Georgia and the oil hungry Crocodile

August 10, 2008

In my last post I suggested that it wouldn’t be in Russia’s best interests in the region if South Ossetia was independent.

Paradoxically though they are right behind the South Ossetians in their bid for independence.

Its not really a genuine wish for their self determination. A genuine South Ossetian state that wasn’t pro-Moscow like Georgia would be another nightmare for Russia, opening up tensions in its own ethnic Caucaus regions.

Its nothing more than the old divide and conquer strategy.

That’s why the Abkhazia and Ajaria independence movements are also sponspored by Russia. Purely to destabilise Georgia, nothing less.

If it was only about South Ossetia then why are Russian planes bombing Georgian cities? Military tactics or an excuse to bring Georgia to its knees?

Russia does not like Georgia’s pro-Western stance. Their attempt to join NATO.

Georgia is seen as the epitome of an former Soviet republic embracing Western philosophy.

The New York Times has this appraisal:

“It’s scarcely clear yet how things will stand between the two when the smoke clears. But it’s safe to say that while Russia has a massive advantage in firepower, Georgia, an open, free-market, more-or-less-democratic nation that sees itself as a distant outpost of Europe, enjoys a decisive rhetorical and political edge.

In recent conversations there, President Saakashvili compared Georgia to Czechoslovakia in 1938, trusting the West to save it from a ravenous neighbor.

“If Georgia fails,” he said to me darkly two months ago, “it will send a message to everyone that this path doesn’t work.”

During a 10-day visit to Georgia in June, I heard the 1938 analogy again and again, as well as another to 1921, when Bolshevik troops crushed Georgia’s thrilling, and brief, first experiment with liberal rule.”

“You should understand,” Mr. Saakashvili said, mocking the Europeans who urge forbearance on him, “that the crocodile is hungry. Well, from the point of view of someone who wants to keep his own leg, that’s hard to accept.”

The Georgian President’s analogy of Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Hitler invaded – on the pretext of liberating German citizens – was also reinforced by the Swedish Foreign Minister:

“Attempts to apply such a doctrine have plunged Europe into war in the past… And we have reason to remember how Hitler used this very doctrine little more than half a century ago to undermine and attack substantial parts of central Europe,” Bildt said.

“We did not accept military intervention by Milosevic’s Serbia in other Yugoslav states on the grounds of protecting Serbian passport holders,” he added.

Poland and the Baltic States are also on the side of Georgia in the conflict:

“The EU and NATO must take the initiative and stand up against the spread of imperialist and revisionist policy in the east of Europe,” leaders of the four countries said in a joint statement.

“The Russian Federation has overstepped a red-line in keeping the peace and stability in the conflict zone and in protecting Russian citizens outside its own borders,” the statement added.

Again from the New York Times:

“Marshall Goldman, a leading Russia scholar, argues in a recent book that Mr. Putin has established a ‘petrostate,’ in which oil and gas are strategically deployed as punishments, rewards and threats.

The author details the lengths to which Mr. Putin has gone to retain control over the delivery of natural gas from Central Asia to the West.

A proposed alternative pipeline would skirt Russia and run through Georgia, as an oil pipeline now does.

‘If Georgia collapses in turmoil,’ Mr. Goldman notes, ‘investors will not put up the money for a bypass pipeline.’ And so, he concludes, Mr. Putin has done his best to destabilize the Saakashvili regime.”

Already we are seeing problems with the oil supply.

Azerbaijan has now cut off their oil exports through Georgia.

And it is now reported that Russian jets have bombed the main oil pipeline that runs through Georgia to Turkey .

Here’s an old map showing the oil routes in the area. There are two oil pipleines shown in Georgia. The largest oil pipeline (on the map as planned) is now in place and runs straight through to Turkey. Its run by BP and is the one that is reportedly bombed.

Oil routes in Georgia

And wouldn’t Russia like the Georgian oil pipelines in their control!

You have got to feel sympathy for the South Ossetians, their capital Tskhinvali lying in ruins.

I’m reminded of the attributed words of Calgacus, the Pictish warrior, who said of the Romans attempting to invade what is now Scotland:

“They make a desert and call it peace.”

One World One Dream Free Tibet

August 7, 2008

When I was writing yesterday’s blog just a few minutes after midnight and reported the video log of the Tibetan protests – almost as it happened – outside the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, I had no idea who was doing the protest.

On a previous blog, I had outlined just how much pressure the Scottish Government was giving China over its human rights record and the Tibetan situation.

So it was with pride that I found out one of the Tibet protesters was a Scot, continuing Scotland’s record of standing up for human rights and Tibet.

