Red Line: Terrorism in Norway, partition of Libya and Rupert Murdoch

A man lay flowers in front of the Embassy of Norway in Moscow, in memory of the explosion and shooting victims. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

A man lay flowers in front of the Embassy of Norway in Moscow, in memory of the explosion and shooting victims. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Each week, Voice of Russia hosts Red Line, a discussion about the events of the week, as seen from Moscow. This week, terror in Norway, partition of Libya and Rupert Murdoch.

Participants: Ekaterina Kudashkina, Sergei Strokan, Mira Salganik, Neil Melvin, Matthew Goodwin, Ricardo Al Caro 

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: This week we will start with the tragic events in Norway with almost 70 people killed in an unprecedented terrorist attack carried Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, who said he wanted to rid Europe of Marxists and immigrants. Meanwhile, Europe could face more immigration shocks depending on the fallout from the ongoing crisis in Libya and finally, we will try to explore the phenomenon of Rupert Murdoch, a global-scale media mogul, struggling to save his operations and reputation.

First, Beyond the Headlines – our first section in which we will discuss the biggest crime in the modern history of Norway. While Norwegian prosecutors are considering charging the Utoya Island mass murderer with crimes against humanity, international media is flooded with grim predictions and forecasts on how July 22 will change the nation as well as the rest of the world.

Sergei Strokan: ‘’Death of multiculturalism,” “end of democratic values,” “clash of civilizations” – these are some of the catchy headlines and strong language used to describe Anders Behring Breivik’s horrible and totally unexpected action.

I am fully aware of the mounting problems of the European integration process, the growing frustration over immigration problems and rise of the right and extreme right thinking in the old Europe. However, I believe that Breivik case can hardly serve as a worthy argument in the ongoing debate over the fate of European multiculturalism. I believe it would be more appropriate to describe what happened in Norway with a Russian saying: “V semye ne bez uroda” (“Any family may have a freak”).

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Do you mean that this is not a phenomenon of Europe faced with its identity crisis?

Sergei Strokan: Yes, this is a phenomenon of the global village and global family. Acts of what look like senseless terror are everywhere. 

 

 Ekaterina Kudashkina: I think it is a phenomenon of modern life; when young people take their weapons and start to kill.

Mira Salganik: And another thing is that they invariably choose public places to shoot.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: The common thing about this is that they found something extremely irritating in their social and political lives.

 

Mira Salganik: They are socially vulnerable.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: They are vulnerable, but there could be different causes for their irritation. But those people tend to blame government and politicians.

 

Sergei Strokan: So the question is, what comes out of all this? I believe Europe, with all the pitfalls and perils of multiculturalism, will obviously survive “saviors” like Anders Behring Breivik.

Mira Salganik: The new tendency of spontaneous acts of terror carried out by socially vulnerable and mentally unstable guys driven by undiscovered personal problems is very alarming. There is no way to combat it.

 

Sergei Strokan: Unlike Al-Qaeda operatives – fanatics motivated by their hatred and supported by their networks – these are home-grown self-made sleeping terrorists. They are invisible – they are nowhere and everywhere. They are looking for easy solutions and are quick to blame their problems on someone else – an immigrant, Muslim, member of congress or just passers-by.

I think that Breivik’s case is a textbook example of a new challenge to the world community, which after Sept. 11 put too much emphasis on fighting terror groups like Al-Qaeda, hunted by secret services, while obviously overlooking newly-emerging threat of individual terror.

{***}

Another thing that Breivik case revealed is that modern information technologies and other advantages of post-industrial world allow individuals like Breivik and obscure groups to plan and conduct large-scale terrorist acts. So, I believe the world needs new comprehensive mechanisms of security, including setting up public institutions to prevent and counter terrorism. This is not only the job of the government.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And now we are joined by our expert Dr. Neil Melvin, Director of the Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Program with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden.

Dr. Neil Melvin: Clearly, this person was acting alone, but he is part of a broader challenge for Europe, which is the challenge of dealing with violence and extremism of various hues.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: What is to be done? Such incidents seem to be happening more and more often.

Dr. Neil Melvin: I think it is clear that for Europe now there are some major questions about how Europe integrates its different communities. What we see is the rising populism in different countries, particularly on the right in recent years. So, I think there needs to be a discussion about what it is to be a diverse, plural Europe.

I think the security response is only one part and in a way not the most important one. For me, the key challenge is how to strengthen European democracy, commitments, democratic values, and debate, and dialog, because it can be impossible to stop all these people just by using tight security. All we have to do is to strengthen our social dialog, it seems to me, and find across community groups that can really oppose these people at a local level.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Now we are joined by Dr. Matthew Goodwin, an expert in Contemporary Europe Extremism and Associate Fellow with Chatham House in London.

