Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kokoity and Bagapsh in Discussions with Putin

Via Civil Georgia:

Leaders of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, participated in a roundtable discussion on “Economic Development of Southern Russia” hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 29.

The list of participants, which was posted on the Russian President’s official web-site, included “Eduard Kokoity, the President of South Ossetia” and “Sergey Bagapsh, the President of Abkhazia.” These two names were listed under the section “foreign guests.”

“I would like to specially salute our foreign guests. These are: Sergey Vasilevich Bagapsh – the President of Abkhazia… Eduard Jabievich Kokoity – the President of the South Ossetian Republic,” President Putin said in his opening remarks at the conference.

In addition, the Civil Georgia report notes that in his public remarks Putin made use of terms such as "joint economic complex", that were last used during the Soviet era.

Presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine Express Support for Georgia

Presidents Lech Kaczynski, Valdas Adamkus and Viktor Yushchenko, who are taking part in the celebrations of the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city of Lvov,  have issued a statement in support of the Georgian government, calling for the current crisis over Russian espionage in Georgia to be settled in accordance with international law, reports.

Georgian Defence Minister: Nothing Can Stop Russian Withdrawal

Via (my tr.):

Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili rules out the possibility that the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgian territory will be halted. According to Okruashvili, nothing can stop this process, and the statement made by General Alexander Baranov does not correspond to reality... According to the bilateral agreement  between the two countries, the last trainload of Russian military equipment must leave Georgia in 2008. "I assure you that in 2008 there will be no Russian military equipment on Georgian territory,"  the minister told journalists.
Civil Georgia has a longer report here.

Russian Spy Suspects Sentenced to Pre-Trial Detention

Via Civil Georgia:

Four Russian officers suspected of spying against Georgia were sentenced to two-month pre-trial custody by the court in Tbilisi on September 29.

In addition, the court has also sentenced three other Russian officers to custody in their absence. Konstantin Pichugin, who is wanted by Georgia for alleged spying, is among them. The Georgian side claims Pichugin in sheltering in the Russian Troops Headquarters in Tbilisi and demands his extradition. Russia has already ruled out possibility of extradition.

The court in Tbilisi has also sentenced ten Georgian citizens to custody, who are suspected of cooperating with the Russian military intelligence.

Russia Halts Georgia Troop Withdrawal has a report timed at 14:10:22 today. Excerpt:

The withdrawal of sub-units of the Group of Russian Troops in Transcaucasia (GRVZ) has been halted. This was announced by the commander-in-chief of the forces of the North Caucasian Military District (SKVO) General Alexander Baranov, the RIA news agency reports.

According to Baranov, all officers and ensigns have been moved to barracks, and combat training operations are being conducted only on the territory of military bases. "The primary task now is to ensure the men's safety and to defend the honour of Russia," the general said.

Merabishvili Interview

The Georgian television channel Rustavi 2 has broadcast a live  interview with Georgian Interior Minister VanoMerabishvili on the crisis currently affecting Russia-Georgia relations. An excerpt, via Civil Georgia:

Q.: According to international law, should Russia inform Georgia when it plans such large-scale military exercises near the Georgian border?

A.: First I want to say that these maneuvers are over-dramatized. I want to tell you, that because of the huge international support, including among the international organizations and western media, Georgia has never been as protected as it is now in our recent history. At the same time Russia has never been so unprotected and weak as it is now, because Russia is very confused and is undertaking inappropriate and spontaneous steps. Russia [military] maneuvers are an ordinary face-saving action. Military exercises neither in North Ossetia, nor on the Black Sea pose any threat to Georgia’s security. The only thing which might happen is to continue minor provocations in the Tskhinvali Region [South Ossetia] and Abkhazia so that to redirect attention towards these regions. So I do not see any serious threat in Russia’s actions.

Russia is very confused. As you see that Russia’s reaction is changing every day and every hour. They are so confused that they have sent to Georgia aircrafts with the capacity to transport 800 passengers to evacuate just 100 persons.

I absolutely understand the reasons behind these [actions]. This is a very unusual condition for Russia. Russia always had an advantage, because it had better access to the international media, it had levers in the UN and in other international organization, it had advantage because it could manipulate inside Georgia, in Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Abkhazia through staging provocations, but today the entire world saw that Russia is just an ordinary helpless state and the myth about its powerful intelligence and its omnipotence has been destroyed and this myth now only belongs to history. Of course for Russians it is especially painful that this blow was made by Georgia.

I do not think that Russia will refrain from any major provocations and even if it decides to undertake a step of this kind Russia itself will be harmed. I expect certain provocations mainly in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia. Our police forces are mobilized and we will not yield to these provocations.

Q.: If the court finds them [Russian spy suspects] guilty, will the Russian officers spend their term of sentence in Georgia, or they will be extradited to Russia?

A.: This is not up to the Interior Ministry to decide.

One thing is clear: they are now in the Georgian penitentiary and I am sure that the Georgian court will rule fair judgment.

I think that those foreign agents are not as alarming for us as those citizens of Georgia, who were selling Georgia in exchange of a very low payment. I think discussion and intensive work should be started in Georgia with those people who have been working with the foreign special services for many years and there are lots of people of this kind in Georgia. These people bear lion’s share of responsibility for those defeats which Georgia has suffered in past 15 years.

U.S., U.K. Object to Russia's U.N. Statement

Ynet News reports that

The United States and Britain have objected to Russia's draft UN Security Council statement that would rebuke Georgia's "provocative" actions and its stationing of troops in the breakaway Abkhazia province.

According to Civil Georgia,

U.S. Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack said on September 29 Washington “is in touch” with the Russian and Georgian governments over spy row between the two countries, but “this is an issue between Russia and Georgia and they will decide what steps they want to take.”

“Whatever decisions each side may take, those will be their own decisions. We would urge just to put the events of the past couple of days in the proper context,” McCormack said at a press briefing.

When asked about the U.S. position about Russia’s stance to refer the issue to the UN Security Council, the U.S. official responded: “we think it's an issue that is best and most properly resolved between two neighbors.”

Friday, September 29, 2006

NATO Urges De-escalation

Via Monsters and Critics:

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports on the final day of talks between NATO defence chiefs in Portoroz, Slovenia, at which concern was expressed at heightened tensions between Russia and Georgia, and included a plea by NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for an increase in defence spending on the part of NATO countries:

The 26 ministers, meeting in the Slovenian coastal resort of Portoroz, also reviewed progress in plans to modernize NATO armies and the setting up of a NATO Response Force (NRF) for quick deployment on peacekeeping and counter-terror operations worldwide.

NATO's so-called 'transformation' from an anti-Soviet Cold War military alliance into a modern fighting machine will top the agenda at a summit in Riga at the end of November.

The second day of talks in Portoroz, which included a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, was dominated by worsening tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi.

As NATO chief Scheffer urged both Russia and Georgia to 'moderate and de-escalate' tensions, Ivanov accused Tbilisi of seeking a military solution to end frozen conflicts in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Ivanov also said several new members of NATO were fuelling current tensions by supplying Soviet-bought arms to the Georgian government.

Long-standing strains in relations between Russia and Georgia have been further inflamed in recent days after Georgia brought espionage charges against four detained military officers from Russia.

'The situation has deteriorated...we see it with concern,' German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters, adding that it was important that both sides resolved their dispute in a peaceful manner.

Meanwhile, reports that the Georgian embassy in Moscow has been placed under round-the-clock guard by police and OMON troops after extreme Russian nationalist demonstrators from the anti-American and anti-NATO Eurasian Youth Alliance smashed a windowpane and threw a pig's head into the building.

UNSC Delay on Georgia Statement

Russia is hoping that its statement on the Georgian conflict will be accepted by the UNSC today. But the approval is being delayed - US UN ambassador John Bolton has spoken of "difficulties" with the statement, reports.

Georgia Conflict: Background

Georgia - South Caucasus Blog has a link to a useful backgrounder on the current Russia-Georgia conflict:

Conflicts in Georgia: Causes and Consequences

2 Russians to Remain in Jail

Reuters reports  (via Alertnet) that two of the Russian servicemen being held in Tbilisi on charges of espionage are to remain in jail for another 2 months while their cases are considered. The fate of the other two servicemen will be decided later today. Three Georgian nationals are also being held on similar charges.

Russian Military Moving Near Georgia

Via Civil Georgia:

/ Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2006-09-29 18:32:37

[Georgian] Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said on September 29 that Russian military are undertaking certain measures around the Georgian borders, as well as in the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, as part of its intimidation efforts.

“The Russian Federation plans large-scale navy maneuvers on the Black Sea. At the same time, Russia’s 58th Army which is deployed in North Ossetia is being mobilized and there is information that [the Army] is removing in direction of Georgia. In addition, certain movements are being noticed on the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki [southern Georgia]. I can not understand why Russia needs this kind of moves,” Merabishvili said.

He also noted that this is part of threats Russia is resorting in response to arrest of its four military officers accused of spying against Georgia.

The IHT has an updated AP report here.

