INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY GETS WEIRD
We live in weird times.
Why does the Kremlin love Julian Assange, but want to punish Pussy Riot? After all, they are both now internationally celebrated darlings of dissent.
And is the Australian government telling us everything they know about the US interest in Assange? When Julian Assange appeared on the balcony of his new digs at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he asked President Obama to come clean.
Strange days indeed… Julian Assange asks the US to give up its “witch hunt” at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Below, a demonstration by supporters of jailed feminist punk band Pussy Riot outside the Russian Embassy. Photograph via avaxnews.com.
What’s going on?
In the past week, Great Britain has threatened to turn international diplomacy on its head by storming an embassy in London that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange now calls home, having been granted political asylum by Ecuador.
And Moscow has decided there is nothing odd about sending three members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band to jail for two years for an anti-Putin protest whilst standing up for Julian Assange’s freedom.
In truth, the Kremlin would be more concerned about preserving the inviolability of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects diplomatic premises – than Assange’s life and liberty. The Russians would no doubt like to keep that card up their sleeve for future use.
It’s not that Moscow isn’t also a bit smitten with Assange.
The leaked 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables in 2010 embarrassed a nation President Putin has a love/hate relationship with.
Putin was no doubt left red-faced by the descriptions in the cables of his relationship with the rogue, and now former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. But the Kremlin was nonetheless very happy to give Assange an outlet – on its international mouthpiece Russia Today. That’s where Assange interviewed the unpopular, anti-media freedom Ecuadorian President who suggested the Wikileaks founder might think about coming to live in his country, given how unpopular Assange was feeling.
The weirdness doesn’t end here.
There’s the Australian Government’s position that it has no firm information that the United States wants to extradite Julian Assange at all. The Foreign Minister Bob Carr has repeatedly denied knowledge of any investigation of Assange or plans by the US to begin extradition proceedings if and when Great Britain gets the opportunity to send Assange to Sweden where he’s wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assault and rape.
But it may well be, at least on the evidence published by The Sydney Morning Herald, that what the Australian government has been asserting is at best gilding the lily and at worst, not true.
According to Foreign Affairs and Trade documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws by Fairfax, our diplomats have been monitoring a US espionage investigation against Wikileaks for some 18 months. They even took an educated guess at the charges, which could possibly be laid against Julian Assange – espionage, computer fraud, access to illegal information and conspiracy.
That 18 months spans two Australian Foreign Affairs Ministers – Bob Carr and Kevin Rudd.
According to the now declassified cables, as recently as February 2012, Australia’s Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley made high-level representations to the Americans asking for “advance warning of any moves to prosecute Assange”.
Canberra must have been fairly sure that extradition was on America’s mind for it to direct Ambassador Beazley to do some footwork.
And this was not the first time the Australian diplomats had asked the Americans for information.
Back in December 2010, when Kevin Rudd was Foreign Minister, the Australian Embassy became aware that Assange was the target of a US Justice Department investigation. Again, they asked the Americans for “advance warning”.
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