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November 2006 Country Archive



The coming new crisis over SERBIA (more on which below), has not yet gained the attention of a world driven in the US at any rate, by the upcoming Congressional elections; in the UK by Blair (or no Blair) and the question of the tiny minority of Moslem women themselves a small proportion of all British women, who wear the niqab. In France, the focus now is firmly on their presidential elections. 

Obviously ranging through significant to trivial topics, it illustrates the collective attention-deficit-disorder of the watching world, to hold more than a few issues at any one time towards the forefront of their consciousness. Undeterred, looking at RUSSIA for example this month, we rehearse through that prism the dangers of a US led world financial crisis, as too many for comfort of the necessary components are lining up. It is not a matter to be ignored, even if as we devoutly hope, all landings are soft and that no one or no event starts a panic. 

The conjunction of IRAN's refusal to bow to western demands on nuclear activities, topped by the more advanced NORTH KOREA actually detonating a device, with the stark inability of the rest of the world to deal with either, tells clearly that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a dead letter. It is hardly surprising, looked at from a non-partisan standpoint, which we try to do. Obviously it is highly desirable that such 'unreliable' ie. eccentric nations, should not be able to brandish WMDs. Whilst the original treaty was good, the best that could be obtained, it relied on common sense and fair play - that nations with the capacity to do so would hold off development it was agreed, and those already with nuclear arms would scale back and systematically eliminate them (without a deadline), until such weapons were an historical footnote. This treaty was the means by which mankind, who in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had looked into the abyss, resolved to let reason and the better chance for the survival of the species, triumph over raw short-term national interest.

But what do we find: The US administration which has set off over 2000 nuclear test explosions since WWII (compared with NORTH KOREA's little one and IRAN's none), just announced that it will go ahead and repair or replace, inefficient old and expensive nuclear weapons facilities and replace the ageing stockpile with up to 2200 'deployed' nuclear weapons, (key word :'deployed' does not tell what the further reserve would be). Two leading laboratories, we are informed, are competing for the new warhead design. We are assured that this new design would 'last for decades.' It is clear then that the largest nuclear power is not working towards eliminating its nuclear weapons stocks, quite the reverse. 

That knocks out the principled approach to pressuring the have-not nations who seek to join the nine-strong nuclear club. Another line would be that of an appeal to 'the family of nations,' as embodied in the UN and consensus politics. That approach 
is in ribbons after the US unilaterally invaded Iraq without due cause, when the UN were doing a fine job with their inspection teams, ensuring that there were no WMDs. 

Then there is force majeure, exercised by those with the desire to keep WMDs in the hands only of those who already have them, and which in turn implies either military intervention, or economic sanctions of a kind that can produce the desired effect. None of these appears to be a practical way forward, since no serious sanctions are going to be enforced except by US allies, and then not necessarily. Japan, for example, is not going to cut off its major oil supplier, IRAN

RUSSIA and CHINA will act in what they perceive as their own best interests and seemingly cannot be factored in to 'killer' sanctions whatever they might be. Besides, nature is said to abhor a vacuum and international commerce certainly does. Sudan is a good example of where the western powers, on principle, withdrew from active commercial involvement. Whilst they depart from one door, pouring in through the other are Malays, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese whether of the overseas or mainland variety, just happy, willing and able, to fill all and any gaps. 

Military intervention after IRAQ doesn't look like a runner. The western armies are fully stretched. Even an air strike on IRAN could do no more than slow up the development program as the Iranians obviously have dispersed their development facilities, precisely to obviate their being knocked out in this way. If the strike came from Israel, the IAF would probably have to extend their targets to include disabling the Iranian air force, and even then there would likely be a long-range rocket assault on Israel. Thereafter hostilities would run and run. There would also be predictable effects in all Shi'ite communities, with volunteer suicide bombers queuing up to take revenge. This would principally affect the already ungovernable IRAQ, but also across the IRANIAN - AFGHAN borders, where the existing problems are already mounting. 

