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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ausgezeichnet! Germany Spits in Putin's Eye

The Moscow Times reports that the Cold War has spread to Germany, as Russia alienates yet another major nation of the world:

President Vladimir Putin was rebuffed in his desire for a bigger Russian stake in aerospace firm EADS on Wednesday, as he ended a two-day German visit clouded by the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Putin had hoped to further Russian business interests on a trip that took him first to the eastern city of Dresden to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, and to Munich on Wednesday, but he came at a time of deep suspicions in Europe over Russia's intentions.

Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber said he had talked to Putin about EADS and told him there were limits to foreign investments in sensitive sectors.

"I asked him to understand that in some strategic industries there are limits to taking reciprocal stakes," Stoiber said. "We must both respect each other's interests."

Germany worries that Moscow is trying to use revenues from its vast oil and gas reserves to wield greater global influence.

Stoiber's comments were a clear warning to Putin -- who makes no secret of his wish to invest further in Germany -- that he should steer clear of seeking a strategic investment in EADS after a Russian bank bought 5 percent of it.

But Putin hit back in a speech to business leaders in the Bavarian capital.

"We do not understand the nervousness in the press about Russia investing abroad," he said. "Where does this hysteria come from?" LR: Note that anyone who disagrees with Russia is "hystrical" and should be put in a mental ward. Everybody knows that, just ask Stalin! Russia kicks Europe and America out of the Shtokman project and then it's "shocked, shocked" that they retaliate. Classic Neo-Soviet lunacy.

"The Russians are coming here, not on tanks and with Kalashnikov assault rifles in their hands; they are coming with money, and they deserve to be welcomed and helped in their work," Putin said. "It's not the Red Army that wants to come to Germany," he said. "It's just the same capitalists as you." LR: They just can't help talking about the army, can they? What's the subtext? Give us what we want or the army will come?

Moscow has been pushing for a seat on the EADS board and Putin told the SЯddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday that he favored Russia boosting its stake in the Airbus parent, which has dual headquarters in Munich and Paris.

Putin also pushed for visa-free travel between Russia and other European countries. "Our goal is an exchange without visas," he said. "After the fall of the Berlin wall, no new walls should be allowed to appear in Europe."

Putin was meeting business and regional leaders in Munich and noted Bavaria's strength in the high-tech sector.

"This is an especially important area of cooperation for us because one of the main jobs in the short term is for us to diversify the Russian economy," Putin told reporters.

Putin brought with him Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, as well as leading business figures such as Pyotr Aven, head of Alfa Bank; Oleg Deripaska of Russian Aluminum; and Alexei Mordashov, head of steelmaker Severstal.

A range of corporate deals has been signed during the visit, and both the president and Stoiber stressed the potential for closer cooperation in future.

Siemens, Europe's largest engineering company, on Wednesday announced an agreement worth up to 450 million euros ($565 million) with Renova to upgrade Russian energy, transport and telecommunications resources.

The agreement covers areas including power generation, power distribution, telecommunications and airport modernization, Munich-based Siemens said in an e-mailed statement.

Putin has made much of Germany's reliance on Russia for its future energy needs during his visit. Memories here are still fresh of the supply disruptions in January after Gazprom cut deliveries to Ukraine.

Germany is the biggest foreign end-user of Russian gas, importing 40 billion cubic meters per year. Imports will rise substantially when the Nord Stream pipeline is completed in 2010 to carry Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Gazprom is building the pipeline with German utility E.On and chemicals group BASF. Dutch Gasunie is to take a 9 percent stake, and Putin said Germany could become a gas distribution hub for Europe.

The Bavaria talks come on the heels of Putin's announcement in Dresden on Tuesday that Gazprom would use natural gas from the Shtokman field under the Barents Sea to more than double the amount of gas it sends to Germany each year, adding some 55 billion cubic meters per year.

Also on Tuesday, German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said his government had drawn up plans to help German and Russian companies swap stakes in an attempt to foster political stability in Russia and mutual profit.

