Monday, March 31, 2008

Regulation Causes Russians To Quit London

This story in Russia Today HERE tells us that Russian industrial giants are being put off the London stock-market due to new rules enforcing greater disclosure. It could also be that the rebuff Russia has been given by the EU and NATO over Kosovo and Georgia is causing a new layout in the world's power structure, with Russia looking to Asia now for future growth, and cooperation.

If London is to compete, it will have to free itself from the restrictive regulation, and from control by the EU, which seems determined to snub Russia and Asia as often as possible, just as they are becoming potentially Britain's most important future trading partners. The decline of America as a consumer market is being matched by the extraordinary growth of the Asian middle class. Europe is simply going to bypassed if t doesn't shape up and start competing.

The Americans poured into London to escape the Enron law - Sarbanes Oxley, which forced far greater exposure onto companies listing in the US. It seems that similar excessive regulation is now starting to hurt London in the same way.

March 31, 2008, 11:14
Russian firms ditch London for Asia
The wave of Russian companies listing in London may be coming to an end, with many now looking towards Asian bourses. Less stringent disclosure regimes and booming economies are the big draw.
Gazprom announced in November it was looking at a Shanghai listing.

In January the world’s biggest aluminium maker Rusal moved its placement from London to Hong Kong in the third quarter of this year, according to the Financial Times. The origins of Rusal boss Oleg Deripaska are being probed by the British courts.

Now Asia’s first integrated bourse Singapore is in Moscow for talks with Russian majors.

“If you look at our foreign companies only half of them are from China, the rest from different parts of Asia and as far as Europe. Our procedure is very transparent, the whole listing time from the announcement you want to do it to the time you list is only 6 weeks,” confirmed Lawrence Wang, executive VP of Singapore exchange.

A Russian shipping company is favourite to list first in the world’s biggest port city.

“There are a lot of the global competitors of Russian shipping companies traded in Singapore. Therefore in a way it is not very surprising that the largest Russian companies think about listing in Asia,” Dr. Reinout Koopmans from equity capital markets of Deutsche Bank, said.

Transport expert Eduard Faritov at Renaissance Capital says the Russian shipper with the closest Singapore ties is Primorsky Shipping Corporation, whose CFO is based there.

Known as Prisco, the company has a history of innovation, becoming the first shipper to go public in Russia back in 1992.

Exchange reviewer Standard & Poor’s told RT the first Russian listing in Asia could already happen this quarter.

“Any time, it takes 18 weeks, I know a few companies have been there in talks. Now that we have the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in New York, and in London there are talks that listing requirements for foreign companies might become stricter,” affirmed Russian director of Standard and Poors Svetlana Borodina.

This week the Hong Kong exchange is coming to Moscow to prove it is even better placed for tapping China, the world’s fastest growing economy.

It is being followed next week by Messrs Sarbanes and Oxley. They face a struggle to turn back the tide of listings they themselves scared East.

UPDATE - non-dom taxes are driving out many others. See here

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tibetan Monks Campaign For Britain's EU Withdrawal

The Lisbon Treaty has released a new activist monster onto the world stage - the formidable weight of the combined EU Foreign Ministers no less, who can now issue edicts and ultimatums based on qualified majority voting. The Lisbon Treaty has yet to be ratified of course, but such thoughts have never prevented the EU from carrying on as if it had been. Yesterday the Foreign Ministers in their wisdom, issued forth a statement in support of Tibetan separatism, pissing off the Chinese no end in the process.

It's funny how the EU wants to absorb more and more countries into its fold and keep them all in situ regardless of the views of their peoples, and yet believes that the largest 'common market' on the planet, The Peoples Republic Of China, situated on the other side of the world, which has held together peoples of different internal nations for thousands of years, should now have a large more recently acquired piece of itself broken off.

There is not even any evidence that there is a majority in Tibet in favour of separation from China. China indeed claims that a majority of Tibetans prefer to remain as part of China. And yet the EU, which is no respecter of democracy within its own empire, feels that it wishes to promote Tibetan independence without any such democratic mandate.

The EU itself is so unpopular that it dare not hold any referendums about its long term future through fear of losing them. If a democratic vote was taken, the EU, for example might well lose the membership of the UK for a start. Yet despite this fact, China is not recommending that Britain be allowed to break away from the China does not believe it is any of China's business to promote the break-up of the EU.

The EU however sees itself as above all such considerations as to 'spheres of influence' or such trifling matters as democratic accountability, whether that be for itself or any other part of the world.

Pushing such mundane and practical thoughts to one side, the EU, having no military capability, increasingly sees its role as the superior guardian of the world's moral values, competing in this regard with the moralising tendency in the US to project influence around the world in support of 'human rights' - these 'human rights' seemingly being accorded significance in proportion to however much media attention, any particular human rights offence has been granted. And Tibet has been featured as one of the primary human rights scenarios for years, so the EU Foreign Ministers no doubt feel safe in following up on the international media-generated propaganda against China about a part of the world most European have never visited, or understand.

There are no doubt human rights considerations in relation to Tibet as there are in most countries of the world. Chinese culture has different standards as to what is acceptable as anyone who has spent time in China could tell you. Of course very few European Foreign ministers have stepped far from the red carpet and seen how the Chinese or the Tibetans really live, or have any kowledge or even interest in any strategic considerations that China faces. Human rights have to be defended at all costs.

The points China makes about the EU interfering in its internal affairs might be better made by bringing the EU down a peg or two, by in turn pointing out some of the EU's failings...its corruption, its harbouring of terrorists, its lack of popularity, low growth and so on. But China being China merely tells the EU to 'mind your own business'. Maybe in future it should open up a propaganda war against the EU in repayment for the criticism it receives...but its cultural values would make this nigh impossible.

In China there is an obligation to 'save the face' of others, as well as to expect others not to openly criticise you. Dealing with differences is not handled by open confrontation in Chinese culture, and the EU is being culturally insensitive by indulging in such blatant criticism. With China as with other parts of the world, it does not pay to impose a western world view on others.

There would be more democratic logic if Tibetans felt sorry for Britons being forced to live within the EU against their will, and if Tibetan monks campaigned to free Britain, than having ignorant EU Foreign Ministers lending their weight to Tibetan separatism. Hence my today's title...not true of course, although it would make more sense than the EU Foreign Minsters are doing, in pure democratic terms, were they to do so. Also Tibetan monks probably know about as much about Britain and the EU, as EU foreign ministers do about Tibet.

From China News Xinhua yesterday.

China on Sunday voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" over the EU foreign ministers' discussion of and comments on the Tibet issue during their meeting in Slovenia.

"The Tibet issue is completely China's internal affairs. No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu.

The EU foreign ministers issued a statement on the Tibet situation Saturday after their meeting in Brdo, Slovenia.

"We strongly hope the EU and its member states to make a clear distinction between right and wrong, explicitly condemn the violent crimes of beating, smashing, looting and burning and all those offenders, and avoiding taking double standards," the spokesperson said.

She said the EU should not rub salt into the wounds of the innocent victims of the Lhasa riots on March 14 and send a wrong signal to the international community and the Dalai clique and encourage the Tibetan secessionists in their violent crimes.

The riots had disrupted the cultural and religious activities of local people and sabotaged the social order. These are violent crimes that had seriously infringed on human rights and endangered the security of people's lives and their property, she said.

"Every single responsible country in the world would take measures according to the law to stop such kind of violent crime," she said.

The government of the Tibet autonomous region had exercised great restraint in the whole process of handling the incident, the spokesperson said, adding the government had maintained social justice, resumed social order as soon as possible and gained support of the people including ethnic Tibetans.

She said the Chinese government has all along attached great importance to protecting human rights and preserving traditional Tibetan culture and religion. It has invested great manpower and funds to protect, preserve and build cultural and religious institutions, to cater for the needs of Tibetan people.

China currently has more than 50 institutions engaged in Tibet Study and most of their scholars are ethnic Tibetans, Jiang added.

Concerning the Tibetan language, she said both Tibetan and Chinese are taught and used in Tibet, with Tibetan language as the main language. Tibetan language is a main course in schools of every kind.

She added the Tibetan language has become the first language used an ethnic minority group in China for which an international standard has been set up.

Besides, the central government has invested huge funds in the preservation and maintenance of monasteries and religious sites including the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple.

