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More news from the Tom Clancy Dimension

Regular readers may recall my question on August 13th about the whys and wherefores of the disappearance of the Arctic Sea, which subsequently reappeared off the coast of Africa in the middle of a full-dress Russian Navy panic, with rumours of piracy in the Baltic and stolen secret cargoes ...

Today an Asia Times in-depth report asserts:

[ex-Russian military officer] Filin said the crates (loaded on board in Kaliningrad) could have contained four X-55 strategic cruise missiles (without front sections) and devices to implement an air launch from military planes of the SU-24 type, provided that the aircraft were retrofitted as carriers of a single cruise missile.
And to add to the fun:
Last Thursday, the former commander of defense forces of Estonia, Tarmo Kiuts, repeated the same presumption. He said on board the Arctic Sea most probably were Russian X-55 missiles that the vessel was carrying to Iran.

In its latest version, official Russian television said ecologists had hijacked the Arctic Sea because they had ran out of fuel for their boats.

Piratical ecologists, or arms dealers smuggling cruise missiles to Iran. Which reality tunnel do you subscribe to?

54 Comments

1:

Cruise Missiles -> Iran are at the bottom of my rabbit hole. Where I'm from, pirate ecologists burn down labs working on GMO trees for sustainable forestry.

(sorry if this double posts, I got an httpd error the first time around)

2:

You know, I'd just spotted the headline: "Eyeless Creature Discovered in Undersea Tunnel Off Africa" (http://www.livescience.com/animals/090825-lava-tube-species.html) and thought that wow, maybe something Lovecraftian was involved in this highjacking, but maybe not.

What's weird here is that Iran apparently has KH-55s, but since it's allegedly bomber launched, it's unclear that they have a plane big enough to launch them.

OTOH, what's missing from this scenario is the firepower. If the crew was knowingly shipping missiles, why weren't they armed? If the pirates were trying to grab a missile shipment, why did they surrender so easily, and why didn't the Russian Navy get all over them like a bad suit.

Piratical ecologists--we'll I'd admit we're a rough crew, but it's pretty stupid to grab a cargo of wood and then set sail to tropical Africa to sell it. Besides, they would have gotten home faster if they hadn't hijacked the boat in the first place.

Ecologists aren't quite that stupid, so I like theory #3, the Stupid Pirate with Lame Excuses theory. This goes like: "hey, we've got guns, we could hijack a ship, sell its cargo or ransom its crew, and get away with it." "Great idea Jan, have some more vodka." and so forth, until the Plan was Hatched.

Of course, it could be Theory #4: CIA contractors with a cover story....

3:

So, it seems like the missile idea wasn't quite that wrong after all (where's my tinfoil hat again?). In the meantime I read/heard somewhere (don't remember) that the location of the freighter was known all along, but Russia wanted to have free hand in dealing with it herself.

I don't know, but it kind of makes sense. ... Ahh, there's that hat.

4:

My theory: eaten by the Deep Ones.

5:

Addendum: okay, the Iranian or Syrian SU-24 might be big enough to fire that cruise missle they're talking about. OTOH, wouldn't it be faster and safer to send such a shipment through the Black Sea (for Syria) or Caspian Sea (for Iran)?

6:

Deep Ones: Feed your younglings crunchy nuclear wheatos! Send them off to school with a glow in their tummies!

7:

#5: how do we know that the Arctic Sea plan wasn't to offload the missiles onto another vessel at sea somewhere near Gibraltar, then proceed merrily on its way, optionally acting as a decoy?

The permutations are endless! (Is Steve Jackson following this, I wonder?)

8:

It is interesting to note that the Russian Navy has announced (according to danish newspapers) that they found "nothing" aboard the ship during their inspections.

That obviously does not say anything about what might have been aboard earlier or for that matter, what might have been brought aboard along the way.

I havn't seen anybody launch the theory that the "pirates" brought something aboard the ship after taking control, but you could easily transfer quite big items from a fishing boat to a cargo vessel in the Baltic...

