Russia 3, Greenpeace 2.
I like the Russians. You spend enough time studying a foreign people, you sort of fall in love with them, because that’s the beginning of understanding them and their country in any real sense. The accent is on liking the people rather than the leadership, who’re what you’re supposed to be focusing on. Despite how brutal their leadership has been at times, it mostly reflects their citizen’s take on things, especially when it comes to foreign relations.
There’s a well-founded tradition in Russia of being suspicious of any foreigners and their intentions with regard to Mother Russia. It possibly started after the Russian revolution of 1917, when the Western Powers ganged up to invade them in some sort of quixotic effort to restore the hated Romanov dynasty and get Russia back into the war. The only foreigner Stalin ever trusted was Hitler, which is why he went into catatonic shock for the three days following the German surprise invasion of 1941 when operation Barbarossa was on a roll. When you add in nearly fifty years of cold war hostility and more recently the scandalous asset stripping by foreign firms that went on in the aftermath of the USSR’s demise, it’s not difficult to have sympathy with their viewpoint.
Greenpeace’s foray into Russian business in the Arctic and Putin’s reaction to it, is a classic example of a Russian leader telling foreigners in no uncertain terms where to get off, much to the approval of his domestic audience. Contrary to popular opinion and whether you like it or not, he’s very popular there, with approval ratings that move in a range of 65% to 81%, numbers most Western politicians would kill for.
He served in the KGB for over fifteen years, rising to lieutenant colonel, no easy feat believe you me. He wrestles bears bare-chested, led them successfully through two overt wars and a number of covert ones, showed off his martial arts skills to the Japanese on a state visit there, does white water boating, attends all the main Russian Orthodox Church holy days, is an accomplished pianist and even does a good impression of an Ivan Rebroff type of singing style. They just love their little Vladdie to bits.
Best of all as far as the average Russian is concerned, he’s running rings around the West and of course he is. From a position of relative weakness, he’s been giving a master class in foreign policy to the current American administration and more particularly Barack Obama, without a doubt the weakest President since Jimmy Carter. Put face to face up against Putin, Obama blinks every time.
He wanted to bomb his way into the fratricidal mess that Syria has become but Putin stopped him dead in his tracks and then left him slinking out of the UN with his tail between his legs looking for some face-saving compromise, which Putin obligingly provided him with. What passes for a government in Syria was always under Russian protection and the message to similar but possibly unpopular countries, is that Russia honours its commitments to its small allies and more importantly can stop America attacking them. Without Russian intervention, Syria would by now be on the receiving end of a hail of smart bombs. That plays well with small countries fearful of a superpower with an unpredictable and erratic foreign policy.
The US traitor Edward Snowden was supposed to be stuck in a Russian airport temporarily before frantically fleeing on to another country which would dare to give him protection against American opposition. Of course, Putin let him in not only for the sensitive intelligence he undoubtedly traded with the Russians to save his ass, but also not missing the opportunity to yet again give Obama one up the rear in the full view of world opinion.
Snowden negotiated other people’s lives away for sanctuary and to escape a life sentence back home in America, something his fanboys pointedly choose to ignore. If you seriously believe he sat in the international lounge for three weeks doing anything other than that, you’re very innocent. Being a patriot, I can’t find the words to describe such a creature as that, but no doubt there’ll be people who continue to believe him to be some sort of crucified saint but in my view he managed to get one step lower than Hanoi Jane Fonda.
Compared to those two incidents, which potentially had major foreign policy implications if handled clumsily, slinging a few Greenpeace activists into prison for the next fifteen years is barely beneath his notice. Not only that, since his own people don’t give a damn about western environmentalists and Russia is habitually indifferent to hostile foreign opinion anyway, it’s all win-win stuff with no downside for Gospodin Putin.
The only government to lodge a meek protest was the Dutch, because they were obliged to since that was where the Arctic Sunrise is registered, but when you stop to consider the Russians had been protesting to that very same government for the preceding months about the activities of Greenpeace with the boat, that protest was noted, filed and forgotten ten minutes after it was received. Foreign governments will simply go through the motions of consular access once every few months and after the initial furore dies down, once a year, if that.
