Peace Rank: Balkans and Eastwards

June 14, 2010

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is implemented by organization called Vision of Humanity, which groups together a number of interrelated initiatives focused on global peace. As its mission Visions of Humanity brings a strategic approach to raising the world’s attention and awareness around the importance of peacefulness to humanity’s survival in the 21st century. Now on May Vision of Humanity published its fourth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI). It has been expanded to rank 149 independent states and updated with the latest-available figures and information for 2008-09.

Indicators

The index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from respected sources, which combine internal and external factors, such as violent crime, political stability and military expenditure, correlated against a number of social development indicators such as corruption, freedom of the press, respect for human rights and school enrolment rates and relations with neighbouring countries. These indicators were selected by an international panel of academics, business people, philanthropists and members of peace institutions.


Some reservations:

  • Vision of humanity, its expert panel and GPI are representing mainly western methodology, approach and values
  • GPI is based to data available of different indicators and as such a compromise
  • The 2010 scores are based information collected mainly information for 2008-2009 so there is some delay

With these reservations I however find GPI both interesting and useful and anyway I haven’t seen any better global survey.


The Rank


To the table below I have collected the GPI rankings from the Balkans and Eastwards on countries analysed in 2010 report. In addition I have included to table also top-3 and worst-3 countries, the BRIC countries and USA. Besides 2010 ranking I show also rankings in 2009, 2008 and 2007 reports to see trend during last years as this may help to track when and how some countries become more or less peaceful. Countries most at peace are ranked first. A lower score indicates a more peaceful country. My source – Vision of Humanity Org, GPI results, full list of 149 countries, methodology and other explanations and scores per country/indicator can be found from here!

Country 2010 2009 2008 2007
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
New Zealand New Zealand 1 1.188 1 1.202 4 1.350 2 1.363
Iceland Iceland 2 1.212 4 1.225 1 1.176
Japan Japan 3 1.247 7 1.272 5 1.358 5 1.413
Slovenia Slovenia 11 1.358 9 1.322 16 1.491 15 1.539
Croatia Croatia 41 1.707 49 1.741 60 1.926 67 2.030
Romania Romania 45 1.749 31 1.591 24 1.611 26 1.682
Bulgaria Bulgaria 50 1.785 56 1.775 57 1.903 54 1.936
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 60 1.873 50 1.755 66 1.974 75 2.089
Albania Albania 65 1.925 75 1.925 79 2.044
Moldova Moldova 66 1.938 75 1.925 83 2.091 72 2.059
People's Republic of China China 80 2.034 74 1.921 67 1.981 60 1.980
BrazilBrazil 83 2.048 85 2.022 90 2.168 83 2.173
Republic of MacedoniaMacedonia (FYR) 83 2.048 88 2.039 87 2.119 82 2.170
United StatesUSA 85 2.056 83 2.015 97 2.227 96 2.317
The image “https://i2.wp.com/europeandcis.undp.org/uploads/public1/images/Montenegro_Flag-RESIZE-s925-s450-fit.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Montenegro 88 2.060
Serbia Serbia 90 2.071 78 1.951 85 2.110 84 2.181
Ukraine Ukraine 97 2.115 82 2.010 84 2.096 80 2.150
Armenia Armenia 113 2.266
AzerbaijanAzerbaijan 119 2.367 114 2.327 101 2.287 101 2.448
TurkeyTurkey 126 2.420 121 2.389 115 2.403 92 2.272
IndiaIndia 128 2.516 122 2.433 107 2.355 109 2.530
Georgia (country) Georgia 142 2.970
Russia Russia 143 3.013 136 2.750 131 2.777 118 2.903
AfghanistanAfghanistan 147 3.252 143 3.285 137 3.126
Somalia Somalia 148 3.390 142 3.257 139 3.293
Iraq Iraq 149 3.406 144 3.341 140 3.514 121 3.437

Some developments

Central and Eastern Europe remains, on average, the third most peaceful region, after North America. The recent members of the European Union are ranked highest, with Slovenia leading the way in 11th place. Non-EU countries in the Balkans are ranked between 60th and 90th in the 2010 GPI and nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia occupy the lower reaches of the index, as before. Croatia also fared well, with a robust score increase and a rise of eight places to 41st position, amid growing political stability and improved relations with neighbouring countries as it closed in on accession to the EU. Romania’s score also deteriorated sharply and it dropped 14 places in the overall ranking. Particularly large score rises for Russia and Georgia, which were embroiled in conflict in 2008. Serbia and Montenegro were covered earlier as the state and the scores of Serbia does not include Kosovo province as figures from there were not available.

Findings

One of the more remarkable findings from the 2010 Global Peace Index is that societies that are highly peaceful also perform exceptionally well in many other ways. The most peaceful societies share the following social structures and attitudes peaceful also perform exceptionally well in many other ways. The most peaceful societies share the following social structures and attitudes

Photo: dreamstime.com

Well functioning government

Sound business environment

Respectful of human rights and tolerance

Good relations with neighbouring states

High levels of freedom of information

Acceptance of others

High participation rates in primary and secondary education

Low levels of corruption

Equitable sharing of resources.

These qualities act as a facilitator making it easier for people to produce, businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and governments to regulate. A detailed review of these qualities is contained in discussion paper.


Monetary value of peace

Peace has also its monetary value in terms of business growth and economic development. The index authors estimate that the total economic impact of an end to violence could have been US$28.2tr between 2006 and 2009. A 25% reduction in global violence would add an annual $1.85tr to the global economy. If an improvement of 25% in global peacefulness could have been achieved in 2009 then this would have unleashed $1.2 trillion in additional economic activity. (Source: Peace, Wealth and Human Potential)

However also war has its monetary value and in short term business – especially inside military-industrial-complex – world the profits from war can be more attracting than those from peace. In my previous article “Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?”. I described situation as follows:

Global military industrial consumption per year is 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars, representing a few percent of GDP and still rising. U.S. share of the cake is about 40% to the current year, 664 billion dollars. This is a good comparison of the UN budget (27 billion), which is a sum of nearly three per cent of its Member States on military expenditure. UN’s “Millennium Development Goals” are dreaming 135 billion per year, this one only a fraction of military spending.

An other comparison (dollars / year): the world’s military spending 1.2 trillion, the OECD Development 106 billion, Peace work 6 billion and 0.6 billion of conflict prevention. The international community is now willing to invest 200 times more to the war than peace. Peace Research, could help prevent conflicts, but development of tools for killing is much more lucrative. Against one peace researcher, is estimated to be more than 1100 researcher for weapon (and their use) developers.

Peace and global challenge


Global challenges, such as climate change, decreasing biodiversity, lack of fresh water and overpopulation, call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite because without it the level of needed co-operation, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve these challenges will not be achieved. The big challenge at global, regional and state level is to strengthen factors – or “drivers” of peace in social structures and attitudes.