There are currently more than 1,780 religious sites in Tibet with over 46,000 monks and nuns, Jiang said, adding the religious freedom is fully respected in Tibet.

China on Sunday voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" over the EU foreign ministers' discussion of and comments on the Tibet issue during their meeting in Slovenia.

"The Tibet issue is completely China's internal affairs. No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu.

Passport Application By Irate British Citizen

Subject: Passport Application

Dear Minister,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to
jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell
me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to
themselves if I fail to claim in good time.

Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name
is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail
the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the goddamn picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!

Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London . I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being
briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN ...

Yours sincerely,
An Irate British Citizen.

(supplied to me by Colin Greenfield, who lives in Hong Kong)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bush Putin Row About To Explode

President Bush is set to meet President Putin in Romania in April, at the first NATO-Russian Council meeting which has ever been held at head of state level. One might think that with a face to face meeting planned, issues that divide NATO and Russia might be close to resolution. But as Bush has decided to press ahead with expansion of NATO into what Russia considers its traditional spheres of influence, there is a much higher chance that fur will fly, than any meeting of minds will occur.

Russia had offered to turn a blind eye to the EU/UN/NATO's division of Serbia in exchange for NATO agreeing to no further eastern expansion, according to Stratfor. But Bush snubbed Russia's offer of settling borders as they currently are, and offers of help in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern troublespots where the US is experiencing overstretch.

Since the snub, Iran is now hopeful of joining the Shanghai Group of countries (See HERE) which comprises Russia, China and four 'Stans', and which is seen as providing a counterweight to US power and influence around the globe. If Bush had made an agreement with Russia, he could have isolated Iran at the same time, but the rift between Russia and the USA has grantd Iran an opening.

Putin will no doubt not miss any opportunity at the forthcoming meeting to humiliate Bush, if his current rhetoric is anything to go by. Bush has also ensured the Kosovo project will become increasingly problematic by losing the chance to recruit Russian cooperation.

As reported (yet again) by China News (Xinhua) HERE

BRUSSELS, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Russia's ambassador to NATO dismissed on Friday NATO's call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid "unhelpful rhetoric" at next week's NATO summit.

In an interview with the Financial Times published on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he hoped the Russian leader would refrain from making anti-West comments.

"Let's try to avoid unhelpful rhetoric, like 'We will target missiles on nations A, B and C.' That is not only unhelpful, but it makes me remember a time when I was growing up when there was a Berlin Wall and an Iron Curtain," de Hoop Scheffer told the paper.

The call was branded groundless by Russian ambassador Dmitry Rogozin.

"I think he (de Hoop Scheffer) had no real grounds to say that," Rogozin told reporters on Friday.

"Which is more important in international relations -- aggressive policy or aggressive rhetoric?" he asked.

"Is Russia going to deploy any new military bases of its armed forces in Mexico or Canada; or is it negotiating on the accession of Iceland or Northern Ireland to the Warsaw Pact organization; or is Russia deploying its strategic missile defense in Mexico; or is Russia recognizing some parts of sovereign states, like Northern Ireland, Corsica, or the Basque area in Spain, irrespective of the fact that it's prohibited by international law?"

Russia is doing none of them, he said, in a veiled attack of Washington's military expansion and its policies on NATO enlargement and Kosovo.

The outspoken diplomat quipped that the NATO chief might have problems with Putin calling a spade a spade, he said.

"That will not change. He (Putin) will still call a spade a spade and we will come out with our open and frank views and descriptions on the situation in international security," he said.

"President Putin was elected by the Russian people and he is free to say whatever he wants to," said Rogozin.

Putin was invited to the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, for a NATO-Russia Council meeting. This will be the first time that the council is held at the level of heads of state.

Why The Democrats Will Choose Obama

All the news coverage trying to keep the Obama/Clinton story running as long as possible is all so much wasted slices of timber, and reporter's breath. There is one crucial fact which guarantees that Obama will win the Democratic nomination, which is rarely mentioned.

From THIS REPORT on Xinhua (China News), you can see the crucial facts easily enough -

While Clinton still leads among white Democrats, her edge shrank to eight points (49 percent to 41 percent) from 12 points in early March (51 percent to 39 percent).

That seems to refute widespread speculation -- and fears among Obama backers -- that the Illinois senator would lose white support in his bid to be the nation's first African-American president over the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago.

Had that erosion happened, party leaders' reassessment of Obama's electability could have tipped the race in Clinton's favor.

For Obama, weathering the episode could strengthen his standing among party leaders nationwide -- or the super delegates -- whose votes will likely break the impasse.

Meanwhile, in hypothetical match-ups for November's general election, Obama still edges Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona by 44 to 42 percent.

That is nearly the same result as in the early March poll.

But Clinton, who likewise had a narrow advantage over McCain in the earlier survey, trails in this one by two points, 44 percent to his 46 percent.

The poll was conducted March 24-25, a week after Obama delivered a generally well-received address on race.

It is inconceivable that Democratic Superdelegates will nominate Clinton who could lose to McCain, while they can have Obama, who will win. The game is over.

Once this tussle is sorted out, and Clinton is not likely to withdraw until she absolutely has to do so despite calls for her to pull out, the attention will swing back again onto who exactly is Barack Obama.

His childhood was extremely interesting, as he spent four years in Indonesia where he was undoubtedly raised as a Moslem. His birth father was a Moslem and his step-father also. That might suggest that his mother too, who is the biggest influence in his life, according to commentators must be a Moslem also. And yet Obama never draws attention to any of this, and is prone to denial.

From EU Digest (See full article HERE

Mr. Obama raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia

In two best-selling autobiographies—"The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" and "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance"—Mr. Obama, born in Honolulu where his parents met, mentions but does not expand on his Muslim background, alluding only to his attendance at a "predominantly Muslim school." His father was black and came from Kenya. Mr. Obama’s mother, the daughter of a farmer, came from Wichita, Kansas.

Mr. Obama's parents divorced when he was two years old. His father returned to Kenya. Later, Mr. Obama's mother married an Indonesian student and the family moved to Jakarta. Mr. Obama returned to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his maternal grandparents. The sources said the background check concerned Mr. Obama's years in Jakarta.

In Indonesia, the young Obama was enrolled in a Madrassa and was raised and educated as a Muslim. Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state, the U.S. intelligence community has determined that today most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.The young Obama was given the name Hussein by his Muslim father, which the Illinois Democrat rarely uses in public.

So often the strong leaders that revolutionise countries are outsiders - Hitler an Austrian, Stalin a Georgian, Napoleon a Corsican - to give some none too flattering comparisons!. Rarely do those who introduce big changes come from within the system they change. Thatcher was from outside the traditional Tory ruling class. Obama too is an outsider. This black Moslem is unlikely to leave America looking much like the one that is about to elect him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sarkozy Takes The Piss

As reported by The Times Of India, Sarkozy played the role of over keen seducer during his visit to Britain, and made Gordon Brown and Britain look a little desperate in foreign eyes.

France's beleaguered President Sarkozy left Britain on Thursday night after a high-profile 48-hour state visit aimed as much at deepening and strengthening the famously tortured bilateral relationship between traditional rivals, as crucial restoration of a presidential image battered by a too-public private life and too many wives.

With much of frumpy Britain alternately awed and amused by the so-called president le Bling-Bling's verbal and personal flamboyance and the vaguely Jackie Kennedy sartorial style of his glamorous new wife of six weeks, Carla Bruni, Anglo-French ties are seen to have soared to their highest level in decades. President Nicolas Sarkozy strategically arrived in the UK on Wednesday with a demurely-dressed Bruni, an entourage chock-full of glamorous woman cabinet members and a verbal armoury stocked with honeyed words of praise for Britain and its "leadership of the world".

Sarkozy left Britain on a high, two days after his arrival,having accomplished a typically Gallic seduction. Staid Britain, which has long nursed a deep envy of the au naturel chic of its neighbour, found itself flattered by his attentions, flustered by his admiration and swooning with the joy of being so obviously adored.

Late on Wednesday, Sarkozy wowed the parliament when he addressed both Houses. In perhaps the warmest homage to Britain ever delivered by a postwar French leader, Sarkozy enthused about Britain as the cradle of democracy. "Without this, would parliamentary democracy have ever existed in the world", he said.