I am however, not convinced the destination is Iran, that's just pointing at the most unpopular boy in class by default.

I also find cruise missiles quite unlikely contraband, Iran does not need them and there would be easier ways to get them there.

I think Occams razor would favour small arms or drugs as the hot property, with radioactive substances a distant third, because of the effective monitoring of radioactivity through other transport paths.

Poul-Henning

9:

Here's an article in the Washington Post today: Russia: Freighter search found no suspicious cargo.

from the end of the article:
"The ministry said that, when the ship was intercepted, its captain claimed it was the North Korean vessel Chendin-2, and was headed from Havana to Sierra Leone with a cargo of palm wood.

It said North Korea had asserted that was impossible, saying the Chendin-2 was docked at an Angolan port at the time. The Russian navy's search of the ship "confirmed the suggestion that it was really the Arctic Sea," the statement said."

What's up with that?

10:

@7: Yes, Charlie, the permutations are endless. I'm surprised the Semi-Conscious Liberation Organization wasn't involved (or is that dating me too much?).

@8: the speculation was that it was cruise missiles bound for Syria or Iran. Otherwise, they could be smuggling those dangerous Scandinavian wood ants for all I know.

You've got to love the idea of carrying palm wood from Cuba to Sierra Leone. Isn't that the tropical version of "coals to Newcastle?"

I know, they were smuggling in a condensed form of Finnish socialism to Algeria. That's why they were stopped!

11:

I vote for both. The ecoterrorists have to fund their ecoterrorism somehow, and what better way is there than to sell nukes to one of the few leadership groups on the planet crazier than the ecoterrorists?

And if we really want to get paranoid, we could note the release of the Libyan standup guy during the period that the "freighter" was missing and come up with a whole new level of conspiracy theories... that would still remain more plausible than just about anything in a Clancy tale (or, properly, Clancytm product, given how much of the writing he's "outsourced").

12:

'What's weird here is that Iran apparently has KH-55s'

Well, if they didn't already have some, with associated manuals and spare parts and trained operators, then getting just the missiles would be pretty useless.

The chance the initial 'pirates' were ad-hoc weapons inspectors is distinctly non-zero. 'Go somewhere random, have the Russians quietly take their missiles back, and we say no more of it' works as well as anything as an explanation.

13:

While the possibility of crazy Iranians having biological and/or chemical weapons and delivery systems to use against crazy Israelis (who have nuclear weapons and a strong dislike of the Iranians) is not very reassuring, it should be noted that if the aforementioned crazy Iranians already had the nuclear weapons so many are convinced they're on the verge of acquiring they wouldn't need biological and/or chemical weapons to deter Israeli attacks aimed at preventing them from acquiring said nukes.

If this is what was really behind the Arctic Sea mystery at least now we know Iran doesn't have nukes, yet...

14:

And nobody suspects The Swedes. Wait! I'm part Swede, I mean those pesky NORWEGIANS!!

15:

Jeff @1:

Ecologists are NOT equivalent to rabid environmentalists. Ecology is a science, and ecologists by and large approach their field in a rational, evidence-based manner.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, may or may not be rational or evidence-based. Quite often ideology trumps common sense, or science. (And where have we heard that before?) The nutso wing of the environmental movement is the source of the lab-burning ship-hijacking ecoterrorists. (And of course not all, or most, environmentalists are ecoterrorists.

I'm an ecologist. I have a PhD, work in a lab, publish in peer-reviewed journals: all the things that scientists do. The people working on the sustainable forestry? Ecologists, quite likely. The people burning down their lab (and hopefully staying far away from mine)? Not ecologists.

16:

@12: What, you think that countries buy weapons they can't use? How about the F-22, the plane the Pentagon didn't want, that couldn't even fly in a rain storm.

So yes, when someone starts chucking missile stories around, one of the first good questions is, could the Iranians even use the thing if they got it? If the answer is no, then I think we can bury that particular story.

@14: no one ever expects...the Swedes! Eric Idle did it better.

