Monday, July 19, 2010

Hungary And IMF Break Off Talks

Hungary's elite have angered the global financial gods at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU.   Budapest is balking at dancing to the austerity dirge as dictated by the money-men from Washington and the bureaucrats in Brussels.  The move has spooked markets with the Hungarian currency, the forint, falling to a fourteen month low. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Srebrenica Still Clouded In Fog Of Propaganda 15 Years Later On

July 11 marks the 15th anniversary of what the World has come to know as the Srebrenica massacre, when up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed by Serb paramilitary forces in what has been called the worst European massacre since World War II.  In fact, the killings have been labeled an act of "genocide" by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, (ICTY).  For Western media these facts are rarely, if ever, contested or discussed. The chronology of events, figures et al are cemented as part of a solemn narrative, and to question that script is an act bordering on blasphemy.  Despite that, nagging questions still hang over what all agree were tragic events.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Belgrade To Offer Territory Swap On Kosovo

Media in Serbia and Kosovo says Belgrade is gearing up a shocker of a swap: trade parts of southern Serbia mainly populated with ethnic Albanians in exchange for northern Kosovo populated mainly by ethnic Serbs.  The Serbs reportedly want to time the offer with a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of Kosovo's independence from Serbia.  The land swap would be de facto recognition by Serbia of Kosovo's independence, in part at least.  That would be a huge concession on Belgrade's part.  But Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership is intransigent, ruling out any changes to the territory's present boundaries.  News of the alleged offer comes amid fresh tensions between Kosovo and Serbia after the killing of a protester, and shooting of a Serb lawmaker in the Kosovo parliament.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Slovakia Gets First Female PM

From a government led by Europe's version of Hugo Chavez to a smart-talking, sensible woman who will charm the staid pols of Europe.  That's the jump Slovakia is making.  Out: Robert Fico and his quasi-fascist coalition partners, the Slovak National Party, or SNP.  In: Iveta Radicova, a member of the center-right Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, or SDKU party.  Out: quarreling with Hungary.  In: fence mending.  Out: anti-NATO rhetoric.  In: more Washington fealty and fodder for the Afghanistan quagmire.  Overall, bigwigs in European capitals are probably grinning ear-to-ear over this appointment and glad to see Mr. Fico shown the door. 

Saturday, July 03, 2010

US And Poland Sign Pact On 'Revised' Missile Shield

U.S. plans to disgorge more military junk on European soil took a big step forward on July 3.  In Krakow, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked on smugly as an agreement was signed between the United States and Poland giving Washington the green light to deploy missiles for their slimmed-down defense shield on Polish soil.  The signing will not be welcomed in Moscow, which has looked on nervously as NATO has tightened its grip over Europe, as U.S. bases popped up in the region like mushrooms after rain, and the Baltic and Black Seas became more and more glorified U.S. lakes. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

U.S. Marines Land On Shores Of Estonia

U.S. military creep continues apace in Europe.  Under the cover of the ever present 'military exercise', some 500 U.S. Marines literally landed on the beaches of the easily forgotten Baltic country of Estonia.  The U.S. military says its' probably a first.  It may seem insignificant, afterall, it was only about 500 Marines, but it is part of a trend to turn as much of the globe's land and waterways into so much U.S. military terrain.Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo said such exercises add stability in the region.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Poland Passes Coercive Castration Law

Parliament in Poland has passed a law making castration a suitable punishment for pedophiles convicted of rape and perpetrators of incest.  Under the law anyone found guilty of raping children under 15, or close relatives, will be given drugs to lower their sex drive.  Chemical castration for repeat sex offenders is already offered in several U.S. states, as well as European countries including Sweden, Germany and Denmark. However, it is a voluntary process.  Poland's law would be the first to make it compulsory, and that has angered Brussels.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Hungary Rocks Financial Markets

It's like an AA meeting with nation after nation coming out of the closet to admit their addiction to debt.  Now it's Hungary, where officials have made some eye-popping assertions to throw markets and speculators around the world into a tizzy.   The new government of the center-right ruling Fidesz party says the country is not on the brink like Greece, but a closer look at the ledger books reveals some grim data.  A spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban set a shiver through markets, saying the economy of the country is in a "very serious situation."  That statement on June 4 sent the forint into free-fall, and dragged along with it other central and eastern European currencies like the Czech koruna and Polish zloty.  But is it that bad?