The flattery prompted British prime minister Gordon Brown to promise at a farewell joint press conference on Thursday that the UK and France - Europe's main military powers and two-thirds of Europe's economic strength - would deepen bilateral ties to the level of an ‘Entente Formidable'.

Sarkozy, meanwhile, jokingly said France's desire for closeness with Britain would last because "It is more than a one-night stand, we will go into the next-day breakfast." His words, described by some as "the political equivalent of a French kiss" left British politicians flushed and panting for more.

How embarrassing. Sarkozy showering kisses, and Brown sucking his tongue for all it's worth. Entente Degoutante, more like. Yuck.

UPDATE - John Redwood heard the whole Sarkozy speech in Parliament. He sums it up briliantly HERE

Here's the summary - There was no sense of irony in the way he put the two parts of his speech together. The first longer part, was brilliant praise of the different British temperament and interests, seeking an independent freedom loving democracy. The second part was a request that we commit ourselves to a centralised over governed European project that limits and damages those very freedom loving democratic virtues for which we at our best have stood.

And the title - The Frenchman Did A Wooing Go Whether His Mother Would Let Him Or No. That's about as near the line as a professional politician can go in revealing an opinion that Sarkozy was maybe not being entirely serious. My title says the same thing more directly.

The Telegraph also points out that Sarkozy's promise of more troops to Afghanistan is more than likely so much hot air HERE


EARLIER - Did you see Sarkozy at the G8 summit in 2007 - not 'taking the ....' but 'on the ....'.

EU Starves Millions In The Name Of Human Rights

Trading success to Europeans is assumed. Business and investment are taken for granted. So certain is the EU of success that they allow an ever-growing raft of regulation to weigh down on business, until the EU's growth rate struggles to exceed 2%, decade in, decade out. Other parts of the world see growth rates of 5% and more, which means that just over one generation on, Europe's economy will double in size while much of the rest of the world will grow up to 16 times. But never mind. The EU is apparently happy with that, and the EU's growth rate is their business after all.

Destroying the prospects of a generation of Europeans is one thing. Most Europeans can manage to eat even if their country's regulation-throttled growth rate is paltry. The EU, however now wishes to inflict the same growth-crushing limitations on its third world trading partners, who are far less able to cope with it.

By refusing to allow Asean countries to join in a free trade deal unless they comply with a long list of political requirements, the EU is showing that its obsession with regulation, and especially its so-called 'human rights' agenda, is so bad that the poverty and hunger of tens of millions, is, it appears, an acceptable price for the EU to extract.

To the EU, human rights encompass everything conceivable but not apparently what most people would imagine to be the most basic human right of all - the right to be able to eat.

By lumping the price of so-called 'free trade' in with onerous and expensive regulatory and political demands, rendering the term 'free trade' redundant, the EU is destroying the good that genuine free trade would do to help the poor of South East Asia, where unemployment and hunger are present on a vast scale. Millions are waiting to join the world economy, to get jobs and to rise out of poverty. Normally hard work and skill development would be sufficient for poor people to be able to better themselves, but the EU prefers to place further insurmountable barriers in the way, ensuring that those crucial export markets are denied.

Today's Philippine Business Mirror reports the difficulties the EU is placing on the Philippines, in this regard. As reported -

A senior diplomat said the Philippines may not be able to join in the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since Brussels requires a bilateral deal that includes political commitments on various issues that relate to human rights.

The official (clearly too frightened to give his or her name) said the proposed bilateral Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) submitted by the EU covers a 'whole range of issues' including corruption, anti-terrorism, human rights and 'linking them all to trade'.

It's too ambitious. We will need to feel our way on the proposed bilateral agreement with the EU..we need to assess how far we can go, and what we can take,' said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The PCA covers commitments to the Asean economies to promoting human rights and international humanitarian laws, ratification of the 1995 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), efforts against terroism, preventing illegal immigration and promoting good governance that includes fighting corruption. Complying with many of these terms would necessitate changes to the Philippine Constitution. Is it really the business of the EU to be dictating to nations states in other parts of the world how their cultures should address these issues, when the EU itself has an appalling record on corruption (See recent account fromHERE), democratic accountability and is surprisingly tolerant of dangerous terrorists living in their midst.

Human rights is a question of perception. If there are violations of human rights, in the eyes of the EU, does that mean that the EU will withdraw trade concessions?' asked the official.

Another problem for the proposed Asian-EU 'free' trade agreement is the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar. The EU has excluded Burma from the negotiations until the military junta implements the roadmap to democracy that includes the release of pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the inclusion of all parties in the drafting their constitution.

The words 'hoops' and 'jumping through' come to mind. While a few privileged Europeans dine out in fancy restaurants dreaming up yet more reasons why they will not open their markets to the world's poor, millions of stomachs that could have been fed will remain empty. As for the part about the EU insisting on democratic standards, it would be cause for much mirth when you consider the EU's own record of destroying the democracies of its original member nations, were it all not so tragic.

The way to achieve political development in poor countries is to first promote economic development. In the scale of priorities, democratic accountability and European-style human rights come a long way down the list when food is not in ready supply. That is what the EU should hold as its highest priority, not putting impossible obligations onto the table and impossible hoops for undeveloped countries to jump through, but food.

It's yet another example of the supranational organisations making life impossible for nation states, and the poor people that live within them. At the next meeting of the EU's top policy-makers, whoever they happen to be and whatever their names, could they please change their ultimate priority away from political regulation. It should be 'FOOD FIRST' every time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

US Snub Pushes Russia Into Chinese Arms

George Bush's decision to snub Russia's attempts to negotiate an end to NATO expansion into what it considers her own traditional sphere of influence, has had the inevitable result of pushing Russia and China yet closer together. Stratfor the global strategic consultants reported last week that Putin offered not to kick up up fuss over the UDI of Kosovo in exchange for Bush backing off from Ukraine, Georgia and other countries that might be tempted to join NATO. Bush didn't even wait a week after the visit by gates and Rice to Moscow, before publicly stating that he was willing to supply arms to Kosovo, and offering Georgia an opening to begin her application to join NATO.

Putin is now inevitably drawn further towards China, strengthening their mutual interest in resisting American attempts to destabilise their internal affairs and their international relationships in places like Serbia, Tibet and so on. See HERE The EU and the US have a shared arrogance that their systems of government and their record on matters of human rights are superior, justifying intervention either by news propaganda, political courtship of separatist areas and military invasion. Yet the US and others are guilty of starting the Iraq war, and are undermining the stability of many regimes that provide stability to large sections of the world's population.

The idea that these interventions are assisting the war on terror, are hopelessly off the mark. By destabilising nation states, Al Quaeda is finding its work easier to carry out - notably in Iraq, and in Kosovo. Regional warfare is also facilitated with, for example Turkey now having to fight to keep the Kurds from troubling her eastern provinces.

The US and the EU don't have the military strength to back up their ambitions. They cannot fight endless wars as in Iraq, and they don't have the economic and political strength to provide sufficient relacement for the nation states they wish to undermine. It is time that the EU's and Bush's international arrogance was halted, and replaced with the kind of more conciliatory and realistic approach advocated by Barack Obama.

The watchword should be peace and stability first. Idealistic warfare and propagandising unpleasant regimes should be reigned back. Roll on November, and the chance of a change in US foreign policy. As for the EU, there is no end in sight to the growing arrogance of Brussels as regards foreign policy, with its Lilliputian military capability, and unwillingness to engage militarily to back up its political posturing.

President Medvedev today warns Europe and the US not to push on with NATO expansion, as it is threatening regional stability. See HERE - while his jets enter an exclusion zone in US airspace in Alaska. See story HERE. Bush is needlessly polarising the world into two opposing camps. You would have thought the War on Terror was enough trouble to be going on with.

UPDATE - It seems that many more countries wish to stand together to resist American and European influences.

From Associated Press - China Welcomes Iran Wish To Be Member Of Shanghai Group

March 25, 2008
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--China welcomes Iran's wish to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which groups China, Russia and Central Asian nations, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday, Kyodo News reported.

But Tehran's wish to be upgraded from observer status still requires discussion by the group, spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press conference, according to Kyodo.

The organization is considered by some in the region as a counterbalance to influence from the U.S., Kyodo said.

