Russia — to its canons and approaches to historical research. It is afraid of offending Russia and, in general, of saying a ‘wry’ word. Actually, speaking of de-Stalinization, we must note that this process began in full after the Orange Revolution. It is during this period that we began to depart from Soviet history and tried to create or recreate our own democratic canons, which can help us assume our own identity.
“When Putin came to power in Russia, de-Stalinization, which had begun in that country in the Yeltsin era, essentially slowed down. This signaled an overall rollback, i.e., a return to Stalinist values, because Stalin is a crucial element for Russian empire. This helps Russian leadership to attempt to recreate a powerful super-empire, for imperial values are very important for Russian mentality: everybody was afraid of us, we ruled the world, the Kremlin used to pick up a phone and tell half of Europe, Asia and Africa what to do. This really moves the Russian heart. In this case, Stalin, with all his crimes and atrocities, was the one who forced the entire world to fear and reckon with Russia. And, what is more, he is associated with winning the World War II. What he had done before is receding to the background. For modern-day Russian identity, the victory in World War II is the most significant event, which made Russia a superpower. In this sense, Stalin cannot be thrown away because we say ‘Stalin’ and mean ‘victory,’ we say ‘victory’ and mean Stalin. If you delete Stalin from this word combination, that victory will be empty. Therefore, Stalin is a butcher and a murderer on the one hand, and a great victor on the other.
“Russian school manuals published in the past five years, after Putin ordered the ‘right’ textbooks to be written (moreover, he promised to bring to justice the publishers who would produce the ‘wrong’ books), have seen a U-turn from de-Stalinization. For example, the manual by Danilov and Filippov ends in 1945. It does not explain what totalitarianism is because the authors consider it a bad word and suggest using the word ‘modernization.’ In other words, Stalinism is regarded as a period of modernization that turned a peasant Russia into a rocket-launching one. Stalin is treated as a great manager who succeeded in carrying out this modernization. The manual’s authors mainly emphasize industrialization, devoting 80 positive pages to it, while the Holodomor, owing to which the industrialization was in fact possible, takes up but one passage.
“I am not inclined to exaggerate the role of the Orange period, but, against the backdrop of economic failures, negative effects on public wellbeing, and political chaos, Yushchenko’s national memory policy, criticized, incidentally, by many historians, was about de-Stalinization. I just wonder why these historians are silent now. How are they going to criticize this policy now? As you know, there was so much mocking of Lviv’s Lontsky Prison and Bykivnia in Kyiv. The right approach was to get rid of our Soviet legacy. Even the Occupation Museum, which many people also ridiculed for lack of wisdom, was a rational project that fit in with the de-Stalinization concept.”
What is your attitude to the Russian politician Sergei Markov’s idea to write a common manual on Russian and Ukrainian history? Is this possible at all?
“Whenever we raise this question, I have another one to ask: why do the Russian, or our leaders, need this? It is very simple. The Russians are very well aware that it will be difficult to restore their empire without Ukraine. As a matter of fact, when they say we should write a common manual, it is, above all, an attempt to use identity as a means of caging Ukrainians, especially those who still find it difficult to find their identity. The Russians know only too well that ours is a split country and, hence, they take advantage of this, manipulating the awareness of the people. If you deprive people of their language, history, and identity — they will think it is normal. The Russian imperial project is in fact aimed at tying Ukraine up — intellectually, morally, and in terms of identity — to Russia as tightly as possible, and uses history as an argument.
“The European democratic rhetoric, which both Markov and Kolesnichenko resorted to, hides Russian imperial intentions. When somebody always urges us to be more democratic and tolerant, and to embrace European values, this means they are pulling wool over our eyes. Because their media is frank about the fact that [Russia] will not manage to restore an empire of sorts without Ukraine. Who guarded the Chinese border in the Soviet era? The Ukrainians. They are not there now. In other words, there is no, pardon the expression, ‘cannon fodder’ to do the dirty work.”
What about Fedotov’s statement about Russia’s intention to carry out de-Stalinization?
“Russia is as eager as Ukraine to integrate into the European space. They are motivated by a host of economic problems. So it is extremely important for Russia to have the image of a civilized country, and Stalinism is quite an uncivilized thing. This is why both Putin and Medvedev have been dissociating themselves from and condemning Stalinism in the past few years. The real situation is that, on the one hand, Stalinist methods and crimes are being condemned and, on the other, Stalin is being glorified. Frankly speaking, I would be very glad if Russia embarked on a democratic path and condemned Stalinism, among other things. The point is that deeds not always follow words. I have already mentioned Danilov’s and Filippov’s textbook. It is about not only history but also about political spin. It is teachers, rather than pupils, who must study this manual to know how to teach history. Incidentally, this book came under scathing criticism in the West for being biased.
“Besides, the State Duma of Russia passed two resolutions on the ‘right’ interpretation of Ukraine’s past. Then they set up the so-called Medvedev Commission that deals with countering the falsification of history. The Russian authorities are actively supporting this: a number of projects have been launched to study history textbooks in neighboring countries. We know there have already been some conflicts, as with the relocation of [Red Army soldiers] monuments in Tallinn and Kutaisi. Another resolution is aimed at countering the rehabilitation of Nazi war criminals and their henchmen in the former Soviet republics. Passed on the eve of Victory Day, this law prescribes punishment for attempts to revise the assessment of World War II. This virtually Stalinist document is a manifesto of sorts by which Moscow is asserting its rights and laying claim to ideological control in the post-Soviet space, first of all, in its European part. Russia is just making it clear that it will not tolerate any pluralism of views on the history of World War II. Incidentally, the institutions that promote writing a ‘true’ history of Russia are far from always considered academic.
