Russia 2, Greenpeace 1.

One of my simple pleasures in life is to spend an occasional evening watching a good sporting event with friends. We all come clinking along with whatever booze we prefer and a few emergency nibbles. It’s usually an evening of decent sport, a little too much to drink and giving each other a hard time about how well our respective teams are doing of late, or not, in my particular team’s case. It’s still early days in the soccer season, so all the games have been cagey with none of the top teams looking especially sharp.

In an effort to see something more lively, we’d decided on a Champions League game between Switzerland’s Basel and Schalke of Germany. That’s an international competition for the top football clubs in Europe. It’s always a good idea to eye up the opposition and as it happens, Schalke have a very nifty striker that Arsenal are rumoured to be lusting after big time and since one of my friends is an Arsenal fan – someone has to be I suppose – it was also a chance to see him in action.

The evening was well into the usual enjoyable routine when the game was stopped by Greenpeace activists lowering a massive banner off the roof and down into the stadium. It was telling Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled oil company, not to drill in the arctic but it was also telling them to free some Greenpeace activists arrested for climbing a Russian oil platform the previous week. The exasperated comments about it in the room I’ve no doubt reflected what the thousands of people in the stadium were saying, none of which were sympathetic to Greenpeace or the particular cause. Like Hamlet, we spoke of country matters.

One person in the room remarked that the irritating prats wouldn’t spend more than a few hours in jail and I agreed but I was thinking the stunt had just ensured the other activists were going to spend months, if not years, in jail.

Within five minutes or so, the game restarted, with Schalke eventually winning one nil via a scorching goal from the Arsenal prospect. Start saving your pennies Arsene.

Thinking about the incident afterwards, it illustrated beautifully two points I’ve made several times on this blog. The first is that the environmental movement persists in viewing its opposition as cardboard cut-out stereotypes. It’s a simplistic and childish view of the real world which is exaggerated by its increasing tendency to be ever more inward looking. The second one is that as they’re essentially fanatics, they’ll always push it too far; they simply can’t help themselves.

I’m sure that spiffing idea of abseiling down into a packed stadium before the world’s cameras sounded brilliant over café lattes with like-minded saviours of the planet but did anyone ever stop to really think beyond their egos as to what would be the net effect of it? By that I don’t just mean pissing off a whole football stadium of avid footie fans and the others watching around the world, but how the Russians might react.

Let’s do that bit of thinking for them but first some necessary background you might need.

A decade ago, Russia emerged from the economic chaos brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union. What got them out was exporting energy, in the form of gas, to the rest of Europe. It was the one single thing they had which everyone else wanted, and that’s precisely why Vladimir Putin’s first move on gaining power was wresting control of it back by any means from the assorted robber barons and oligarchs who’d pillaged it from the ruins of the old USSR.

Even though the nuclear attack subs and boomers rusted at the bottom of their moorings in Murmansk, Russia still had its gas and it became what they termed the energy weapon. Be nice to the Rodina or we’ll turn off your gas, a threat they’ve carried out at least twice.

The Russians, amongst others, are currently claiming much of the undeveloped oil and gas reserves under the arctic as theirs, with the whole issue due to come before the UN next year. No doubt some share out arrangement between the various parties will be brokered but in the meantime Russia is flexing its muscles by building a permanent military base there and a nuclear fleet is patrolling the local waters for the first time in years.

Russia has never been interested in environmentalism and indeed probably spends more Roubles on improving their caviar production than on things like renewable energy. If their competitors want to voluntarily decarbonise themselves back to the middle ages, why should they be bothered.

Enter Greenpeace aboard the good ship Arctic Sunrise – in retrospect it should have been called Arctic Surprise – sailing into the Pechora Sea to scale the Russian Prirazlomnaya oil drilling platform. It was going to be the usual boarding exploit and they’d even brought along their own media to capture the event.