A military strike on NORTH KOREA, it has to be presumed, would bring massive conventional retaliation from this highly militarised state onto its peaceful neighbour, whose capital Seoul is less than an hours drive from the frontier. The last Korean war was an enduring horror and no sane person would want a repeat. In addition, another unilateral action, not authorised by the UN (and how could it be otherwise), would alienate China and RUSSIA, not to speak of existing allies. The best possibility of redemption for homosapiens may lie in the observation of Harvard Professor Jeffrey Lewis who noted that, " The United States has built a missile defence that does not work, to defend against a North Korean missile that does not work, that would carry a nuclear warhead that does not work. This is all very post-modern."

The whole sad story adds up to the need for a new treaty and although the Bush administration don't look like the people to produce this, a new Congress and eventually an incoming President must be prepared to tackle this problem. 

SERBIA as our report makes clear is on the brink of real trouble, which will certainly affect the European Union as well as the neighbouring Balkan states, possibly to a degree that has not adequately been thought through by the Europeans in particular. 

The decision of the EU Commission to admit no further new members after BULGARIA and ROMANIA, until the EU has created the right infrastructure, sounded like an administrative necessity due to enlargement overload. It did not highlight that another reason is that largely for racist reasons, there is a core within the existing 25+2 members who are opposed to further enlargement, (which was held to be the cause for Dutch and French voters rejecting the proposed new constitution). But it must not be presumed that it is just some of the older member states who are calling the tune (although one positive aspect of the European Commission imposed freeze, is that the issue of enlargement would otherwise have dominated the French election). 

There is an entirely selfish approach by the new government in POLAND who are in fact negative on many aspects of the Union. They have proved, although new members themselves, not to be what were once called, 'good Europeans,' but disappointingly small-minded ethnophobes. Other Central European EU members after recent elections - SLOVAKIA comes to mind, show similar inward-looking and racist tendencies which are certainly not sympathetic to any notions of a greater united Europe, which numerically at least, is now so close to attainment. 

It is doubly unfortunate that this coincides with an historically cyclical trend in public opinion, a currently growing dislike of foreigners in their midst of any stamp, this time largely the product of Islamic terrorism in the Madrid and London train bombings, and other outrages. Few would doubt that the Dutch referendum on the European Constitution was interpreted there as about enlargement and for such a nation, an outstanding exemplar of tolerance, justice and democracy, to have taken the stance that they did, was a direct result of the brutal murder in the street in broad daylight, of the film director Theo Van Gogh by an admitted Islamic fanatic, still publicly ranting even after his filthy act.

The freeze on enlargement affects at least six incontrovertibly European nations, each small and all located in the Balkans. In most cases, the policy centrepiece of their current governments has been to modernise their economies and politics, working towards the standards and thence full admission to the European Union, often against the opposition of their nationalist (in some cases veering to fascist) parties who may be the alternative government. As our reports on each of them tell, they are CROATIA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, ALBANIA, MACEDONIA, the new state of MONTENEGRO and finally SERBIA. It is this last where the new situation can be identified as potentially leading to big trouble, not just for them but for Europe and beyond.

SERBIA's government is currently staring down the barrels of two crises. The first, that there is a nationalist political revival, whose adherents have little interest in democracy. They identify with the disastrous 'Greater SERBIA' policy that was the delusion of the late Slobodan Milosevitch, who saw himself as another Tito - a far greater man. They rode the waves of national resentment as piece by piece, the bits of former Yugoslavia became unravelled. Belgrade saw the FYR nations of SLOVENIA, CROATIA, MACEDONIA, BOSNIA and then its federal partner of MONTENEGRO, disappear from its controlling orbit as they achieved independence, so Yugoslavia itself disappeared, leaving SERBIA alone of the six former federal republics. 

They witnessed all the surrounding FYR states and others commence the process of acceptance into the EU, whilst they were not themselves allowed to get to first base. This was due to their failure, alone of all the formerly warring Balkan states, to surrender military war criminals wanted for trial at The Hague, specifically the Serbian General Mladic, who has yet to answer the charges of mass murder of many thousands of prisoners after Srebrenica. That was the pre-condition, which they have failed to meet. 

