Putin is visiting Germany. He is visiting Dresden, the city where he served as a KGB agent with the express purpose of keeping an oppressive dictatorship up and running. He is visiting shortly after the brutal murder of yet another independent journalist who dared to question his regime. He is visiting in the midst of a protracted, bloody military campaign in Chechnya, in which tens of thousands have died or simply "disappeared."
We've said it before and we will say it again. The professional protester class, the Angry Left, the eternally self-righteous, indignant marchers who pose as saviors of the world as their rainbow flags flutter in the wind are nothing but a pack of morally and intellectually bankrupt hypocrites. The latest Putin visit proves it yet again. See no evil, hear no evil. Enough said?
This is somewhat underreported in those German media that usually go berserk over the capitalist dealings of international investors:
Former workers feel chill in Russian TV venture
Turnover in the news department of REN TV, Russia's last nationwide television network with independent news programming, has raised questions among analysts and media watchers about Kremlin influence in the channel's sale and the role of RTL Group, the broadcasting arm of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.
In July RTL Group bought a 30 percent stake in REN TV, one of the top Russian networks, from Irena Lesnevskaya, who founded and ran the channel with her son, Dmitry Lesnevsky. (...)
RTL shares ownership of the station with a Russian steel maker and a Russian oil company, whose chief executives both campaigned for Putin during the 2004 presidential race. (...)
Romanova said that, in the weeks leading up to her removal as anchorwoman, she had protested what she said were Ordzhonikidze's decisions to keep several reports off the air, pressure that began after she ran a report about a pro-fascist march in Moscow on Nov. 4. The reports included one about elections in Kazakhstan and another about prosecutors' dropping charges against Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's son, who was accused of killing a pedestrian with his car, Romanova said. (...)
Romanova and the colleagues who followed her in leaving the station said that REN TV's German investors have been a particular disappointment, saying they had expected the outsiders would be protectors of freedom of the press.
"I think that RTL in this situation behaved even worse than Russian shareholders because they represent an international concern," said Yelena Fyodorova, REN TV's former news editor. She said she had resigned because of the new atmosphere at the station. (emphasis added)
Well, well, well, Mrs. Fyodorova... we don't want to be too critical with global capitalist locusts, right? After all, this locustis affiliated with such left-wing German media treasures as Stern and ZEIT...
It is so heart warming to see Gerhard Schroeder looking out for the little guy this holiday season. Not long after leaving office this past November, he took on two lucrative jobs, one with his old Maennerfreund Vladimir Putin at Russia's state-controlled gas giant "Gazprom." Of course while he was in office, Schroeder was instrumental in negotiating a multi-billion dollar pipeline deal with Russia and Gazprom on behalf of the German state. His decision to join the company was met with a bit of token outrage in the German media before the subject was promptly dropped. No Watergate knives were brandished and the ex-Chancellor has been largely left to continue about his merry business.
And Schroeder is certainly a busy man these days. As always, he's deeply committed to the ideals of democracy and social justice. Now his new company, Gazprom, is being used by the Putin government to twist the arm of the newly elected, democratic Ukrainian government led by Victor Yushchenko. (Some might recall that Yushchenko was mysteriously poisoned...in classic KGB style...not long before his successful election run.) Anyway, Putin and Gazprom are not happy with the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine and want to lash out at the former Soviet satellite by raising natural gas prices this winter...by over four times! Merry Christmas neighbor...Vladimir and company would prefer to quash your little democratic movement! The Brussels Journal reports:
"Unfortunately, as we reported earlier, President Putin has Western collaborators who assist him in his political and geopolitical strategies. The most infamous of these is the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Last September, during his final weeks in office, Herr Schröder signed an agreement with Russia to build a pipeline on the Baltic seabed. The pipeline, which is to be finished by 2010, will provide Germany with gas directly from Russia, bypassing transit through the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Immediately after his resignation as Chancellor, Schröder was given a lucrative position as an advisor of the Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom. The gas deal is generally perceived as being a private pension scheme which Schröder – a Socialist – has provided for himself.
The new pipeline will allow Russia to squeeze the nations that it occupied until fifteen years ago. One of these countries is the Ukraine. ... Such prices would, however, bankrupt Eastern and Central European nations. Moscow has apparently forgotten that it was the Russian imposed Communist dictatorship which caused the dire conditions these countries are in today. Russia has a historical debt to these nations but, with the help of an immoral German Socialist, President Putin (a former Colonel of the Soviet secret police KGB and hence one of those directly responsible for the crimes of the Communists) intends to ignore this."
