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August 2005 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW AUGUST '05

COMPETING FOR ASIAN SPACE

 During the cold war, certain western politicians clung onto the suspicion that the two great communist powers were only waiting the opportunity to combine and overwhelm the rest of the world, their apparent differences being no more than a long-term subterfuge. As the new Chang-Halliday biography of "Mao - the Unknown Story," has made clear, the tensions and mistrust between RUSSIA and China were always far greater than had ever been realised. Neither any longer has a leader who could for a moment imagine the prospect of world domination, consequently, the space for co-operation between them, particularly in Asia has massively enlarged. In this context, a re-shuffling of the geopolitical cards is graphically described in our report this month on KAZAKSTAN, in whose capital Astana, a top level meeting was held on July 7th of the SCO - the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. Apart from the hosts, the list of attendees must have worried Washington. The only democracies present were giant INDIA and Mongolia, both having observer status along with American ally Pakistan, and the hated IRAN. The others are firmly in the authoritarian camp, RUSSIA, China, UZBEKISTAN and TAJIKISTANKYRGYZSTAN also there, however is still balancing on the freedom cusp. Our report this month on this nation takes a good long look at what we know about its wobbly democratic status, after the first election since the overthrow of the Askar Azayev government. To what extent is the new president simply Moscow's man, or has this mountain nation on the border of China become the world's newest democracy, an isolated outpost in a fundamentally undemocratic central Asia?

HALF THE WORLD'S POPULATION
There is no doubt that this grouping described by the host president as representing half of the world's population, is a vestigial attempt at a counterweight to the mighty USA, which has just 4%. Similarly, the more immediate objectives would seem to include the exclusion of US military bases from central Asia, which all became established so quickly in the immediate aftermath of the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. Such proximity is uncomfortable both for RUSSIA and for China. Now a timetable was requested for their withdrawal. Not in accord with the Pentagon plan for encircling the globe with military bases! Donald Rumsfeld within days was in KYRGYZSTAN and later TAJIKISTAN, pointing out that these were bi-lateral arrangements with the states concerned, not the business of the SCO; and to tell them not to expect US departure any time soon. In a sense these two small nations were pressured into signing up to the SCO declaration by the presence of giants RUSSIA and China. Now they have been rapidly picked off and counter-pressured through individual visits by no less than the US Secretary of Defence. But despite all the bonhomie and handshaking, they both continued to tie US occupancy to the duration of Afghan instability. The earlier reaction of General Myers, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, rather gave the game away pointing out that the importance of Central Asia "was embodied in several ways, not only in the war against terrorism." 
To be sure, and we carefully spell this out in our Update on KYRGYZSTAN.

UZBEKISTAN is a different case and is showing signs that it may force the issue with the US over the base there. The Uzbek tyrant, Islam Karimov, was badly shaken by the uprising against him in the Ferghana valley which he ruthlessly suppressed. What was notable were the different reactions to this from the US State department, calling for an independent enquiry into the massacre, which compared dramatically with the authoritarian governments of RUSSIA and China, both of which went out of their way to give him support and assurances for the future. The Pentagon of course, has insisted that State should not any longer run with this, but it may already be too late, that Tashkent will want the US out and American influence withdrawn. It may not happen, but it would be a pity if the US departs because of the base, which one strains to believe is so very significant in the current state of Afghan involvement, rather than in protest at the evils of the monstrous Uzbek regime. The latter would have earned a useful measure of democratic 'cred' for the President Bush's democracy campaign and Condaleezza's 'Outposts of Tyranny,' of which this is manifestly one of the words worst (nominated by us as such TWICE).

THE ISLAMIC SPIN
Much was made at the SCO of co-operation in matters of security, where Chechnya's centuries old struggle against Russian domination, and the equally ancient yearnings for independence of the indigenous Turkic population of western China, have been cynically re-labelled as al Qaeda inspired insurrections. This is supported by UZBEKISTAN which has identified and suppressed all political opposition to the regime since the end of communism, fourteen years ago, as Islamic fundamentalism. Any further Kyrgyz -style upsurge in central Asia to throw off tyrannies (another candidate is TAJIKISTAN), since the citizens inevitably are all Moslem, will we may be assured, be characterised as Islamic fundamentalists seeking the overthrow of legitimate governments. Military support will be forthcoming for these regimes from the confreres of the SCO, an organisation now to be seen as significant and not to be lightly dismissed.