Georgia: Breaking the Status Quo

Writing in EDM today, Vladimir Socor looks at the contents of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's address to the UN General Assembly on September 22, considering that it finally breaks the Russia-created consensus on  the so-called "frozen conflicts",  in particular those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Some Western nations, anxious not to antagonize Moscow, had begun to accept the Kremlin's definitions of "peacekeeping" and "mediation" in relation to these disputes. Socor gives a 10-point analysis of Saakashvili's speech, pinpointing the following areas of emphasis:

1. The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are “territorial conflicts,” conducted by Russia against Georgia. Saakashvili outlined the process by which “these regions are being annexed” through military force and handover of Russian citizenship to local residents, directly violating international law. This part of Saakashvili’s speech implicitly underscores the long-ignored change in the nature of these conflicts: from local ethnic conflicts (Moscow-orchestrated in the first place) into a Russian assault on Georgia.

2. All ethnic communities suffer in the secessionist enclaves: the Georgians through ethnic cleansing and denial of native-language education, the others through rule by “sponsors of organized crime, fear, and lawlessness. Such suffering must come to an end.” Implicitly but clearly, the grounds for international humanitarian intervention are shown to exist.

3. “Proxies” underscore Russia’s primary role in the conflict.  Saakashvili called attention to the heavy arming of Abkhaz and South Ossetian forces by Russia and frequently held joint exercises of secessionist and Russian forces.

4. Russia’s conduct poses a clear case of aggression: “Few examples are more blatant of a state seeking to annex the internationally recognized territory of another state.” Thus, Russia is shown to challenge the foundations of the international system as well.

5. Georgia holds the right of self-defense based on international law: Saakashvili wondered aloud “whether any members in this great hall would tolerate such intervention on their own soil.” Russia, he noted, expects the international community to accept this situation with regard to Georgia. If accepted, then “lawlessness and indifference to it [become] the new rules of the international game.” The ultimate stake transcends Georgia: “There is a vital interest to reject the unraveling of sovereign statehood.”

6. Resolution of these conflicts must be integrated with the agenda for rule of law and democracy: “The residents of our disputed territories are under a form of gangster occupation. The Rose Revolution and democracy in Georgia will remain unfinished until all citizens of Georgia have the right to participate in the life and decisions of the state.”

7. On their track record, Saakashvili noted, “The inherited peacekeeping frameworks and negotiating formats neither promote peace nor encourage any genuine negotiation.…They have served to perpetuate, rather than resolve the conflicts.” In the course of 12 years, Russia’s “peacekeepers” have failed to facilitate the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. Russian peacekeeping operations have “abused and made a farce of the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and trust.”

8. Georgia calls for international action to “replace and transform the current frameworks for negotiation and peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” It seeks demilitarization of both areas and the deployment of internationally mandated police units, backed by active engagement of the UN, OSCE, and the European Union. Russia’s ‘peacekeeping’ forces “themselves, by their own choice, not by ours, have in effect annulled their own mandate.” The negotiating formats must be reconfigured to focus on “direct dialogue on the ground between Georgians and Abkhaz, Georgians and South Ossetians” as well as opening the prospect of economic rehabilitation: “Why should our citizens be reduced to such miserable economic conditions?”

9. Thus, Georgia serves notice that it intends to exercise “the sovereign right to request the removal of foreign military forces. We make no secret of our intentions to fulfill this sovereign right and solemn duty.” Saakashvili was alluding to plans by the Georgian government and parliament to issue in October an evaluation of more than a decade of Russian “peacekeeping” and, based on that track record, to demand the termination of those operations.

10. The onus for a peaceful resolution rests not only on Georgia, but on the international community as well: “Let no one ever say that Georgia was not clear as to how it would protect its democracy and its State, let no one ever say that we did not seek to do so by peaceful means alone.…All nations that share these values are willing to sacrifice for them.”

Moscow's Georgian Diversion - II

Russia has now taken the matter to the UNSC, posing as the "moderate" party of reason in the affair (RFE/RL):

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said after an emergency session of the council that he had circulated a draft statement expressing deep concern over Georgia's actions.

"We are concerned by the tendency of the Georgian authorities to fuel tensions, so we are calling on the Security Council and the international community to exert its influence on the Georgian side, so that instead of provocative actions and fueling tensions they engage in constructive dialogue," he said.

Update: As the four servicemen accused of espionage appear in a Tbilisi court, warnings have started to come from various Russian sources:

...Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the journal "Russia in Global Affairs," told RFE/RL that Russia could well resort to tougher measures should negotiations fail.

"So far [Russia's reaction] is still rather moderate. No irreversible steps have been taken. But the way things are developing is very unpleasant, and if no outside influence is exerted, for instance, on Georgia to make it reduce the tension, Russia's reaction could stop being moderate," Lukyanov said.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called on Russian and Georgia to "de-escalate tensions" over the espionage affair. The United States and the EU have also urged calm.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Moscow's Georgian Diversion

In an apparent drive to assert the new, "independent" foreign policy outlined by foreign minister Lavrov on September 26, Moscow has finally decided to further exacerbate the tensions that already exist in its relations with Tbilisi and to create a mini-crisis with Georgia -  mainly, it seems, as a sop to growing nationalist feeling within the Russian Federation, and in order to divert the West's attention away from embarrassments connected with recently-disclosed facets of Russian energy policy.  Using Tbilisi's detention of four Russian military officers accused of espionage, the Russian authorities have now recalled their ambassador and are undertaking a partial evacuation of Russian service personnel in Georgia.

The Russian government is expending a great of aggressive rhetoric on this new campaign, accusing Georgia of being a "bandit state", and talking of preparations for war.

 Moscow's principal aim in these hysterical outbursts is, it seems, to embarrass the United States into taking sides in the manufactured conflict. It's also, no doubt, a routine "testing of the water", in the wake of TH Ilves's victory in the Estonian presidential election - the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are now led by presidents who were either born in the United States or were educated and brought up there.  Since the Baltics are now firmly in the EU and NATO, a showdown with one or all of them would not be in Moscow's best interests any more (Moscow even uses the old insulting phrase "near abroad" less frequently now in relation them)  - so Georgia has been singled out as a "next best" option. The implications for European security are, however, just as serious.

The current standoff with Georgia shows how little, in fact, the foreign policy aims of Moscow have really changed in the 15 years since the Cold War is supposed to have ended, and how closely the sights of Russian political leaders are still trained on an eventual restoration of "old" borders. Some of this geopolitical thinking goes back a rather long way. As Paul Goble told an audience recently,

No Russian that I have ever met thinks the borders of the Russian Federation are the proper borders. A poll last spring found that 74 percent of high school graduates in the city of Moscow think the proper borders of the Russian Federation are those of the Russian Empire in 1914. Which means Poland, Finland, the Baltic countries, and part of Turkey, and there are several people in the Russian state Duma who want negotiations restarted about Alaska.

Signposts to the Future

Among the transcripts of the lectures and seminars at Jamestown's recent North Caucasus Conference (see the previous post), there is the transcribed text of a remarkable keynote speech (pdf) by former US State Department and CIA analyst Paul Goble, who has spent many years studying the Soviet Union and the implications of its disintegration. In his address, Goble touches on some of the most crucial and sensitive areas of controversy and discussion that surround the events of September 11 and the resurgence of radical Islam in the modern world, tracing them to what happened in the Soviet Union during the period that followed the end of World War II until the early 1990s. In one passage of the speech, he pinpoints the signals for the future that are contained in Russia's present changing political face, and in the changing face of political Islam:

If the Russian Federation is at a turning point, and I believe that it is and I believe that the borders will change in a variety of ways, and I think they will change largely due to the actions of the Russians and Russian desires, as we’ll see. And this leads me to my one good piece of advice for today: don’t buy any maps. Buy stock in companies that print maps and you’ll make money.

But it’s equally important that Islam, too, is at a turning point. Indeed, if you understand the Muslim view of what happened in the Soviet Union in 1991, you can see a direct line from there to September 11th and you can understand why Muslims who were ethnic Muslims who didn’t know very much about their identity and what their faith was about turned to Islam in the ways that they did.

The collapse of the Muslim project after the French Revolution and the colonization of the Muslim world, which was more or less complete except for Egypt and Afghanistan by 1922, left the Muslim world with the question: if we’re right, how come we’re losing? And there were three answers. God’s time isn’t our time so we wait it out. The second answer was, we are wrong; we’ve got to be radical secularists. And the third is, back to basics: Allah, Sharia – the people who become the fundamentalists.

As long as there was a Soviet Union supporting the radical secularists, and please remember it was the Soviets who were doing that, the third category were in jail. Once the Soviet Union could not do that, those people emerged. And with the Muslim reading, or some Muslim reading anyway, of 1991 you saw a very different set of messages for people who were Muslims. These were in many ways – and this is another argument, different, but just to point it out for you – I believe that Central Asia and parts of the Caucasus will be over time the prime recruiting area for a radical fundamentalist Islam. Why? Because people there know they are Muslims, but don’t know exactly what it means and therefore they are prepared to listen to people who tell them exactly what it means.

I remember a conversation I had with Dzhokhar Dudaev, the first president of Chechen Ichkeria. And Mr. Dudaev said to me, Mr. Goble, I’m a good Muslim I pray three times a day. Well I was very polite and deferential the senior official and didn’t point out that a good Muslim prays five times a day, but he didn’t know. He had been in the Communist Party since the age of 18 and was a major general in the Soviet Air force.

Read it all.

