Friday, February 19, 2016

Thousands pay respects to late Justice Scalia | And other stories

Thousands pay respects to late Justice Scalia 

1 Share
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bidding farewell to their longtime colleague, the eight remaining Supreme Court justices joined family members, former law clerks and members of the public Friday in paying their respects to Antonin Scalia in a tradition-laden, solemn day at the marble courthouse atop Capitol Hill....

Vatican's number three furiously denies claims he sexually abused boys in Australia - Telegraph.co.uk

1 Share

Telegraph.co.uk

Vatican's number three furiously denies claims he sexually abused boys in Australia
Telegraph.co.uk
The Vatican's economy minister is reportedly being investigated on suspicion of sexually abusing altar boys when he was a priest. George Pell, an Australian cardinal who as the Holy See's finance chief is third in the hierarchy after Pope Francis, is ...
Vatican financial chief denies he is under investigationWashington Post
Vatican's Australian finance chief rejects 'baseless' child abuse allegationsReuters UK
Top aide to Pope Francis denies Australia abuse claimsDaily Mail
Sky News Australia
all 86 news articles »

A renowned Syrian journalist is now stuck in a Turkish prison

1 Share
Turkish authorities detained the citizen journalist while he applied for residence in the border city of Gaziantep.















Read the whole story
 
· · · ·

These 5 Facts Explain Why Turkey Is in Deep Trouble

1 Share
It’s been a bad week for Turkey. As the country intensifies its military campaign in Syria, a bomb ripped through Ankara in apparent retaliation on Feb. 17, killing 28 people and injuring 61 others. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar sight. These five facts explain the mounting threats Turkey faces from Syria’s war next door.
1. Refugees in Turkey
While Europe’s refugee woes have gotten the lion’s share of attention, it’s Turkey that’s actually ground zero for the Syrian refugee crisis. Turkey houses some 2.6 million Syrian refugees, out of the more than 4.7 million Syrians who have fled their country’s civil war. The $8.5 billion Turkey has spent to house and feed these people is putting a serious strain on Ankara’s finances. So when the E.U. offered Turkey roughly $3 billion—as well as “visa-free travel” for Turkish citizens coming into the E.U.—to continue housing these refugees and stem their flow into Europe, Ankara jumped at the chance. But this is a stopgap at best. The real solution to the refugee crisis lies on the other side of Turkey’s porous 565-mile border with Syria.
2. Turkey’s War in Syria
Turkey knows this. It’s one of the reasons Ankara joined the war effort against ISIS and Bashar Assad. The other reason? Turkey’s leaders fear the gains being made by Kurdish separatists who are also battling ISIS and Assad. Turkey’s history with its own Kurdish ethnic minority is strained and often violent. Over the last 30 years, more than 40,000 people have been killed in Turkish-Kurdish clashes. Ankara is worried that the progress being made by Syrian Kurds, whom the U.S. backs, will stoke the nationalist dreams of Kurds within its own borders. The worst-case scenario for Ankara is that Syrian Kurds carve out their own autonomous state from Syria’s eventual remains. To that end, it has spent a lot more effort firing on Kurds in Syria than on attacking ISIS or Assad’s forces. Early this week, Ankara intensified its shelling of Kurdish forces along the Turkish-Syrian border. Guess what happened next.
3. Turkey’s War at Home
On Wednesday night, a vehicle packed with explosives was set off as a Turkish military convoy was passing by the country’s parliament in Ankara. 28 people were killed, at least 20 of whom were military personnel. On Thursday, a second military convoy in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir was hit by a bomb, killing another six soldiers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quick to accuse Syrian Kurds, claiming they received logistical support from Kurdish militants already operating within Turkey. Details remain sketchy for the moment. What we know for certain is that over the past seven months there have been three suicide bombings in three cities, killing roughly 150 people. While the war may be raging next door in Syria, the spillover is claiming lives of Turkish citizens with alarming frequency.
(BBC)
4. Turkey’s Domestic Politics
You would think that the rise in violence would dent Erdogan’s popularity. But Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have shown themselves remarkably adept at spinning security concerns into political support. The AKP lost its absolute majority in Parliament for the first time in 13 years when elections were held this past June. Then came the ISIS suicide bomb in the Turkish border town of Suruc, forcing Erdogan to declare war on ISIS and join the fray in Syria. His strongman response saw his party’s numbers begin to rise; Erdogan called snap elections for November. “It’s me or chaos,” boomed Erdogan in the run-up to elections, and Turks took him at his word. The AKP regained its absolute majority, besting their June performance by nearly 9 percentage points. A spike in popularity after an isolated terrorist attack is understandable. But a sustained violent campaign is a different matter. Each bombing in Turkey brings us closer to the latter.
5. Turkey’s International Politics
Syria has complicated Turkey’s diplomatic relations as well. Three months ago, Turkey shot down a Russian plane that had crossed into its airspace. A tense international incident ensued, threatening to drag the rest of NATO into direct confrontation with Russia. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, though tensions between Moscow and Ankara remain disturbingly high. For the moment, Moscow has imposed sanctions against Ankara, which will cost the Turkish economy more than $10 billion.
Targeting Syrian Kurds has also not helped Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. Washington relies heavily on these Kurds to take on ISIS. And targeting one of the few groups actually making advancements in Syria won’t help Turkey end the war and start reversing the flow of Syrian refugees, which is Europe’s principal concern at the moment.
All of which is to say that Turkey is being squeezed—squeezed by refugees, by Europe, by Kurds inside and outside the country, by Russia, by the U.S. Turkey isn’t the regional power it was even five years ago. If it’s not careful, it will be sucked into Syria’s chaotic undertow, making a messy situation that much worse.
Read the whole story
 