So far Gerd has refused to unleash his world-famous negotiating skills to resolve the crisis with Ukraine. And the German media has absolutely no interest in investigating the ex-Chancellor's obvious (and massive) conflict-of-interest in taking the Gazprom post just weeks after leaving office. Why would they? They know that, ideologically, Gerd-baby is one of theirs...a member of the German leftist-elite. So they refuse to ruin his reputation any more than necessary. In fact, SPIEGEL ONLINE is already writing conciliatory pieces praising Schroeder as a "gifted instinct politician" to placate their readership.
This much is clear: If George W. Bush or Tony Blair ever pulled a similar stunt and took a job at Halliburton just weeks after leaving office, they'd be in hot water with the German media for years and the talk of scandal would have no end. They would be under even more "massive pressure" in the German media than they already are.
But this is Gerhard Schroeder folks. The man who stood up for "peace" against the USA in 2002-3. Had he succeeded in his quest for "peace", Saddam could still be in power shoveling kids into mass graves and all would be well. In fact, Schroeder was so committed to "peace" that he even supported selling European arms and nuclear reactors to the "peaceful" Communist Chinese government. And because of this commitment, Schroeder will always be fondly remembered by his compatriots in the German media. Never mind his total failure to solve the domestic unemployment crisis. Never mind his pandering to dictators, thugs and oligarchs from China to the Middle East to Russia. Never mind his party's massive losses in state elections and abysmally low ratings throughout his administration. Never mind any of that. Gerd is, at his core, one of them. And that's all that really matters.
The Washington Post is hardly one of America's more conservative publications. So it was highly interesting to read the newspaper's take on Gerhard Schroeder's new Russian pipeline job in the editorial section yesterday. Here are excerpts of the piece, entitled "Gerhard Schroeder's Sellout":
"IT'S THE SORT of behavior we have -- sadly -- come to expect from some in Congress. But when Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, announced last week that he was going to work for Gazprom, the Russian energy behemoth, he catapulted himself into a different league. It's one thing for a legislator to resign his job, leave his committee chairmanship and go to work for a company over whose industry he once had jurisdiction. It's quite another thing when the chancellor of Germany -- one of the world's largest economies -- leaves his job and goes to work for a company controlled by the Russian government that is helping to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline that he championed while in office. To make the decision even more unpalatable, it turns out that the chief executive of the pipeline consortium is none other than a former East German secret police officer who was friendly with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, back when Mr. Putin was a KGB agent in East Germany. If nothing else, Mr. Schroeder deserves opprobrium for his bad taste. (...)
On a broader level, Mr. Schroeder's decision to swap his job with the German government for a job funded by the Russian government should raise questions for German voters about their country's relationship with Russia. During his seven years as chancellor, Mr. Schroeder went out of his way to ignore the gradual suppression of political rights in Russia and to play down the significance of Russia's horrific war in Chechnya. Throughout his term in office, Mr. Schroeder thwarted attempts to put unified Western pressure on Russia to change its behavior. We can only hope that Germany's new chancellor, Angela Merkel, uses this extraordinary announcement as a reason to launch a new German policy toward Russia, one based on something other than Mr. Schroeder's private interests."
Read the entire thing. This is truly amazing. Remember how Schroeder was always looking out for the "little-guy" in Germany? Remember how he was always the champion of "social justice." Remember how he always demanded other Germans show solidarity with the poor and unemployed. And then he can't even wait one month after losing the Chancellery to take a cushy, lucrative job representing the wealthy stockholders of a Russian gas pipeline company that he helped to promote while in office? The fact that the company is run by a former East German secret police officer who was close to Putin in his KGB years is truly disgusting.
And the German media is still showing more interest in Tookie Williams and the so-called CIA scandal than this. Schroeder's actions represent a true scandal of massive proportions. But his left-wing friends are afraid to dig too deep and hurt their own party. Could you imagine how the German (and American) media elite would react if Bush did something like this? We would be hearing about it for years. It would be Watergate times 10 or more!