North Caucasus Conference Transcripts

The Jamestown Foundation

Transcript and Speaker Papers - North Caucasus Conference, September 14, 2006

The transcript and speaker papers from the September 14 North Caucasus conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are available below:

  • Transcript: Panel I
  • Transcript: Panel II
  • Transcript: Keynote Speech by Dr. Paul Goble
  • Transcript: Panel III
  • Transcript: Panel IV
  • "Military Jama'ats in the North Caucasus"
    By Andrew McGregor
  • "Putin, Kozak and Russian Policy Toward the North Caucasus"
    By John Dunlop
  • "The Russian Military Campaign in the North Caucasus: Is a Victory in Sight?"
    By Pavel K. Baev
  • "Islam in the Northern Caucasus - Dagestan"
    By Mikhail Roschin
  • "The Chechen Resistance: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"
    By Mairbek Vachagaev
  • "The Rise and Fall of Arab Fighters in Chechnya"
    By Murad al-Shishani
  • "Karachaevo-Cherkessia: An Inside Look"
    By Fatimat Tlisova
  • Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    800 Former Communist Agents in Czech Police

    Again via Radio Prague:

    One of the steps taken by the Czech Republic to come to terms with its communist past were so-called 'lustrace', or screening laws. They were meant to prevent former communist secret agents and other people associated with the former regime from taking government and senior civil service posts. But it appears that some former secret police, or StB, agents have managed to slip through the net. It has just emerged there are far more former agents in the police than previously believed - 800 rather than a few dozen.

    Read the whole of Dita Asiedu's report here.

    Oslo-Prague Link - II

    Via Radio Prague (Rob Cameron):

    It is difficult to know for certain, but it does seem the massive security operation currently in place in Prague is the result of arrests made last week in Norway. Four people were arrested by the Norwegian police on September 19th, accused of planning attacks on the Israeli and US embassies in Oslo. The Czech newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes claimed on Tuesday that one of them - a Norwegian citizen of Pakistani origin called Arfan Qadeer Bhatti - was in contact with an Albanian man by the name of Princ Dobrosi, who ran a Europe-wide drug business from Prague in the 1990s.

    That certainly doesn't sound like "the most serious threat ever faced by the Czech Republic" as the Czech authorities are claiming, and there must be more to it than that for the authorities to have reacted in this way. Whether Dobrosi was somehow involved in a plot to attack Jewish targets in Prague remains a matter of pure speculation. Neither Norwegian or Czech intelligence services will comment on the claims.

    Bomb Threat at Norway School

    A bomb threat was telephoned to Åsvang School in the northern Norwegian city of Trondheim at 2.3o pm Wednesday, Nettavisen reports.

    The school's approximately 480 pupils were evacuated and the area was cordoned off by local police.  The threat proved to be a false alarm.

    Hostage to Misfortune

    Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

    Hostage-taking still rife in Chechnya

    By Umalt Chadayev

    CHECHNYA - The practice of taking hostage the close relatives of members of armed guerrilla units still continues in Chechnya.

    On September 22 representatives of the law-enforcement agencies abducted from a house in the 8th precinct in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district a young man whose brother left in secret to join the guerrillas several months ago.

    "About three months ago, when many of the republic’s residents, mainly young men, set off en masse to worship at the grave of the mother of Kunta-Hadji in Vedensky district (Kunta-Hadji Kishiyev, the founder of one of the Sufi movements in nineteenth century Chechnya, is one of Chechnya’s most revered ustazy, i.e., saints), three lads from our area also left there. But they didn’t return,” says 47-year-old Kheda, one of the residents of Grozny’s 8th precinct. “Then there was a rumour that they’d gone to join the guerrillas. The problems started after that.”

    According to the woman, the father of one of the youths (she says that all three are aged between 18 and 19) began to receive “visits” from the members of various law-enforcement agencies. "Alkhazur Seriyev, the father of one of the boys who left, began to get regular visits from the FSB, the police, or whoever they were. They told him he had to find his son and get him back home. One of them even went so far as to call our precinct ‘a nest of Wahhabists’, though no more than a dozen families live there at present,” the woman says.

    The law-enforcers simply ignored all of Alkhazur’s attempts to explain that he doesn’t know where his second son is, or how to go about looking for him. "Neither Ruslan (Alkhazur Seriyev’s son) nor the two other lads ever said that they wanted to go and join the guerrillas. Ruslan didn’t ask his father for permission, and the other two never said anything to their mothers about it (their fathers died several years ago at different times). There were no guerrillas in any of those three families, and no one can tell why they acted like this," she says.

    The law-enforcers’ repeated visits to Alkhazur Seriyev always came down to one thing – he must immediately find his son and get him back home. "They told him quite openly: "We don’t intend to go chasing your son in the mountains. If we come across him, we will shoot him and kill him at once. Go and look for him yourself, any way and anywhere you want, but get him back home. Otherwise it will be the worse for you," Kheda says.

    Through relatives and friends who live in the mountainous part of Southern Chechnya (where the guerrilla units are principally based), Alkhazur Seriyev attempted to make inquiries about his son. But in this he had no success.

    Then the law-enforcers resorted to radical measures. At dawn on September 22, several men in camouflage uniform armed with automatic weapons broke into the Seriyevs’ house. Threatening physical violence, they forced Alkhazur Seriyev’s eldest son Ilyas to get into their vehicle and drove away with him in an unknown direction.

    "We don’t understand: what does Ilyas have to do with it? His younger brother didn’t tell him about his plans, any more than he told his father. Who gave this kind of authority to the special services, the police and soldiers, to take the relatives of guerrillas hostage, or those who sympathize with them?” the woman says angrily. “After all, even during the Stalin era, in the years of the Second World War, there was the principle of ‘the son does not answer for the father’, and that went for other relatives, too. But there’s only one word for what is going on just now, and that’s terror."

    Officials at the Staropromyslovsky district police station where the relatives of the abducted Ilyas Seriyev have filed a complaint say that the local police did not take part in this abduction. They have accepted a complaint from Seriyev’s father about the abduction of his son and have promised to take steps to look for him. At the present time, nothing it is known of his location and further fate.

    The practice of taking hostage the relatives of members of armed guerrilla units has been adopted quite widely in Chechnya during the present military campaign on the republic’s territory. Officials of different law-enforcement bodies have at various times taken hostage the relatives of Aslan Maskhadov, President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, as well as those of field commanders Shamil Basayev and Dokka Umarov (the present leader of the Chechen resistance). The former Ichkerian defence minister Magomed Khambiyev (now a member of the Moscow-backed Chechen parliament), "voluntarily" turned himself in to the authorities in March 2004 after law-enforcers seized and abducted about 40 of his relatives and close family.

    Meanwhile, the Chechen historian and political analyst Murad Nashkhoyev considers that the practice of hostage-taking has its roots in the distant past. "This vicious practice was introduced by the tsarist generals after Russia began its active advance into the depths of the Caucasus. In those days it was the children of influential families who were taken hostage – they were called amanats. The tsarist administration thought this was the best way to secure the obedience of potential enemies of the regime. So I don’t see anything new in what’s being done now,” he says.

    Translated by David McDuff.

    Idomeneo Cancelled

    The New York Times has a report on the cancellation of a production of Mozart's Idomeneo by the Deutsche Oper Berlin:
    A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about what many see as the surrender of artistic freedom. In the scene that offended Muslims and led to security fears, a king places the severed heads of religious leaders on chairs. The Deutsche Oper Berlin said Tuesday that it had pulled “Idomeneo” from its fall schedule after the police warned of an “incalculable risk” to the performers and the audience. The company’s director, Kirsten Harms, said she regretted the decision but felt she had no choice. She said she was told in August that the police had received an anonymous threat, but she acted only after extensive deliberations. Political and cultural figures throughout Germany condemned the cancellation. Some said it recalled the decision of European newspapers not to reprint satirical cartoons about Muhammad, after their publication in Denmark generated a furor among Muslims.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Oslo-Prague Link

    It looks as though there may be some link between yesterday's terror alert in Prague (which still continues) and the Norway terror plot.

    From AIA:

    According to some speculations, the reported danger in Prague is connected with the developments in Norway, where three men were recently arrested on suspicion of planned terrorist attacks on the local embassies of the US and Israel. Police and special security teams are patrolling dozens of sensitive sites in Prague, including its international airport and railway stations. 