'AXIS OF CARROT '
Our NORTH KOREA report at this important time of the resumption of the six party talks, identifies the position of the South Koreans, Chinese and Russians who lean towards the offering of 'carrots,' rather than the use of 'the stick,' hitherto the position of the USA and for individual reasons, Japan. Above all other 'carrots', South Korea's ideas of incentives are outlined here, (we offer a reality check between the politician's desires and the technical problems). Overall, they appear to consist of a spread of amazing generosity, until one remembers that if the longstanding quarrel with the North can be resolved, it is the South that expects to be both the big investor and irreplaceable partner all the way up to eventual re-unification. We draw a parallel with the economic and investment symbiosis of politically divided Taiwan and China and point to the significance for North-East Asia of inter-Korean collaboration. A full analysis of the story so far and its potential outcomes is a 'must read' for WMD watchers and geopoliticians alike.

THE NEW RUSSIAN EMPIRE - DOMINO EFFECT IN REVERSE
A full analysis of RUSSIA this month in the context of Putin's problems in keeping an empire together. What do the colour revolutions mean to Putin's plans for a greater Russia? It seems that UKRAINE is now not regarded as irretrievably lost. After all, it is now a democracy, obliged to hold honest elections. With few signs of improvement in people's lives and with the EU contemplating its own constitutional navel and holding out no practical welcome signs, the jury is out on how the next UKRAINE election will go. Democracy in KYRGYZSTAN, "the Tulip revolution," is by no means an established fact, as we describe in our detailed assessment of that nation. All is not plain sailing as can be seen, even in GEORGIA. With 1000 days to go before RUSSIA's next presidential election, we speculate on the former head of the FSB's options and note the inevitable reflex action of the FSB establishment, moving in with a 'criminal investigation' of former premier Kasyanov, who has had the audacity to declare that he might be a runner. Perhaps as a result he is now marked out to be a political version and so share the fate of Khordokovsky, for whom he spoke up before departing from his Kremlin high office. 

AFGHANISTAN - THE BLOOMING POPPY
The problems of reversing a narco-economy are manifest and President Karzai under immense western pressure, has to be seen to be eradicating the poppy. It had become so profitable that from the time of the overthrow of the Taleban, cultivation expanded to most provinces. There is plenty of room for cynicism but the facts are that the eradication so far, selective and certainly small scale, has already affected the national economy, particularly around Kandahar. Of course the poppy must go but it is not clear what crops can take its place. More details in our AFGHANISTAN report. Meanwhile, the Senlis Council, a European drug policy research institution has made the obvious but not previously canvassed point that since the WHO has highlighted a world shortage of opium-derived pain medications, why not licence AFGHANISTAN to sell its 4,000 ton annual harvest legally? Senlis estimates the world's unmet medicinal requirement at 10,000 tons of opium a year 

TRANSNISTRIA : MOLDOVA'S BASTARD OFFSPRING 
The August Update on MOLDOVA, (think Ruritania), fully highlights the situation about its breakaway territory, the self- proclaimed republic of Transnistria with a population of 670,000, unrecognised by anyone and only in existence because it suits Moscow that this should be so. It used to suit its giant neighbour UKRAINE as well, whose corrupt rulers were in cahoots with those of Transnistria. Having earned the soubriquet of "the Black Hole of Europe', it is a thieves kitchen of a territory, infamous for illicit international arms deals, drugs and general smuggling - estimated to have brought in between one and two billion dollars. The new president of UKRAINE, Victor Yushchenko from a different mold to his predecessor, has joined with his neighbour President Voronin of MOLDOVA, to bring this to an end. It is being effectively blocked by RUSSIA (to be the guarantor of an agreement in negotiation).

