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November 2004 Country Archive



Arguably, this presidential election is the most significant geopolitical event since the end of the Cold War. The big question now is what IS the new world order? We thought we knew during the Clinton years, but after four years of George.W. Bush, all previous bets are off. It seems to us outside the US, primarily about the fear factor, not amongst America's perceived enemies so much as its friends, that the leader of the free world may, by following a unilateral doctrine of interventionism seek to lead them, free nations all, where they cannot go, but to go there anyway even alone. Must we expect more of the same?

The population of the US is about 4% of the world total but it's pre-eminence in military and economic matters is clearly unquestioned. If America sneezes we all catch cold. America's president is effectively president of all of us, but we in the rest of the world are not enfranchised. Looking at the complexities of the world scene and the very real terrorist threat excluding no-one, there is a dismaying possibility that the identity of the commander-in-chief, for the next four years the most powerful man in the world will have been determined by issues like partial birth abortion, gay marriages, or safeguarding tax cuts for the already rich, on top of a no-brainer accounting of the Iraq adventure.

The US's stance throughout the Cold War and since, had been been broadly consistent with individual freedoms; democracy; the market economy and the rule of law. - a skillful player internationally, in truth a worthy world leader, not unblemished to be sure, but the very model of what a nation could become.

Under the George W Bush administration this benign perception of the nation was rudely challenged with the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, for what then and now were simply not good enough reasons. Together with some challenges to human rights law, and a US election process which in 2000 was decided not by the people but by politically appointed judges, has to put it mildly, shaken confidence in the democratic integrity of the nation. Perhaps, whatever the outcome, the 2004 elections will restore some faith in the fairness of the process - it remains to be seen. Internationally, a dismayed world has witnessed the breakdown and disappearance of the essential honest broker role played by former administrations in the ghastly Palestine - Israel confrontation which maintained some sort of balance, that at least kept the lid on in the middle east. What now?

The US went to war on plain wrong information, which has been characterized as 'top-down faithbased' intelligence. When inconvenient seasoned experts like the UN arms inspection teams and the US State Department's Iraq and Arab specialists, were brushed aside, as also within the UK in its supporting role, then what next in another four Bush years with a proclaimed belief in pre-emptive military intervention? That is the dominant concern with the world's waiting multitudes. Expectations pivot on whether there might be a return to an America leading a world willing to be led, or, 'more of the same'.


UKRAINE is a big country, the biggest in Europe. It is a prize eagerly looked for by Russia's Putin, because any chance of Russia again exerting some of the power and scope of the FSU, depends on the fifty million Slavic population of UKRAINE moving once more into Moscow's sphere of influence. By the same token, with democracy now cancelled back in the Russian Federation, the west can see that the future shape and political style of Eurasia, no less, will depend on whether the pro-western candidate can prevail. In the century ahead of us, it is obvious that China and the EU, despite very different political philosophies, are economic giants that may challenge, even overtake the USA. But will a resurgent CIS under Moscow's command, with its amazing reserves of oil and gas and every raw material known to man, become over time another aspirant to economic and geopolitical superpower? The answer could pivot on how the elections in UKRAINE turn out. With the pro-Moscow party being the current government and having organised a dirty-tricks election, including the attempted poisoning of the only candidate they fear, it is already an event that the first round still leaves the contest open until the end of November. We report how a manifestly fraudulent vote in neighbouring BELARUS has ensured that Lukashenka, Europe's last dictator, will be able to rig another vote to become president again in 2006.


Through the novelty of an election, their first ever, AFGHANISTAN has now legitimised its formerly acting president Karzai. Warlords who supported him by 'delivering' their regions will get their rewards: governorships and other appointments that can ensure their personal wealth. The world's future supply of narcotic opiates is secure in their hands even though peace will likely be a stranger for some time to come The Taleban chose not to disrupt the elections in those regions where they are in effective control, reasoning that they can perhaps do business with Karzai, a necessary calculation now that Pakistan their former mentor, wants it that way… but they haven't gone away.