Monday, May 24, 2010

First American Soldiers Set Foot On Polish Soil

Dozens of American soldiers have set foot on Polish soil along with a battery of Patriot missiles, in what is the most significant deployment of U.S. troops in that former Warsaw Pact nation.  The Americans deployed in just 60 kilometers from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.  The deployment was scheduled, but still seems counter-intuitive for all the talk of the so-called 'reset' between Washington and Moscow.  The Russians are wary about having more U.S. soldiers and hardware near their borders.  The deployment comes despite President Barack Obama rubbing out Bush Jr's anti-missile defense shield.  But as readers of the Informant know, the shield is far from dead, maybe lighter, more mobile, but more widespread further south in the Balkans.  Plus, the Czechs and Poles say they are still in the missile plans. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

U.S. And Russia Battle For Czech Nuclear Contract

The Czech Republic is the battle ground between the United States and Russia over a lucrative contracts to build new reactors in work that could be worth $25 million dollars.  Toshiba unit Westinghouse is up against Russia's Atomstroyexport, with France's Areva also bidding to build two new units at Temelin, in the south of the country, another unit at the Dukovany plant in the east, and possibly three more units in neighboring Slovakia.  U.S. President Barack Obama and his junior partner, Joe Biden, have pimped for Westinghouse, which retooled the old Soviet reactor technology at Temelin to bring that plant on line.  Czech officials say the stakes are high, no less than the future course of the country: east or west.  That may be a bit of overstatement, but the contracts are huge beyond the dollar signs. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gazprom Comes For Belarus

Having brought Ukraine and its unwieldy gas bill to heel through the election of the Moscow-friendly Viktor Yanukovich, Gazprom is seeking out the next gas deadbeat in next-door Belarus, whose leader-cum-dictator Alexandr Lukashenko has had an on-again off-again relationship with the Kremlin.  Now, things appear in the off mode.  Gazprom accuses the Belarus state gas transit company, Beltransgaz, not only of not paying the bill, but of fudging the numbers on how much it owns for the gas flowing through the "Friendship" pipeline.  The spat puts to a growing gap between Lukashenko and the Kremlin.  But, Beltransgaz is far from innocent in this affair.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Skinheads Go On Trial In Czech Republic For Roma Arson Attack

With armed riot police guarding and the local media watching, a trial of four skinheads has opened in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava.  The four are charged with an arson attack on a Roma home in the nearby village of Vitkov.  A two-year-old girl, Natalka, was seriously injured in the attack, suffering burns over much of her body.  Natalka became a household name in the Czech Republic, where even the most hardened Gypsy hater had to be repelled by images of a seriously burned child. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Slovakia And Hungary Spar Again

There is little love between the Eastern European states of Hungary and Slovakia.  Hooked at the hip for centuries under the old Magyar dynasty, the two states learned how to hate the other, and are still airing out issues today.  One issue in particular riles the powerful in Bratislava and Budapest, the fate of ethnic Slovaks and Hungarians living on the wrong side of the border.  Hungary has now upped the ante, debating legislation that would grant citizenship to Hungarians living abroad, meaning mainly Slovakia where about a half a million reside.  That has sent Slovak Premier Robert Fico berserk, labeling the legislation a "security risk" to Slovakia.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gay Pride Parade In Vilnius Amid Riot Police

East Europe aired some of its homophobic laundry on Saturday.  More police that paraders were on the streets of Vilnius, the capital of the Baltic state of Lithuania.  But this was no ordinary march, but the country's, and for that matter one of Eastern Europe's, first gay pride parade, where attitudes towards homosexuals remain far from friendly, unlike Western Europe.  Anti-gay protesters had vowed to disrupt the parade, and authorities had eagerly used that threat to cancel the event, before having a rethink after an appeal.  

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Slovak Far-Right Target Roma In Campaign Posters

Down at the polls, go to a push-button scapegoat target to boost the numbers.  That's what Slovakia's far-right Slovak National Party has done.  Down in the polls, the SNS has churned out stacks of posters showing a dark-skinned man and a golden necklace, accompanied by the slogan, "Do not feed those who do not want to work."  The poster has sparked outrage in Slovakia, not least among the Gypsies, or Roma, themselves, who are at the bottom-rung in Europe's socio-economic feeder system. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Macedonia Ready To Blow?