The German Foreign Ministry "is considering a program of intertwined companies," Erler said. "We hope to develop a win-win situation based on mutual dependency."

Questions about Saturday's killing of Politkovskaya did not abate during the trip.

Stoiber said he had discussed the issues of freedom of speech and expression in light of the killing, and that Putin had assured him Russia would strengthen those freedoms.

Columnist Masha Gessen adds more detail (the column notes, without explanation, that this is Masha's final column for the Moscow Times; LR would like to know why):

So Vladimir Putin, formerly a KGB agent in East Germany, and Angela Merkel, a former citizen of that former country, met in Dresden the other day. She forced him, finally, to utter the name of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya in public. That goes to show how far each country, as personified by its leader, has come since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. And it goes to show some other things as well.

First, it shows that Putin will deign to respond to Politkovskaya's murder only when international protocol -- and an international leader -- demands it. His one other comment on Politkovskaya came during a telephone conversation with U.S. President George Bush, who had expressed particular concern about the murder of Politkovskaya, who was born in the United States and had U.S. citizenship. Other than that, Putin was apparently too busy to mention the murder publicly or even to send condolences. The day after the murder, Putin congratulated figure skater Alexander Gorshkov on his 60th birthday. He wished the actor Leonid Kuravlev a happy 70th. But he did not find the time to express condolences to the family of Anna Politkovskaya.

Second, the statement Putin did make shed an unexpected amount of light on his view of Politkovskaya and the press in general. One might even deduce something of the way he views human life from his statement. "She had minimal influence on political life in Russia," said the president. "This murder does much more harm to Russia and Chechnya than any of her publications."

There we have it. The measure of a journalist's influence is the amount of harm he or she does to the state. Journalists, in other words, are saboteurs, enemies of the state -- if effective -- and pests and thorns in the president's side if they are less widely read or heard. A number of measures Putin has instituted in this country since coming to power shifted Politkovskaya from the status of enemy of the state to that of pest. Ever since the Kremlin took over all national television channels, Politkovskaya disappeared from the airwaves -- though she had been a frequent, and extraordinarily articulate, talk show guest during the early months of the second war in Chechnya. Ever since the retail sale of newspapers was effectively banned two years ago -- an ostensibly counter-terrorist measure taken after Beslan was to forbid newspaper vending within 25 meters of a public transport stop -- Novaya Gazeta's press run dwindled to the point where its influence was really limited to the highly motivated few.

Unfortunately for the Kremlin -- or, rather, for Putin's apparent idea of what's good for the state -- he could do almost nothing to limit her international audience. Politkovskaya placed op-ed pieces in the major U.S. papers. Her books came out in English, French, German and the Scandinavian languages. She received a number of international journalism awards. She was in extremely high demand abroad as a public speaker. Outside Russia, she was as close to a celebrity as political journalists come. Did that make her a bit more than a pest? Probably. It may have made her an enemy.

But I have to agree with something Putin said. Politkovskaya's murder has done, and continues to do, major damage to the Russian government, and perhaps even more specifically, to the Russian president. This is because the murder has exposed him, with unprecedented clarity, as a callous, cruel and cynical man. It has also exposed him as small-minded and afraid of responsibility. The head of state in a country where a journalist is killed for doing her job would properly feel responsible and concerned even if he were convinced that the murder was committed by some crazed thug. In this country, where government-appointed officials and law enforcement officers are among the most obvious suspects, the president apparently cares only about pointing the blame away from himself. This state is very badly damaged indeed.


winsc2 said...

I saw it was Gessen's last column too. Why? Can anyone tell us?


La Russophobe said...

Winny: I'm on it, but I don't know yet. It's a really big failing of the MT, always has been, that they lack dialogue with readers. Same thing happened with Pavel Felgenhaur. Gessen has a blog, but she hardly posts to it regularly and almost never original stuff, just her columns. I'd like to think mabye she'll try to step into Politkovskaya's shoes, but who knows. It's more Russian riddle wrapped in a mystery stuff.