    Trilateral Tango

    From RFE/RL Newsline, September 25:

    NO 'TRIUMPHALISM' AT TRILATERAL SUMMIT... The September 23 summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, France's Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Compiegne, near Paris, lacked the "triumphalism" of meetings of the three countries' leaders under Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, Deutsche Welle reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 21, 2006). As Merkel had insisted, all three leaders carefully avoided referring to their relationship on September 23 as an "axis" and stressed that their meeting was an exchange of ideas and not directed against any third party. She has long made it clear that she intends to follow the policy of her mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, of working closely with the smaller European countries, as well as with France and the other larger ones, and of strengthening the trans-Atlantic partnership. Putin, Chirac, and Merkel agreed on the importance of negotiations in dealing with Iran and on the role of international peacekeepers in helping get Lebanon back on its feet. Merkel added that it is equally important to ensure Israel's right to exist. At the final press conference, the attention of French journalists in particular was, however, centered not on the summit but on an alleged intelligence leak by French intelligence to a regional newspaper on the supposed death of Osama bin Laden. The German broadcaster noted that Chirac found the report and the ensuing discussion "more than unpleasant." PM

    ...AS PUTIN SEEKS TO EASE FEARS... Speaking in Compiegne on September 23, President Putin sought to allay French and German fears over Russia's ambitions in the EADS aerospace company and its willingness to observe its agreements with foreign energy companies, specifically with France's Total regarding the Kharyaga oil field, Western and Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 15, 20, 21, and 22, 2006). He said that Russia was not displaying "aggressive" behavior regarding EADS or its corporate structure but was simply "playing on the stock market." He announced the creation of a working group to study Russia's possible role in the company, but Chirac and Merkel did not address the issue. Putin added that "rumors about taking away Total's license are greatly exaggerated." Russian commentators noted on September 25, however, that it is unclear how Putin intends to deal with EU demands that Russia ratify the Energy Charter, which Moscow signed in 1994 and which would require it to open up access to its pipelines, reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17 and 18, and September 5, 2006). In Compiegne, Putin repeated earlier Russian calls for the document to be "amended." He also suggested that Europe is "afraid" of Russia because it is "big and rich." On the eve of the summit, he and Chirac announced France and Russia signed deals in the transport and aviation sectors worth $10 billion. PM

    ...AND OFFERS BAIT FROM SHTOKMAN. The Moscow dailies "Kommersant" and "Vremya novostei" noted on September 25 that perhaps the most important development at the September 23 Compiegne summit was Putin's offer to Chancellor Merkel of up to 45 billion cubic meters of gas from the Shtokman field over a period of 50-70 years. He asked rhetorically: "Can you imagine that volume and what it means for the economy of Europe...and Germany? It will create an absolutely stable situation in the European economy and for energy." Elsewhere, Gazprom officials declined to comment on Putin's offer, reported. Russian dailies pointed out that it has been widely assumed that most of the gas from Shtokman will be exported to North America in liquefied form and that Putin's offer is aimed at driving a wedge between the United States on the one hand and the EU, especially Germany, on the other. Russia has articulate lobbyists in Germany and offers German businesses big growth opportunities they lack at home. Putin, who is a German-speaking former KGB officer who once worked in Dresden, has used energy and other business opportunities to lock Germany into an ever closer relationship with Russia at the expense of trans-Atlantic ties, which was a long-standing Soviet policy goal. PM

    FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO REASSURE SHELL. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in New York on September 24 that Russia is a "long way off from backing out of agreements we have reached, no matter how difficult the conditions were when they were made," reported. He was referring to the controversy regarding Russia's recent blockage of the Sakhalin-2 gas production-sharing agreement (PSA) with Royal Dutch Shell and Japan's Mitsui and Mitsubishi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2006). Agreements with Shell, Exxon, Total, and others were concluded in the 1990s when oil prices were low and Russia sought foreign capital. Now that Russia is awash in petrodollars, the government wants to ease the foreigners out in favor of domestic, state-run firms like Gazprom and Rosneft. The excuse given by the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) for blocking Sakhalin-2 is that the project has already led to damage to salmon-bearing rivers and "excessive logging" along the pipeline route. Referring to those issues, Lavrov said on September 24 that Russia's objections to the current state of Sakhalin-2 are based on environmental and not political considerations. On September 22, a U.S. State Department spokesman said that Washington is "very concerned" over Sakhalin-2 and called on Russia to "uphold [its] commitments on energy," including those it made at the July St. Petersburg summit of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized countries. PM

    FINANCE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA COULD CATCH UP WITH GERMANY, U.S... Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told Channel One television on September 24 that "we want to create a system that would be equal in strength to the economies and financial systems of the United States or Germany. I have to say that this distance can be covered in 10 years if the country conducts a very skilled financial policy." He noted that Russia has made much progress in that respect in recent years but still has some way to go to catch up with the United States or Germany. Looking at a broader index, the World Bank said in a report released on September 15 that Russia ranks 151st among 208 countries in terms of accountability, political stability, effectiveness of the government, the quality of regulatory bodies, the rule of law, and control over corruption, which places it on a level between Swaziland and Niger (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 18, 2006). PM

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Bomb Threat in Southern Sweden

    A school and a shopping centre in the southern Swedish city of Växjö were evacuated on Monday after a bomb threat, Dagens Nyheter reports. The threat was phoned to SOS Alarm at 30 minutes after noon, giving 30 minutes' warning of an explosion in the shopping centre, but police are not saying exactly what the threat involved. 600-700 people were evacuated, most of them schoolchildren.

    NBP Protestors Enter Russian Finance Ministry

    Via RFE/RL:
    MOSCOW, September 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Around 40 left-wing Russian activists were arrested near the Kremlin today after they forced their way into the Finance Ministry to protest against government policies.

    Members of the National Bolshevik Party waved red flags and shouted antigovernment slogans from the Finance Ministry windows before the police arrived.

    Party spokesman Aleksandr Averin told RFE/RL's Russian Service the protest was over the Kremlin's decision this year to pay back Russia's Soviet-era foreign debt early, rather than compensate Russians who lost money due to the shock economic reforms of the early 1990s.

    Averin put the number of demonstrators who entered the building at 50, and said they had "seized three floors of the building" in the 30 minutes before they were detained.

    Witnesses said the protesters, some of whom had climbed onto window sills, offered no resistance to arrest.

    Norway Terror Plot - III

    Commenting on the Norway terror plot, Norwegian journalist Mona Levin has pointed again to the high levels of anti-Semitism in Norwegian society. She also places some of the blame on public statements like those of the Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder, whose outburst in the press in August this year caused outrage in Norwegian Jewish circles:

    From Nettavisen(my tr.):
    Gaarder wrote... that Israel had “violated the world’s recognition”, and that they would not attain peace until they laid down their arms. Mona Levin wrote the following day that it was the ugliest thing she had read since Mein Kampf.

    “But as I said on Norwegian State Radio a day after Gaarder’s first article: When you open a can of worms, the worms crawl out,” says Levin.

    Levin says there has been a huge increase in anti-Semitism in recent months. She finds it very disturbing that no one is dealing with this.

    “Jewish children are being persecuted at school. The Jews in Norway have been subjected to a number of attacks of late, and now these dreadful shootings at the synagogue. There has been something bewildering around this. It doesn’t seem as though the people who are usually so eager to debate social issues care very much this time,” says Levin.

    Levin is angry that Norway’s Jews are held responsible for policies they don’t have anything to do with.... For all anyone knows, those Jews who are subjected to hatred may be very critical of Israel’s policies. We’re not the ones who should feel responsible,” says Levin.

    She says that we need a better understanding of what is what, and who is who, in this debate. In Norway knowledge about Jews and Judaism is very slight, in spite of the fact that Jews have a 150-year-old history here. Norway needs to confront what happened during the Second World War, and realize that Norwegian history in relation to Norwegian Jews is not very pretty.”

    She is also highly critical of the one-sided press coverage of the conflicts in the Middle East.

    "We need a more balanced media coverage of what is happening in the Middle East. The same is true in relation to the United States. The media image of Israel and Jews in Norway has been very negative and one-sided."

    Jostein Gaarder has told iOslo. no that he does not wish to comment on the matter.

    See also: The 2006 Jostein Gaarder Controversy
    Mona Levin's reply to Jostein Gaarder

    Chechen Amnesty Plan Approved

    From The Moscow Times:

    The State Duma on Friday approved a government amnesty plan intended to persuade militants in Chechnya and surrounding regions of the North Caucasus to disarm and surrender to authorities.

    Deputies quickly passed the legislation, proposed by President Vladimir Putin, in a 350-80 vote, with one abstention. The amnesty, part of an effort to end more than a decade of separatist resistance following the deaths of rebel leaders this summer, would remain in effect until Jan. 15.

    The amnesty would also apply to servicemen suspected of committing crimes while serving in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

    Pavel Krashennikov, head of the Duma's Legislation Committee, denied speculation that the amnesty might apply to servicemen convicted or indicted of serious crimes, such as the murder of civilians, Interfax reported Saturday.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    TH Ilves: An Assessment

    Mari-Ann Kelam in Tallinn, Estonia, has forwarded to me an interesting report on Toomas Hendrik Ilves's presidential victory in yesterday's Estonian election. The report is from Monsters and Critics, and I'm republishing it here, as the site seems to be very slow this evening (but see the important copyright notices at the end of the article). Mari-Ann also says that "Ilves brought out Estonian young people, let's hope this interest in politics continues for the Riigikogu (parliament elections in March 2007). Sidelight - Savisaar and Reiljan, the heads of the two parties supporting Ryytel, did not congratulate Ilves."

    Tallinn - Estonian politicians voted by a hair-thin majority to elect 52-year-old former Soviet exile Toomas Hendrik Ilves president on Saturday.

    Ilves, who was born in Sweden to exiles from Soviet-ruled Estonia and raised in the US, received 174 votes from an electoral college of MPs and local councillors - just one more than the number required for victory.

    'It's surprising that Ilves managed to squeak through in the first round - the momentum seemed to have turned in his favour this week, but nobody was sure that we could avoid a repeat vote,' said Andres Kasekamp, professor of Baltic politics at Tartu University.

    His opponent, incumbent president Arnold Ruutel, received 162 votes. The result is a major blow for the two centre-left parties which supported him, and which had been lobbying fiercely to gain control of the college.