SIXTY YEARS ON IS THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE?
We are witnessing the sixtieth anniversary of the only two nuclear explosions of any war, those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It must surely justify an assessment of the state of play of this, the ultimate of all WMD's, which ought to frighten us much more than it appears to do.
The 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty was intended to restrict the bomb to the five nations that by that time possessed it, USA, UK; France; USSR and China. INDIA refused to sign the 1968 non-proliferation treaty and developed its own nuclear weapon in 1998, called by some Indian nationalists "the Hindu Bomb." Pakistan predictably countered with theirs, and remain the only Moslem nation to possess the weapon, although at the breakup of the USSR, Kazakstan was the repository of a large nuclear arsenal. This was the first Moslem nation to possess the weapon and then to 
give it up, transferring all stocks, as we were told, to Russia. UKRAINE also found itself the unexpected recipient of Soviet stocks and again, a deal was made to relinquish these, we must assume all of them, to RUSSIA

SOUTH AFRICA had also developed its own nuclear weapon but they too did not proceed with it. Israel's nuclear capabilities are the world's worst kept secret. Everybody knows they have it, but such is their US client status that they are off any agenda of non-proliferation. IRAN's interest in nuclear weaponry is substantially motivated by fear of the Israeli weapon, in the geopolitical theatre in which they both operate. The question lies at the very heart of NORTH KOREAN relations with its neighbours and the world. Many other developed nations have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons technology, most of whom have observed the spirit and letter of the non-proliferation treaty, but that could quickly change. For example, if NORTH KOREA actually brandished a nuclear weapon as distinct from claiming them, it would be a major stimulus to Japan and South Korea to produce their own. 

As our monthly reports regularly demonstrate, IRAN and NORTH KOREA are inevitably updating the nuclear story. IRAN being a theocratic state and thus barely amenable to logical decisions, would as a possessor of this weapon, be a frightening prospect. NORTH KOREA is such an opaque polity, so little understood by outsiders, with ultimate power apparently dangerously concentrated in the hands of one individual, is another nightmare. Perhaps even more worrying than these, if that is possible, is the Pakistani bomb. Power in that nation is in the hands of a rational leader, General Musharraf, who seems to be fully committed to the international struggle against Islamic terrorism. But in the past year there have been two attempts to kill him, which happily he survived. Perhaps this one man is all that stands before a new horror of nuclear terrorism. In the lamentable event that he was murdered or otherwise removed, it is entirely possible that his successor could be an Islamic zealot, of which there is no shortage in that nation, including in the armed forces. The prospect of nuclear suicide bombers would then quickly become the most dangerous threat to the world. 

Finally, a word about stocks under the control of no known government. Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, 'father' of their bomb the now 'medically silenced' Dr AQ Khan, infamously supplied others with nuclear know-how and essential equipment, the best known case being LIBYA, with IRAN and NORTH KOREA also in the frame. LIBYA relinquished its nuclear ambitions as a part of an overall deal to 'come in from the cold'. Who else AQ Khan and his colleagues assisted, nations or scarily even non-state actors, may be known to leading intelligence services, but not to us, the general public. 

The remarkable Russian General, Alexander Lebed, sadly now deceased, was for a time in his spectacular post-Soviet career, the Russian National Security Advisor at the Kremlin appointed by Yeltsin. In that post, he declared more than once and gave evidence to a US Congressional Committee that a substantial number of nuclear devices were missing from the Russian inventory of what had been there in Soviet times. He never withdrew from that position even after he moved on to become the elected Governor of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. Indeed, he seemed to have been told to shut-up as he would never answer further questions about it after leaving the Security job. Chillingly, the particular devices missing, he maintained, were portable nuclear weapons developed for the old KGB, such development being confirmed by others - in other words suitcase nuclear bombs!

Leaving aside nuclear weaponry possibly not in state hands, it can be said that control after sixty years is uneven and the world is decidedly not a safer place despite the efforts to make it so by the major powers. Each bomb on Japan killed about 120,000, mostly women, children and the old - the men were away at the war. About 70,000 in each city died immediately, (the lucky ones), and the rest died, often agonisingly, over the following weeks, months and years. 