Afghanistan – to be or not?

November 2, 2009

“democracies make elections, elections don’t make democracies”


After Afghanistan’s fraudulent elections President Obama’s future politics in failing state is still foggy. Conflicting views of Obama’s staff, escalation of War to Pakistan, lack of clear vision and strategy are not making choice easy. The rest of the world is waiting U.S. leadership and considering same time their exit strategies. For EU latest now it is time for a rethink (European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and crisis management practice.

After catastrophic first round there is a plan to have a bit more fair second round on 7th November. However Karzai’s opponent former FM Abdullah Abdullah has indicated that he does not believe election system and is planning to withdraw his candidature. After that people can make the democratic choice between one candidate only. This mess with elections shows clearly that central government in Kabul can not be effective partner while seeking new strategy for Afghanistan. It also underscores how ridiculous it is to import desk drawer plans from Brussels or Washington to totally different environment. On the other hand on country side the Taliban are the residents of that place and historically they have proved how resistant they are towards the foreign invaders and their ideas.

Some historical background

In Afghanistan, prior to the Russian invasion, the PDPA or ( the Peoples Democratic Party of
Afghanistan) invited the USSR to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure, mainly exploration and mining of minerals and natural gas. The USSR also sent contractors to build hospitals, roads and schools and to drill water wells. They also trained and equipped the Afghan army. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.


Once in power, the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform waiving farmers’ debts countrywide. They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous May 28, 1978 New Kabul Times editorial which declared: “Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country … Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.”

As part of a Cold War, in 1979 the United States government began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention. The secular nature of the government made it unpopular with conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside who favoured traditionalist ” Islamic” restrictions on women’s rights and in daily life. Many groups, led by members of the traditional establishment were formed, some of them resorting to violence and sabotage to the country’s infrastructure and industry. under the umbrella of Mujahideen, or ” Holy Muslim Warriors”. The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative ‘Islamic’ ideology.

The Soviet Union intervened on December 24, 1979. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion backed by another one hundred thousand and by members of the Parcham faction. For over nine years the Soviet Army conducted military operations against the Afghan Mujahideen rebels. The American CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia assisted in the financing of the resistance also because of the anti-communist stance. Among the foreign participants in the war was Osama bin Laden, whose MAK ( maktab al-Khidamat/Office of Order) organization trained a small number of Mujahideen and provided some arms and funds to fight the Soviets. Around 1988 MAK broke away from the Mujahideen to expand the anti-Soviet resistance effort into a world-wide Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The Soviets withdrew its troops in February of 1989, but continued aid to the government led by Mohammed Najibullah. Massive amounts of aid from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen also continued. Fighting continued among the victorious Mujahideen factions, which gave rise to a state of warlordism. It was at this time that the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, eventually seizing Kabul in 1996 and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the end of 2000 the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.

During the Taliban’s seven-year rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. Opium production was nearly wiped out by the Taliban by 2001.

Now war in Afghanistan has slogged on for nearly nine years, making it longer than America’s involvement in World Wars I and II combined. U.S. has already spent $228 billion, almost 1000 Americans have been killed (nearly 200 so far this year), and Obama’s summer surge has muscled up America’s Afghan presence to 68,000 troops (plus another 42,000 from NATO. After last elections there is some base to claim that Obama is strengthening a central government that is “infamously incompetent, openly corrupt, criminally abusive, and thoroughly despised”.

Interactive tracking the U.S. War in Afghanistan here!

COIN: McChrystal’s plan

“Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population. In the struggle to gain the support of the people, every action we take must enable this effort.” (Gen. McChrystal)

The integrated counterinsurgency, or COIN, strategy that McChrystal wants to pursue has many components: protecting Afghan civilians, rapidly expanding the Afghan army and police, reforming government, providing economic development assistance, weaning Taliban fighters and leaders away from Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, reconciling them into the new government, and targeting those who refuse. This makes it a demanding strategy that McChrystal reportedly believes will require providing at least an additional 10,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops and more than doubling existing Afghan forces to a total of 400,000 indigenous soldiers and police.

McChrystal says that, “Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population. In the struggle to gain the support of the people, every action we take must enable this effort.”

McChrystal’s strategy can be seen as an applied version of Gen. Petraeus’ strategy in Iraq. However when in Iraq could be found an inner conflict between Shia and Sunni factions, between Kurds and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan there is no popular revolt against the Taliban, only a culture in which dominant local warlords flit from one allegiance to another. It defeated the British in 1842 and the Soviets in 1989.

Now the coalition has enough troops to carry out a “clear, hold and build” strategy – but only in a few districts. Overall force levels remain far below what they were in Iraq during the surge – when 174,000 foreign troops worked with 430,000 Iraqi security personnel. Afghanistan, which is bigger than Iraq, has just 102,000 coalition troops and 175,000 local security forces. More from article by Max Boot “There’s No Substitute for Troops on the Ground” October 22, 2009/New york Times.

Integrated COIN is itself no guarantee of success. Social scientists have estimated its success rate at somewhere between 25 and 70 percent at best.

Other alternatives

Today, the war in Afghanistan is at a historic juncture. At this crucial stage President Obama is set to take a risky decision. He has to decide between sending more troops in line with General McChrystal’s demand or to reduce forces in accordance with an exit strategy. There is alternative strategies and quite comprehensive analysis can be found e.g. from article “Is There a Middle Way” by Stephen Biddle in The New Republic on October 20th, 2009 which has been my main source with options below.


1) Use Drones

Another popular middle way is to rely on drone attacks, of the kind now ongoing in northwest Pakistan, to suppress Al Qaeda without a major ground commitment in Afghanistan. By killing key leaders and limiting the others’ freedom of action, it is argued, the drone strikes make large-scale terrorism much harder. Drone-based counterterrorism cannot destroy Al Qaeda outright, but it might be able to constrain it far more cheaply than a major counterinsurgency campaign could.

The biggest challenge to relying on drones is the need for intelligence. Drones are not wonder weapons; in particular, they require information on targets’ whereabouts that is normally provided by other assets–and especially by host government cooperation on the ground. It was Pakistani government penetration of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, for example, that reportedly enabled a U.S. Predator drone to kill terrorist leader Baitullah Meshud in August 2009. In general, such spies, informants, and other tipsters are key intelligence sources for drone attacks on secretive terrorist groups. This “human intelligence,” however, is very hard to get if the government on the ground decides to deny it to the United States.


According to media reports, significant elements within the civilian leadership of the government, led by Vice President Joe Biden, have opposed McChrystal’s plan for an intensified counterinsurgency campaign aimed at breaking the resistance of the Afghan people to US occupation. Instead, Biden and others have proposed an alternative strategy, which reportedly relies on air strikes, accelerated training of Afghan puppet forces and the use of US special forces troops to strike against insurgents across the border in Pakistan.