    '(Ruutel's supporters) were sounding desperate this week ... even suggesting that there could be trouble on the streets as a result of actions by Ilves' supporters,' Kasekamp said.

    There is still a chance that Ruutel's camp could overturn the decision. Last week the Estonian Electoral Commission decided to reduce the number of voters in the electoral college by two after allegations of procedural irregularities - a decision Ruutel supporters challenged in the Supreme Court.

    'In theory, the Supreme Court could nullify the ballot. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Electoral Commission would have acted without very strong justification,' Kasekamp said.

    'Ruutel's supporters looked pretty resigned after the vote,' he added. The 174 votes which Ilves received would have been enough for first-round victory even if two extra electors had taken part.

    Ilves' victory is likely to be a popular one in Estonia. He has consistently led the field in opinion polls, with his support among ethnic Estonians more than twice as high as Ruutel's.

    Ilves, the current vice-president of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, is reckoned the country's most effective diplomat, winning a third of all votes in elections to the European Parliament despite challenges from over 100 other candidates.

    His exile background is also an advantage, according to observers.

    'Despite participating in Estonian politics for so long, Ilves is seen as bringing a fresh transparency and honesty to the political scene - he's free of corruption and scandals,' Kasekamp said.

    'Ilves represents everything that is western and European,' agreed Vello Pettai, professor of political science at Tartu University.

    The decision puts an end to a month of political intrigue. According to the Estonian constitution, the president is elected by the country's 101-member parliament.

    However, if no candidate receives two-thirds of votes, the choice passes to the electoral college. Parties supporting Ruutel boycotted three parliamentary votes in late August in order to ensure that the vote would be decided in college.

    The boycott was fiercely criticised in Estonia's press, where it was seen as an attempt to install a partisan president before parliamentary elections, due in March 2007.

    Ilves now becomes the second-youngest head of state in the EU, after the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and the Union's youngest elected president. The oldest is Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, aged 81.

    © 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
    © Copyright 2003 - 2005 by
    This notice cannot be removed without permission.

    Coerced Paths in Berlin

    Carl Bildt has a post about the remarkable exhibition Erzwungene Wege. Flucht und Vertreibung in Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts ("Coerced Paths - Escape and Expulsion in Europe in the 20th Century") now on at the Kronprinzenhalle in central Berlin. As he writes, the exhibition, while controversial from many points of view, throws light on the damage that was done to Europe in the 20th century, both by itself and by outside powers.

    The Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat has some more:
    One of the stories detailed in the exhibition is exceptional.

    The fate of Finland's Karelians in the Second World War was more humane, and their escape route was no death-march. Nevertheless, more than 400,000 Karelians had to leave their homes during the war years, and in 1944 the displacement became permanent, when the territories were annexed to the Soviet Union. The tragedy directly affected more than ten per cent of the Finnish population.

    "The fate of the Karelians is interesting in many respects", says Dr. Doris Müller-Toovey, who is responsible for the Karelian section in the exhibition.

    "The people left of their own free will. What is also exceptional is that it all happened not once but twice."

    When studying the events, which were quite new to her, Dr. Müller-Toovey was also impressed at how successful Finland was at settling the Karelian population in other parts of Finland.

    The exhibition places the Karelian displacement story within a European framework in a completely new way. It is also exceptional that any interest is shown in the Karelian issue in Central Europe.

    "It is not known that anything like this would have happened previously in exhibition activities", says Mervi Piipponen, cultural secretary of the Karelian Association.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    The White Revolution

    From Budapest's Lajos Kossuth Square this evening, via Reuters:

    Thousands of supporters of Fidesz, the main opposition party which canceled its own rally because of fears of violence, were among those gathering in the square. Party leaders reiterated earlier calls for Gyurcsany to quit.

    Fidesz Deputy President Pal Schmitt, in a brief speech outside parliament, asked the crowd to wear white clothes and white armbands to show they reject violence, and about half the crowd was wearing some white clothing.

    Terror Alert in Prague - II

    Via Axis News:

    23.09.200614:37 (GMT)
    The Czech government decided on heightening the level of security measures on the basis of information received from the Security Information Service (Bezpecnostni informacni sluzba – BIS), daily Mlada fronta Dnes online edition reports. BIS spokesman Jan Subert confirmed speaking to the paper that the threat was serious. He emphasized that all the BIS units are on duty according to the order of the highest security risk level, Mlada fronta Dnes says. Topolanek marked that the information was related "to increased security risks of similar character abroad."The tightened security measures over a possible risk of a terrorist attack, which the Czech government took during the night, has further escalated the already tense relations between the heads of the two strongest parties, Mirek Topolanek and Jiri Paroubek, CTK reports. Former Prime Minister Paroubek, chairman of Social Democrats, told CTK that the news of a terrorist risk threatening Prague had been circulating in certain circles for three weeks already. Topolanek said that it was he who informed Paroubek about the threat three weeks ago."Nevertheless, the information was of a usual intelligence character and only yesterday's and last night's information led security forces to ask the government to deal with it," Topolanek said. Paroubek told CTK he does not comprehend why the government did not inform about the situation at its meeting three days before already.

    Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told journalists today afternoon that there is no immediate danger, in connection with the threat of a terrorist attack in Prague, CTK writes. He said the government believe that the security measures taken and the fact that the public have been informed of the danger will eliminate the risk. According to Topolanek, security forces have assured him that the whole security operation is proceeding smoothly. Operation at C line of Prague's underground was interrupted for about an hour after an anonymous caller told police that an explosive had been planted in the underground tunnel on the Nuselsky Bridge, CTK says.

    Denouncing the CCP

    The latest issue of the pro-Falun Gong (but independent) web newspaper Epoch Times carries a report that
    As of 12:01 EST, 13,801,393 people have submitted statements withdrawing from the Chinese Communist Party or its affiliated organizations (for the text in Chinese of all of the statements, please visit the Tuidang website: English | Chinese). Those who are current members of the CCP or its affiliated organizations are resigning their membership with these statements; former members sever all association with these organizations. All are renouncing the CCP completely.
    The paper also publishes Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party. In outline, these cover the following topics:

    More than a decade after the fall of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European communist regimes, the international communist movement has been spurned worldwide. The demise of the Chinese Communist Party is only a matter of time.

    1) On What the Communist Party Is

    More than a decade after the fall of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European communist regimes, the international communist movement has been spurned worldwide. The demise of the Chinese Communist Party is only a matter of time.

    2) On the Beginnings of the Chinese Communist Party

    Why did the Communist Party emerge, grow and eventually seize power in contemporary China? Did the Chinese people choose the Communist Party? Or, did the Communist Party gang up and force Chinese people to accept it? The CCP has set itself above all, conquering all in its path, thereby bringing endless catastrophe to China.

    3) On the Tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party

    Today the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s violence and abuses are even more severe than those of the tyrannical Qin Dynasty. The CCP’s philosophy is one of “struggle,” and the CCP’s rule has been built upon a series of “class struggles,” “path struggles,” and “ideological struggles,” both in China and toward other nations.

    4) On How the Communist Party Is an Anti-Universe Force

    In the last hundred years, the sudden invasion by the communist specter has created a force against nature and humanity, causing limitless agony and tragedy. It has also pushed civilization to the brink of destruction. It has become an extremely malevolent force against the universe.

    5) On the Collusion of Jiang Zemin with the CCP to Persecute Falun Gong

    Why is Falun Gong, which upholds the principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance” and has been promulgated in over 60 countries worldwide, being persecuted only in China, not anywhere else in the world? In this persecution, what is the relationship between Jiang Zemin and the CCP?

    6) On How the Chinese Communist Party Destroyed Traditional Culture

    The CCP has devoted the nation’s resources to destroying China’s rich traditional culture. The CCP’s destruction of Chinese culture has been planned, well organized, and systematic, made possible by the state’s use of violence. Since its establishment, the CCP has never stopped “revolutionizing” Chinese culture in the attempt to completely destroy its spirit.

    7) On the Chinese Communist Party’s History of Killing

    The 55-year history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is written with blood and lies. The stories behind this bloody history are not only brutally inhumane but also rarely known. Under the rule of the CCP, 60 to 80 million innocent Chinese people have been killed, leaving their broken families behind.

    8) On How the Chinese Communist Party Is an Evil Cult

    The Communist Party is essentially an evil cult that harms mankind. Although the Communist Party has never called itself a religion, it matches every single trait of a religion. At the beginning of its establishment, it regarded Marxism as the absolute truth in the world. It exhorted people to engage in a life-long struggle for the goal of building a “communist heaven on earth.”

    9) On the Unscrupulous Nature of the Chinese Communist Party

    What is most terrifying is that the CCP is going all out to try to destroy the moral foundation of the entire nation, attempting to turn every Chinese national to various degrees into a scoundrel in order to create an environment favorable for the CCP to “advance with time.” It is especially important for us to understand clearly why the CCP acts like scoundrels and to discern its criminal nature.
    It's possible to sign an international declaration denouncing the Chinese Communist Party here.

    Ilves Gains Estonian Presidency

    Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the new President of Estonia.

    He took 174 of the 345 possible votes in the electoral college.

    The incumbent, Moscow-leaning Arnold Rüütel, gained only 162 votes.

    Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the first Estonian president not to know Russian. An Estonian-American, he will take Estonia further towards the European Union, of which the country is already a member, and also in an Atlanticist direction.