“Therefore, de-Stalinization in Russia is a desired, rather than an actual, thing. In other words, Russia’s national memory policy is very far from its leader’s recent declarations. We will see whether Russia’s declarations on de-Stalinization will be backed up by actions or whether they are just meant to woo the West. In reality, the latest Western research shows there is no de-Stalinization going on. Russia is not waging a large-scale campaign to condemn Stalinism. All this sank into oblivion after Yeltsin because the authoritarian regime does not want any parallels to be drawn with the Stalinist regime.”
Perhaps, at least in words only, Russia is trying to snatch the de-Stalinization initiative from Ukraine?
“While in the Yushchenko era it was possible to analyze something because many institutions dealt with this issue, now we simply do not have any national memory policy. There is the Institute of National Remembrance, which has done very much in pursuing the national memory policy. We can clearly see this only now that de-Stalinization is being folded up, especially when this institute is now headed by the communist Soldatenko who is guided by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and is mulling over the publication of a book of documents on UPA atrocities. Pursuing this policy, the institute only discredits the authorities, particularly Yanukovych, instead of doing any good. I do not think it will hold out for a long time, if it continues moving in this direction. So, taking into account that fact that the government is not pursuing any national memory policy, we cannot say that Russia can overtake us. Not only are doing nothing: on the contrary, we are ruining what was done during the presidency of Yushchenko.
“The new leadership has completely lost the support of Ukrainian intellectuals who do not wish, on their part, to cooperate with the authorities. And the people who hang around Yanukovych only pretend to be intellectuals. In this case, the leadership has found itself in a blind alley by its own effort. So they ought to think of how long they will manage to stay in power without relying on the potential of Ukrainian intellectuals. The Ukrainian intelligentsia will only offer its support if the leadership reverses its current national memory policy. It is not a question of political preferences. The leadership simply does not know how to cope with what they can possess at last when nobody gives them a helping hand. Therefore, the point is not that Russia has overtaken them — the point is that they still fail to understand that de-Stalinization is a needed and civilized thing to do.”
What do you think causes the leadership to be unaware of the necessity to carry out this process?
“The cause is absolutely clear. Ukraine is a country that has a lot of identities, of which we can single out two and call them, for convenience, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Soviet. The latter is largely based on Russian patriotism. This means preference for the Russian language and culture as well as nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Yushchenko brought in an elite that endorsed the idea of pro-Ukrainian identity and considered it necessary to Ukrainize this country’s identity for the sake of development. But the current ruling elite, mostly hailing from Donetsk, was born and raised in a region, where all things Ukrainian were weak and all things Russian and Soviet were blurred. The Ukrainian language, culture, and identity are of no value for them. They thought that once they had come to power and imposed their will, all the rest would become resigned to their fate. This leadership does not understand that no social, mental, and intellectual questions can be answered by injunctions. This cannot be done by force. Stalin was once bent on physically destroying the Ukrainian elite. This is now, naturally, impossible. After all, what did Stalin manage to do? As soon as the regime foundered in the late 1980s, the Ukrainian identity immediately came to the fore.
“Power is now wielded by people whom I cannot possibly call an elite. They do not know at all whether they are Ukrainian or Russian. I once read that when non-ethnic Ukrainians were appointed to top offices in the Soviet era, they would become Ukrainian patriots within a year or two. Somebody even complained to Moscow that the rotation of cadres was too slow and people here became Ukrainian patriots too fast. In this case the Donetsk clan found itself in a similar situation. These people came to Kyiv, where they felt a certain influence and resistance, because neither Kyiv nor Lviv support them. For example, they can politically cancel an election or do something else, but this will not produce a result. Unfortunately, the Donetsk clan continues to discredit itself when it allows its inner circle to stage all kinds of provocations. Among them are Tabachnyk and Soldatenko, who are acting against, rather than for, their leaders. But even they will be unable to de-Ukrainize Ukraine.
“For this reason, the Donetsk clan will have to adapt and become Ukrainized. There is no other way out. Either they will adjust to Ukrainian rules or go nowhere. They will not draw up their own rules. Even Prof. Tolochko, who opines that Ukrainians created the Russian Empire and that it is our common heritage, will not help here, let alone Tabachnyk with his still crazier ideas. The Russian and Soviet empires are not our common heritage. The proof of this is the Holodomor, the OUN-UPA, and Chornobyl. Our historical memory is entirely different, so we will never adapt to the Russian mentality. I think the current leadership will gradually understand this and will, sooner or later, try to get rid of their most odious members — in other words, they will opt for a compromise. This is meant to attract the Ukrainian elite to ruling the state.”
There was a very interesting moment at the Inter TV channel’s latest program Big Politics, when a student from the audience raised his hand and spoke to the Russian guest Sergei Markov, responding to his passionate speech: “If we had a normal security service, you would be in no laughing mood.” Would you comment on this? What does this mean?
“Apart from being an academic historian, I am also a professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. This means I mingle with young people who study impartial history. A Norwegian acquaintance of mine surveyed the state of languages in Ukraine and found that Russian-speaking young people in Kharkiv believe that Ukrainian should be the official language. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is one of the few institutions in Ukraine where Ukrainian is spoken everywhere. I think that people, who have gone to Ukrainian schools and studied Ukrainian textbooks deprived of imperial and totalitarian bombast are the foundation of Ukrainian patriotism.