Maybe it was some viking-era reconstructionists, trying to resurrect some traditional folk ways?

17:

If we assume some level of rationality among the hijackers, then they would only have taken the vessel if it had something of value to them.

1. Wood? No, you can get wood in lots of places for less than it would probably cost to hijack a ship.

2. Secret cargo? A fun theory that others have explored.

3. The ship itself? Not likely. A freighter at year 18 of a 20 year useful life in a time when cargo ships can probably be had for a dime a dozen isn't even worth much as scrap.

That leave option #4: Anonymous transportation.

The most valuable thing a ship does is MOVE. I submit that instead of pirates you have some group that wanted to SHIP something without all those pesky forms and inspections. Something that would get them in a shitload of trouble if anybody knew about it. Could be radioactives, could be biologicals, could just be some guy they needed to get out of Europe quietly. Are there more elegant ways to do it? Of course. But say you're pressed for time. You're in Northern Europe and suddenly you find you have to get out -- NOW. You need transport that can get you to some non-westernized country where you can slip off the grid and plan your next move. You don't even have time to make the right sort of bribes. So you improvise. Hijack a ship in the middle of the sea. Somali pirates do it all the time so how hard can it be? Ride it to Africa somewhere and you're home free. The pirate thing is just a layer of cover story to throw everybody off the trail. By the time anybody gets a handle on what actually happened you're sipping coffee in Istanbul with a fresh passport and a view of the sunset.

Ahh, another Tom Clancy plot is born. Check please.:)

18:

Kraw. The armies of the ecological liberation front are on the way, with their ecologically diverse weaponry.

Unh-hunh.

Smuggling, hunh?

19:

Wayward @17: You're in Northern Europe and suddenly you find you have to get out -- NOW.

Doesn't work terribly well if you draw the attention of the world's press by pulling off the first act of piracy in the Baltic in 500 years, does it?

If you're in Northern Europe you're in Schengen, anyway. Hop on a train bound for Romania or Poland or the south of Spain and you won't have to show your passport or ID. When you get there, wave a bunch of euros under the nose of someone who'll put you on a fishing boat and take you to Algeria, or in the back of a car driving into Belarus or the Ukraine or Moldova. You'll be a lot less conspicuous ...

20:

Charlie@19: Schengen doesn't mean you won't have to show ID, just more likely than not that you won't. Spot checks on international trains etc still happen quite regularly.

It happened to us on a train from Italy to France earlier this month. I strongly suspect it was an intelligence-led operation though as the French Police aux Frontieres were looking *very* closely at everyones' passports - I should imagine they had had a tip off that someone with fake ID was travelling on that train.

21:

(Damn, inability to post meant being beaten to the punch.)

@17: It's an understatement to say that hijacking a ship and sneaking it through the English Channel isn't the most elegant of solutions. It's one of the most carefully watched and policed shipping lanes in the world. Given the comparative difficulty of hijacking a ship at sea (which requires, apart from anything else, that you already have some kind of sea-going transport) compared to stealing a truck and going overland through the EU, and then nicking a smaller boat on the Spanish or Italian coast to get to the same hypothetical African destination, it really doesn't seem likely.

I suspect that Charlie's pick of the possibilities is somewhere close to the truth.

As to why not arm the crew if you were a government secretly shipping weapons or cash or carefully-trained killer environmentalists to Iran or Syria or Cape Verde, all it'd take is a port state control inspection in Estonia, or if the ship had to dock somewhere en route to repair due to bad weather or mechanical failure, and the jig would quite possibly be up. Cargo isn't checked during PSC, but crew quarters, facilities and equipment are. Find weapons, and that'd be it for the secret mission.

22:

You are in Northern Europe and need to get out now? Go to ground in whatever city you happen to find yourself for a day or two. Then take a train for Spain. You will have a nice shiny and completely genuine (stolen) passport with fake id on, in case you are stopped. On arrival in Madrid, acquire a new passport and take a plane (economy, not 1st class) to Istanbul.