    Terror Alert in Prague

    Via Axis News:

    23.09.200609:35 (GMT)
    The Czech government raised security in the capital city, Prague, today after information of what it said was an increased threat of a terrorist attack, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports, referring to Reuters news agency. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the Czech government met during the night and adopted unspecified security measures, according to the RFE/RL.
    Czech Prime Minister said in a written statement the information was received from representatives of the security services and police. He marked that the information was related "to increased security risks of similar character abroad." Topolanek reportedly said the government decided to strengthen security measures in Prague "with the aim of eliminating the existing risks," but he gave no further details.

    23.09.200610:31 (GMT)
    Czech police deployed armed guards in Prague's historic centre today after security services issued its most serious warning of a terrorist attack, Reuters reports from the Czech capital. The possible terrorist attack risk in Prague targets sites that are not specially guarded under normal circumstances, Police President Vladislav Husak said today at a press conference on the extraordinary security measures the government introduced in Prague during the night, news agency CTK says. He told that the police had heightened the protection of tens of buildings in Prague; neither he nor Interior Minister Ivan Langer would specify them. Langer said this is for the first time that the Czech Republic faces such a concrete risk of a terrorist attack. "The information ... was evaluated as serious, the most serious ever," Langer is quoted as saying, though refusing to elaborate. He added that no danger threatens outside the capital of Prague and that no special security measures are taken there. Langer said that the security forces are not in a situation where they would know "when, where, who, what." He stressed that “nevertheless, the message is clear: no unnecessary panic, people who take part in the security measures are professionals." Langer said measures have been taken on three levels: visible, less visible and invisible. Langer did not reply to the question whether the situation is connected with the developments in Norway where the police marred terrorist attacks this week. According to CTK, Langer said the special security measures would be in force for at least several days. The press conference participants would not say "for tactical reasons" whether potential attackers stay on Czech territory. The Prague city authority does not plan to cancel entertainment events at the weekend but it has involved also Prague policemen in security measures that are secured mainly by the national police, Rudolf Blazek deputy mayor of Prague, said Husak said it is considered to call in the military for the time being.

    Update (via CTK):

    Anonymous caller says bomb planted on a Prague bridge
    14:36 - 23.09.2006

    Prague- Operation at C line of Prague's underground has been interrupted after an anonymous caller told police at 13:30 today that an explosive had been planted in the underground tunnel on the Nuselsky Bridge, police spokeswoman Eva Miklikova told CTK.

    She said road traffic along the bridge had not been interrupted.

    Tightened security measures have been in force in the capital since early today over a possible terrorist risk.

    Norway Terror Plot - II

    A few more updates on the Oslo terror arrests, seen from a local Norwegian perspective:

    * The lawyer for the 28-year-old Norwegian Pakistani says that his client did make a remark about "cutting the Israeli ambassador's throat" (this is apparently what is on the recording - not "beheading" her, as reported elsewhere) - but that it was made during a heated discussion, and was not intended to be taken seriously. (Dagbladet)

    * The 29-year-old Norwegian Pakistani has been under surveillance by Norwegian and foreign police since June 23 this year. Norwegian police say that during this period the 29-year-old has sent regular text messages to and exchanged phone calls with a female reporter employed by Norwegian television station TV2's news section. They were in a close personal relationship, according to police. The recorded conversations between the two show the expression of "radical Islamist attitudes" on the part of the 29-year-old. The reporter has been suspended from her post. (Nettavisen)

    * The third suspect, "of foreign origin", is a Norwegian Turk.

    * Dagbladet reports the 26-year-old ethnic Norwegian as saying that the intended target of the attack was a small Bunnpris grocery store located some 400 metres from the U.S. embassy, and not the embassy itself. The aim was to rob the grocery store. The 26-year-old denies having anything to do with the shots that were fired at the synagogue.

    Bin Laden Dead...

    Via Sky News:

    Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has died of typhoid in Pakistan, according to reports in a regional French newspaper.

    The paper quoted one of the country's secret service reports, saying that Saudi Arabia is convinced that Bin Laden died a month ago.

    L'Est Republicain also said a copy of the report was shown to President Jacques Chirac and the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

    "According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," the document said.

    Friday, September 22, 2006


    Jesus and Mo are discussing the Pope's Regensburg address.

    Norway Terror Plot

    Via Ynet:
    Norwegian prosecutors unveiled on Friday evidence against four men detained on suspicion of plotting to blow up the US and Israeli embassies and of participating in a shooting at the Oslo synagogue last weekend.

    Prosecutor Unni Fries told a court the Norwegian secret services had bugged the car of the main suspect and recorded conversations between the men planning the attacks. "They spoke in detail about how to attack the synagogue and the US and Israeli embassies," Fries said, asking the court to detain all four suspects for four weeks without visitors or other contact with the outside world. (Reuters)

    Estonian Election Nears

    Tomorrow's presidential election, which will be held by electoral college vote, is a potentially decisive event for Estonia - one that may once and for all determine its future development, and the development of the entire Baltic region of Europe.

    In EDM, Vladimir Socor looks at the background to the election, and the issues it involves. In many ways, the shadow of the Soviet past still looms - yet there is a real hope, if Toomas Hendrik Ilves is elected president tomorrow, that the shadow may finally be dispelled.

    Why not choose the best candidate, Socor asks.
    Estonia’s presidential election tomorrow, September 23, involves more than just a choice between Arnold Ruutel and Toomas Hendrik Ilves. In a more profound sense, this election can decide whether or not a third man, Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar, becomes Estonia’s political and business king-maker for years to come, de-liberalizing the economy in favor or privileged interest groups and building a special relationship with Russia to balance Estonia’s Euro-Atlantic orientation.

    Savisaar reckons to achieve those goals by ensuring the elderly Ruutel’s reelection to another five-year term of office as well as a place for the small pro-presidential party, People’s Union, in a governing arrangement with the Center Party. In turn, Ruutel and People’s Union leader Villu Reiljan would use Ruutel’s presidential authority to “guarantee” the Center Party’s hegemony building.

    The choice between Ilves, 53, and Ruutel, 78, should be an easy one to make both democratically and on merit. Ilves is the distant front-runner in Estonia’s popularity ratings as well a highly respected international personality. But, under Estonia’s electoral law, the president will be elected by an insufficiently transparent electoral college that offers scope for manipulation. In practice, the electoral college and Estonia itself faces a choice between constitutional government with Ilves and the risks of de facto rule by Savisaar under a figurehead president.

    Writing in the September 20 issue of the Center Party’s weekly Kesknadal, Savisaar attacks Ilves for being an Estonian-American; claims sarcastically as well as gratuitously that “NATO would not go into a row with Russia for our sake”; cites German Minister of Foreign Affairs Karl-Walter Steinmeyer -- a close associate of the Kremlin-friendly former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- as urging that Russian interests be catered to (apparently, Savisaar privileges that perspective over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Atlanticism); and raises the specter of clashes between ethnic Russians and Estonians if the latter insist on removing the Red Army monument from Tallinn -- as we ll as clashes among Estonians if Ilves supporters hold a planned open-air song festival in the city (BNS, September 20).

    The Center Party-People’s Union alliance stipulates that Estonia should withdraw its soldiers from coalition forces in Iraq “at the first opportunity” and that the country can only participate in international operations with United Nations’ approval. This would imply that Estonia would not be free to participate in NATO peacekeeping or common defense operations unless the UN -- that is, Russia as well -- consents. The agreement strengthens this impression by failing to mention NATO altogether.

    The Center Party has actively participated in running Ruutel&rsqu o;s campaign, particularly in its “dirty trick” aspects. Kesknadal and others in that camp have publicly “investigated” the life of Ilves’ octogenarian mother for Jewish origins -- an invention that the candidate has not bothered to refute. Ruutel and his close circle have on the whole kept their distance from the negative campaigning, nor have they endorsed the strategic overtures to Russia in Savisaar’s discourse and the Savisaar-Reiljan agreement. However, the president and his advisers have clearly failed to disavow those transgressions and those overtures.

    Savisaar has no consistent vision for the country’s future. He is a consummate tactical operator who follows what he perceives to be the prevailing winds. He headed the Popular Front during the heyda y of the liberation movement and served several brief stints as prime minister, internal affairs minister, and economics minister in the last 15 years. Savisaar narrowly averted an end to his political career in the late 1990s when, as internal affairs minister, he used the services of a security firm to bug political rivals. The Center Party is the country’s single largest with a nearly 30% share of the electorate in Estonia’s multi-party system. Savisaar has developed a political and organizational model that rests on fusion of the party with certain favored business circles, strict internal party discipline under Savisaar’s close oversight, predominant influence on Tallinn’s City Hall, and a lock on a substantial share of the Russian vote. The Center Party has signed a cooperation agreement with Russia’s party of power, United Russia.

    Both the Center Party and People’s Union aggressively recruit members among mayors and other local officials, offering largesse from ministerial funds controlled by those parties in return for electoral support. The People’s Party constituency is predominantly rural and aging, and the party wields influence in part through Ruutel’s contacts in the milieu of agrarian and administrative officials in the countryside.

    The dynamics of this campaign notwithstanding, Ruutel and Ilves can by no means be described as political adversaries, though they come from very different milieus and project contrasting personal images.