“During the abovementioned talk show, young people never applauded Markov, which means they took a dim view of the idea of a common textbook. And Ganapolsky was certainly wrong to give this student a talking-to for being ‘undemocratic.’ Can you imagine that our compatriot comes to France or Germany and begins to say in a TV program what Markov said in Ukraine: ‘your textbooks are not your business and if you are undemocratic and dim-witted, we will tell you what to write?’ This is a national insult. The student spoke from the bottom of his heart. And he was right because he meant: ‘If you have come to a foreign country and want to foist your approaches on us, where is our security service, which is supposed to protect us from you?’”
The Day got in touch with the person who responded to Markov’s “progressive” statements. He is Nazar Lytvyn, a 5th year (master’s degree) student, majoring in finance, at Kyiv National Vadym Hetman Economic University.
“WE MUST CORRECTLY ASSESS STALINISM AND CLEAR OUR CONSCIENCE OF THE SOVIET PAST”
Nazar, you could have remained silent during Markov’s speech. Why did you choose to speak?
“Firstly, I am very grateful to you for an opportunity to express my opinion. That moment on the talk show, I had prepared no special questions. I was just listening to the debate. I will tell you straightaway that Mr. Markov’s words revolted me. I could not help responding, for I was not indifferent to what he said. In general, I think any patriotically-minded person would have done the same in my place. He, a Russian State Duma member, came to us — to a Ukrainian TV channel — first of all, as a guest, so he should not have taken the liberty to lecture us on how to write Ukrainian history textbooks and, in general, to express contemptuous ideas about our history and heroes. I think the SBU should deal with this kind of people. I am not going to assess the performance of this organization under the previous president, but they really dealt with such people as Zatulin and Luzhkov, who also allowed themselves, whenever they visited Ukraine, to express doubts about Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.”
There have been instances in Europe, when the French and the Germans wrote common history manuals. What do you think should occur in Ukraine-Russia relations to enable the two countries to write common textbooks? It is possible now, or ever?
“I do not think it is possible today. And, in general, I do not understand how we can write about a common history if we are different countries and have different histories. Naturally, there can be some common positive moments for both countries, but Russia is a conqueror, while Ukraine is a country that has always been fighting for its independence, mainly against Russia. In other words, we have a history of liberation. So there is very little in common between the two countries. And if we recall the Russian leadership’s comment about how collapse of the USSR is the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century — and we know that this ‘catastrophe’ resulted in Ukraine’s independence, what common history can we talk about? Yes, Ukraine and Russia are close in many respects, we are neighbors and, in all probability, a common textbook will be possible in the future. But, for this to happen, each side should admit its own faults and failures. History consists of black and white streaks, so one should not say that Russia has always been good for us. This is wrong. Moreover, our people do not think so. We have heroes of our own that Russia must recognize if it wants common textbooks to be written.”
Why do you think Russia has recognized the Polish tragedy in Katyn but does not want to recognize the Ukrainian Holodomor tragedy?
“Yes, Poland was at times part of the Russian imperial or Soviet sphere of influence, but Ukraine was much closer. Even Russians themselves are saying that it is impossible to reestablish a Russian empire without Ukraine. Taking into account that in the early 2000s Russia embarked on the path of the restoration of what I may call a once powerful empire, Ukraine has become the main object of pressure on the part of Russia. Moreover, they need our human and economic resources. The Polish situation is different: new world realities and, hence, new geopolitics. But the main thing is that the Poles are more unanimous in defending their interests. Poland has always been taking the same view on the Katyn tragedy, no matter who was in power. This has never been the case in Ukraine because some Ukrainian politicians do not consider the Holodomor as genocide. Russia will not recognize the Holodomor as long as there is no unity on this question in Ukrainian society and, what is more, among politicians. Only united can we resist Russian pressure.”
What do you think causes de-Stalinization to slow down in today’s Ukraine?
“I represent the younger generation that was shaped in independent Ukraine, although I was born in the USSR. My views were formed in independent Ukraine. It is perhaps the patriotic upbringing by my parents that allows me to say that de-Stalinization must be carried out to the end. Stalin was one of the greatest butchers of the Ukrainian people, so I don’t think de-Stalinization is bad. We must properly assess that period and clear our conscience of the vestiges of the Soviet past.
“You know, whenever officials and the opposition attend such TV programs as Big Politics, they try to tell the public that economic matters and people’s wellbeing is the thing to focus on. I do not think so because what is the most important is our language and history, i.e., social issues, as well as whether people abide by democratic procedures, laws, and the Constitution. I think politicians wangle public opinion when they say that earning money and, pardon, eating is the main thing. Politicians believe that ordinary people are disillusioned with politics. This may be partially true, but, as far as the younger generation is concerned (I don’t mean myself only), they are taking a keen interest in our political life, and they are concerned whether it will be worse or better.”
In your speech during the talk show, you said the phrase: “If we had a normal security service.” What is wrong with the security service and the government in general?
