I related an anecdote many posts ago about flying into Jolo in late 1980s to attend a meeting on recent attacks by the MNLF on civilians. In the seat beside me on the plane was a European man, who introduced himself to me as a member of a well known humanitarian NGO. He announced his intention to travel to Patikul, or some such town. I told him, “that’s Indian country. If you try that you’ll be kidnapped before sundown.”
His answer was “nonsense. I have humanitarian status. They won’t hinder me.” He mentioned an affiliation with some other International agency as proof of his immunity. “Do you think they care about humanitarian organizations?” I retorted. “The bottom line is you’re a white man in Jolo and if you go ahead with your intentions … please reconsider your plans.” We parted ways at the airport and I continued on to my meeting. Sometime in the mid-afternoon the discussions were interrupted by someone with urgent news at the door. “A European has been kidnapped,” he breathlessly related, “and the marines are looking into now”. I checked the hour on my watch. He didn’t even make it to sundown.
More or less the same thing just happened to Greenpeace. AFP reports:
Moscow — Russian investigators said Thursday they had charged all 30 crew members of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship with piracy over a protest against Arctic oil exploration, an offence that carries the risk of a lengthy prison term….
“All 30 participants in the criminal case have been charged over the attack on the Prirazlomnaya platform,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
“They are all charged with… piracy committed by an organised group.”
Piracy by an organised group carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years in Russia.
Investigators accused the activists of trying to seize property with threats of violence.
I guess Greenpeace got lulled into complacency by the fearful water cannons of the Japanese and the mild penalties which were formerly the price their protests. They didn’t count on the Russians who don’t seem to care too much about their NGO and environmental activist credentials. It’s interesting to read the comments on some sites by outraged Belgians or New Zealanders proclaiming their indignation against “outlaw Russia”.
But they miss the point. Who’s going to stop Russia from doing what it wants? Will it be the Belgian Navy? Or the New Zealand Navy? Or the United Nations?
The great thing about the late Tom Clancy, who recently died at the age of 66, was that he reminded a cynical liberal American and European audience just what exactly stood between the world and countries like Russia.