· · · · · ·

Austria, Hungary Moves Highlight EU Disarray Over Migrants - New York Times

1 Share

Boston Herald

Austria, Hungary Moves Highlight EU Disarray Over Migrants
New York Times
BERLIN — Austria raised the prospect of even tighter limits on the number of asylum seekers entering the country Friday while Hungary said it is shutting three railway border crossings with Croatia, highlighting the disarray within the European Union ...
The Latest: France orders expulsion of swath of Calais campCoos Bay World

all 86 news articles »

Price of Gas Skyrockets in Venezuela (to 38 Cents a Gallon)

1 Share
While the price, about 10 cents per liter, is still far below world rates, for drivers here it is an essential shift from paying basically nothing.
Next Page of Stories
Loading...
Page 2

Canada divided as 25,000 Syrian refugees settle in

1 Share
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians remain divided about the resettlement of Syrian refugees, with some saying Canada should accept more despite a series of racist incidents that have marred a mostly smooth arrival of nearly 25,000 migrants, a poll showed on Friday.
  

Kurdish militants claim Ankara bombing and threaten further attacks in tourist areas 

1 Share
Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) vowed to destroy tourism in Turkey as it claimed responsibility for the attack this week which killed 28











Read the whole story
 
· ·

Warning Of 'Up To 5,000 Jihadists In Europe'

1 Share
The Europol boss says Europe faces its biggest terror threat in over 10 years and warns of large-scale attacks by IS and others.

Americans Say Farewell To Justice Scalia

1 Share
The US Supreme Court's remaining eight justices are among those on hand to say farewell to their former colleague.

Battle over Scalia's successor reignites Supreme Court term limit debate - Christian Science Monitor

1 Share

Christian Science Monitor

Battle over Scalia's successor reignites Supreme Court term limit debate
Christian Science Monitor
As justices have been serving longer and longer terms, critics argue the lack of a term limit or retirement age has politicized and impaired the Supreme Court. But solutions may come with their own challenges.
Why it's hard to separate the Supreme Court drama from raceWashington Post
HUFFPOST HILL- Jeb Confronting Certain Doom, Life Of LeisureHuffington Post
A good-faith GOP compromise on filling Scalia's seatThe Hill (blog)
CNN -ABC News -USA TODAY
all 765 news articles »

Trump: Boycott Apple to unlock phone

1 Share
Presidential candidate Donald Trump calls for a boycott of Apple until the tech giant helps unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers.
Next Page of Stories
Loading...
Page 3

Donald Trump calls for Apple boycott – video 

1 Share
Donald Trump calls for the boycott of Apple products on Friday, until the company agrees to help the US government and unlock the mobile phone of one of the San Bernardino killers. Trump made the off-the-cuff comment at a campaign event in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, a day before the state’s Republican presidential nominating contest
Continue reading...