UPDATE: For the second day in a row a scathing editorial on Gerhard Schroeder and the Russians appeared on the Washington Post's editorial page. This time it was an article by Anne Applebaum entitled: "What Are the Russians Buying?" Here is an excerpt of that:
"Even here in Washington -- a city populated by lobbyists who once held political office and government officials who once worked as lobbyists -- it's hard to top the story of Gerhard Schroeder. Last week the former German chancellor announced that he'd accepted a job offer from Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian energy mega-company. As one of his last acts in office, Schroeder signed an agreement to build a diplomatically and environmentally controversial Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Now he's working for the company that will build it. It's as if Jimmy Carter had negotiated the return of the Panama Canal to Panama -- and then signed a lucrative contract to manage the shipping lanes.
But there's more here than just the former German chancellor's quest for personal enrichment -- or funds to pay alimony to his three ex-wives. The story also reflects the growing international power of Russian money."
Germany's former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder apparently has a new boss: Mr. Vladimir Putin.
Germany's Schroeder Joins Russian-German Gas Pipeline Project
Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will lead the shareholders committee for a German- Russian gas-pipeline project to pump gas under the Baltic Sea, OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said today.
State-controlled Gazprom began building the more than 4- billion-euro ($4.7 billion) North European gas pipeline project today in the town of Babaeyvo in Russia's Volodga region, north of Moscow.
The pipeline will allow Gazprom to ship gas directly to Germany, bypassing Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. It will carry 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year in 2010 and twice that much by 2012, Miller said. Gazprom will raise gas exports to Europe 4.1 percent to 151 billion cubic meters in 2006 following a 3.1 percent jump this year as demand and prices rise.
Gazprom owns 51 percent of the project and Germany's BASF and E.ON each hold 24.5 percent.
On September 8, 2005, Schroeder - then still German chancellor - attended the signing of the contract for the pipeline, together with Putin. The pipeline had a clear political background - the contract needed the approval of the German as well as the Russian government. The deal increased Germany's already dangerous reliance on Russian gas deliveries.
I guess the two chaps used the opportunity to also discuss Schroeder's future role at Gazprom.
This is a conflict of interest if there ever was one. I'm sure the German media will be furious about Schroeder's decision to join Gazprom, so soon after the signing of the pipeline contract.
This week Chinese President Hu Jintao is taking several days to visit Germany. And while Germany's Eurosnob elite wines and dines President Hu, there will be no angry mass protests or cries of indignation on German streets. There will be no rainbow flags embroidered with "PACE" accompanied by Tibetan and Taiwanese flags. There will be no peace drums, silent vigils or burning of Hu Jintao effigies. There will be no courageous speeches on morality or human rights in front of thousands of drunk and screaming marchers. There will be few if any indignant editorials condemning President Hu in leading German papers, magazines or news broadcasts.
German President Koehler with Hu Jintao: Never Fear Dear Leader, Germans Only Protest American Human Rights Violations!
And, other than a few token comments from President Koehler on democracy and human rights, the only sound to be heard will be the deafening, silent hypocrisy of the so-called German "peace" movement accompanied by an unabated cacophony of cash registers ringing in the background as German business moguls sign multi-million Euro deals and tip champagne glasses with their beloved Chinese counterparts.
And, with any luck, President Hu will be able to convince Germany's new leaders that soon-to-be-ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was right all along in his support of lifting the EU's arms embargo on China. After all, what could be more conducive to "peace" than selling Communist dictators with violent designs on island neighbors tons of high-tech European weapons?And who in Germany's "peace" movement really cares about the record-setting mass executions, imprisonment of political dissidents or occupation of Tibet? None of that matters enough to get a serious demonstration together...yawn.
To conclude, none of this should really surprise anyone. Vladimir Putin's last visit to Germany went just as smoothly. Hardly anyone felt it necessary to bring up the war in Chechnya and the massive human rights abuses that have accompanied it just as hardly anyone felt it necessary to bring up the rapid decline of civil liberties in Russia in recent years. Just par for the course as they say...
Note: Siemens has already signed a deal during the visit for 60 ICE-trains worth an estimated 700 million Euros. Now that is some serious dealing. Cha-Ching!
Despite intense coalition negotiations in Germany, Gerhard Schroeder found the time to fly to Russia to party with Vladimir Putin this weekend. According to the German media, Putin called the visit, "his biggest birthday present." (Of course Schroeder's tendency to not bring up uncomfortable topics while billion-dollar gas pipeline deals are being signed hasn't hurt the "Männerfreundschaft" either.)