Disturbing reports coming out of the Balkan nation of Macedonia.  Macedonian interior ministry troops have been shooting it out with ethnic Albanian rebels, evoking fears of a repeat of the 2001 insurgency in Macedonia.  Plus, arms, including rocket launchers, and 180 pounds of plastic explosives have been intercepted by Macedonia.  Even NATO, authors of the chaos in next door Kosovo has had to pay attention, saying it is "concerned" with recent developments in Macedonia.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Russia is on a roll, feeling truly imperial with the "little Russians" next door in Ukraine.  The new president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, has acted more like Ded Moroz, handing out gift after gift to the Kremlin.  First and foremost, there was the quarter century extension to the lease for the Russian Black Sea fleet at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.  Ukraine's opposition accused Yanukovich of selling out the country's sovereignty for cheap Russian gas.  While maybe not as explosive but more symbolic, Yanukovich assuaged Russian sensibilities again, opining that the 1930s famine was not a genocide as most Ukrainians feel and the country's parliament has ruled.  And now it's Moscow's turn to add to Ukraine's humiliation.  Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wants the Russian gas giant Gazprom to swallow up Ukraine's gas transit system.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yanukovych Says Ukrainian Famine Not Genocide

It's been a good week for Moscow vis-a-vis ties with their Slavic brethren in Ukraine.  First, the Kremlin secured a 25-year extension to the lease for its Black Sea fleet.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin smirked smugly as Ukrainian lawmakers rocked and socked amid the a haze from smoke bombs to ratify the extension, which opposition gadflies blasted as a sellout of Ukraine's sovereignty.  For Russia, Yanukovich was paying immediate dividends.  But he wasn't finished.  Now, Yanukovich has had a rethink on the Holodomor, the Stalin-era 1930s famine that Ukrainian patriots, as well as more than a dozen countries, have classified as a genocide.Yanukovich said that Holodomor was “a consequence of Stalin’s totalitarian regime,” but cannot be called genocide against any particular nation, since mass famine was a tragedy for all countries in the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chernobyl Sarcophagus Cracking Up?

Twenty four years after a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the nightmare is far from over.  As another anniversary ticks by, attention for a moment turned to the former power plant and the threat it still poses.  In particular, the huge concrete sarcophagus that entombed the destroyed the reactor.  The concrete was plastered together pell mell after the accident and the work was roughshod.  Not surprisingly, the concrete tomb hasn't held up well, and needs to be replaced, or else it could all come crumbling down, unleashing radiation still trapped inside.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ukraine On the Brink?

Fisticuffs, smoke bombs, and a legislator hiding behind an umbrella to avoid the barrage of eggs hurled his way.  Such was the scene Tuesday in Kiev, where Ukraine's law givers convened to ponder whether to allow Russia's Black Sea fleet to stay moored at Ukraine's port of Sevastopol for an addition 25 years.  The decision by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was a Faustian bargain.  Ukraine, tipped to the economic edge by the global financial crisis, is desperate to save money any way it can.  In return for the Black Sea fleet lease extension, Moscow is dropping gas prices to Ukraine about a third.  However, many Ukrainians, the more patriotic in the Western parts, see the pact as nothing more than a loss of sovereignty and act of treason. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bosnia Gets NATO Roadmap

The NATO leviathan wants more prey, and the elites in Bosnia are offering their fractured, internationally supervised state, on the military tray.  At a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Tallinn, Bosnia had the honor of being issued the dazzlingly named Membership Action Plan, or MAP, which spells out the dos and don'ts to joining the globe's preeminent war machine.  Amid a period of warming relations with Russia, NATO is doing its darnedest to piqued Russian paranoia.  Croatia and Albania were lassoed into NATO last year.  Montenegro got its own MAP back in December.  If the statelet of Montenegro and the basket case of Bosnia join, NATO jumps to 30 members. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Russian Black Sea Fleet To Remain In Ukraine Till 2042

The election of Viktor Yanukovich as president of Ukraine is starting to pay big time benefits to Russia.  In a bit of horse trading to secure lower prices for Russian gas deliveries, Yanukovich has agreed to allow the Russian Black Sea fleet to remain anchored at Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Sevastopol until 2042, tacking on a 25-year extension to a lease that was due to expire in 2017.  Yanukovych made the deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the eastern city of Kharkiv on April 22.  Brimming with glee over the deal, Medvedev said it would bring better European security to the Black Sea basin.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poland Emerges From European Economic Meltdown

