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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 24th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

TRYING TYRANTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES VALIDATES UN, GEORGIA TELLS ASSEMBLY

International efforts, albeit halting, to punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity validate the very essence of the United Nations, Georgia has told the General Assembly, citing progress made since the end of the Cold War 20 years ago.

“Slowly, too slowly, new rules are emerging, and even these rules are still too rarely applied,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said yesterday. “Step by step, though, tyrants start to fear that they could one day be held accountable for their crimes.

“There will be, I am convinced, less and less tolerance for ethnic cleansing and other war crimes that have stained my country and so many others. This is the very reason of our existence as the United Nations, is it not? To make the world a little better, to finally enforce the rules, charters, laws and principles on which we all have agreed.”

Turning to Georgia’s relations with Russia, Mr. Saakashvili said the Russian military currently occupied 20 per cent of Georgia’s sovereign territory, in violation of international law and an August 2008 ceasefire agreement.

Fighting broke out in August 2008 between Georgian forces and South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatists and their Russian allies. South Ossetia and Abkhazia each subsequently declared their independence from Georgia, and those declarations have been recognized by Russia and several other countries.

“As I speak, more than 450,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] and refugees continue to suffer because they are denied their rights, a right reaffirmed over a dozen times by this very house, to return to their homes and villages,” Mr. Saakashvili said, referring to ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting.

“They cannot go back because, in Moscow, a foreign leader has decided that their home is no longer their home. To such cynicism and brutality we respond with calls for justice and commitments to peace,” he added, noting that almost a year ago Georgia renounced the use of force.

“One year and we still are waiting for Russia’s leadership to reciprocate this gesture of peace. Unfortunately, instead of dialogue the response we have received has come in the form of a dozen terrorist attacks targeting Georgia, attacks directly organized and supervised by confirmed officers of the Russian secret services.”

Although the Cold War is over, “blackmails and brutal diktats” are still used against Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, and even the Baltic States face manipulations and neo-colonial games with their minorities, he said.

“The Cold War is over, but the old Soviet habit to play on ethnic and religious hatreds is still alive,” he added, stressing that Eastern Europe’s so-called colour revolutions and the recent Arab Spring, both of which saw the fall of long-entrenched regimes, would not have been possible if the Soviet Union still existed.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Sunday, October 25th, 2010 Fareed Zakaria, on his CNN/GPS program – 9 days before the US Mid-term Elections of November 2, 2010 -  started his analysis of the changing World – and he promised to continue to deal with this subject in his Halloween – Sunday, October 31st Very Special program to be seen also in the evening – and in a Special Time Magazine issue.

The World has changed in the last two decades mainly because of two developments – and the US must learn that it is no-more the one Super-power and that it will have to adapt to the idea that it might not even be the leading power anymore. These two developments are:

(A) the Technology Revolution – particularly the information technology which since the 1990s has started the economic spiral of job losses.

(B) Globalization that resulted in the largest 500 US companies getting an average of 26% of their profits from overseas and among the largest of theses companies this figure could be as high as 80%.

In global politics – Vietnam 1973 has changed to Bosnia 1996 and the art of negotiation that will be reapplied to a readiness to talk with the Taliban. Richard Holbrooke was on the program, and very thoughtfully said that at the moment there are not yet negotiations but “contact and discussions” – it is not yet the stage of secret negotiations that went on towards the end of the war in Vietnam. We are not trying to win the Afghanistan War and a Dayton-type of negotiations is in the cards – but we are not there yet, he said. If no-body noted this earlier, Holbrooke was appointed by Hillary Clinton in the name of President Obama  to the AF/Pak desk – just for this purpose – and he surely is eager to justify the trust in him.

The US must face it – 9 years of war and a half trillion dollars expenditures since 9/11, and the US has not started to scratch the issue of finding Bin Laden. The US must learn and reassess – and Fareed brought in a truly stellar panel to start this analysis.

SIMON SCHAMA – the author of “The American Future: A History”, where he takes the long view of how the United States has come today to this anguished moment of truth about its own identity as a nation and its place in the world.

He was born in London, son of Jewish parents with roots in Lithuania, Romania, and Turkey – a renown British historian – he has lived half his life in the US and is now a Professor at Columbia University having taught in the 80s at Harvard.

Schama is a supporter of President Obama and a critic of President G.W. Bush. He appeared on the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, clashing with John Bolton.

SHASHI THAROOR – now a member of the Indian Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala. On 2 May 2010, he was nominated to be a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for External Affairs.

Tharoor previously served as the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. He ran for UN Secretary General and lost to the present chief – Mr. Ban Ki-moon who had the G.W. Bush backing. Tharoor’s loss was the World’s loss of highly intellectual, outspoken, potential World leader. Born in London and educated in the US – His doctoral thesis at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, “Reasons of State”, was a required reading in courses on Indian foreign-policy making. He was with the UN from 1978 till April 1, 2007 and we knew him well in his last years as UN Undersecretary-General for Communications and Public Information, and as the head of Department of Public Information (UNDPI) under UNSG Kofi Annan. During his tenure at the UNDPI, Tharoor reformed his Department and undertook a number of initiatives, ranging from organizing and conducting the first-ever UN seminar on anti-Semitism, the first-ever UN seminar on Islamophobia and launching an annual list of “Ten Under-Reported Stories the World Ought to Know About.”

KISHORE MAHBUBANI – the author of “The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Power to the East,”  as well as “Can Asians Think?” and “Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World”. Now he is the Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, he served for 33 years as a diplomat for Singapore, and has written many articles on world affairs. We met him several years ago at the Asia Society in New York and got material directly from him.

Mr. Tharoor observed that Americans are moving away from the concept of Globalization that they themselves managed to sell to the World. He said that a G-2 concept of the US and China is unacceptable to “THE REST OF US.”

Mr. Mahbubani reminded Mr. Schama that in the past he also advocated a 5% Consumption tax that could be used to change the system – and flatly stated that China’s views get more sympathy from us – meaning also THE REST OF US then the US does. Simply stated – The US capacity to provide leadership has diminished.

Mr. Schama pointed out that recently China threatened Japan unnecessarily, China’s currency is undervalued, and that China’s relationships with the rest of the world is based on what it can get in term of resources. To this Mahbubani answered that indeed China overplayed Japan and the Chinese President went to Japan for a making-up visit.

Mr. Schama reviewed the November 2nd 2010 US elections today as part of the Financial Times www.ft.com  /obamaatbay series. He says that if Mr. Obama’s good works – and they were the best since the Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society years of the 1960s, and the momentous opening charge of the New Deal of 1933 – he calls for Mr. Obama to discard his Plato and to summon instead his “inner Machiavelli” – but these topics are not the subject of our present article.
We will get back to them in a later – elections related posting.

———————

Watching the Fareed Zakaria stellar program  that touched upon the reality of a new world of global blocks – I decided to come up with a summation of our own views of the kind of World the Obama II Administration will be facing in the 2011-2013 years when preparing for the 2012 US elections.

The World population is pushing to the 7 Billion figure – presently as per US Census Bureau estimates it is 6.88 Billion – well over half of which is made up by clear three blocks – as we will see the agreed upon three blocks account for 4 Billion out of the 7 Billion :

CHINA – by the end of 2010 it is expected to be 1.4 Billion.

INDIA – presently at 1.2 Billion and by 2030, because of higher birth rates, India’s population will surpass China’s that will have stabilized at 1.45 Billion.

THE MUSLIMS presently at 1.2 Billion. Now still an agglomerate but with developing Turkish leadership.

In our opinion rather then continuing the Fareed Zakaria panel’s talk of the US as the fourth block, a failed G-2 concept of the US and China – which by the way is  a concept we presented many times on our own website, and which we still see as a stepping stone on the way the World will eventually tackle the climate change issue – and their fifth block – the members of the panel called THE REST – simply does not agree with our gut-feelings and mental analysis – rather WE THINK THAT THE REMAINING 3 BILLION PEOPLE WILL BELONG TO A DIFFERENT SET OF Rather THREE BLOCKS as follows:

- THE CHRISTIAN EUROPE – LED BY GERMANY AND RUSSIA  – about 750 million that is Continental Europe -
up to and including Russia, Georgia and Armenia – excluding possibly the UK.

- THE US  and MORE-OR-LESS ANGLO  ALLIES – 310 million and about  650 million when including Canada, the UK,
Australia, New Zealand, and some others from among Japan, Korea, Mexico.

- THE REST – which will be BRAZILIAN LED including Sub-Sahara Africa, Central and South America, parts of Asia and
the Island States. This block remains the largest in total numbers of people.

———————–

Having seen the papers of Monday and Tuesday I found further justification to above suggestions I am making in the fact that some in the US, and perhaps even the UK, starting the blame game of WHO HAS LOST EUROPE TO RUSSIA.
We rather think that Europe getting together with resources rich Russia may prove to be in Europe’s self-interest in the six-block World we see in the future and we rather find further justification in the attitudes expressed by the Fareed panel.

Jorge Benitez – NatSource of the Atlantic Council of NATO, October 26, 2010 notes:

From John Vinocur, the International Herald Tribune:  Germany and France, meeting with Russia in Deauville, northern France, last week, signaled that they planned to make such three-cornered get-togethers on international foreign policy and security matters routine, and even extend them to inviting other “partners” — pointing, according to diplomats from two countries, to Turkey becoming a future participant.
Then we saw by Politicus something like:

Will (or Could) the US Lose Europe to Russia.

as per JOHN VINOCUR, Published: October 25, 2010

PARIS — The United States used to call wayward members of NATO back to the reservation with a whistle or a shout. It decided what was deviation from doctrine, and that decision was pretty much law.

When the Obama administration stamped its foot this time, no one snapped to attention.

Rather, Germany and France, meeting with Russia in Deauville, northern France, last week, signaled that they planned to make such three-cornered get-togethers on international foreign policy and security matters routine, and even extend them to inviting other “partners” — pointing, according to diplomats from two countries, to Turkey becoming a future participant.

That can look like an effort to deal with European security concerns in a manner that keeps NATO, at least in part, at a distance. And it could seem a formula making it easier for Russia to play off — absolutely no novelty here — the European allies against the United States, or NATO and the European Union, against one another.

But there’s more detail in the theoretical Euro-Atlantic apostasy department: Add Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal, made in June, that the European Union and Russia establish their own Political and Security Committee, and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intention, enunciated in Deauville, to establish an E.U.-Russia economic space “with common security concepts.”

Just before the Deauville meeting, Vladimir Chizov, Russia’s ambassador to the E.U., leapt ahead of the Merkel/Sarkozy plans and told a reporter that Russia now wants a formalized relationship with the existing E.U. committee on foreign and security policy. “I don’t expect to be sitting at every committee session,” he said, “but there should be some mechanism that would enable us to take joint steps.”

As for the Obama administration stamping its foot, what it came down to was a senior U.S. official saying: “Since when, I wonder, is European security no longer an issue of American concern, but something for Europe and Russia to resolve? After being at the center of European security for 70 years, it’s strange to hear that it’s no longer a matter of U.S. concern.”

So, a follow-on burst of European contrition? I asked a German official about it. He spoke of German and French loyalty to NATO. And he said, “I understand there are American suspicions.”

“But,” he added, “the United States must accept that the times are changing. There are examples of it having done this. Why wouldn’t it accept our view in this respect?”

The official did not list them, but there are obvious factors explaining the French and German initiatives.

A major one is President Barack Obama’s perceived lack of interest and engagement in Europe. His failure to attend a Berlin ceremony commemorating the end of the Cold War and his cancellation of a meeting involving the E.U.’s new president has had symbolic weight.

Example: Ivo H. Daalder, the United States’ permanent representative at NATO, gave a speech in Paris last week in which he skipped over the Russians’ maneuvering, but described as “baffling” and “very strange” that “NATO doesn’t have a real strategic partnership with the E.U.”

True enough. On the other hand, Russia is getting a whole series of passes: Ten days ago, when Mr. Medvedev offered Hugo Chávez of Venezuela help to build the country’s first nuclear power station, the State Department expressed concern about technology migrating to “countries that should not have that technology” — but added (bafflingly), that the relationship between Venezuela and Russia (for years Iran’s supplier of nuclear wherewithal) “is not of concern to us.”

Last week, more of the same. When Mr. Medvedev bestowed Russia’s highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony on a group of sleeper spies who were expelled from the United States last July, a State Department spokesman turned away a reporter’s question with a “no comment.” Washington chooses not to say anything either about Mr. Medvedev’s support, repeated in Deauville, for Mr. Sarkozy’s plan, as next year’s president of the G-20 consultative grouping, to focus its attention on limiting the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

In the Deauville aftermath, the Americans have preferred applauding Mr. Medvedev’s decision to come to a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon next month, following U.S. congressional elections. He is not expected to announce Russian participation in or endorsement of a U.S.-initiated antimissile shield for Europe — the United States’ notionally organic bond in strengthening the alliance’s trans-Atlantic future — yet the Russian president’s appearance as a guest on NATO’s turf could be seen as an important gesture of real cooperation.

Still, for all the Americans’ concern about Europe dealing with Russia on its own, there hardly has been a corresponding public statement from the administration that’s a call for caution about Moscow’s interest in setting up rivalries between NATO and the E.U. For David J. Kramer, a former senior State Department official with responsibility for Russia, the new circumstances show “the Russians now have far more leverage in the U.S. relationship than they should.”

It was unexpected in the circumstances, but at a briefing in the run-up to the Deauville meeting the administration liked so little, a French presidential source put a big asterisk — more than Washington does openly — next to France’s desire to create “an anchorage in the West” out of “fragile” indications of change in Russia.

“We do not have assurance there is a permanent strategic turn,” the Élysée Palace said.

That can look like an effort to deal with European security concerns in a manner that keeps NATO, at least in part, at a distance. And it could seem a formula making it easier for Russia to play off — absolutely no novelty here — the European allies against the United States, or NATO and the European Union, against one another.

But there’s more detail in the theoretical Euro-Atlantic apostasy department: Add Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal, made in June, that the European Union and Russia establish their own Political and Security Committee, and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intention, enunciated in Deauville, to establish an E.U.-Russia economic space “with common security concepts. …”

At the same time, the U.S. reset with Russia and the administration’s willingness to treat President Dmitri A. Medvedev as a potential Western-oriented partner has given the Germans and French the sense they were free to act on the basis of their own interpretations of the changes in Moscow.

In this European view, the United States has become significantly dependent on Russia through its maintenance of military supply routes to Afghanistan and its heightened pressure, albeit in wavering measure, on Iran. Because the reset is portrayed by the administration to be a U.S. foreign policy success, criticism from Washington of Russia is at a minimum.

Consider this irony: the more Russia makes entry into the E.U.’s decision-making processes on security issues a seeming condition for deals the French and/or Germans want (think, for example, of France’s proposed sale to Moscow of Mistral attack vessels), the more the impression takes hold that the administration’s focus for complaint about the situation has been off-loaded onto the Europeans.

————–

Looking at these last lines, our opinion is that the EU is a work in progress, as we said many times previously,  with three EU Presidents still functioning  in  parallel, while talking of extending invitation Eastwards and Southwards to the Ukraine and Serbia. This latter moves bring it clearly into the elbow space of Russia – so extending an invitation for co-operation with Russia becomes more and more the only option available to the EU. These are parts of the reasoning of our futuristic proposition.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Aid only trickles to Pakistan’s monsoon disaster.

By Reza Sayah, CNN

August 18, 2010

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)Pakistan is reeling from a natural disaster affecting 20 million people but relief groups say donors have been painfully slow in helping.