Public Pays Respects to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

1 Share
Thousands of people paid their last respects Friday to Justice Antonin Scalia, whose body lay in repose in the U.S. Supreme Court's Great Hall.  After the casket's arrival at the building, a brief private ceremony was held, attended by family members and the other eight justices.

Counterfeit Cabs 

1 Share
Auto broker who used salvage vehicles as taxicabs receives federal prison term.

'Black Sludge' Pours Out Of Texas Town's Faucets Days After FBI Arrests Nearly Every City Official - ThinkProgress

1 Share

ThinkProgress

'Black Sludge' Pours Out Of Texas Town's Faucets Days After FBI Arrests Nearly Every City Official
ThinkProgress
Oily black liquid is coming out of residential faucets in the rural Texas town of Crystal City, and no one is sure who to alert. That's because twelve days ago, the FBI arrested all but one the top elected officials in town for their involvement in an ...

and more »

Official: Shots fired on Virginia military base, no injuries

1 Share
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AP) - A military official says shots were fired at a base in Virginia, but no injuries have been reported.
Senior Airman Brittany Murphy said an unknown number of shots were fired outside the Soldier and Family Readiness Center at Joint Base Langley-Eustis near Hampton about ...

Rewriting history in Warsaw turns Walesa legend into a spy story

1 Share
The government in Warsaw has spent its less than four months in power on a collision course with adversaries in the European Union, the nation's banks and even credit rating agencies. As it tries to remold Poland's relationship with the world, it's also setting out to rewrite the history of its fight with communism.
     
Next Page of Stories
Loading...
Page 4

Former Director of CIA and NSA Says FBI is Wrong about Apple's Encryption - The Mac Observer

1 Share

The Mac Observer

Former Director of CIA and NSA Says FBI is Wrong about Apple's Encryption
The Mac Observer
General Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA (2006 to 2009) and the NSA (1999 to 2005) says FBI Director James Comey is wrong about encryption, and that America and the American people will be "more secure" with unbreakable, end-to-end ...
Ex-NSA, CIA chief Michael Hayden sides with Apple in FBI iPhone encryption fightThe Week Magazine
Apple's Unlikely Encryption Ally: Former NSA & CIA Chief Michael HaydenTechaeris

all 17 news articles »

Official: Shots fired on Virginia military base, no injuries

1 Share
A military official says shots were fired at a base in Virginia, but no injuries have been reported.
     

Surkov and Gryzlov: Russia’s New Negotiators on Ukraine (Part One)

