2005 Country Archive
IN OUR TIME - WHAT CHANCE?
We review 2004 and the year ahead for our forty new nations - they interact with
many more - with the seasonal theme of hopes for peace. For us, that is
ineluctably linked to hopes of democracy - it being rare indeed for democracies
to make war against each other.
Starting with the infamous "Axis of Evil," the story for IRAN
is that the European big three have plumped for the concept, in Churchill's
phrase, that "Jaw Jaw, is better than War, War." Maybe Cheyney,
Rumsfield and Condaleeza don't think that, but the fact that Tony Blair is
engaged in this with Chirac and Schroeder, makes it harder for them to get
George.W.Bush to repudiate the European initiative.
: Apocalypse… not yet, would be our judgement! Whatever the temptations
in east Asia for Washington's hawks, western Asian problems are going to fully
exercise the administration for the immediate future. But Kim Jong-Il should
seriously row back on further provoking Japan, where he is required to explain
the fate of a dozen or more young Japanese abducted by Pyongyang agents over 20
years ago. In our world view, based on the nuclear and geopolitical issues as we
explain, few confrontations have stakes as high as this one on the Korean
peninsula. Check out our analysis and remind yourself just what hangs on this!
IRAQ of course, about to
experience its first national election, carries the hopes of everyone except the
jihadists, for a successful beginning to the long haul towards establishing a
fully representative democracy. What an outcome that would be, with no Arab
country even approaching the western norms of democracy. We can but hope, but we
anyway report and analyse the realities on the ground, as of now. The jihadists
of course aren't going to get their dream of a bin-Laden caliphate, but that
won't stop them from killing and maiming a lot of people, mostly fellow Moslems,
as opportunity occurs. But will IRAQ
get its democracy? This will emerge over the coming months.
THE FUTURE IS ORANGE
Two former communist countries have seen in December a seismic shift in their
future governance. UKRAINE
has been high up in the world news, less so ROMANIA,
but they too have had elections that have dislodged the communist apparatchiks
who in the nineties merely dropped the old ideology and party label when it
became clear that this was the way to hang on to power. In a sense this was all
inevitable. The communists had arrogated all political activity to their party
alone, so it meant that when the old politics failed with the collapse of the
USSR, the only experienced politicians and industrial managers were indeed the
apparatchiks. The Baltics alone did quickly break with the old regimes, ESTONIA
from the outset ruled that former communist politicians were barred from
political life. The communists in LATVIA
and LITHUANIA had to move
out of the way, although some of those who had been valiant in resisting the
Russians, were able individually to win in free elections. But with the
people-power of the Orange movements, UKRAINE
and ROMANIA now join the
three Baltics and GEORGIA
in demanding a new kind of politics, free and responsive to the public, not just
the historic hierarchy of the apparat, be they politicians, oligarchs, or the
ubiquitous officials accustomed to 'top-down' rule.
Of the fifteen former All-Union republics of the Soviet Union which are reported
here, five have now cast off the hegemony of Russia in favour of representative
democracy, and AZERBAIJAN
in favour of the pockets of its ruling clan, who sharing no border with Russia
feel safely insulated. We look at all of them through the prism of what
prospects for an orange upheaval, which in the CIS is synonymous with
independence from the Russian empire. This leaves Russia plus eight only, in
various degrees of economic and political thrall to Moscow.
Where might the Orange banners next appear? Our Predictions: ARMENIA,
- truth to tell, highly unlikely any of them, but each capable of a surprise.
Then there are the central Asian 'stans ruled by tyrants certainly, but given
accidents, anno domini, the fickle finger of fate; (did somebody say poison?)
the succession to any of them from this time on, could be orange-banner time.
RUSSIA itself is clearly
returning to state control of the commanding heights of its economy which is a
matter for them to decide, but they are, as well, creating further controls on
the people's already limited political rights. President Putin ends the year
regrettably the wearer of a black hat. Any lingering hopes that he was in
reality a good thing for the world, after his role and that of his team in UKRAINE,
and the repressive measures we describe in RUSSIA
itself, have now largely dissipated. To what extent he is a good or a bad thing
for Russia, depends on what view one holds on the desirability of the elements
of democracy:- political and personal freedoms, a free media and the
absence of public corruption (our sister web site, www.worldaudit.org in its
current Democracy Check, rates Russia at 116th out of 149, against just these
criteria). But if his objectives were truly, as he told a western journalist
after his successful re-election, that his overarching objective was to lift the
Russian people out of poverty, then that would certainly be a worthy aim and
enable more understanding of his questionable methods. What is hard to take is
his using the courts and the taxation system with an air of rectitude and a
facade of financial probity, to punish his political enemies, who may or may not
also be malefactors, and yet to tolerate rampant corruption at every official
level, starting within the Kremlin. Official corruption is after all, stealing
that same Russian people's money and a strong leader like him would have a
better chance of resolving it once and for all, if he was disposed to do so.