2) Reconcile with the Taliban


“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to have good and positive relations with all neighbors based on mutual respect and open a new chapter of good neighborliness of mutual cooperation and economic development. We consider the whole region as a common home against colonialism and want to play our role in peace and stability of the region. “

The quote above is from open letter of Taliban leader Mullah Omar to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit on 19th September 2009. The letter indicated a shift in Taliban’s general policy and approach towards neighboring countries, the US and Europe.In the same tone, he assured China, India and Russia that the Taliban is going to play positive role in establishing peace and stability in the region. According to some observers who closely monitor the Taliban’s activities, these are new efforts to set out their priorities by focusing on Afghani interests rather than holding to a wide global network.

Recently the Taliban have become more watchful of the foreign Jihadists in Afghanistan. They require foreign militants to work the under supervision of the Taliban provincial commanders. Foreign militant are now not allowed, like before, to carry out their activities. independently.

Another common proposal is to negotiate a power-sharing deal with some or all of the Taliban as a means of ending the war without the escalation embodied in the McChrystal recommendations. America’s real interests are quite limited, it is often argued, so why not pursue a settlement to bring the Taliban into a coalition government on the proviso that they keep Al Qaeda out and deny the use of Afghan territory for destabilizing Pakistan?Karzai has reportedly been reaching out to the Quetta Shura and Hekmatyar factions of the Taliban via Saudi intermediaries for some time now; the talks have never made real progress because the Taliban insist on a total withdrawal of foreign forces as a precondition for negotiation.


3) Buy Off Warlords


It is sometimes argued that the West should stabilize Afghanistan and control Al Qaeda by paying warlords, tribal leaders, or other local power brokers to police their own turf, rather than relying on the national government in Kabul to control the entire country. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, and order in the provinces has often been maintained by local authorities, legal and otherwise. The British, it is said, found direct control impossible but managed to wield influence by paying tribal or factional leaders. If the United States is willing to settle for government-by-warlord, then it could avoid the expense and risk of an orthodox counterinsurgency campaign while still denying militants access to Afghan havens.The traditional tribal leadership is one thing, but many of Afghanistan’s former warlords and current narcotics kingpins are hated figures whose predatory rule is disliked even more than that of the Taliban.


About a month ago there was stories that some Nato troops bribed local Taliban in exchange for safer environment. Now same idea is considered also by U.S. Americans believe that local Taliban fighters are motivated largely by the need for a job or loyalty to the local leader who pays them and not by ideology or religious zeal, so there could be change to attract these fighters to the government’s side.

The idea of bribing people, local guys, is one of the most cost-effective ways to get people to lay down their arms. It’s based to believe that most Taliban are not politically motivated but are operating for pay or due frustration. However while the plan has a reasonable chance for some success it may not be a long-term solution, it’s more a temporary allegiance.

4) Send Aid, Not Troops

Another proposal would shift the international contribution from combat to development assistance. Prosperity and an economic stake in the government, it is argued, can wean the population from the Taliban more effectively than force, which inevitably causes collateral damage and kills innocent civilians.

Aid is inherently political and is clearly understood to be so by the Taliban, who systematically target Western aid projects for attack. Without large security forces to defend them, aid projects cannot survive. In fact, development projects in Afghanistan are often destroyed even when they are defended, if those defenses are inadequate. No sensible Taliban would allow aid projects to undermine their control over the population when insurgents have the means at their disposal to destroy them or to intimidate their staff. Aid without security in Afghanistan would be fruitless.

EU’s role

EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan), launched June 2007 has a mandate to support the Afghan government in establishing a police force that respects human rights. Intended to employ 400 police officers, the mission has struggled to attract 280 and has seen its leadership change three times in two years. The mission’s mandate is due to expire in June 2010, though is likely to be extended.

European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) report “Can the EU rebuild failing states?” is a critical analysis about EU’s ESDP practice and I have used it as my main source related to EU’s role in Afghanistan.

The next generation of ESDP missions are likely to look more like Gaza, Afghanistan and Somalia: fluid, violent and with few clear-cut good and bad guys. To ensure that speed, security and self-sufficiency are at the heart of future interventions, the EU must scrap the idea that civilian missions are best designed by diplomats and European Council officials in Brussels. Responsibility must shift to civilians on the ground, whom the EU should deploy early to develop scalable assistance partnerships with unstable countries.

The European Union prides itself on being able to deal with fragile and failing states outside its borders, from Kosovo to Kabul, through what it believes to be its distinctive combination of “hard” power – coercion by military or other means – and “soft” power – persuasion through trade, diplomacy, aid and the spread of values. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), launched in 1999, exemplifies the EU’s commitment to the so-called “comprehensive approach” – a strategy that emphasises the importance of combining civilian and military tools when dealing with external security challenges. The new mission concept can only be effective if complemented by developments in Brussels. First, assuming the Lisbon treaty is passed, the new high representative for foreign policy should appoint a senior deputy to oversee the EU’s policy towards fragile and failing states. Second, the new External Action Service (EAS) should be structured to support integration in the field. Each mission should have “best practice” officers, reporting directly to the EUSR, who would draft reports on how to avoid past mistakes. Additionally, a “lesson-learning” unit should be set up in the Council Secretariat to synthesise reports from the field. Finally, each intervention must work to a set of benchmarks, progress of which should be tracked regularly.

While the total Afghan population is 28,150,000. Some 3.3 million Afghans are now involved in producing opium. A low estimate of the amount that the Taliban earn from the opium economy is $10 million, but considering the tradition of imposing tithes on cultivation and activities further up the value chain, the total is likely to be at least $20 million. As part of EU’s soft power one priority is developing agriculture in Afghanistan. One concrete project could be investigate a licensing scheme to start the production of medicines such as morphine and codeine from poppy crops to help it escape the economic dependence on opium. As much as one-third of Afghanistan’s GPD comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium, morphine and heroin as well as hashish production. Proposed development project however can be difficult to implement politically as Ahmed Wali Karzai – The brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai – is a suspected player in Afghanistan’s opium trade and has been paid by the CIA over the past eight years for services.

Democracy?

The history of Afghanistan shows that they’ve practised pure Greek democracy at the village level for two millennia – to export today’s western democracy idea to Afghanistan without understanding this background may work in cabinets but not on the field. It’s arrogance to think that West easily could come in and install Jeffersonian representative democracy on Afghanistan.


Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.

Real U.S. Motives?