1 Share
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently appointed Vladislav Surkov and Boris Gryzlov to negotiate—in two separate formats—an outcome to Russia’s war in Ukraine’s east (Censor.net.ua, January 15, 2016; TASS, December 26, 2015). Surkov and Gryzlov have long-standing personal ties to Putin and will report to him on their new assignments.
Both Surkov and Gryzlov are blacklisted by the European Union, the United States and Ukraine as part of sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea (prior to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s east, in which they also played senior roles). The fact that the EU, the US as well as Ukraine have accepted them as negotiating counterparts without further ado, marks a tactical and psychological success for the Kremlin. It suggests that the other parties are more anxious to compromise than the Kremlin is (or shows itself to be). It also signifies, practically and tacitly, an exemption of these Kremlin officials from sanctions, although the sanctions against them remain valid de jure.
Surkov and Gryzlov replace professional diplomats from the Foreign Affairs Ministry in two ongoing processes: bilateral consultations with the US State Department on Ukraine and the Minsk Contact Group on Ukraine, respectively. Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov remains the public face and articulator of Moscow’s policy on Ukraine in the “Normandy” group (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) and in meetings with his US counterpart John Kerry. However, the parallel appointments of Surkov and Gryzlov signify that the Kremlin is taking over control of the negotiations from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The appointment of Surkov represents an investment in energizing the backchannel with US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. He replaces Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister and State Secretary Grigory Karasin in what was hitherto the Karasin-Nuland channel. The decision to create this channel goes back to Kerry’s visit with Putin in Sochi in May 2015, which was widely criticized in Washington as overly ingratiating. It was on the same occasion that the Barack Obama administration decided to combine Ukraine with Syria in one package to be negotiated with Russia—a pairing that opens the way potentially to tradeoffs, and has distorted the bilateral US-Russia negotiations to date. The Karasin-Nuland channel, however, has not led to a breakthrough, even if it affected the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Minsk armistice: Ukraine’s political “obligations” to be fulfilled first, Russia’s possible military withdrawal to be discussed later (see EDM,July 202431August 1013, 2015).
Unlike Karasin, a conventional diplomat without decision-making authority in his own right, Surkov is a boldly creative political operator, involved in multiple aspects of Russia’s policy toward Ukraine and “frozen conflicts,” and holding some measure of decision-making authority on the Kremlin’s behalf. Formerly a deputy chief of Russia’s presidential administration (1999–2011) and deputy prime minister “for modernization” (sic, 2011–2013), Surkov is the organizer of Russia’s “sovereign democracy” (his concept) with controlled parties, fake civil-society groups, manipulative television, and public mobilization through anti-Western propaganda. In September 2013, Putin appointed Surkov as presidential aide on relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and concurrently with Ukraine. There, Surkov liaised with then-president Viktor Yanukovych until the latter’s fall; selected local politicians in Crimea to be empowered in the process of the annexation; and, since September 2014, Surkov has functioned as the political supervisor (“kurator”) of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” on the Kremlin’s behalf (International Crisis Group, February 5).
Surkov was a pariah to Western diplomats until now. Surkov and Nuland held a first meeting on January 15, in Pionersk, Kaliningrad region, which Nuland reached and left via Lithuania. Following six hours of discussions, Surkov told Russian journalists that it was a “constructive and useful brainstorming [session] in search of compromises to fulfill the Minsk agreements. Suggestions were made about constitutional changes [in Ukraine], security, and elections [in Donetsk-Luhansk] that could be taken up for discussion in the Minsk Contact Group and the Normandy format” (Interfax, January 15). The State Department similarly termed the meeting “constructive” and designed to “support the ongoing work of the Normandy format and the Minsk Contact Group (State.gov, January 16). Further, according to the State Department, “Surkov is the appropriate person [in Moscow with whom] to have this discussion about the Minsk [armistice] implementation” (The Moscow Times, January 21).
On that meeting’s eve, President Obama had called President Putin to discuss Ukraine and Syria (as a package). According to the White House’s readout, Obama “underscored that the key next step is for the sides [sic] to reach agreement on the modalities of local elections in the Donbas [Donetsk-Luhansk] region of Ukraine” (Whitehouse.gov, January 14). “The sides” so named are Kyiv and Donetsk-Luhansk coequally, legitimizing the latter while exempting Russia from responsibility. The readout did not mention a withdrawal of Russian troops or disbandment of the “people’s republics’” armed forces as prerequisites to holding elections. Nuland, while in transit in Vilnius, outlined a sequence of steps that also prioritized holding elections in Donetsk-Luhansk, to be followed by the withdrawal of “foreign military equipment” and the restoration Ukraine’s control of its border with Russia (BNS, January 15). The following day, the US embassy in Kyiv announced that it did brief top Ukrainian officials on the Nuland-Surkov meeting (Ukrinform, January 16).
Surkov paid inspection visits to Donetsk-Luhansk on January 19–20 (arriving there four days after his meeting with Nuland) and again on February 15–16. As usual, he received reports from officials of the “people’s republics” and reviewed their operations, including the use of Russia’s economic assistance. According to Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), which monitored these visits, Surkov discussed details of preparations for local elections, aiming to stage them in mid-April (Ukrinform, Unian, February 5, 17).
Ukrainian authorities have evidence that Surkov was in Kyiv several times during the EuroMaidan events in January–February 2014, when he met with Yanukovych and the heads of state security agencies. At present, the Ukrainian General Prosecutor Office’s Directorate for Special Investigations is looking to clarify Surkov’s role in influencing the authorities of that time to use force against the Maidan protesters. The investigation seeks to determine whether Surkov provided “recommendations, guidelines, or instructions” to use force. The investigation’s findings could provide the basis for the possible prosecution of Surkov in Ukraine (RFE/RL, February 10).
Read the whole story
 