When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in January, donors responded with $13 billion in aid. Within 24 hours Hollywood mega-stars like George Clooney, Madonna, Tom Cruise and Beyonce had signed up for a telethon to raise money for Haiti’s quake victims.

By contrast nearly three weeks after flood waters inundated one-fifth of Pakistan, the United Nations has collected roughly half of the $460 million it has called for to meet the immediate needs of 20 million flood victims.

This week Oscar winner and U.N. goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie made a high-profile plea to ask the international community to give more aid to Pakistan.

Video: Photographer focuses on Pakistan flood

Video: Aid trickles into flood ravaged Pakistan

Pakistan’s flood-affected areas

Pakistan flood: Before and after

RELATED TOPICS
  • Pakistan

“Hopefully there are a lot of people ready to give money,” Jolie told British television network ITN.

Aid workers and analysts say there are several possibilities why governments, individual donors and celebrities are not giving to Pakistan the way they’ve done with other disasters. None, they add, is a good excuse.

The relatively low death toll — roughly 1,500 killed — may have created the impression that Pakistan’s floods are not as severe as the Haiti quake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami where tens of thousands were instantly killed.

U.N. officials say the death toll in Pakistan’s floods belies the desperate and often life-threatening conditions of the 20 million victims. Many of them have lost their homes, their belongings and their sources of income.

Analysts say governments may also be suffering from “donor fatigue” with Pakistan. For years now Pakistan has been on a seemingly constant round of donor needs — money to revive its feeble economy, fight the Taliban, recover from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2009 refugee crisis and now these floods.

“A donor never gets fatigued,” Islamabad-based political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi told CNN.

“A donor, just as an idea, is not about ‘I’m fresh so I’ll give.’ You don’t give because you’re fresh. You give because of humanity.”

There’s also the perception that Pakistan is run by corrupt politicians and the aid won’t get to those who need it.

This week Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted all aid would be transparent. Aid professionals say if you don’t trust the Pakistani government, then give to an international aid group you do trust.

“There are so many ways people can give that doesn’t have to be rooted in the government if that was a concern,” said OXFAM’s country director in Pakistan, Neva Khan.

Aid groups and analysts say the worst excuse not to give is the perception among many in the west that Pakistan is just not a good place, a country full of militants. It’s an image reinforced by the media’s obsession with extremism in Pakistan, says Mosharraf Zaidi.

“I think that coverage is fundamentally one of great reasons why it’s been hard for people to reach into their wallet.”

The cooling global economy may also have governments and individuals reluctant to give but analysts say the consequences of not giving to Pakistan could be costly.

In the short run people will go hungry, suffer from disease, and lose their fight to survive. In the long run a nation that’s critical in the fight against extremism may face a political crisis that could further destabilize the region.

————————

Except for Kuwait  and the UAE – the Islamic States are not on the donor list – Why? Is this not Ramadan time – if nothing else?

Seemingly, it is all coming from the US, UK, EU, Japan, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland. We  find China at less the $2 million – and we learned that Pakistan refused $5 million from India. At the pledging we learned that Georgia is contributing $1oo,ooo and there are small amounts from around the world.

All of the above seems strange but clear to us. It is the US that fights to keep Pakistan in one piece as it did in Iraq. Can Pakistan hold when the real enemy is climate change?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Power Plant Attacked in Caucasus

Yevgeny Kayudin/Reuters

The damaged turbine hall of Baksanskaya hydroelectric power station after it was attacked by militants Russia’s restive North Caucasus region on Wednesday.

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: July 21, 2010

MOSCOW — Militants attacked a hydroelectric power plant in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region on Wednesday, killing two guards before setting off several bombs that forced the facility to be shut down, Russian investigators said.

Between three and five armed men raided the plant, a small station in the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkaria, around 5:30 a.m. local time, the investigators said. They said the attackers shot the two guards, then broke into the engine room of the plant, the Baksanskaya station.

“Unknown men in masks broke into the power plant, broke down a closed door, then tied up the employees,” Valery Shigenov, the plant’s director, told Russian television. Two of the employees were injured and had to be hospitalized.

The militants then set and detonated at least four bombs, which destroyed three generators, but failed to cause a breach in the dam, officials said. A fire caused by the explosions had been extinguished by midday, and no power failures were reported in the region.

Russian forces have for years been struggling to quash a simmering Muslim insurgency in the region, which includes Chechnya.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The GUAM States are Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova – States on the Western Extended Borders of Russia – that have expressed interest in good relations with the West and in adopting Western Ways of Government and joining Western Institutions. They are not part of the EU. Azerbaijan is a Muslim Oil-State in conflict with Russia backed Armenia.

——————–

Remarks at Meeting With the Staff and Families of Embassy Baku.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Embassy Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan
July 4, 2010

SPEAKER: Madam Secretary, on behalf of our entire embassy family, we welcome you to the embassy, and welcome you to our garden.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you.
SPEAKER: Please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you. Well, Happy Fourth of July to all of you.
(Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is a wonderful way to celebrate the American Independence Day, here in this beautiful garden, and to be with all of you here in Azerbaijan, where independence and the values of freedom and equality and opportunity enshrined in our Declaration of Independence are all the more meaningful for this young, independent country.
This has been a very whirlwind trip, and I thank every one of you who has helped to make it possible. And I thank you, too, for all the work you have done this past year to further and steady our relationship between our country and Azerbaijan, and we are trying to do everything we can to support you, including working for a new embassy compound — although you won’t have a garden like this, I’m afraid. That’s kind of a trade-off, isn’t it?
Earlier today I had a productive meeting with President Aliyev, and assured him of the importance of Azerbaijan to the United States, and that we are committed to working in partnership to enhance global security and promote democracy and stabilize the region.
I just came from a meeting with some young people at the Mugam Club in the historic, beautiful old city, who are working to promote civil society, protect human rights, develop a free media in the country. They are the reason that I come to work every day, because much of what I do is about the next generation. And I was very proud and impressed to listen to them, and especially 5 of the 10 had studied in the United States under the exchange programs that some of you help to run.
We are very focused in the Obama Administration on working to strengthen our relationship, and supporting the modernization, the secularization, the democratization of this very exciting country at this time in history.
I want to thank Chargé Donald Lu for his steady leadership during this past year. He has kept everything running during a difficult time without the help of an ambassador. We are working very hard to get our new ambassador confirmed, and hopefully he will be joining you shortly. And, in the meantime, I welcome Adam Stirling as the new chargé, and will look forward to working with him.
Now, I can imagine that for our locally-engaged staff, who have never celebrated an American Fourth of July — which means that you have never eaten barbeque or gone to a fireworks or gotten sunburned with your family out in some beautiful place — it might seem a little bit distant to be here in Baku, celebrating the founding of our country. But for Americans this is a very special day. And it’s a day that we really do take time out to appreciate the founding of our country 234 years ago, and all that we have had to do over those years to create a more perfect union, to overcome injustice, discrimination, to make sure that the circle of opportunity grew bigger and bigger, so that it could encompass every American.
So, I thank each and every one of you on this Fourth of July for your hard work: our foreign service and our civil service officers, all of our colleagues from other U.S. government agencies, our Peace Corps volunteers, our family members, and especially our locally-engaged staff. We honor your sacrifices and your dedication. And I wish you a very safe and happy Independence Day. But, more than that, I wish you a day every single day of this upcoming year of greater cooperation and partnership to deepen and broaden our relationship.
And I know that when someone like me comes, it adds to your workload. So I am hoping that with the outgoing chargé and the incoming chargé, that maybe they will give you the rest of the Fourth of July off. What do you think? That’s a departmental, Secretary of State directive.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

www.unece.org/oes/disc_papers/climat_change.html

—–

UNECE climate change activities[1]

Table of Contents:

Introduction
Conventions
Vehicle regulations
Energy efficiency in production
Energy-efficient housing
Sustainable forestry
Sustainable biomass
Other related UNECE areas of work

Introduction

Climate change is a human-induced process of global warming, largely resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons.[2] Countries are under increasing pressure to curb their emissions of these gases and to enhance carbon sinks in a drive to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, combating the threats of human-induced global warming requires more than mitigation; it is equally important to reduce society’s vulnerability to climate change through adaptation, as established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, launched in 2005. Adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change, including climate variability and weather extremes.[3]

The United Nations Secretary-General has put climate change at the top of the United Nations agenda, ensuring that the “United Nations system will continue … to bring to bear the collective strength of all its entities as an integral part of the international community’s response to climate change.”[4] The five regional commissions have assumed an active role in coordinating United Nations support for action on climate change at the regional level through the regional coordination mechanisms mandated by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1998/46 (annex III).[5] The five commissions are seen as conveners to support global, regional and national action on climate change, while coordinating their workplans and implementation efforts with other organizations that have significant mandates in their respective areas.[6]

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is a key driving force in combating climate change in the pan-European region and beyond. The UNECE region comprises 56 member States, spanning the whole European continent, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and also including Israel, Turkey, Canada and the United States of America. The region has a crucial role in contributing to the local and regional success of UNFCCC, as was noted by UNECE member States at the “Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007).[7] UNECE has spearheaded the region’s efforts to achieve the targets of United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7, especially to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and to reverse the losses of environmental resources.

Top

Conventions

Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

The 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and its protocols aim to cut emissions of air pollutants, inter alia, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs). Such pollutants can either directly influence global warming, by affecting the cooling or absorptive characteristics of the atmosphere, or indirectly influence it through, for example, ozone formation. Recent studies have shown important synergies in addressing air pollution control and climate change mitigation and have highlighted the economic and environmental co-benefits that are possible by tackling these issues in an integrated way.

The Convention has 51 Parties and eight protocols, which are all in force. The most recent of these, the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol, is currently under revision. It targets the environmental effects of acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone through emission cuts for SO2, NOx, NMVOCs and ammonia. Such cuts are known to mitigate global warming.

A recent major conference and workshop entitled “Air Pollution and Climate Change: Developing a Framework for Integrated Co-benefit Strategies” was held in September 2008 in Stockholm under the auspices of the Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and in consultation with the UNFCCC secretariat. It brought together policymakers and scientists from all United Nations regions to consider ways to develop and implement integrated programmes for decreasing emissions of both air pollutants and GHGs. The conclusions stressed the importance of using integrated strategies. Of special note was the possible “buying of time” in GHG mitigation through cuts in such air pollutants as black carbon and ozone, and air pollutants with a strong radiative forcing effect, which might be cut more readily than CO2 and achieve some GHG mitigation in the short term. The conference agreed there was a need to strengthen air pollution abatement efforts as well as climate change mitigation to achieve better health and environmental protection. It also noted the significant cost savings of using integrated approaches. The conclusions and recommendations of the workshop will be considered by the Convention’s Executive Body (Meeting of the Parties) in December 2008.

The Convention is using different models and methods to analyse environmental effects and to calculate the necessary emission abatement and related costs. In this way, cost-effective pollution control strategies can achieve the desired environmental targets with the least overall expenditure. Recent use of the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) integrated assessment model, developed by the Convention’s Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling, has explored synergies and trade-offs between emissions of air pollutants and GHGs, for current and projected energy use. The model includes both end-of-pipe controls and non-technical measures, such as behavioural changes in traffic or economic instruments.

The Convention’s scientific bodies are also incorporating climate change issues into their programmes of work. The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), which monitors and models air quality, is involved in reporting and estimating emissions. Reporting requirements of the Parties have been harmonized with those of UNFCCC. EMEP is also responsible for the integrated assessment modelling work described above. The international programmes of the Working Group on Effects monitor and model environmental and human health effects of air pollution. Increasingly, these need to take account of the links to observed or predicted changes in climatic conditions. They also provide long-term monitoring of data that can identify changes that might be associated with a changing climate.

Discussions in the Convention’s bodies have drawn attention to the strong links between air pollutant and GHG emissions and have highlighted specific issues where integration of strategies is needed. For example, the current emphasis on renewable energy is leading to increased use of wood as a fuel. However, unless appropriate boiler technology is used, this can also lead to increased air pollution.

Water

The intrinsic relation of the hydrological cycle – and thus water availability, quality, and services – to climate change makes adaptation critical for water management and the water sector in general. The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is an important legal framework for the development of adaptation strategies, in particular in the transboundary context.

At their fourth meeting in Bonn, Germany, in 2006, the Parties to the Water Convention took a decisive step to supporting the development of adaptation strategies by agreeing to elaborate a guidance document on water and adaptation to climate change. A draft has now been prepared by the Task Forces on Water and Climate and on Extreme Weather Events, both under the Convention’s Protocol on Water and Health. This marks the first attempt under any convention to flesh out a climate change adaptation strategy in the water sector with a particular emphasis on transboundary issues. Based on the concept of integrated water resources management, the Guidance will “provide advice on how to assess impacts of climate change on water quantity and quality, how to perform risk assessment, including health risk assessment, how to gauge vulnerability, and how to design and implement appropriate adaptation measures” [ibid. p. 8]. The Guidance is expected to be formally adopted in November 2009 at the next meeting of the Parties.

One important step in the Guidance’s preparation was a workshop on climate change adaptation in the water sector organized under the Water Convention and the Protocol on Water and Health (Amsterdam, 1–2 July 2008). The workshop, which allowed for an exchange of experience in the region, an assessment of information needs for adaptation strategies and a discussion of the benefits of and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation, touched upon the institutional, policy, legal, scientific and financial aspects of adaptation in the water sector and included cross-cutting issues such as education. The workshop highlighted current challenges such as still limited transboundary cooperation, the focus on short-term rather than long-term measures, and the need to consider climate change together with other global drivers of change, e.g. the energy and food crises and changes in production and consumption patterns.

The Protocol on Water and Health, the first legally binding instrument aimed to achieve the sustainable management of water resources and the reduction of water-related disease, is also highly relevant to climate change adaptation. It establishes joint or coordinated surveillance and early-warning systems, contingency plans and response capacities, as well as mutual assistance to respond to outbreaks or incidents of water-related disease, especially those arising from extreme weather events. The Protocol’s Ad Hoc Project Facilitation Mechanism is a funding tool for implementation of the Protocol at the national level; its provisions on safe drinking water and sanitation are also of relevance to climate change.

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Access to information, public participation and justice

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) constitutes the only legally binding instrument so far to implement principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which provides for the participation of citizens in environmental issues by giving them appropriate access to the information concerning the environment held by public authorities, including access to judicial or administrative proceedings, redress and remedy. Access to scientifically based information and public participation in decision-making on environmental issues – as provided by the Convention – are widely recognized as an important foundation for climate change mitigation efforts. UNFCCC, for example, underlined the importance of these principles at its thirteenth session, encouraging Parties to facilitate access to data and information and to promote public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and in developing adequate responses.[8] Environmental information can help to raise awareness about climate change issues and to strengthen synergies between mitigation and adaptation needs. Public participation in this process ensures that social values and trade-offs are represented in political decisions on climate-related issues.

UNECE is a co-organizer of the international conference, “The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change” (Aarhus, Denmark, 13–14 November 2008). The event, marking the Aarhus Convention’s tenth anniversary, brings together leading scientists, policymakers, government authorities, non-governmental organizations, and representatives of the private sector to promote public access to information and public participation in addressing climate change.

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), adopted in May 2003, is the first legally binding international instrument on PRTRs. PRTRs assist governments in collecting information on the emission of GHGs and toxic or hazardous substances from industrial facilities and other sources. By making this information available to decision makers and the wider public, PRTRs contribute to enhancing companies’ environmental performance, regional mitigation efforts and the fight against global warming and climate change.