It appears that the U.S. military may be a wholly owned subsidiary of the international (i.e. American and British)oil companies). U.S.military’s involvement in Afghanistan is directly related to the large reserves of natural gas in Turkmenistan. It seems that the U.S. interest in increasing troop levels in Afghanistan jumped a notch along with the recently publicized discovery of the very large large natural gas reserves in the Yoloten-Osman gas field in southern Turkmenistan. The TAPI gas pipeline can be one answer why U.S. invade Afghanistan. The wider picture is that U.S. tries to implement its Silk Road Strategy (SRS) by securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as “protecting” pipeline routes and trade on Eurasian corridor. This militarization is largely directed against China, Russia and Iran. More about SRS in my article “Is GUUAM dead?


Spin-offs

While Afghanistan could be an attractive terrorist base, it is not at all crucial to al Qaeda, which now has many ‘homes,’ including fiery spinoffs in Indonesia, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, as well as in enclaves in France and England. The anti-Taliban operations launched in the valley of Swat in May 2009 forced some parts of foreign hirelings move to Central Asian states bordering with Afghanistan. This May a 100-men detachment led by the former field commander of the United Tajik Opposition Mullo Abdullo (Rakhimov) showed up in eastern Tajikistan. In late May an Uzbek check-point in Khanabad on the Kyrgyz border was attacked at night, and a few blasts later hit Andizhan. In July two operations were carried out in Southern Kyrgyzstan. All these incidents are linked with the return of some militants from the Afghan-Pakistan areas to Central Asia.


By autumn the situation in Uzbekistan worsened. The republic saw an outbreak of violent attacks aimed at high-ranking religious figures followed by a series of armed clashes and detentions of suspected criminals. The exact number of militants from Central Asia who have been staying in the Tribe Zone (on the Afghan-Pakistan border) is yet unknown. In mid September western media reported some 5.000 Uzbek militants to be hiding in North and South Waziristan. The real thread is growing terror activity in Russia’s southern borders (in Central Asia) and in Russia’s North Caucasus.


Opium etc production and politics have interactive connection especially in Afghanistan. Earlier I have studied how US foreign policy tactics helped to create logistics between markets via Balkan route and producers of heroin. This creature has been further developed by itself more strong by financial connection between Wahhabi organizations e.g. in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Same time there is historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. I have described the outcome as Fourfold or Quadruple Helix Model where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis. More in my article “Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo”.

Al-Qaeda does not require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat. Terrorists gravitate to areas of least resistance; if they cannot use Afghanistan, they will use countries such as Yemen or Somalia, as in fact they already are. The one issue that should be at the core of the United States’ Afghan strategy is Pakistan. It is there, not Afghanistan, where the United States has vital national interests. These stem from Pakistan’s dozens of nuclear weapons, the presence on its soil of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and the potential for a clash with India that could escalate to a nuclear confrontation.


My view

Speaking about “War on Terror” I think it is time to make a difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban are mainly local Afghans who do not want to be occupied by any invading army, local Afghan nationalists resisting occupation. They may be ISI Pakistani agents fighting a proxy war against the US, drug smugglers and opium growers protecting their drug territories, foreign jihadists and the angry relatives of Afghans killed by coalition forces getting revenge.

One does not need to like about Taliban nor accept their ideology, but one should agree that they more or less represent their country. So if they concentrate – as indicated in last letter of Mullah Omar to SCO – Afghanistan’s inner policy without affection towards terror export to foreign countries why not give them change.

From my point of view the future strategy towards Afghanistan – if the aim is to get some sustainability – should be based on two principles:

  • Bottom-up principle, where the actions, development plans and administration are made starting from local, village level; not from high flown programmes made in Brussels or Washington.
  • Integrated approach where security, economy, local participation/commitment and administration are not separate sectors.

My conclusion is that the core question is not in or out. I would see the word with as best practice for future relations between U.S./EU and Afghanistan. The local stakeholder may or may not accept cooperation with foreigners but it is their choice as it is choice for U.S./EU to participate and invest to Afghanistan’s development plans or not.



Is it Time to Bury Nabucco?

May 21, 2009

Latest developments during last weeks related the EU’s policy of diversifying Europes’s energy supplies give a clear indication that EU’s pipedream – Nabucco – is vanishing while the rival Russia’s South Stream gets a boost both on the ground and updated aims. European Commission has tried enhance Nabucco already some nine year with modest or even backward success. Now is maybe the right time to reconsider EU’s energy plans in new context.

Russia will propose including the South Stream gas pipeline to pump natural gas from Russia to the Balkans and onto Europe in a list of EU priority projects, a Gazprom deputy CEO said Tuesday. “We are drafting an application for inclusion of the South Stream project into the list of EU priority projects, and we see no grounds why this application should be rejected,” Alexander Medvedev told journalists during a break at an international energy conference in Berlin.

Earlier Nabucco got its priority status in EU as the aim was to diversify supplies away from Russia.  Now Gazprom is to make a presentation to the European Parliament to promote South Stream later in 2009. The EU Energy Commission says Gazprom would have to prove South Stream represents “added value” for Europe to become a priority, earlier the EU has already accepted Gazprom’s Nord Stream as a priority project.

Boost to South Stream

On May 15 South Stream project got a boost two step closer to reality. As I mentioned in my previous article in addition to Italy’s ENI, Gazprom signed memoranda of understanding with Greek natural gas transmission company DESFA, Serbia’s Srbijagas and Bulgarian Energy Holding.  What I didn’t knew then was that at a meeting in Sochi, attended by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s ENI agreed to double the planned pipeline’s capacity to 63 billion cubic meters from previous plan 31 bcm/y.  So at same day the establishment of joint ventures for the construction of South Stream pipeline was finally provided with a formal basis and the project doubled estimated gas flow. This Gazprom’s move strengthens their competitive advantage over Nabucco and at the same time affirm its dominance in the field.

The pipeline would cross the Black Sea at 2.000m depth and from there to the city of Barna, in Bulgaria and from there its north part will reach Austria after crossing Serbia while its south part will extend to Greece and Italy.

Signed contracts are boosting also regional economy. The Greek section of South Stream will cost between 700 to 1000 Mln Euros, the section in Serbia is estimated cost some  700 Mln Euro, costs in Bulgaria  depend if gas is going existing or totally new pipeline. Further investments related to final route(s) of pipes are possible also in Croatia and Slovenia.  After the gas flows the transit fees can be remarkable in transit countries.

Desperate search for gas by Nabucco

The economic viability of the Nabucco project has long been questinable. EU has only committed a small fraction of the €7.9 billion ($10.6 billion) needed to build the pipeline. The basic question is where the gas for Nabucco (ultimately targeted at 31 billion cubic meters per annum) will come from. If there is no good answer coming soon the today’s and tomorrow’s potential investors are looking better alternatives.

But despite the recent progress on Nabucco, it all still looks to many analysts like a case of too little, too late. “I believe Nabucco still looks very problematic,” says Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “It might work, or it might not, but I don’t think it’s going to work quickly.” He argues that the pipeline probably won’t be viable until around 2020—much later than the 2014 starting date currently being advanced.