Greenpeace activists had previously scaled the same oil rig about a year back, hung some banners on it, chained themselves to it, and after a few days in clink, had been allowed to go home triumphant to reap the propaganda rewards. This time around their boat was impounded at gunpoint by FSB men dropping down by ropes from a helicopter and everyone on board was taken into custody for an estimated two month wait while a hearing was being arranged, but the thinking was they’d probably be let go fairly soon.

That was the first signal from the Russians to Greenpeace – stay out of our business. The Kremlin were making known a change of policy towards the environmental movement in their waters and more importantly their territorial claims about the arctic. It was a classic Soviet-era piece of communication, unstated but right in your face. Rumours of more serious piracy charges were dismissed by Putin in an interview as a bit excessive. He assumed they were bright enough to take the hint. The king had just spoken so sighs of relief all around.

However, the football stunt came along. A very public attack on Russia’s territorial ambitions, the energy weapon and their relatively light treatment of the activists. More seriously, the Russians really do like their football, hence all the money they pump into it. Rightly or wrongly, it was perceived as a signal back, so suddenly all the activists were charged with piracy. You didn’t listen to the first signal, well, have a much more definite one and this signal comes with a maximum fifteen year prison sentence attached.

Unlike Greenpeace, the Russians actually operate on the basis of a realistic appraisal of their enemy; in this case the environmental movement. They know environmental politics are no longer of interest to western governments nor their people, so they’re quite happy to imprison as many ecowarriors as it takes to ram the message home. Nobody is going to go to war over them. Greenpeace, like the whole environmental movement, is on the wane as a significant political force.

I suppose I’d better outline the exit strategies for the blunderers, since the Russians are now awaiting their signal. The ball is now in Greenpeace’s half of the pitch and the next move is therefore up to them. It comes down to two choices really. Go for the big eco-martyrs imprisoned by the cruel Russians campaign, and since nobody is going to do anything about it beyond a few diplomatic tut-tuts, that’ll just piss the bear off even more and give your activists years to learn Russian in prison, where they’re already whingeing bitterly that nobody in there speaks English. There’s probably not even any internet access.

The other option is to do a bit of public grovelling, an apology and a promise not to do it ever again, but that’s only if you want them back this side of Christmas. A word of caution though. If you can bring yourself to pull off a successful grovel to the Russians, you’ll probably get your people back in instalments, which will end abruptly the first time you start doing a released ecowarriors propaganda splash.

I wonder what the signal’s going to be. Are Greenpeace ready to sacrifice their own foot soldiers for a futile PR gesture?


Related articles by Pointman:

Russia 3, Greenpeace 2.

How environmentalism turned to the dark side.

The decline of the environmental lobby’s political influence.

Some thoughts on fanatics and how to fight them.

Know your enemy : the climate activist.

Click for a list of other articles.

34 Responses to “Russia 2, Greenpeace 1.”
  1. johnnyrvf says:

    I NEVER read the guardian but on Tory Ardvarks blog there is an update on the situation citing a Guardian article, most people commenting were basically saying you can’t cure stupid and Greenpeace are VERY stupid in underestimating the Russian mindset, something I know about as my late fathers side of the family was from that part of the world. I hope Greenpeace becomes a spent force politically, they do so little to really address the environmental problems of the world and are apparently easily bought off protesting serious situations, e.g. Fukishima, perhaps this incident is the beginning of the end for them, I sincerely hope so.


  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    Are Greenpeace ready to sacrifice their own foot soldiers for a futile PR gesture?

    Who was it who said “extremist organisations find it fatally easy to demand self immolation”.

    I think Greenpeace will use this to try and gain public sympathy and pressure western governments into protesting. This the governments will do.

    e.g. by the way we are protesting about the those Greenpeace nuisances. Purely domestic politics, we’re not worried by it. Can I top up your glass?


  3. Timbo says:

    Greenpeace has had a very long run and now it’s time to reel them in.
    Funny thing, hubris. It can lead you into some really interesting situations,


  4. stan stendera says:

    Ha, ha, ha, ha ,ha. Beautiful summery of the situation in Russia. I can’t stop laughing at Greenpeace.