    Ruutel, once a high official in Soviet Estonia’s agriculture and political nomenklatura, joined the liberation movement in the late 1980s and played a prominent role -- along with young movement leaders -- in the restoration of Estonia’s independence through parliamentary enactments. His presence in the parliament’s chair for the better part of the 1990s helped reassure sections of society, including many Russians, that Estonia’s independence and aspiration to join NATO and the European Union was good for the country and all social strata. Ruutel became president in 2001 at the age of 73 and served as a figurehead, though often with dignity. However, not speaking any foreign language other than Russian, he is at a disadvantage in representing Estonia internationally.

    Ilves, born in Sweden to an Estonian post-war refugee family, grew up in the United States and is widely recognized as a scintillating orator in English. He headed the Estonian broadcasting department at Radio Free Europe, went on to serve as Estonia’s ambassador to the United States, and became the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, steering the country’s policies of accession to NATO and the European Union. Since 2004 Ilves has been the Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission and one of the most influential figures in Brussels debates on the EU’s neighborhood policy, energy issues, and policy toward Russia. In recent years he has led Estonia’s politicians in terms of popular rating -- a fact that casts some doubt on his detractors’ stereotyping of Ilves as “elitist.” Ilves is a highly knowledgeable spokesman not just for Estonia, but also for Central-Eastern Europe generally in both Washington and Brussels, the workings of which he knows from the inside.

    Unless Ruutel’s handlers have their own reasons to think otherwise, Ruutel can now retire in dignity and with full national gratitude for his past services. At this point, Ilves personifies a successfully modernizing Estonia and the country’s obvious best choice.

    The Widening Conflict - III

    As tensions in the North Caucasus continue to spread beyond the borders of Chechnya, it seems that Moscow is attempting to fan them further by pitting the law-enforcement agencies of different North Caucasus republics against one another. Prague Watchdog has a report (my tr.):

    Bloody incident between Chechen and Ingushetian police assessed differently in the two republics

    By Umalt Chadayev

    The armed conflict between Chechen and Ingushetian police that took place near the Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya on September 13, leading to numerous casualties, may have a sequel.

    Chechen OMON officers who lost seven of their comrades, including the unit’s deputy commander, as a result of a clash on the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia are convinced that the killing of their colleagues was carried out deliberately. They dismiss completely all the arguments by the Chechen and Ingushetian authorities that the reason for the bloodshed was a lack of operational co-ordination on the part of the law enforcement agencies of the two republics.

    "What sort of ‘lack of co-ordination’ could there have been? When they entered the republic of Ingushetia at that Ingushetian traffic police post No. 20, our colleagues went through all the necessary procedures: registration, and so on,” says Adam, one of the Chechen police officers, who lost his close friend during the skirmish on September 13. “What’s more, they were travelling in three UAZ jeeps marked with police numbers in dark blue. This was obviously an action that was planned – open murder. But on TV they’re talking about some ‘fatal error’, a ‘lack of operational co-ordination’ and ‘wilfulness’ on the part of our OMON officers on the territory of the adjacent republic."

    "The lads told me what really happened. They had gone to arrest the notorious Ingush ‘car-theft authority’ Gerikhan Temurziyev, leader of an Ingush criminal gang who specializes in stealing expensive foreign-made automobiles. Temurziyev’s gang has been carrying on this ‘business’ in different regions of Russia, and has now switched to Chechnya. In addition, it seems there was information that Temurziyev is engaged in smuggling narcotics into our republic. The policemen had managed to arrest one of the members of this group and to get on the trail of its leader, who was living very quietly in the village of Yandare in Nazranovsky district," the respondent says.

    "When the officers arrived at the scene of the impending operation, they notified the village administration head as well as the policeman in charge of the area, who told them the location of the house where Temurziyev lived, but refused to take part in his arrest. Temurziyev offered no resistance, and the group of law-enforcers set off back to Chechnya. On their way they were followed by an unmarked Zhiguli car. The occupants of that car probably signalled the group’s approach to the traffic police post, where an ambush was waiting," he says.

    "At that post there were not only Ingush police officials, but also a large number of armed men in masks, dressed in civilian clothing. When the column was about 80 metres from the post, the barrier came down, and officials demanded that the OMON police should leave their jeeps and give up their weapons. As soon as one of them got out of his jeep in order to find out what was going on, he was shot almost at point-blank range. Then the OMON jeeps were opened fire on, and a shoot-out began which lasted for about twenty minutes,” the Chechen policeman says.

    "It was a flagrant attempt to recapture the arrested man. None the less, the OMON officers were able to break out and make their way back to Chechen territory, and from there they reported the attack to their superiors. Buvadi Dakhiyev and a large group of Chechen police arrived at the scene of the incident. Dakhiyev and several OMON officers set off in the direction of the Ingush post in order to investigate the situation. The Ingushes immediately opened fire on them without any warning. Buvadi was seriously wounded and later died in hospital, while his comrades perished on the spot. In all six of our policemen were killed as a result of this incident, and five more were injured. On the Ingush side two policemen were killed, and about ten were injured. Such is the outcome of this ‘fatal accident’.”

    According to Adam, on the evening of the same day, soldiers of the unit gathered at the Chechen OMON base, intending to go to the Ingush police post where the armed clash had taken place, and "sort it out". Adam says that they were only stopped by the arrival of one of the republic’s leaders, who demanded that the policemen should not take the law into their own hands, promising that the authorities of the two republics would conduct a full inquiry, and that all those guilty for what had happened would be punished.

    Representatives of the Ingush law-enforcement agencies blame the Chechen OMON officers for the whole incident. The Ingush side claims that that the Chechen officers opened fire first, and that they then summoned their colleagues to help. In the Ingush opinion, the actions of the Chechen OMON officers were illegal. Things reached such a point that Isa Kostoyev, an Ingushetian senator in Russia's Federation Council, issued a call to the residents of Ingushetia to offer resistance to representatives of the law-enforcement agencies of other republics if the latter arrived "to make searches without the representatives of the law-enforcement agencies of the Ingush Republic being present."

    After the incident, the Chechen Interior Ministry placed additional posts on the motor highway that leads out of the republic into Ingushetia, justifying this by the need to prevent the passage of armed men in either direction. On the Ingush side the post where the bloodshed occurred was reinforced by armoured vehicles and soldiers of the Federal forces. The situation on both sides of the administrative border remains quite tense, though no manifestations of violence or hostility towards Chechen residents in Ingushetia and vice versa have been observed.

    An investigative group of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office is at present undertaking an inquiry into the circumstances of the incident.

    "It’s possible that the investigation will explain all the circumstances of what took place, it’s possible that those guilty for what took place will be identified and punished, it’s even possible that someone will be put on trial. But I have a feeling that it’s going to be settled not by investigators and judges, but by custom – the old Caucasian custom of blood vengeance. In order to prevent this, both sides will have to be reconciled with each other, and elders of both republics who possess authority and respect will have to intervene. After all, the reconciliation of opposing parties is also an old and very good Caucasian tradition," says 57-year-old Grozny resident Usman Mezhidov.

    Translated by David McDuff.

    See also: The Widening Conflict
    The Widening Conflict - II

    Jamestown's Chechnya Weekly has a thorough and detailed report on the Ordzhonikidzevskaya incident here.

    Moscow and the West - Changes on the Way

    A couple of items from yesterday's RFE/RL Newsline (9/21/2006):


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has closely involved the diplomats and leaders of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland in preparations for her planned September 23 meeting near Paris with French President Jacques Chirac and Russia's Vladimir Putin, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on September 21. She wants to make it clear to all that she is opposed to reviving the Moscow-Berlin-Paris "axis" that took shape under her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, and intends to present Baltic and Polish concerns to the Paris meeting. Latvian and Estonian diplomats have stressed to her the importance of Russia's finalizing border treaties with their countries. The daily reported that Merkel was angry that Chirac announced the summit on July 3 without consulting her, but decided to go with her own agenda rather than refuse to attend. She has long made it clear that she intends to follow the policy of her mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, of working closely with the smaller European countries, as well as with France and the other larger ones, and of strengthening the trans-Atlantic partnership. The daily noted that she telephoned U.S. President George W. Bush in connection with the Paris meeting and that Bush welcomed it as an opportunity for her to present her concerns over Iran to Chirac and Putin. Schroeder, who now heads the stockholders' oversight body for the planned Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline, brought U.S.-German relations to their lowest point since World War II through his active opposition to Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 26, July 17, August 24, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," March 23, 2006). PM


    The [Russian] Defense Ministry has denied recent reports in the Moscow daily "Gazeta" and on that it is preparing a new official doctrine in which the United States and NATO are allegedly placed on a level with terrorists as threats to Russian security, "Gazeta" reported on September 20. Ministry spokesman Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov said that "there have been media reports about that before, but now, as on previous occasions, they're still a long way from the truth." The ministry's previous comprehensive defense doctrines date from 1993 and 2000. The daily suggested nonetheless that the ministry is trying to "hide something" from the public about defense plans. Elsewhere, on September 21 and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on an alleged "secret report" to the State Duma prepared by a group of experts around former point man for Germany and CPSU Secretary Valentin Falin and former top foreign intelligence official Gennady Evstafiev. The alleged study says that Washington is seeking to promote an "Orange Revolution" in Russia by subtle and indirect means. PM

    Sweden and Israel: a New Chapter?