Iain Thom, a worker for Friends of the Earth – on a leave of absence – and former National Convenor of Students for Free Tibet in the UK, from Edinburgh; Phil Bartell, Lucy Marion Fairbrother, and Tirian Mink were the activists involved.

Iain climbed up a pole outside the Olympic Stadium placing a ‘One World, One Dream, Free Tibet’ banner at the top. He then phoned America’s ABC News to give details of his protest.

One World One Dream Free Tibet

“We did this action today to highlight the Chinese Government’s use of the Beijing Olympics as a propaganda tool. They are whitewashing their human rights record on Tibet, so our action today shines a spotlight on those atrocities.

“In March, Tibetans took to the streets, risking everything in their calls for justice and human rights, and we stand today, with this action, in solidarity with those calls.”

“I’ll probably get detained by the police and then ejected out of the country but I believe it’s not anywhere near the risk or the fear that Tibetans are living under the occupation of the Chinese government,” he said.

His parents were reportedly proud and understanding.

The Daily Mail profiles Iain and also Lucy, from Cambridge here.

A profile of Phil Bartell can be found on the Colorado Daily.

Tirian Mink has a website here. It has the tagline ‘Very soon this will all seem like a dream, and reality will be something completely different.’

One ESPN reporter trying to photograph the protest ran into trouble with bystanders:

“I then went back to the bottom of the hill and took more pictures. By that point, a fire truck pulled up and moved a cherry picker up the pole to try to bring down the protester. The same civilian came down the hill and started screaming at me again. Some of the onlookers joined in, and I was circled by people who started pushing and shoving me, screaming and pointing to the stadium. I never got hit or punched, but I was definitely physically accosted. I was trying to be smart about it and I wasn’t hitting anyone, but I kept yelling, “Media! Press!”

Then, someone came up from behind me, someone I believe was an American. He was holding a camera and said, “Hey, buddy. This is going to get ugly; you should get out of here.”

The Chinese public seem to be all for the Games, and see it as a promotion of their country. Any protests just distract that.

Yet if China had a good human rights record and Tibet was liberated, none of these protests would be happening.

Then everyone could enjoy the Olympics.

Denial doesn’t help.

Labour’s Soviet decline

June 1, 2008

The Labour Party’s vote seems to be melting faster than snow from a dyke.

I believe Tom Devine, the Scottish historian, has recently compared the speed of the decline of the Labour Party’s fortunes to that of the collapsing Soviet empire.

The Soviet empire. One minute standing firm against capitalisation, the next the Berlin Wall is down and there is a McDonalds restaurant in Pushkin Square, Moscow.

As quick as Tony Blair and New Labour scrapped the old Clause Four then! Here it is, a reminder of what Old Labour used to stand for, all those years ago:-

“To secure for all the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry of service.”

With that change Tony Blair killed off Old Labour. And New Labour was born. But what of his successor Gordon Brown? He shows no signs of changing New Labour. And New Labour’s popularity is at an all time low and still sinking.

The latest opinion polls in the Telegraph makes grim reading for Labour MPs:-

UK Poll of voting intentions for the Westminster Government (YouGov).

Conservative 47 %
Labour 23 %
Liberal Democrats 18 %
Others 12 %

Obviously thats UK wide showing the Conservatives in a clear lead. That wouldn’t be replicated in Scotland.

Taking only the Scottish section of that Poll the voting intentions are as follows:-

SNP 41 % (43 Westminster seats)
Labour 25 % (7 Westminster seats)
Conservatives 19 % (4 Westminster seats)
LibDems 13 % (5 Westminster seats)
Others 2 (0)

41 seats would more than double the SNP target of 20 Westminster seats! It would also beat the halfway total that many a unionist Westminster MP has quoted as being needed for Scottish independence.

Referendum not needed then!

But that ratio of seats will probably never occur. This Scottish section was a small sample. Polls also have a habit of being wrong at the day of the election. Nevertheless it does show the Labour vote is falling spectacularly and they face a real fight on their hands for their Scottish seats.

When the Soviet empire crumbled and various independent countries took its place, the Communist vote struggled in Russian elections. Their high point in democratic elections was the 2nd round Presidential vote [3 July 1996] when they achieved 40.3 % (still second to Boris Yeltsin). But that seems a blip on an otherwise downwards path. In the recent Russian Presidential elections [2 March 2008] the Communist Party polled 17.72 %. Once an empire collapses, it seems its gone for good.

1996. That was the same year of Tony Blair’s manifesto “New Labour, New life for Britain”.

2008. Barring a miracle, it seems the New Labour project is in its death-throes. By the next election New life for Britain will be under a Conservative government. How long Scotland tholes that will be seen at the referendum.

Archaeologists need not worry though. I’m sure Hadrian’s Wall will be safe!

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