Iran has participated in SCO meetings in the past as an observer.

The Central Asian nations in the grouping are the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

It seems that the US might have wasted the opportunity it had to isolate Iran, by offending Russia.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Truth Distortion Of Tibetan Media Fest

PICTURE. Nancy Pelosi, Poseur Internationale and Speaker of The US House Of Representatives meets the exiled Dalai Lama in India.

The war against nation states continues around the world. Propaganda is the main tool in use to persuade people that nation states have to be broken up, all that is, apart from the US of A or the European Union. The media frenzy reporting on Tibet is no exception. Most of the stories have been fabricated and exaggerated, with footage 'adapted' and put out on global TV to blacken the Chinese.

Here is the pathetic apology from those in the media who have been fund out. HERE

BERLIN, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Two German news organizations have apologized after being accused of distorting facts in covering the riots in Lhasa, capital city of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

German news television N-TV on Monday admitted that a picture and a video sequence it used on March 20 in a report about the riots in Tibet had actually been taken in Nepal, a neighboring country of China.

It said the images had already been replaced after editors noticed the mistakes.

"We are terribly sorry," said a N-TV spokesman in Colgone.

On Sunday, another German television, RTL, also admitted on its website that it "used a picture in a wrong context."

In fact, the picture showed security forces in Nepal, the RTL Aktuell, a main news program of the RTL TV, said in an online statement.

"The image was taken on March 17 in the capital city of Kathmandu, where Nepalese security forces were confronting demonstrators with batons," it said.

"We have accidentally created the impression that it is a scene of the unrest in Tibet with Chinese security forces involved. We regret this error," the statement added.

The RTL Aktuell, N-TV, along with the German Bild newspaper and the Washington Post, have been found using images of baton-wielding Nepalese police in clashes with protesters in Kathmandu, claiming that the officers were Chinese police.

They were among those Western media that have been condemned by netizens in the past few days for distorting facts in covering the riots in Lhasa.

CNN has posted a picture on its website showing people running in front of a military truck. The original picture uploaded by Chinese netizens, however, also shows mobsters throwing stones at the truck.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a picture on its website showing China's armed police officers helping medical staff move a wounded person into an ambulance.

The website's caption said "there is a heavy military presence in Lhasa," neglecting obvious "First Aid" and red cross signs on the ambulance.

The German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost posted a picture on its website in which police in Lhasa rescued a young man of Han nationality assaulted by rioters. But the caption distorted the fact as "insurrectionist taken away by police."

Fox TV said in a picture's caption on its website that the Chinese military dragged some protesters onto a vehicle but actually the uniformed people were Indian police.

See detailed pictures from China News here showing how CNN and the BBC have wrongly reported incidents to fit the anti-Chinese narrative. HERE

No wonder Serbia has sent a message of support to China.

More details from

CHENGDU, China — China accused the Dalai Lama on Sunday of stoking Tibetan unrest to sabotage the Beijing Olympics and also berated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she is ignoring the truth about Tibet.

This month's violence in Tibet and neighboring provinces has turned into a public relations disaster for China ahead of the August Olympics, which it had been hoping to use to bolster its international image.

The Chinese government said through official media that formerly restive areas were under control and accused the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, of trying to harm China's image ahead of the summer games.

"The Dalai clique is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese government to make concessions to Tibet independence," said the People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

The Tibetan spiritual leader called the accusations against him "baseless," asserting that he supported China's hosting of the summer games.

"I always support (that) the Olympics should ... take place in Beijing ... so that more than 1 billion human beings, that means Chinese, they feel proud of it," he said Sunday in New Delhi, India.

Pelosi's visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala, India, on Friday was the first by a major foreign official since the protests broke out. The Democratic leader said if people don't speak out against China's oppression in Tibet, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world."

China's official Xinhua New Agency published commentary Sunday accusing Pelosi of ignoring the violence caused by the Tibetan rioters.

"'Human rights police' like Pelosi are habitually bad tempered and ungenerous when it comes to China, refusing to check their facts and find out the truth of the case," it said.

"Her views are like so many other politicians and western media. Beneath the double standards lies their intention to serve the interest groups behind them, who want to contain or smear China," it said.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Sunday that Pelosi condemns the Chinese government's crackdown in Tibet and calls on it "to begin a substantive dialogue and to allow journalists and independent monitors into Tibet to find out the truth."

China's reported death toll from the protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa earlier this month is 22. Tibet's exiled government says 99 Tibetans have been killed.

Xinhua said Sunday that 94 people had been injured in four counties and one city in Gansu province in riots on March 15-16. The report also said 19 rioters had surrendered in Gannan, a prefecture in Gansu, but it did not give any details.

Despite the media restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, some information was leaking out. An American backpacker who traveled to Chengdu, the capital of western Sichuan province, said he had seen soldiers or paramilitary troops in Deqen in northwest Yunnan province, which borders Tibet.

"What was an empty parking lot by the library was full of military trucks and people practicing with shields. I saw hundreds of soldiers," said the backpacker, who would give only his first name, Ralpha.

There have been no reported protests in Yunnan.

Monks at the Gedan Song Zan Monastery outside of Zhongdian in northwest Yunnan prayed Sunday for peace and an end to the recent unrest among ethnic Tibetan populations in China. The monks, who characterized themselves as both Tibetan and Chinese, said they felt that the upheaval and riots had helped no one.

The government has insisted that stability has returned to the troubled areas. State broadcaster China Central Television said Sunday that electricity and telecommunications had been restored in Lhasa.

The official lighting of the Olympic torch is set for Monday in Greece, and some 1,000 police will surround Ancient Olympia to keep away pro-Tibetan protesters from the ceremony. The torch is scheduled to travel through 20 countries before the Beijing Olympics open on Aug. 8.

One of Thailand's six torchbearers withdrew Sunday in protest. Environmentalist Narisa Chakrabongse said in an open letter that she decided against taking part in the relay to "send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions."

Meanwhile, a group hosting the Dalai Lama's visit to Germany May 14-20 said Sunday that the trip was still scheduled to take place. The trip is to include meetings between the Dalai Lama and various German state leaders.

For some balance in looking at internal Tibet, see THIS to undo the easy propaganda ride given to the Dalai Lama's clique.

The world's media is not interested. Don't confuse them with evidence. They've already made up their minds to wrongly inform you.

UPDATE - Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov sees Tibetan separatist violence as linked to Kosovo. See HERE sees Tibet as in play with America playing it up for strategic reasons HERE

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sports Stars Give Serbia A Voice

The Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic who was banned from the European Championships after winning the Mens Butterfly for wearing a red T shirt with 'Kosovo is Serbia' written on it, lives in the United States, where he grew up. He attended UC Berkeley, which he chose for the quality of its swimming coach.

As a child he found that swimming races spoiled the time he spent in the swimming pool, but his father insisted he had to push on with his swimming due to his great promise. This is typical of many successful athletes, in that they are pressured into success by an ambitious parent. His parents moved to the US before he was born.

It is a little surprising to find that a second generation American with a big swimming career ahead of him feels so strongly about the goings-on in Serbia that he is willing to sacrifice the progress of his career. He said he understood the risks he was taking with the Sports authorities by carrying out his protest.

This report from EPSN tells the story -

Cavic, who was born in Anaheim, Calif., to Serb parents and trains in Florida, said Thursday he was just trying to send "positive energy" to the country he represents.

"I didn't do it to provoke anger, I didn't do it to provoke violence," Cavic told The Associated Press. "The country is torn apart and ... my goal was just to uplift them."

Serbia's Minister for Sports Snezana Samardzic-Markovic called the decision "scandalous."

"Cavic did not wear a T-shirt with portraits of war crime suspects, he was not calling for violence or breach of international conventions," Samardzic-Markovic said. "I have to remind everyone that Kosovo is not recognized by most of world's countries, or the United Nations, nor by the International Olympic Committee."

The United Nations has not formally recognized Kosovo, and Serb ally Russia -- a veto-wielding member of the Security Council -- has described the independence declaration as illegal. The IOC has said Kosovo cannot compete in the Olympics until it is formally recognized by the U.N.,

In truth the suspension of Cadic by the Europeans has ensured he gets maximum worldwide publicity for his demonstration, and he has done more to lift Serb spirits than any other event in recent weeks. Street demonstrations and the fighting in Mitrovica hardly got a mention in the media, but a sportsman in a T Shirt has hit the media spot.