Now Serbia itself, the very heart of this former federation, is shrinking! Shocked by the defection of MONTENEGRO via the civilised means of a referendum, it is probably about to lose its province of Kosovo where the United Nations took control away from Belgrade, after the lethal ethnic cleansing that Milosevic had imposed there on the majority population of ethnic Albanians. SERBIA picking up on the referendum idea has just asked its citizens to confirm a new constitution, including reference to Kosovo as an indissoluble part of the historic nation of SERBIA. But, they did not allow the two million citizens of Kosovo itself, this particular part of the 'historic nation' to take part in the referendum, as that inevitably negative vote would have seriously compromised the clear majority they need constitutionally. That has played into the hands of those who now call for a referendum of Kosovars only, to determine the fate of their homeland.

That this is a traumatic time for SERBIA is unquestioned. There had been a real prospect that they would have received by way of comfort, assurances that they too would definitely, if not quickly, be admitted to the family of Europe, to membership of the economic-plus club that now excludes them. But as the EU has stopped the entry process, that bromide is not available.

The backlash in public opinion will be formidable, once the Kosovo decision, perhaps before the end of the year, is announced. As recent history shows all too clearly, Serbia is comparatively a violent society. Its army is only notionally under the control of the elected government, hence the failure to present General Vladic for trial.
Its uncontrolled 'militia,' like jackals on the heels of the regular soldiers, were responsible for very many particularly brutal racist murders from CROATIA through BOSNIA, up to the end of the Kosovo fighting. 

There is an added complication. Throughout the Balkan wars of independence of the nineties, and all through the NATO intervention in Kosovo, SERBIA had one consistent friend in all the world - Slav, Orthodox, Mother RUSSIA. So it is again! President Putin is the only world statesman who has spoken out strongly against granting independence to Kosovo - and he wields a veto in the Security Council! He also addressed the assembled Prime Ministers and Presidents of the EU in Finland, just days ago, with a curious statement about safeguarding Christianity in Europe. Nowhere except SERBIA can there be said to be a confrontation of the kind that he infers, but even though Kosovo is an ethnic not a religious divide, it can be characterised that way, as the Orthodox patriarch in Kosovo is currently doing.

If the UN grants independence to Kosovo creating another Balkans republic, the Serbs will regard that as yet a further humiliation and the prospect for the nationalists gaining power in Belgrade is strong. If Kosovo is forced to remain in SERBIA, then unless there is to be a long term UN or NATO peacekeeping force, the Kosovars are likely to start fighting again, and in these conditions it could spread to neighbouring Macedonia. Possibly also to the Bosnian neighbour's Rpublika Srbska, a breakaway candidate to rejoin SERBIA, or to become another independent statelet. Even if there were no Russian dimension, this alone would be the grounds for the utmost sensitivity by the big boys of the EU who in the Balkans, appear for 'administrative' reasons, to have walked away. 

If European membership is not a prospect within a meaningful time for SERBIA, then the nationalists currently in opposition are likely to have a field day at the expense of the pro-European politicians now in power. If Brussels is seen to be unforthcoming, then is it not a near certainty that they will try their best friend RUSSIA, with the prospect of patronage from Moscow? Moscow could then be entrenched in the heart of continental Europe and could be predicted to make overtures to other excluded Slav and Orthodox neighbours, MACEDONIA and MONTENEGRO - the warm water port the Tsarists never managed, if they are likewise shut out by a European Union that has no more memberships to offer. 

Of the surrounding FYR republics only SLOVENIA has EU membership. CROATIA was on a count-down, now stopped, as the next qualified candidate. This is a Roman Catholic not an Orthodox republic that would not normally look to Moscow. But unless they were convinced that they were definitely on course and meantime were given the maximum possible, short of membership, their reaction to having the cup permanently dashed from their lips cannot be estimated. 

ALBANIA was in a state of medieval chaos before NATO forces entered as friends, accompanied by NGOs and government agencies, an input amounting to substantial aid during the Kosovo crisis. It was the liberating tonic ALBANIA, fundamentally until then a robber state, needed. If ALBANIA, whose governments have since been under quite close scrutiny accepted by them, as they too have set their sights on European membership, is turned away; if they conclude that the doors are now closed, then the prospects of their continuing along the path of reform look distinctly unlikely. The prospect of a rogue yet sovereign nation, versed in all the international criminal arts, out of control yet embedded into the European mainland, is something of a nightmare. Perhaps Beijing would seek to return to their site of their earlier European bridgehead, to make a Hong King in reverse, appropriate to the 'Asian Century'?