  5. A.D. Everard says:

    I find it fascinating that Greenpeace and other fanatics have such a poor grasp of reality. They cannot comprehend that they are no longer in favour. I can’t see them grovelling to the Russians for that very reason, they’ll expect the world on their side, and be shocked not to find it.

    The eco-sorry-can’t-say-warriors throughout that organization (and others like it) need a big wake-up call, and those Russians seem just the ones to give it to them. Yes, it’s hard on those arrested, but hey, sooner or later somebody somewhere was going to hit a solid wall. They should have thought about that before getting involved.

    Excellent post, Pointman.


  6. I can’t for a moment imagine anyone at Greenpeace having the common sense to realise that they need to offer the Russians something positive to get their people back before their hair turns grey. For them, it’s just the ego-trip of organising one media-splash after another, with no real joined up thinking at all. The need to up the ante with each subsequent event makes it inevitable that one day they will really go overboard and fatally piss off the wrong people (i.e. either people who will then want them dead or the mass of their own supporters). It is possible that this Russian escapade may escalate into just that moment.


  7. meltemian says:

    Thank you Pointy, I missed out on this story. I’ve been busy with visitors for the last few weeks so haven’t been keeping up with the news, but I’ll keep an eye open for what happens next.
    Greenpeace have definitely reached their sell-by date, it’s just a shame they haven’t realised it yet.


  8. Nicely done 😀

    Always enjoy another take on a story and as someone who is not into football, also educational for me as well.

    Certainly post COP18 Russian has done it’s level best to derail the UN Climate Circus, all the Green bullshit about Shale Gas from the Russian climate negotiators is simply because fracking stands to damage Gazproms profits. The sheer ignorance of Gaia’s Green Guardians for not knowing that Gazprom is effectively Russia is beyond belief, not to mention their arrogance for thinking that they can do anything they want, where ever they like with impunity.

    Interesting thought do Greenpeace want these Green fools released or do they want them kept in the Gulag and labelled as prisoners of conscience? Powerful publicity and with the adorable Kumi Naidoo as executive director of Greenpeace International proclaiming that warming alarmism is the new Apartheid, the some expendable Green sheep sacrificed for the greater good could well be on the cards.


  9. aussiebear says:

    Just an update on the issue…

    (1) It appears the Netherlands are going to help Greenpeace…

    (2) Meanwhile in Australia, loony-Left Greens party leader demands the Foreign Minister (of the Conservative Govt) help free her fellow eco-nut from the Russians…

    …The Aussie Govt isn’t gonna do a damn thing! (Too busy repairing and reversing the damage caused by the political Left for the last 6 years!)


  10. ktwop says:

    The Pirates of Greenpeace or “I am the very model of a modern Environ-Mentalist”.
    This is to be sung to the tune of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General“ from The Pirates of Penzance.
    Preferably after dinner with a cognac (or two) and a good cigar!

    I am the very model of a modern Environ-Mentalist
    I’ve information vegetable, animal, and min’ralist,
    I know the Sins of Nations, and I quote the fights rightorical
    From Vancouver to Murmansk, in order categorical; ……


  11. My money’s on Greenpeace putting pressure on their paymasters to get the activists out of Russia. If they fail, Greenpeace will applaud the martyrdom of their gullible acolytes.

    Australian Greens Senator Milne has a record of disrespect for the sovereign rights of people and other nations. Everything must be just as she says. In her book; the Rule of Law doesn’t apply as long as actions are well-intended; as determined by Milne.

    There is little doubt that Russia has collected sufficient evidence, mostly provided by the Greenpeace activists themselves, to lay charges for prima facie piracy. (i.e. they attempted to board in order to control the actions of the Russian ship.) There will be plenty of intelligence gathered for other charges. Russians will find whatever evidence that they need to make the charges stick.

