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April 2005 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW APRIL '05

THE SAD SAGA OF THE HERMIT REPUBLIC
 
  
NORTH KOREA the hermit republic, graphically represents the hypocrisy of the communist era in that it still celebrates a supposedly national virtue called JUCHE, which means self-reliance. In fact this small pugnacious nation was never self-reliant and survived the cold war period by receiving large subventions from both the USSR and China. No more cold war and the big boys found better things to do with their money. Our report this time includes information from a UN survey about the "starving and stunted children" of NORTH KOREA, whose leadership meanwhile is busily strutting on a world stage and spending what money this small nation can find on armaments, whilst the United Nations and NGO's bring in massive food aid. There is as well, more dramatic stuff - Condaleezza Rice has been rushing through East Asia, making waves as befits a new Secretary of State, about which we tell. Both Kim Jong-il and George.W.Bush are invited to Moscow to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 9th. Will they meet - will there be a shoot-out at the Kremlin corral? GWB has accepted but the (other) dear leader's intentions characteristically remain opaque. Also in this update on NORTH KOREA is a revelation that must embarrass US intelligence. It seems that the report that (bad) NORTH KOREA sold a uranium compound to (bad) LIBYA in its rogue nation days, may have been…. well, flawed. Apparently, it is true that it was sold, but to (good) Pakistan who traded it on. Well at least the US didn't go to war on this intelligence!

The story of Pakistan continues to intrigue. They are to be numbered with the good guys, because Musharraf, at considerable personal risk, decided after 9/11 to back the Coalition in Afghanistan. Somewhere in the wild mountains of his untamed tribal lands, Al Qaeda and Taleban leaders are enjoying sanctuary. If Musharraf were to be taken out of the equation - and they've tried - then Pakistan under new leadership could conceivably tip towards the Islamists. It is THAT critical! But their nuclear research institutions and top scientists, abetted by some higher authority that at the least made military transport planes available, have for years been getting very rich as the biggest, blackest illicit military-nuclear traders ever. They actually were doing what we were originally told that IRAQ was about to do, that is be a supplier of nuclear materials to rogue states and here's the thing - possibly to whoever else could pay! This is probably the scandal of the (young) century but we aren't to be beastly to the Pakistanis, so we don't talk about it.  

CENTRAL ASIA LOOMS LARGE
We claim credit for spotting, and naming in our January forecast for 2005, KYRGYZSTAN as a coming 'Orange' banner (Tulip if you will) nation, at the time that UKRAINE was so, following on from the Rose revolution in GEORGIA. It remains to be seen, and we observe that this country was less democratically retarded than any of its neighbours, whether we are looking at the birth of a genuine democracy, or just a re-shuffling of the seats of power. The leaders that have so quickly taken control are all themselves apparatchiks, who had one-by-one fallen out with the dominant Akayev. He was a compromise president originally brought home from his apparatchik life in Leningrad's Academy of Sciences. This was due to the jealousies amongst the ruling local communist elites, rendering them unable to appoint from amongst their own number. Now the new 'de facto' leaders will almost certainly agree between themselves about the division of power, but whether an accountable liberal democracy is to be the result we won't know until later in this small nation's story. It is certain that the new government will not lurch towards their giant neighbour China, with whom, since the collapse of the USSR, they have very sensibly had a policy of strict neutrality. What does that leave a government in Bishkek? It is revealing that before all of these seismic events, the acting president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, had quite recently visited the Kremlin who had approved of him as a possible successor to Akayev in the upcoming presidential election and who therefore may be less troubled about this shift at the top, than is generally believed in the west.

