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September 2004 Country Archive


Geopolitics comes into its own

Three years on from the global catastrophe of 9/11 the world is paying a high price for the sins of a small sect of religious fanatics, whose myopic vision, driven by a man who would be caliph, the 'pope' of Islam, an office long vacant, attacked the US homeland to make a point that remains as obscure today as it did in 2001.  The world for fifty years divided between 'east' and 'west' in the communist era, was a stable place with a balance of military might that neither side were going to put to the test. There were 'us' and 'them'. The nuclear threat meant that nobody could emerge the victor from such a war and so war, apart from localised and proxy wars, didn't happen. Now that stability has long gone. The enemy, those that are pursuing their own narrow agenda, seeking the destruction of unbelievers, are not a nation state that can be targeted for retribution for hostile acts. Since Afghanistan of the Taleban, that hosted al-Qaeda, there is no longer any territory that can be retaliated against. Civilian casualties, as illustrated by 9/11, are now the principal target, not just a collateral effect of the acts of today's men of violence, who live amongst us.

The world's businessmen and investors that drive the wealth of nations, have now to take account of a far more complex set of scenarios than their predecessors. Interdependence of the world's economies is most easily illustrated by the sensitivity of the price of oil, which skittish as a newborn colt, reacts immediately to any hint of bad news. It so happens that the knock-on effects of this can range from undreamed of wealth, as in the case of oil-rich Russia, to the wrack and ruin of those impoverished states that need to import every drop of this liquid energy. Overseas investment decisions seeking to have a piece of the action in say, the FSU, do so at the risk of being hung out-to-dry by gangster businessmen in states where the legal process is a façade and corruption wedded to violence is the only engine. 

More than ever, straight-from-the-shoulder geopolitical assessments are essential to those who would stray out of their own familiar investment pastures, and we aim to deliver just this. In the weeks before the election of the most powerful man in the world, there are clearly vested interests presenting the world in one or another light which easily distorts the unwelcome truth. The American media, clearly partisan, as was graphically illustrated in the run-up to the Iraq war, at times like this may not be totally reliable.  Only a fool would base investment decisions on election rhetoric. We at aim to tell it how it is!

Al-Qaeda violence has certainly made a bigger impact than their propaganda, which was originally about US forces treading the holy sands of the Arabian peninsula. It was given a new focus for a time by President Bush's ill-chosen comments about a new crusade, which has an emotive meaning to Moslems that remember two centuries of Christian crusades in their lands.  But three years on, and Osama bin Laden, (unless Karl Rove has him already packaged, to be displayed just before the November election), remains unfettered and at large, along with much of the senior leadership of al Qaeda and the Taleban, so present danger remains ever present. Meanwhile the outfall in AFGHANISTAN and IRAQ can be assessed in our September reports. Chaos certainly, but whilst the media naturally concentrate on the fighting, our analysis looks at less publicised, but more detailed, more lasting and more sinister developments, that somehow fail to get  the coverage that they deserve.

Washington and the world are rightly concerned about nuclear proliferation and this tends to focus on IRAN and NORTH KOREA but whilst there is a patch of blue sky discernable where the Korean peninsula is concerned, what is not clear is how it would be possible to further sanction IRAN. Since as long ago as 1980, the ascetic priests that make the big decisions there are themselves hardly going to be affected by economic sanctions against IRAN, indeed they would be able to scapegoat all of the  long existing hardships that Iranians are subject to, onto the USA. Any suggestion that Iranian oil and gas should be boycotted would probably bring the world price of oil towards $100 a barrel, so don't expect anyone in the US to vote for that.

IRAN does not admit that its nuclear programme is other than civilian and evidence to the contrary is far from clear-cut (i.e. beware of another WMD fiasco), but if it were  determined to risk the wrath of much of the rest of the world and build nuclear weapons, pointing to the fact that their perceived Israeli enemy has and intends to keep a large nuclear arsenal, it is surely not after IRAQ, even an option for US forces to invade. On the other hand, an airstrike against suspected facilities is a simpler military option, but would stand to inflame Iranian public opinion, as of the Moslem world generally, and range them behind the ayatollahs. There is also a real risk that the Shia of IRAN could in such circumstances make common cause with the Wahhabbi Sunni of al Qaeda, in no other circumstances a likely outcome, thus investing the terror organization with the resources of a nation state and creating a real prospect of their jointly seeking to retaliate against the US homeland.  Much more likely is an Israeli proxy strike against Iran's nuclear facilities - see SYRIA for the outcome.   

If the Iranians do build a military nuclear force, then is it not inevitable that Saudi Arabia, perceiving themselves threatened, will themselves do likewise and if they did, would Egypt be far behind? The whole escalating house of cards would conveniently collapse if Israel could be persuaded to accept US nuclear guarantees and dismantle their nuclear arms. Some chance! One might as well question whether God exists and expect a negative, which debate could do more to unify all the zealots of the Christians, Jews and Moslems than any other conceivable  event.

UKRAINE in October has a presidential election which will likely determine where this important European country is headed, a matter of no small importance to Europe; to Russia which would dearly love this large slavic republic to once again be entirely at their bidding; and inevitably as with all matters geopolitical, to the USA. Since independence in 1992 following the break up of the Soviet Union, this country positioned absolutely in Europe has been politically in the hands of the heirs to the Soviets, the power-holders of the nomenklatura with its full complement of crooked businessmen, out-and-out gangsters, and politicians more universally venal if that is possible, even than their Russian counterparts, overseen and permeated by the KGB 'look-alike' security services, still effectively integrated with those of Moscow.  The October elections provides the one chance of changing the immediate destiny of this, Europe's largest country with one of the larger populations at forty eight millions. For two presidential terms the authoritarian president has been Leonid Kuchma whose time has now elapsed. Originally a top Soviet technocrat, the director of the worlds largest rocket factory at Ukraine's onetime secret industrial city of Dnepropetrovsk, he was welcomed as a proven manager to pick up and take UKRAINE into the modern world. In the event, the years have been notable for the degree of greed shown by all levels of elected and appointed power holders, marked by corruption on a monumental scale, ballot rigging and the documented murder of investigative journalists by no less than presidential authority.

It is a reflection of his term in power that TURKEY to the south, a nation of sixty eight million Moslem people, albeit in a secular state, has made such economic and democratic progress over this same decade, as to become a serious candidate for membership of the European Union, whilst Ukraine remains about as far away from this as ever it was. Our report explains the stakes, the candidates and what they represent in terms of UKRAINES future and how matters are already shaping up towards a possibly fraudulent result.  To the west, neighbouring POLANDSLOVAKIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, HUNGARY, ROMANIA, which we report here, all of which overcame their corrupt communist inheritance, are an example to UKRAINES voters as to what is possible and how to adapt to the world of democracy, market economy and genuine accountability.

Our geopolitical coverage this month tells of China's involvement in KYRGYZSTAN  - a formerly neglected FSU mountain state on their frontiers; RUSSIA itself, in the eye of the terrorist storm and the changes Putin has made, as well as the new puppet president in Chechnya.  Big business goes on in Russia with western involvement despite the ongoing Yukos trials.

The whole panorama of forty nations in transition is updated and presented here.  A final historic note comes from SOUTH AFRICA, where the Nationalist Party has applied to merge with the African National Union - an object lesson in power politics, but as unlikely just a few years ago, as the Nazi party applying to merge with the Communists, such was the divide and hatred between them. 

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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