TURKEY has achieved a
breakthrough in its long haul, (and still with a way to go), to complete the
eighty year old plan of its visionary 'father of the nation', Kemal Ataturk, to
become a secular and European state. By receiving the formal nod for entry talks
from the nations of the European Union in December, a major bridge has been
crossed. With 25 members, any of which could have vetoed, many with historic
reasons to feel no warmth towards Turkey, whose Ottoman empire dominated South
east Europe and the Balkans for half a millennium, the greatest indication that
the time may indeed be right, is that Greece not simply allowed this to happen,
but in fact supported the application. There is a Cyprus question to be
resolved, which has usually been misrepresented in the western media as the
outcome of Turkish bullying and invading the innocent island state. Innocence
there may well have been on the part of the ordinary citizens who did the
suffering, both Turkish and Greek Cypriot, but the Athens of the Greek colonels
had at the least, an equal share of the responsibility for that armed incursion.
Latterly, Greek Cypriot government leaders have exercised the politics of the
forked tongue, in the face of UN and EU attempts to moderate the dispute, by
which means they largely 'conned' their way into the EU.
INDIA, the worlds largest
democracy, saw the ousting in a model democratic election of the 'hinduvata'
based BJP, replacing them with a secular government. This promises to repair the
damage done to religious tolerance, and has rebuilt hope for a truly secular
India. Relations with neighbouring Pakistan, whilst far from untroubled, have
nevertheless improved with the advent of a new pragmatic joint approach on the
Kashmir confrontation. Peace here now looks more, rather than less likely and
given that they are both nuclear-armed nations, that is seriously important for
LIBYA, perhaps the
original "Rogue state," has been transformed during 2004, although its
unreformed roguery currently registers an unresolved failed assassination
attempt by Libyan agents, on the Saudi Crown Prince. Respectability, if not of a
moral kind, has re-entered its political life, as Libya has rejoined the comity
of nations, and BIG OIL is being pumped again.
SYRIA has extended
peaceful overtures and offered negotiations with no pre-conditions, so far not
reflected by the Israeli Prime minister, but taken seriously by Israel's
Early indicators of peaceful change can be seen in our report on ARMENIA
in its frozen relations with TURKEY.
SERBIA, for long Europe's
problem state, is showing signs of seeking to be included with those Balkan
republics currently outside the EU, but wanting in.
We report VIETNAM, a
nation nearly destroyed by a war that finished thirty years ago, but which now
deserves attention. We describe the past year and what is to come, across the
spectrum of this plucky nation's policies and relationships.
In summary, in 2005 it is clear that the rules of the new world order are at
best indistinct. In these circumstances the greatest threat to 'Peace in our
Time,' seems to lie in the dangerous pre-emptive doctrine of George W Bush who
is yet to impress, with Palestine - Israel still a mess; and the 'War on Terror'
stalled with the top al-Quaeda chieftains still at large and widely expected to
return to new outrages. IRAQ,
formerly a tightly ruled dictatorship, no longer dangerous to its neighbours,
has now become a magnet and a training ground for international terrorists, as AFGHANISTAN,
his one relative success, so recently was.
The other important plank of US Foreign policy - energy protection, still seems
light on the oil supply that the US must ensure. Saudi Arabia looks to be in a
continuing state of low intensity civil war, but the Caspian to the
Mediterannean 'Baku-Ceyhan pipeline' now begins to look real. West African
oilfields are clearly exciting; Libya will be coming on-stream; Russia, intent
on being as big a player as any, is churning it out, and the world price is high
enough to stimulate the multinationals to invest, to explore, and to build
transcontinental pipelines. It all adds up to more action on the geopolitical
front - and more for us to analyse.
Publisher - Clive Lindley
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