IRAQ is coming closer to the elections which the Shia majority insist upon as soon as January, whilst the Sunni minority are concentrated in the large area still under insurgent control. It is not yet apparent how elections can be held there at all. What is shaping up is that the more politically savvy Shia know that they will now, for the first time in history, dominate IRAQ. The former insurgent mullah the very young Mukhtada al Qadr, at the cost of quite a few lives lost battling the Americans, has made himself the irreplaceable leader, the coming man amongst the Shia, but look out world, there is already an assumption that the movement he heads is another Taleban waiting to happen. Democracy, which Bush Blair extolled as the coming system in Iraq, has little appeal it seems for the Shia majority, who as always follow their political priests; the Kurds who will elect their traditional aristocratic rulers; and the Sunni minority, many of whom seem unlikely to be able to vote at all.

Our report on SYRIA offers a very different perspective than that of the Israelis and the Bushies. The only secular Arab nation left after the demise of Iraq's Baath and the post-Saddam upsurge of Shi'ism, SYRIA's long borders with Iraq, so hard to render impenetrable, constitute a grave danger to Damascus, now that religious zealots are rampaging around IRAQ and may spill over. Opportunity exists for new initiatives, it seems clear.

IRAN, waiting nervously for the outcome in the US, is well aware that under Bush, a war party exists there with its most prominent ally being Likud Israel. This is a highly political nation with well defined wings reflecting all the normal economic and social theories, in the practice of which they are constantly second-guessed by 'the religious,' whose muscle is with the non-accountable shock troops of the Revolutionary Guard. The outcome in the US will probably make little difference to the "death to America" priestly fruitcakes.


The PHILIPPINES hope for big things from their recently elected Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo government, including an alleviation of the corruption for which they are justly infamous. To their credit, the courage has been found to charge a very senior army officer, the major general responsible for military procurement, no less. Evidence is abundant and it now remains to be seen if justice, which notoriously is not blind here, will be delivered for such a high profile defendant. We review the story and its implications for perhaps rolling back the notorious public corruption of this nation. Read about how SOUTH AFRICA, no slouch in these matters, has its own top-level corruption case where the deputy president, Jacob Zuma, anticipated successor to Thabo Mbeki in 2009, is embroiled through his former financial advisor - much money changed hands - in another arms procurement scandal.

NORTH KOREA WAITING FOR WASHINGTON : We offer a comprehensive overview of the situation waiting to be energized on the far side of the American election and what awaits the incumbent of the White House. But why did Colin Powell so hastily fly to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul in late October, so close to election day, not just to avoid Karl Rove surely?

MAN OF STEEL: INDIA this month draws attention to Lakshmi Mittal, head of the world's largest steel company who says he's only just starting. This is a veritable Andrew Carnegie on the world stage! Even their defeated opponents of the Hindu Right taking stock as we report, and heading towards a new more nationalist agenda, cannot accuse the Manmohan Singh government of any major foul-ups so far. But coalitions have an inbuilt capacity for shooting themselves in the foot.

Can the Leopard change his spots? When Big Oil is involved history can be re-written even on the hoof.

The LIBYA story, the bad Arab nation turned good, (long enough anyway for the election campaign), is taking a downturn with the persistent problem that Colonel Ghadafi is accused of seeking to assassinate his personal enemy, the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. The Saudis hold his intelligence personnel, who naturally confessed along with other plotters. Libyan oil is needed, but can the US treat with Ghadafi in such circumstances? Probably!

RUSSIA has moved Beijing style, to a Perestroika government having amputated Gorabachev's Glasnost. Like the Chinese model, it has become effectively a single party capitalist state, with no significant independent media, where business men are allowed, encouraged even to get rich, but on the condition that they keep out of opposition politics. Meanwhile the fate of Yukos, the giant oil company is ironic, except for small investors, for whom it is tragic. Having been in the popular perception, 'stolen' in the privatization of the 1990's, the State is now stealing it back, in a not very subtle way, which must rebound on any future hopes of FDI. We describe all of this and how this authoritarian state shapes up now, and how it resembles and differs from its communist forbears.

We also review five Central Asian 'stans; three Caucasians; update you on the five FYR's and the five other Balkan republics; offer analyses of the three Balts; four Visegrads; and still more…..

Altogether forty newnations in transition.


Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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