Passports and ids are scarily easy to acquire, anywhere in the world. Most people get caught because they do something dim, such as they keep the 1st fake id with them instead of destroying it after acquiring the 2nd one.

23:

Following on from John R @21, if one were smuggling [CONTRABAND] one does not arm the crew as the most likely problem would be being inspected and fighting off an attempt at inspection would result in a visit by a naval vessel. In the event of being found out, one says "I was transporting cruise missiles? Man, I could have sworn the manifest said Cuban Palmwood" or similar. Having guns on board would make this deniability less plausible.

I suspect that this has occured at the intersection of two or more plans of a dubious nature, each of which has gone wrong in either the most predictable or the least predictable fashion. So I'm up for ecologist* pirates escaping Northern Europe run out of fuel, so attempt to stow away, only to find themselves in a the middle of an attemtpted hijack of smuggled cruise missiles.


* Presumably attempting to get funding for a research project on climate change on forests by unofficial methods.

24:

I think it was the undersea folk from The Jennifer Morgue.

25:

Don't assume the Swedes can't kick a little ass when they need to do so. Remeber Gustav Adolph and Gripen fighters.

26:

I'm not a treaty lawyer, but if I understand correctly, the Turks do have the right to poke their nose in any cargo sailing past Istanbul, even if they have to let the ship pass afterwards.

So if Mr. Medvedev wanted Syria to have something Turkey shouldn't know about, it would be wise to take the scenic route to get there.

27:

Charlie @19:

Yea, I was purposely drifting into 'bad spy novel' territory with the idea of doing this just to get a person out. But the more serious side of my thought is that we shouldn't rule out other explanations for what happened besides some version of 'Pirates of the Baltic'.

Looking forward to more postings here.

28:

Cold Warstuff, or and additional material for The Family book readers at the nuke control photos linked below.

http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2009/08/08/nuke-photos/

29:

@17: Wayward, I think it's possibly a mistake to assume there was anything rational about the pirates. There's an aphorism out there somewhere about not assuming that a plan was concocted by genius when luck and/or stupidity can explain it equally well.

I'd also point out that a load of conifer wood would be reasonably valuable in Algeria, simply because the Algerians don't have large forests, and there are lots of big cheap trees up north, even now. The original shipment seems perfectly reasonable, just as reasonable as chopping down Papuan rain forest to supply disposable chopsticks to Japan and China. The problem starts when the pirates get involved.

Also, the crew is quite valuable too, and rather than a cargo seizure, this may have been about ransoming the crew after taking the ship somewhere where the crew could presumably be ransomed rather than rescued.

I still don't think we've eliminated the possibility that this is a semi-successful hijacking by a group of first-timers that went wildly wrong once it was underway. We'll see.

30:

Charlie, you've probably seen this 2005 report on alleged Ukrainian X-55 sales to Iran, but since it hasn't been mentioned here, I thought I'd throw it in.

More on that.

General info you doubtless know.

31:

Obviously the "out of fuel greens" thing is drivel. If that was so, they would have given them some fuel/taken them to the next port/called a Swedish lifeboat. ("Whoops, out of fuel! Thank God, here comes a ship! I know, let's hijack it and randomly go to Cape Verde!")

But I suspect it's the kind of drivel that is drivelled for a reason. The Russian state media seems to have a thing about "ecologists" doing evil things; in the light of Putin's crackdown on NGOs of all kinds (you will recall that they recently seized Memorial's archive of the oral history of Stalinism), I assume this is to bank manufactured consent in case it becomes expedient to crush the greens.

Regarding Kh-55 missiles, I'm structurally dubious about the story - it sounds a bit Beka'a/WMD to me.

The Russian ambassador to NATO, I note, said that they were cooperating closely. As the ship was found within a day or so of the announcement that the whole Atlantic fleet was sailing, this is evidently true; at any plausible speed, 24 hours from Murmansk or Baltiysk wouldn't have put them in the area of operations. I imagine the frigate that made the interception was either already in the Atlantic or else sailed from the Mediterranean, as there was hardly time for ships coming from northern Russia to catch up.