“I would not like to criticize the SBU for cooperating with Russia and in fact selling out our national interests. I just want to say that it is doing nothing to resist the Russian onslaught — sometimes it even encourages this onslaught. Why did it happen? Ukraine is diverse. I find it difficult to say what would have happened if another candidate had won, but the tragedy is that our democratic forces failed to unite. Nor can they, unfortunately, do so today, when the authorities are constantly pressuring them. Let us hope they will be able to unite in the future. The opposition will hardly manage to recoup its losses in the upcoming local elections, but they stand a good chance in the next parliamentary vote. They must unite by all means in order to offer at least some resistance to the government and avert any further ‘passionate love’ of Russia by way of integrating into Europe.”
I wonder why you have such a strong liberal arts background while you study exact sciences at the university. Secondly, can you tell us about the way audiences are selected for the Big Politics program? What was the audience’s reaction to Markov’s words?
“I have a good liberal arts background thanks to the school I went to. I come from Ternopil oblast. I have read and still read literature. Family upbringing is also important. My father and grandfather always take interest in politics and history, and they handed this down to me when I was still a child. Although politics is a dirty thing, I am interested in it.
“Yevgeny Kiseliov was right to say that it is mostly the students’ audience which was not ‘bribed.’ The students applauded the guests they liked and kept silent when they disagreed with somebody. In this case I managed to respond and thus express my protest. In reality, most of the Ukrainian, especially Kyivan, universities represented by their students in the audience applauded to the idea that there should be no common history textbook. The audience was patriotically-minded and did not support Markov’s theses. I know many of those who took part in this program, so I can say that most of them are opting for Ukraine’s democratic future and movement towards Europe, as well as better standards and values.”
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Poland has struck a new gas deal with Russia, but the country remains stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. What to do?
“There is no risk of disruptions in natural gas supplies to Poland,” the Economy Ministry declared last week following the resolution of protracted talks over Russian gas supplies. But the negotiation process illustrated, yet again, Poland’s dependence on Russian natural gas.
Energy insecurity is one of the great bugbears of Polish foreign policy and a source of major apprehension in relations with Russia. And this year’s gas negotiations, as in the past, were unpleasant.
“I would like this discussion to be the last one,” said Tomasz Chmal, an energy expert at the Sobieski Institute, a Warsaw-based think tank, summing up the general feeling in Poland.
That’s an understandable desire, but one which will likely go unfulfilled.
The gas, at last
The preliminary intergovernmental agreement reached by Polish and Russian officials secures annual deliveries of 10.2 billion m3 of natural gas for Poland through 2022. The increase (up from 7.4 billion m3) will fill a supply gap of two billion m3 left by a cessation of deliveries from Ukraine in 2009.
Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said the contract, which still needs to be signed at the government level, as well as between gas monopolists Gazprom and PGNiG, would be finalized next week.
Polish PM Donald Tusk has backed the deal, while the Polish energy sector watchdog (URE) has given its official green light.
The EU, whose complaints halted a gas deal back in February, had a representative present at the negotiating table and should see some of its requirements satisfied. The bloc had insisted that the infrastructure transporting gas through Poland be accessible to third parties, and that the pipeline itself be run by an independent entity (see box, p.13).
The price of gas in the contract is not yet known but, according to Mr Chmal, they will probably be above market prices. In the short term, however, Poland has no other choice.
A game of influence
The political map of Central and Eastern Europe might have changed a great deal since 1989, but its network of gas pipelines is still a stark reminder of Soviet dominance.
Simply put, Poland is utterly reliant on Russian gas and pipelines. “In the short term there are no other options comparable in volume,” Andrzej Szczęśniak, an independent energy market analyst, stated bluntly.
There’s a commonly held belief in Poland – and elsewhere – that Russia wields Gazprom as a foreign policy tool. And the under-construction Nord Stream pipeline, which is to carry 55 billion m3 of gas directly from Russia to Germany annually, bypassing Poland, makes many in the latter country nervous.
“When the Nord Stream is completed, Russia won’t be pressured by German consumers [to maintain deliveries to Poland] anymore. This is the game,” commented Mr Chmal.
But is it? According to Mr Szczęśniak, Poland’s prime concern should be to improve business relations with Russia and to keep gas supplies out of the realm of politics.
“Poland has weak leverage on Russia because it cut business contacts with Russia four years ago,” he said. “Normally good sense tells you to have the best contacts possible with suppliers. In Poland we have done the opposite,” he lamented.
Marko Papic, an analyst at American intelligence company Stratfor, added that Russia actually has a strong interest in making sure that its relationship with Poland is accommodating.
“Russia needs the EU to stay out of its business as it tries to lock down Ukraine, Belarus and the Caucasus,” he explained. “To do that, Russia needs good relations with major EU countries. Poland has leverage there,” he added.
Proof of this leverage, according to Mr Papic, can be seen in Russia’s “magnanimous” declaration that Poland would not lack gas if the contract was not signed in time.
Poland’s new contract with Gazprom is no substitute for investment in alternative sources, however, as gas consumption is set to rise at a pace that even the increase to 10.2 billion m3 of Russian gas will not cover.
According to Mr Chmal, “14.4 billion m3 [of combined Russian imports and local production] is just the bottom line for Polish demand in the next few years. If the economy grows, and I am optimistic about this, then demand will increase, too.”
For now, the bulk of Poland’s annual gas consumption goes to the chemical and oil-refining industries. Only one-third is used by Polish households, mainly for heating, and almost none goes towards electricity generation.
But this last point might change. Currently around 95 percent of Polish electricity is generated using coal. Although this dependency on coal won’t end any time soon, the country is under pressure from the EU’s climate change package to reduce its percentage in the energy mix.