· · · ·

Militants Loyal to Islamic State Become More Active in North Caucasus

1 Share
Two years ago, the then-leader of the Caucasus Emirate (CE), Ali Abu Muhammad (Aliashab Kebekov), surprised many observers when he condemned suicide bomber terrorist attacks. Moreover, he stated that such attacks were in breach of the principles of Islam (Kavkazsky Uzel, July 1, 2014). Many experts then were convinced that those were empty words; and due to the absence of a unified militant organization in the North Caucasus, the CE leader’s prohibition of suicide bombing attacks would be ignored. However, over time, it appeared that the order was actually followed, and that the insurgents were apparently obeying their commander.
The situation in the region changed drastically after Amir Ali Abu Muhammad and his successor, Abu Usman Gimrinsky (Magomed Suleimanov), were killed. The former was killed on April 19, 2015, and the latter on August 10, 2015 (Grani.ru, August 11, 2015). A group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) and more radical than the CE gradually gained support among the North Caucasian insurgents, and the IS eventually declared its own “velayat” (province) in the North Caucasus (Onkavkaz.com, June 25, 2015).
Even though some militants in the armed Islamist opposition still try to counter the IS and restore the influence of the CE, a majority of militants in the region are now affiliated with the Islamic State. The caliph of the IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appointed Abu Muhammad Kadarsky (Rustam Asilderov) as the leader of the newly created “Velayat Caucasus” (Infochechen.com, June 23, 2015). Prior to his appointment by the IS head, Abu Muhammad Kadarsky was the amir and the wali of the CE’s Velayat Dagestan. Since Kadarsky occupied such an elevated position within the CE, he was able to bring many Dagestani militants with him into Islamic State. The amirs of other jamaats in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria soon followed his example.
After the militants in the North Caucasus switched their affiliation, changes in their tactics and policies were expected. However, the transition and regrouping took months, as some commanders refused to switch allegiances to the IS. Russia’s security services also ramped up operations against the resistance movement and inflicted substantial losses on it. This may have prompted the militants to go deep underground, in order to preserve their forces, improve coordination between groups in Dagestan and in the other republics, and establish better ties with the central command of the IS based in Syria.
On February 15, an explosion took place at the Jimikentsky checkpoint in Dagestan’s Derbent district as police were checking a car. According to initial reports, two police officers died in the blast and two others were injured and hospitalized. But Dagestan’s governor, Ramazan Abdulatipov, subsequently said four people were killed and 18 injured, including a woman (Kommersant, February 15). The authorities initially tried to portray the blast as an accidental gas explosion (Kavkazsky Uzel, February 15), but it soon became apparent that it was a suicide bombing when police identified the driver of the car as someone named A. Talibov, a radical Islamist and IS supporter. The explosive used in the attack contained aluminum powder, which is reportedly used by North Caucasian militants to carry out attacks. The improvised explosive device (IED) exploded with the force of up to 30 kilograms of TNT (Newsru.com, February 15). Eyewitnesses said four cars that were parked near the police checkpoint were burned and the police checkpoint partially destroyed in the blast.
According to the police, rebels from southern Dagestan organized the attack, which was quite obvious anyway. The militants in southern Dagestan are currently even more active than those in Makhachkala. According to the Russian security services, the group in southern Dagestan was established in 2011 and has operated ever since in that part of the republic. That, however, is incorrect: in fact, the southern Dagestani group of militants has been around for the past 10–12 years. Two amirs of Dagestan’s militants came from the ranks of the southern Dagestani insurgents, including Amir Abdul-Majid (Ilgar Mollachiev, who was killed in 2008) and Amir Khasan (Israpil Valijanov, who was killed in 2011). It is unclear, therefore, why the security services said the jamaatin southern Dagestan was created in 2011. According to security officials, the group has been reduced from 30 to 10 members recently. However, since the authorities provided an incorrect date for the establishment of the jamaat in southern Dagestan, their information on the numbers of militants might also be misleading. The rebels from the Yuzhnaya group (YzhDag) were among the first to pledge allegiance to the IS in the republic. Another recent attack by the group took place on December 30, 2015, when militants opened fire on a group of tourists at the historical Naryn-Kala fortress, in Derbent. One officer of the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) border guards died in the attack, and 11 were injured (Newsru.com, December 30, 2015).
The Islamic State took responsibility for the February 15 suicide bombing attack (Azattyq.org, February 17). Thus, the recent attack can be considered a significant strike by the IS in the North Caucasus, as the group appeared in the region only at the end of 2014. The attack is probably only the beginning of their activities, since the North Caucasian branch of the IS will have to win the approval of IS headquarters in Syria. Thus, the local branch of the IS in the region needs some notoriety, which means Moscow may be facing greater IS involvement in destabilizing southern Russia.
Read the whole story
 
