CONTRIBUTOR: A warship deal, a broadcaster and an irritated Kremlin

A warship deal, a broadcaster and an irritated Kremlin

By Inge Snip

What happens when you pit a major shipbuilding deal between Paris and Moscow alonside the creation of a Russian-language Georgian television channel carried by the French satellite carrier Eutelsat? Simply: the satellite channel loses out.

On January 15, the Georgia-based broadcaster First Caucasian began airing via Eutelsat and was expected to receive a solid contract on February 1. However, in a surprise move, Eutelsat instead opted to discontinue broadcasting, citing an ever-fluctuating list of reasons that have failed to remain consistent. Although First Caucasian remains viewable on cable in Georgia and online, the channel’s satellite broadcasts were a crucial part of its strategy to be available to large parts of Russia to challenge the Kremlin’s near-total media monopoly. Of course, Russia would have none of that. As Russian deputy interior minister Arkady Yedelev stated on January 14, “the TV channel is definitely directed towards planting anti-Russian, anti-State stance and the ideology of extremism.” Right.

First Caucasian’s stated objectives are to bring unbiased and objective news in Russian about the Caucasus to counter the Kremlin’s one-dimensional portrayal of the region in the Russian media, an idea that is obviously not very appreciated by the United Russia cliques. In a typical Putin-era response, Russia’s solution to its predicament was to eliminate the threat, and a near-done deal with France over expensive warships seemed like the ideal tool to get their way.

According to the well-respected, well-connected defense blog Information Dissemination via sources in the Pentagon and in Paris, Russia has succeeded in linking the already-controversial warship purchase with the Georgian satellite channel’s fate. Translation: Russia has apparently conditioned the major, imminent purchase of the Mistral­-class amphibious assault ship with French compliance to blocking First Caucasian, bowing to Russia’s propaganda agenda.

However, some argue that Eutelsat’s decision is unconnected the Mistral deal, believing that France would not have the power to overrule a commercial company. However, as my colleague Michael Cecire pointed out on our website Evolutsia.Net, labor-government relations in France are much deeper compared to most other countries, and corporate-government lines tend to be much blurrier in a heavily regulated economy like France’s.

For example, Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat’s CEO, was the Chief of Staff to the Minister of Industry and Communications from 1986 to 1988 (and not his first public role) making it far more likely that Paris could have easily influenced Eutelsat. This is especially noteworthy considering France’s longstanding reputation for policy ‘pliability’ over industrial, and particularly military, economic deals. As the contract has not yet been totally finalized, France is likely keen to do whatever it takes – even unofficially – to keep its shipbuilders working and its defense industry humming.

Of course, the Kremlin has pressured Eutelsat directly as well by expanding its contract via Gazprom Media, taking up almost all space on the satellite, which effectively blocks other channels from broadcasting to the Russian. Although Eutelsat has offered First Caucasian another satellite, the W2, the technical requirements for this alternative are mostly unavailable in the former Soviet Union and far beyond the capabilities of the small Georgian outfit.

For most Russia-watchers, the Kremlin’s approach should not shock anyone. However, it is in the amazing callousness and illiberal backroom dealmaking of Western leaders that are party to Moscow’s brusque worldview that should be the real concern. Of course, while France’s culpability in this affair is only the latest in a wave of Faustian arrangements bartered by Western European governments looking to placate Moscow, the United States also earns a share of the blame for being so passive about the Paris-Moscow Mistral agreement. As usual, the crime is not just that Russia is behaving badly, but that it’s being sanctioned by shortsighted game-players in Western capitals.

Inge Snip is a Dutch international human rights advocate and an analyst for Evolutsia.Net, a Georgia news analysis and commentary website. She lives in Kiev.

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26 responses to “CONTRIBUTOR: A warship deal, a broadcaster and an irritated Kremlin

  1. What have I been saying about France & Sarko? The French & Sarko are in Putin’s pocket, the French along with their co-collaborators the Germans & Italians shamelessly appease Russia and betray Eastern Europe. Mark my words, these countries will not oppose Russian hegemony.

  2. It would be nice to get some unbiased and objective regional news in Georgian or English too… I haven’t seen First Caucasian – does it really have better journalistic standards than the in-country sources?