Anna Medley said...

You know, Kim, I am getting more and more appalled by Western World's hypocrisy and am afraid there is a danger to western democracy.
While Western Europe is hysterical about Freedom of speech being killed in Russia and former Soviet Republics, they have no problem putting an Austrian historian to prison for what he believed. He denied holocaust. Crazy-may be, stupid-of course, disingenuous-no doubt, but to go to prison for what you believe-is a scary slippery slope. It is bullshit.
Now, newly Noble Prizewinner Orhan Pamuk. Turkish government was about to sue him for his words about Turkish genocide of Armenians and Kurds. All pro-western and progressive journalists and writers were outraged (quite rightfully) and Turkish government backed off. Now France is looking into a new law about denial of Armenian Genocide by Turkey would be a criminal offence. It is beyond bullshit. Western Europe is facing the same dark hole Russia is in now.

17 ugly raccoons said...

anna medley: please, show me just one Russian law, which punishes for believing/unbelieving. Sorry, in that sport your precious West is waaaay ahead of us. But about Western hypocrisy you are all right, you showed it now perfectly.

Anna Medley said...

UGLY: Your childish excitement about problems of the West is amazing. Your government has made a law that allows suing a journalist if they criticize a government official ("kleveta"), your media is wiped from independent minded reporters. Your government votes the laws that toughen immigration rules for only one nationality - pure fascism if you ask me. But once you discover a problem in the West-you are all joy. Poor you. You are so barbaric that you do not even realize how barbaric you are.
I cannot believe I have to lecture you on the subject that every country has problems; that laws, governments, people can be wrong. The difference between your country and the West is people here can change those things, journalists can report and people form their opinions. They can vote out bad judges, corrupt politicians; they can stop buying newspapers that are biased. To admit a mistake and correct it-that is normal, to insist on making a mistake just because you are too immature to admit it-well, you have your country as an example, poor thing.

La Russophobe said...

ANNA: Me too! That is the reason this blog exists. If nothing else, we can all huddle around the fire together. But who knows what tomorrow may bring, perhaps courage. We are far from alone.

UGLY: check out the post on Zelenyak.

17 ugly raccoons said...

anna medley: your brazen incompetence is amusing.

Care to prove identity of words 'kleveta' (slander) and 'kritika' (criticism)?
Care to prove that Latynina (for example) is not 'independent-minded' (she writes good articles about economics and total bs on other themes)?
My governement votes the laws?! That's rich. Laws are voted by Duma, if you not knew. And it is sovereign right of any country to allow or deny immigration by any criteria. It is what sovereignty is all about.

And West is not important for me to joy or weep for him. I just know there are idiotic Western laws punishes unbelievers and not wrong-doers. These laws are on the West and aren't in Russia, but you said 'Western Europe is facing the same dark hole Russia is in now', that's why I called you hypocrite.

'They can vote out bad judges, corrupt politicians; they can stop buying newspapers that are biased' - yeah, right, and in Russia no one politician ever was voted out, oligarchs like Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky are still on the rampage and all Russians are obliged by law (voted by governement) to buy biased newspapers... Do you believe in that yourself?

And... when you vote out Bush from his office, please vote next to ressurection of murdered Iraquis - I'd really like to see another miracle of democracy correcting its mistakes.

La Russophobe said...

UGLY: Russians know virtually nothing about the West. How can they, when their national television is owned and operated by the state and their "president" is a proud KGB spy. If Russians had the slightest idea of the cavernous gap between American and Russian power, they wouldn't allow their government to provoke the US into a second cold war that Russian can't possibly survive.

When Bush is out of office, you will see a US president who will "look into Putin's eyes" and see a proud KGB spy who's a threat to US national security. Then, only then, poor brazenly incompetent Russophiles like you will realize that Bush was your best friend and you destroyed him, just like Russia always destroys all its friends.

Hence, oblivion.

Anna Medley said...