Another top Serb sports personality Novak Djokovic spoke publicly of Serbia, after winning the Australian Open (which took place just before the EU took over the running of Kosovo), and he was later interviewed about the UDI of Kosovo on Serbian TV, inviting many Kosovan children to meet him in Belgrade to demonstrate his feelings about the potential loss of Kosovo.

Last week he again beat Spaniard Rafael Nadal in straight sets, and both he won the men's tournament at Indian Wells on Sunday, and Ana Ivanovich took the women's title giving Serbia a double. No comments from either of them were reported, or demonstration of their feelings about Kosovo and Serbia, but there was a big Serbian flag-waving contingent in the crowd much noticed by the commentators.

As reported on ESPN -

Ivanović beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia earlier in the day in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, for her first title this season.

Novak Đoković brought the second trophy to Serbia with his 2-1 win over American Mardy Fish. Đoković won 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 for the eight title in his career, the second this year.

They were cheered throughout by flag-waving compatriots perched high in the stands at the desert venue, DPA reported from the Pacific Life event.

Saturday, a day after Ana Ivanović made in to the women's finals after beating compatriot Jelena Janković, Đoković beat world number two Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

It would not be surprising if Djokovic too made comments publicly about Kosovo on the world stage when he gets the right opportunity. It seems that the EU's expectations that young Serbs will look beyond the loss of Kosovo towards EU membership, and vote accordingly is meeting with the opposite. The young understand that their national identity is threatened by the EU, and are showing spirited resistance.

From Yahoo News-

For good measure, third-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic made it to the women's semi-finals, and Nenad Zimonjic was a doubles finalist.

One wag quipped that Indian Wells should be renamed Serbian Wells.

"This is something I think that we absolutely deserve," Djokovic said. "We've been working very hard to throughout all of our lives, and this is just a crown for our work, and it's paying off."

He said he hoped his success and that of his compatriots on the tennis courts would buoy a country that is now in some turmoil.

"Considering the fact that our country is in a very difficult position, they are struggling economically and in politics as well, I just try to help my country as much as I can," said Djokovic, who said he didn't want to comment on the "Kosovo is Serbia" banner displayed by some fans in an upper deck of the stadium seats.

The black banner was on view during Ivanovic's match but had been taken down for Djokovic's - at the request of tournament organizers.

It was the same slogan that Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic wore on a T-shirt while collecting a gold medal at the European Championships on Wednesday - a political comment that got him suspended from the event.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian-dominated parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17. Most Serbs consider the southern territory the cradle of their nation's history, culture and religion.

Ivanovic, 20, said Cavic's story saddened her, but she, too, was reluctant to be drawn into any divisive debate.

"I don't know much about politics, and I don't get involved in that area," she said. "You know, when I'm out here playing, I just want to represent my country in the best possible way.

"Whatever's happening, you know, it's tough, but still, it's very hard for me to say anything about it."

Djokovic, who has been the biggest sports star in Serbia since his Australian Open triumph in January, has spoken previously about his heartache over the separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

His family has cross-border loyalties, his father Srdjan being Serbian, and his mother Dijana Montenegran.

He said then that his belief was that Kosovo was part of Serbia, and always would be.

Djokovic said he hadn't encountered any repercussions from that video speech.

"I haven't got any negative comments on that," he said. "Of course, my life is my tennis, my life is sport. This is what I try to keep focused on.

"I know that people obviously look at me as a very successful athlete and the man who can bring a lot of positive energy to their country ... but as I said before, I'm not trying to get involved in politics."

From B92 website - Sweden's representative at the Eurosong to be hosted in Belgrade claims, "I will sing in Serbian". Maybe music will also provide Serbia with a voice. The contest will be held on the 20th,22nd and 24th May 2008 in Belgrade, after the elections on May 11th, hosted by Javana Jankavic and Zeljko Joksinovic, Pictured.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The War Against Nation States

In the last few days it has become clear that George Bush is unwilling to stop attempts to prise away more satellites from the Russian sphere of influence, despite Russian offers to reduce pressure on the US' dividing Kosovo from Serbia. Bush is already making moves on Georgia, offering membership of NATO.

The War In Iraq has been given many different narratives since its inception - inter alia, part of the War On Terror, a war to stop the use of WMD, an attempt to intervene in the Middle East and promote democracy. But the actual result has been unsuccessful in achieving any of these. In fact it has been counterproductive in all three objectives. Al Quaeda was able to boost its recruitment and deliver terror attacks into many countries on the back of the Iraq War. Democracy is not establishing in the Middle East, and WMD are if anything closer than before thanks to the programme in Iran.

The one assured result of the war in Iraq, however has been the effective break-up of the country. The Kurds are operating to all intents and purposes as an independent country, and the Shia and the Sunni have withdrawn into their respective camps, and fight each other.

It seems that everywhere you look, nation states are being broken up. Within the EU, separatism is an immediate threat - in Spain, Britain, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece to name the more obvious cases - but there is also a longer term programme within the EU to divide the nation states into regions, and break them up that way.

Diana Johnstone, a left-wing American journalist living in Paris, observed that in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, there was a deliberate programme from the west to achieve this outcome. Her experiences were sufficient to move her to write extensively trying to explain to the world that the story they were being given by news organisations and governments was not the true one that she and other reporters was seeing every day.

Boba Borojevic of Radio CKCB Ottawa, Canada interviewed Diana Johnstone (both pictured), about her book 'Fool's Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions'.

Here is an extract.

To the aspiration of those who promote globalization and multiculturalism any nation state is not acceptable. Yugoslavia as a multinational state was not acceptable to the globalists as a potential alternative either. And it had to be dismantled.

"I think that globalization and multiculturalism that you are speaking of is promoted by very strong economic interests, " says Johnstone. "What does globalization mean? It means putting certain economic interests above everything else. It means reorganizing the world according to U.S.-backed business concerns and financial investment. In order to do that you have to get rid of effective nation- states so that you end up with nothing but a bunch of little mini-states absolutely unable to defend themselves." Nation states are not favorable in the globalization concept, "because the nation state can be democratic and can defend the interests of its own population. So you break down all of the borders and you make every majority in any country feel guilty because of its minorities. This constant concern about minorities is making the majority feel guilty and feel helpless. This is the way of destroying democracy so that the world can be totally run by business interests. It is fostering, however, exactly the opposite of what it intended to do because it is encouraging a sort of nationalist backlash. But the purpose of the backlash may be to preserve a political unit in which the people can protect their own interests," continues Johnstone.

"Yugoslavia was misfortunate in being an experimental laboratory for all this. There were minorities and of course there were ethnic conflicts that existed, but they could have been dealt with in a reasonable way. The West boasted that they were making peace but they only made the situation worse. The Serbs were targeted from all sides because as the largest group they were the most interested in keeping some kind of viable state together," said Johnstone.

Diana Johnstone is a widely published essayist and columnist and the author of the book which title itself says plenty "Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions". The book contains all the crucial evidence, purposely omitted by the Western authorities and media, important to understand what had happened and what caused the war in the former Yugoslavia. This is why we wanted to know what made Diana Johnstone write this book?

"What made me write the book really was this indignation over the lies. I have worked as a journalist and been around journalism for a quite a while and I know journalists who have been there longer than I have, and who said this was the most extraordinary case of propaganda and lies they had ever seen. I just felt absolutely obliged to try to combat these lies, because this sort of distortion of historical truth is terribly dangerous for everybody. Of course the first victims of this are the Serbian people who are treated like monsters because of these lies, which identified them with Nazis and so on. But in the long run this is dangerous for everybody," concluded Johnstone.

Boba Borojevic holds a degree in German language and literature and is a producer of a radio program 'Monday's Encounter' on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa.

Full report of the interview - HERE

Diana Johnstone's book 'Fool's Crusade' was published in 2006. It was reviewed in Monthly Book Reviews. This is how the review begins -


On December 8th 2002, George Packer wrote the following in a New York Times Magazine article titled "The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq":

"Why there is no organized liberal opposition to the war?

