Estonia stands up to Russia: Russia, once almost defunct, is now flush with oil and natural-gas monies and is reasserting its dominance. But in Estonia, resistance to Russian influence is growing.
In the year prior to this year's summit hosted by Germany's new chancellor, Angela Merkel, June 6-8, Putin has been flexing his economic and political muscle in ways that are disturbing even many of his erstwhile fans, who, only a couple years ago, were hymning his praises. With oil prices in the $70-per-barrel range, Russia has been awash in record profits. In August 2006, Russia edged out Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of oil. It was already the world's largest holder, producer, and exporter of natural gas. And Putin showed in 2006 that be was ready, able, and willing to use energy as a weapon. During the winter, he cut off gas supplies to Western Europe over a price dispute with Belarus, through which the Russia-to-EU gas pipeline runs. It was an echo of Russia's altercation the previous winter with Ukraine, which also resulted in a shutdown of the gas pipeline. European Union countries, which are dependent upon Russia for as much as 30 to 100 percent of their natural gas, as well as much of their oil, saw the cost of transportation, electricity, and home heating skyrocket.
In the days, weeks, and months leading up to the German G8 Summit, Putin, the former KGB/ FSB chief, also showed that be was going to play hardball with his Western corporate partners, canceling contracts anal forcing BE Total, and Royal Dutch Shell to sell their Russian natural-gas projects to the state-owned Gazprom conglomerate.
But energy extortion is not the only weapon Putin has been employing; he has unleashed a series of state actions reminiscent of the Brezhnev or Stalin eras. Here are but a few of the many telling indicators of the new Cold War reality in Russia under the Putin regime:
* On November 23, 2006, former KGB/ FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken spoken critic of Putin, died a gruesome, public death, the victim of assassination by radiation poisoning. The evidence points overwhelmingly to Putin's loyal FSB minions as the perpetrators.
* On June 4, 2007, two days before the G8 Summit, Putin dismissed as "foolishness" a demand by British prosecutors for the extradition of former KGB/FSB agent Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect in the Litvinenko murder. This was but the latest in Putin's continuous chain of obstructions in the case.
* Putin has clamped down ruthlessly on Russia's independent and state-owned media, raiding newsrooms and editorial offices, arresting and prosecuting critical editors and reporters, seizing newspaper copies, and cutting off newsprint to those in disfavor.
* On October 6, 2006, Russia's most famous crusading journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, a close friend of Litvinenko and a scathing critic of the Putin regime, was shot to death in her Moscow apartment building. No suspect has been arrested, and Putin's Kremlin shows no evidence of conducting a serious investigation.
* Shortly before this year's G8 gathering, the World Association of Newspapers issued a statement about the violent repression of free press in Russia: "In Russia, the impunity enjoyed by those who order or carry out the execution of journalists remains quasi total. It is estimated that 21 journalists were killed since President Putin carne to power in March 2000." The week prior to the summit, Aidan White, secretary-general to the International Federation of Journalists, told delegates at the IFJ's annual convention: "Russia is the country where the most journalists have been killed in peacetime." And he warned that the situation is getting worse.
* The decision by the government of Estonia in April to remove a large bronze statue of a Soviet soldier and a monument to the Red Army from the center of its capital, Tallin, was met with harsh condemnation by the Kremlin. Russian youth groups fanatically loyal to Putin rioted in Tallin, overturning cars, destroying shops, fighting with police, and terrorizing citizens. One person was stabbed to death and dozens were seriously injured.
* Following the riots, Estonia found itself neck deep in cyberwarfare, with an intense attack aimed at overwhelming its Internet infrastructure. Hackers using a network of computers worldwide, shut down many of the country's government, business, telecommunications, and e-mail delivery websites with "distributed denial-of-service," or DDOS commands that flooded many sites with billions of hits per second.
What's Deemed Factual
As with past efforts by the Baltic States and other countries formerly occupied by the Red Army, efforts at de-Russification and de-communization are attacked by Moscow and its academic and media sympathizers as "vengeful," "xenophobic," and "fascist."