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Vehicle regulations

Transport is a significant and growing contributor to global climate change. According to some estimates, it is responsible for 13 per cent of all anthropogenic emissions of GHGs and for almost one quarter of the world’s total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.[9]

In May 2008 in Leipzig, Germany, UNECE took part in the OECD International Transport Forum Ministerial Session, “The Challenge of Climate Change”, the first global meeting of transport ministers that focused on energy and climate change challenges relevant to the transport sector. Climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in the transport sector focus on different means of CO2 abatement: (a) innovative engine technologies to increase fuel efficiency; (b) use of sustainable biofuels; (c) improved transport infrastructure, including inter-modal transport and logistics to avoid road congestion; (d) dissemination of consumer information on eco-driving; and (e) implementation of legal instruments. In their key messages, transport ministers urged UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) to “accelerate the work to develop common methodologies, test cycles and measurement methods for [light] vehicles” [ibid. p. 5], including CO2 emissions. For over 50 years, the World Forum has served as a platform for developing harmonized global regulations for vehicle construction, thus increasing their environmental performance and safety.

The World Forum agreed that a possible strategy for the automotive sector to contribute to the abatement of emissions was to pursue: (a) improved energy efficiency and the use of sustainable biofuels as a short-term objective (2015); (b) the development and introduction into the market of plug-in hybrid vehicles as a mid-term objective (2015–2025); and (c) the development and introduction into the market of electric vehicles as a long-term objective (2025–2040). This strategy would shift the automotive sector from the use of fossil energy to the use of hydrogen and electric energy. To be effective, this strategy needs to rely on the sustainable production of electricity and hydrogen, a crucial policy issue identified for future discussions on global warming and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The World Forum previously adopted amendments to UNECE regulations to limit the maximum admissible level of vehicle emissions for various gaseous pollutants (e.g. carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, NOx) and particulate matter. These have resulted in a substantial abatement of the emissions limits for new private cars and commercial vehicles. Moreover, UNECE Regulations were amended to include electric and hybrid vehicles as well as vehicles with engines fuelled with liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas. At the present time, the World Forum is considering a number of energy efficiency measures, such as the development of a common methodology and measurement method to evaluate environmentally friendly vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, the use of other alternative energy sources such as biofuels including biogas, the installation in vehicles of engine management systems (e.g. the stop-and-go function), intelligent transport systems, tyre-pressure monitoring systems and the development of tyres with low rolling resistance. Once a consensus is reached, many of these measures are likely to be added to the UNECE regulations, which will help increase vehicles’ energy efficiency.

As concerns fuel-quality standards, in 2007 the World Forum demonstrated the close link between the market fuel quality and the emissions of pollutants from motor vehicles.  It recognized that further reduction of emissions required that cleaner fuel be available to consumers.  The lack of harmonized fuel quality standards was seen to hamper the development of the new vehicle technologies. Supported by UNEP and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the World Forum is committed to developing a necessary standard on market fuel quality, thus enabling vehicles to use fuels that minimize vehicle emission levels.

The Transport Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), a joint project of UNECE and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, was initiated to help achieve more sustainable transport patterns and a better reflection of environmental and health concerns in transport policy. In particular, THE PEP also promotes sustainable urban transport, including alternative modes of transport, in the region.

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Energy efficiency in production

As energy is a major market in the UNECE region, which contains 40 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves and 60 per cent of its coal reserves, a number of UNECE activities promote a sustainable energy development strategy, a key to the region’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The combustion of fossil fuels, the mainstay of the region’s electricity generation, is also a major source of GHG emissions. The sustainable energy projects of UNECE aim to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy future by optimizing operating efficiencies and conservation, including through energy restructuring and legal, regulatory or energy pricing reforms. UNECE projects also encourage the introduction of renewable energy sources and the use of natural gas until cleaner energy sources are developed and commercially available, as well as the greening of the coal-to-energy chain.

For the period 2006–2009, the UNECE Energy Efficiency 21 (EE21) programme is working to promote regional cooperation to enhance countries’ energy efficiency and to reduce their GHG emissions, thus helping them meet their international treaty obligations under UNFCCC and the UNECE conventions. Energy efficiency is achieved by focusing on more efficient production, conservation and use of all energy sources in order to minimize GHG emissions.

Within the overall EE21 programme, UNECE manages the Financing Energy Efficiency Investments for Climate Change Mitigation project, with a budget of approximately US$ 7.5 million, financed by the Global Environment Fund, Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial and the European Business Congress. This project is currently establishing a privately managed equity fund with private and public sector partners. The fund, which will benefit from both public and private sources, will target energy efficiency and renewable investment projects in 12 countries in Central Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

Another project within the EE21 programme is RENEUER, a regional activity supported by the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Department of Energy, France and other bilateral donors. RENEUER promotes sustainable development in the region by overcoming regional barriers and creating favourable conditions for the introduction of advanced technologies for the efficient use of local energy resources.

Outreach activities to other regional commissions in the context of energy efficiency for climate change mitigation are being organized under the Global Energy Efficiency 21 (GEE21) project. This project, to be launched in December 2008 in Poznan, Poland, will develop a systematic exchange of information on capacity-building, policy reform and investment project financing to promote cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that will reduce air pollution, including GHGs.

The work of two expert groups under the Committee on Sustainable Energy relates to climate change mitigation. The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) promote the recovery and use of methane gas from coal mines to minimize GHG emissions. In February 2008 in Szczyrk, Poland, a UNECE-supported workshop assessed prospects for CMM recovery and use, noting that “Global potential for CMM projects to contribute to climate change mitigation and take advantage of the carbon markets is very strong because a reduction of one ton of methane yields reductions of 18 to 23 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”.[10] However, economic feasibility of such projects typically requires a clear regulatory and legal framework, reasonable access to markets and relatively stable prices.

The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels held its first meeting in November 2007. Its programme of work includes reviewing the prospects for cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels and measures or incentives to promote investment in cleaner electricity production. The Group also assesses the regulatory needs for promoting investment in cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels, appraises the comparative advantages of investments in new capacities and analyses issues related to carbon capture and storage technologies, especially in the context of emerging economies in the UNECE region.[11]

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Energy-efficient housing

Due to both its high GHG emissions and its large potential for energy-saving measures, the housing sector plays a critical role in climate change mitigation. IPCC estimates that the global potential to reduce emissions at roughly 29 per cent for the residential and commercial sectors.[12] The energy-saving potential in this sector is also considerable: UNEP estimates that in Europe, buildings account for roughly 40 to 45 per cent of energy consumption, emitting significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Residential buildings account for the lion’s share of these emissions.[13]

Energy-efficient buildings can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation by reducing buildings’ energy consumption as well as by making them more resistant to severe weather events. Improving energy efficiency is especially important in the UNECE region, where projected increased housing construction and homeownership are likely to be accompanied by higher electricity consumption and thus growing emissions. UNECE has a programme geared to achieving maximal energy efficiency in the region’s housing, which will allow countries to share experience and good practice in reducing energy consumption in the residential sector, both vis-à-vis existing housing stock and new residential housing construction. This is expected to especially improve energy performance in parts of the region where progress is hampered by low innovation capacity and by a lack of knowledge about technical options to improve the thermal efficiency of existing buildings, and by outdated building codes that prevent countries from embracing the latest energy-efficient construction techniques. The programme will also include a wide-ranging regional assessment – featuring financing mechanisms, case studies, workshops and seminars for policymakers – and will benefit from close collaboration with above-mentioned EE21 project.

To date, UNECE has published country profiles on the housing sectors of Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia Lithuania, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation and Serbia and Montenegro. In 2009, two workshops (in Sofia and Vienna) will address the issue of energy efficiency in housing. A group of interested experts will assist the host countries in shaping the programme of the events and will provide the necessary expertise. In September 2008, the Committee on Housing and Land Management addressed energy efficiency in housing in the region, focusing on the legislative framework and incentives.[14]

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Sustainable forestry

Forests and wood are integrally linked to climate change and have an important role to play in mitigation and adaptation. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere when they grow, thereby offsetting a significant part of GHG emissions. According to the forthcoming UNECE Annual Report, the annual increase of carbon in EU-27 forests is equivalent to 8.6 per cent of GHG emissions in the European Union (EU). In Europe, forests sequester approximately 140 million tons of carbon a year. Wood products are a store of carbon, keeping it from release to the atmosphere. Forests store more than 80 per cent of terrestrial aboveground carbon and more than 70 per cent of soil organic carbon. They are also the source of wood energy that can substitute fossil energy, thereby reducing GHG emissions.[15] Wood can also be a substitute for non-renewable construction materials such as plastics, steel or concrete.

The UNECE Timber Committee has an active role in monitoring these trends and in promoting sustainable forest management. It collects basic data on forest resource assessment (e.g. carbon sequestration and storage in forests) and the production of and trade in forest products (e.g. harvested wood products, substitution of other materials). It contributes to policy monitoring by reporting on qualitative indicators of sustainable forest management and by publishing a chapter in the Forest Products Annual Market Review. It is currently developing a database on forest sector policies and institutions. In September 2008, UNECE hosted a workshop on “Harvested Wood Products in the Context of Climate Change Policies” to discuss different approaches to account for carbon stored in wood products and their economic, social and ecological impacts. It will also participate in the plenary session on Forest and Climate Change during European Forest Week (Rome, 21–24 October 2008). Finally, the UNECE Timber Committee provided an analytical contribution to the European Forest Sector Outlook Study in 2005 and has authored various papers on wood availability and the market for wood.

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Sustainable biomass

Since 1998, UNECE has been directing a major cross-sectoral project for enterprises in the biomass sector in the region. One of the central tasks of climate change mitigation is to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy. The project aims to strengthen sustainable biomass supply from selected countries in the UNECE region to energy producers in the EU, with a focus on agro- and wood residues, whose use is an important alternative to the use of (food) crops for fuel. The project also seeks to improve the logistics chain of biomass trade from producer to the end-user through improved inland transportation, port and trade logistics, and customs cooperation with respect to imports and exports of biomass. Two further aims of the project are facilitating the exchange of good practice with the private sector and exploring cross-sectoral approaches that take into account environment, energy, trade and transport issues.

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Other related UNECE areas of work

The “Environment for Europe” ministerial process

The “Environment for Europe” process provides a pan-European political framework for the discussion of key policy issues, development of programmes and launching of initiatives to improve the region’s environment and harmonize environmental policies. At the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007), environment ministers explicitly recognized the urgent need to address climate change in the UNECE region. The Conference saw the launch of the Belgrade Initiative[16], a subregional effort in South-Eastern Europe to support subregional implementation of the UNFCCC through a Climate Change Framework Action Plan and a virtual climate change-related centre in Belgrade designed to help raise awareness and build capacity.

UNECE Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development

The UNECE Strategy of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), adopted in 2005 by ministers and other officials from education and environment ministries across the UNECE region, endeavours to integrate key themes of sustainable development into all education systems. It constitutes the regional pillar of implementation of the United Nations Decade of ESD. At the joint session on ESD held during the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, environment and education ministers referred to the problems posed by climate change as a “leading example of where ESD could be applied to daily life, as climate change affects everyone and ESD offers an essential way to shape knowledge and attitudes, and hence could help us to address these problems” [17]

Modifying transport policies based on traffic-based information about carbon dioxide emissions

In order to evaluate the implementation of new national or regional measures to reduce their contributions to the global warming, Governments must analyse different possible strategies, especially those that address the total energy consumption of the transport sector. To make the right policy decisions and to optimize their strategies to attain CO2 reduction targets, an assessment and analysis tool is needed that integrates the most recent developments in transportation. This tool should be transparent so as to ensure that decisions overly swayed by special-interest groups. Such an information tool is currently under consideration. It is based on a uniform methodology for evaluating CO2 emissions in the land transport sector, and incorporates climate-relevant indicators as well as new transportation trends.

Environmental Performance Reviews

The UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs), based on the OECD/DAC peer review process, aim to improve individual and collective environmental management. Since 1996, Central, South-East and Eastern European as well as Central Asian countries have been reviewed by UNECE, in addition to a few countries in transition that were reviewed in cooperation with OECD (Bulgaria, Belarus, Poland and the Russian Federation). A second round of EPRs have already been carried out for Belarus (2005), Bulgaria (2000), Estonia (2001), Republic of Moldova (2005), Ukraine (2006), Montenegro and Serbia and (2007) and Kazakhstan (2008), and are in process for Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

By disseminating relevant information, they contribute to enhancing public access to information about the environment and environmental issues and thus to more informed decision-making, relevant to the climate change debate. In future, they can provide a comprehensive analysis of instruments used in the context of regional climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, a means to share good practice and highlight gaps in this area, and a way to offer important policy recommendations.

Strategic environment assessment

The UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) provides a framework for considering transboundary environmental impacts in national decision-making processes.

The Convention’s Protocol on Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA), not yet in force, will ensure that Parties integrate consideration of the environment into their plans and programmes at a very early planning stage. SEA can be used to introduce climate change considerations into development planning. This is in line with the conclusions reached at the high-level event “The Future in Our Hands”, convened by the Secretary-General in September 2007, as well as the recommendation of IPCC[18] that climate change mitigation and adaptation be integrated into an overarching sustainable development strategy. The IPCC also concluded that consideration of climate change impacts in development planning, as might be provided by SEA, is important for boosting adaptive capacity, e.g. by including adaptation measures in land-use planning and infrastructure design or by reducing vulnerability through existing disaster risk reduction strategies.[19]

Statistics related to climate change

The global official statistics community still only engages in an ad hoc way with the issues of climate change. UNECE is reviewing the possibility of setting up a joint task force (subject to the approval of the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians) to explore statistical activities related to the UNFCCC guidelines on the compilation of emission inventories. The task force will also take into account the recommendations that are expected to be developed at a forthcoming conference on statistics of climate change in the Republic of Korea. In June 2008, the meeting of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA) recommended that statistics on emissions should become part of the regular production and dissemination process of official statistics at the national level. In this context, national statistical offices should gradually take on the responsibility for regularly compiling emission statistics and contributing to the review of the guidelines to assembling emission registers.

This is expected to contribute to a better understanding of how official statistics can contribute to the understanding, measurement and monitoring of the different aspects of climate change as well as to bring together all current activities in a coherent framework.

Innovation and financing

UNECE has organized workshops and seminars with a view to enhancing the understanding of the process of technology diffusion, identifying possible barriers to take-up, and providing training and technical assistance to the region’s Governments on their innovation policies. This includes a financing dimension, in particular regarding early-stage financing of innovative enterprises. During the International Conference Investing in Innovation, which took place in Geneva in April 2008, a session on how environmental challenges can be addressed through innovation brought together policy makers and specialized financial intermediaries to discuss emerging trends in the allocation of risk capital for eco-investing and the type of policies required to encourage the mobilization of private financing in this area.

Efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change are significantly boosted by the diffusion of existing technologies but also by the introduction of new ones. Given the scale and systemic nature of the necessary shift towards low carbon technologies, there is a clear link between the challenges posed by climate change mitigation and innovation policies.  In future, work on innovation and its related financing and intellectual property aspects could help to inform policies in relation to climate change.


[1] This note, prepared by Laura Altinger, has benefited from valuable inputs by Ella Behlyarova, Francesca Bernardini, Nicholas Bonvoisin, Lidia Bratanova, Keith Bull, Paola Deda, George Georgiadis, Franziska Hirsch, Romain Hubert, Matti Johansson, Albena Karadjova, Marco Keiner, Monika Linn, Eva Molnar, José Palacin, Kit Prins, Juraj Riecan, Patrice Robineau, Gianluca Sambucini, Angela Sochirca and Michael Stanley-Jones.

[2] More formally, climate change is defined as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UNFCCC, art. 1).

[3] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report (p. 76), adaptation relates to the ‘initiatives and measures aimed at reducing the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects. Various types of adaptation exist, e.g. anticipatory and reactive, private and public, and autonomous and planned. Examples are raising river or coastal dykes, the substitution of more temperature-shock resistant plants for sensitive ones”.