"The answer to this question involves an interesting history, and it sheds light on the difficulties now confronting American liberals. The history goes back 10 years, when a war broke out in the middle of Europe. This war changed the way many American liberals, particularly liberal intellectuals, saw their country. Bosnia turned these liberals into hawks. People who from Vietnam on had never met an American military involvement they liked were now calling for U.S. air strikes to defend a multiethnic democracy against Serbian ethnic aggression. Suddenly the model was no longer Vietnam, it was World War II -- armed American power was all that stood in the way of genocide. Without the cold war to distort the debate, and with the inspiring example of the East bloc revolutions of 1989 still fresh, a number of liberal intellectuals in this country had a new idea. These writers and academics wanted to use American military power to serve goals like human rights and democracy -- especially when it was clear that nobody else would do it."

If George Packer's assertion is true, and I believe it is, then it becomes necessary to revisit the Yugoslavia events in the light of everything that has transpired over the past decade.... The "humanitarian intervention" themes that were first raised on behalf of Bosnia crop up repeatedly. Not only were they used as an excuse to make war in the Balkans on two occasions, they have been used twice in Iraq as well. There are never-ending supplies of evil dictators, who are either the next Hitler or the next Stalin or a combination of the two, to unite the American people in Orwellian "hate minutes."


When much of the left was cheering the NATO war on Yugoslavia, another large section gave credence to the false story while drawing the line at intervention. For example, shortly after the government of Yugoslavia was overthrown by violent, rightwing gangs, Noam Chomsky compared this to the overthrow of South Africa's Apartheid system.

Johnstone identifies a sharp disjunction between the movement against globalization that took shape in the 1990s and a widespread failure to see how that very process was at the root of the Balkans wars and the immiseration that has followed in its footsteps. It is easy for activists to respond to Chiapas; it was much harder to break through the propaganda and mystification over Yugoslavia where defense of the right of the Serb peoples to live in peace became tantamount to Holocaust denial.

Johnstone writes:

The sovereign nation is being broken down subtly by the pressures of economic globalization. It may also be undermined from within, by domestic insurgencies. In the post-Cold War world, the Carnegie Endowment study noted, "groups within states are staking claims to independence, greater autonomy, or the overthrow of an existing government, all in the name of self-determination." In regard to these conflicts, "American interests and ideals compel a more active role." This may go so far as military intervention when self-determination claims or internal repression of such claims lead to "humanitarian calamities." In the future, the authors announced in 1992, "humanitarian interventions will become increasingly unavoidable." The United States will have the final word as to when and how to intervene. "The United States should seek to build a consensus within regional and international organizations for its position, but should not sacrifice its own judgment and principles if such a consensus fails to materialize."

Indeed, just as WWI was launched in part to stop Hun atrocities, so are the wars of the last 10 years or so framed in terms of saving lives and upholding democracy. Unless the left learns how to distinguish between government propaganda and the true aims of an ever more aggressive imperialism, we will be useless. Diana Johnstone's book is a very good place to start.

The full book review can be found HERE


It seems that cultural imperialism is driving the American push into many parts of the globe, as it attempts to enforce humanitarian and democratic ideals. The ideals are wonderful, but in practice the programme is destroying nations states, and replacing them with tenuous international organisations, which are not going to be able to replace the stability of the nation states they are destroying. If, for example the EU collapses, which it must eventually do, how will the hundreds of EU regions that are left, after it has broken up the nations of Europe, be able to function at all?

There is also the current danger that sooner or later the USA will blunder into yet another war, maybe over Kosovo, involving Serbia and Russia. It would produce a totally unnecessary strategic disaster for the West, and cast millions into a ghastly terror as the situation unwound itself. It is not impossible that the Americans and their European allies will find a nation state or group of nation states willing and able to bite back. If America is humiliated, the world will overnight become a far more dangerous place for all its citizens. Why risk it?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bush Pushes His Luck With Putin

Who or what is Stratfor?

Stratfor describes itself in these terms - Stratfor is the world’s leading private intelligence service. Our global team of intelligence professionals provides our Members with insights into political, economic, and military developments to reduce risks, to identify opportunities, and to stay aware of happenings around the globe.

I guess no one knows it all about anything, but it makes interesting reading to browse Stratfor's latest assessment of the outcome of the recent negotiations between Russia and the US in Moscow. On the surface these seemed full of hope with Russia making offers of help to support American efforts in Afghanistan, and offering a friendly hand to the US in exchange for being treated as an equal.

If anyone, however thought that George Dubya Bush was a spent force about to quit the Presidency in silence and shrink away into peaceful retirement, then let him think again.

Read on -

U.S. President George W. Bush, fresh from meetings with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday, announced American support for Georgia’s NATO bid. Specifically, Bush announced that he would lobby the NATO allies to grant Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP), the first step toward joining the alliance.

Bush’s statement contained sufficient equivocation that MAP is hardly a foregone conclusion and formal membership is anything but imminent, but Russia has nonetheless been put on notice. NATO is preparing to march east yet again.
For the past month the West and Russia have been at a crossroads. After 10 years of heavy investment of political capital by the Kremlin into supporting its Balkan ally, Serbia, the West ran roughshod over Russian concerns by recognizing the independence of Kosovo, a renegade Serbian province. That decision blew a hole through the image of Russian power.

In the midst of an internal transition of power and reeling from the Kosovo defeat, Moscow needs a means of striking back at the West to demonstrate its potency. To flex its muscles, Russia can encourage separatism in U.S. allies, complicate the United States’ Middle East policy with selective weapons sales and technology transfers, and manipulate European energy supplies.

But Russia also knows that if it makes any missteps, Western influence could threaten its position on more fronts than the country can defend. Even with high energy prices bolstering its bottom line and a strong president holding the system together, the Kremlin knows Russia is but a shadow of its Cold War self. Meanwhile, it is not that the West is without vulnerabilities — weaknesses are available for exploitation from Finland to Turkey — but that during the last 18 years, Western institutions have only strengthened in absolute terms.

The West has the advantage of political, economic and military superiority, along with the flexibility to dabble anywhere along the Russian periphery, and with a little elbow grease and luck, even within the Russian Federation itself. Remember, it is Russia — not the United States — that is riddled with potential secessionist regions. And it is the United States — not Russia — that sits safely on the other side of an ocean from its potential competitors.

In short, there is no doubt in either Moscow or Washington that the two share the ability to swap blows in areas of critical importance. Efforts undertaken March 17 and March 18 saw a final attempt to head off a post-Kosovo confrontation when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Moscow to determine whether the Russians and Americans could agree to disagree.

In the American mind, a Russia that agrees to sit on its hands while the United States sews up Iraq is preferable. And yes, we realize that “sew up” is a gross simplification even in the best of circumstances. Moscow’s position in the talks was more nuanced than Washington’s: Moscow offered to hold off on seeking retaliation for its defeat in Kosovo should the United States agree to hold off on pushing its NATO agenda deeper into the former Soviet Union. Ultimately, the two sides proved unable to hammer out a deal, and Bush’s statement is the proof that, for the Americans at least, confrontation is the order of the day.

As to how this will play out, I imagine Putin will be so angry about the US' decision to press on eastwards, that he will be doing his best to destabilise the US' operations in Kosovo. I cannot see Russia wanting the US to lose in Iraq or Afghanistan, as a resurgent Al Quaeda would be as much a problem for Russia as anyone else. The Russians might decide to play it long, anticipating the coming change in the Presidency, and keep quiet until Obama's secure in the White House, and then unleash a charm offensive on him.

But with Bush this week sending weapons to arm Kosovan Albanian gangs, and with the negotiations in Northern Kosovo being handled so ineptly, it might be impossible to hold back the wave of anger that Bush's moves (in conjunction with the EU) are unleashing in The Balkans. It seems that Bush hasn't learned his lesson in Iraq. He so badly wants to register a geopolitical success to mark the end of his Presidency, that he's raising the stakes. I cannot imagine that Serbia or Russia will be content to play along with their intended humiliation without reacting in some way.

UPDATE - from Associated Press

March 20, 2008 7:52 AM
MOSCOW-The Russian parliament is expected to warn this week that if Georgia joins NATO, Moscow could recognize the independence of two breakaway republics.

"It will be necessary to take all measures to protect the Russian citizens living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and investigate the possibility of speeding up the process of sovereignty ... up to recognizing their independence," according to a statement that the lower house of parliament is all but certain to adopt on Friday.