The Portuguese denied overflying her with a P-3, but that doesn't rule out flying round and round in circles like a Focke-Wulf Kondor without actually overflying...

32:

Shrug. It'd hardly be the first time people have been smuggling arms to Iran....
Seriously, I'd be surprised if they *weren't* building up some kind of long range/deep penetration/second strike capability. KH55s would fit the the bill quite nicely, they've got a bunch of heavy lift aircraft suitable as launch anything from IL-76s, to C130s even some old 707s. Said missiles can hit at, what, 2000nms? Alternatively, iirc there's a ship-launched version, probably not much use given the paucity of even servicable large surface hulls in the Iranian Navy atm. A better bet might be the 3 Kilo SSKs they commissioned in the 90s.
All of which might sound academic until you factor in the the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Well they're hardly going to stick TNT in the warheads are they?

33:

PhilD: hypothesis ... if you take the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwah at face value -- remember, this guy is the Head of State: Ahemedinejad is just the sock puppet in charge of internal affairs -- it appears to rule out first use of nukes, or use of nukes against civilian targets, but it might leave some wiggle room for counter-force measures/second strike. (Khamenei has some odd opinions, that really don't sit well with western notions of how mad muslim fundamentalists ought to behave: no-first-use-of-nukes is one of them, based on the theological argument that if you nuke a city it is certain that you will kill innocents, therefore this is not permissible.)

However.

Israel is believed to have a credible theatre-sized strategic deterrent in the shape of subs equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. From the Iranian leadership's point of view, putting a brace of KH-55s aboard the Kilo fleet is about the cheapest way to create a credible minimum deterrent. You don't have to tell the other guy whether or not you're willing to use them; you just have to leave room for reasonable doubt. At which point, the logic of deterrence cuts in and you can justify your actions theologically as reducing the likelihood of innocents getting nuked.

(Rogue states aren't irrational; they just have different goals that are incompatible with other folks' desires.)

34:

@Charlie
Oh I agree, I doubt very much any Nuclear KH55/ Kilo combo would be for first use, as you say it would be very much a deterrent. I suspect the Iranian leadership has been paying very close attention to the various deterrence doctrines prevalent during the Cold War. You could argue that they're taking the lesson that a doctrine of deterrence would work just as well in an Iran / Arab context as it was perceived to have done in a NATO / Warsaw Pact one. Long term at least, you can see the logic of such a strategy, and taking a longer view is something Iran is notably good at these days. Thing is you'd better hope they've done their homework regarding the appropriate command, control and release procedures for said weapons. One of the really scary features of the India Pakistan stand off in 2000 was the profound lack of said controls, a factor that made a nuclear exchange that little bit more possible.

35:

If it helps, the Kh55 variants are 51 cm in diameter and between 6 and 7.5m long; the torpedo tubes in a Kilo are 55 cm x 7m. Not obvious, but you could come up with a hack.

36:

Having watched the Russian navy rather closely on the Kursk incident, and the submersible problem in Siberia, I have a theory of what it means when they get all self-contradictory and deny lots of things.

It means they don't have a clue what's actually going on, but feel they ought to say something. The idea that it ought to have some relationship with the truth so as to avoid embarassment later doesn't seem to be significant. Their public relations aparatus was created when nobdy was allowed to ask awkward questions, and doesn't seem to have caught up with the modern world before the Great Resovietisation rendered the idea moot.

So anything, possibly everything, they say that isn't supported by external evidence could be fictional.

37:

Charlie @ 33:
"Rogue states aren't irrational; they just have different goals that are incompatible with other folks' desires."

Not entirely sure about that.
N. Korea, the ultimate theocracy, ruled by the Kin godkings?
And the Taliban, in Afghanistan, or anywhere ......

??

