Just as we all thought the high pitched whining noise from the infantile Greenpeace “Arctic 30” had abated, giving us all a break for the holidays, along comes cry baby Colin Russell complaining about the Australian Government’s neglect while he was lately incarcerated in a Russian jail. Yes, while poor baby Colin was abandoned in his crib all stinky from dirty diapers and wailing for his bottle, the Australian Government was out whooping it up on the dance floor and slamming martinis.
To refresh the memory, Russell was one of 30 Greenpeace activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise who were arrested in late September 2013 following a weeks-long drama on the high seas. After showing incredible restraint and patience with the dangerous and disruptive tantrums of the Greenies, the adults (i.e. the Russian Coast Guard) stepped in and gave the entire crew a sound spanking. Once incarcerated, the wails and howls of alleged “abuse” emanating from the cells of the “Arctic 30” were deafening. Due to the extremely high profile nature of the incident, the already over worked consular staff of 17 countries were put on overtime to pacify the whiners during the pre-holiday season. And pacify they did, in spite of the eye rolling that was going around within the ranks of the diplomatic community.
According to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, Article 36,
Consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgment. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.
What this means is that a “sending State” has the right to perform a basic level of consular duties when a national of that State is incarcerated in a “receiving State.” It does not imply anything further such as bringing the detainee food, magazines, engaging legal counsel for them, etc. If any of these things are ever done by an especially empathetic consular officer, they would be above and beyond what is codified.
And go above and beyond is what the Australian Government did on behalf of Russell. He received consular support from officers in both Murmansk and St. Petersburg, as well as from the Australian Ambassador in Moscow and the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Bishop not only personally wrote to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, she twice met with his deputy (implying at least one tax payer funded round-trip flight from Canberra to Moscow, first class most likely; per diem, yes minsters get that too; and lodging at an upscale hotel commensurate with her rank). In her own words, Bishop said the representation afforded Russell was “higher than is often provided.” Indeed.
So how does Russell thank his government? Upon his arrival back home at Hobart Airport in Tasmania he told reporters that all the hoop jumping done by the Australian Government was “a little bit too little too late.” He went on to say that the Australian Government had basically left him hanging out to dry by letting him go through the Russian legal process. He said, "But it doesn't exist. If you're accused in Russia, you're guilty. I thought ... maybe they should have gone into bat a little bit more for me." Mr. Russell, don’t you think you should have thought about all that BEFORE you traveled to Russia with the intent to break the law?
While Foreign Minister Bishop says she still believes Canberra should have done more for Russell, his ungrateful public comments appear to have shaken her. Referring to the above and beyond consular assistance Russell received, she said, "If it has cost the Australian taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars and Greenpeace is threatening to do it again, then I think the Australian taxpayer is entitled to ask why they should be footing the bill." She went on to say she “has a regret” about the cost to the taxpayer and added she was “looking into” recovering the money. One can only surmise that by this she means that Russell could be receiving a hefty bill for services rendered. If this happens you’d better run for cover because the shrieks from the Greenies will be ear splitting.
At this point we must ask why Foreign Minister Bishop is so shocked that Russell is ungrateful. Is she not familiar with the self-serving policy statements made by Greenpeace of having “no permanent friends and no permanent enemies?” Did she actually think that by having her diplomats go above and beyond their call of duty that Russell would be their friend? Sorry Ma’am, that’s not the way Greenpeace rolls. Bishop’s incredulous reaction to Russell’s comments reflect a quaint naiveté similar to that expressed by the folks who are gob smacked this year by the reality of one of the most severe winters in recent memory. It’s time for a reality check Greenies: An overwhelming majority of US citizens do not believe the Greenpeace arguments of climate change. And I’ll bet that number’s going to go much higher after this winter. Just check with the folks down in Florida who this week experienced the brutal effects of a “polar freeze” that shattered records in the Deep South that in some cases had stood for more than a century.
So is there a positive outcome from all this? Not really. While Russell claims he’ll be going back to work for Greenpeace, perhaps in a public relations capacity, he said, "Maybe I won't be doing some naughty things in Russian waters for a while." Well said words from a very, very childish and ungrateful little boy. Maybe the one small positive outcome of all this is there will be one less tantrum throwing enviro-criminal on the high seas on Greenpeace’s next ill-fated mission.