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.