    • yes it does. surprisingly it is very well balanced. Their “news” segments mean just that- news; then they also have interviews with high ranking government officials (Saakashvili, Jacobashvili etc.) who are mostly depicted in Kremlinovision as lunatics, though in reality are quite well spoken with multiple degrees in physics and math.

  3. Warren, you have hit the nail on the head fair and square.

    With the frogs, De Gaule kept them out! The silly Americans let them back in? Will the Americans ever learn?

  4. Cheap fragile commercial carrier could not break through a battle. However in a small scale launch it could spell trouble for NATO as right now Roosha has nothing to use in a littoral assault on its neighbor. Safety of lives of the Savok crew do not matter as Moscals do not mind.

    However Business does not trust Roosha and the Shtokman Project’s Postponement Marks a Turning Point in Russia-West Energy Trade and Pea Soup eating French 25% stake in gas deal.

    Shtokman is the most ambitious energy project in Russia since the end of the Soviet era. A joint venture of Gazprom with Total of France and Norway’s Statoil, the Shtokman project is entirely export-oriented toward Europe and the United States. The February 5 decision to delay this project by several years, and its bleak outlook beyond the declared postponement.

    The Shtokman case –along with chronic delays at other projects– reflects the limits on Russia’s capacity to supply Western economies with energy on competitive terms from its Siberian and Arctic projects.

    Vlad Soccor in Jamestown.org

  5. It would be better if Georgian government’s propaganda wouldn’t lie and wouldn’t spray the US geopolitical propaganda in that region, as the Georgian US puppet Saakashvili does. Then Russians wouldn’t need to broadcast the truth in this region.
    I really pity those Georgian writers as this one. They’d better write how many Assetian children they killed the first night of that war by GRAD rockets.

    • please inform us the witless O Dear great one. We submit to your wisdom and kindness. Please grant us the knowledge of the names and dates of birth of said children. The individual pictures with the names attached will suffice as well. We are sure in your ability to produce all such materials as you are the only person privileged to reside in the place of “truth in television”

    • @Assetian

      ;)

  6. Mistral­ is a breath of fresh air.

  7. Dear Hehe, according to all human rights organizations, including Russian Memorial, it were the Georgians who were being ethnically cleansed in Ossetia. This you do not know, because you choose to believe Russian media instead of independent international organisations. This is fine, because you have the choice to do so; however, many people do not have this choice. Many people in that region only have access to Russian media, they don’t have internet, or speak any other language than Russian. It is only fair to give them also that choice that you have.
    -IS-

  8. Why does Russia need the Mistral?

    Can’t they build ships yet?

  9. ‘Assetian’… :D Is that a sign that the writer is Russian? Russians pronounce the unaacented o’s as a’s, so they may ocasionally write an a where an o is supposed to be.

  10. It is a sign that this illiterate idiot IS a ruuskyi bydlo.

  11. Even if Russians in 2 years will figure out how to run the boat they will not be able to outfit it to military needs and the boat itself is a perfect slow target with no armor or anti missile defense. Russian helicopters are slow and huge, they are the cheapest trash on the market. So don’t sweat. With or without the boat the next attack on Georgia will last 1 day resulting in complete demise of what could loosely be called 58th Army. It ain’t Chechnya.

    • Actually Mi-24 is fast (but not agile). And I’m sorry, but it’s the Georgians who ain’t no Chechens.

      And even refuse to raise a Chechen/Caucasian unit (even after GRU used the Yamadayevs’ band against Georgia in 2008 – not to even mention Basayev in 1993 in Abkhazia)… This is a huge mistake for no good reason and I believe it’s just plain stupid. But, well.

  12. Best Yet, is that the French cruise ship carrier has no adequate fire extinguishing protection of a military boat. No redundant systems etc. Maybe a real missile hit would really lite it up. Not like the Moskwa missile cruiser that Georgians sent limping back to Crimea.

  13. Robert wrote:
    [And I’m sorry, but it’s the Georgians who ain’t no Chechens.]

    Correct. At least so far, Chechens and Circassians have been winning over Georgians:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamil_Basayev

    Shamil Basayev was a Chechen militant Islamist. He was responsible for numerous guerrilla attacks on security forces in and around Chechnya as well as terrorist attacks on civilians, most notoriously the attack on a school in Beslan, located in North Ossetia, which led to the deaths of more than 385 people.