    Greenpeace as whole may be exposed as FSB start digging up the digital trails left by those on board the vessel.


    • Fred Furkenburger says:

      Mmmm. I absolutely think that Senator Milne should indeed go to Russia and fight the good fight for these poor misunderstood fighters for rightness and light!!! With some luck Mother Russia will make sure she remains in Russia for as long as she is need! May that indeed be a long, long time! Australia could do with the rest.


  12. tlitb1 says:

    “…the environmental movement persists in viewing its opposition as cardboard cut-out stereotypes. It’s a simplistic and childish view of the real world which is exaggerated by its increasing tendency to be ever more inward looking.”

    I agree.

    It seems the comfort in the western sphere is assumed to be transferable elsewhere..

    GP have not been paying attention to the world sphere and seem to have an almost trustarfarian teenager view of privilege … like the Guardian? 😉

    But I think we may see developments on the other side of this.

    For instance isn’t it weird that AFAIK no media sees the curious thing that GP display a genuine inculcated privileged view that clearly overlooks the clear prior case of Pussy Riot?

    It does seem to imply GP thought that young indigenous Russian women being silly in a church and getting sent to Siberia was something to be ignored and diminished.

    I.e GP seem to ignore cultural threats getting extreme sentences but though their actual threat to Russian economic activity was something that should be laughed off?


  13. johanna says:

    Poor old Greenpeace. The trouble is, every government now knows their strategy – pack their ships with as many nationalities as possible (18 in this case) in the hope that each of their governments will agitate on their behalf if they get into strife.

    Governments around the world are now well aware of these attempts at manipulating the national interest, and have not much sympathy for it. My guess is that they will do what they have to do in the way of a citizen who is charged with an offence abroad, and no more.

    Many governments have offshore installations of their own, and certainly don’t want to encourage Greenpeace or anyone else to think that boarding them is equivalent to marching down the street with a protest banner.

    Greenpeace have completely lost their judgement. They poked the bear with a stick once, and it just growled. Foolishly, they thought that this meant that it was safe to poke bears.

    It was interesting to read the comments at the Grauniad’s Greenpeace-authored article (which was not declared as such). Apart from the general lack of sympathy for this action, several people said that they used to be GP supporters but felt they had completely lost the plot with things like mindless opposition to GM food crops (and destruction of same) and refusal to sensibly engage with energy policy.


  14. michael hart says:

    Honestly. Greenpeace would probably have more luck trying the same stunt in Saudi Arabia.

    If Russia gave up on it’s gas and oil production, then there soon probably wouldn’t be a Russia at all. So if Greenpeace think they can achieve what Napoleon and the Wehrmacht couldn’t, then, well, it’ll be interesting TV…

    I think the top of the organization can’t possibly be so foolish as to think otherwise, but the rank-and-file members (and donors)? How would they react if this reality ever dawned on them? Greenpeace should be channelling their energies into helping make the whole world wealthy enough, such that birth-rates drop voluntarily, like they did in the West.

    There is still time for the organisation to achieve good, before they become totally irrelevant. But at the moment, Greenpeace still haven’t got beyond the behaviour of a five year old. A five year old child throwing tantrums at a weary parent who is trying to get the child to want only what they can have.


    • johanna says:

      So, who is the weary parent? I’m not sure that this is the best of your analogies, michael (and I have been very taken with many of them in the past).

      You are, of course, right to say that there is no chance that the Russians will give up their Arctic activities because of what someone in the Graundian comments deliciously called “a bunch of trust-fund kids”. Riding on the back of the CAGW and related wave, they have had a dream run for some years now.

      But the cracks are appearing. Recently, in my home town, a bunch of Greenpeace activists broke into a GM crop testing site and destroyed it, along with two years of work costing tens of thousands of dollars of public money. The public reaction, even from self-acknowledged “environmentalists”, was harsh. Of course, they only got a slap on the wrist from the courts. IMO, they should have been made to pay back every cent of the damage they caused.