38:

Greg: North Korea is fairly clearly a hereditary monarchy -- not to mention a hermit kingdom -- in all but name. Their foreign policy is a work of inspired genius, too, if you analyze it in terms of what its goals are -- i.e. to keep all the neighbouring countries with claims/threats to NK territory (South Korea, China, Russia, Japan) pinned down by ensuring that the USA can't withdraw its military presence from the peninsula. (Basically: whenever the USA looks like getting bored and taking its toys home, North Korea bites the head of a chicken and foams at the mouth. This makes the US pay attention. Which in turn keeps South Korea from getting any ideas about destabilization/reunification: also China, Russia, Japan (who occupied NK rather brutally a few decades ago) ...)

The Taliban's goals are even simpler; they're mostly-illiterate villagers who want these horrible foreign invaders to go away: see also 1839, 1979, etc. The fact that they're run by theology students should tell you how badly successive western occupations have devastated non-urban Afghani social infrastructure: there's no bourgeoise-equivalent stratum of rich merchants or scholars or politicians left to provide the leadership a generalized insurgency usually requires.

(NB: yes, the Soviets are westerners, from the Taliban's point of view. Modern industrial society spawned by the western enlightenment: check. Believe in managerialism: check. Ideology based on resource allocation: check. Broadly secular: check. The USSR was a western capitalist heresy rather than an utterly alien intrusion from another dimension of alienness, notwithstanding whatever kids are taught in school.)

39:

So, nobody else has heard the news about the Australian-owned Maltese-flagged (IIRC) ship caught in the UAE with a load of North Korean missiles bound for Iran? This will get held up for moderation if I post a link... you can all use Google.

40:

From Time Magazine: "Sense makes this no" Their coverage of the Arctic Sea episode: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1919342,00.html.

41:

Chris L: I've relaxed the moderation on URLs slightly.

42:

Charlie @ 38 Agreed, BUT .....
Run by Thology Students
Which automatically means their reality-snsors are seriously damaged, to say the least.

Also, Afghanistan was (almost) heading towards "normal" (secular semi-Western) status UNTIL the Soviets fucked-up BIGTIME, in 1979.

43:

Guys, guys, you've got it all wrong.
Here's a hint: what else floats on water?

44:

A duck!

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll let you guys do the rest of the sketch in your own heads.)

45:

Greg: however, consider why the Soviet fuck-up of 1979 occured, yes?

The Soviets invaded to shore up a botched coup; you might want to read up on the Daoud Republic of Afghanistan (1974-78) and the Saur Revolution. There was already an insurgency running: the USA pumped lots of funding into opposition groups thanks to Zbigniew Brzezinski, under Carter, prior to the Soviet invasion -- specifically because they figured a weak Afghanistan would preoccupy the Soviets.

A chunk of the responsibility for the invasion lies directly in Washington DC, where -- during the cold war -- nobody gave a shit about Afghanistan other than its potential for pissing off Brezhnev. Of course, nobody expected the cold war to end so soon, or the after-effects to roll on for decades (Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; etcetera). But that's also a characteristic of the US foreign policy establishment (both parties being equally guilty) -- they don't bother about anything more than one election cycle in the future.

46:

@45:

Yes Charlie, We're guilty as charged, and if we could get that historical magic wand and clean up the mess left by the Cold War and the global oil culture, why everything we be great....

No, wait a minute, then we'd be left with the mess caused by British, German, and French imperialism, which created a lot of the failed states (including Iraq and Sudan) back in the 19th Century. And before that...

Imperial powers are like nuclear reactors: they leave around a lot of hazardous (political) waste that has a long half-life and keeps killing people long after the empire that generated it is kaput.

I'm not sure how long the mess from our current imperial system of multinational english-speaking capitalism is going to last, but given the impact of the Roman empire, I'd guess millenia.

That doesn't for one second excuse us Americans (or anyone else) from responsibility for cleaning up the messes we cause. I just wish that the proponents of empire would be required to fill out impact statements like everyone else is, just so they would start thinking about the clean-up costs. However, they'd probably just call the clean-up costs "business opportunities for nimble international companies" and get on with the raping and pillaging.

But I digress...

47:

No, wait a minute, then we'd be left with the mess caused by British, German, and French imperialism, which created a lot of the failed states (including Iraq and Sudan) back in the 19th Century. And before that...