Gas-fired power plants, although virtually unheard of in Poland, produce only half as much CO2 as coal-fired plants and provide a good balance with less-reliable energy from renewable sources like wind, according to Mr Chmal.
“I think there is room for at least a few gas-fired power plants in Poland,” he said. “If we decide to build them, then 10.2 billion m3 will not be enough.”
Betting on LNG
The option with the best prospects to help meet demand, according to all experts consulted by WBJ, is the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal being built on the Baltic coast in Świnoujście.
|Sources: Polish Energy Regulatory Office, PGNiG|
Construction is going smoothly and the 2.5 billion m3 capacity terminal should be functional in 2014. Supply should not be a problem, as one contract with Qatar has already been signed by PGiNG and other partners appear to be interested.
Another reason to bet on LNG, according to Mr Papic, is that shale-gas production in the US may reduce that country’s demand for gas imports to the point that market prices drop, making new sources more attractive for countries like Poland.
“Instead of buying from Qatar, Poland might want to buy from the Caribbean, which could in the future be looking for new clients,” hypothesized Mr Papic.
Page 1 of 2
[The purpose of this report is to charge that the military’s best efforts won’t work because of “sanctuaries in Pakistan.”]
“Despite a fierce U.S. military campaign aimed at paralyzing the Taliban in Afghanistan, insurgents have largely been able to absorb attacks and are playing a waiting game until July…the Taliban and Haqqani network — have been able to bear the U.S. campaign primarily because they have access to sanctuaries in Pakistan.”
April 3, 2010: Taliban insurgents pose in front of a burning German military vehicle in Isaa Khail village of Char Dara district of the northern Kunduz Province.
Despite a fierce U.S. military campaign aimed at paralyzing the Taliban in Afghanistan, insurgents have largely been able to absorb attacks and are playing a waiting game until July, when the U.S. troop drawdown is scheduled to begin, military and intelligence officials reportedly say.
While stepped-up airstrikes and special operations raids have damaged local Taliban cells, the attacks have not had a meaningful impact on the terror organization and have failed to put pressure on the group to seek peace, the officials reportedly said.
“The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience,” a senior Defense official involved in assessments of the war told The Washington Post. The Taliban have consistently shown an ability to “reestablish and rejuvenate” within days of being hit by U.S. forces, the official continued.
Assessments made by the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency found that Taliban commanders killed or captured are often replaced within a matter of days, and in territories such as Kandahar where insurgents have been forced to flee temporarily, the groups are simply waiting for the opportunity to return, the Post reported.
U.S. officials said Taliban agents are intentionally holding back efforts until the start of President Obama’s troop drawdown in July of next year. “The end is near,” they tell one another, attributing the words to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, the newspaper said.
The Obama administration plans a review of the war effort in December, which has triggered jockeying between U.S. military leaders looking to continue the troop surge and critics who argue the American role should be downsized.
Last week, top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus said progress against the insurgency was occurring “more rapidly than was anticipated,” but acknowledged major hurdles lie ahead.
Officials told the paper the main two insurgent groups — the Taliban and Haqqani network — have been able to bear the U.S. campaign primarily because they have access to sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Iran acknowledged it has been sending funds to Afghanistan for years, but said the money was intended to aid reconstruction, not to buy influence in the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
U.S. officials asserted the money flowing from Tehran was proof that Iran is playing a double game in Afghanistan — wooing the government while helping Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO forces.
Karzai said Monday he receives millions of dollars in cash from Iran, adding that Washington gives him “bags of money” too because his office lacks funds.
In Washington, President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, denied that. “We’re not in the big bags of cash business,” he said Tuesday.
Earlier, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said some of the U.S. aid to Afghanistan is in cash.
Iran publicly opposed the U.S.-led offensive that toppled the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, though its relations with the Taliban regime had been frosty.
Corruption in Russia has risen notably over the past year, according to a report released on Tuesday by the global civic organization Transparency International.
In the organization’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, Russia’s transparency rating fell from last year’s 2.2 to 2.1, on a scale of 0.0 (”highly corrupt”) to 10.0 (”very clean”). Additionally, it’s country ranking fell from 146 out of 180 countries to 154 out of 178 countries, landing between Papua New Guinea and Tajikistan.
Within Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Russia was ranked 16 out of 20, with the only countries more corrupt listed as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The organization estimates that market for corruption in Russia is worth $300 billion a year.
While authors of the report did not comment on individual countries, they advised overall that “governments need to integrate anti-corruption measures in all spheres, from their responses to the financial crisis and climate change to commitments by the international community to eradicate poverty” in order to combat corruption.
Political commentator Anton Orekh responded to the report by saying that Russia would continue to fall in the ratings “until honest people become the most powerful ones in the country.”
“To say it plainly, take away the bureaucrats’ unlimited authorities, leave them with only the most necessary functions, and you will defeat corruption,” said Orekh. “Because corruption is the way of life for parasites, and our bureaucrats have become precisely parasites.”
The countries ranked in the report as the most transparent were Denmark, New Zealand, and Singapore, while Somalia, Myanmar, and Afghanistan were seen as the most corrupt. The United States came in at 22nd place, and China at 78th.
Transparency International noted that since “corruption – whether frequency or amount – is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure,” the level of the perception of corruption in any given country was chosen as a telling alternative. “Over time, perceptions have proved to be a reliable estimate of corruption,” says the organization.