THE POPPY ROAD
There is a story about the wealth that Akayev accrued. He was building a dream palace for his retirement, a picture of which was published to his discomfiture in the western-supported free press in Bishkek, (though whether this was up to the standard of his impressive official one, the splendid White House in Bishkek, is not clear). But what was clear to many of his impoverished countrymen, that the money he had at his disposal could not have been from his salary or from the tax revenues of this small poverty- stricken state. Apart from a few small towns, it is almost entirely composed of high mountains, capable only of sustaining a thin population of nomadic herdsmen. In reality, this country and the equally mountainous TAJIKISTAN bordering to the south, are key staging routes for opiates, organised via a multi-billion dollar criminal network through the mountains from AFGHANISTAN, which currently produces 90% of the worlds supply (although as we report, that may be changing), on its way to Russia and the west. Can it safely be assumed that top officials in both transiting nations collect their 'percentage' in 'tolls' on the poppy trails to the north? The updated story of KYRGYZSTAN is brought to you in our April reports, as are all of the nations mentioned here.

It cannot be a coincidence can it, but maybe? As we report this month, both KAZAKSTAN and TURKMENISTAN's leaders have been talking of initiatives about reforming their nations' methods of governance. This was before the Kyrgyz upset to their east. KAZAKSTAN arranged a seminar at Harvard, where their leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev's views on the way forward, were introduced not, by him sadly, but some friendly academics and others took part. Sounds exactly like a progressive liberal democracy except that they have just completed truly farcical elections, appropriately rubbished by the OSCE observers (on which more below). But what is really going well is their oil-based economy, and the amount of FDI pouring in, so this seemed rather like a fig-leaf seminar to make it appear an all-round good place to be. The amazing Turkmenbashi, Saparmurat Niyazov, doesn't do seminars, he is more into monologue and soliloquy. But we report how he has in his own way been laying down the line about how TURKMENISTAN should be ruled, effectively after he's gone. It all sounds so good that one imagines that they can hardly wait.

TAJIKISTAN, as we report has just had a characteristically corrupt election (again witnessed by the OSCE). The local dictator, Emomali Rakhmonov when finally confronted about the many departures from what is free and fair, charmingly explained: "One has to remember that we are Asians." The US base established here at the time of the Afghan intervention, is one of Rumsfeld's global-reach bases, bordering on China no less. The George.W.Bush mantra of democracy- liberty-freedom, in a variety of other autocracies, as we observe, does not extend to Pentagon approved states. Neighbouring UZBEKISTAN, also hosting a US base, recently saw the US Congress heavily cutting aid as required by law, (as the State Department was unable to certify a certain level of human rights), at the same time that the Pentagon's military aid is uplifted. No doubt these Central Asian dictators will reflect that, "One has to remember that they are Americans."

RUSSIA AND THE ELECTION OF 2008
The RUSSIA report this month takes another close look at Vladimir (L'Etat c'est moi) Putin, and we have our first distant prospect of 2008. It's the year when the Russian constitution says that Putin must hand over to his successor, so we tell who has so far emerged! One, a good political choice and we could have predicted him - the other, to say the least unlikely, even though world famous, but impressive beyond question. RUSSIA has meanwhile been getting very upset about OSCE- the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - which it helps to fund. The 'in Europe' bit is not to be taken literally, it turns up in deepest central Asia, most recently in Tajikistan and yes, Kyrgyzstan. OSCE were even observers in the 2004 US presidential elections, which after Florida in 2000 many thought to be a good thing.

The problem for Moscow is that OSCE monitors human rights and also elections by established free and fair criteria. It has consistently cried 'foul' in elections in CIS republics - a major factor recently in UKRAINE in reversing the first fraudulent election so quickly hailed by Russia. The CIS has also had observers at all such elections, and would you believe that they pronounced each to be beyond reproach. Strange or what? The point obviously is that OSCE are trusted as being as independent as one is going to find, and if there is nothing to hide - then there is nothing for them to find! Someone in the Kremlin clearly has been asking why Russian roubles have been helping to make trouble for the satraps of the CIS. 
  