Most of the residents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two separatist regions in Georgia, have Russian passports.

The statement does not specify other measures, but they presumably could include increasing the presence of Russian troops in both regions. Russian forces have been part of peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the republics broke away from Georgian central government control in wars in the 1990s.

Georgia is pushing to be placed on track for NATO membership at the alliance summit in early April in Bucharest, Romania. U.S. President George W. Bush strongly supports the move, but some other alliance members are expected to resist due largely to concerns about angering Russia.

The statement draft also calls on Russia to consider opening unspecified missions in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Trans-Dniester, a separatist region of Moldova. It was not clear if these would be formal diplomatic missions whose presence would constitute recognition of the regions' separatist governments.

Russia does not currently recognize any of the separatist governments, but has developed close relations with them that many critics regard as de-facto recognition.

Last month's declaration of independence by Kosovo, which has been fiercely opposed by Russia, led to speculation that the Kremlin would openly support South Ossetia and Abkhazia splitting from Georgia.

The draft statement straddles the question.

The Duma "respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and Moldova," according to the statement. But "Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Trans-Dniester, having built over the years their de-facto independent democratic states with all attributes of authority, have a much larger basis than Kosovo to aspire for international recognition."

Albanian Gangsterism Is Running The Balkans

Today news comes from Pristina the day after George Bush agrees to ship arms into Kosovo, that Albanian gangs are openly fighting each other, unreported on western media channels for whatever reason. At least 13 are said to have been wounded yesterday according to a Russian news service.

As someone said recently, 'there are enough guns in Kosovo, Mr Bush. What are needed are talks.'

Also reported on Serbianna is that the head of the Yugoslav War Crimes Prosecutions Carla Del Ponte, writing in her new book 'The Hunt', to be published on April 4th in Italy, indicated the reason why so many Albanian War Crimes have gone unpunished while the Serbs have been pursued -

as follows -

UN personnel feared for their lives in Kosovo while some of the judges presiding over the Hague Tribunal for former Yugoslavia were in fear from Kosovo Albanians that have committed atrocities against Serbs and that is why very few cases of Kosovo Albanian war criminals have been prosecuted, writes Carla Del Ponte, former Chief Prosecutor of the UN Tribunal, in her new book.

"I am sure that some of the top UNMIK and even KFOR officials feared for their lives and the lives of their missions’ members," says Del Ponte.

Del Ponte's new book "The Hunt" details her work as the chief war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia.

"I think that some of the judges of the Tribunal for Yugoslavia were afraid that the Albanians might come and get them," writes Del Ponte.

In her book, Del Ponte details her meeting with the current so-called Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Taci, at the 5th Anniversary of the Dayton Peace Treaty that ended the Bosnian conflict and says that, while sitting at a table, Taci admitted to her that Kosovo Albanians committed atrocities.

Those atrocities, also said Taci, were not done by the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA, of which he was the leader but, instead, atrocities were committed by regular civilian Albanians only dressed up in KLA uniforms.

It seems taking Carla Del Ponte's opinions and those expressed by the Gerard Gallucci, Head of UNMIK in Mitrovica that those who really know what has gone on and is going on in Kosovo, that the relaxed attitude being taken by the US in particular and by the EU and the UN towards Albanians in Kosovo is likely to be regretted at some point. It seems that the Serbs operate with ruthless efficiency when they are being aggressive, but they are capable of respecting a peace, while the Albanians are not.

Gerard Gallucci's 'Report After Defeat' criticisng UNMIK's dawn raid on the Mitrovica Courthouse, was reproduced in my post 'UN Mitrovica Head Resigns' - as follows -

"One positive aspect is that during the events Monday, Serbs did not disturb or attack Albanians in northern Mitrovica, and they cooperated with UNMIK during the evacuation of our civilians," Gallucci said.

Some Albanians live in the north of the divided town, while there are no Serbs in the southern, Albanian part.

More evidence of Albanian ethnic cleansing of Serbs -

"Our credibility and relations necessary for our peacekeeping role in the north have been seriously, perhaps irreversibly jeopardized. Now we can all see that Serbs have a clear goal, that they are well-organized and well-armed. The Serb community in the north, regardless of whether people like Marko [Jakšić] and Milan [Ivanović], will gather around their 'radical' leadership, if it is directly provoked. Reaction to any attempt of their arrest would be fierce," the paper, entitled, "Report after defeat", says.

"All in all, it must be clear that the use of force to achieve political goals related to the status will not work. Just as we have said many, many times before… the use of force will only lead to violence that will probably accelerate the partition or will lead to new ethnic cleansing and conflict. This must be kept in mind when future decisions are made about UN courts, railways, electricity."

Gallucci also suggested that UNMIK must "admit its mistakes and repent for what has been done" in order to continue communicating with the Serbs in the north.

"Albanians must be made to understand clearly: leave the north to us, live in peace and stop threatening with violence.

It is quite extraordinary that Albanian violence and threats of violence always go unreported, while Serbian responses are broadcast worldwide. The handling of Kosovo is hopelessly one-sided in every way.

We heard that Premier Thaci's been telling people he's been "having trouble controlling the Drenica boys".

That sounds like a nice threat to keep UNMIK working on the Albanian side, and one which successfully forced the UN's hand into the Courthouse attack, resulting in at least one fatality and 130 people being wounded.

We did not annul the unilateral declaration of independence because we could not stop it.

although Gallucci would clearly have liked to stop it if he could, by the sound of it.

By the same token, we cannot force those who reject it to accept it. Not only have we no moral or legal basis to use force, but it yields no results," Gallucci concludes his damning report.

These two experts are telling us in simple and clear language that Albanian gangsterism is sufficiently feared that the UN and the EU are too often making their decisions out of personal fear for the Albanians. At some point this is bound to backfire. If the world allows the biggest and least-law abiding gangsters to run the show, it will reap its reward accordingly. It's time that Bush and the EU listened to what the people on the ground are telling them.

UPDATE - Belgrade's B92 News Report on Carla Del Ponte HERE

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama Sees EU As Curate's Egg

As all those who live outside the US know, those who dwell within the confines of US mentality have little depth of understanding of the 'outside world'. This makes it unnecessary for US politicians to talk with any degree of intelligence about foreign policy, as they are only required to talk at the level of understanding of their audience. George Bush, many feel has managed this and less, effortlessly, and he has, he believes been 'misunderestimated' as a result.

If the Bush years have been characterised by Bush's misunderestimation by others, the worry for some now seems to be that people are misoverestimating Barack Obama, as he uses rhetorical skill to climb the greasy pole towards the Presidency in November. His every word is analysed to destruction, as his enemies try to trip him up, and as commentators and others try to work out exactly what kind of world an Obama Presidency would bring about.

Obama was asked who he believed America's three greatest allies were, and his reply has become controversial - primarily because he omitted to mention the State of Israel in the three countries that he gave in his reply, which were, according to Beyond The Beltway Blog as follows -

“the European Union as a whole” and Japan, with a nod to China as a state that is “neither our enemy nor our friend” but requires more “military-to-military contact.”

The omission of Israel was the big news story in the USA, but the European reference was picked also up on by US bloggers, and expanded upon.

Taking the other side of the coin first, Dan Hannan points out in his Telegraph blog HERE, that Republican nominee McCain is far too uncritical of the EU, even getting himself involved in addressing the internal Conservative Party issue of EPP membership, telling us that the EPP stood by us when we were 'wandering in the wilderness' - a surprising theory which Hannan ably and convincingly debunks.

With McCain (like Bush) not possessing much depth of understanding, one might say, of the US' own interests as regards the EU, Obama's worldview, on the other hand gives a hint of being sufficiently nuanced as to realise that the EU is at best a bit of a curate's egg - good 'as a whole' - which implies 'not good in parts'.

(The origin of the phrase 'curate's egg' is the George du Maurier cartoon "True Humility", printed in the British satirical magazine Punch, on 9th November 1895. The cartoon gives fuller insight into its meaning, which relies to some extent on an appreciation of irony.

PIctured - original from Punch magazine titled TRUE HUMILITY.

Right Reverend Host. "I’m afraid you’ve got a bad Egg, Mr. Jones!"
The Curate. "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellect!")