© AP GraphicsBank
Activists, politicians and student leaders are among those who have been targeted in enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests and cases of torture and other ill-treatment.
The violence takes place against a backdrop of increasing political unrest and Pakistan army operations in Balochistan, south western Pakistan.
“The Pakistani government must act immediately to provide justice for the growing list of atrocities in Balochistan,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
“Baloch political leaders and activists are clearly being targeted and the government must do much more to end this alarming trend.”
Among the latest victims of the ongoing violence are Faqir Mohammad Baloch and Zahoor Baloch, whose bodies were discovered in the district of Mastung on 21 October 2010. Faqir Mohammad Baloch, a poet and member of the Voice of Missing Baloch Missing Persons, was abducted on 23 September.
Zahoor Baloch, a member of the Baloch Student Organization-Azad was abducted on 23 August. According to media reports, both received a single bullet wound to the head at point blank range and showed signs of being tortured.
The discovery of the two men’s bodies is part of a growing trend of “kill and dump” operations. Bullet-ridden bodies of those who have been abducted, many showing signs of torture, are increasingly being found across Balochistan. Previously, the bodies of missing persons were rarely recovered.
Other recent victims of the violence include Mir Nooruddin Mengal, a member of the Balochistan National Party’s (BNP-M) Central Executive Committee was shot dead by unidentified men near his home in Gharebabad, near Kalat Bazar on 13 October.
Yasin Baloch, a member of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons and brother of Mujeeb Baloch, senior member of BSO-Azad, who had also been abducted, was shot by unidentified gunmen near Roshare Kalat on 10 October.
The victims’ relatives and activists often accuse the Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies of carrying out these violations. A previously unknown organization, Sipah-e Shuhada-e Balochistan, has also claimed responsibility for some of the killings.
“The Pakistan government’s ongoing failure to prevent abuses has emboldened the perpetrators behind these atrocities,” said Sam Zarifi.
“The Pakistani government must show that it can and will investigate the Pakistani military and Frontier Corps, as well as intelligence agencies, who are widely accused of playing a role in these incidents.”
Amnesty International warned that the rise in enforced disappearances and kill and dump incidents has aggravated political tensions in Baluchistan and led to reprisal killings by Baloch armed groups.
On 14 August 2010, 17 people from Punjab province were killed in Quetta. The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility, saying that the killings were in response to the killings of Baloch missing persons.
Amnesty International urges all sides in the conflict to respect human rights and stop all torture, enforced disappearances, abductions, targeted killings and indiscriminate attacks.
In November 2009, the Pakistani government announced a package of proposed policy and legislation reforms for Balochistan, and promised to resolve the cases of enforced disappearances, but it has so far failed to do so.
Other prominent killings of Baloch activists since July include:
- On 11 July, Maula Baksh Dashti, a key figure in the Balochistan National Party and a former district Nazim (Chief Official) of Kech (Turbat) District was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in his native district.
- On 14 July, former Senator Habib Jalib Baloch, Secretary General of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) was assassinated in the Parkaniabad area of Quetta, by three gunmen on a motorbike. He received seven bullets in the neck and chest and had been receiving threats.
- On 20 July, a leading member of the BNP-M, Liaqat Mengal, was shot dead on by three gunmen on a motorbike near his house in the Kalat district of Balochistan.
- On 26 July, the bullet riddled bodies of two cousins, student Ashfaq Ahmed Mullahzai and Muhmmad Farooq Mengal, were recovered in Quetta, in the Kili Qambrani area. Their relatives claim they had been abducted in May 2010.
- On 6 September, the body of Baloch lawyer Zaman Marri was found in Mastung. He had received a single bullet to his forehead and his body showed torture marks. The lawyer was reportedly abducted by intelligence agents near his place of work in Quetta on 18 August.
- On 23 September, the bullet riddled body of missing Baloch lawyer Ali Sher Kurd was found in Khuzdar district. Kurd was reportedly abducted by Pakistani intelligent agents three days before. His neck was broken and he showed marks of torture.
Balochistan has a history of insurgency with local groups advocating greater autonomy. Four waves of violent unrest took place in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77.
Local people in Balochistan are demanding a bigger share of the revenue generated by the province’s natural resources, principally natural gas, which they believe now disproportionately benefit other provinces.
Some Baloch groups have resorted to violence, while others are campaigning peacefully. The Pakistani national government has attempted to suppress this opposition by increasing the military presence in the region.
Many people have died at the hands of the security forces in extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody, and thousands of people are reported to have been subjected to enforced disappearance. The confrontation between Baloch nationalists and the state is characterised by human rights abuses committed by all sides.
It would be nice if the world of man was a simple creation, where honest effort was its own reward. In such a world, mistakes would be understood as signals of corrections which needed to be made. It is not our good fortunes to live in such a world, at least not as far as all the governments of the world are concerned.
Human governments are in the business of capitalizing upon mistakes, especially turning the mistakes of the opposing party to political advantage. When the stumbling political party happens to be an adversarial government that is the process of self-destruction, then the political urge is to let them suffer. Such was the situation when the Soviet Union fell apart. But that was no excuse for this mistaken American policy or for the train of mistakes which was to follow.
Nothing demonstrates the complexity of the ultimate design which confronts us, or the character flaws of the designers, better than the current state of American/Russian relations. We were led to believe that we had witnessed the implosion of the Soviet state in 1991, but that earth-shaking event was not what it appeared on the surface to be. The event, which was supposed to have meant the end of the modern Russian empire, as well as the end of Soviet Communism, ended nothing, except for the entangling alliances which had been arranged by the demented mind of Josef Stalin.
