Some months ago, we took note of a curious twist in the scandals surrounding Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Texan politico Tom DeLay. You may recall that they were revealed to have been involved in exporting Russian night-sights to a group of West Bank settlers, and to have received cash and hospitality from a mysterious Russian company whose only asset was the right to sell fuel from Gazprom to the Ministries of Emergency Situations, Defence, and the Interior, and whose only named representatives seem to include an instructor for Russian military intelligence. Kommersant gave more details here with regard to its involvement in the take-over of Yukos. Tim Worstall and I had considerable differences on the degree of dodginess that should be attributed to these carryings-on.
The Washington Post has much more detail on the whole thing, including a British law firm that has since ceased to be. Interestingly, the same Russians, and Mr. Abramoff, were involved much later in lobbying for a Liberian oil concession as our esteemed colleague Marshall of TPM reports. A bit of googling firms-up the connection with the security services: Kommersant mentioned later in 2004 that la Nevskaya apparently deals with the press through the security services, which is interesting to say the least. The original reference to the DeLay trip to Moscow, and Naftasib’s connections, is here.
Now, this post is looking a bit of an ill-coordinated linkfart at the moment. To tie the ends up a bit, it would seem that Naftasib (which, you will no doubt remember, is Sibneft reversed – Oil of Siberia rather than Siberian Oil) is basically a no-business. It exists, it makes a profit, but it doesn’t really do anything except perhaps for allowing some Russian officials to speculate in oil on the side. It’s also very close to the state. Another organisation set up by the same people in the States and with their money, the National Security Caucus Foundation, seems to have gone on a trip to Montenegro in late 1996 to observe an election.
You can find their report here. Essentially it says that the elections were essentially perfect. The November 1996 elections held in rump Yugoslavia were won by the opposition and then reversed by the regime, which resulted in a major protest movement called Zajedno (Together) which eventually fizzled out. Apparently,
1. the election laws and procedures provide for orderly elections and the process is not readily prone to corruption;
2. the procedures and rights, which are provided by law, were maintained — access to the polls was provided to eligible voters, the elections were carried out in an orderly fashion, voting took place in private, and there was no intimidation or disruption;
3. political parties reported that they were not hindered in their campaign activities, and although there were some complaints that the time slots and format of the coverage was not conducive to attracting viewer attention, the state-funded media provided equitable coverage for all parties;
4. political parties that nominated candidates (33 in total) were able to participate officially in the conduct of elections, including observation of the polling places and counting of ballots;
5. there were some difficulties due to voter registration lists that were incomplete or out-of-date, but eligible voters were given an opportunity prior to election day to review these registration lists and to seek to add their names, as appropriate; and
6. there was no evidence of an attempt to alter the outcome of the election through the manipulation or corruption of registration lists or election procedures or by intimidation or pressure.
I’m sure Milosevic’s state TV really gave the opposition equal coverage and a fair hearing. Sure, dammit! Why the international observer team who were being funded by a Russian oil company headed by a GRU employee were the only ones to conclude that the election wasn’t crooked is a mystery I doubt anyone could ever resolve.
According to SourceWatch.org, this organisation brought Congolese (Brazzaville) ministers Rodolphe Adada and Mathias Dzon to Washington in June, 1999 to chat with, among others, the recently disgraced Randy Cunningham (not to mention top Democrat Dick Gephardt). Cunningham also got a trip to Bangladesh out of them, apparently to look into child labour and drug trafficking (eh?). It also wrote to Madeleine Albright to challenge an arbitration decision about the town of Brcko in Bosnia, taking the Serbian side (text here), and published a paper by Yossef Bodansky on terrorism.
Bodansky is a fairly well-known academic writer on terrorism, but it’s not hard to work out why the NSCF’s backers liked him…here, for example, we have him explaining to the US Congress that the Serbian bombardment of Sarajevo was staged by the Muslims to support Iran’s secret plan to take over Europe via Bosnia (I jest not), and here he says the same thing but for Kosovo, with the added goodies of a secret conspiracy between Iran and Washington and a plot to kill the Pope. Here, we get a propagandist and positively gleeful blow-by-blow on the fall of Gorazde including a denial that the Bosnian Serbs shot down a Royal Navy Sea Harrier, which most of my favourite apologists actively boast about.
So, at the time Naftasib was funding a black propaganda effort on behalf of the Milosevic government. Nice. I wonder what else it might have been up to?