Wednesday, February 13, 2008

‘Little Cold War’

Russia is waging a “little Cold War” against its Baltic neighbors, while luring Western Europe into energy deals that will later allow Moscow to extend its political influence through intimidation, a former president of Lithuania warned yesterday.

Russia has returned to its historical aggressive behavior, harboring “deep suspicions of the rest of the world” and dashing the “short-lived hopes that Russia would become a democracy” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vytautas Landsbergis said at the National Press Club.

Now a conservative member of the European Parliament, Mr. Landsbergis predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters aim to make Western Europe “obedient” to Russia by increasing its dependence on Russian energy sources. Russia already has applied political pressure against Georgia and Ukraine, both major Russian energy clients.

He warned of an impending ecological disaster from a deal between Germany and Russia to install a natural gas pipeline on the bed of the Baltic Sea, where “extremely poisonous industrial sediments” could be churned up during construction.

He also fears that “thousands of tons” of chemical weapons dumped into the Baltic Sea by Nazis at the end of World War II could be disturbed by the pipeline.

He noted that Lithuanians understand Russians, who occupied the Baltics from 1940 to 1990.

Mr. Landsbergis, president from 1990 to 1992, mocked Europeans who argue for the need to engage Russia in energy “interdependence” in the belief that Russia will behave itself if it perceives Europe as energy clients instead of political threats.

“It is the old idea of Lenin that capitalists will pay for the stage on which [communists] will hang them,” he said.

Russia will do whatever it takes to regain influence over the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe, Mr. Landsbergis argued, pointing to Moscow’s objections to the expansion of NATO and its threats against a U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“They used every sort of blackmail against the Baltics to stop us from joining NATO,” he said. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania entered the alliance in 2004.

“The idea of free nations is very uncommon in the Kremlin,” he added.

Chinese lock door

Activists trying to shame China into opposing the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region tried to deliver a letter to the Chinese Embassy yesterday but never got past the front door.

“As we walked up to the embassy, we could hear them locking the door,” said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a spokesman for the Save Darfur Coalition. “We will have to fax it or mail it to them.”

The letter urges Chinese President Hu Jintao to use China’s influence as Sudan’s major trading partner to stop the Sudanese government from allowing Arab militias to slaughter civilians in its Darfur region.

“Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people,” the coalition said.

It also appealed to China as the host country of this year’s Olympics, saying that China “has a special role to play in ensuring that its actions this year are commensurate with the Olympics’ ideals of peace and international cooperation.”

The Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, a member of the coalition board of directors, told a Capitol Hill press conference earlier in the day, “As China expands its policy of apathy and complicity, we activists will expand our campaign of direct action and advocacy.”

The coalition includes U.S. Olympics gold medalists Joey Cheek, a speed skater, and Dominique Dawes, a gymnast.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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