    In year 1992, Basayev traveled to Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, to assist the local separatist movement against the Georgian government’s attempts to regain control of the region. Basayev became the commander-in-chief of the forces of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus. Their involvement was crucial in the Abkhazian war and in October 1993 the Georgian government suffered a decisive military defeat, after which most of the ethnic Georgian population of the region was driven out by ethnic cleansing. Muslim Circassian volunteers are estimated to have killed between 25,000 and 35,000 non-Abkhaz civilians during the conflict.

    On July 10, 2006, Shamil Basayev was killed in the village of Ekazhevo, in Ingushetia… Russian officials state that this explosion was the result of the planned special operation. According to the official version of Basayev’s death, a detonator with a remote control hidden in one of the explosives was detonated by FSB agents.

    • @Muslim Circassian volunteers are estimated to have killed between 25,000 and 35,000 non-Abkhaz civilians during the conflict.

      More like between 25 million and 35 trillion. Are you quoting what you wrote on Wikipedia, are you just quoting Wikipedia?

      Also Basayev worked with GRU at the time. (Just like the Yamadayevs in Georgia in 2008, only less officially.) In 1995, the Russians killed his Abkhaz wife and their baby daughter. Wonder if you/they also mentioned this on Wikipedia?

      Chechen role in the 1992-3 Georgian-Abkhazian war

      http://www.watchdog.cz/?show=000000-000005-000004-000151&lang=1

      The Abkhazian war ended with Georgia’s defeat. Luring Shevardnadze into a military-political trap, the Kremlin helped him suppress the pro-Gamsakhurdia forces in Mingrelia, and turned Abkhazia into a Russian protectorate, having stationed its “peacekeepers” there.

      The Chechen forces numbered up to 10,000 fighters, who a year later would take a very active part in the war against the former ally. In November 1994, in the streets of Grozny, they would burn Russian tanks and crewmen that were provided to the anti-Dudayev opposition. And in August 1996, Basayev would carry out a “Sukhumi remake”, driving out Russian forces from the Chechen capital, and forcing the Kremlin to sue for peace with the Chechen delegation led by Aslan Maskhadov.

      The “boomerang of separatism”, thrown by the Kremlin towards the south, has rather quickly returned north, delivering a crushing blow to the Russian North Caucasus.

    • [Also Basayev worked with GRU at the time.]

      Proof please.
      [Are you quoting what you wrote on Wikipedia, are you just quoting Wikipedia?]

      Just quoting. Are you saying that figure of 25,000 to 35,000 Georgian civilian casualties is a lying Georgian propaganda? And what would be a more neutral figure of Georgian casualties?

      • I think what Robert is trying to say is that you are claiming that the Chechen volunteer battalion (which was a very small part of the Apsu separatist war machine) was responsible for the deaths of every Georgian who died in the conflict.

        Observers clearly state that the overwhelming majority of war crimes comitted during that war were comitted by Apsu separatists and Russian volunteers.

        • Yeah, the “Abkhaz Battalion” was just this – a battalion. (The source of this not credible “up to 10,000″ figure is the Russian website agentura.ru.) But they were in the thick of fighting and lost 56 fighters killed in Abkhazia.

          Anyway, Basayev returned to Chechnya in February 1993, and already in November 1994 his men completely smashed the Russian covert intervention in Chechnya (Russian soldiers dressed-up as Chechens but driving Russian tanks, how silly is that? I guess they wanted to repeat the success of their coup in Kabul in 1979, but this was not Kabul).

          • Also the “Abkhaz Battalion” (as it was called by they time they had returned) was first known as the Chechen company.

            Back to the original subject, Georgia definitely should rise a Chechen/Caucasian force of their own. An official one, not like these Shevardnadze’s games in 2001.

            Arthur: Do you read anything else but Wikipedia (and maybe Russia Today or RIAN or whatever)? Like, books? I mean, other than memories of General Troshev (Comrade Fatso, killed by Aeroflot) and such? I wonder.

  14. French politicians at power are shameless double-faced bastards.

  15. Pingback: Caucasus Watch: February 21, 2010 - Evolutsia.Net

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