What really transpired was the “restructuring” (perestroika) of the Russian government, the cutting of economic and social liabilities under the liberal leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, to give the Kremlin leadership breathing space, in order survive the transition from a model communist system to capitalist model. The “capitalism” that Gorbachev had in mind was not the “democratic-capitalist” of the United States, but the Chinese model of state-dominated capitalism. Gorby had in mind the same Eastern version of “democracy,” as well. The fact that George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton turned their backs on the people of Russia and the former satellite states and allowed Russian leader Putin time to reestablish a “moderate police state” in the former Soviet space, stands-out as one of the greatest mistakes that any American president has ever made. Had we followed a different path in 1991, one based on cooperation and human compassion, instead of abandoning the people of the former totalitarian Communist dictatorship to suffer the tragic consequences of the failed Soviet system, then there is no doubt in my mind that we would now be living in that new world order of total peace and not living in a bankrupt world preparing for perpetual war and the strong likelihood of total economic collapse. We should lay the blame for the failure of the world order at the feet of George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, the “godfathers” of revolutionary interventionist democracy (Reagan is its father.).
Perestroika should be considered to be a “reconstruction” process, since it began with a process of demolition/deconstruction. “Soviet” space had to be cleared in order to raise the new Russian edifice. In reality, this meant the selling-off of large portions of the state industries to foreign investors, in order to acquire reliable capital. There was no shortage of potential buyers, but the Kremlin leadership intended that the end product would remain under their control. This was done by empowering the most successful black marketeers in the old Soviet system, by essentially buying them off. The majority of the “oligarchs” who ended-up owning much of the old Soviet industrial assets had risen to the top through dealings with the Russian mafia, most of whom are Russian Jews, with ties to Israel and international American-Jewish (Zionist) interests.
The opening of the Soviet empire (glasnost) enlivened the Soviet idea of “democracy” sufficiently to convince the world that Russia’s version of “sovereign democracy” was genuine. This made possible the shedding of excess political baggage, which included allowing many more émigrés to Israel. This apparent loosening of state repression brought about a readjustment of Western perceptions of the Kremlin, opening the doors for foreign investments in the decrepit Soviet infrastructure and for the harvesting of abundant post-Soviet natural resources. Many of the new Russian-Israelis organized partnerships with legitimate Western investors and Russian-mafia crime bosses. The end result was that Israeli interests obtained a working relationship with the Putin government, through the oligarchs.
The Russian oligarchs gobbled-up state assets in the former Soviet satellite states, gaining advantages over competitors from their inside connections to those governments and their access to powerful Jewish investors. The oligarchs give the Kremlin direct control over the mining and steel-producing industries in Ukraine, as well as the aluminum mining and smelting facilities in Tajikistan, allowing the Russian government to profit immensely from profits made from refitted modernized industries.
The insiders control over strategic European and Asian industries, coupled with Gazprom’s dominance over energy production in all of Eurasia, have been played by Vladimir Putin like a “royal straight flush” on the international geopolitical scene, allowing him to undercut American interests which had formerly been perceived as unfair to the Russian leadership. Putin’s apparent winning hand in the pipeline wars has given him an inflated sense of power, encouraging him to quietly accept minor irritants like small-scale militant attacks in the Caucasus backed by the CIA and Pentagon, without going to the source of the attacks and exposing the American “Islamists” for which the world now blames only Pakistan.
Although the separate states which had comprised the USSR were set free, enabling them to chart their own courses, links were maintained between governments of the former empire, most notably between militaries and state intelligence agencies. As the ultimate manifestation of the Soviet state and the Communist ideal, the KGB (now known as FSB) maintained dominance over the entire “restructuring” operation, as well as over the separate spy agencies. It is the KGB hand, in the shape of the former KGB General, Vladimir Putin, which has overseen the privatization of the empire and the empowering of the “oligarchs.”
On the other side of the equation and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean we see the record of the American privatization (deconstruction) process, also started by Ronald Reagan. As the economy grinds to a halt, it allows the elite American “oligarchs” to also gobble-up the social service sector of our government, as well as the assets and life savings of the majority of Americans.
The world operates on the power principle—that power must always prevail. This means that advantage over others must be maintained by keeping the other side at a disadvantage, “back on the other foot,” as some folks say. For the United States, in the political arena, this meant using every available means to keep our adversaries off balance, as well as our allies. Such a principle precludes the possibility of ever fully ending hostilities against any adversary, helping to explain the blindness of successive American administrations in their dealings with Russia and other opponents. The American/Russian relationship is a strange blend of success and failure. Each success was as much failure as it was victory, for both sides.
The American/Russian relationship is once again the key to unraveling the mysteries about our current fate, the shape of the future will be determined by the interactions of the leaders of these two great powers. The ongoing terror war is but a reflection of our past collisions, given new forms, using new actors to fight-out the same unanswered contradictions that have kept us at each others’ throats for decades. Which side will prevail, the side that offers the most secure-seeming scenario of a future of perpetual resource wars fought for unexpressed reasons, or will some kind of peaceful coexistence finally take root, offering new hope for the planet itself and for all of humankind?
Obama and Putin are equally determined national leaders, both pulling every available string to achieve the goals of their personal agendas. At times, their separate agendas clearly converge, other times their wheels seem to spin in opposite directions.