Dr. Matthew Goodwin: I think unquestionably we have seen rising support for far-right political parties and movements. Many Europeans would not endorse the actions of Anders Breivik, but they would certainly sympathize with some of his concerns - the growing influence of Islam in Europe, the negative impact, so they argue of immigration, the failure of mainstream parties to deal with these issues. So, if we look at just the issues and not the actions, there is certainly significant support.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And now Breivik is going to speak at his hearing; is it really a wise decision to broadcast his address?

Dr. Matthew Goodwin: Sooner or later, this activist will have a chance to air his views. He has already has issued a manifesto and a video broadcast, so he has planned this event meticulously, he has done it in a way to attract maximum publicity and to set down his ideas. I think this is somebody who inevitably will get that oxygen of publicity, but there is also an issue here of freedom of speech. However much we might not like his views and actions, we do lean on liberal representative democracy and there are people involved in the case who would probably want to hear more about his motivations. I think it is important really that we allow that.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: So, given the degree of tension that has been rising, what can we do to reduce it, just to prevent it from growing further, is there anything to be done?

Dr. Matthew Goodwin: I think there are two things really. Firstly, the mainstream parties need to think more seriously about how they can address underlying anxieties among European populations over issues like immigration and Islam. Secondly, a lot of issues come down to security services. In Britain, for example, much of the attention has focused on al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism; we focus much less on right-wing terrorism. I think we need to begin to change that focus.

 

I think it is important to people be allowed to express their opinions, however unfavorable or negative those opinions are or how uneducated those opinions are. But I think it is important that we do begin to realize that there are forms of extremism within Europe that are not simply motivated by religious ideas, there are also political forms of extremism, and that is important.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: The immigration issue has really turned out to be a difficult test for tolerance, multiculturalism and other mainstream concepts of western civilization. And there’s more to come. Europe could experience more immigration shocks in the near future, and that brings us to the next section of our program – Between the Lines in which we usually talk about what we see as the most notable publication of the week. This time it’s an editorial run by The Daily Telegraph on July 27. The story carries a grim title – “We are edging towards the partition of Libya.” Its main point is that – let me quote – “Western recognition of Libya’s National Transitional Council looks like the start of a process that NATO has been desperate to avoid – the partition of the country.”

The interesting twist is one of the reasons why I chose the story for the program. The logic is simple. But let me quote from it first: “Rebel forces remain unable to advance and NATO is incapable of dislodging Gaddafi. By recognizing the NTC as the legitimate diplomatic authority for Libya, the NATO allies are making a clear declaration that the rebels will have a continuing role in Libya in the future. But, the story goes, with the Gaddafi regime remaining firmly in control of the west of the country and, crucially, of Tripoli, it looks increasingly likely that so, too, will the colonel and his clan. The Contact Group will have to start reviewing its longer-term strategy and may have little option but to start laying plans for dealing with a divided Libya.”

Sergei Strokan: The analysis is based on the British government recognizing the NTC as the “sole governmental authority” of Libya. My question is: Why do they focus on the recognition of Britain in particular? The NTC has been recognized by some 30 countries already.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Britain has been one of the key participants in the international effort in Libya, which means it matters. And the mere fact that the British government took that decision implies that the rebels, or rather the NTC – gets not only the real estate that used to belong to Libya in the UK, but also the Libyan government’s money from unfrozen UK accounts.

{***} 

The central issue is rather the future of Mr. Gaddafi – but, you know, here the whole thing looks even more obscure.

 

Mira Salganik: Well, France and Britain seem to have abandoned their demand that Gaddafi must leave the country.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: But the next day the leader of the opposition said that the time of the offer had expired and that it is no longer valid.

Mira Salganik: Sounds strange. Foreign ministers of two key allies say one thing and then at the same time the NTC comes up with something entirely opposite.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: The allies seem to lack a clear position on the issue, which is no help in negotiations, or the search for political solution.

In a recent interview with the German “Der Spiegel”magazine Yevgeny Primakov – the former Russian Prime Minister, foreign minister and intelligence chief – said that of all Arab countries, he’s most worried about the situation in Libya, that the Western coalition's attempt to bomb the Gaddafi regime away was not backed by the UN Resolution 1973 and is not well thought-out in strategic terms and that political solution is the only real way to resolve the Libyan crisis.

He said that the mediation mission has been effectively blocked by the decision to bring Mr. Gaddafi to the ICC in The Hague.