Yup. (You nailed it in the next sentence, too.)

I just wish that the proponents of empire would be required to fill out impact statements like everyone else is ...

This.

Or maybe if we could find a fix for senescence so that human life expectancy exceeded that of historical human power hierarchies, the folks with their hands on the levers would have to pay some attention to what happens when it's pension time ...

(I expect it would end in tears.)

48:

Charlie 45: "But that's also a characteristic of the US foreign policy establishment (both parties being equally guilty) -- they don't bother about anything more than one election cycle in the future."

Which is the optimistic perspective -- the next poll/legislative vote/media tempest is now at least as common an event horizon for a lot of U.S. elected legislative officials.

Which is every bit as helpful as one might expect, especially in dealing with areas where, for example, the priorities of one well-known 19th-century politician (well, he was in every meaningful respect a man of that century), exercised in the early 20th century (in the course of immediate post-WW I adjustments) continue to have major repercussions into (and likely beyond) the 21st century. (See, "Churchill, W.S.")

49:

And now, this: Report: Russia hijacked its own ship: "A Ynet investigation revealed Wednesday that the hijacking of the Russian vessel 'Arctic Sea' was ordered by the Russian government. News agencies around the world published reports tying Israel to the hijacking, as the vessel was said to have been carrying arms to the Middle East, and possibly Iran."

(More inside, even more twisted and fascinating.)

50:

That scenario sounds entirely plausible, however twisted.

A few bits of my tongue-in-cheek maximum conspiracy scenario even came frighteningly close to that theory, specifically that the cargo was missiles and that the hijackers were themselves Russian military.

The Jazz Butcher has a nice song from '93 about the illegal arms trade out of Kaliningrad, 'Kids in the Mall/Kaliningrad'; time to play that again.

51:

Thanks Charlie.

I'm still scratching my head on this one. Let's see, they lay low so that they can take the ship into Russian naval custody without the world watching... Why is Cape Verde more out of the public eye than, say, the middle of the north Atlantic, and why did they make all this fuss about it vanishing and being pirated, rather than, say, having it captured and taken to a more loyal Russian port in the Baltic? And then, of course, the ship gets spotted by another country before the Russians get to it, and...

Wonder what next week's story will be?

Charlie, I think you could write a short story called "21 views of the Arctic Sea" by the time this is done.

52:

Charlie @ 38.
But the Soviets are/were ANOTHER form of religious lunacy, an ofshoot of christianity - the whole system is/was after all, run like the mediaval church, and based on equally wrong/disproven premises, as is islam, for that matter.....

Anyway, the Taliban are a real form of "islamofascism" in its semi-Nazi form - the Taliban are not (unlike Al-Quaeda) not after lebensraum (the khalifate), but they tick all the other boxes, regarding women, jews, treatment of "unbelievers", etc.

53:

A Ynet investigation

fail

54:

The fun continues!

From the Wikipedia entry on the MV Arctic Sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Arctic_Sea)

"On August 18 the Russian defense minister stated that eight hijackers had been arrested. Names of the suspects, all eight of them apparently ethnic Russian, were later released (on August 25). According to the Russian defense minister, one of the arrested men holds an Estonian passport, two Latvian, and other two are Russian citizens.[23] The Estonian Security Police reported on August 20 that six of the alleged hijackers were residents of Estonia — one holding Estonian citizenship, two Russian citizens and three persons with undefined citizenship."

Eight, five, or six hijackers?

Also:
"On September 3 various news agencies reported that Russian journalist Mikhail Voitenko had quit his job and fled to Istanbul, Turkey and later to Bangkok, Thailand, after receiving threats regarding his reporting. Before his flight, Voitenko was the editor-in-chief of the Sovfrakht Marine Bulletin, which first reported the Arctic Sea missing and questioned the official story released by Russian authorities."

I'm waiting for the dog that barked in the night, or the tumbling bullet, or something. Wonder what next week's episode will be?

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