Sunday, January 31, 2010

Georgia's Saakashvili Offers Up Country For Afghan War

Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian leader who rarely shies away from prostituting his country to Western institutions, is up to it again.  This time, Saakashvili is eager to see his tiny, impoverished country in the Caucasus, transformed into a "hub" for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.  His offer comes as Washington ponders how to get more guns and boots into the quagmire that is Afghanistan.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pipeline Puzzle Update: Russia Scores

The great pipeline game across the Eurasian landmass continues.  The latest moves put the Russians ahead with their South Stream pipeline project gaining more traction, while Europe's hopes to build the Nabucco pipeline seem stuck in the mud. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yushchenko Honors Ukrainian Hero, Or Nazi Collaborator?

With his days as Ukrainian president quickly coming to a close, Viktor Yushchenko has made one of his most controversial decisions yet.  Yushchenko has awarded posthumously the "Hero of Ukraine" title to Stepan Bandera, a Ukranian nationalist leader.  Bandera is a hot-button issue for sure.  For many Ukrainians, he was a brave fighter who struggled for their country's independence during World War Two and years after until he was assassinated by the KGB in Munich in 1959.  For others, Bandera was a Nazi collaborator and murderer, and needs to be pilloried not praised.  Beyond that debate is another issue rarely examined in the West.  Many of those within the Soviet Union who fought Soviet troops also had embarrassing ties to the Nazis.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Russia Going Loonie

It's was the type of story that flies under the radar of most world media, but has global impact potential.  On January 20, Russia's central bank announced it had started buying Canadian dollars and securities in a bid to diversify its foreign exchange reserves.  Anticipating the move months in advance, a respected analyst said the Russian action could spell the start of a global trend to diversify.  That's good news for some of the world's other currencies, like, in this case, the Canadian dollar, but bad news, for the world's uber currency, the U.S. dollar.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

International Community Plan To Strengthen Albanian Control in North Kosovo

The "international community" has come up with a plan to decrease Serbia's already withering control over northern Kosovo, the last major ethnic Serb outpost in Kosovo.  The plan would give more authority to the government in Pristina to territory north of the Ibar River.  Serb President Boris Tadic says a "final solution" is being foisted on northern Kosovo.  The tinderbox that is Kosovo just got more explosive.Approximately 2,600 people are currently active there within the framework of EULEX, including around 1,650 international police officers and judges

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Poland And Russia Up Military Ante

Tensions between Russia and Poland have clicked up in the past few days with the two states eying nervously the military announcements of the other.  Warsaw has decided where it will place U.S. Patriot missiles, that just happens to be close to Russia's enclave of Kaliningrad.  Moscow has fired back, announcing plans to beef up its Baltic fleet, but denied it had anything to do with Warsaw's announcement, then denied the whole thing!    

Bulgarian Dumped From EU Spot For Alleged Mafia Ties

{{en}} Belgium, Bruxelles - Brussel, European ...
The EU bureaucracy is in the midst of dishing out its most powerful, posh posts with each 27 member guaranteed one slot.  For Bulgaria, one of the newer, and poorer members, it's the post of EU commissioner for humanitarian aid.  Not exactly one of the sexier slots, but a bit of power, nonetheless.  It would seem a snoozer of a story, but the candidate, Rumjana Zelevova, and her reputed mafia ties, give it spice. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ukrainian Vote Has American Flavor

After his defeat to Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 "Orange Revolution", Viktor Yanukovych decided to airbrush his image.  Cast as a one-time thug who served jail time for theft and a Kremlin stooge, Yanukovych turned to Madison Avenue for a remake.  And it seems to have worked.  Barring a miracle, Yanukovych looks set to become Ukraine's new leader following elections whose first round is set for Sunday, January 17.  However, Yanukovych is not the only Ukrainian pol to reach out across the Atlantic for campaigning and other tips.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Amnesty International Slams Czechs For Roma Schooling

If your a Roma, or Gypsy, kid growing up in the Czech Republic, it's not just back of the classroom for you.  According to Amnesty International, the Czechs continue to place Roma kids in schools for pupils with "mild mental disabilities."  This despite a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling on Prague to stop giving Roma children a sub-par education, and therefore limiting their future opportunities.  And here, as well as elsewhere, the Roma live like it was sub-Saharan Africa.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ukrainian Court Decides Holodomor Was Genocide

The Holodomor, or famine, is for most Ukrainians the defining dark chapter of their history.  Millions died of starvation in Ukraine in 1932-33 as Soviet commissars seized Ukrainian grain to ship further east to feed the swelling industrial ranks.  Ukrainians say it was a coordinated policy to rub out the Ukrainian nation.  Russians reject any program to wipe out the Ukrainians.  But now a court in Kiev has judged the famine was an act of genocide and President Viktor Yushchenko has hailed the ruling as a "landmark that restores historical justice."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Czech Activist Kicked Out Of West Bank By Israelis

Eva Novakova slept soundly in her apartment in Ramallah, in the West Bank, when she was rudely awakened at three in the morning.  A team of some 20 Israeli shock troops burst into the building guns drawn.  After checking each and every aparment in the complex, the Israelis arrested the 28-year-old Novakova, of the International Solidarity Movement.  Her offense?  Overstaying her visa.  Her Israeli visa.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Former NATO Chief Joins Private 'Security' Firm MPRI

Xe Services LLC
Ever wonder where old soldiers go after they've peeled off their military stripes , barked their last order and fired their last bullet?  Why to the ever expanding world of private 'security' with firms like Blackwater, (which is no longer Blackwater, but Xe, more on that later) and MPRI.  We're not only talking about your grunt on the firing line.  Top brass have put themselves at the service of the hired guns.  John Craddock is about as high on the U.S. military ladder as you can reach and he is now the 'president' of MPRI.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Slovak Security Snafu Shocks World

After spending the Christmas holidays at home, Stefan Gonda arrived at the airport in Poprad in the central European state of Slovakia on Saturday to catch a flight back to Dublin where he's been working for the past four years. The 49-year-old checked his bags in and boarded the plane as he'd done numerous times in the past.  That, however, is where normal ends.  Slovak security had an idea, a bad idea.  They would load explosives into the bags of an unsuspecting traveler to test whether their explosive team dogs could sniff them out.  Unknown to him, Gonda would provide the baggage.  However, everything went terribly wrong, and the sleepy town of Poprad soon found itself at the center of world attention.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Serbs Slap Genocide Charges On Croatia

Public hearing at the ICJ.
Serbia has filed genocide charges against neighboring Croatia, in a move likely to plunge bilateral ties between the two former Yugoslav republics to new lows and upset the already shaky stability of the Balkans.  Serbia said it was left with no choice but to file the papers at the International Court of Justice at The Hague after Croatia refused to drop a similar case against the Serbs. 

Monday, January 04, 2010

Informant Followup: Russia Cuts Oil To Belarus

President of Belarus Alexander LukashenkoImage via Wikipedia
Russian frustration on agreeing energy prizes with former Soviet satraps just never seems to end.  In the last post, the Informant told you of talks between Russia and Belarus -- Moscow's fading loyal ally under thug-cum-president Alexander Lukashenko -- deadlocked over what price Minsk would pay for Russian oil deliveries in 2010.  With winter energy cutoffs from Russia become almost habit-forming, Moscow assured all that energy would flow even if the negotiations dragged on.  Now, it seems something may have got lost in translation.  In a sign of further deteriorating ties, Moscow has cut oil deliveries to Belarus, but says black gold will gurgle on to Europe.