Russia, Belarus Hold Joint War Games

Russia Meets Its Match in Greenpeace ‘Pirates’

Putins bullying is not limited to Moldova. Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine also have been the target of a mix of punitive measures and bribes in the last several months. The Kremlins zero-sum aim is to block those countries from completing association agreements with the European Union and compel them to join a Moscow-led customs union that would be an E.U. rival and a means of realizing Mr. Putins dream of recreating something like the Soviet Union. Mr. Putin scored a victory earlier this month when Armenia, a small country that is dependent on Russia for both energy and security, capitulated and said it would join the would-be Eurasian Union, which so far includes only dictatorships Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. But Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been holding firm, saying they will proceed with their E.U. agreements, which fall well short of E.U. membership, at a regional summit scheduled for November. The choice is a courageous one for all three governments. To qualify for E.U. association, and the free-trade benefits that come with it, the countries have to enact far-reaching reforms, not just in economic regulation, but also on matters such as independence of the judiciary and the penal code. There are clear political tests: Georgias presidential election next month must be free and fair.

Asked to comment on this apparent disobedience, Putin is apt to shrug and point out that the courts and police do not formally report to him. The piracy charges are unprecedented and likely to be lifted, eventually. Yet the show of force is clearly meant to intimidate Greenpeace, so that it will think twice before continuing to pester Gazprom — it is not as though this were the first time. Activists have picketed the monopoly’s Moscow office, harassed exploration ships in the Arctic and generally made themselves a nuisance. Gazprom is a state-controlled mainstay of Russia’s hydrocarbon economy, and the government is, effectively, issuing a warning to activists to keep away from it. The opposite effect is more likely. Arctic Sunrise was captained by Peter Willcox, former captain of the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace ship that was sunk by French agents in New Zealand in 1985, after being used in protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific. Greenpeace fought the French government for damages and won an $8 million award from an international tribunal. In 2007, six Greenpeace activists climbed the chimney of the Kingsnorth coal power plant in the U.K. and tried to paint the prime minister’s name down its side, hoping to draw attention to their campaign to have the plant closed down. They were accused of causing criminal damage to the property but acquitted in 2008, on grounds that they had been attempting to prevent greater damage to the environment. Greenpeace boasts many such victories: It is a tenacious, well-funded organization with millions of supporters worldwide. In a sense, it is a tougher rival for Russia than many governments. Trying to scare it into inaction makes no sense from a public relations perspective: The ridiculous piracy charges, for example, are likely to erode the international credibility Putin recently gained by persuading Syria to sign up the Chemical Weapons Convention, thereby preventing U.S.

Russia pressures former Soviet republics to join his economic union.

Sent! A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. Join the Nation’s Conversation To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs Russia, Belarus hold joint war games AP 1:21 p.m. EDT September 26, 2013 Story Highlights Massive joint military exercise involved more than 22,000 troops Russia and Belarus are allies and have close ties Thursday’s joint exercise was their biggest so far SHARE 1 CONNECT 17 TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE MINSK, Belarus (AP) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart have watched a massive joint military exercise of the two ex-Soviet neighbors that involved more than 22,000 troops. The West 2013 exercise conducted Thursday near the city of Grodno in western Belarus and in Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad region also involved more than 500 armored vehicles and about 90 aircraft along with ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Russia and Belarus are allies and have close economic, political and military ties. Russia has several military facilities in Belarus, and the two nations operate a joint air defense system. The two armies have regularly conducted joint maneuvers, Thursday’s exercise being the biggest so far. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attended the exercise along with his nine-year old son, who donned full combat fatigues. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.