What then is the solution to this vision of hell? The non-proliferation treaty is less than the answer. Although many nations adhere to it, others cheat, still others ignore it. A mix of financial and economic inducements together with military threats is the current menu. The vast majority of nuclear weapons are in the armories of just two nations, the USA and RUSSIA and presumably therefore under well established control. It is more a matter of international policing that is relevant - detection and interdiction, but that requires the subordination of individual nation states to a world authority with powers that do not currently exist. Any non-UN military interventions to achieve the destruction of nuclear materials could hardly be separated from a mass of related issues. Consider a strike by Israel, seen by many as a US proxy, against IRAN and its effect on all of the Moslem world. Or a US strike on NORTH KOREA and the reactions of China. 

A sober assessment says that there is no solution in place at the present time. The UN has an nuclear inspection agency which reports to the UN security council but does not itself have the power to interdict, indeed requires the permission of any particular state even to inspect in the first place. Non-state actors are the province of the world's intelligence agencies. In the event that nuclear terror or some other big enough man- made disaster should manifest itself, if New York, Moscow, Paris or London went down, then the following doomsday scenario could be predicted: 

It could be expected that domestically in the world's democracies: civil rights, habeas corpus and jury trial, would be suspended, a situation like China now, would obtain. Suspects, let alone the proven guilty would be eliminated, and rights won over two centuries past would only be recovered if ever it were judged that there was no further risk and stability had returned. Internationally the aggrieved nation would band together with other target nations and would force compliance to inspection and supra-national interdiction on suspect states at the price perhaps of war, with unpredictable outcomes. What is beyond question is that a single nuclear terror bomb could change the democratic world beyond any present reckoning. Are they out there?

ANOTHER 'OUTPOST' THAT CONDI FORGOT (NO.5)
Condaleezza's 'Outposts of Tyranny' numbered only 6, including (naturally) Cuba, (appropriately) Zimbabwe, NORTH KOREA (possibly embarrassingly given current negotiations); (incontestably) Myanmar, BELARUS and IRAN.
We have already proposed 3 nations that perhaps Condi forgot - they weren't 'outed' on Condi's list: UZBEKISTAN (twice- it's so very bad); LIBYA; AZERBAIJAN
It's true that our overlooked candidates are all either hosts to US military bases, or actual / potential oil and gas suppliers, but what has that to do with identifying tyrannies? (Did somebody whisper, "expediency")?
Now we suggest another deserving candidate, as our TYRANNY OF THE MONTH. The Caspian Sea / Central Asian, former soviet republic of TURKMENISTAN, blessed with the fifth largest gas reserves of any nation in the world, but cursed with a dictator infamous for his Stalinesque cult of personality and grandiose follies.

Bordering on IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, UZBEKISTAN and KAZAKSTAN, it is mainly desert bordered by a fertile crescent. It is remote. In the days of Imperial Russia that first colonised it, it was regarded as a punishment posting, or at least a dead end for imperial administrators and soldiers. After the Russian revolution it was made an all-union republic of the USSR, and at the time of the collapse of the USSR its 'viceroy,' the General Secretary of the Turkmen communist party was Saparmurat Niyazov. He immediately had himself declared president and of course never relinquished any element of power. In fact, no longer answerable to Moscow, he awarded himself the title of Turkmenbashi 'Father of the Turkmen,' to the scorn of the other FSU central Asian republics; and the mixed amusement and annoyance of the citizens of TURKEY, who had their own deservedly celebrated 'Father of the Turks,' in Kemal Attaturk. This elevated Niyazov above ordinary humanity in his 5 million population which he rules with a rod of iron. His extraordinary pronouncements and architectural folies de grandeur, are recorded in our archives (covering the past four years), but that alone doesn't make him a monster. However, OXFAM says: "human rights appalling;" FREEDOM HOUSE gives them the lowest possible 7/7 rating for Human and Political rights," AMNESTY also says,"Human rights situation appalling." The European Parliament passed a motion: "…one of the worst totalitarian systems in the world." (Our World Audit Democracy Check link has more detail).

So come on Condi - your own State Department web site says: "…among the most repressive states in the world, it is also a systematic violator of freedom of religion".
What more can you want to 'out' this obvious Outpost of Tyranny ?

Our Updates on FORTY nations in transition, include all of the above and more, including the original three members of the 'Axis of Evil' IRAQ, IRAN and NORTH KOREA, BELARUS from Condaleezza Rice's Outposts of Tyranny, and nearly all the former communist countries, plus many others.

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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