Given the demands on Obama not to unsettle any potential constituencies, we are not likely to hear too much more on foreign affairs from him, or any explanation of which parts of the egg are not so good. The US blogs though observe no such limits, and try to complete the picture, which Obama's briefest of answers begins to reveal. Outside The Beltway tackles the subject first by explaining why Israel cannot be in the list of the US' top three allies, in a short paragraph. His main interest is taken by the ridiculousness of Obama giving the EU as America's top ally - as follows -

The irony is that the listing of “the European Union as a whole” as our top ally, rather than the omission of Israel as one of the top three, was Obama’s real gaffe. It’s simply absurd to cast the EU 27-state collective as an ally. As an economic cooperative, it hinders United States imports. As a political entity, it’s virtually worthless and to the extent it works it tends to water down the natural ties between the USA and several of the constituent countries.

Of the 27 states, only the United Kingdom is an unqualified ally. We’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder in most of the wars of the past century or so, with the other partner usually providing at intelligence and materiel support even when sitting out the actual fighting.

We’re quite friendly with Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and even Greece most of the time. We’ve fought alongside soldiers from most of those countries over the years, although Fascist Italy was on the wrong side of WWII.

Until the collapse of the Warsaw Pact between 1989-1991, we were on war footing with several of the current Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania (or their predecessor states). In many cases, though, our relations with them are now warmer than with some Western European members of the EU that were Cold War allies.

France and Germany have been both enemies and allies in the past, although mostly the latter in post-WWII era. They’re now strategic competitors whose interests often diverge from ours. They’re far from enemies, of course, and our ties are very strong on a whole host of fronts. Certainly, though, they’re a few notches down from the UK, Canada, and Australia on the “best buds” list.

Regardless, the idea that “the EU as a whole” is America’s top ally is rather silly. It will go unnoticed, though, because of the attention given to the perfectly reasonable omission of Israel.

The interesting thing to my mind is that Obama could well share the views expressed here. It would certainly help David Cameron and the UK if the US had a President for once who didn't misoverestimate the EU.

McCain sounds as if he would do exactly that. From Hannan again -

One of the consistent themes of McCain’s Weltanschauung is his unqualified support for European integration. It sits oddly with the other things he says. His criticism of the United Nations, for example, is spot on; but he seems unable to extend that logic to the world’s second great unaccountable, trans-national bureaucracy.

Nor does he appear to mind that, on almost every diplomatic issue – funding Hamas, appeasing the ayatollahs, selling arms to Beijing, refusing to back anti-Castro dissidents, Iraq – the EU is against him.

When I pointed out these inconsistencies to one of his supporters – a planet-brained Washington think-tanker – she shrugged awkwardly and said, “Yes: the problem is that he has the wrong friends in France and Germany”.

London Woman Bitten By Rat On Toilet

Further evidence of a collapse in standards in public service in Britain, if any were needed, comes from this story of a woman in Greenwich who was bitten by a rat while sitting on the loo HERE. She called the Council for help and was told that she would have to wait at least two weeks for a rat catcher to come out, unless she would pay a sum of money beyond her means. She's now pissing in a bucket, and using the neighbour's loo as her flat is overrun.

She sounds like a Labour voter, poor girl.


Rats are good underwater swimmers, and it's no problem--believe it or not, they actually have movies of this--for rats to stroll along a horizontal soil pipe from the sewer, swim through the water-filled piping inside the toilet, and emerge in the toilet bowl. If the soil pipe runs vertically for five or six feet or more, though, you're probably safe.

I underline the word "probably." I have a note here from a Teeming Millionth employed as a janitor who claims that every rat he has ever found in a toilet during his professional career was in a top-floor apartment. From this he deduces that the rats get up on the roof, enter the soil pipe through the roof vent, and lower themselves down the pipe and into the john. Screening off the roof vent supposedly cures the problem. Just thought I'd mention it.

I don't suppose rat catchers are authorised to criticise the Council Building Maintenance Department, and so for purely internal Council political reasons, rats have an entree into Council homes. No wonder privatisation worked, and public services don't. Mind you, that hasn't stopped Labour spending an extra GBP 1 billion a day on them, doubling the average family's tax bill in ten years.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

UN Mitrovica Head Resigns

There are surprisingly no reports on the aftermath of the Mitrovica riots in main news networks, but there are a number of interesting reactions reported by local news organisations.

From B-92, a Belgrade TV, Radio and Web news service, comes the item that the
Head of UNMIK's administration in K.Mitrovica, U.S. diplomat Gerard Gallucci has tendered his resignation. B92 reports as follows -

Gallucci's move was brought about by his dissatisfaction with the UN police operation on March 17 in Kosovska Mitrovica, said an international official.

UN headquarters in New York have not, however, accepted his resignation, said the same source.

Gallucci is presently on vacation and will return next weekend to continue his work.

The UNMIK official’s report to the UN Security Council, according to the Kosovo Serb leader, states that the badly planned operation to “bring back order and law in the north led to the disappearance of order and law.”

It is also interesting (from this report in Al Jazeera on Sunday the day before the dawn raid on the Courthouse) that the UN were about to hold a crucial meeting with the Serbian Minister For Kosovo, scheduled for Monday -

Nobosa Jovic, one of the demonstrators, said they had rejected a UN demand that they leave the building by midday (1100 GMT) on Saturday.
The demonstrators have suggested that they stay put until the results of a meeting between Slobodan Samardzic, Serbia's minister for Kosovo and Joachim Ruecker, head of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik).

The meeting is scheduled for Monday.

It seems as if the UN on the ground were prepared to negotiate and had led the Serbs to believe that negotiations were going to take place. But someone high up in the UN must have given the order to carry out the dawn raid pre-empting any negotiations, ensuring that fighting took place and that the Serbs would inevitably be humiliated.

Who would it be at the UN Headquarters in the New York who gave the order for the raid, overriding local UN attempts to negotiate, as demanded by Pristina where thinly veiled threats of violence are (it appears from Gallucci's resignation letter quoted below) being issued? Whoever it was, was, in the opinion of the Serb Minister for Kosovo looking for a fight, and to demonstrate to the Serbs that they are going to be beaten by UN military force.

The raid has also been criticised by the Ukrainians who are a part of the UN force in Mitrovica, alleging poor communication within the different national contingents within the UN and NATO. Ukraine has 20 soldiers wounded and one fatality resulting from the raid. A Ukrainian statement said that Ukraine would not withdraw its force 'for the time being'.

Gallucci's full resignation letter is viewable via a google search - as follows -

"If, on some other day, the police simply asked the people to leave the premises before trying to arrest them, perhaps we could have announced a victory without a price tag," the report said.

One positive aspect is that during the events Monday, Serbs did not disturb or attack Albanians in northern Mitrovica, and they cooperated with UNMIK during the evacuation of our civilians," Gallucci said.

Some Albanians live in the north of the divided town, while there are no Serbs in the southern, Albanian part.

"Our credibility and relations necessary for our peacekeeping role in the north have been seriously, perhaps irreversibly jeopardized. Now we can all see that Serbs have a clear goal, that they are well-organized and well-armed. The Serb community in the north, regardless of whether people like Marko [Jakšić] and Milan [Ivanović], will gather around their 'radical' leadership, if it is directly provoked. Reaction to any attempt of their arrest would be fierce," the paper, entitled, "Report after defeat", says.

"All in all, it must be clear that the use of force to achieve political goals related to the status will not work. Just as we have said many, many times before… the use of force will only lead to violence that will probably accelerate the partition or will lead to new ethnic cleansing and conflict. This must be kept in mind when future decisions are made about UN courts, railways, electricity."

Gallucci also suggested that UNMIK must "admit its mistakes and repent for what has been done" in order to continue communicating with the Serbs in the north.

"Albanians must be made to understand clearly: leave the north to us, live in peace and stop threatening with violence. We heard that Premier Thaci's been telling people he's been "having trouble controlling the Drenica boys". We did not annul the unilateral declaration of independence because we could not stop it. By the same token, we cannot force those who reject it to accept it. Not only have we no moral or legal basis to use force, but it yields no results," Gallucci concludes his damning report.

It seems that at least one of the wiser heads in Kosovo are wanting to get out. Things are not looking good with the Serbian Army in position on the Kosovan border. How much provocation will it take?

UPDATE - And now Bush starts supplying arms to Kosovo. See report HERE. Is he mad?