The financial tsunami has knocked down one European economy after another.  Greece is one heart beat away from economic ruin, an EU cash catheter keeping it alive.  Greece is part of a new acronym of the economic down-and-outers, including Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, all mired in high unemployment and low growth.   In Hungary, frustrations over the economy catapulted into power a far-right party equipped with its own Nazi-like guard.  All is not gloom and doom, however.  But the good news can't be found among the sophisticated, and seasoned economies of western Europe.  Rather it is the former East Bloc, Poland, to be exact, that has weathered the storm the best.  Remember the fears of the Polish plumber?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pentagon Plans To 'Cover' Europe With Missile Shield By 2018

Thought U.S. anti-missile shield mumbo jumbo was jettisoned under the Nobel laureate, Barrack Obama?  Think again.  Far from trashed, U.S. missile plans are stronger than ever under the left-wing Obama.  A Pentagon official has said the U.S. anti-missile shield system will 'cover' the entire of Europe by 2018.  And another Pentagon official says the new START treaty on reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear missiles actually "reduces the constraints" on building such a system.  That is a huge sticking point between the Russians and Americans.  The Russians insist a link between START and anti-missile defense.  U.S. officials, not surprisingly, don't see it that way.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where To Bury Poland's First Couple Causes Rifts

Maybe the shock is starting to wear off.  Losing many of their elites in a freak plane crash in fog in western Russia united Poles in grief and even had some rethinking views of Russia, so taken have they been by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 'embrace" of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the crash site in Smolensk.  While still numbed from the shock, Poles are pulling into separate camp over where President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, will be buried.  Many are upset the two will be interned at royal palace in Krakow, a site they say should remain only for Polish kings and truly outstanding Poles.  These people don't think Kaczynski and his wife rate for Wawel Castle.2,000 people protested Wednesday evening in Krakow against the decision.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nord Stream Construction Starts

In Europe's great pipeline sweepstakes, the Russians have taken a crucial step.  The Russians have moved beyond talk to construction.  Amid much pomp and circumstance, construction has started on the Nord Stream pipeline.  When completed, the 1,220-kilometer-long pipeline will be the world's longest to snake under the waves of a sea.  If all goes to plan, the pipeline will transport 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The 11-billion dollar project has been championed as a way of bypassing the political troubles surrounding the current Ukrainian supply route.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hungary's Far-Right Jobbik Wins Big At Polls

The people have spoken in Hungary in weekend elections.  And their message is sending chills through Europe.  The far-right Jobbik party won a very impressive 16.7 at the polls.  That's just a few points below the lame duck Socialists, who were kicked out of power by the center-right Fidesz.  Bubbly with success, Jobbik leader, Gabor Vona, vows “very distinct and very spectacular politics”. He said that Jobbik would work on “a solution to the problems around Gypsy-Hungarian coexistence. That means eradicating Gypsy crime”.   The Gyspies, or Roma, were a major plank in Jobbik's "patriotic" platform.  A message that strikes a cord with not only Hungarians, but many in Europe where Roma live.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Could Polish Air Tragedy Lead To Better Russian Polish Ties?

In the fog and trees of western Russia, Poland lost many of those who moved and shook that eastern European country.  The Saturday crash in Smolensk took the lives of President Lech Kaczynski, and dozens of other Polish political, military and religious leaders.  Poles are shocked and numbed, noting the bitter irony of the disaster.  Poland's who's who were on their way to commemorate victims of the Katyn massacre.  In 1940, Soviet secret police gunned down more than 20,000 Polish officers and other elites, effectively decapitating the ruling class.  And while completely at different ends of the scale spectrum, the target was the same: Polish elite.  And although one appears to be an accident, the other coldblooded mass murder, the two tragedies took place a stone's throw from the other.  But there is one other big difference.  Katyn painted the Russians as murderers and liars, just another seed of distrust, fear and hatred in these countries' stormy 500 years of ties.  However, the Smolensk plane tragedy has brought the two countries together if briefly, to share their grief and condolences.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ukraine Officially Ends NATO Bid

The flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organiza...Image via Wikipedia
You can stick a fork in Ukraine's bid to join the world's most powerful military pact, NATO, dashing Washington's dream, at least for now, of transforming the Black Sea into one big American lake. Viktor Yanukovich, the newly elected president, who has stated clearly he will steer a more easterly course than his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich,abolished a few committee's working toward NATO membership.    Although these groups were insignificant, the symbolism of shutting them down is powerful: Moscow can breathe a bit easier, NATO will not deploy in this country of 46 million any time soon.  Yanukovich speaks of Ukraine being a 'bridge' between Europe and Russia, and NATO is not a building block in pursuit of that goal.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Russia And Slovakia Energy Pact Partners

Before he whisks into the locked-down Czech capital of Prague to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty with U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made a mostly overlooked, but important visit to neighboring Slovakia.  In Bratislava, Medvedev will attend ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Slovak's capital's liberation from Nazi rule. He will also sign eight bilateral political and trade deals, including ones in the nuclear energy field where Russia has established profitable ties with Slovakia.  Medvedev has also used his visit to Bratislava to call for a new European security equation which factors in Moscow more. 

