Greenpeace goes to war
Almost half of thirty Greenpeace activists arrested in the Russia’s Arctic are charged with piracy. On a broader scale attack on “Prirazlomnaya” oil rig should be seen in historical perspective. Now the incident has left the field of public relations and will be treated by the Russian judicial system as a criminal offense. The court in Murmansk will have to find out who’s who among the Arctic Sea crew to maintain principles of legality and proportionality of the penalty.
RM , – Greenpeace’s sad tradition of provoking life-threatening emergencies on complex energy facilities came into conflict with Russia´s growing presence in the region. A few days before the incident on the “Prirazlomnaya” oil rig, Russia announced its plans to protect offshore fields by rebuilding a military base on the New Siberian Islands. A dangerous performance of well-prepared hippies near Moscow’s vital energy infrastructure just did not fit into Russia´s Arctic scenario.
Three years after the notorious BP oil spill, a group of young men and women once again endangered marine ecology and safety of operating personnel. A swift response was inevitable because Russian engineers had to finish a difficult stage of underwater work.
“Anything could have happened. An operator error or a technical malfunction. There was a danger to lives and people’s health. Are such publicity stunts really worth the possible serious consequences they may bring?” Russia’s president Vladimir Putin asked participants of an international Arctic forum in Russia.
This summer Greenpeace’s ship trespassed Russia’s sea frontier several times. Border guards contacted the Arctic Sunrise captain but he decided to ignore all navigation warnings. If Greenpeace’s activists performed a similar surprise attack on any US facility, they would have surely ended up in Gitmo for terrorism charges.
Construction and development companies around the world are well aware of this type of threat. Acts of ecoterrorism are often covered by political risk insurance. In historical perspective governments of developed countries did not hesitate to stop activists’ radical agenda by all available means.
The sinking of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior is one of the most vivid examples. In 1985 French president François Mitterand tried to prevent the ship from interfering with a planned nuclear test and ordered to bomb her at a New Zealand’s port. The Rainbow Warrior photographer Fernando Pereira drowned in the rapid flooding that followed the explosion. The French government apologized but Greenpeace had not drawn any conclusions from the tragic incident.
Another interesting case. In September 1995, 25 Greenpeace activists occupied Shell’s Brent Spar oil platform, protesting the company’s plan to sink the rig at deep sea. Shell commissioned the independent Norwegian consultancy Det Norske Veritas (DNV) to investigate Greenpeace’s allegations. Greenpeace has admitted, that its claims, that the Spar contained 5500 tonnes of oil were “inaccurate”.
Taking sides in the offshore-vs. -onshore companies’ strife severely damaged Greenpeace’s credibility. The British government refrained from subversive actions and opted for infiltration: police officers got orders to join green organizations. The Guardian covered in detail many stories about undercover police officers posing for years as environmental activists. Leading Greenpeace members were deeply drawn into the toxic scandal.
Since the “battle” of Brent spar, ecological blackmail has become a profitable business and a useful tool in business struggle. Greenpeace enjoys generous donations from various private charitable institutions in the United States. “There exists in the US a vast, well-established, highly professional, protest industry fueled by special interest groups seeking to line their own pockets”, wrote Jay Byme and Henry I. Miller in their eye-opening article on eco-terrorism in “Forbes”. What’s more, green extremists can always be sold to the public as “good guys” because aggressive environmentalism enjoys a quasi-religious status in the Western countries. It’s a substantial part of the anti-science new age ideology that is hostile to the energy industry and technological progress.
Some members of the Arctic Sunrise crew may be pure idealists. Their neo-Luddite zeal is just worthy of a better cause and should be qualified as an extenuating circumstance. Most vulnerable of them, for example, Finnish eco-activist Sini Saarela should be provided with proper care and medical supplies.
The Russian coast guards saved her a couple of days ago from the cold waters of the Pechora Sea after she failed to climb “Prirazlomnaya” with mountaineering equipment. Considering all these facts, Russian coast guards suddenly look like a beacon of humanism in comparison with those who bombed the Rainbow Warrior as a “preventive measure” or those who sent policemen to work for Greenpeace.
Russia’s intention may be to give some ignorant crew members a fright, not to punish them criminally, presumed Russian energy expert Konstantin Simonov. A small reality check for bleeding heart liberals will never hurt. It is highly probable that Russia’s border guards also got silent applause from Canadian, Norwegian and even US engineers working on dangerous energy projects at Arctic frontiers.
But professional eco-terrorists like the Rainbow Warrior and the Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Wilcox were very well aware of all consequences. They are, in fact, experienced managers in the demanding transnational business of paid green activism who willfully participate in illegal actions for publicity.
They wanted a scandal and they got it. It may be one of the reasons why judges in Murmansk have denied bailout in order to let investigators find out who is who in the Arctic Sunrise crew. An individual approach is really needed to maintain principles of legality and proportionality of penalty.
Via Route Magazine