And now there is speculation that Schroeder could be the next German Foreign Minister...buckle your seat-belts ladies and gentlemen...the next four years could get very ugly for transatlantic relations...and don't count on Schroeder to show up at Bush's next birthday get-together either.
Many Americans know that most Germans don't really care about Guantanamo and human rights. They march in outrage by the thousands to protest Bush and Guantanamo, but at the same time they condone and ignore far worse human rights abuses by Russia in Chechnya while their government does billion dollar deals with Vladimir Putin. Or how about massive weapons deals Gerhard Schroeder has in mind with China (another paragon of human rights) or the big business he did with the princes of Arabia on his last multi-nation tour of the Middle East?
No ladies and gentleman. Don't be fooled when you read articles in the German media criticizing Gitmo. It isn't about human rights. This is about tearing down the United States of America and especially conservative Americans. It is about the intellectual German left winning back the moral high ground, and America is perhaps the single greatest obstacle to that objective. Especially that part of red-state America that stood firm during the Cold War in the face of Soviet Communism. So what do the German elites do? We've documented it on this site: They shamelessly criticize anything and everything about the United States. They lie, twist and distort the facts about America to manipulate public opinion.
Now we know that at least one American writer has also not been fooled. Who you ask? Ralph Peters of the NY Post. Mr. Peters spent ten years in the military in Germany and knows a thing or two about the Euro-snob mentality towards his nation. His most recent article in the NY Post, entitled "Gitmo Cocktail" is a take-no-prisoners slam-dunk. Here are some excerpts:
"THE demands to shut down our Guantanamo lock-up for terrorists have nothing to do with human rights. They're about punishing America for our power and success.
From our ailing domestic left to overseas America haters, no one really cares about the fate of Mustapha the Murderer or Ahmed the Assassin. The lies told about Gitmo are meant to undercut U.S. foreign policy and embarrass America.
The Gitmo controversy is about many things, from jealousy of the United States and outrage that we refuse to fail, to residual anger that we won the Cold War and exploded the left's great fantasy of a dictatorship of the intellectuals. But the one thing the protests aren't about is human rights.
Except, of course, as a means to slam the United States. (...)
Has the Bush administration made mistakes regarding Guantanamo? You bet. The biggest one was attempting to placate the critics. By launching a new investigation every time a terrorist had a toothache, our government played into the hands of its enemies.
The truth is that the terrorists and their defenders have something in common. It's not courage, which is one quality violent fanatics don't lack. It's that neither can be appeased.
Any concession only increases their appetites. The Clinton administration's reluctance to respond to terrorist strikes encouraged al Qaeda. If the Bush administration closed the Guantanamo facility, any alternative holding center would be attacked just as rabidly and dishonestly.
If we put our captives up at the Four Seasons, we'd be condemned because somebody smelled bacon at breakfast.
You can't negotiate with terrorists. And you cannot reason with ideologues — whether they're Islamist fanatics or pathetic old lefties fishing for a cause to give meaning to squandered lives. Terrorists, French and German neo-Stalinists, and our own democracy-hating intelligentsia aren't interested in facts. It's all about the comfort of belief.
Let's get this straight: Nothing we could do would appease those who feel a need for our country to fail. We must stop trying to satisfy them. (...)
Oh, and thanks to the "mainstream" media for assuming that our country's always wrong.
There is a culture of torture in the world. Blessedly, America isn't part of it. When a few of our troops make mistakes, they're punished. Given the magnitude of our task and the unprecedented conditions we face, it's remarkable our errors have been so few.
What should enrage every decent citizen is that the real torturers — from Zimbabwe to China, from Syria to North Korea — get a pass from the political left. If terrorists behead defenseless captives on videotape, it's simply an expression of their culture. But if a handful of U.S. troops play an ugly round of Candid Camera, that's a new gulag.
As someone who takes human rights seriously, I'm appalled by the lack of sympathy the left feels toward the victims of any regime other than the Bush administration. Let's shout it to prisoners everywhere: If you're not harmed by an American, your suffering doesn't count.
The left's hypocrisy is immeasurable. The grandchildren of those who defended Stalin are mortified that Saddam Hussein will stand trial. By taking such irresponsible voices seriously, we grant our critics a strength they otherwise lack and simply help them keep their lies alive.