[4] A/62/644 , para. 11.

[5] E/2008/SR.38 , para. 25.

[6] Letter by United Nations Secretary-General to the members of the Chief Executives Board and the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, 30 May 2008.

[8] Decision 9/CP.13, annex, paras. 14 and 15 (FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1), amended the New Delhi Work Programme on article 6 of the UNFCCC. The thirteenth session was held from 3 to 15 December 2007 in Bali, Indonesia.

[9] OECD (2008), The Challenges of climate change, key messages, International Transport Forum, Ministerial Session, 29 May, p. 2.

[12] Quoted in Deda, P. and G. Georgiadis, “Tackling climate change ‘at home’: trends and challenges in enhancing energy efficiency in buildings in the ECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[13] Ibid. p. 3.

[14] ECE/HBP/2008/2 of 7 July 2008.

[15] Prins, Kit et al (2008), “Forests, wood and climate change: challenges and opportunities in the UNECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[18] Ibid.

[19] IPCC, WG II, Summary for policymakers.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: BESA Center
Date: Wed, Feb 10, 2010
Subject: BESA Lecture: “Turkey and the Caucasus,” Dr. Alexander Murinson, February 14, 2010

You are kindly invited to a lecture on

Turkey and the Caucasus

Dr. Alexander Murinson
University of London

Sunday, February 14, 2010, 17:00
BESA Seminar Room (Building 203), Room 131
Bar-Ilan University

Faculty of Social Sciences

Dept. of Political Studies

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We found an excellent blog that specializes in the understanding of “de Facto States” in general, and in the GUAM states and their separatist outside backed generally unrecognized states.

 blogs.euobserver.com/popescu/ is manned by Nicu Popescu who is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in London, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighborhood and Russia.

These days, with China ready to pour in $1 billion into Moldova, the East flank of the EU may become even more interesting, so good inside information will be important o Brussels and those that would like to see Europe hold together.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russia claims a sphere of influence over its “near abroad” – a message that involves Belarus and Kazachstan with whom Russia has special trade agreements and the GUAM States – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova that eye the European Union.

President Obama visited Moscow in order to “reset” US-Russia relations and coordinated a visit by Vice President Biden to Kiev and Tbilisi in order to reassure both Ukraine and Georgia that this reset will not sell out their interests.

For us what is of interest here is the talk in Kiev about the way the Ukraine is handling its energy sector, and we are in full agreement that the Ukrainians are totally forfeiting their independence of Russia, and by the way also endangering their own standing in their relations with Europe, all this by sticking with insane dependence on the pipelines of oil and gas – and mind you subsidizing this addiction on their own will.

The disparity between market prices and the cheap government-sold gas that arrives on the Russian pipeline, has in addition created a black market and vested interests that led to rampant corruption, economy distortions, and make it hard to solve the problem. These subsidies have strangled the economy by forcing Kiev to rely on below-market-price imports from Russia and submitted themselves to Russia’s direct influence on the Ukrainian economy, while at the same time making themselves into a handy tool for Russia disrupting supplies also  EU parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

Mr. Biden lectured publicly in Kiev: ” Your economic freedom depends more, on your energy freedom than on any other single factor,” he said. Energy efficiency will be a boon to your economy and an immeasurable benefit to your national security, he continued.

WOULD IT NOT BE NICE HAD Mr. BIDEN SAID THOSE THINGS ALSO ABOUT THE US IN WASHINGTON DC?

Further, Mr. Biden lectured that “Friendship requires honesty” and continued by saying that: “Mature democracies survive because they develop institutions such as free press, a truly independent court system, an effective legislature – all of which serve as a check on the corruption that fuels the cynicism and limits growth in any country, including yours.” How true! If above are looked at honestly, so will emerge the desire to decrease the dependence on outside supplies of energy by promotion of energy efficiency.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Turkey Gets Boost from Pipeline Politics.

by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Jul 19 (IPS) – The political geography of the modern Middle East has been affected for one hundred years by the appetite of westerners and other outsiders for the region’s hydrocarbons. Last week, the region’s “pipeline politics” took another step forward with the signing in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, of an agreement to build a new, 3,300-kilometre gas pipeline called Nabucco, running between eastern Turkey and Vienna, Austria.

The project underlines the new influential role that Turkey, a majority Muslim nation of 72 million people, is playing in the Middle East, and far beyond. The new project’s name was chosen, Austrian officials said, after the Verdi opera that representatives of the five participating countries – who include Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, along with the two terminus states – saw together during an earlier round of negotiations in Vienna.

But the name also gives clues to two intriguing aspects of the project’s geopolitical significance. The theme of the opera is the liberation from bondage of slaves held by the ancient Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (‘Nabucco’) – and it is a widely discussed feature of the Nabucco project that many European nations want access to a gas source that is not under the control of Russia. Last winter, several European nations suffered severe gas shortages after Russia, locked in a tariff dispute with transit-country Ukraine, closed off the spigots completely.

But the other implication of the name is more strictly Middle Eastern. The modern-day home of Nebuchadnezzar is Iraq. Washington has given strong support to the Nabucco project – and one of the reasons U.S. officials give for this support is their hope that once Nabucco is up and running in 2015, Iraq can be one of the nations that reaps large profits by feeding gas into it. However, construction of the pipeline is estimated to cost some eight billion dollars, and many officials in the participating countries are still unclear where they will get enough gas to make it economically viable.

The Nabucco participants had been hoping that a key feeder state would be one of Turkey’s eastern neighbours, Azerbaijan. But on the eve of the project’s inauguration in Ankara, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took the CEO of the vast Russian gas company Gazprom to Azerbaijan, where they signed a contract with the state gas company that will force Nabucco to compete hard against Gazprom for any purchase it wants to make from Azerbaijan. One fairly evident other source for Nabucco’s would be Iran, which is reported to have considerable amounts of new gas coming online in the next five years.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We post the following – an eight months old article – because of the news that Russia’s Lukhoil is intent on buying 30% of the Spain’s Repsol – this is a clear evidence that the Gideon Rachman Article still holds true.

Rachman was talking about the Natural Gas Pipelines from Russia to West and Central Europe via The Ukraine and Belarus, with potential of investment in pipelines that could bypass these countries – but he believes that the overall interest of Russian business will not make it necessary to look for these alternatives – in effect one could rather foresee that Russia would be just as reliable in its supplies as the Soviet Union was before, this because of the entanglements of international investments and business in general.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Who’s Next? Russia’s Cat and Mouse Game with Moldova.
William H. Hill, October 24, 2008, on Open Democracy.
 www.opendemocracy.net/article/rus…

Two years ago Moldova’s president President Vladimir Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with breakaway republic of Transnistria. Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations with Russia and its reintegration with Transnistria has remained as uncertain as before.

Russia’s crushing use of force against Georgia last August gave rise to frenzied speculation that Moscow would mount similar military threats to other neighboring states and former Soviet republics.   However, the next major Russian initiative in the “post-Soviet space” has come in a different fashion in the miniscule Republic of Moldova.   In contrast to the Georgian case, the Russian scenario in Moldova casts President Dmitri Medvedev in the role of sage peacemaker in an internal territorial dispute left over from the days of the Soviet collapse.

A small nation of some four million, predominantly Romanian-speaking people wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova sought and won its independence as the USSR disintegrated in the late 1980s.   A group of primarily Slavic Soviet political figures and enterprise managers on the east, or left bank of the Nistru (Dniestr) River in the Soviet Republic of Moldavia resisted Moldovan attempts to leave the USSR and proclaimed their small sliver of land a separate, Transnistrian Moldovan Republic.   In 1992 Moldova and Transnistria fought a brief, bitter war which the separatists won, with the assistance of a contingent of locally-based Russian troops left over from the Soviet Red Army.

During the conflict in 1992 Moldova appealed for assistance to the UN, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the OSCE), and various western nations.   Only Moscow heeded Chisinau’s call for mediation and brokered a cease fire that left Russian troops in place as peacekeepers.   Negotiations for a political settlement have dragged on since that time between Chisinau and Tiraspol (the separatist “capital”), with Russia, and then the OSCE and Ukraine serving as mediators.   In 2005 the U.S. and European Union formally joined the negotiations as observers.

With a population roughly the size of Luxembourg, Transnistria’s prospects as an independent state were always sketchy.   The region supported itself partially through a heavy industrial base left over from Soviet times that enjoyed surprising success in penetrating the EU and North American markets.   The left bank enclave received subsidies from Moscow, especially in the form of low-cost natural gas, running at least $30 million per year.   Finally, the region augmented its income and solidified its political position mostly by serving as a haven for smuggling and tax evasion, not only for its own residents, but also politicians and businessmen from all of the neighboring states.   “A giant off-shore” is how one Moldovan political figure characterized the region to me.

No state, including Russia, has recognized Transnistria’s independence.   Moscow’s stated policy has always been that Transnistria is a part of Moldova, and the two sides should agree voluntarily on peaceful unification of the country, with a special status for the left bank.   However, backed by influential circles in Moscow, Transnistrian leaders have been reluctant to give up their lucrative status quo for an uncertain future.   Moldova, by most statistical measurements the poorest country in Europe, has few material incentives to win over its breakaway region.   Instead Chisinau has generally pinned its hopes on intervention by a large outside power – Russia, the U.S. or the EU – to coerce Tiraspol into the Republic of Moldova.

In 2003 Moldova and Transnistria almost reached a political settlement of their conflict.   The proposed agreement, the so-called “Kozak Memorandum,” brokered by Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Dmitri Kozak, fell apart at the last minute, partially because of western objections to a provision calling for a long-term Russian troop presence.   With Kozak as point man in 2003, Moscow bypassed the existing negotiating mechanism with its broader international participation.   Swayed by promises that Moscow would overcome Transnistrian resistance and unite his country, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin went along with the gambit until the last minute.   With angry crowds gathering outside the Presidential Building and frantic calls from western leaders, only at the last moment did Voronin call Russian President Putin and tell him not to come to Chisinau to sign the Memorandum.   Putin has reportedly nursed a grudge ever since.

Five years later events are in the works that may repeat this scenario.   The leader of one of the last post-Soviet communist parties in power in the former USSR, Voronin turned toward the West after 2003 and declared a policy of European integration.   Russia retaliated by banning imports of Moldovan meat, fruit, and wine, placing grave economic pressure on the small country.   Moscow also frustrated Moldovan attempts to use Ukrainian, EU, and U.S. support to press Transnistria into a political settlement.

In late 2006, while keeping western negotiators informed of his course of action, President Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with Transnistria.   There have been some modest gains from this process, but overall the results are disappointing for Chisinau.

As events in Kosovo and Georgia developed in 2008, Moldova sought to portray itself as more moderate and reasonable than Tbilisi.   Moldova did not recognize Kosovo, declared itself a neutral country (already guaranteed in the 1994 Moldovan constitution), and ostentatiously announced that it had no need to seek NATO membership.   Chisinau was rewarded in March, when after theatrical hearings the Russian Parliament advocated recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but recommended only a special status for Transnistria within Moldova.   On August 25, one day before he announced Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian President Medvedev met with Voronin in Sochi and reaffirmed Russia’s dedication to seeking a peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

The formal Transnistrian political settlement negotiation process goes on, although there has not been an official round of negotiations since February 28, 2006, when Moldovan negotiators walked out in protest of Transnistrian provocations.   The mediators and observers in the so called “5+2″ process – Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, the EU, and the US – continue to call regularly for resumption of the negotiations.   The latest meeting of mediators and observers took place September 8 at OSCE Headquarters in Vienna, ending with a hopeful statement.   However, a full-scale negotiating round scheduled for October 7-8 in Vienna failed to materialize.   The ostensible reason was the Transnistria’s refusal to attend, widely seen as a tactic to allow more time for Moscow’s bilateral efforts with Chisinau to bear fruit.

Meanwhile Moscow has intensified contacts with Voronin and Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov.   Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brokered a one on one meeting between Voronin and Smirnov in April; the two had not met in person since August 2001.   Shortly after his Sochi conversation with Voronin, Medvedev also received Smirnov.   The blustery Transnistrian leader, whose line is usually that he has nothing to discuss with Voronin except bilateral relations between their two independent states, announced meekly after his talk with Medvedev that the two sides needed to meet to bring their positions closer together.

The current expectation in Moldova and Russia is that Voronin and Smirnov will get together once more, to be followed by a meeting of both of them with Medvedev.   Lavrov has floated a trial balloon in the Russian press that revival of the Kozak Memorandum might be a good basis for reaching a solution in Moldova.

However, Transnistrian leaders continue to do their utmost to deflect any settlement process and to defend their comfortable status quo.   Smirnov recently annoyed his Moldovan interlocutors and Russian patrons, ducking a widely anticipated late September meeting with Voronin in order to celebrate Abkhaz “independence” on the beaches near Sukhumi.   Moldovan negotiators, on the other hand, are increasingly frustrated by Moscow’s failure to react to a comprehensive Moldovan package proposal that has been on the table for almost two years.   Venting his irritation during a late September visit to Moldova’s largest landfill, President Voronin announced that this – a garbage dump – was the proper place for the separatist regime.

The Moldovan President is under great pressure to reach agreement now to unite his country, or give up on what has been the highest priority of his two terms in office.   National elections must be held in Moldova no later than spring 2009, when Voronin’s second and final term as president runs out.   Constitutional experts claim the sitting Moldovan Parliament must approve any settlement at least six months before the end of its term, so there are only a few weeks left before a Transnistrian settlement becomes impossible for the remainder of this legislative term.   For Voronin, who was born and raised on the left bank during Soviet times, and who desperately wishes to see his country united, it is frustrating in the extreme to watch the clock run out on his opportunity to reach a settlement.

Moscow will not go after Moldova with military means.   The small contingent of Russian troops now stationed in the Transnistrian region (around 1400) is no match in military terms for either the Moldovan or the Transnistrian armed forces.   Russian military forces in Moldova serve rather as a political symbol, tripwire, and deterrent to small-scale military adventures.   Any Russian reinforcements need to come through or over Ukraine, not a realistic possibility in current political circumstances.   Including their armies, special forces, militia, interior ministry and security troops, both Chisinau and Tiraspol can muster between 12000 to 18000 men under arms.   This is enough to deter each other (and the Russians), but probably not enough to take and hold territory.   In addition – as opposed to Georgia – no one on either side in Moldova wants to fight.   The quarrel along the Nistru is between political and economic elites, and not hostile communities, ethnic, or national groups.

Russia has already established a public posture on Moldova that implies clearly: “Here is how we deal with friendly countries that don’t join NATO and don’t use violence to settle separatist conflicts.”   Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations, and Moscow appears to be stringing Chisinau along with the hope of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.   The crucial time will come, much as it did in 2003, if and when a solution presented to Chisinau in its separate 2008 track with Moscow turns out to have a crucial catch in it, such as a bilateral agreement with significant obligations, perhaps a long-term troop presence.

In 2003 western negotiators (I was one of them) repeatedly argued with our Russian counterparts that negotiating a political settlement in Moldova was not and should not be a zero sum game.   We tried to convince Moscow that there were win-win solutions that protected and furthered the fundamental security interests of all parties in the region, indeed in the Euro-Atlantic area.   Obviously we did not succeed; Russia apparently considered primacy in the region more important than cooperation.   In 2008, with the strategic security environment much worse, Russia seems to favor the same myopic, unilateralist path.