UGLY: You are absolutely correct: government cannot make any laws. But in your country Duma is just a bunch of trained seals that push a button whenever and whatever way Putin and his clique tells them.

I do not believe Russians are obliged to buy biased newspapers. To stop buying dishonest and agenda-stuffed newspapers one has to have a reason. It might be a disgust at the bias, or at a slander-style reporting or something like that. To know that there is a bias or a slander one has to have alternative source that presents facts. Russians have very limited access to very few still independent, not-yet-closed/assassinated newspapers/journalists. I let you make a conclusion.

About the laws that regulate freedom of speech. I tell you why Europe has a hope. A law is a law. It can be argued, it can be protested against, but it will be followed. When the law is an ass it has to be changed and once it is changed, it is done. Period.
You guys have an amazing law about "extremist activities". Dmitrievskiy form "Russian-Chechen friendship group" was convicted for publishing Mashadov and Zakaev interviews; now this very group is being closed due to their refusal to condemn their leader; Ukrainian guy from Siberia is going on trial for his views. His shots were cheap (if they were his) and I hate personal attack and filthy generalizations, but to go to prison for that?? Your laws perform a polka dance and Putin is a conductor.

17 ugly raccoons said...

LR: West and especially US cannot even imagine what Russia can survive, and... how'd I put it... it is not because Westerners are well informed. I do read Western articles about Russia - almost all are BS at its strongest.

About Bush - you're trying change theme again. I asked you compatriots to vote for ressurection of murdered Iraquis - women, children... Do a miracle. You'll vote and they'll raise and you can dance and make up and live in the peaceful world. Because, unlike those barbaric Russians, you have wonderful possibility to admit and correct your mistakes.

And I am repeating again: I and most of Russians are not very fond about new global stand. But, if you'll start it, we'll not surrender. War has its own logic. If I am strolling by the street with my woman and number of rascals try to attack, I'll not give a damn about 'cavernous gap' between mine and their power. If you cannot understand such things, then I pity you.

anna medley: Russians have very limited access to very few still independent, not-yet-closed/assassinated newspapers/journalists.

On our planet, there is no such thing as independent journalist. You accused me in immature attitude - it's your right, but... I stand on the point of view that newspapers, TV-channnels and such are no more than commercial enterprises of grabbing, transforming and spreading info, and therefore all their products should be treated as a trade goods, no more. I am mature enough not to buy fairy tales about fearless fighters for freedom, voices of liberty and other idiocy. I am not SO naive. They are paid for their words, for their views and for their guts. Period. And, if you'll try to research about honesty and un-biasness of Politkovskaya, you'll be surprised.

Law about 'extremist activities' primarily aimed on us, Russian nationalists (I use it here as very broad term) and on reds. Try to find statistics about application of infamous Article 282, and you'll see what's this article for. And non-liberal anti-putinists have much longer and harsher history of persecutions against them, than those Chechenophil whinnyes. You'll not give a thought about them because they stand for Russia, but when some quasi-feudal warlord wants to share his view with relatives of children murdered by his terrorists, you're all for suckers who helped him.

Ukrainian guy from Siberia who wants to expel Russian swines from their land is complete idiot, and I have no pity for him. His comments obviously incited 'national hate', as it stated in text (This discussion began on 26 January 2005 (the topic “And once again about the Republic of Ichkeria”). It lasted four days, was dynamic, occupied six pages on the forum and almost immediately turned into an exchange of insults from Russian and Chechen supporters. The emotions provoked by the discussion were anything but mild), therefore A282 is applied righfully - re-read it.

La Russophobe said...

UGLY: Russians can't imagine what they can't survive. But soon they won't have to imagine it. You insist on deleriously demanding to be treated as an equal, but you aren't an equal and won't be treated as such. Your choice is to give up your crazed notion or fight over it. Will you fight? If you do, you will lose as before, but much worse this time.

17 ugly raccoons said...

LR: Ask the same question to some American colonists who gave a finger to king Henry.