Monday, April 05, 2010

Obama To Meet East European Leaders In Prague

All attention in Prague later this week will laser in on the scripted signing ceremony by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of a much buzzed about strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty.  It was in Prague a year ago when Obama set out his vision for a world with no such weapons for the weak, fewer for the strong, like Washington and Moscow.  So, the selection of Prague for the signing of the treaty to replace the 1991 START makes sense.  It makes sense on another level too.  The Czech Republic is one of Eastern Europe's Russophobe nations, which see any thawing of relations between Washington and Moscow as a potential softening of U.S. commitment to protect them from the Kremlin.  To allay those, many would say, unfound fears, Obama will also hold a summit with Eastern Europe leaders.  heads of state from eastern and central Europe in the city of spires.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Rising Rightwing Extremism In Eastern Europe?

Is eastern Europe threatened by a rising wave of rightwing extremism?  Human rights activists in the region think so, and point to violent attacks on Roma namely in Hungary, but the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well to back up their point.  A disturbing poll in Hungary shows more and more Hungarians turning to extremist solutions to solve society's problems, compounded now by the global financial mess.  In the Czech Republic, a rightwing extremist party has been banned for propagating hate.  But is eastern Europe any worse than the richer West?  Holland, the land of tulips, wooden clogs and windmills, also has a newfound affinity for rightwing extremism, as does Switzerland which has banned the building of mosques.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Belgian Protest Puts Spotlight On US Tactical Nukes In Europe

Amid all the hullabaloo over the signing by Russia and the United States of a new strategic nuclear arms treaty, scant attention has been paid to Europe's other weapon problem: tactical nuclear weapons, a Cold War-era relic.  On April 3, anti-nuke protesters in countries where U.S. nukes are based staged protests.  The biggest demo rocked Belgium, where police detained hundreds of protesters who tried to break into a military base where missiles are believed to be stored.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hungary's Economy Still In Free Fall

As talk of Europe's economic collapse focuses on the so-called PIIGS countries -- Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain -- less attention is turned to the hardship gripping most of eastern Europe.  Hardest-hit Latvia has lost more than 25 percent of GDP since their recession began, making it the second longest cyclical downturn on record -- and, as Mark Weisbrot writes, if IMF projections prove correct, it will soon pass the 1929-33 decline of the U.S. Great Depression.  The latest data shows Hungary is far from getting out of the trough.  But it's not alone.  A think tank is predicting at least 10% unemployment for eastern Europe. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Germany To Hunt Down Another Ukrainian Octogenarian

Not satisfied with putting on trial one infirm ethnic Ukrainian octogenarian for alleged Nazi-era war crimes, Germany wants to put another one in the dock.  Germany, which razed much of the country and killed wantonly there during World War II, has opened a formal criminal investigation against an 88-year-old Ukrainian-born man living in the United States on suspicion that he committed murder while serving the Nazis, a prosecutor in Munich confirmed on March 27.  The man, whose name has not been divulged, would join another Ukrainian-born man, John Demjanjuk, 89, accused of being an accessory to 27,900 Nazi death camp murders while working as a guard for the Nazi SS.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

China Flashes The Cash In Belarus

The economic juggernaut that is China is rolling into eastern Europe.  Belarus, Europe's great dictatorial backwater under President Alexander Lukashenko, is the unlikely target of the latest Chinese largesse.   The amounts are filled with lots of zeros.  A billion dollar loan, on favorable terms.  Ten billion in potential projects, spanning several industrial sectors, including cars, electricity and sugar.  It's the latest proof China is sniffing out economic opportunities in other former Soviet republics after conquering with its bulging checkpoint Central Asia.    