    With the defeat of Sweden's Social Democrat government in Sunday's election, and the return of the centre-right, Sweden's foreign policy is likely to undergo some changes, not least in the area of the Middle East. The new political alignment in Sweden has been noted with some satisfaction in Israel, where the Social Democrats' antagonistic policies towards the country, being almost exclusively pro-Arab and anti-Israel, have caused much anger and displeasure.

    In the Jerusalem Post, Herb Keinon notes that some officials in Jerusalem are privately delighted by the new turn of events, and hold out hopes for the future of Swedish-Israeli relations. Israel's former ambassador to Stockholm, Zvi Mazel,
    said that the centerright parties, headed by 41-year-old prime minister designate Fredrik Reinfeldt, who ousted Prime Minister Goran Persson, made supportive comments about Israel while in the opposition.

    "We had good relations with them in the past, and hope it will continue," Mazel said.

    Mazel - who in 2004 wrecked a display at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm that glorified a suicide bomber - said that Sweden has for years been among the most critical countries in the EU towards Israel, along with Ireland and France.

    He said that the new government was likely to bring Sweden's Middle East policy from the far left into the center in the EU, and that he believed the new government's public declarations about Israel and the Middle East would be far less critical.

    Mazel's optimism was shared by Gunnar Hokmark, a Swedish member of the European parliament from one of the central-right Swedish parties. Hokmark, chairman of the Israel-Swedish Friendship League, said from Brussels that he thought the new government would "chart a more balanced policy," toward Israel.

    According to Hokmark, the new government was likely to "be more focused on the support for democracy development in the Middle East."

    Although foreign policy played almost no role in the elections, Hokmark said Reinfeld had made some comments in the campaign for the need for stable regimes in Syria and Lebanon.

    One senior official in Jerusalem said that although it was hard to say whether there would be a dramatic change in Stockholm's policies, "there is definitely an opportunity now to turn a new page. The social democrats went that extra mile in their criticism of Israel," the official said. Over the last few years, he added, Sweden has distinguished itself in being more critical of Israel than about any other European country.

    Attacks on Synagogues in Russia

    There have been more attacks on synagogues in Russia, this time in the city of Khabarovsk (in Russia's Far East,) and in Astrakhan (on the Volga in Southern Russia). Of the Khabarovsk attack, AP writes:
    Unidentified attackers on Friday hurled stones at a synagogue in a far eastern Russian city, shattering windows but hurting no one, officials said.

    The pre-dawn attack on the synagogue in Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000 on the border with China, was the latest sign of rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Russia.

    The regional department of the Interior Ministry said the attack occurred in the pre-dawn hours Friday when the synagogue was empty. A criminal investigation was launched.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Shots Fired at Oslo Synagogue - II

    A 29-year-old Norwegian Pakistani man is among 4 suspects charged by Norwegian police with a terrorist attack on an Oslo synagogue on September 17.
    Oslo, Sep 20 (Online): A 29-year-old Pakistani origin man with links to the criminal A-gang is among the four suspects arrested on Tuesday and charged with firing on Oslo’s synagogue last weekend, Aftenposten’s Norwegian reported.

    The man was arrested in Germany this summer, suspected of participating in the planning of a terrorist attack on the soccer World Cup there. He was released quickly.

    Last week he was arrested again, this time charged with threats against crime journalist Nina Johnsrud from the newspaper Dagsavisen.

    Police suspect him of having something to do with shots having been fired against her house this summer, but he was released after 24 hours.

    Update: Norway's Nettavisen has details of the suspects:

    De fire siktede, en norskpakistaner (29), en norskpakistaner (28), en nordmann av utenlandsk opprinnelse (28) og en nordmann (26), blir fremstilt for varetektsfengsling fredag formiddag klokken 11.

    The four accused, a Norwegian Pakistani (29), a Norwegian Pakistani (28), a Norwegian of foreign origin (28) and a Norwegian (26), will be brought before the court to be remanded in custody on Friday morning at 11 am.

    The four men planned an attack on the US and Israeli embassies in Oslo.

    Getting to the Truth

    At last, an honest, fair and balanced report on the situation in Beirut, Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel, by a Washington Post journalist, William M. Arkin, who went there and wrote about what he saw and experienced:
    What struck me about the bombing, in both countries, was that you could see the destruction and completely misread what it meant. In Beirut, the destruction in reality is efficient and impressive. The destruction in Israel, on the other hand, is random and scattered. When Hezbollah rockets were fired on Israel, landing meant success.

    So here is the truth: Israel did not do anything close to what it was capable of doing. Hezbollah did all it could.

    Because Israel is hyper-modern and it has the technology to exact such a concentrated result, it is capable of creating visible and jarring images.

    And, of course, Israel is Israel. That is why the non-aligned countries condemned "Israeli aggression in Lebanon" this weekend, befuddled about Lebanon and Hezbollah: Such an easy target.

    I recognize that one can’t analyze what happened in Lebanon in the 34-day, Israel-Hezbollah war without walking into a minefield.

    Also, what happened can’t be reduced to 1,000 words. There is complex history, the players are not necessarily as they represent themselves, there are intramural battles going on about military force and politics, there are secrets and there is even the difficulty of reading what one is looking at accurately.

    Read the first part of the report here.

    U.N. Days

    In the aftermath of Hugo Chavez's "Bush is the devil" speech at the U.N., it may be instructive to look back at an earlier era of the international body's history, when similar comedy acts were performed, not by the head of a relatively insignificant Latin American country but by the leader of approximately one half of the "bipolar world" which then existed. From the Wikipedia entry on Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev:
    Khrushchev repeatedly disrupted the proceedings in the United Nations General Assembly in September-October 1960 by pounding his fists on the desk and shouting in Russian. On September 29, 1960, Khrushchev twice interrupted a speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan by shouting out and pounding his desk. The unflappable Macmillan famously commented over his shoulder to Frederick Boland, the Assembly President (Ireland), that if Mr. Khrushchev wished to continue, he would like a translation.

    At the United Nations two weeks later, in one of the most surreal moments in Cold War history, the premier waved his shoe and banged it on his desk, adding to the lengthening list of antics with which he had been nettling the General Assembly. During a debate over a Russian resolution decrying colonialism, he was infuriated by a statement, expressed from the rostrum by Lorenzo Sumulong. The Filipino delegate had charged the Soviets with employing a double standard, pointing to their domination of Eastern Europe as an example of the very type of colonialism their resolution criticized. Mr. Khrushchev thereupon pulled off his right shoe, stood up, brandishing it at the Philippine delegate on the other side of the hall. The enraged Khrushchev accused Mr. Sumulong of being "Холуй и ставленник империализма" (kholuj i stavlennik imperializma), which was translated as "a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism". The chaotic scene finally ended when General Assembly President Frederick Boland broke his gavel calling the meeting to order, but not before the image of Khrushchev as a hotheaded buffoon was indelibly etched into America’s collective memory. At another occasion, Khrushchev said in reference to capitalism, "Мы вас похороним!", translated to "We will bury you". This phrase, ambiguous both in the English language and in the Russian language, was interpreted in several ways.
    But the world was a different place back then. Voices suggesting the withdrawal of the United States from the U.N. were rather few, and tended to come only from the very far reaches of extreme opinion and sentiment, such as the John Birch Society. There was a rationale for this. It was thought - and the perception was spread over a large spectrum of opinion in the West - that because of the nuclear standoff between the two Great Powers, the United States had no option but to fight its corner in an international body that was heavily biased towards the Soviet Union and its field of influence. Otherwise, it was thought, the world might just go up in flames one day, when someone "pressed the button". Nowadays, with the United States as the world's only "superpower" (the term is dated, and belongs to that earlier era), the thought of the possibility of a U.S. secession from the United Nations is no longer such a far-fetched or recondite one. Indeed, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the U.N. as it has now developed has all the vices, defects and weaknesses of its older self without the saving graces of a "world security guarantee", and continues to be dominated by the kind of states that were promoted by the former Soviet Union, from which they have inherited its anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-democratic animus and ideology, it's now coming to the point where Western nations will have to make a decision on where their best interests lie.

    Perhaps it really would make more sense for the free nations of the world to form an alternative organization. In the words of Anne Bayevsky:
    We can make speeches spinning wins out of losses and claiming success for Western policies at the UN. We can announce that we are working hard for reform that lies just over the horizon. We can proclaim that yet another subject will serve as the final, real test of the UN's credibility. And Americans can claim that the attempt to thread US foreign policy through the eye of a UN needle is an end in itself.

    Or we can say: No more. We gave this organization 60 years of our best efforts - Americans gave $5 billion last year alone. But our reform efforts have failed.

    And in return for our willingness to look first to the UN for solutions, we emboldened Iran, its proxy Hizbullah and fellow terrorists around the world. We handed our enemies the mantle of human rights and left more Sudanese to die.

    There is an antidote to the self-doubt and moral relativism planted in our midst by Turtle Bay. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls it a "council of democracies outside of the UN system…[that would] truly monitor, examine and expose human rights abuses around the globe." Such a gathering is an idea whose time has come: the United Democratic Nations - an international organization of democracies, by democracies and for democracies.

    A world war is being waged, and the UN is not on our side. It is a tragedy in view of its beginnings and its promise, but the tragedy will be far greater if we refuse to say: Enough.