No matter what our country does, we will never please a global intelligentsia outraged that all their theories came to nothing. We can't satisfy al Qaeda, and we can't please those discontented souls who need to blame the United States for their personal inadequacies. It's time we stopped trying."
Read the entire article. Mr. Peter's has put his finger directly into an open wound. His article is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
As we wrote in an earlier piece: Many Americans realize that much of the criticism they hear blaring from across the seas is not fair, balanced, constructive and heartfelt but rather dishonest, biased, destructive and vindictive. Far too many critics of America would rather see the country go down in failure and flames as opposed to changing the nation for the better, and Americans know that.
And until that changes, until America's critics show some sign of fairness and proportion, there will be no basis for real change. Until the leftist Euro-critics show that they are genuinely interested in human rights violations, not just those allegedly perpetrated by the United States, there will be no real basis for change. And Americans should view any and all criticism coming from the European left with extreme caution and with heavy reservation until that fundamental change takes place.
No one here is defending torture at Gitmo or anywhere else. The fact is, though, that Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, etc., are used as propaganda bludgeons to bash America by people who could care less about the suffering of the victims of torture at Gitmo or anywhere else. You don't have to be a genius to tell there's a huge difference between the impassioned but principled condemnation of abuse at Gitmo and elsewhere of people like Andrew Sullivan, or, a little further to the left, Josh Marshall, and exploiters of human suffering like the editors of SPIEGEL and STERN, who are transparently indifferent to the victims of torture, virtually ignore it anyplace in the world but the U.S., and are transparently more motivated by hate, malice and envy than any humanitarian desire to remedy human suffering. Guys like Andrew, Josh, and many others have real concerns that places like Gitmo are more dangerous to American core values and freedoms than any combination of terrorists you could name. I tend to think they're right. Unfortunately, the rug is being pulled out from under them every day by leftist hate peddlars whose over-the-top America bashing rhetoric is an easy mark for those who demand security at any cost. Andrew, Josh, et. al. have no traction at the moment, because of the entirely justified outrage of the American people at the usual double standard of the leftist elites.
Only 30 Demonstrators Protest Chechnya As Putin And Schroeder Sign Billion Dollar Deals
Few places symbolize the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the German left more clearly than Chechnya. When US President George W. Bush visited Germany last February, tens-of-thousands of angry demonstrators turned out in Mainz and all across Germany to vent their outrage at the Iraq war and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Now, less than two months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Germany. And a whopping 30 protesters showed up to demonstrate against the bloody Russian war and widespread human rights violations in Chechnya. Putin and Schroeder were all smiles as they tipped champagne glasses and signed multi-billion dollar business deals for everything from Russian natural gas imports to German bullet train exports in Schroeder's hometown of Hannover. Naturally, with the cash registers busily ringing away, Chechnya never came up and the German media has all but ignored the topic.
Don't Worry Vladimir, Germans Only Protest Wars Involving America
For one, Chechnya offers a perfect example of asymmetric journalism. Since Russia is a relatively closed society, it is far more difficult for the international media to report on the widespread death and suffering taking place in the Caucuses. And atrocities that aren't seen and reported on are rarely cause for widespread outrage and demonstration in the West. How could they be if no one has heard about them? Iraq, on the other hand, is largely open to journalists because of the open nature of American democracy. Because of that fact, abuses are normally made public and discussed in the media. When a bomb goes off in Iraq, it is usually an international story. When a bomb goes off in Chechnya, it is usually never even reported on unless it is a mass casualty event. When a group of prisoners are abused in Iraq, it is a scandal that lingers for months and a source of worldwide anger. When thousands of people, many of them innocent, simply disappear in Russia, it is barely mentioned anywhere.
The German Left: Thousands of Dead in Chechnya War Not Even Worth Protesting For
This highlights the massive double-standard and hypocrisy that plague the German left. No one cares whether the thousands missing in Chechnya were treated in accordance with international law, were tortured in dark prisons, were raped or abused. Many missing Chechnyans likely were. But, for the most part, the German left simply doesn't care. Apparently, the so-called "peace movement" thinks that this just isn't cause to disrupt Gerhard Schroeder's caviar and champagne party with Männerfreund and former KGB agent Putin, who picked up his German by helping the Stasi beat down democratic forces in East Germany during the Cold War.