Friday, March 26, 2010

Russia and US To Sign New Arms Control Deal

To much fanfare, the United States and Russia have announced they have hammered out all the details of what is being billed as the most comprehensive nuclear arms treaty in nearly two decades.  The "New START Treaty" demands each side cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about a third.  The agreement is due to be signed in Prague on April 8th, just days before U.S. President gathers powerbrokers in Washington to talk nuclear disarmament, a 'cause' of his outlined in a Prague speech last April.  However, the treaty still must be ratified by both countries' legislatures, and the Russian State Duma will likely be skeptical if the treaty is not linked to U.S. pledges not to expand its 'missile defense' program, something Washington categorically rejects.  And as the two sides were backslapping over the no-nuke pact, reports leaked of fresh Pentagon plans to boost 'military assistance' to several former Soviet republics.Yes, START is a step forward, but just one in a race whose finishing line at times seems to fade further into the distance.   

Sunday, March 21, 2010

EU-Balkan Summit A Bust

It was supposed to be the biggest gathering of Balkan leaders in nearly two decades to show the world the Balkan states aren't, well, Balkanized.  But the EU-Balkan summit in Slovenia didn't live up to the billing to highlight regional cooperation and ended with a whimper.  The air was taken out of the meeting in Brdo pri Kranju when Serb President Boris Tadic refused to show up.  He didn't like the fact Kosovo would be there not as a UN-run protectorate but rather as an independent state.  The EU's new so-called president also skipped the meeting, sensing a fiasco was awaiting.  Not all were disappointed.  Kosovo was pleased to have their independence status at least winked at.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pipeline Puzzle: Italians Proving Dubious Kremlin Partners

So much for cooperation. Russia has been chided for using its energy riches to hold a trembling Europe hostage with a gas nozzle at its head.  Bent on proving its friendly intentions, however, Russia has reached out to European partners to share in the hoped for riches of two ambitious pipeline projects.  Now, one of them, Italy's Eni, is giving the Russians headaches, by proposing the rival Nabucco project and Russian-led South Stream pipeline could somehow be fused.  The Russians are apopletic over the Italians crooning for Nabucco meant to cut the Russians down in the energy sweepstakes.  "We are not discussing such things at all," Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said in comments carried by Russian news agencies. "For European consumers, the more gas the better."

Friday, March 19, 2010

US General Blames Dutch Gay Soldiers for Srebrenica

Blame it on the gays.  That's the way at least one retired U.S. general sees it.  Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan says the fall of Srebrenica in 1995 was partly due to gays in the ranks of the Dutch military, which was tasked with guarding the so-called 'safe haven.'   Sheehan wasn't gabbing to close friends in some dank drinking hole after whiskey unlocked his lips.  Sheehan was speaking under oath before a dour Congressional committee.  The Dutch, gay and other sundry groups were left mouths agape, reacting with outrage.  Beyond that, however, the scandal opens a tiny window to again ask what really happened at Srebrenica some fifteen years ago. The author, Diana Johnstone, tells the Informant the Dutch were in a no-win situation. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kosovo Police To 'Guard' Serb Monument

The humiliations never seem to stop for what remains of the Serbs in Kosovo.  In the latest blow to the national solar plexus, NATO has handed over to Kosovo's mainly ethnic Albanian police force security at one of Serbia's most sacred sites: Kosovo Pole.   The handover came a day after another grim anniversary for Kosovo's Serbs: the sixth anniversary of the ethnic Albanian community's ransacking of churches and killing of a dozen or so Serbs.  As this travesty unfolded, Slovenia was scrabbling to stop a much ballyhooed confab of Balkan and EU leaders from imploding.  All the while, Serbia thanked the majority of the world's community that have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fake Georgian TV War Report Sends People Into Panic

It was Orson Welles War of the World all over again Saturday in the Caucasus state of Georgia.  For those not in the know, a radio broadcast in the 1930s about a supposed UFO landing in New Jersey caused a panic in the United States as many took the hoax for the truth, running and screaming in the streets or taking up guns to fight the invading martians.  Orson Welles was the man behind the mike on that grim day of human gullibility.   Now, Georgia media have pulled off a similar stunt with a similar reaction.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NATO Head Says Missile Shield Essential