'NEW' EUROPE   
Europe is not without incident. The CZECHS have a coalition crisis and although the Prime Minister, Europe's youngest at 33, barely survived a vote of no confidence, he is badly damaged. His problems like those of the absent Kyrgyz president Akayev, focused on a private property investment. ESTONIA's government collapsed at the end of March. POLAND's politicians, sharing this with some of the Baltics, have a novel way of dealing with such crises. There, the Prime Minister has announced he will leave his now deeply unpopular party and join a new political group, as a result of which it is expected that he will call elections in June. Economically successful SLOVAKIA enjoyed its place in the sun, hosting George W Bush and Vladimir Putin at the vast Bratislava castle, the previous high level venue being in SLOVENIA. The non-geopolitical world will have observed that there is a difference between 'enia and 'akia. SLOVAKIA, so recently under the thuggish Meciar was then in Europes's unholy trinity, alongside SERBIA's Milosevic and BELARUS's Lukashenka. Two down, but BELARUS remains in the hands of Europe's last dictator, who maintains a massive and well armed KGB (still called that) to put down internal protests - they quickly and violently 'nipped in the bud' the first stirrings of protest immediately following the events in Bishkek. He fully intends to use force and to kill as many as it takes to retain power, when his time comes, as it surely will. The question then is whether his troops will do his bidding? Many thought that UKRAINE would undergo that bloody experience recently and maybe democratic failure as a result, but fortunately that was not to be. The key question a tyrant's generals have to answer is whether he is going down anyway? Do they then want to go down to ruin, prison, whatever, with him?

European planners are looking askance at SERBIA, where the future of Kosovo has not found a resolution at the very time that Montenegro, the federal partner to SERBIA has given formal notice that it wants to go its own way. Yugoslavia has already split into five nation states. One option suggested for Kosovo is that it is further subdivided between its ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians. The north of Serbia includes 300,000 ethnic Hungarians living in the semi-autonomous Vojdvodina. It might be a good bet that balkanization is not finished yet - good news for diplomats seeking ambassadorships.
  
NORTH AFRICA/ MIDDLE EAST
LIBYA is attracting massive FDI, Africa's largest in 2004 as BIG OIL moves back in, but no news about democracy following the dollar - again, as we often counsel in these circumstances, don't hold your breath. SYRIA is in the eye of the political storm. The car bomb murder of the Saudi / Lebanese Rafiq Hariri, has been the worst possible news for Syria's Bashar al-Asad, but this was predictable in Damascus. The world turned on him. He must evacuate his troops by April 30th, but a part of UN resolution 1559 is that all militias (Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad), must be disarmed and disbanded also and who inside Lebanon or out, is going to do that without starting another civil war? Which is where SYRIA came in, back in 1989 as the only power available to stop the previous one. As we suggested previously, this evacuation may mean a crisis for him and it must at least be considered that he and the Ba'ath party were perhaps the end target. Who then gains is a pertinent question? Perhaps rogue or rival elements in the Syrian hierarchy, but the minority Alawite leadership, it was always considered, needed to hang together or would surely hang separately, if the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood found a way back into power in SYRIA. Was there any other foreign power/s whose strategic interests have been served by the assassination of Hariri? Think about it! Meanwhile, IRAQ two months after their election has still to agree on a government. They have however appointed a Sunni as Speaker, the only appointment so far. IRAN approaching its presidential election in the shadow of difficult times ahead, is seemingly going for an experienced candidate which, if he is pragmatic, should be good for everyone.


AN 'OUTPOST' THAT CONDI FORGOT
AZERBAIJAN: We report this month that in March a prominent opposition journalist, the editor of the 'stone-in-the-shoe' 'MONITOR' magazine, was shot and killed by assailants in the hallway of his apartment block. It was quite an operation. Electricity and telephones in the block were cut off just at the time he was murdered. His cell-phone was also reportedly blocked, thus preventing relatives from calling an ambulance. No arrests, no suspects, no justice?

GO TO 'REPORTS' ON FORTY NATIONS IN TRANSITION INCLUDING ALL OF THESE.
                                                                               

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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