      I don’t agree that Greenpeace still has the potential to do good. My little bush weeding group, with no funding, does good. Greenpeace is just a platform for careerists, exhibitionists and lobbyists – who are not a mutually exclusive group.

      It is worth noting, too, that Greenpeace has never been remotely democratic in its structure. The only role for members was to provide money and free labour. Like a cult.


      • michael hart says:

        Sorry about the analogy, Johanna, it’s one I borrowed. I was feeling in a tolerant mood, and I usually rag on Greenpeace at most opportunities, for good reasons. As I pointed out, this is one they will lose, so I thought a bit of magnanimity, rather than gloating, was in order.

        They’ve been tearing up GM crops in Europe for a long time and getting away with it, or perhaps just not sounding discouraged when someone they “don’t know” does it for them.
        Greens in the EU have largely been very successful at halting GM crops, and severely hindering the development of nuclear power.

        Years ago, their ilk invited themselves into our high school to tell us the bad news about nuclear power and “chemicals”. I could tell, even then, that they knew close to zero science and had even less desire to do so.

        But at college I knew a good friend who drove a boat for them. He was a bit left wing, but not an idiot, and certainly had his heart in right place, And that is the source my small amount of optimism for them. If they ever turned round and said “we were wrong” I would applaud.


      • aussiebear says:

        They will never say they were wrong. They don’t have the humility or the character for it.

        If they don’t get their way, they behave like spoiled children at a toy store. They will cause a scene. Most often, they will get into positions of society where they will be in power to decide on policy. They will then ram their ideals through like they did with the Carbon Tax in Australia. (Against public protests! They cheered and kissed each other as the Nation and the Opposition sat in silent, furious anger.) …Heck, they’ll even pay for celebrities to tell us their nonsense are good for us!

        Example: =>
        (Notice at about 18 second mark, you see Cate Blanchett siding with the Warmists.)

        They think the ends justifies the means. So they don’t care of the consequences they cause. Mainly because they don’t pay for it in any way shape or form. To them, ideals matter more than people. (Except in this Russian case, where the threat of some serious jail time in some dirty facility becomes all too real. Now they’re crying like babies for help.)

        Like other extreme Left groups or organisations, they are emotionally irrational, economically illterate, scientifically inept, and their membership suffer from various forms of narcissism…It explains why they can’t genuinely apologise for their actions. (They don’t care of other people’s pain! Their ideology and narrative matter more!)

        This is the very reason these types of groups (Radical Environmentalists, Feminists, “soft” Socialists, Collectivists, etc) are being rejected by the voting public…Well at least here in Australia. They have made a mess. They have not apologised. So the public responded in kind at the September Federal Election. The Left have no political power now. They have been stripped of it in the Lower House. And the balance of power they had in the Upper House (Senate); is now filled with Conservative/Libertarian Independents…The kind of people who roll their sleeves up and get on with the job of governing a country.

        Environmental organisations crave for purpose nowadays. So they try to rejuvenate their “golden era” by re-using the same old things that worked before. The current strategy doesn’t do anything because they have already achieved their goal of Conservation.

        Today, they don’t have Conservation in mind. Their objective is now Totalitarianism to their Utopian ideals.

        ie: From the light bulbs you use, to the water-saving shower heads, to the bills you pay, electricity you use, etc. In fact, they’re indoctrinating new immigrants in Australia! (Don’t turn the heat on in Winter. Just put more clothes on!) …I kid you not! I couldn’t believe my eyes until I saw it on the local news! Taxpayer funded activism and propaganda shown on SBS! (SBS channel is also partially funded by Aussie Taxpayer!)

        And if you do not comply to their dictatorial behaviour? They will use the power of the Govt to force you to!

        …That is, until evidence and public feedback reveals they have gone too far. (As Pointman mentions many times before, they don’t know when to stop). In this situation, the tables turn on them. Public audits, reviews, commissions, and inquiries are run to find out what things have been done.