Nabucco’s supply base has been vanishing with latest developments.  Original idea was to get gas from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.  Gazprom’s newfound willingness to offer cash on the barrelhead for Turkmen and Kazakh gas led to Kazakhstan’s permission to construct a new pipeline that will feed gas from Central Asia into Russia’s export network.  The United States Senate offers verbal support, but Washington is no closer to brokering the tradeoffs that would be necessary for Nabucco to get off the ground.  Same time Gazprom is ready to buy all the gas from the second stage of an offshore Azeri development and Azerbaijan stll lacks a direct gas link to Europe and has been unable to agree with Turkey on terms for the transit of larger planned volumes.

Ongoing sanctions against Iran made an extension line from Turkmenistan to Turkey a non-starter.  They also meant that no Western government could countenance even an informal arrangement where Iranian gas might compensate Turkey so that more gas flowing through Nabucco would reach other European markets.

Nabucco tinkering with Middle East dreams while South Stream works on the ground in Europe

A couple of days after Sochi meeting four UAE and European companies told an oil and gas contracts between them and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to supply gas from Iraq’s Kurdistan region to kick-start the Nabucco pipeline project to supply Europe.

The Iraqi government on Monday 18th 2009 rejected an $8 billion Kurdish plan calling new contracts illegal.  The KRG, which has clashed with Baghdad over draft oil legislation, has countered that the deals are legal and comply with Iraq’s constitution. In Iraq gas normally has been a side-product in oilfields so increasing gas production has been related increasing oil production.  Whatever the legal output will be a strong estimation is that gas starts flow for export after 2020.

Schroeder’s view

Speaking at a business meeting in Russia’s Kaliningrad on Monday, Schroeder, who chairs the Nord Stream shareholders’ committee, said that Russia cannot be blamed for recent gas shortages at the EU.

“When we get Russian gas, the problem is not the supplier, but the fact that 80 percent of the pipeline is located in the Ukraine. We should look for independence not from Russia, but from such transit schemes,” he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. “Both Nord Stream and South Stream allow to avoid unstable transit countries,” Schroeder added.

My view

As Nabucco’s supply base has vanished and its economical reliability is going same way while South Stream is gaining distance on the ground it is time to revise European Commission’s pipedreams. Does EU want be dependent on Russia’s gas (South and Nord Stream), Ukraine’s transit (today’s lines), Turkey’s blackmail combined middle-East as supplier (Nabucco)?

Power play has many aspects – I have touched only gas.  Searching and increasing use of renewable energy sources, increasing nuclear energy, decreasing consumption etc are all as part of a whole.  However from my point of view need of gas will be the at least the same if not bigger than today in EU and Europe for next two-three decades.

I would like to see EU to change priority status from Nabucco to South Stream.  Nabucco could still be kept alive in case to wait stabilisation in middle-East.  Besides whole the time there is improvements in liquefaction plants and tankers to increase the share Liquefied natural gas/LNG compared to gas supplied via pipes.  Selecting South Stream now could secure its smooth implementation before 2015; help EU focus other aspects of its energy sources and policy and improve EU-Russia relationship with its geopolitical consequences.

Sources and more about topic:


EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

May 15, 2009

Despite the efforts to save energy a strong scenario for near future is that the quantity of gas needed in EU region will remain same as today if not bigger.  sources of gas are widely known the essential question is how the gas is arriving to European markets.  Environmental and technical aspects can be handled as well economical ones; the real battlefield is (geo) political and it’s much more effective than energy issue itself.

In today’s Europe the core of energy war is the struggle between South Stream and Nabucco pipe lines, which also is one of the most divisive issue inside EU.  The Brussels bureaucracy favour the Nabucco project, a transit route bypassing both Russia and Ukraine, while a part of EU member states, EU energy giants and gas producers are favouring Russia’s South Stream.

Latest developments


EU, Russia as well companies interested about gas business have all activated when decisions are needed to define the final route of gas to European markets.

a) EU


The common factor with both pipelines is that they are eliminating Ukraine’s transit monopoly.  Publicly EU has probably due political motives planned update Ukraine’s gas pipeline network like during The International Investment Conference on March 23rd 2009 in Brussels. Russia has not been invited to discuss the terms of gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine’s gas pipeline network for three years but Ukraine is hoping part of requested $5.5 bn modernization costs from EU in name of EU energy security. Gas buyers and transit operators may have their views, but the question still remains what they can buy and on which terms.  EU bureaucrats are making a fatal miscalculation if they are building energy infrastructure without source of energy itself.

The EU Commission has included the Nabucco pipeline in its list of priority projects,  despite pressure from Germany and Italy. But the EU cut its budget funding of the project by 20% getting some 200 million euros for first stage of the project.Nabucco is likely to rely heavily on subsidies from the EU. Several member countries questioned the economics of the project.

The European Union and Turkey gave fresh political impetus on 8thMay 2009 in Prague to the Nabucco pipeline project, although key Central Asian gas suppliers held off on pledging their support. But it also needs gas, which may be a problem as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan refused to sign the final declaration in Prague, unlike two other suppliers — Azerbaijan and Egypt — and two key transit nations — Turkey and Georgia. But Mr Gul also made clear he expected some progress on Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks.  Earlier Turkey’s premier, in a rare visit to Brussels on January 19, tested Europe’s reaction, saying that he will review his support for Nabucco if the Energy Chapter of its EU accession talks is blocked. “If we are faced with a situation where the energy chapter is blocked, we would of course review our position,” he said. (Neweurope 26 January 2009) The Declaration of Southern Corridor Summit here .


b) Russia


Russia has floated plans for a new global treaty on trade in fossil and nuclear fuel in an attempt to consign to history an earlier pact, the 1991 Energy Charter Treaty. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled the project during his state visit in Finland on 20th April 209. “Our task today is to maintain, or rather ensure for the future, the balance of producers of energy resources, transit states and consumers of energy resources,” he said. The new pact is to cover oil, gas, nuclear fuel, coal and electricity and to include the US, China and India as well as European countries.

On 15th May 2009 four agreements shall be signed in Sochi: the national companies of Serbia, , Bulgaria and Italy shall sign agreement with the Russian ‘Gazprom.  One of them is agreement between Serbia’s Srbijagas and Russia’s Gazprom on route of Southern Stream pipeline through Serbia with length about 450 kilometers.  There shall be also a fifth agreement – bilateral agreement between Russia and Italy, which shall be signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi. (Blic 13.5.2009)

c) Companies

The consortium behind the Nabucco now comprises six national energy companies: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), MOL (Hungary), OMV (Austria), and RWE (Germany). However on Jan. 25, 2008 OMV sealed a deal for a joint venture with Gazprom for extending Baumgarten’s storage and distribution capacity. Accordingly, Gazprom holds a 50 percent stake there.  Moreover, OMV has been buying into Hungary’s MOL. Considering Russia’s significant share in OMV, any amount of OMV ownership of MOL again translates into stakes for Russia’s energy giant. Even further challenging the Nabucco project is the fact that OMV and MOL, together with yet a third consortium member, Bulgargaz, have already signed up to Gazprom’s South Stream project.

