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.