During those intervals when both Obama and Putin seem to be spinning their wheels in tandem towards a common goal, it seems that both leaders tend to answer to a third overriding agenda, an unknown source of authority. Some unseen, subversive force seems to always intervene on the world stage, to prevent any conflict from ending decisively (except perhaps for the Sri Lankan/Tamil conflict). Whether that unknown overriding authority is the work of the most powerful oligarchs themselves, or merely the result of forces at work which are beyond our current levels of understanding, will remain for future historians to decide. Historically, the United States and Russia have interfered in all great power struggles in order to preserve a “balance of forces,” but neither the US nor Russia can be blamed for actions taken against themselves, unless both countries are run by leaders who have been compromised by another power.
Then there is the fourth spinning wheel, the eternal power source of the forces of democracy. Among the spinning wheels which are competing for the world’s energy basket, the eternally spinning wheel of human motivation is the only wheel which really matters, for it is the only wheel which powers all the others.
The power of the “common will” is a force which every government must master. Before any leader can harness the common will he must first bend his own will in the people’s direction. He who seeks to override the common will first have to obtain the consent of the people, unless he possesses sufficient force to bend the people’s will to his own and is willing to accept the consequences if such an anti-democratic use of force. Neither Putin nor Obama (not even the unseen powers behind all other powers) has so far been willing to risk the fallout from the use of overtly violent police state policies to crush the democratic forces, but both leaders are willing to allow their underlings to violently redraw the lines of acceptable dissent. The process of narrowing the space of “acceptable” dissent has progressed further under Putin, than it has in the US.
Putin is trying to stabilize Russia and reclaim the best parts of the former Soviet Union, while working within the democratic model. His idea is to redesign the democratic model to make acceptable the tight control of basic First Amendment Rights, such as free speech and the right to assemble.
Vladimir Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet empire “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” In many ways, he was right; since millions of people were suddenly cast adrift, without a working government, or apparently, a friend in the world. It was not only the Russian government and the fledgling governments of all Eastern Europe, as well as all of the “Stans,” who were cut adrift, because the American government itself, was also without direction or purpose with the sudden, unanticipated collapse of the Soviet system.
The tragedy of the sudden collapse of the slowly deteriorating Soviet government can best be described by comparing it to the situation in the post-war South, after our “last Civil War” (I fully expect a 2nd civil war, as part of the American collapse). The collapse of currency, local supply lines and the descent of “carpet-baggers” upon the hungry war-weary Southerners was much like today’s invasion of carpet-bagger corporations who gave the hungry masses false hope, as they plundered the unsuspecting populations who were recently freed from their own corrupt government. On the heels of the rapacious corporations came the proxy forces of the US government in the form of NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Along with the NGOs, come the third-party foreign proxies of the US Government (Saudis, Turks, Israelis, etc.).
The invasion of former Soviet space has, so far, proceeded unopposed by Moscow for the most part, but all of that began to change with the revival of the neo-Soviet enterprises, in particular, Gazprom, the state oil and gas giant. With the rise of Gazprom came the return of Russian political and economic leverage, especially over Europe. Putin’s power plays in Chechnya and Georgia were made politically acceptable after Gazprom’s victory over Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz gave Moscow full control of most of the gas going to northern Europe.
The certain defeat of the Nabucco pipeline has probably breathed new life into Russia’s South Stream, which will further entrench Moscow as mediator of many European issues that should not be considered a legitimate Russian concern. As insurance in case the reset goes bad, CIA-da is apparently revving-up operations with the Turkish “Deep State” and the PKK terrorist organization, as a presumed prelude to future attacks upon Russia’s South Stream pipeline as it traverses Turkey. Depending upon the outcome of the joint effort in the terror war and how well the United States weathers the total collapse of its economy, Russian leaders believe that they will come out on top, or at least in a position to profit greatly off any American successes.
The simultaneous rising of Dmitry Medvedev with Barack Obama, and their US/Russian “reset” in relations, which the two lawyers have together engineered, has made possible an American/Russian mission in Afghanistan, but it has not led to cooperation on energy production or delivery plans. Both sides are still married to their own profit potentials. This reset in relations has also made possible a new united front against Chinese expansionism and resource monopolization. Whether this anti-Chinese offensive is real or just more stage management is also a question that will have to be answered in the history books, because the future is not yet set (Where is Sarah Connor when you need her?).
This seems to be what the hidden overriding authority (the “third wheel”) wants from us. The ceaseless succession of potential catastrophes which confront us are meant to convince us that survival in this age demands that we allow the European alliance to do whatever the leaders plan for us, as the price for achieving total dominance over all of the world, in particular, the world’s “energy basket.” This is the given justification for the building confrontation with China and for perpetual war for as far as the eye can see. If “We the People” allow these plans to go forward on their current track, then we will witness a further “Sovietization” of our own democracy, as well, and we will have deserved it. It is time for that fourth wheel, the wheel of democratic action, to get spinning, before powers which are hostile to our best interests take the wheel of our power from us.
In his book “The Collapse of the dollar and the collapse of the U.S.” JH Panarin, argues the inevitability of the collapse of America, divided by how the information gathered in the remote bomb in 1998, highlighting the three driving forces of the collapse the U.S., which in July 2010 could fall to six parts. Today, after the collapse in 2008, banks on Wall Street, the collapse of the dollar pyramid can happen at any moment.