Thursday, December 31, 2009

Belarus Falling Out With Russia

Once not long ago, the leaders of Belarus and Russia fawned over each other and talked glowingly of their coming fusion in one union, with even one currency.  Those days are fading now as relations fray and the EU and Washington nudge into the picture, trying to pry away away one of Moscow's last true allies.   The latest sign of souring relations is the failure of Moscow and Minsk to agree on oil deliveries for 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Former Soviet States Dumping Dollar

For decades, the people of the Soviet Union craved the dollar, a sign of stability and the prosperity they dreamed of in the West.  Now the dollar is on the outs in most former Soviet states. It's just the latest sign of the dollar's creeping decline as currency numero uno, a leading economist has told the Informant.  Russia, with the globe's third largest currency reserves at $443.7 billion, is already moving away from the dollar to a wider basket of currencies.  Not coincidentally, Russia along with China have been leading the charge for a new world currency.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Did Kosovo Albanians Harvest Human Organs?

They are some of the gorier allegations to come out of the Kosovo conflict.  In the summer of 1999 as the war was entering its final days it's alleged Kosovo Albanians first kidnapped then transported some 300 people, namely Serbs, to Albania where their organs were "harvested" for sale abroad. 

The chilling allegations briefly grabbed headlines in 2008 when former chief UN prosecutor Carla Del Ponte published lots of circumstantial evidence in her book, "The Hunt."  Now, Serb investigators say they have witnesses to some of the gruesome deeds and further information on who some of the victims may have been.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lithuania Shuts Down Chernobyl-Type Reactor

Believe it or not, the type of reactor once found in the nuclear house of horrors, Chernobyl, is still churning out power in Europe.  But the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithunia, which provides 70 percent of the power of that small Baltic state, is living on borrowed time.  Under an agreement with the EU, Lithuania will pull the switch on Ignalina on New Year's eve.  While Europe will be rid of one more dangerous nuclear site, Lithuania is stuck with a problem.  Where to get the power Ignalina provided in bunches.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

French Plans To Sell Warship To Russia Raises Fears

France is planning to sell one of its most advanced warships to Russia in a move that would greatly beef up Moscow's military might. 

However, former Soviet states are jittery about the Russians getting their hands on a Mistral warship, the second largest in the French fleet.  Some in Washington are warning the first ever sale of such high tech military equipment by a NATO country to Russia could upset regional stability.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lithuanian Parliament: CIA Had Two Black Sites

Two CIA black sites but no proof 'al-Qaeda terrorist suspects' were ever housed there. 

That's the main finding of a much ballyhooed parliamentary probe in Lithuania, site of the latest reports of CIA-run 'interrogation' sites in eastern Europe. 

The report is riddled with lots of cautionary wording like 'may have', and 'could have', but the lawmakers did not issue a whitewash. Not exactly.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Demjanjuk: War Criminal Or War Victim

The world's last big Nazi war crimes trial is underway now in the Bavarian city of Munich.
An 89-year-old former autoworker from Cleveland, John Demjanjuk, is charged with aiding in the murder of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.  Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, denies the charges. 

The case is a milestone for Germany.  Never before has such a minor figure -- Demjanjuk was allegedly a camp guard -- been charged without a shred of evidence of a specific offence. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ukraine's Orange Revolution Coming To An End?

Hopes were high five years ago when Victor Yushchenko came to power in the so-called "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine.

Ukrainians dreamed he would end the endemic corruption, spur economic growth, and for his ethnic Ukrainian base, namely in the west, pull the country out of Moscow's orbit and into the embrace of the West.  Now, with elections set for January, the man on whom Ukrainians hung their hopes, Victor Yushchenko, will likely be removed from office, and convincingly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

US Aid To Nagorno-Karabakh Angers Baku

Location of Nagorno-Karabakh. World inset adde...Image via Wikipedia
Eight million dollars is a drop in the bucket for the United States Congress, which is busy as bees tacking on as long a string of zeros as possible to the ever ballooning U.S. debt.

