29 January 2010
Russia’s controversial ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been provoking interest, amusement and outrage in Brussels over the past few months with a series of distinctly undiplomatic “tweets” on the social-networking website Twitter.
Dmitri Rogozin, who was a nationalist politician in Russia before assuming the ambassadorial post in Brussels in January 2008, goes by the username Rogozin on Twitter. His mini-blog posts on the website range from his opinions on the NATO agenda to angry tirades against Quentin Tarantino for making a film that satirized World War II, a conflict in which millions of Russians lost their lives.
Linking to a news story about the Brussels visit of a Georgian delegation, led by Parliamentary Speaker Davit Bakradze, earlier in January, Rogozin recently commented: “Hope Brussels police aware of this visit. Georgians usually come with a noisy crowd and are known to be rowdyish [sic].”
Many of his posts concern Georgia and Georgians, an issue that lies at the heart of the difficult NATO-Russia relationship. In a January 25 tweet, Rogozin charged that President Mikheil Saakashvili “wants to make our North Caucasus explode & then glew [sic] together from its fragments a Greater Georgia.”
“Our sources confirm info about training and deploying of Islamist terrorist paramilitary from Georgian territory,” Rogozin tweeted on January 16, repeating accusations made by the Russian Ministry of the Interior. “Saak-li wants 2 sink Caucasus in blood. Orthodox Georgians try to cause headache 4 Kremlin fostering Islamic terror? Looks like Apocalypse!”
But Rogozin does not reserve his abrasive style for the Georgians only. In one post earlier this month, he appeared to suggest that the United States brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself. He frequently decries climate change and global warming theories as a sham. And he has no qualms about launching tongue-in-cheek attacks on serving heads of state: “There’s a new Ambassador of Russia there [France] now – Alexander Shulgin” he tweeted on January 25. “He speaks French better than [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy.”
Rogozin posts most of his entries twice, once in Russian and once in idiosyncratic English. “The results of the Ukrainian poll showed which of the candidates is indeed a cormorant :),” wrote the ambassador, enigmatically, after the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election in mid-January.
A post on the official website of Russia’s Mission to NATO confirms that the Twitter feed is genuine. In Brussels, Rogozin’s Twitter feed appears to be attracting attention and amusement.
“I’ve been following Rogozin’s feed for a month now, to my great amusement, puzzlement and sometimes rage,” said Patrick Worms, a partner at Aspect Consulting, a Brussels-based public relations firm that worked for the Georgian government during the 2008 conflict with Russia. “He has a knack for distilling the absurd in serious situations, just like all great comics. But he also knows how to rub it in, in a most undiplomatic way. He’s really pretty unique. I can’t think of any other ambassador who would dare write a tenth of what he routinely spews out.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also has his own Twitter feed, but posts are limited to comparatively staid topics — his official travel log or thoughts about the need for women to be better represented “in peace negotiations, operations and institutions.” Fogh Rasmussen’s Twitter feed, however, apparently prompted Rogozin’s own tweeting talents; “I’ve decided not to drag behind him in anything :),” the 46-year-old envoy drily remarked.
In an interview posted on the Russian mission’s website, Rogozin is asked how he responds to those in the Brussels-based Atlantic Alliance who don’t approve of his style: “Well, sorry, but the President [Dmitry Medvedev] sent me here to defend the interests of Russia, not to eat Brussels sprouts.”
Editor’s Note: Shaun Walker is a freelance reporter based in Moscow.
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