With respect to Moldova in 2008, the absence of a solution to the Transnistrian question will be better than a bad solution that cripples the country’s chances for reform and integration into Europe as a whole.   For any settlement to succeed, Russia must be a part – but so must the rest of Europe and the North Atlantic community, i.e. the EU and US.   Commenting on US actions elsewhere in the world, the Russians are fond of proclaiming that unilateral solutions do not work.   The conflict areas like Moldova on the periphery of the former USSR are places where they ought to listen to their own advice.
—————-
The author, currently Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in Washington DC, served two terms between 1999 and 2006 as Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova.   The views expressed are entirely his own.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

[EUobserver Comment] No easy answers to the status of Ossetia, Abkhazia and others – 24.10.2008.

The collapse last week (on the first day!) of EU backed peace talks between
Georgia and Russia to resolve the crisis in the breakaway regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, with the sides unable to enter the same room, serves
merely to illustrate that there are no easy answers to the question of the
status of Ossetia, Abkhazia, and indeed many other territories in the
world, writes MEP Richard Corbett.
 euobserver.com/9/26983/?rk=1

===============

Strained relations between Russians, EU monitors in Georgia – 24.10.2008.

Russia is not informing the EU mission of their deployment of troops, nor
is it allowing observers to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Hansjorg
Haber, the head of EU’s civilian monitoring mission to Georgia (EUMM) has
said.
 euobserver.com/9/26993/?rk=1

==============
 Romania opens door to Gazprom pipeline – 24.10.2008.

Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just
the EU Nabucco project, designed to reduce energy dependency on Russia,
Romanian minister of economy Varujan Vosganian said on Thursday as general
elections loom.
 euobserver.com/9/26988/?rk=1

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

His Excellency Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2005, has come now for the third time to The Asia Society during the September – October period of the UN General Assembly In New York City.

Last year I had the opportunity to ask him about about Climate Change and why Iran, with its great scientists, and people involved at the UN level, does not embark in a leadership position in the area of renewable energy rather then striving for nuclear energy incurring only indignities. Others asked him about Iran’s stand on Israel.

This year – none of the above. One question from the floor asked about Israel – but was answered in the general line of the presentation – without the question been tackled at all. The Moderator was illustrious US Career Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, who served as impeccable host, presenting lots of compliments to his guest and making sure he is very comfortable. Further, The Asia Society simply managed to put the press away in a back room, and without the Q & A period reaching out to them – that is except the literally last question which asked about the possibility for regional negotiations in the crucial Middle East problem.   And the answer to that question was then submerged under the previous line of presentation that exposed beautifully the way Iran wants to be seen. No mention was made of the name Israel also in this   answer by the Minister.

The reality is   that many in Iran like actually some of the cocoons   created via the 1980 revolution that came as a reaction to some real injustices its people incurred from the hand of the US CIA when it undid the Mohammad Mosaddeq   April 28, 1951 – August 19, 1953 regime for its nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and reinstated the   Shah who returned   on 22 August 1953, from the brief self-imposed exile in Rome. Also, some in the US Administration feared that Mossadeq was, or would become, dependent on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, at a time of returning Soviet influence, and too close for comfort to have the cold War Tectonic Plates reach towards the Saudi and Iraqi oilfields.

The extent of the US role in Mossadeq’s overthrow was not formally acknowledged for many years, although the Eisenhower administration was quite vocal in its opposition to the policies of the ousted Iranian Prime Minister. In his memoirs, Eisenhower writes angrily about Mossadeq, and describes him as impractical and naive, though he stops short of admitting any overt involvement in the coup.

Eventually the CIA’s role became well-known, and caused controversy within the organization itself, and within the CIA congressional hearings of the 1970s. CIA supporters maintain that the plot against Mosaddeq was strategically necessary, and praise the efficiency of agents in carrying out the plan. Critics say the scheme was paranoid and colonial, as well as immoral.

In March 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated her regret that Mosaddeq was ousted: “The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development, and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America.” In the same year, the New York Times published a detailed report about the coup based on alleged CIA documents. For his sudden rise in popularity inside and outside of Iran, and for his defiance of the British, Mosaddeq was named as Time Magazine’s 1951 Man of the Year. Other notables considered for the title that year included Dean Acheson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur.

In early 2004, the Egyptian government changed a street name in Cairo from Pahlavi to Mosaddeq, to facilitate closer relations with Iran.

 Now, these last few paragraphs, obviously, do not come from the monologue of Minister Mottaki, but I thought to bring this up because otherwise the show at the Asia Society cannot be understood, and the Ministers personality grasped.

***

The literally last question mentioned above, that came from the back-room filled with people from media was added when the announced “last question” that came from a lady sitting at the front-right table, clearly laudatory asked, “for those of us interested in the understanding of the history of the Middle East, when did Iran invade last one of its neighbors?”   The clear short answer was – “not in our lifetime.”

***

Had be given to me the opportunity to ask a question – what I had in mind was something like this:

“In light of what your excellency has said in regard to regional solutions for regional problems, and in light of justifiable aspirations by Iran to become an Asian powerhouse, what is your reaction to the Bahrain proposal at this year’s High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, when Bahrain suggested the creation of a new UN organization comprising ALL STATES OF THE REGION – that wasinterpreted as meaning a Middle East organization that includes Israel?” This is exactly the most wanting direct question that was not put before our guest.

***

From The Speakers Profile and The Internet:

 Manouchehr Mottaki was born   May 12, 1953 in Bandar Gaz, in the northern Iranian Province of Golestan, and went to school there. Bandar-Gaz, during the Reza Shah Pahlavi rule, was an important city in the north with a national railroad and “several infrastructures.” It was considered   a transit bridge to the Soviet Union. After graduation, he joined the army and as per national plan joined the public education program by which was conducted by the government. He went to Khorasan province and established a school in a poor village around Mashhad, and taught there. After his service in the army, since he was interested in social and political issues, he decided to travel abroad both for experience and study. At that time India was a popular academic destination for young Iranians. So he traveled and studied for a few years in India, before the revolution in Iran.       He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bangalore University in India (1976). Mottaki also holds a master’s degree (MA) in international relations from the University of Tehran (1996).

 After the 1980 revolution, he was elected by the people of his home town and the neighboring cities as the first parliament representative and assigned by the other representatives as the head of the national security and foreign policy committee due to his politic and diplomatic talents. During his years in Majlis (Congress) and effective collaboration with the foreign ministry, he was employed then by the ministry after parliament.   Or, he made thus his career within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during 24 years of continuous presence in different positions through   the Majlis (Parliament)..

He served thus as member of parliament in the first Majlis, head of seventh political bureau of Foreign Ministry (1984),

Iran’s ambassador to Turkey (1985),

Foreign Ministry’s secretary general for Western European affairs (1989),

Deputy Foreign Minister – first for international affairs (1989) and then   for legal, consular and parliamentary affairs (1992).

 Iran’s ambassador to Japan (1994),

Advisor to foreign minister (1999),

Deputy head of Culture and Islamic Communications Organization (2001)

Chief of the Foreign Relations Committee of the 7th Majlis National Security and Foreign Relations Commission (2004).

During the 2005 presidential election, he was the campaign manager of Ali Larijani, the right-conservative candidate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, in 2005,   appointed him to the position of Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005.

 

Mottaki quotations:

“Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen. We see a win-win situation, that is where the EU and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right.”

“The Islamic Republic pays great cost to control and prevent transfer of narcotics to West.

“We do not accept global nuclear ‘apartheid’ and scientific ‘apartheid’.

“All voluntary measures taken over the past two-and-a-half or three years have been halted and we have no further commitment to the additional protocol and other voluntary commitments.”

“We should try to cool down the situation. We do not support any violence.”

“Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned.”

“The time for using language of threats is over, it’s time for negotiation. We express our readiness for negotiations based on justice and a comprehensive compromise. We want to peacefully solve the problem.

“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

“The issue is quite simple. We would like to enjoy our membership as well as the other members of the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. The country has followed the rules and regulations of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and wants to keep its rights.”

***

The Foreign Minister’s Introductory Presentation Before The Asia Society, Thursday, October 2, 2008:

Mottaki started by saying that since our last meeting here (2007), we had three events:

(1) The enjoyable visit of members of this Society in Tehran – he hopes this is a start for more such exchanges. This as a better way for mutual understanding – Scholars, Tourists, Students in such exchanges create the possibility to have more realistic picture of each other.

 

(2) LEBANON: A solution of more then 30 months of crisis was achieved after being initiated by different parties. Foreign Minister Mottaki wants to talk about how it was achieved – because the process is as important as the results.

It was a regional-based solution for the Lebanon crisis. The decision was that it has to be a solution based on votes by a 50+ plurality of all groups in the country – all groups in the country come to the table and a consensus is built – that was the tone of the Lebanon Policy agreement.

On the second day of the negotiations in Doha, at 2:30 AM, the feeling was that it all collapsed the negotiations were locked. Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League said go ahead, but others opposed. Mottaki was in contact with Doha and Beirut and   at 9 AM they took up the issue again, and it was settled after a day of negotiations by 9 PM.

One learned that use of force should expect a reaction from the other side. Then also that territorial integrity is an integral part of any solution. These lessons apply whenever you have conflict – this clearly also in the Georgia – Russia case.

 

(3) GEORGIA: The areas are already affected by crisis – energy, transportation, security.

The crisis started by use of force based on wrong information and miscalculation. The latter by not expecting reaction.

The second point is territorial integrity.

Its the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now, before it was Kosovo, Does it result from the same policies? If so, are there other areas where action led to reaction? If Yes – What are these?

On the second day of the Georgia case there was an agreement signed with Poland. If this signing of the agreement with Poland has become another step, should we look for reaction in Syria? in Venezuela?

What is NATO going to do?

Iran is a neighbor of Azerbaijan and Armenia – so there is a regional concern and Iran has to take part in the initiatives – parallel with Europe. So he went to the region and to Berlin. Is NATO moving to accept Georgia as a member?                             The interesting question is then the borders.

***

 

Now it was the turn for Ambassador Frank G. Wisner to take his position as moderator and conversation partner.

He has retired from the US Foreign Service in 1997 with the highest rank – that of a Career Ambassador, but continued to be involved in special positions like the Special US envoy for the Kosovo Final Status (December 2005 – March 2008).   Now he is in the private sector.   In his career postings he was Ambassador to India, the Philippines, Egypt, Zambia… among other appointments, he was also Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

He started by saying that Iran is a great nation that commands and deserves respect – yet for many of us it is difficult to see how Iran chooses to challenge the international community. How do you square your requirement for respect with a confrontation attitude he then asked the Minister.

Mottaki, who made his introductory presentation in English, but now used a translator for the conversation part of the event, started to smile.

His answer was: A very nice gathering and behavior – my response – What we see is   selective dealing and approach – and double standards.

Back in the 80s we extensively talked up issues. I suggest how the first Iraq war was dealt with and the second war – the war of Saddam against Kuwait. In all   these the underlying issue is the occupation of foreign lands. {I assume he means the Iraq war against Iran as the first war and the war of Iraq on Kuwait as the second war}   Back then the heated discussion was having a cease-fire not a settlement. So the first step is a cease-fire, another first step is withdrawal. We wanted to have the an “a” inserted so that it is clear that a withdrawal comes after the cease-fire. See, using “oil-for-food” money – even now a percentage goes to Kuwait, this while for 4 years we were engaged in lengthy negotiations that were ordered by the UN. Two Assistant Secretary-Generals that dealt with this are present here – they remember those negotiations. Sometimes just to keep things going we had to put proposals on the table. We felt these were in Iraq’s favor and Iraq asked – what do you pay us to accept?

On the nuclear issue – at the end of the day – it is officials of one country … But Islamic and Sharia teachings say that atomic bombs have no place in our defense.we also contend that nuclear weapons are nomore effective. Also military powr has lost effectiveness.

I outlined new agreements for the IAEA last year. 1,5 years ago, in Madrid, we said to the Agency we will give the right answers to the IAEA questions. Then the US turned over questions to the IAEA and they posed them to us. The agency said they have other questions and we started answering them one by one. For each set of questions they sent us a written letter that they accepted the answer as adequate. What expectations should Iran have? We expect the 5+1 to thank us for these efforts to answer all questions. We expected that at the September meeting to be told by the Agency that they put aside all questions, but they provided a second US set of contentions.

They were supposed to bring up questions in one set of timetable. These questions went beyond the timetable. but we accepted.

These questions, like the previous are baseless, we will not agre to the US directed routes. I believe if we continue the negotiations we will reach a point of agreement that will lead to action.

 

{All the above sounded to me like a reprise of the 1001 Nights stories – this time from Tehran. I wonder how many people in the room accepted these, though, as I remarked at the beginning of this article, I am probably one of the most inclined to allow some slack to the Iranians because of past US behavior – but this story contained really too much rope. It did not inspire safety at all.}

 

Now Ambassador Wisner had one more short question he said. The elections in the US. “Do you see from Iran’s point of view an opportunity for dialogue? What will be the modalities for negotiation?

A. A US President will have to reach out including the Middle East. If there are changes in the White House we will intently consider them. We take note of comments made by previous Presidents, who are not in power anymore, also candidates not yet elected. Comments made, promises given by them cannot yet be seriously considered. We have to wait and see.

As for an interest section, there is only stories in news media.

 

***

Q&A from the floor:

Answer On Israel of sorts:   Iran US relations are dependent on a number of issues. Unilateral Vs. Policies in the Middle East have complicated the situation. NO MENTION OF ISRAEL IN THE ANSWER.

 

Answer on Nuclear In The Middle East:   Atomic weapons cannot provide security. We all heard that the US had enough to destroy Russia. It helped in the balance of fear.

Six years have passed from the day your troops have entered Iraq – they have not succeeded. Why could not atomic weapons help in Afghanistan and Iraq? This year the 13th anniversary since the Islamic revolution in Iran.

if I were to list our grievances against the US it will be a long long list. Had we a nuclear bomb, could that have changed your actions in Iraq?

In tandem with development on hardware side, the software side. The US is not lacking in modern weapons, also in its economic might (except for the present problems). No serious changes will occur in the US. The problem is – insufficient reasoning to convince the international public opinion.

 

Answer to the last question on the Middle East: We go about our business about our nuclear problems. We provided the answers.

if a person is asleep- how hard you knock, it will not help. The US cannot accept Iran’s peaceful proposals because once they accept they will not be able to stay in this position.

US intelligence agencies announced that Iran does not work on nuclear bomb, but the uS did not accept. I know of five different reports. I think it is high time for them to accept this.

The 15 years they were against my country. What is wrong about changing policies – and see what was wrong for their country?

 iran002.gif

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ted Sorenson is now blind, but he said bluntly that he has now more VISION then President George W. Bush.

It hurts to say so – but really – the audience at   the October 2, 2008, Foreign Policy Association of New York “Lecture and Book Signing Event,” held at the New York headquarters of the great Spanish Bank – Grupo Santander (The best performing bank in these days that bared the nakedness of many other banks) was clearly drinking every word that Ted said.

Chaired by Robert Miller, the President of the Foreign Policy Association, an organization mostly aligned with the Republican Party, the evening dealt with those fateful 13 days in October 1962., but it also translated to – “from one crisis to another” – that is from the Cuban Missiles Crisis to the present Wall Street Crisis and Mr. Sorensen said with confidence:

“I CAN’T SEE YOU BUT I HAVE MORE VISION THEN THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.”

***

Events during the JFK administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War.
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas .

 Prior to Kennedy’s election to the presidency, the Eisenhower Administration created a plan to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba. Central to such a plan, which was structured and detailed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with minimal input from the United States Department of State, was the arming of a counter-revolutionary insurgency composed of anti-Castro Cubans. U.S.-trained Cuban insurgents were to invade Cuba and instigate an uprising among the Cuban people in hopes of removing Castro from power. On April 17, 1961, Kennedy ordered the previously planned invasion of Cuba to proceed. With support from the CIA, in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1,500 U.S.-trained Cuban exiles, called “Brigade 2506,” returned to the island in the hope of deposing Castro. However, Kennedy ordered the invasion to take place without U.S. air support. By April 19, 1961, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. The failure of the plan originated in a lack of dialog among the military leadership, a result of which was the complete lack of naval support in the face of organized artillery troops on the island who easily incapacitated the exile force as it landed on the beach.[20] After twenty months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. Furthermore, the incident made Castro wary of the U.S. and led him to believe that another invasion would occur.

The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 14, 1962, when American U-2 spy planes took photographs of a Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missile site under construction in Cuba. The photos were shown to Kennedy on October 16, 1962. America would soon be posed with a serious nuclear threat. Kennedy faced a dilemma: if the U.S. attacked the sites, it might lead to nuclear war with the U.S.S.R., but if the U.S. did nothing, it would endure the threat of nuclear weapons being launched from close range. Because the weapons were in such proximity, the U.S. might have been unable to retaliate if they were launched preemptively. Another consideration was that the U.S. would appear to the world as weak in its own hemisphere.

Many military officials and cabinet members pressed for an air assault on the missile sites, but Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine in which the U.S. Navy inspected all ships arriving in Cuba. He began negotiations with the Soviets and ordered the Soviets to remove all defensive material that was being built on Cuba. Without doing so, the Soviet and Cuban peoples would face naval quarantine. A week later, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles subject to U.N. inspections if the U.S. publicly promised never to invade Cuba and quietly removed US missiles stationed in Turkey. Following this crisis, which brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or since, Kennedy was more cautious in confronting the Soviet Union.

***

Our narrative starts the morning of October 16, 1962, when Sorensen was called in by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, shown some photos provided by the CIA has obtained two days earlier, and told of the crisis. Then, in a very systemic way he analyzed how JFK managed the crisis with a calm hand, while getting input from advisers, keeping his steady hand with all involved – including the Soviet adversaries and Cuba’s Castro. He made sure that at the time of his chosing, everyone knew what was at stake – and for a successful outcome – the cards were eventually open on the table and Khruschev agreed to withdraw those missiles in exchange for an eventual removal of NATO missiles from the Black Sea shores of Turkey that were superseded already then by technology, and replaced much more efficiently by Polaris missiles from US submarines in the Black Sea.

When the intelligence came in, Kennedy decided that nothing will happen as long as the Soviets thought the US did not know yet about those missiles – so the first thing was to go about business as usual – the continuation of the ongoing election campaign – without giving any indication that the US has other preoccupation in its official mind. JFK himself went on the 17th to Connecticut for campaign stop. He wanted to make sure that all intelligence is scrutinized – and all options considered before a decision on action or inaction is taken. He asked his advisers for all pro-s and con-s. Eventually Kennedy went ahead and had to inform the allies – this because he did not want to face them with edicts that in the end effect impact them as well.   He asked his advisers for all pro-s and con-s.

By October 22nd – Adenauer was contacted, the NATO, and De Gaul who was the most difficult. He called the Congressional leaders and told them what was discovered and what was decided. The leaders preferred bombing to passive reaction. Today we know that had we attacked, the Russians had passed the responsibility to the local officers, and tactical nuclear weapons would have been employed. The radio active fall-out would have spread globally and would have created nuclear deserts.

After that he went to the UN and presented it to the Organization of American States as the Regional Organization that endorsed a quarantine or blockade of Cuba with all, except one – voting in agreement.Now he told Dean Rusk to call in the Russian Ambassador to Washington and hand him a letter – and at the same time provide in each capital a letter via the US Ambassador to their Government heads.

Here Sorensen compared the actions with the way the US got into Iraq unilaterally.

The contacts with Khruschev he compared with the ongoing debate in the US in regard to the potential interaction with Iran – “only naive people say no to communication – no negotiation with those that do not like us.”

The analysis of options:

Obviously – the first option suggested by generals was a surgical air-strike. But Kennedy wanted to know how if this could take out all missiles which he was told that it will not be the case – so he would not go with this advice.

A second option would be to send a note to Khruschev and start negotiating – but this would project a weak America.

The third option was a “Blockade” would put the ball in Khruschev’s court – but this is an act of war. Our allies would find that sending ships to the Caribbean would see a quadrupling of insurance rates.

So the fourth option – “Quarantine” – was chosen because it is less offensive and is only against offensive weaponry – leaving also open the question about what constitutes a defensive missile.

On Friday October 26th – the 12th day – came a brimstone personal letter from Khruschev full of threats and denials, but not a closed door, then a second letter from the military that was even terser, and JFK chose to answer to the first letter.

On Saturday the 27th, the CIA reported work on the sites, a U-2 Plane was shot down. on Sunday Kennedy and wife went to church – and when they came back at 11:30 got the information that the Soviets will take home those missiles if the US gets the NATO missiles out of Turkey.

Sorensen said that a lot of Presidents prevented the cold war from heating up “by reaching out to moderates and modernists behind the curtain.” Now we made enemies of 1.3 billion Muslims without reaching out to moderates and modernists.

The CIA, in the Bay of Pigs, also projected that the Cubans will revolt and receive the Bay of Pigs invaders with open arms. It did not happen this way and it did not happen in Iraq either.

On the Georgia – Russia situation, Kennedy would not have gotten so close to Russia by working with a “superheated” Georgian leader.

On the Wall Street Crisis – there was no consultation and there was no plan – the way it was handled was no different then the way Iraq was handled.  

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Some EU states to hold back on Georgia mission: EU foreign ministers are today to adopt the mandate, composition and financing of the bloc’s mission to Georgia,   says Elitsa Vucheva from brussels, the EUobserver, September 15, 2008.

EU ministers will on Monday (15 September) gather in Brussels to decide the composition of the bloc’s peace mission to Georgia, while a question mark remains over where exactly the EU force will be deployed.

France and Germany are expected to contribute the largest number of troops, with Berlin saying it would contribute “around one-fifth” of the 200-member mission and a French defence ministry source telling the AFP news agency that France could send around 70 people.
The UK will on Monday announce “substantial numbers” to join the EU mission, reports the Telegraph. Poland has signaled it wants to play a large role. Romania plans to send 20 personnel, while most other EU states are expected to commit “between two and 20 people” each.

Some countries, on the other hand, have expressed less enthusiasm. Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht told daily La Libre Belgique that his country would like to delay its participation to “the first changeover, within six months” in order to first see where exactly the mission will be deployed.

“Nicolas Sarkozy has said that [EU troops] will be deployed in a dismembered Georgia, but that they could go to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well. However, Russian [foreign] minister Lavrov says this is out of the question,” Mr De Gucht said.

“If Europeans can only deploy in the security zone, that gives me a bad feeling, as, basically, we will have to protect borders which we have not recognised,” he added, referring to the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which earlier proclaimed independence from Georgia.

Deploy where?

Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Friday (12 September), a French EU presidency source said that the long-term goal would be to deploy the EU mission across the entire Georgian territory “as recognised by international law.”

However, he stressed, the priority is to deploy in the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia first and to make sure that Russia withdraws from Georgia by 10 October, as earlier agreed. Russian troops started to pull out from Georgia proper over the weekend, international media report.

But Russia – which has recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – has rejected the presence of EU troops in the breakaway regions.

“South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now sovereign states. The governments of these two countries must agree in order for international observers to be sent on their territories,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Le Figaro.

The EU monitoring mission is expected to be deployed before 1 October.

The bloc’s foreign mnisters are also to discuss who will be appointed EU special representative for Georgia, as agreed earlier in September, with Pierre Morel – currently the EU special representative for Central Asia – the front-runner for the job, an EU official told EUobserver.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

UN’s Ban Avoids Questions of New Cold War, U.S. War on Terror, Excluded Journalists Speak. Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis. UNITED NATIONS, September 11 — A new Cold War is how many have described recent dynamics in the UN Security Council. Things came to a boil when American criticized Russian military and political moves with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, breaking away from Georgia. Russia countered by citing the precedent of Kosovo, not only the recognition of its break-away from Serbia earlier this year by the U.S. and most of the European Union, but also NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999. Russia vetoed a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, along the China, put Iran sanctions on the slow boat thereto, and asked the U.S. whether it had found the weapons of mass destruction it had claimed were in Iraq. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was largely invisible during these fights. On September 11 he finally held a press conference, and began by apologizing for what he called his summer absence, promise to henceforth do monthly question and answer sessions. Inner City Press asked about what’s called the new Cold War, what Ban thinks and is trying to do about it. Video here, from Minute 14:28. (see the site) *** After reading from notes about humanitarian aid to Georgia, Ban did not answer the question. So Inner City Press repeated it, linking the rift not only to Georgia but also Kosovo and Zimbabwe and asking if Ban is seeking to be an impartial mediator between the U.S. and Russia. “As Secretary-General, I really try to avoid your question,” Ban said. “I do not want to think of that kind of possibility.” Video here, form Minute 19:33. This candidly admitted attempt to avoid questions was repeated in the balance of the press conference. Ban was asked twice to comment on U.S. military incursions into Pakistan in search of insurgents. First he said he was not ready for the question, then that he did not want to answer it. *** A journalist from Lebanon asked about Ban’s previous envoy to Beirut, Johan Verbecke, who as Inner City Press reported left his assignment due to death threats. Ban called these “unavoidable circumstances,” adding that “I do not wish to discuss [them] with you publicly.” Ban was asked, is Kim Jong Il of North Korea dead? “I am not in the position to have any independent source of information to confirm” that, he said. Some of Inner City Press’ sources opine that the North Korean military may have moved against Kim Jong Il, finding him too conciliatory to the West, and then moved to restart North Korea’s nuclear program. Surprisingly, Ban did not raise and no one asked about either Iran or Sudan. The latter can be ascribed to Ban himself. He described Darfur and climate change as his two signature issues. Now things are going so badly in Darfur — even the U.S. contractor to which Ban’s UN gave a $250 million no-bid contract, Lockheed Martin, is leaving in failure — that Ban has dropped the issue. The press corps shouldn’t. *** Speaking of failure, Inner City Press asked Ban about the trip of his envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Mynamar without having met with democracy leader Aung San Soo Kyi or military strongman Than Shwe. “I do not like to characterize it as failure,” Ban said. “Video here, from Minute 14:50. Ban also took issue with press reports, presumably including this one, that focused on a speech he gave to or at his managers in Turin, Italy. Ban said he was misunderstood, that he is flexible, that if anything he was criticizing senior officials, not lower level staff. He was not asked to example the phrase, “I tried to lead by example. Nobody followed.” That line is more and more repeated in the UN and now beyond. How to avert a Cold War, in the UN and more importantly the wider world? While there were on September 11 more responses than before, which must be noted here, no real answered were advanced. Footnote: After the press conference, there were complaints about perceived bias in the way questions were allocated. James Bone, who among other things famously questioned Kofi Annan about the financing and whereabouts of his son Kojo’s Mercedes until being called “an overgrown school boy,” told Inner City Press he has not been called on for a question since. Nizar Abboud, representing both a television station and a newspaper in the Middle East, was again not called on. He told Inner City Press, on the record, that he asked Ban’s Spokesperson why he hadn’t been called on. The Spokesperson in turn asked, “Remember when you walked out of the briefing?” Abboud did remember, it had been in protest of not being called on. “Well it was wrong,” the Spokesperson said. Abboud comments that this shows the arbitrary basis of exclusion, which is also inconsistent because Ban personally is nothing but polite with Abboud and others. Abboud notes that another correspondent more favorable to the U.S. position on Lebanon was called on for three questions. Another long-time correspondent, who asked for anonymity in order to retain access, said that everything Ban does is in favor of the U.S.. But that analysis can wait for another day. To be charitable, Ban was better on September 11 than in previous press conferences. His offer to come at least once a month is welcome. Whether anything will be accomplished is another question, the results of which will be reported on this site.  www.innercitypress.com

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 russia.foreignpolicyblogs.com/

Politics Sticks In My Throat Too…

September 10th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

sick-of-politics.JPG

…I’d rather

compose

romances for you -

more profit in it

and more charm.

–V.V Mayakovsky

I am sick of this whole Georgia thing.

I’ve had enough of politics, international relations, diplomatic intrigue!

I hate how news has to be about events.

Who cares about events?

When was the last time an event even happened to you or anyone you know?

I don’t know about you, but nothing ever happens to me. Does that make me a dull boy? I mean, aren’t all events, with a capital E, imaginary, anyway?

So from now on, I’m just going to put up links to interesting events stories and and as long a description/summation as I can stomach before vomiting over the keyboard.

For example:

1. Starting this week, The Economist is debating the West’s response to renewed Russian assertiveness for two-weeks as part of an ongoing, Oxford-style Online Debate Series. The proposition is, “This house believes the West must be bolder in its response to a newly assertive Russia.”

It involves Dmitry Trenin and Marshall Goldman, a professor I greatly respect for his honest and indignant account of privatisation in his book The Piratisation of Russia. The debate promises to be lively and intriguing!

economist-debate.JPG

As of now, 53% to 47% disagree that the west should be bolder! Go fellow travellers!!

2. In today’s Moscow Times, Harvard’s Joseph Nye pens a clear-headed analysis contrasting Chinese soft power during the Olympics with Russia’s hard power in Georgia.

Without jumping to conclusions or offering reflexive condemnation of Russia’s fisticuffs, Nye observes that the most effective foreign policy strategy artfully weaves soft and hard power.

3. A lot has been written about Russia’s stock market plunge. Especially flimsy, not to mention disingenuous, were the shyster-economist Anders Aslund’s attempts to link the recent economic troubles to the war in Georgia.

There are myriad reasons not to respect Aslund; this article adds yet another drop to his overflowing chalice of intellectual dishonesty and increasing irrelevance.

Here is the sensational way his article begins:

Aug. 8 stands out as a fateful day for Russia. It marks Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s greatest strategic blunder. In one blow, he wiped out half a trillion dollars of stock market value, stalled all domestic reforms and isolated Russia from the outside world.

Anders is himself clearly aware of the improbability that a Russian person could ever accomplish that much in a single day before succombing to drink, fatigue or the oppresive weight of the human predicament, because he never re-visits this bizarre claim.

When he finally gets down to a bullet point list of reasons for Russia’s economic ills, the Georgia war doesn’t get a single mention; its inclusion in the lead paragraph was purely for cheap titillation.

Incidentally, the points themselves were mostly sensible and apolitical, and reveal a half-decent, if supply-side, economist groaning from underneath all that reactionary, Russophobic trash-talk.

In a measured and grown up article about the credit crisis, the FT’s Charles Clover and Catherine Belton note Medvedev’s unprecedented injection of $10 bn into the banking system:

“The market hasn’t reacted to Medvedev’s comments. However, [it] should,” said Roland Nash, head of research at Renaissance Capital, the investment bank.

He said the president’s comments may signal fresh investor-friendly policies, but were chiefly a “charm offensive”. He added: “This is the first time in history that the Kremlin has reached out to the investor community. It is fairly unprecedented.”

4. Some have been making hysterical noises about Russia’s military exercises with Venezuela. Instead, might I suggest listening to the Pentagon itself:

“We exercise all around the globe and have joint exercises with countries all over the world. So do many other nations,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

STOP!!! I CAN’T HOLD IT ANYMORE… BAAAAARF!

I’ll leave you with a nice short story:

An Encounter

by Daniil Kharms

On one occasion a man went off to work and on the way he met another man who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, was going his way home.
And that’s just about all there is to it.