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denma...Image via Wikipedia
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen just can't understand why Russia doesn't see NATO action the same way NATO does.  At an international conference in Warsaw, the capital of one of Europe's more accomplished Russophobe nations, Rasmussen said Russian thinking was "outdated."  NATO is not Russia's enemy he said, and had no plans to invade its great land mass.  In fact, Rasmussen said, NATO seeks "partnership" with the Kremlin.  In the next breath, Rasmussen said NATO will keep nuclear weapons in Europe, keep its doors open to new members, (hint hint Georgia and Ukraine) expand its "mission", and support US "missile defense" in Europe.  But, Rasmussen continued, if any nation was stirring things up in Europe, it is, you got it, Russia. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kosovo Takes Two Steps Forward, One Back

For those keeping score out there, Europe's new sort-of midget state Kosovo has made some progress in the realm of legitimacy over the past few days.  Of course, with a state allegedly run by underworld figures there will be bumps along the way.  One of those bumps is the Kosovo Security Force, which was created to supposedly do away with all traces of the once feared, or feted -- depending if you are a Serb or Albania -- Kosovo Liberation Army.  But as recent events show, the KSF sometimes forgets the charade, revealing the KLA lurking beneath.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Slovak Authorities Force Fealty To The State

Listen to the pledge or else.  That sums up proposed legislation aimed at stirring up patriotic fervor in the central European state of Slovakia.  However, many in Slovakia, used to such arm-twisting under decades of now discredited communism, don't like the idea of patriotism by diktat.  Some 1,000 students and teachers protested outside of the presidential palace on Wednesday to appeal to President Ivan Gasparovic not to sign the legislation, already passed by parliament, into law.  The protest comes amid percolating tensions between ethnic Slovaks and the country's main ethnic minority, Hungarians

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ganic Case Resurrects Old Ghosts Of Bosnia

Protesters were out in big numbers on Friday in front of the British and Serb embassies in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.  They were demanding London release Ejup Ganic.  He's a former Bosnian president and Muslim leader who was detained after landing at Heathrow airport on Monday.  For Bosnia's Muslims and much of the West, he's a hero and respected statesman.  For the Serbs, he's a war criminal and they want London to hand him over to face justice.  The tug-of-war over Ganic comes as Radovan Karadzic has made eye-raising remarks to the UN war crimes tribunal, including a claim that a picture purporting to show a Serb concentration camp in Bosnia is a fabrication.  For the Western media, Karadzic is mad, and the Serbs wanting to try Ganic are trying to duck sole culpability for all the bloodletting as Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Yanukovich Goes To Moscow

Viktor Yanukovich travels to Moscow today on his first official visit to Russia as the president of Ukraine.  The Kremlin has to be pleased with the election of Yanukovych who has already ruled out NATO membership for his country, talked about letting Russian warships stay docked at a Ukrainian Black Sea port, and suggested the Russians could buy into the country's rusting pipeline network.  But the visit may prove relations even under Yanukovych may not be all backslapping and smiles.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Central European States Huddle For Energy Security

The European Union has talked lots, acted little, on coordinating energy policy for the 500-million, 27-nation, mega bloc.  The specter of the Russian bear grinning as its grips Europe's energy spigot gives EU bureaucrats the heebie jeebies.  But that fear, largely unfounded the Informant believes, has not translated into action.  Until now, possibly.  Leaders from eleven central and eastern Europe, where Russophobia is an art form, have met for a first ever energy summit, to chart a course of energy security.  The big news to come out of the Feb. 24th meeting in Budapest was the signing of a declaration to create a north-south-east gas supply network. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

NATO Exercises In The Baltics As Russia Seeks More French Warships

NATO is looking to limber up in the Baltic Sea region later this month.  No push-ups here.  Soldiers for the globe's dominant military pact will be playing war games with lots of expensive toys to show, as a NATO spokesman put it, "solidarity with NATO's Baltic members."  US naval forces are already 'training' in the Black Sea with Georgian troops. The military maneuvers come with Russia negotiation with France for four more high-tech warships.  That has Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia sweating a bit.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Romania And US Start Talks On Missile Deployment

The more things change......  Well, you know the rest of it.  Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama promises peace and pie in the sky.  On the foreign policy front, hardliners in the U.S. worried the 'liberal' Obama would sell out the U.S. to all its enemies.  As proof, they pointed warily at his 'reset' intentions with Russia.  But reality is often at odds with rhetoric.  In eastern Europe, the Obama administration continues to pursue an essentially expansionist policy not much different than the bumbling, footloose cowboy Bush Junior.  Despite the flowery rhetoric, however, the essentials of the two U.S. leaders are almost indistinguishable.  The latest proof?  Romania has announced talks are now underway with Washington on deploying some 20 interceptor rockets on that eastern European country's territory.