The entire charade clearly demonstrates how the so-called German "peace movement" has changed little since the days of the Cold War when thousands protested in outrage over US involvement in Vietnam, but gave the Russians a free pass during the brutal Soviet war of occupation in Afghanistan. The movement's unending attempts to seize the moral high ground have been repeatedly undercut and exposed by the same sort of left-leaning Doppelmoral time and again.
As a society, we have to ask ourselves: What has really happened to the thousands of people missing in Chechnya? What have they been subjected to? What is their legal status? Are they even alive? Is the media coverage in Germany and around the world fair and balanced when we compare coverage of Iraq and Bush to coverage of Chechnya and Putin? If so many people around the world are so outraged by the military liberation of Iraqis from Saddam's Fascist reign of terror, why isn't there far more outrage at the horrific war of suppression going on in the Caucuses where oil is indeed an obvious factor behind the conflict?
Once again: Where are the hoards of angry anti-war protesters now that Vladimir Putin is in Germany? Why aren't they out waving rainbow PACE flags, beating drums, burning Putin effigies and pounding the pavement in mass protest by the thousands? Where are the shrill cries of "no blood for oil?" Where are the concerned friends of oppressed Muslims with their Palestinian flags? Where is the outrage at the violation of the Geneva Conventions and international human rights? Where are the mock funeral processions and empty coffins? Where are the candle-light vigils and the portraits of the dead and missing? Why has the German left sold out in the interest of selling trains and securing the rights to import oil and gas?
Clearly: As long as this double standard in the handling of Iraq vs. Chechnya remains, the German left will continue to suffer a massive credibility gap. It is hard to lend any credibility to a movement that is so obviously biased and motivated by a one-sided hatred of America.
Note: Check out our latest article on an absolutely crazy anti-American conspiracy theory recently voiced by one of Germany's most powerful politicians.
Update: Despite intense coalition negotiations in Germany, Gerhard Schroeder found the time to fly to Russia to party with Vladimir Putin on the Russian President's 53rd birthday. More here...
Day for day in the German media, the United States is mercilessly criticized over abuses and alleged abuses that have occurred at Abu Ghraib and other military prisons. This open and harsh criticism continues to be regularly voiced despite the US government's highly visible efforts to punish those guilty of abuse while aggressively stepping-up military training programs to prevent future occurrences of abuse.
But when it comes to Chechnya, where up to 5,000 people have simply disappeared in a brutal Russian war that has claimed thousands of victims, there is no widespread outcry or criticism in the German media. When compared to the amount of reporting done on Iraq, the level of reporting on Chechnya is negligible. The bloody conflict in Chechnya has also barely been mentioned by Europe's
leading politicians of late and has never been cause enough for the
so-called "peace movement" to pound the pavement in mass
protest. After all, Vladimir Putin is seen as a valuable partner by Germany's leaders and welcomed with open arms on state visits. And mentioning the quagmire in the Caucuses or engaging in anti-war protests would only upset Gerhard Schroeder's brilliant Ostpolitik and his chummy Männerfreundschaft with Putin. Never mind the thousands of faceless victims in Chechnya...
So is it any surprise that more Germans trust Vladimir Putin than George Bush?
A recent poll by Infratest published in Die Welt revealed:
"The Russian President enjoys great trust especially in the east of the republic, so the result of the representative poll. While the national average is 29% for Putin and 24% for Bush, Putin gets 37% alone in eastern Germany (Bush 16%). To compare: In western Germany Bush has 27% and Putin 26%."
The results can be better understood in the context of an interesting article written by Adrian Pohr for Die Zeit entitled 'The "Missing" Chechnyans'. Here, now, is an exclusive translation of the article for our Medienkritik readers:
The “Missing” Chechnyans
"Human Rights Watch speaks of up to 5,000 cases in which
Chechnyan people have been abducted. In the Chechnya question the Europeans
have, to this point, made themselves noticed primarily through their silence.
Relations with Russia mean a lot to Europe. Unpleasant
topics are better left out, like the disappearing freedom of the press, the
centralization of power in Vladimir Putin’s hands or the Chechnya question.
While US President George W. Bush was latently criticizing the Russian
understanding of democracy during his meeting with Putin at the end of
February, his colleagues from France, Spain and Germany remained
rather silent during their four-way meeting last Friday. Neither Jacques Chirac
and Jose Louis Rodriguez Zapatero nor Gerhard Schroeder even uttered the word
Chechnya—and there have certainly been developments worth criticizing of late.