Nabucco


The pipeline that the EU hopes will bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria takes its name from Giuseppe Verdi’s 1842 opera, Nabucco. The work tells the story of the oppression and exile of Hebrew slaves by Nabucco, a Babylonian king, better known to the English world as Nebuchadnezzar. The opera deals with the eternal quest for freedom, but the choice of name may yet prove fateful for a project that is facing so many obstacles to its completion.
The pipeline is supposed to transport around 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually. In terms of gas suppliers the project’s backers have named Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

However Turkmenistan’s gas output is contracted to Russia up until 2028. Azerbaitzan also does not have the amounts required so as for the project to be profitable in the long run. The possibility of Iranian gas is far from realistic due to its nuclear program and the adamant denial by Israel and the opponent Sunni Arab states.  Nabucco is still counting on gas supplies from Azerbaijan despite a memorandum of understanding signed between Russia’s Gazprom and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan SOCAR signed on March 30th 2009 clearly shows the growing interest of Azerbaijan in cooperation with Russia.

32 European countries are clients of Russia’s Gazprom.  Despite EU declarations and investment plans the US-backed Nabucco natural gas pipeline is dying a slow death. Even its strongest supporters have a hard time demonstrating its commercial viability. The risk for Nabucco is that if the supply and funding issues are not sorted out, the EU’s dream of energy freedom will remain an aspiration rather than a reality.

South Stream


Its planned route would run from the Russian Black Sea coast across the seabed to Bulgaria, then bifurcate into a southern branch to Greece and southern Italy and a northern branch into Serbia, Hungary, and Austria, with a potential detour to Slovenia and northern Italy.

Bulgaria and Hungary have both signed government agreements on joining South Stream. Austria is also in talks and has already agreed to sell Gazprom 50 percent of the shares in Baumgarten, the gas hub where Nabucco is supposed to end, while Turkey already operates a direct sub-marine pipeline linking it to Russia – Blue Stream.  Also Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just the EU Nabucco project.

On December 2008, Russia and Serbia signed an umbrella agreement providing political guarantees that Serbia will receive a stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline and that the underground gas storage facility in Banatski Dvor will be finalized.  At the same time a 51 % stake of Serbian Oil Industry (NIS) was sold to Gazprom.Slovenia backed South Stream gas pipeline in the midst of a European gas crisis Jan. 2009 while Gazprom tried to secure pledges on the South Stream gas pipeline to Italy.  The Slovenian delegation said during the meeting the implementation of the South Stream project would both diversify the European energy sector and allow Russia to transit its gas without obstacles.  A portion of the pipeline would travel through Serbia and Hungary with options to include a leg through Slovenia to northern Italy.

In September 2008, Uzbekistan and Russia agreed to build a new pipeline with a capacity of 26 to 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually to pump Uzbek and Turkmen gas to Europe. Such a pipeline will again undermine the US efforts to pump trans-Caspian energy routes bypassing Russia.

The technical and economic assessment of the land where the pipeline will lie is planned to be completed by the end of 2009, while the assessment of facility’s underground stretches should be finished in early 2010.  Russia’s Gazprom plans to start gas deliveries to Europe through the future South Stream pipeline no later than 2015.

Iran

However, the whole situation is good for Iran. Some experts believe that without Iran the “Nabucco” project will remain unimplemented, while its participation could give an impulse to the process.  Iran has the  largest gas reserves in the world after Russia  and Turkmenistan (27,5 trillion cubic meters, or 18% of the world’s gas reserves and 33% of that of the OPEC).

But is there gas coming from Iran?  Iran uses the lion’s share of produced gas (360 million cubic meters daily) for civil purposes. By the year 2014 Tehran plans to provide gas to 93% of the population of 630 cities and to 18% of the rural population in more than 4,000 villages. Iran’s factories and electric power plants also need much gas. Another share of the produced gas Iran has to inject into its reserves to keep oil production at a high level (experts say this help Iran increase output by more than 30%). Iran has long been enjoying infrastructure for oil exports but yet has not such for exporting gas.

On February 21st 2009 the Iranian and Turkmeni governments signed an agreement that will give Iran the rights to develop the Yolotan gas field in Turkmenistan. The deal will help Iran resolve gas supply problems in its north-eastern provinces. Turkmenistan will sell Iran an additional 350 billion cubic feet of gas annually, more than doubling current supplies of almost 300 bcf a year, according to the agreement first disclosed by Iran’s official media and later confirmed by Turkmenistan.

Iran also recently offered to invest $1.7 billion for a 10 percent stake in the second phase of Azerbaijan’s huge Shah-Deniz gas field which will come on line by 2014. Iran already has a 10 percent share in the first phase and it wants to import large volumes of gas from the Azeri field. For Iran, the deals couldn’t be better suited to its objectives. It’s economically unviable currently to supply gas to its isolated, north-eastern third of the country. Getting gas from Turkmenistan would therefore make more Iranian gas available for export to Turkey. Also, connecting both Caspian countries to Iran via pipeline would allow Tehran to accomplish its long-held objective of transiting any gas production increases from its neighbours to customers in Europe, the Persian Gulf, or Asia.

Turkmenistan


Preliminary indications are the gas reserves in Turkmenistan is around 38.4 TCM – far more than Iran and just 20% lower than Russia. The biggest gas field discovery was in October 2008 – called the Yoloten Osman deposits. It is located near the Afghan – Turkmenistan border. Turkmenistan has contracts to supply Russia with 50 bcm annually, China with 40 bcm and Iran with 8 bcm annually. The Russian energy giant Gazprom requires this Turkmen gas to meet its export obligations in the European market, which accounts for 70% of the its total revenue. Gazprom sells 2/3 of Russia’s 550 bcm annual gas production in the rapidly growing domestic market. This compels it to secure Turkmen supplies to meet contracted European demands.

Nabucco vs. South Stream

Gazprom has received an invitation to join the Nabucco pipeline project to pump gas from Central Asia to Europe, but will not take up the offer, a deputy head of Russia’s energy giant said. In an interview with Vesti TV on Monday, Alexander Medvedev said Gazprom would stick with its South Stream project and stay out of Nabucco. “Unlike in the case of Nabucco, we have everything we need for this project [South Stream] to materialize,” he said. “We have gas, the market, experience in implementing complex projects, and corporate management.”

