U.S. NATO Ambassador Previews Summit

Two weeks from today, NATO is gathering for a major summit of its 28 member states, plus Russia. This morning, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO met with a few journalists in Washington, D.C. to preview the gathering.

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Conde Nast, Putin’s Russia, and Freeing Information

(scan of the article, from Gawker)

As newspapers cut their international bureaus and do less investigative journalism, both GQ and Esquire have emerged as a surprising source for some excellent, in depth articles on international relations and foreign policy. For example, last year’s Esquire article on Admiral Fallon was a harbinger of the end of his career with the Bush administration, and GQ recently ran an impressive feature on the damage done by coal plants.

Unfortunately, style magazines cover hard news as a complement to their primary goals. It’s not part of their purpose as magazines. And we can see that – vividly - in GQ’s treatment of an article about Russia in their newest issues. GQ went to all the effort of sending a veteran war journalist, Scott Anderson, to Russia to investigate some 1999 bombings in Moscow that were blamed on Chechen separatists. The bombings were one of the main justification for Putin’s war in Russia’s North Caucasus, which led to horrifying brutality on both sides. The article found likely government involvement in the bombings.

And GQ buried the article. It ran in the September issue, but it’s not on the GQ website. It’s not even mentioned on the website. An internal memo has decreed that it will not run in or be mentioned by any Conde Nast (GQ’s parent company) publications  in Russia. GQ put it in print and now they’re trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. This is especially depressing when you consider the number of journalists who have  been killed in Russia, and the bravery of Anderson’s main source, a former KGB officer who is named and on the record in the article.

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Russia, Georgia – and Twitter?

Today is the anniversary of the Russia-Georgia conflict over South Ossetia. In preparation, both sides have dialed their rhetoric up to 11. Georgia released a report saying that “Moscow interfered in Georgian politics, supplied separatist militias with arms, ignored its peacekeeping responsibilities, failed to prevent widespread ethnic cleansing of Georgians and, ultimately, sought to annex Georgian territories by means of military force.” And that is just the introduction.

Russia has been doing their part to keep the hostility flowing. The Russian State Secretary is quoted in the Christian Science Monitor as saying “"It is highly regrettable that the Americans are going to pump up Mikhael Saakashvili's military machine. That's a strange way to support democracy…” Russia Today features a heart-rending story that opens with “A year after the war with Georgia, South Ossetia is slowly rebuilding itself amid fears of new aggression from Tbilisi.”

If you ask me, Human Rights Watch has it right. “All parties in August/South Ossetia conflict violated laws of war…both governments should ensure accountability and voluntary returns of those displaced”

Aside from the question of right and wrong, however, there is something worrying going on here. Last year, this is how the war started. Escalating words, and a denial of service attack on Georgian websites. I doubt that today’s attacks on twitter and facebook are anything other than a coincidence, but it’s the kind of coincidence that makes me nervous.

UPDATE:  CNET reports, "A Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and Google's Blogger and YouTube was targeted in a denial of service attack that led to the site-wide outage at Twitter and problems at the other sites on Thursday, according to a Facebook executive."