Friday, May 15, 2009

Russkie Skazki

When war broke out in Georgia last August, the initial PR advantage went to the Georgians. While the Russian / Ossetian / Abkhaz side denied journalists access to the territory they controlled, the Georgians allowed them to roam freely and gave them access to senior politicians. The whole world saw the war for what it was - a massive, long-planned invasion in response to the flimsiest of pretexts.

As the Russian propaganda machine cranked up, however, a story was carefully constructed around the idea that Saakasvili was a mentally unstable despot who unleashed a horrific attack on civilians in Tskinvali. While grossly misrepresenting what actually happened, there was just enough truth in these assertions to give European capitals an excuse to effectively do nothing in the face of the Russian aggression. If you close your eyes and ears, and ignore 80% of the factual evidence, you can just about believe the Russian version of events.

Fast forward to 2009 and the Russia-supported usurpation of power by the Moldovan communists. This time around Russia was better prepared and had a story ready for publication prior to the events occurring. Any protests following the rigging of the election were to be framed as a Romanian-backed attempt to overthrow the constitutional order. A bunch of suspects would be rounded up and thrown in jail, including Moldova's Khodorkovsky, Gabriel Stati, and some poor orthodox priest with the misfortune to be a Romanian citizen. Any statements made by any Romanian political leaders would be twisted and used against them. The violence would give Voronin the opportunity to strengthen the role of the security services and create a Russian-style 'managed democracy'.

Unfortunately the Russians made critical mistakes in their stage management of the events. The Russian ambassador to the EU complained about the raising of the Romanian flag over parliament two hours before it happened. The 'boy in yellow' entered the building with an EU flag, but picked up a Romanian one in the building somewhere. The infamous shot of the policmen on the roof and the policemen breaking up kerbstones for use by the demonstrators. The identification of PPCD & SIS activists among the provocateurs. Intercepted radio and telephone calls from leading communist functionaries.

This time around, when I shut my eyes and ears, and disregard 80% of the evidence, I still can't believe the Russian version. No doubt they will keep trying to persuade us however, as the Russian EU ambassador's Friday rant shows. According to him, it's still all Romania's fault, apparently.

As for me however, when I want to read Russian fiction, I'll be sticking to Dostoevsky.

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