Friday, August 29, 2008

Free press

But free for what?

An alert commenter at Moon of Alabama points out some clashing headlines and news reports on the latest SCO meeting:

1. NYT: Security Group Refuses to Back Russia's Actions.
2. AFP: Russia wins backing from China, Central Asia over Georgia.

So which is it? Bhadrakumar does his usual excellent analysis at the Asia Times, and the answer is clearly that number 2 is far closer to actuality than number 1:
If the struggle in the Caucasus was ever over oil and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) agenda towards Central Asia, the United States suffered a colossal setback this week. Kazakhstan, the Caspian energy powerhouse and a key Central Asian player, has decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia over the conflict with Georgia, and Russia's de facto control over two major Black Sea ports has been consolidated.
my emphasis. snip...
In his press conference in Dushanbe, Medvedev underlined that his SCO counterparts, including China, showed understanding of the Russian position. Moscow appears satisfied that the SCO summit also issued a statement on the Caucasus developments, which, inter alia, said, "The leaders of the SCO member states welcome the signing in Moscow of the six principles for regulating the South Ossetia conflict, and support Russia's active role in assisting peace and cooperation in the region." The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Now the NYT headline is not false per se, SCO did not explicitly back Russia's actions and the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhzia. China has issues with regions declaring independence backed by major powers (Taiwan!) so they must have been hesitant to give a blanket approval. Russia must have understood that, and been satisfied by the support it did get.

The NYT totally omits the part about Kazakhstan. Who cares, you may ask, about Kazakhstan. Well, the Russians and the US do, a lot:
From Moscow's point of view, Nazarbayev's words are worth their weight in gold. Kazakhstan is the richest energy producer in Central Asia and is a regional heavyweight. It borders China. The entire US regional strategy in Central Asia ultimately aims at replacing Russia and China as Kazakhstan's number one partner.
So, apart from doing a disservice to their readers by reinforcing the administrations propoganda line, and omitting important facts from the story, the paper of record will shape the argument in the presidential campaign. How can the US have an intelligent discussion of the security issues in play when the information they are given is willfully distorted to suit a narrative that has little connection with reality? Obviously, it cannot.

The other important point that Bhadrakumar makes is that Russia has now assured itself ports on the Black Sea. What with the Ukraine still in the balance, that is a very important strategic asset. Once again, no mention of that in our 'free press'. How much freedom can we stand?


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