Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Russia should do in response to the latest Russia-bashing campaign

In Europe the Russia-bashing campaigns come and go with the regularity reminiscent of times.  Let's try to recall some of them (in not particular order): Berezovsky as a "persecuted" businessman, Politkovskaya "murdered by KGB goons", Khodorkovsky jailed for his love of liberty, the "Pussy Riot" "prisoners of conscience", Litvinenko "murdered by Putin", the homo-lobby's call to boycott Russian vodka, the homo-lobby's call to boycott the Sotchi Olympics, Magnitsky and the subsequent "Magnitsky law", the Snowden affair, the "stolen elections", the "White Revoluton" on the Bolotnaya square and the new "Sakharov" Alexei Navalnyi, etc. etc. etc.  I am probably forgetting quite a few.

What is certain is that as soon as Putin came to power in 2000 and all throughout the past 13 years the western plutocracy has fought a sustained, if not very effective, political propaganda campaign against Russia in general and against the "Eurasian sovereignists".   In response to that campaign, Putin has very successfully responded with a kind of a "judo-move" in which he turned every one of these campaigns into an electoral argument in support of his policies by showing the Russian people how utterly absurd these Russia-bashing campaigns were,  And, truth be told, these were absolutely ridiculous, every single one of them, and this is also why none of them ever had any bigger impact than a wet firecracker.

This time, however, the latest Russia-bashing campaign is qualitatively different in which it links a non-issue (the non-existing pollution threat to the Arctic from the new Russian oil drilling platform) with a very real and even strategic issue: the future of the Arctic.

I have to provide some context here.

The crucial context to understand current events

For the last decade Russia has embarked on a very ambitious plan to fully exploit the immense potential of the Arctic.  Call it a unintended but positive impact from the Global Warming phenomenon, but it has now become possible use the so-called "Northern Route" to link Europe and Asia by a maritime corridor along the northern coast of Russia.  Russia has also developed a unique type of oil drilling platform which can operate in waters saturated with drifting icebergs.  A few years ago, a Russian submarine placed a Russian flag on the North Pole as a clear sign that Russia was claiming its share of the polar resources.  Needless to say, the US, Canada and the EU are not happy at all about it.  But there is nothing much they can do, if only because Russian polar technologies are way ahead of what exists in the West.  Not only are Russian submarines far better suited for polar operations than their western counterparts, the Russians also have unique nuclear icebreakers which make it possible for them to open routes in very thick ice (more are currently being build).  Western technologies have always been far more "equator oriented".  For example, the US GPS navigation system is more accurate on the lower latitudes while the Russian GLONASS is more accurate in the polar regions.  Most of the US Navy's power is centred on warmer regions of the globe.  In contrast the most powerful and best equipped Russian fleet has always been the Northern Fleet which is used to operate in polar conditions.

Under Putin, Russia has embarked on an ambitious plan to defend its interest in the Arctic: old abandoned polar bases are now being reopened and a special Arctic motor-rifle division is being created.  The Russian Air Force has resumed an intensive program of Arctic operations while the Navy has embarked on a cycle of regular Arctic manoeuvres involving its most advanced surface vessels.

The flagship of the Northern Fleet: the nuclear heavy guided missile cruiser Petr Velikii - here on manoeuvres escorted by four (unseen) nuclear attack submarines.
What can the West do about it?

The fact is that the West has neither the know-how nor the money needed to try to match the Russian moves.  But what it still has is some very useful Cold War era tools: the "independent" non-governmental organizations.

In this context, the recent move by Greenpeace to create yet another Russia-bashing PR campaign, this time combined with a campaign to shut down the first Russian Arctic oil drilling platform.  We all know what happened after that: in the course of their second attempt at boarding the oil rig, the Greenpeaceniks were arrested by security forces and their vessels seized.

This time around, however, its Greenpeace which skilfully put a "judo-move" on Russia by turning the arrest of its activists into an international campaign to free these "political prisoners" and, unlike the previous Russia-bashing campaigns, this one appears to have more traction with the western public opinion, primarily because the western media does not provide the context which I gave above.  Simply put, this is not about pollution, its about who will get to use the Arctic resources.  As Roger Waters used to sing: "can't you see?  it all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds shillings and pence..."

Regardless of whether the arrested Greenpeace activists realize this or not (they probably don't), they are the pawns, the "useful idiots" used by western plutocrats in their fight against Gazprom and Russia.

And this morning I read that the Dutch cops seemed to have gone totally apeshit and actually assaulted and beat-up a senior Russian diplomat in The Hague.  Clearly things are getting ugly.  So what could Russia do?

Hit them where they care: their money

I think that Russia should not bother with the Greenpeace activists who, at any rate, are probably all sincere and naive folks who really care about the Arctic and pollution and who are utterly unaware of being used.  Russia should simply expel them and ban them from re-entering into Russia of a decade or so.  That would deflate the "innocent prisoners of conscience" crap.  But what Russia should also do, is seize all the equipment used in this operation and, in particular, the main Greenpeace ship used, the Arctic Sunrise.  That would hit these folks where it counts: their pocketbooks.  In fact, Russia should make that a policy: all the equipment used by foreign nationals to illegally cross the Russian borders or to violate Russian law should be automatically confiscated.  I bet you that this would very rapidly have its intended effect.

Having myself worked in a major humanitarian organization (which I am unwilling to name at this point in time), I can attest to the fact that the vast majority of the people working there are absolutely honest and sincere folks who have no idea at all of how they are being used.  The people who do know that are at the very top of these organizations, they are those who are officially in charge of fundraising.  They spend most of their time speaking to "generous donors" and they are very much attuned to the, shall we say, "sensitivities" of their donors.  All you need to do to understand who is using what organization is take a look at the list of donors, in particular the top five or so and everything will become immediately clear.  Just "follow the money" and all the naive talk about noble causes vanishes in thin air.

It is precisely because these so-called non-governmental and humanitarian organizations are used by their donors that countries which are the target of these operations should aim their responses at the financial aspect of these operations.  Holding the militants/volunteers makes no sense.  In fact, I can attest to the fact that the top brass of these organizations considers the "basic" volunteer as canon-fodder for good PR (because good PR means more money from the donors).

So, Russia - do the right thing: let the dummies go home, but seize all their gear and assets and impose huge fines on the organizations.  Hit them where it really hurts!

The Saker