 

Putin, Uri Geller, and Long Knives in Munich

September 9th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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Dans le monde réellement renversé, le vrai est un moment du faux

(In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false)

-Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Every so often comes an event so bizarre that it provides a lucid glimpse into the dark inner workings of everyday life, usually obscured by their very banality.

In art, the Russian formalist Shklovsky pronounced such a technique ostranenie, or ‘making strange’; Brecht called it Verfremdungseffekt - the ‘distancing effect’.

Of course, in modern Russia’s looking glass world, truth is stranger than literary theory.

Thus it was that on August 29 , in front of a live audience on Russian state TV, a trashy talk show called The Phenomenon (Fenomen) laid bare the device.

The premise of the programme was simple enough. Alexander, a TV magician badly impersonating Hercule Poirot, accompanied by fugitive spoon-bending fraudster Geller, uses audience interaction to ‘compose’ a murder mystery, on live TV, that he had already written and placed in a safe.

geller-magician.JPG

He picks three members of the audience, each of whom contributes a word as he attempts to ‘psychically manipulate’ their replies so that they match his narrative. Each of the said words is written down on a blackboard by another audience member.

The magician calls on a young woman and asks her for her favourite kitchen utensil; she says, ‘knife’.

(Man on stage writes K-N-I-F-E on blackboard)

blackboard-man-knife.JPG

He then asks a football hooligan-looking man which place he’d most like to travel to; man replies, “Munich”.

(M-U-N-I-C-H)

Finally, he prompts a third member of the audience to name a celebrity who was not in the room. After some initial hesitation, the man cries, “Putin!”

What followed could have been an exquisite corpse composition written by Dario Fo, Brecht and Daniil Kharms:

The man on the stage hesitates. Nervous laughter buzzes through the hall. “Alexander, should I write it?” asks the man, shaking his quavering marker over the board.

“Write it: Pu-tin” replies the presenter.

P-U-T-I-N is obediently inscribed, thus completing the cryptic trilogy of

KNIFE

MUNICH

PUTIN

on the blackboard.

knife-munich-putin.JPG

Immediately, the hitherto unseen presenter of the show, clearly agitated, jumps on stage to announce:

“Right, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to replace that name. I’ve been informed that it needs to be changed. Try again”. And exits.

presenter-intervenes.JPG

From off stage, he continues:

“It’s just not appropriate”

The magician begins to mumble something to the effect of, “I think that” when he is interrupted by the voice of the presenter : “I think that the management…”. Before he could finish, magician interjects: “I was thinking only of the first name! [to man at blackboard]: Why don’t you write just the first name. Erase it, please”.

Blackboard man: Give me something to erase it with!

He looks around the board, in bewilderment, for an eraser.

He can’t find one.

Magician: Just write below the name that’s there.

B-M: Of that same person?

M: Yes.

Disembodied voice of presenter: Let’s…uh, could you please erase the surname. Everyone here is getting nervous. Let’s just erase it and start again.

He comes back on stage, even more briskly.

B-M: there’s nothing to erase it with!

Presenter: Can we get the assistants to help erase this, please?

A girl enters, attempts to vigorously rub out the word “PUTIN”.

Presenter: [to audience] “You see, live broadcasts are never without unexpected moments!”

Girl can’t get the name to go away.

Presenter: Just add it underneath, then! [storms off].

Magician: Can we write the first name?

Presenter [off stage]: Yes, of course, of course. Write just the name, not the surname.

[B-M is seen scrawling V-L-A-D-I-M-I-R underneath "Putin".

Presenter: Excellent.

Magician: Now I can ask the audience to sit down. Knife, Munich…Vladimir. A strange set, but I think nothing extraordinary.

After this, audience correctly guesses the time of the ‘crime' (6:30) to finish the narrative. Magician opens safe with manuscript to reveal that his original plot does indeed involve a stabbing committed by a Vladimir in Munich at 6:30. Uri Geller compliments Magician.

Fin.

I first read about this incident in an article by Oleg Kozyrev in Grani.ru, an independent newspaper.

In his Swiftian piece, Kozyrev focuses on the absurdist image of a girl frantically and ultimately unsuccessfully rubbing out Putin's name in front of a national audience.

Viewers "were expecting light entertainment", he writes. "Instead, the prime minister's name had to be rubbed out in front of millions of their countrymen, who were doubtless thinking: what happened in Munich, anyway?

"And why are they rubbing Putin?

"That was the day I began to respect Uri Geller. Say what you will, but the whole country saw these people bend over. Just because of one name. From the mention of just one name, they bent like no aluminium spoon ever could.

"I don't believe that the state of the country has anything to do with it. It was just a Phenomenon".

Of course, we know exactly what happened in Munich, exactly 73 years and 11 months before the show aired.

Moreover, despite the apparent consternation of Magician, Presenter and audience, Russia's current media climate makes the spontaneity of what transpired on stage inconceivable.

There is no way that the show would have remained on the air for even a second longer had the management really been nervous about its proceedings. No one at home would have batted an eyelid; after all, Russian TV brims with technical difficulties.

soviet-tv-set.JPG

Which leads inevitably to ask: why did it occur?

Who had written the script, and who was its real intended audience?

Why did state television consider it necessary to show the words "Knife", "Munich" and "Putin, Vladimir" together on a blackboard for minutes of airtime, the memory of which would be reinforced further by the manufactured commotion/controversy?

The possibilities are tantalising.

1. We have a strong visual of a young girl trying unsuccessfully to erase Vladimir Putin's name.

Was this a message to the young Medvedev? ie. "if you're getting any ideas, drop them right now! You couldn't rub me out, even if you tried".

2. We have a TV presenter publicly censoring his own show, saying that Putin's name is inappropriate and that ‘management' are ‘getting nervous', without any attempt to hide it.

Was this a staged show of force to the media, and the public, that the state emphatically reserves the right to control what is shown on TV?

Was it an FYI to journalists that Putin's name is now officially out of bounds?

3. We have an undeniable reference to Hitler's night of the long knives, the ruthless and surprise purge, on June 30th 1934, of the SA storm troopers led by Ernst Rohm.

Was it yet another signal to the West that Russia is prepared to attack Poland and the Czech Republic over the US missile defence shield?

Was it a threat to Nashi, the crypto-paramilitary youth organisation headed by Vasili Yakemenko? (That seems unlikely, as Nashi are already looking like a spent force, and Yakemenko harbours little ambition).

Was it another 'subtle' piece of advice for Medvedev, whose personal proximity to Putin strongly parallels that of Rohm to Hitler, to remember his place?

Was it, like the Night of the Long Knives, an announcement of the return of extra-judicial killings at the highest level?

A premonition of a ruthless cabinet purge, or even Putin's return to the presidency?

Only Uri Geller knows for certain.

geller-russia.JPG

Russia Challenges US Hegemony…In Inmates Per Capita

September 4th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

russian-cops-1.JPG

In his hysterical editorial in today's Guardian, Edward Lucas calls Russia "deeply corrupt and lawless".

Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is true: Russia is so saturated with laws and its legal system so harsh that "more than one in 10 of the country's citizens have been convicted of crimes over the past 15 years", reports the Moscow Times, quoting a retired Supreme Court judge.

Maybe it's true what all those cold warriors said about never trusting a Russian: after all, there's a 10% chance that he's a felon!

Moreover, contrary to the view that Russia is heading in "the wrong direction" and moving away from the West, the country is actually on track to match America, at least in terms of police efficiency:

In the US, more than 30% of the population are estimated to have a criminal record.

Forget great power rivalry and Eastern European geopolitics: the new cold war competition is unfolding in exactly this sphere.

While the US continues to "incarcerate more people than any other nation, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars…and [remains] the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people)”, Russia is not far behind and rapidly closing the gap (628 per 100,000).

We will bury you yet!

193 Years Back To the Future!

September 3rd, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

congress-of-vienna.JPG

Whatever one thinks of his foppish red socks or penchant for Prime Ministerial underwear, famous Iraq whistleblower Sir Christopher Meyer is a sound chap when it comes to foreign policy.

So when the UK’s former ambassador to the US writes that “a return to 1815 is the way forward for Europe: the Congress of Vienna divided the continent into spheres of influence[and] similar rules are needed for the 21st century”, we should listen.

His provocative essay, published in the Times, argues that globalisation and the end of the cold war have actually strengthened nationalism around the world:

It is useless to say that nationalism and ethnic tribalism have no place in the international relations of the 21st century. If anything the spread of Western-style democracy has amplified their appeal and resonance.

He issues a stinging rebuke to the now fashionable conception of the national interest, and spheres of interest, as anachronistic. Speaking of Russia and Iran, Meyer states:

You don’t have to like or approve of these regimes. But not to understand their histories is not to understand the mainspring of their external policies – in Russia’s case its determination to rebuild its greatness, dismantled, as millions of Russians see it, by Mikhail Gorbachev and his Georgian Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, aided and abetted by the West.

I would bet a sackful of roubles that Russian foreign policy would not be one jot different if it were a fully functioning democracy of the kind that we appear keen to spread around the globe.

This last passage is so important because it pierces the misguided notion of ideological primacy in international relations so peddled by the Bush and Blair administrations. Whether a regime is democratic or not ultimately bears little relation to its definition of geopolitical self-interest.

Sir Chris calls on “Russia and the West…to draw up rules of the road for the 21st century” similar ot the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Something similar is needed today, based again on spheres of influence. Nato must renounce the provocative folly of being open to Georgian or, worse, Ukrainian membership. This strikes at the heart of the Russian national interest and offers no enhanced security to either Tbilisi or Kiev. As for Russia, it must be made unambiguously clear where any revanchist lunge westwards would provoke a military response by Nato.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Putin Shoots Tiger, Misses Journalists

September 1st, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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In a refreshing turn of events, Vladimir Putin has reportedly saved the lives of several journalists during a trip to a Siberian conservation area for the endangered Amur tiger (in accordance with the Lomonosov-Lavoisier Law of Conservation of Media, an opposition website owner in secessionist Ingushetia was ordered killed shortly afterwards).

When a tiger escaped from a trap and ran in the direction of the press pack, Putin is said to have shot it with a tranquiliser gun. Then, in a clear signal to Nato and Georgia, the Prime Minister stripped down to his camouflage underwear and proceeded to tear out and eat its still beating heart.


Well, not exactly; but he might as well have done, judging by the British headlines:

“Putin shoots a tiger as Europe grapples with Russian aggression” screams the Guardian, and then asks: “Was it an openly hostile signal of power play to the west? Or just another incarnation of Putin’s oft-demonstrated masculinity?”

“Vladimir Putin ‘shoots’ tiger, dismisses EU leaders”, declares the Times, adding that “the Russian Prime Minister – shown in new macho-style pictures apparently tranquilising a tiger – said that any attempts at severing relations would be hampered by the self-interest of European nations”.

In fact, histrionics aside, this has been a big week for Russian diplomacy: President Medvedev spelt out the 5 principles of his new foreign policy vision. The following is the BBC’s Paul Reynolds’s fine summary; his article is also worth reading for its good commentary.

1. International law

“Russia recognises the primacy of the basic principles of international law, which define relations between civilised nations. It is in the framework of these principles, of this concept of international law, that we will develop our relations with other states.”

2. Multi-polar world

“The world should be multi-polar. Unipolarity is unacceptable, domination is impermissible. We cannot accept a world order in which all decisions are taken by one country, even such a serious and authoritative country as the United States of America. This kind of world is unstable and fraught with conflict.”

3. No isolation

“Russia does not want confrontation with any country; Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop, as far as possible, friendly relations both with Europe and with the United State of America, as well as with other countries of the world.”

4. Protect citizens

“Our unquestionable priority is to protect the life and dignity of our citizens, wherever they are. We will also proceed from this in pursuing our foreign policy. We will also protect the interest of our business community abroad. And it should be clear to everyone that if someone makes aggressive forays, he will get a response.”

5. Spheres of influence

“Russia, just like other countries in the world, has regions where it has its privileged interests. In these regions, there are countries with which we have traditionally had friendly cordial relations, historically special relations. We will work very attentively in these regions and develop these friendly relations with these states, with our close neighbours.”

Asked if these “priority regions” were those that bordered on Russia he replied: “Certainly the regions bordering [on Russia], but not only them.”

And he stated: “As regards the future, it depends not just on us. It also depends on our friends, our partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

Of course, these postulates are nothing new. The principles of Multipolarity and the idea of Russia’s Monroe Doctrine in the so-called Near Abroad (the former Soviet republics) were first advanced about a decade ago by Yevgueny Primakov. At the time, around the allied bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia made a lot of bluster regarding Nato encroachment, but couldn’t deliver. The difference is that now Russia appears for the first time able to put its tanks where its mouth is.

Fall Guy: Has Medvedev Been Set Up?

August 27th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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After his heady nights of rough and tumble in the Caucusus, Putin has left Medvedev holding the baby.

That is the argument of at least one Russian commentator, writing in the popular mainstream web newspaper Gazeta ru.

Vladimir Milov believes that Putin has avoided any public spotlight since his high profile control over the war in its first days; getting praise for the successfully fighting off the Georgians but leaving Medvedev the harrowing task of cleaning up the ensuing mess.

“Putin, realising that his ‘blitzkrieg’ in Georgia had failed, decided to detach himself from the operation and retreat into the shadows. When the West understood that deposing Saakashvili may be Russia’s ultimate goal, it created a 24 hour human shield around Tbilisi consisting of high profile officials. This made any ‘march on Tbilisi’ unrealistic. As there was no longer any reason to continue the war, Putin tasked Medvedev with sorting out the highly unpleasant political fall-out from the crisis and facing up to the international community.

If that is indeed what happened, then the relationship between Medvedev and Putin must have suffered an inevitable crack: a dual-presidency is only possible in a time of calm. During a crisis, all bets are off.

Putin’s desire to take control of the situation without accepting any of the responsibility could turn him into a serious enemy in Medvedev’s eyes. It is possible that the relationship between the two men could change much sooner than they had both anticipated.

It’s hard not to take this rather chilling prognosis seriously. After all, Putin’s own accession followed very similar lines. But if Medvedev is in fact out to bury his mentor, could we expect the same sort of radical policy U-turn that Putin engineered after he took over from Yeltsin?

It’s unlikely. Contrary to the common yet simplistic and misleading interpretation, there is not really any clear palace struggle between the siloviki (Putin’s strong men and KGB veterans) and the liberals (the Westernisers and pro-marketers, like Medvedev).

In a probing article from several months ago, Mark Ames wisely reminds us that Putin is as much a liberal as Medvedev, or Nemtsov for that matter:

Just as Georgia’s leader Mikhail Saakashvili is a liberal, even though he sent his shock troops wilding on opposition protestors, exiled his political opponents and shut down the opposition media. All of this talk of “liberals” on the ascendant or on the decline in the Putin Era is nonsense. Liberals are the Putin Era. And so are the siloviki, who still constitute the same 70-percent of the Russian elite today as they did last week, before their supposed decline. The reason they’re in power isn’t because of some deep ideological desire to create a neo-Fascist state, but rather, because that’s who Putin grew up with, and Putin rules a country steeped in clan culture.

If this sounds too much like a scene out of Boris Godunov, it’s worth remembering that such situations are not unique to Russia at all, or even to ‘authoritarian states’. Who can seriously argue that there was any real ideological difference between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, or between David Miliband and Brown today?


(What really infuriated the Russian in me most about those English leadership squabbles was how often the word ‘coup’ was thrown about. As in, oooh! X is plotting a coup against Y! These effete, decadent morons not only manage to have coups over nothing, but ones in which no one dies, and no government buildings are bombed! Call that a coup? Now THIS is a coup!)