The Nabucco route does circumvent Ukraine, but it is from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, goes under Caspian Sea, passes across Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia. So many countries in pipeline are creating multiple political risk compared to South Stream which goes from Russia under Black Sea directly to EU zone.  Besides, Nabucco is going to lack the resource base adequate to its transit capacities unless the project is joined, for example, by Iran, but this is politically problematic.
The shareholders of the Nabucco consortium are: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), MOL (Hungary), OMV(Austria), RWE(Germany) and Transgaz (Romania).  OMV, MOL and Bulgargaz have also signed up to South Stream pipeline, which bypasses Turkey. It is unrealistic to think that both South Stream and Nabucco will happen, but companies  want to make sure at least one of them happens and be part of that.

The current timeframe, assuming that the outstanding issues are resolved, is that Nabucco  would come on-stream in 2013, two years after Nord Stream, the planned Baltic pipeline, which has already secured both supplies and finance for the construction work.

Some geopolitical aspects

The EU’s new “southern corridor” has been dubbed a version of U.S. “Silk Road Strategy” aimed to block Russia from gas fields around Caspian Sea and its connection to Iran (More in my article “Is GUUAM dead?).   The South Pars natural gas field brings a new element to change original U.S. plan as it is a sign of a long-term energy alliance between Moscow and Tehran and with active participation of the EU. Turkey and Armenia may be join the project as transit countries. Naturally, this leaves Washington very few chances to lobby its energy projects in the region aimed at using Azerbaijan and Georgia as the so-called ‘Caucasus communication corridor’.

In addition Russia, Iran and Qatar have taken the decision to form a “big gas troika”.  The idea is that three countries – with 60 % of global gas reserves – will work on joint projects accross the entire gas chain from geological exploration and production to distributionand marketing gas. Alexey Miller – Head of Gazprom – stated at the end the meeting that “we are united by the world’s largest gas reserves, common strategic interests and, which is very important, high potential for cooperation within tripartite projects.

There is also a question about Turkey.  The South Stream pipeline will run from Russia directly to Bulgaria across the Black Sea. Russia is diversifying its gas supply routes so as not to depend on one transport hub. It might perhaps be cheaper to build the new pipeline along existing route of the Blue Stream, which crosses the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey, than to lay a new route on the seabed. This, however, would increase the aggregate capacity of the two streams to about 48 billion cubic meters, giving the Turks a great deal of influence on Russian supplies.Russia and the EU countries do not want this to happen.  On the other side Greece, which is taking part in the construction of an oil pipeline from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis, has announced its readiness to join the South Stream project. This makes sense, as apart from bringing economic dividends it will make Greece an international energy hub on a par with Turkey.

Bottom line

In conclusion EC is pushing imaginary project of Nabucco pipes with support of drowning USA who’s last straw of Silk Road blocking strategy Nabucco is.  EU countries as well non-member states are pushing national interests;  Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are looking the best deal, Russia tries keep domination of gas markets and secure the resources, EU companies are playing with two cards to secure being with winners side and EP of course is bystander.

More my articles one may find from my BalkanBlog!


Will there be Rose II in Georgia?

April 14, 2009

Demonstrations against President Mikhail Saakashvili continued fifth day on April 13th in Georgia. Consolidated opposition demands president’s resignation, early presidential and parliamentary elections being held in the spring 2009. So far the participation to protests is not enough to implement Rose Revolution II but two new regional questions have potential to develop conflicts and change political geography once again.

Critics accuse Mr Saakashvili, who came to power on the back of the 2003 Rose Revolution, of monopolising power and exerting pressure on the judiciary and the media. Last year’s war, when Russia crushed a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia and caused also separation of other breakaway province – Abkhazia are added to his other crucial mistakes.

During previous demonstration in 2007, Saakashvili deployed the military and successfully — though violently — crushed the protests. But that demonstration consisted of 15,000 protesters. Now the first time all 17 opposition parties have consolidated enough to organize a mass movement in the country. Furthermore, many members of the government – who were leading also Rose I – are joining the cause.

Demonstrations

Some 60,000 people turned out on Thursday for the first day of demonstrations – but far fewer were visible on Friday. About 10,000 people protested Saturday 11.4.2009 in three locations: in front of parliament, outside Saakashvili’s residence and at the headquarters of the main state television channel, where they called for the demonstrations to be broadcast live.

The Georgian opposition reversed its previous decision to hold a break for Palm Sunday and resume protests on Monday after the opposition’s press center, set up in front of the Georgian parliament’s building, was attacked by unidentified assailants on the night of April 11-12. Opposition leaders said a 50-strong mob had attacked the venue, tearing banners and ripping out computer cables at a stage set up outside parliament as dozens of protesters prepared to spend a third night on the street. Police, however, said protesters had set on street cleaners who arrived to clear the site of litter. (Source Newsdaily)

Georgia’s political opposition will erect fake jail cells at sites across Tbilisi to symbolize the country turning into a police state and to symbolise imprisoned democracy.

Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti

There is also concern that protests are planned in the Georgian secessionist region of Adjara, which rose up against and rejected Saakashvili’s government in 2004 after the Rose Revolution. This region was suppressed by Saakashvili once and has held a grudge ever since, looking for the perfect time to rise up again. Tbilisi especially wants to keep Adjara under its control because it is home to the large port of Batumi, and many of Georgia’s transport routes to Turkey run through it.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Batumi 9th April with demand president’s resignation. Movement for “Fair Georgia” representative said they will hold similar rallies on May 6 if the president refuses to resign.

If Adjara rises up, there are rumors in the region that its neighboring secessionist region, Samtskhe-Javakheti, will join in to help destabilize Saakashvili and the government. Georgia already officially lost its two northern secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russian occupation during the August 2008 war and is highly concerned with its southern regions trying to break away.

In Samtskhe-Javakheti, an isolated, predominantly ethnic Armenian region in the country’s south there is a risk that socio-economic problems may turn into ethnic problems. The financial decline, crisis in central government and ethnic question makes the region a potential conflict region.

Hot early summer starting

Georgia is living now crucial moments if there will be Rose Revolution II or not. My point of view is that three aspects will show the direction:

First if opposition can get more supporters on the streets, President can manage today’s demonstrations, but if there is over 100,000 protesters this could be enough for revolution.

Second aspect is if there will be enough support for change outside Tbilisi and especially if the two secessionist regions see opportunity now implement wide autonomy.

Third aspect is the response of present government and President, violence can develop situation worse at least mid term, negotiations and concessions can divide opposition.

Georgia is not isolated state in Europe, it is only one flashpoint in northern Black Sea region. In Moldova some activities started last week, in Ukraine triangle drama between two governing parties and opposition is erupting anytime soon boosted next gas bill and rising ethnic tensions. Neighbour Balkans has its own tensions and the big game about energy and sphere of influence is going on between U.S., EU and Russia. Anyway that part of world can be a little bit different after this year.

