Sunday, August 24, 2008

Putin and his Irish admirers

Tom McGurk

It's no big surprise that the harshest critics of American foreign policy and many more, show indifference to other conflicts in the world or to the foreign policy of say China or Russia.

This past two weeks, the war in Georgia is a case in point and there have been some reactions from the Anti-American element only because they see a US hand in emboldening the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

It's a tangled tale with Vladimir Putin, the de facto ruler of Russia, who came to prominence by waging a brutal battle against Russian citizens who supported independence for their province Chechnya, claiming that the Russian invasion of Georgia was a response to protect separatists who were given Russian passports in recent times.

Saakashvili is viewed as having acted impulsively in attacking the breakaway South Ossetia region.

The Economist said last week that with the smoke of battle still in the air, it is impossible to say who actually started it. But, given the scale and promptness of Russia’s response, the script must have been written in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Irish journalist Tom McGurk who is a Northern Irish nationalist, wrote in the Sunday Business Post: "After all, it was Georgia who invaded South Ossetia and then the Russians, having quickly established military superiority, accepted a ceasefire, while Moscow went to enormous lengths using all its English-speaking government officials to mount a media offensive explaining its actions."

Confusing surely? Georgia invaded part of its own territory. It is not yet recognised as part of Russia.

McGurk wrote: "Seemingly there is nothing Russia can do to satisfy some in the West; Vladimir Putin’s clean-up of the mafia-dominated mess he inherited from Boris Yeltsin is merely characterised as ex-KGB man authoritarianism. Ironically, as Russia has become more and more stable and economically prosperous under his hand, the level of criticism aimed at him has only increased."

This benign armchair view of Putin is a reflection of what the blindspot of anti-Americanism can do to one's judgment. Earlier this year, penned a pean to Fidel Castro.

The Economist says: "South Ossetia is a tiny patchwork of villages—Georgian and South Ossetian—which was much easier to drag into a war. It is headed by a thuggish former Soviet official, Eduard Kokoity, and run by the Russian security services. It lives off smuggling and Russian money. As Yulia Latynina, a Russian journalist, puts it, “South Ossetia is a joint venture between KGB generals and an Ossetian gangster, who jointly utilise the money disbursed by Moscow for fighting with Georgia.”"