        The greatest weapons against these folks are:

        * Time. (Pointman has talked about this. Time isn’t on the Radical’s side.)

        * Speaking out. (Whether it be on talk-back radio, Youtube, blogging, etc.)

        * To show the public that the Radical’s are fanatics who are untrustworthy and care more about their own ideologies and themselves. (Keep point out the hypocrisies of the Radical, their often privileged lifestyle, and let the public judge them.)


  15. Pointman says:

    Some footage of the incident. Two Greenpeace boats ramming and trying to capsize a Russian boat. Dumping someone into the ice-cold arctic sea is attempted murder in my view …



  16. Pointman says:

    “Please do not write anything about the protest at Prirazlomnaya (the oil rig) and nothing like “protests will be held all over the world until you are released”.

    The Greenpeace grovel begins …



  17. johanna says:

    So it’s finally dawned on them that this was a bad idea? And that infuriating football fans was unhelpful?

    It will be interesting to see what happens. They have fired up their most fanatical supporters, and are now trying to damp them down. The real fanatics will just regard that as treachery. Who knows what they will do?


  18. Pointman says:

    Mixed signals time. Looks like Greenpeace are really trying to piss off Vladdi by holding demos outside his embassies. They’re going for a 2-2 equaliser but it might just finish up 15-0 to the Ruskies.



  19. rockape says:

    Can’t the Greenpeace activists be hanged (or shot as in the case of Ethiopian pirates) for piracy – then they could have some real martyrs.
    The sooner politicians ditch Greenbucks and Fiends of the Earth the better.


  20. Jim says:

    There’s a simple rule in life – don’t f*ck with the Russians. They don’t play by the same rules as the namby pamby West. Greenpeace just forgot that rule……


  21. John says:

    I wonder, is it apocraphyl, that a USSR ambassador was kidnapped in Lebanon in the ’70s? The USSR response at the time, was to kidnap the kidnappers brother and send the kidnapper his brothers testicles ? The Ambassador was quickly released I heard.

    Nice story anyway, and speaks volumes about the Russian approach to criminals


  22. LabMunkey says:

    Football not soccer…. 😦


  23. cyrus says:

    I think they will end up in jail for 15 years because Greenpeace don’t understand that Putin doesn’t care what the Guardian readers think. Totally O/T but I’d narrowed you down to about 5 professions but Shakespeare scholar and avid football fan puts me back to square one.


  24. johanna says:

    The head of Greenpeace has written a pompous letter to Putin offering himself as a swap for the 30 activists:

    It is a beautiful example of Greenpeace’s attitude to the law. They seem to think it is some sort of hostage negotiation, where one Very Important Person (Naidoo) is worth 30 footsoldiers. Not that he is actually offering to go to jail in their stead, of course. Naidoo seems to think that he and Putin, as equals, can sort this unfortunate mess out over a few vodkas.

    The comments below the article are very entertaining. Despite the usual accusations of trolling/being in the pay of Big Whatever and even of being Russian spies (!), many long term Guardian readers and environmentalists seem to think that Greenpeace are arrogant idiots.

    Go figure. 🙂


  25. Hi Pointman,

    I have really enjoyed reading your articles. The scaling actions from another viewpoint. Note the greenpeace activist in the orange zodiac, after having a pistol waved in his face, turns around to egg on his driver to then ram the coastguard boat.


  26. Pointman says:

    I think we’ve all had a bit of fun at Greenpeace’s predicament but as they say, this thing is now getting serious and there’s too much sheepdog in me to be easy about leaving anyone behind. With the entrance of Kumi Naidoo onto the scene with his grandstand gestures and rampant ego-mania, it’s now obvious their priority is getting publicity for Greenpeace rather than any serious attempt at getting their people home.

    If they’re your loved ones, I’d advise you not to rely on Greenpeace at all but work directly through your consular representatives in Murmansk. Whatever they need to say or admit to, tell them to do it. Turn states, plea bargain, whatever’s needed, because you and they are on your own.



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