The six additional candidates, if accepted after achieving qualification, would make effectively a full house of all present candidates, (excluding TURKEY who are well aware that there was never a prospect of an early entry). The dangers of exclusion are set out above. Inclusion could set the EU on a path of continental consolidation to better compete with the coming East Asian Economic Union which we forecast, the South Asian INDIA - led equivalent, and the fast expanding Russian Energy super-power 

A new constitution is required for an enlarged EU, now of 27 states. If every existing member has to be unanimous, if that constitution is to be submitted to a referendum, then the anti-enlargement brigade can repeatedly scupper it then and there. 
This is a time when the diplomacy and statecraft for which Europe was once famous, is needed as never before. But where is the sense of urgency that should by now be dominating the pulse of the European body politic? 

October 2006 NORTH KOREA made a brash statement with some objective in mind about which we, like others can only speculate. We suggested back in September that a nuclear explosion looked imminent - and so it turned out. Our review of this new, deeply unpopular member of a nuclear club now of nine, who gained entry by gate crashing, looks at several aspects of 'before, during and since.' But one conclusion cannot be contradicted with the 'blame game' now under way. That is that everybody's diplomacy, be it based on stick or carrot, failed. 
We assert that the USA in particular on whom all else depends, has seemed incapable of maintaining a single, clear and consistent policy towards NORTH KOREA. What next?

The six years of Putin's presidency have seen RUSSIA's economy do very well We compare it today with the basket case of only eight years ago. Putin, however he is regarded by other countries, is certainly popular at home partly for this reason, but primarily perhaps because he has restored the missing self-respect resulting from the series of reverses in the painful translation of the USSR into RUSSIA. Democracy western style, is not a priority for him, indeed he has a whole raft of examples of western hypocrisy in this context, starting with what most of the world outside the USA regarded as the apparent 'fix,' in the Jeb Bush state of Florida, and the shenanigans there in George W Bush's first term election. Sadly there are too many examples, such as the ignoring of the Geneva conventions, the hypocritical semantics over the use of torture, illegal 'requisitions' of suspects; leaving aside what history will surely describe as the unprovoked unilateral attack on the sovereign state of IRAQ, who had nothing to do with the 9/11 assault on the USA. It has reached the point where RUSSIA will take no notice of lectures in how to behave from that quarter - a great pity as there is much to lecture about.

Power is however a priority with him and the route that has emerged is that of an energy superpower, underwritten by military invulnerability - nobody will ever attack him due to his nuclear arsenal. The rest of the world has to take notice of RUSSIA now, yet apart from some truly impressive achievements, there is a negative balance sheet on the human rights of Russian citizens. The appalling murder of yet another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, is only the latest such killing which along with other murders, of bankers and businessmen, seem to share the common ground that no one will be brought to justice in their wake. RUSSIA is quite close to being in real terms, an authoritarian state. The President, himself a former KGB man, has appointed former colleagues and senior military men from Soviet days, to control many of the levers of power. How is it then, that such a hard bunch have been unable to eliminate the apparently easy procurement of hired guns - contract killers, or fail to track them down so that Russian citizens of whatever calling can safely walk their streets? 

We conclude that the Iranian leadership do not feel themselves to be in a position of weakness after recent events, including the brief Israeli-Lebanon war and the worsening of the military situation in neighbouring IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN - leave aside the actual explosion of a real (as distinct from a "maybe one day") nuclear device in NORTH KOREA. Talk of tough sanctions seems to resemble huffing and puffing, as the options are reviewed one by one, nation by nation. China and RUSSIA although they probably would much prefer IRAN not to become a nuclear power, still place their economic interests as a higher priority than joining concerted action to stop it now. It may well be that they don't believe that already sanctioned IRAN can be significantly hurt - enough to change their direction, and nobody is going to interdict their oil and gas exports. Extraordinary as it may seem, as we explain, foreign investment is actually increasing in IRAN, whilst FDI goes down. The big news in our view is that after much havering, and statements to the contrary, it now appears that a massive increase in gas exports is planned, IRAN of course is a giant in terms of gas reserves, second only to RUSSIA.