· · ·

Former Military Times editor named Stars and Stripes ombudsman

1 Share
Stars and Stripes has a new ombudsman to defend the newspaper’s editorial independence – and he comes from a close competitor.
     

Russia’s Soft Power in Georgia: How Does It Work?

1 Share
In this year’s State of the State address, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili warned about the increasing influence of Russian “soft power” on his country (Ghn.ge, February 3). Moreover, the United States Intelligence Community’s 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment report named “effective Russian propaganda” as one of the most likely causes that could force Georgia to suspend its efforts for Euro-Atlantic integration (Dni.gov, February 9).
However, what exactly is Russian soft power? And how does it work in Georgia? To answer these questions, Georgia’s self-styled liberals, mainly consisting of certain domestic non-governmental organizations (NGO) and a portion of the Georgian academic community, often point to the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC). Indeed, some of the GOC’s high-ranking hierarchs, as well as its lower-level clergy, have repeatedly denounced what they call the “moral decadence” of the West. Moreover, they have advocated closer ties with Orthodox Christian Russia in order to pursue what they perceive as shared spiritual and cultural values (Geworld.ge, November 27, 2013December 18, 2013November 19, 2014June 17, 2015).
The Georgian Orthodox Church’s much revered head, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, has traveled to Russia even during the height of Russian-Georgian tensions. In 2008, he attended the funeral of the late Patriarch of all Russia Alexei II. Furthermore, in 2013, he visited Moscow again, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On both occasions, Ilia II emphasized the need to normalize relations with Russia (Interpressnews.ge, December 12, 2008; Civil Georgia, December 10, 2008;December 12, 2008January 23, 2013). Some in Georgia took this visit as an unmistakable sign that the GOC was collaborating with the enemy even in the most difficult times for the country (Tabula.ge, January 24, 2015).
The GOC has tried to dispel such allegations. Patriarch Ilia II demonstratively declared on several occasions that the Church fully supports Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and that Georgia’s place was in Europe (Patriarchate TV, March 24, 2015; 1tv.ge, December 20, 2015). Moreover, he regularly stresses that Russia’s ongoing occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) remains the main obstacle to the normalization of Russian-Georgian ties (Radio Atinati, July 31, 2013). Nonetheless, not everyone seems convinced (24saati.ge, July 17, 2013).
What those Georgian liberals preoccupied with the GOC miss, however, is the highly elaborate and complex Russian propaganda machine simultaneously operating in the country. Among its main weapons are Russian TV channels that are freely available nationwide in Georgia. These TV channels, which are entirely controlled by the Kremlin, broadcast to millions of Georgians not only Russian movies and culture, but also news propaganda that can distort and neutralize any impartial news coverage, whether Georgian or Western. Notably, during the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, the Georgian government shut down Russian television broadcasting. But in 2014, Russian TV channels returned to Georgian airwaves (Netgazeti.ge, July 22, 2014). Shutting them down again would require political will and resoluteness that the current Georgian government does not seem to possess—especially against the background of the ongoing Russian-Georgian rapprochement.
The Kremlin also seems determined to influence Georgian cyberspace. In the last several years, distinctly anti-Western and pro-Russian Internet media sources, such as for instance Geworld.com,Saqinform.ge and Sputnik-georgia.com, have proliferated. Moreover, in November 2014, Moscow launched the radio station Sputnik, which broadcasts in Russian and Georgian languages and has an inconspicuous representative office right in downtown Tbilisi (Geonews.ge, November 12, 2014).