But the U.S. lawmakers' decision to allocate that paltry sum to Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, has irked the leadership in Baku, and possibly put a dent in relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, long in the crosshairs of U.S. foreign policy mandarins for its fossil fuel wealth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ex-Lithuanian Leader Claims "Impeached" For Saying No To CIA Camp

president Rolandas Paksas in Mazeikiai August ...Image via Wikipedia
A former president of the Baltic state of Lithuania has dropped a bombshell.

Rolandas Paksas says his impeachment in 2004 was linked to his refusal to allow the CIA to set up a black site for interrogating terror suspects on his country's soil.

Paksas made the jaw-dropping remark during parliamentary hearings into claims that at least eight al-Qaida terror suspects were held by the CIA at a secret site outside the capital, Vilnius between 2004 and 2005.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

GECF, A New Natural Gas OPEC?

Gazprom ГазпромImage via Wikipedia
Could a cartel of natural gas suppliers team up to form a cartel much like OPEC?

That could be in the cards if you believe Leonid Bokhanovsky, the newly elected secretary general of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, GECF.

That may be a new alphabet soup group we'll have to get used to, although it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like OPEC, and maybe fear a bit. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NATO Demanding Russian Help In Afghanistan

Never underestimate the chutzpah of the West.

Never stated publicly, one of NATO's goals is to "contain" Russia, in euphemistic speak.

But NATO, read Washington, needs help.  The Afghan foray is in shambles.  U.S. casualties are at all time highs.  The Taliban rules most of the country, and even the fortress that is Kabul is not safe.  The world heroin trade is in full swing thanks to all the poppy coming out of Afghanistan, although the UN has announced a drop in production, but that's due to over supply in Afghanistan and depressed prices in the West. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soccer To Save Ukraine?

Ukraine has been immune from good news of late.  This country of 50 million on the eastern edge of Europe has been especially hard hit by the credit crunch and now a stronger strain of H1N1 that has killed 3,000.   But amid the gloom, Europe's soccer honchos gave Ukrainians something to cheer about, announcing they would not snatch away their role as co-hosts with Poland of Europe's 2012 soccer championships.   

Saturday, December 12, 2009

US Troops To Be Stationed In Poland

Empire never sleeps.

One hundred U.S. troops will be making Poland their home soon.   They will be stationed at a Patriot missile base the U.S. military is to build on Polish soil.

Ellen Tauscher, U.S. under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, a liberal's liberal, according to Wikipedia, says the U.S. is eager to get the soldiers in Poland as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What Really Happened To The Kursk?

Wreck of Russian submarine K-141 Kursk in a fl...Image via Wikipedia

For those with an hour to spare, this French documentary is well worth the viewing.  For those who need a refresher on what allegedly happened to the Russian sub in 2000, click here for Wikipedia's version of events.  This film offers a very different take on those fateful days, when the world, as the film's narrator intones, was on the threshold of a third world war.  

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Russia's New European Security Blueprint Draws Yawns

In late November, to a near media blackout in the United States, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a Russian blueprint for rejiggering Europe's security relations.

The draft was full of flowery rhetoric, obligating all signatories to the pact to follow the principle of “indivisible, equal and undiminished security.”

Monday, December 07, 2009

Kosovo And International Law

A legal process that will likely have no direct impact, but long term consequences is underway at the UN's International Court of Justice, at The Hague, in Holland.

The Serbian government has brought a case to the court, asking it to rule on Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Berlusconi To Belarus, Say What?

It was a visit that hovered below the media radar, but a biggy, nonetheless.

For the first time in fifteen years, a Western European leader has visited Belarus, referred to as Europe's last dictatorship due to Alexander Lukashenko's heavyhanded rule.

The European official to break the diplomatic boycott of the former Kolhoz director's country? None other than Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

NATO Keeps Growing

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO, created to 'defend' against a Soviet attack into Western Europe, keeps growing.

On Friday, NATO defense chiefs issued what's called a Membership Action Plan to Montenegro. In other words, Montenegro will become NATO's 29 member.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Obama Gets 'Big' Support From NATO On Afghanistan

That's the way NATO's spinning it at least.

A few days after US President Barack Obama announced the U.S. will be sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, NATO's 27 other nations announced how many they'd chip in.

On Friday in Brussels following another NATO bigwig pow wow, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the figure: 7,000.

Not exactly a lot, and on closer look it's even worse.