Exhibit A in this category is an article entitled, "Defusing EU-Russia Tensions; Baltic Crisis" by Anatol Lieven for the International Herald Tribune of May 24, 2007. Lieven called on Western leaders to stop pressing Putin on human rights, claiming that "hectoring criticism is counter-productive." Referring to the removal of the Soviet monument, be said, "West European countries should publicly deplore provocative actions like those of the Estonian government. Britain and France in particular should state strongly that the defeat of Nazi Germany was overwhelmingly due to their Soviet allies, and that they expect the memory of the Red Army to be honored by other EU members."
But what was so "deplorable" and "provocative" about Estonia's actions? A few simple questions should put this into proper perspective. Can anyone imagine traveling to the capital cities of countries brutally occupied by Germany during World War II and seeing monuments to Hitler's Wehrmacht soldiers or SS-troopers? Or large Nazi swastika emblems carved on public buildings and boulevards named after hated Nazi henchmen like Goring and Goebels? It is impossible to imagine, of course, because the conscience of the world recoils at such blatant injustice. But why should the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia be treated differently? They suffered not just a few years of vicious occupation, but over five decades of occupation, accompanied by humiliation, torture, and genocide.
The Straight Story
Russia's so-called reformers--Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin--have continued the communist lie, claiming that the Soviet Red Army "liberated" the Baltic States from Hitler, and they are being aided in this fraud by much of the Western press. Here are the unvarnished facts that can be verified in any history book that has not succumbed to revisionism:
* In 1939, socialist dictators Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin conspired to divide Europe between them. They formalized this plan in the infamous Ribbetrop-Molotov Pact.
* They conquered Poland together by coordinated attacks from the West and the East, and celebrated the victory with a joint parade.
* Stalin's Red Army did not "liberate" anyone; it simply replaced Nazi tyranny with communist tyranny.
Under Stalin's so-called liberation, around hall a million Balts were deported in 1940-41--loaded onto trucks and trains and taken to death camps in Siberia and other parts of Russia. Most were never seen again. In their places, Stalin moved in hundreds of thousands of Russians to colonize the Baltic States. Estonia and Latvia were the most heavily affected by this policy, and their Russian populations today are around 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Those are the percentages nationally, but they are much higher in the major cities, where the Russian settlements are concentrated. The Russian population in Lithuania is around six percent, again concentrated in the capital of Vilnius and a few other large cities.
As with the tens of millions other peoples of the captive nations who fell behind the Iron Curtain, the Baltic peoples were subjected to a "Russification" program, aimed at wiping out their national and spiritual identity. Several generations of Balts were forced to speak Russian rather than their native Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian tongues. Their new Russian "neighbors" were given most of the key positions in the new communist police state. Is it really any wonder that the people of Estonia demanded the Red Army statue be removed?
Yet Soviet/Russian sympathizers in the European Union and the United States still cause problems for those who try to remedy the past. Lithuania's anti-KGB law is a good case in point. In 1999, the Lithuanian government declared the KGB a "criminal organization" (which it most certainly was) and banned those who had served in the KGB from government service and many other jobs. Former KGB officers Kestutis Dziautas and Juozas Sidabras and two of their cohorts challenged the law in the European Court of Justice. The EU judges sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the Lithuanian government to pay each of the KGB men 7,000 euros in damages.
The EU is pressuring Lithuania to abandon the law altogether. It is also pressuring Poland to end its new "lustration" law, which requires the investigation of several hundred thousand Poles who served as informants for the Soviet occupation government. Pro-communist sympathizers in the EU Parliament denounce these measures as "vengeful" and claim that they threaten good relations with the "new" Russia.
But, as Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has pointed out, it is the "new" Russia that continues to identify with, defend, and emulate the thuggish, murderous ways of the Soviet Union: "I would say that virtually all of the issues that we have in our problems with Russia," said Prime Minister Ansip, "stem from an absolute refusal on the part of Russia to really accept what happened in the past."
Mr. Brazenas, an American citizen, now lives in Lithuania, his native country
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|Title Annotation:||BALTIC STATES|
|Author:||Jasper, William F.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Jul 9, 2007|
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