Updated: 20 Oct 2013, 14:30 CET
New update: nofrakkingconsensus.com/look-again/
Greenpeace tweet from 17 September: “…we’ve got 4 boats in the water heading towards Gazprom’s Arctic rig. We’re going to try and stop the drilling.”
Online Spiegel today has an analysis by Benjamin Bidder and Christoph Seidler on the motives behind the detention of the 30 Greenpeace activists who tried to storm a Gazprom platform in September and the role of Russian politics. According to Spiegel, the story here is one of Russian energy behemoth Gazprom taking revenge on Europe for raids the EU had conducted on Gazprom European offices in 2011.
Spiegel reminds readers that Greenpeace was actually very much admired by Vladimir Putin, and that the environmentalist group until recently “enjoyed cover from the Kremlin“. Last year Greenpeace had even carried out a similar platform-climbing action in the Russian Arctic and had even used its strong connections to the Kremlin to facilitate the publicity-grabbing stunt. The stunt of 2012 was even led by Greenpeace director Kumi Naidoo himself (this year he stayed away). Spiegel also describes a number of special privileges Greenpeace seemed to enjoy with Putin’s government. Greenpeace seemed to have the Kremlin’s blessings.
But obviously something has gone terribly awry in the relations between Greenpeace, European environmentalism, and Russia. As the Greenpeace controversy sizzles, Putin is nowhere to be found on the issue and seems to have delegated the matter entirely to Russia’s justice authorities. Spiegel writes that the tone now appears to be one set by hardliners such as Alexander Prochanov, “one of the ideologues of Putin’s new, nationalistic course” who, according to Spiegel, openly said that they “regret not having blasted the dogs into the sky so that not a trace remains“. Another Russian politician accuses Greenpeace of “environmental extortion“.
So what happened?
Greenpeace claims that it all happened without warning. Spiegel writes that this year the FSB Russian special forces were waiting for the activists and were perfectly happy to watch them “impale themselves on an open knife“. Spiegel writes that according to Moscow-based CPI think-tank director Alexei Muchin, “Putin had nothing to do with it“. But for Gazprom, the “last bit of patience had been exhausted. The company not only wanted to send a message to Greenpeace, ‘but also to the European Union.’ The Commission among other actions had ordered raids of Gazprom offices“.
According to that linked Spiegel article from October 2011, with the Gazprom raids the EU wanted “to break Gazprom’s monopoly“, which was shown “by correspondence and documentation confiscated in an investigation within the scope of the raid from last Tuesday.”
One could speculate that this all seems to point to a very cunning trap set up by Moscow, whereby the Russians pretended to be still best of friends with Greenpeace even after the October, 2011 raid of Gazprom offices in Europe. This false charm in turn emboldened Greenpeace to believe they could get way with anything, even with protest activities in Russia. Finally, last month, Greenpeace activists ran straight into the trap and into FSB handcuffs.
This is all a very messy situation for Europe – and just how the Russians like it. For example Germany’s former socialist chancellor Gerhard Schroder sits on the board of a major Gazprom project, acting as one of the key facilitators who made the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline from Russia to Germany possible. Schroder, a close pal of Putin, was Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005 in a coalition government with the German Green party. Does anyone expect Schroder to lift a finger against Gazprom? Moscow surely has that base covered to insure he never does, and one gets the sense that the Russians are at least a dozen moves ahead of Europe in this complex, multi-dimensional chess game.
What’s more, Spiegel adds that today Gazprom is very closely tied to the FSB, “The son of ex secret service director Nikolai Patruschev is Vice President of Gazprom Dobytscha Schelf, a subsidiary company for offshore production.” For the time being, Europe appears hopelessly outmatched in its chess game against Russia. They need to find a Bobby Fischer quickly.
In its latest move the EU now views the seizure of the Arctic Sunrise as a “hostile act“. Spiegel writes:
The ‘Arctic Sunrise’ is sailing under the Dutch flag and the government in Den Haag is losing patience.”
Dutch Foreign Minster Frans Timmermans has had his staff write a letter of complaint for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, claiming that the storming of the Arctic Sunrise “was illegal” and that “the crew should be free until the matter is checked for human rights“. Spiegel adds:
We are giving the Russians time until Monday, says the Ministry. Then we will contact the judges in Hamburg. ‘We will be prepared.'”