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So, to get a sense of Russia’s current squalid, bloodless succession crisis devoid of any Orientalist gloss, think of the difference between Putin’s silovikism and Medvedev’s liberalism as that between Brown’s Old Labour and Miliband’s New Labour. And who says Russia isn’t becoming more like the West?

C’est la politique qui prime!

Russia Crosses The Rubicon

August 26th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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Russia’s recognition of Ossetia and Abkhazia baffled me. On this blog, I have frequently tried to show alternative, Russian perspectives on matters that seem otherwise to be common sense, above debate, to Western audiences. But I just cannot see any benefits this move will bring. On the contrary, by uniting the traditionally friendly OSCE, pragmatic EU and hostile NATO in opposition, it threatens to increase Russia’s international isolation, and heighten the very encirclement that Putin had so anxiously tried to roll back with his Caucasian gambit.

In an interview with Russia Today, Medvedev raised the stakes further still:

“We are not afraid of anything, including the possibility of a new cold war. But of course, we don’t desire it”.

Not one other country has recognised the breakaway republics.

Indeed, while “it would be an exaggeration to say that Russia finds itself in international isolation, writes the Russian political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov, “Russia has clearly found itself in a vacuum. No one has supported Moscow’s actions, although for various reasons”.

In his illuminating and clear-headed essay for Radio Liberty, Lukyanov goes on to state that:

“Russia has demonstrated that it is able and willing to use force outside its borders in order to defend its national interests. This leaves neighboring countries faced with the question of how to ensure their own security…And Russia has to answer an equally important question: What are the criteria for determining those genuinely essential national interests in the name of which it is justified to use military force?

Very important questions, which should have been answered BEFORE any shots were fired. Yet perhaps Lukyanov’s most important observation is that Russia and the US appear to have “incompatible strategic horizons”.

Russia is a global power with regional ambitions. That is, it is ready to exchange its opportunities in distant regions like Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East in exchange for its interests in the regions that border it — Europe and Eurasia. That is, Moscow has a clear hierarchy of its priorities.

The United States is a superpower with global ambitions. A global leader does not have secondary interests. It isn’t possible to sacrifice anything or make trades because if something starts to totter in one place, it could trigger a domino effect. Therefore, everyone else must be pushed back as much as possible. As a result, no constructive dialogue is possible.

Whether or not one endorses the rather bleak conclusion, it is undeniable that a new relationship must be negotiated between Russia and the US-led West.

All my friends have been asking me: why does Russia just not seem to care what other countries think of it? Surely there could have been more conciliatory, diplomatic things that Medvedev could have said etc? The truth is, I’m not sure how useful that would have been. George HW Bush famously said that the USA does not apologise to anyone. It is very doubtful that ‘politeness’ achieves anything in relations with other countries, whose ties are based on shared interests, not good vibrations. But it could cost you domestically. Just think of how Obama’s foreign trip was interpreted by the right wing press as ‘pandering to France’ and ‘apologising for America’. Leaders have every incentive to sound tough, and the tougher, the better. Does anyone really believe that if Medvedev had been more balanced and understanding that Bush and NATO would have changed their Caucasus policy in his favour?

In fact, that is precisely what Gorbachev did in the late 1980s, and the near-universal perception in Russia is that the West royally took advantage of that to beat Russia while it was down. Gorbachev made a very big deal of sharing Western values, of transcending the old politics of division, of believing in universal human rights and individual free choice. And the West loved him back. But did all that Gorbymania stop America and West Germany from wresting concession after concession from the spluttering USSR? Nothing personal, just business!

So now it’s no more Mr Nice Guy, goes the thinking, because Russia’s learnt the hard way exactly where they finish.

The Gnome Goes to Georgia: Private Eye Takes on Putin

August 25th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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The latest edition of Private Eye, the finest satirical/investigative journal in the English language, is all about Russia & Georgia, with an Olympic flavour:

Let’s have a look, shall we?

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And the party-political angle:

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WTO? WTF! Russia Doesn’t Want to Play With You Anymore, Anyway!

August 22nd, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

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Western retaliation against Russia for its actions in Georgia will do it more good than harm, according to the academic and actvist Boris Kagarlitsky.

As Russian troops finally begin to withdraw from Georgia, the US and Nato are pondering the best punishment for its earlier invasion.

The respected International Crisis group suggested that “the West should deliver a firm message to Russia that if it does not respect the ceasefire deal and cooperate in implementing the international peacekeeping mission, it will be met with a serious response, including suspension of its Moscow’s World Trade Organisation application”.

Even Barack Obama is now calling to review the Russian WTO application.

But Kagarlitsky astutely notes that:

what Washington thinks is punishment for Moscow may in fact turn out to be a blessing. For example, the United States believes that blocking Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization is one way to retaliate. But for Russia’s domestic industries — particularly when there is a global economic downturn — entry into WTO would be a death sentence. Therefore, if this sentence will be postponed, the Kremlin can only thank the United States and Georgia.

As if that wasn’t enough, the other sanctions considered would reduce corruption, improve civil society, and even protect the environment!

Washington and London are threatening to investigate the bank accounts of senior Russian officials that are held abroad. It’s surprising that this wasn’t done earlier. Russians can only benefit if the United States leads a new fight against money laundering, particularly when it involves top officials from the Russian government. Moreover, NATO is threatening to suspend joint military exercises with Russia. That means Russia will save a nice amount of money and fuel. Finally, in light of the increased tension, liberal opposition groups in Moscow will receive more active help from the West. This is also beneficial because new financing will mean the creation of new media outlets, new nongovernmental organizations and new jobs.

You don’t have to be Max Moseley to enjoy this kind of ‘slap-down’!

Medvedev’s War Bump

August 20th, 2008 by Vadim Nikitin

Every happy president is happy in his own way; all unhappy presidents resemble one another, by going to war to boost their approval ratings.

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(Medvedev approval rating courtesy of Levada Center poll, quoted in “Reiting Voennogo Vremeni”, Gazeta.ru, 20 Aug 2008).

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Palin says war with Russia could be NATO option: Republican vice-presidential candiate Sarah Palin has outlined her hawkish views on Russia and the Caucasus.

VALENTINA POP, EUobserver, September 12, 2008.

US Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has backed Georgia’s NATO membership in a television interview, while leaving open the option of war with Russia if it were to attack a NATO ally.

In an interview with ABC News, Ms Palin was asked whether the United States would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the country was part of NATO, Ms Palin said: “Perhaps so.”

“I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally – if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help,” she explained in her first television interview since becoming Republican John McCain’s running mate two weeks ago.

Ms Palin, currently governor of Alaska, said she supported NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia – a move Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly opposes. It was America’s responsibility to be “vigilant” against a larger power invading smaller democracies, she said, while stressing: “We will not repeat a Cold War.”

***

NATO-Georgia Commission on Monday

Georgia is currently a NATO partner, but was not granted a Membership Action Plan (MAP) – as official membership candidate status is termed – at this year’s NATO summit in Bucharest.

However, following the Russian invasion, NATO decided on 19 August to establish a new NATO-Georgia Commission, which will inaugurate its work in Tbilisi on Monday with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and ambassadors from the 26 Alliance’s member states.

“We won’t supply arms to the Georgians, but we will help them develop their own military potential,” NATO spokesperson James Appathurai said, Gazeta Wyborcza reports, adding that the ambassadors will fly there using a Polish government plane.

Russian threats against Europe

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday (11 September) in Sochi that tensions between Russia and the EU may well worsen if the planned US missile defense shield is deployed in Poland, threatening yet once more to point Russian missiles at European targets.

On the same day, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met his Polish counterpart in Warsaw, saying that “Poland is not a threat to Russia, but we can’t ignore the fact it’s an integral part of the US strategic system.”

Mr Putin fiercely defended Russia’s invasion of Georgia, accusing the West of “anti-Russian hysteria” and saying that if this military operation had not been carried out, it would have been like Russia “getting a bloody nose and hanging its head down.”

Russia wanted a constructive relationship with the European Union, but only if the new “realities” were taken into account, he said.

Mr Putin accused the Bush administration of “not doing anything about stopping the conflict,” a feeling he got when speaking to the US president at the Olympic Games in China and which prompted him to send tanks into Georgia.

In Beijing, he had already raised the question of Russia recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent territories with the Chinese government, and told them Russia did not expect Chinese support, which suggests Moscow was already planning to recognise the two enclaves, the BBC reports.

Putin also made clear that Russia could easily have occupied the Georgian capital and toppled its president, Mikhail Saakashvili, despite earlier claims of the Russian army being close to the Georgian capital as an exaggeration in the Western media.

“Our forces were 15 kilometres from Tbilisi. It would have taken four hours to capture Tbilisi. We didn’t have that goal,” he said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Chinese company wants to buy Brussels Airlines and its Airport.
VALENTINA POP, September 5, 2008.

Chinese airline Hainan may challenge a bid by Lufthansa to buy Brussels Airlines, with the Asian firm already in talks to snap up Belgium’s Charleroi airport.

German carrier Lufthansa remains the favourite bidder for Brussels Airlines, but some shareholders in the Belgian company believe the offer is too low and are looking at other partners, such as British Airways and Hainan, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday (5 September).

Late last week, Lufthansa said it was in “constructive negotiations” to acquire a 45 percent stake in Brussels Airlines for €65 million, expecting to close the deal within the next few weeks. The remaining stake was then to be taken over after two years.

But shareholders in Brussels Airlines believe the carrier is worth at least €200 million. Brussels Airlines is the heir to the bankrupt Sabena, with a 30 percent share having been taken over in 2006 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Express.

Hainan’s interest in Brussels Airlines is fortified by its bid for Charleroi airport, a low-cost hub 46 km south of the Belgian capital.

Hainan is among the three companies shortlisted to buy up the currently publicly owned Charleroi airport, with the Chinese company saying it is one of their priorities and promising further developments of the low cost terminal, La Libre Belgique reported on Tuesday.

The move has sparked internal competition between Charleroi and the main Brussels airport, Zaventem, out of which Hainan operates a number of flights. Unidentified sources close to the deal told the Belgian newspaper that the managers of Zaventem had launched a “sabotage and denigration campaign” of Charleroi airport, in order to distract the Chinese.

La Libre Belgique also reported that the Flemish region and the Brussels Airport Company (BAC) who manages Zaventem gave Hainan Airlines financial advantages worth €1.5 million.

The newspaper draws a comparison with the aid offered by the Charleroi airport and the Walloon region to the Irish carrier Ryanair, aid deemed illegal by the European Commission in 2004.

After having read the newspaper report, the Walloon minister for transportation, Andre Antoine, said: “Nobody is stupid. The aim of the manoeuvre is to attract the Chinese to Zaventem, not Charleroi.”

Zaventem is Brussel’s main international airport.

In return, BAC said it didn’t understand the minister’s reaction and didn’t see any problems with the €1.5 million contract it signed two years ago with the Chinese company, in order to promote the Flemish region in Shanghai and Beijing. The contract does not involve directly neither BAC, nor Hainan Airlines, a press spokesman for BAC said.

La Libre Belgique reported that the contract involved some €400,000 being payed to Hainan for “marketing support” and €200,000 for language training for the pilots of the company. Only €900,000 were allocated to promoting the region in China, the newspaper says.

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[Comment / Opinion on EUobserver] After Georgia: is Ukraine next?
ANDREW WILSON, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, September 5, 2008.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - The war in Georgia began by exposing the security vacuum in the surrounding region. Now it has claimed its first collateral victim, after the fall of the Ukrainian government on 2 September.

The crisis has been brewing over the summer recess, but came to a head in late August after President Yushchenko’s administration accused Prime Minister Tymoshenko of trading her relative silence over Georgia for Russian support in a campaign to supplant him as president.

Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko – the 2004 Orange Revolution feels a long time ago (Photo: timoshenko.com.ua)

When parliament reassembled, Tymoshenko joined forces with the east Ukrainian-based Party of Regions, ramming through a law to reduce presidential power, and apparently repositioning herself as a more pro-Russian candidate in the presidential race.

Parliament was also unable to agree any of several diametrically opposed resolutions on Georgia, ranging from outright condemnation of Russia to recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The crisis comes in between the emergency EU summit on Russia-Georgia in Brussels on 1 September and the regular EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September in Evian, France.

The EU therefore has an ideal opportunity to push back against Russia’s attempts to dominate the European neighbourhood by starting with Ukraine, which is also the linchpin for the whole region.

***

War of words:

Many Ukrainians now hear domestic echoes of the lead-up to war in Georgia. Ukraine has its own potentially separatist region in Crimea, and the country’s Russian minority numbers some 8.3 million (the largest minority in Europe).

Half of Ukraine’s population of just over 46 million are Russian-speaking in various degrees. Although the Ukrainian constitution bans dual citizenship, the government has launched an inquiry into alleged covert Russian passport-holding in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Some Ukrainians note that Russia justified its invasion of Georgia, as the Nazis once justified their dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, as being necessary to “protect” a minority to whom they had just given citizenship.

Russia has begun a war of words over Ukraine’s alleged supply of arms to Georgia. And the conflict itself has shown that the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, can operate with impunity, whether Ukraine likes it or not.

Based on its analysis of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” as a foreign-backed “NGO coup,” Russia has also been quietly building its own network of Russia-friendly NGOs in Ukraine since 2004.

Ukrainians also talk of an otkat ekonomiya (“kickback economy”), in which Russian money percolates throughout the Ukrainian elite.

***

A strategy for Ukraine:

What should the EU therefore offer in Evian? The European Neighborhood Policy is a worthy enough technical process, but it does not address pressing political concerns about maintaining and securing Ukraine’s independence.

Many member states will worry about leaping straight to the contentious issue of ultimate membership for Ukraine, but the EU already recognizes Ukraine’s theoretical right to join once it has met the Copenhagen criteria; and it cannot be beyond EU leaders’ verbal dexterity to play up the prospect.

What Ukraine would value and needs most is a real sense that it is being treated distinctly in its own right. The key words are “association” and “partnership,” in whatever order or combination.

The EU has greater scope for short-term measures, which should be designed to deliver a multi-dimensional solidarity strategy for Ukraine.

The EU’s foreign ministers should invite their Ukrainian counterpart to give a briefing on Ukraine-Russia relations at their next meeting.

Ukraine should be offered a road map for visa-free travel, as well as ensuring that member states deliver on current visa facilitation measures. The new EU-Ukraine agreement should include a beefed-up solidarity clause, building on the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, whereby the EU would consult and assist Ukraine in case of challenges to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. And the EU should back Ukraine if it insists that the Russian Black Sea Fleet leaves on schedule in 2017.

The EU should also launch a comprehensive study of all aspects of Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies, including transit, energy security and conservation, supply diversification, and the impact of “bypass” pipelines like Nordstream and South Stream.

It should consider linking the opening of the Nordstream pipeline, which would allow Russia to cut off gas to Poland and Ukraine while maintaining deliveries to Germany, to the opening of the proposed “White Stream” pipeline to bring gas from Azerbaijan directly to Ukraine via Georgia, bypassing Russia.

The EU could even play a part in keeping the 2012 European Championship football finals on track. The decision to appoint Ukraine and Poland as co-hosts was a powerful symbol of European unity across the current EU border (Poland is a member, Ukraine is not).

UEFA is unhappy with Ukraine’s progress in building the necessary infrastructure, but Ukraine should be given time to get its act together.

Where appropriate, the EU should extend these measures to Moldova, which is now calling Ukraine a “strategic shelter,” most probably after the elections in March 2009.

Ukraine faces a crucial presidential election in 2009 or 2010. After getting its fingers badly burned at the last election in 2004, Russia is clearly tempted to intervene again. The “Russian factor” will strongly influence the campaign.

Greater Western engagement is needed to ensure that the “Europe factor” is equally prominent.

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