For example the killing of rebel leader Aslan Mashadov.
Russian troops murdered the moderate Chechnyan; the photos of the dead man were
released afterwards for a general display of the corpse. From Moscow one could
register celebration in light of the blow struck against terrorism. The fact
that the last Chechnyan leader willing to negotiate was executed has been
realized by the European media, but not by their national leaders. Today the
human rights organization Human Rights Watch released a report that forces up
further unpleasant questions about the Russian Chechnya policy and harshly
criticizes the accompanying European silence.
The report is the result of a comprehensive examination of
the human rights organization on the abduction of people in Chechnya. According
to the data from Human Rights Watch, between 3,000 to 5,000 Chechnyans have
become victims of abductions, which gives Russia the infamous distinction of
being the worldwide leader in forced abductions. The human rights organization
found it remarkable that the EU has for the first time not introduced a
Chechnya resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission: Looking away while human
rights violations are taking place is without scruple.
While Putin is claiming to the international community that
the situation in Chechnya is normalizing, abductions are taking place with the
full knowledge of the Russian government according to the report. The
government has admitted in an official statistic that at least 2,090 people
have disappeared since the beginning of the Chechnyan conflict. However,
according to the vivid reports in the report from Human Rights Watch the missing
do not simply dissolve into thin air, but are instead brutally ripped from
their families through the force of arms, as relatives recounted.
And the perpetrators of the kidnappings were identified by
the human rights organization: In the overwhelming majority of the cases the
perpetrators were without a doubt agents of the government, either federal
troops or (pro-Russian) Chechnyan security forces. And this also explains the
low rate of resolved kidnappings, which is a noteworthy zero percent: None of the
1,814 criminal investigations have led to conviction of the perpetrators
according to information from a Chechnyan official.
The missing are divided by Human Rights Watch into three
categories: Most are men between the ages of eighteen and forty who the
government officials believed had connections with the rebels. Secondly many
women have been kidnapped lately – a trend that can be traced back to the
recent participation of female Chechnyan underground fighters in terrorist
attacks in Russia. A minority has thirdly been abducted because of their
(familial) relation to rebels, probably to press information out of them about their
unpopular relatives or to put them under pressure. And so Human Rights Watch
complains about the possible (and in many cases, in their view, probable)
torture of those abducted.
Human Rights Watch has called on the United Nations to
actively take on these human rights violations. Because the Russian government
does not feel obligated to pursue the perpetrators. And that contributes to the
ongoing cycle of abuse summed up the human rights organization. In the view of
experts the Kremlin does not give direct orders to kidnap. But according to
Roland Goetz, director of the research group Russia at the Foundation for
Science and Politics in Berlin, Moscow allows its armed forces in Chechnya
large freedom. The abductions are at least not stopped on the part of the
Kremlin, which is a form of approval, says Goetz.
The perpetrators have two differing motivations to
kidnap people according to him. On the one hand they want to demonstrate their
dominance. On the other, the kidnapping of Chechnyans is also an excellent
source of money. For the kidnapped or the corpses of the kidnapped the
perpetrators demanded ransom. Good business was especially possible with the
dead; according to the beliefs of most Chechnyans, the souls of the dead first
find their peace when buried."
So where is the daily media outrage on Chechnya? Where is the anger at all of the widespread, systematic torture carried out by Russian troops and condoned by the Russian government? How could it be that virtually none of the cases of kidnappings have been legally resolved? Where is the German left in all of this? Why the outrage over Iraq and the deafening silence on Chechnya? Why the double-standard?
Why is virtually no one asking whether those abducted in Chechnya are receiving proper treatment and being tried in a fair and legal manner before a court of law? Are they receiving proper medical care and visits from the Red Cross? Are their international human rights being upheld? Are both male and female prisoners free from sexual abuse and humiliation? Where is the so-called "peace movement" when Vladimir Putin visits Germany? Why aren't they out beating their drums and waving their rainbow flags by the thousands?
Oh yeah, one final note: The results of the poll on who Germans trust is truly revealing. However, it would be even more revealing to see the results of a poll that asked Germans where they would prefer to live if forced to decide between Russia and the USA. As Markus Wolf, East Germany's notorious Stasi spymaster and the mastermind of the organization's counter-espionage department noted when the CIA attempted to recruit him at the end of the Cold War with offers of money and resettlement in California: "Life in Siberia isn't too bad either."