 

And therefore, he said, rapprochement between the parties in the conflict has remained as the only viable option. He also said that the world community need not recommend any democracy models to Arab Spring countries. He said Arab countries should decide for themselves how they want to be governed. And bombs, he also said, would not solve the problems.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Experts from the EU were telling me the partition or disintegration of the country is something totally unacceptable for Europe. It would mean a new refugee tsunami.

 

Sergei Strokan: Same with the humanitarian catastrophe – right? But then – aren’t we exaggerating?

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, it’s time for some expert insight, and now we are joined by Ricardo Al Caro of the Institute of International Affairs in Rome, Italy.

My basic question is: There is some speculation Libya might be disintegrating as a result of the recent events in the country –how viable do you think this scenario is?

Ricardo Al Caro: This is a question I don’t feel comfortable with giving a credible answer. Libya’s disintegration, Libya’s failure as a state is at any rate by far the worst scenario of all. Apart from the humanitarian crisis, apart from all the problems that would come with the failed state a few hundred miles from the European Union’s southern coast, you also have a devastating blow to the NATO’s prestige and in particular to the NATO-European countries.

But, having said this, I don’t think that this is the time where we can predict Libya’s disintegration with a sufficient level of trust, of confidence. I don’t think Libya is going to disintegrate – of course, I might be wrong – but I don’t think today you have the elements to say that. What you have today is a stalemate in which no solution appears at hand, and every compromise is offset by other elements. A good thing is that the west is becoming a bit more flexible, they have started talking with Gaddafi’s envoys. Most recently William Hague said he could live with Gaddafi still resident in Libya.

But my opinion is that this option of having Gaddafi somehow confined in Libya is very dangerous, is not really conducive to a final settlement, to a sustainable settlement, Gaddafi holds no official position. He keeps repeating this. Gaddafi is no president of Libya, he is no prime minister, nothing, he is a colonel, he is just a spiritual leader, he is just a leader by charisma. So his power has not been in any way related to the official position, institutional position he occupies. His power relies simply on his connections with his tribe, on his connections with half of people still selling institutional positions in the regime, and I don’t see how this might change if Gaddafi is allowed to remain in Libya, but on the other hand it seems that the coalition doesn’t have the power to force Gaddafi out. This is the stalemate that was feared the most when the campaign was started.

This Libyan campaign is a very sad episode in international relations.

I think there is an underlying logic driving all parties towards a political compromise, but that would be a very weak compromise, because if Gaddafi remains in Libya, he will definitely remain an incredibly disturbing element in this political process that should start after the campaign has ended.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Talking of disintegration, or partition – it’s not only countries that fall apart. Businesses sometimes fall apart, too. In fact business empires are most prone to that sort of development. And that brings us to the concluding section of our program – Man in the News. This week we are taking a closer look at a media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who found himself in the epicenter of the scandal, which we already began discussing in our previous program.

Sergei Strokan: This week, British media revealed new thought-provoking facts casting a long shadow over Murdoch’s mysterious relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet. It was reported that Britain's finance minister George Osborne has met executives from Rupert Murdoch’s companies 16 times since the general election in May 2010.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: It is also reported that with the News Corp. Chairman on the ropes, his rivals are feeling emboldened. Martin Morgan, whose Daily Mail & General Trust newspaper group competes with Murdoch’s News International in the U.K., said this week his company has seen a big boost in sales.

Sergei Strokan: Now questions are being asked as to whether the scandal went beyond News Corp papers. More interesting facts are emerging: according to the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office a report of 2006 titled “What Price Privacy”, there were many well-known newspapers guilty of “the illegal trade in confidential personal information.”

Ekaterina Kudashkina: But while the scandal is rocking the empire, I am still interested in how one becomes a media mogul, what it takes to skyrocket to immense power like Murdoch did?

Sergei Strokan: For Rupert Murdoch, a breakthrough to power or money at any cost is unquestionably a positive result. It explains his spectacular success in empire-building.

Mira Salganik: I wonder if it was from Lenin or from Marx that Murdoch derived his principal idea – information is a commodity to be sold at a profit to maximum consumers who are interested in buying it.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Ok, Mr. Murdoch is a man of determination and almost no scruples. As this combination is not a rarity among people of his caliber, and let us add luck too.

Sergei Strokan: He was lucky to emerge in the time of a tectonic change in mass media: new and fast-developing technologies turning the world into a global village, introducing entirely new dimensions and notions of freedom of expression and privacy of an individual, making information a commodity etc. Yet is Rupert Murdoch the only one to fit the new reality?

 

Mira Salganik: He is not the only one to be sure, but let me offer you a quote from Washington analyst James Fellows: “Murdoch managed to fuse the understanding of mass consumers’ tastes, new technologies, his ability to take strategic decisions at the right moment and quickly and his talent to exploit the powers that be.”

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