Abroad, there’s been no great rush to storm Putin’s Winter Palace to get the imprisoned ecowarriors released. Indeed, the comments under articles by the self-appointed climate crusader organs of the MSM who’ve bothered to give the story some space, have not been supportive to say the least. Even on the greenish side of the climate divide, Greenpeace are widely perceived as a bunch of trust fund hooligans just chasing self-serving headlines, with no regard to anything other than their egos, publicity and pumping up the donations. The general feeling is they’re finally getting the slap they’ve been needing for years and the Ruskies are just the boys to deliver it. Apart from a few fading C list celebs who need the PR, there’s little or no popular sympathy for them.
In short, not many people in Russia or abroad give a damn about the self-inflicted predicament of the new age pirates and the ones who should, Greenpeace themselves, seem determined to martyr them for publicity and to shake out a shed load of donations from sympathisers. Holding a weekend of poorly attended protests outside Russia’s embassies is water off a duck’s back and Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo’s open letter offer of swapping himself for all of the imprisoned was not ever a serious offer, since he always knew it would cast the Russians in the totally unacceptable role of hostage takers he was bravely negotiating with. What’s being progressed there is his ego, not getting people out.
At the end of the previous article on this issue I posed the question – Are Greenpeace ready to sacrifice their own foot soldiers for a futile PR gesture? Patently, the answer to that is yes.
It goes against the grain to offer this advice but if I were someone trying to get a loved one home from Murmansk, the last people I’d trust would be Greenpeace. Work directly through whatever bilateral consular arrangements are in place there for your country. The whole issue barely lasted on Putin’s agenda for two minutes before he made a decision and he’s already moved on to things of greater importance. You’re now dealing with a Kafkaesque Russian legal bureaucracy, so nothing will happen unless you figure out a bone you can throw them. If you need the hint hammer, since Greenpeace has sold your loved ones out …
I advanced the score to Russia 3, Greenpeace 2, simply because in reply to the latter’s weak responses, the Russians apparently discovered a quantity of illegal drugs on the impounded ship. They can keep adding charges until the methane-farting cows come home. When you look at the footage of activists repeatedly ramming a coastguard boat and then consider the survival time of a man overboard in arctic seas is measured in minutes, that’s an easy attempted murder charge.
They can even ramp it up further by declaring Greenpeace to be a terrorist organisation within Russia, an idea which is already being floated in some of their media - echoes of the old Izvestia and Pravda days. If that happens, all those intelligence sharing gentlemen’s agreements in the fight against global terrorism will have to be balanced against who actually gives a damn about Greenpeace anyhow.
Life can get very difficult when you end up on certain watch lists. For instance, when you’re an international bank transferring billions of Roubles for the Russian government and they point out you’ve got accounts for an organisation they have legally declared to be terrorists, whose business gets refused? A government or company in the habit of donating money to Greenpeace and wanting to chase Russian business won’t be able to both. Any project or organisation receiving funding from Greenpeace won’t be able to operate inside the Russian’s sphere of influence.
I’ve absolutely no problem watching Greenpeace’s own arrogance escalating a setback to the point where they become an international pariah organisation.
Take a look at the picture accompanying this article. They’re activists destroying a genetically modified crop that’s taken years to develop and the researchers have pleaded with them on bended knees not to do it. Every time they do that, it takes the whole project back one growing season. Over the years, Greenpeace have organised many such demonstrations and brought along their own media people to capture the happy event. When militant environmentalism goes into the dustbin of history, and it will, such wanton acts of senseless destruction will end but for now it creates a gap.
That gap is the time between when things like Golden Rice should have reached the people who truly need it and when they’ll actually get it. Those crop-destroying people are on a feel-good ego trip and blissfully ignorant of things like the million kids a year that VAD needlessly claims due to their efforts. At the end of the day, our real job as skeptics is to make that gap smaller, nothing more.
In my heart of hearts, I consider what’s happening in that picture to be murder. If the only rough justice available is thirty of their fellow minions doing time in Russia, well, at least it’s something, because none of those bastards in the picture above will ever face a judge or jury for what they’ve done.
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