Furthermore, Moscow tries to counterbalance Georgian non-governmental organizations, which receive their financial resources from the West. In recent years, pro-Russian NGOs became increasingly active. Together, many of these Moscow-sponsored groups have founded a large coalition, “Eurasian Choice—Georgia,” which actively promotes the Kremlin’s foremost regional integrationist project, the Eurasian Economic Union, and advocates Georgia’s membership in it. In addition, the coalition is establishing various scholarly and youth organizations, such as for instance, “The Club of Young Political Scientists” or the “Public Movement for Russian-Georgian Dialogue and Cooperation,” in order to attract the wider public (Media.ge, October 6, 2015).
Using all these venues at its disposal, Russia’s soft power skillfully feeds off Georgian cultural sensitivities and the utter weakness of Georgian civil society and its political elites. Georgia is a country with an overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox population that has deeply entrenched conservative values and culture. Russia positions itself as a defender of those conservative values, which strikes a chord with large swathes of Georgian society.
One of those most controversial issues domestically is the question of gay rights, a hard topic for this conservative society. “I want Georgia to become a member of NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the European Union, and I want to think that our traditional Georgian values are compatible with our membership there. But if they [the West] force us to accept same-sex marriage and that whole propaganda as a way of life, then we have nothing to do in there. I want NATO and European membership in order for Georgia and its values to survive, not to perish” Giorgi Darakhvelidze, a 21-year-old student from Tbilisi, told this author (Author’s interview, February 12).
It is paradoxical for Russia, an imperial power that spent many decades and huge resources on assimilatory policies in occupied Georgia during the 19th and 20th centuries, to now pose as some kind of defender of Georgian national culture and values. And yet, pro-Russian groups in Georgia regularly hold conferences and events dedicated to studying and celebrating Georgian culture and deepening bilateral ties (Author’s interviews, February 12–13; Netgazeti.ge, March 3, 2014; 1tv.ge, April 24, 2015; News.ge, May 31, 2015).
Georgian civil society and the country’s intellectual and political elites seem detached from the Georgian public. “Georgia’s so-called pro-Western NGOs, as well as the political parties in power and in the opposition, do not seem to know or care what we, ordinary people, believe or want. All they care about is getting grants [and] Western money. They are snobbish and isolated, and I am not really sure why I should care about whatever they preach to us… I know they are doing it for money anyway,” Archil Diasamidze, an artist from the city of Batumi, tellingly asserted in an interview with this author, on February 13.
Overall, it can no longer be denied that the Kremlin is waging a successful pro-Russian informational campaign in Georgia. At this stage, it is still difficult to say whether or not Russia’s soft power is winning the day, but it is almost certainly growing stronger. It remains to be seen how Georgian elites will counteract Moscow’s efforts. They have not yet shown the necessary zeal and creativity to do so.
Read the whole story
 
· · · ·
Next Page of Stories
Loading...
Page 5

Justice Department Calls Apple’s Refusal to Unlock iPhone a ‘Marketing Strategy’ 

1 Share
Prosecutors offered a sharp rejoinder to this week’s public statement by Timothy Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who said refusing to help the government was a matter of protecting his customers’ privacy.

Talks With Russians On Syria Serious, Constructive, Kerry Says

No comments:

Post a Comment