The embattled president visited George W Bush in October and went on a book tour in the US and UK promoting his newly published memoir. In the course of this he gave the media many interviews and acquitted himself well, in his robust answers to critical questioning. The book gives many quite fascinating insights into how he came to power and the state of corruption he uncovered from the previous civilian regimes. Corruption however, remains a major problem - Transparency International were unable to give PAKISTAN a good recent report. There is much to do. It will hardly be done by the two former civilian prime ministers who have joined forces outside of the country, where they were banished, to fight the next election. Their record shows that this nation, on their watch, was on the edge of an economic abyss and had made little progress in any direction, other than to feather their own nests and those of their cronies. Musharraf has made big and courageous strides in limiting the religious fanatics in his country, in return for which there have been three 'near-miss' attempts on his life. He points out that PAKISTAN has arrested a multiple of the number achieved by any other country in the world, where Islamic terrorists are concerned, including the most important al Qaeda captures to date.

The security chief at Kabul airport, doing his job, accused officials of colluding with drug smugglers (the nations main source of revenue), and his boss, the Attorney General promptly fired him. Interesting certainly, but also desperately sad as an indication of how far this immature nation has to go. More about corruption, also the economy apart from Opiates, in this months report. 

When the world's two largest nations get together, accounting as they do between them for about 40% of humanity, that ought to attract attention. We comment on what they hope / expect to achieve in our INDIA report. For a nation that just two decades ago was known for exporting only tea and cotton, INDIA's new economic muscle is illustrated by the fact that they are expected to be buying approximately one foreign company every day by the end of this decade. (It may be one every two days this year, and was a total of 130 last year). In October, a £4.3 billion stg offer by Tata Steel was accepted for British steelmaker Corus, as an indication of this new acquisitiveness.

This wretched, exploited, misruled nation at the bottom of almost any economic heap, has produced a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an award which is thoroughly deserved. We briefly tell the uplifting story of Professor Mohammed Yunus and the micro-revolution he brought about by standing conventional banking practice on its head. 

We also tell the disgraceful story of Salah Choudhury a journalist and visionary for promoting mutual understanding between Moslems and Jews, currently rotting in a Bangladeshi jail on capital charges of sedition, and espionage made against him for advocating ties with Israel, with whom BANGLADESH has no diplomatic relations. 
We also criticise the US government and ask them to explain why they, who allot some $64 million each year to this country, can leave this moderate Moslem to his awful fate, whilst (Richard Boucher US State Department) can declaim that "BANGLADESH is a traditionally moderate and tolerant country that shares America's commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law"! The kind of most awful hogwash, which gives diplomats and diplomatic language a bad name! 

Our KAZAKSTAN report looks again at the recent re-election of President Nazarbayev, a result heavily criticised by the OECD election observers, yet hailed by president George W Bush with his congratulations for leading a 'free nation'. Regular readers that follow the KAZAKSTAN story (archived) may find that all somewhat bizarre. In Central Asian leadership terms, we rate Nazarbayev as merely the best of a bad lot - megalomaniacal despot (TURKMENISTAN), mass murderer (UZBEKISTAN), or disintegrating into anarchy and civil strife (KYRGYZSTAN and TAJIKISTAN) give a flavour of the others. But before we get carried away, as have Bush/Cheney about the onset of democracy, we point to the corpses of the opposition following that election. 

The appointment of a new military chief has brought about a spate of speculation not only in Ankara and Istanbul, but also Washington DC. General Yasar Buyukanit, is reputed to be a hardliner, an uncompromising secularist. We report on the background and events leading to the announcement of his appointment. There is speculation that he will be at odds with the moderate Islamic political party led by prime minister Recep Tayyim Erdogan, fuelled by the Army's role in safeguarding that part of the constitution that commits the nation to be a secular republic. Erdogan however has for the most part been able to tread a moderate line. Our view is that under present circumstances the army's other commitment, to be the fighting arm of a democracy which seeks to be embraced by the European Union, will supersede anything other than a highly unlikely serious deviation of government towards Islamism. 

Publisher - Clive Lindley

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