My earlier articles over Georgia

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Battlefield of Power Politics – Northern Black Sea

March 6, 2009

While my special interests are laying in Balkans I keep an eye on Northern Black Sea – Caucasus, Ukraine and Bessarabia.Events there sure have their impact also in Balkans – if not direct so at least through their geopolitical, security or economical consequences.Today’s Caucasus with its surrounding regions is a frontline of power politics where U.S. and Russia are searching the limits of their sphere of influence.EU – without vision, strategy nor independent will and muscle – is trying preserve some foothold there as well its member states more or less depending their history, interests and priorities.

Last year was highlighted by conflict in Georgia.Separatist regions around the globe had waited Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). Throwing international law to garbage western powers showed that independence gained by violence could be possible and even acceptable; South Ossetia and Abkhazia implemented their project first with help of Russia who following U.S. example could get rid rebuff of UNSC.

An other battlefield was and still is energy.Last year’s highlight was Gas crisis which had its effect also in most parts in Europe.Few months ago an agreement was made between Russia and Ukraine;my estimation is that if not even this weekend then later this year conflict is back.

What’s up 2009

Since Georgia is now parcelled up as frozen conflict I expect this year some interesting developments especially in Moldova and Ukraine if we speak about states.Speaking about issues related to the whole Caucasus – energy is the top one and it includes much more than only gas transit via Ukraina.Besides energy giants also U.S. military-industrial complex has some interests in region and with Nato’s helping hand some tensions could be provided to secure company profits also during recession period.

Moldova

In 1992 Moldova and Transdnistria aka Pridnestrovie 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. Cease fire left Russian troops in place as peacekeepers and Transdnistria has since then acted de facto as independent – although not recognized – state.Conflict was frozen nearly ten years, then started first serious try to find sustainable solution. In the Spring 2003 Dimitry Kozakin – a special envoy of Russian President Putin – started to broke deal between local stakeholders. His plan known as “Kozak plan” was ready and preliminary agreed to sign on November 2003 but western powers put some pressure towards Moldova and everything was cancelled by President Voronin’s rejection.

2004-2008 “outsiders” like U.S., EU, OSCE as well Ukraine and Russia made some attempts to launch new negotiation process but without success. (More in my article “Transdnistrian numbergame”)

It will be seen this year if the “Kozak plan” still is valid for further examination, if yes, it will consolidate Moldova’s neutral position as the plan included the change of the Moldovan state’s structure – creation of the federation where Transdnistria and Gagauzia would be granted extensive rights including the right to block the undesirable bills.Moldova will have general elections on Spring 2009 so of course it is possible that the state can take new course e.g. towards Western Powers. In that case Russia might be more inclined to formally recognize Pridnestrovie’s separation from Moldova.

Ukraine

On October 25th 2008, in Mukachevo, the 2nd European Congress of Transcarpathian Rusyns took place; decision on declaration of “Rusyn statehood” and “reconstruction of republic of Subcarpathian Rus”, proclaimed in 1938, was accepted there. A meeting demanding to recognize this republic was held at the building of Mukachevo City Council. (AXIS 30.10.2008) The Office of Public Prosecutor of the Transcarpathian area has brought a case against leaders of Rusyns organizations on suspicion in attempt against territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine.

Besides such a criminal case has been brought in the Crimea regarding ” The Popular front Sevastopol-Crimea-Russia” which was created in August, 2005, and unites 12 public associations of the peninsula. Investigation is going on of its activity in connection with the “appeals to revision of territorial integrity of Ukraine” and similar case will be also in Donetsk republic.

SBU also considers necessary to expand powers of law enforcement bodies to more efficiently counteract to distribution of radical Muslim religious currents in the Crimea, Ukraine’s security services have also detained some mujahedeen who were going to Russia with an aim of recruitment of group of radical Islam fighters.

According the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), separatist organizations in Ukraine do not possess serious threat for security of the country.As concerns the scale of the threat – these organizations are small and moreover, as a matter of fact, they are established from abroad and with external financing.

SBU’s estimation about importance of separatist movements is probably right, but I see the big divide between NW Ukraine – dominated by sc. Orange revolution parties and SE Ukraine – dominated by pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich’s the Party of Regions.While ruling “Orange” coalition is seriously divided the pro-Russian opposition can win or lead ruling alliance in future, reconstruct better relations with Russia and minimize the impact of old parties of Orange revolution. So coming elections in Ukraine will decide if this huge country is seeking alliance more from Nato/EU or Russia and will the divine be so big that the whole country will split.

According economic terms Ukraine is already practically bankrupt. Grimly forecast is that Kiev will not be able to pay its next instalment for Russian gas deliveries in coming days so triggering a new cut-off. Even if this particular payment is averted, there is still next one coming on April.

Energy game

After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies.  As stakes have been control over the oil and gas of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key energy pipelines criss-crossing the region.  Economical interests have been linked to political game e.g. Nato enlargement.  While EU has been more bystander Russia has during last couple of years weight down the scale in favour of its own interests by series of successful operations.

GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.  GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.From its part GUUAM was designed to support sc. Silk Road Strategy Act – adopted by US Congress March 1999 – which outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.

Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road.  Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraws from it leaving behind a stump GUAM.  Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation. Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives.  Political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other.  Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine and also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation.

The latest gas dispute made it clear that Ukraine is not reliable transmitter of Russian gas to Europe. This boosts EU’s Nabucco –plan to new level. The same is true also with Russia’s South Stream, Nord Pipe and plans to increase more Liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and transport facilities. When impleneted – probably until 2015 – the new line(s) are invalidating the significance of Ukraine as transit route of energy.

Individual countries in Balkans and central Europe are considering their positions between those two projects; some have already made their selection like Serbia who allied with South Stream. 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 October 2008, contrary to the president’s statements. “Romania is ready to support any EU project, both Nabucco and South Stream,” the liberal minister, whose party is at odds with the country’s conservative President Traian Basescu, said, newswires report.

EU

The EU Commission has called on EU nations to provide more aid for Ukraine and four other ex-Soviet states as part of a proposed “Eastern Partnership” program aimed at making the bloc’s Eastern doorstep more stable. The new policy, to be launched at an EU summit in Prague in May, is designed to help Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan come closer to the EU. Belarus may also be involved, if it resists Russian pressure to recognise Georgian rebels in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

EU has said to have a “crucial strategic interest” in Northern Black Sea region. Unveiled by the European Commission last December, the “Eastern Partnership” foresees granting some 350 million euros ($448 million) in extra help between now and 2013 to the EU’s ex-Soviet neighbors.Negotiations about implementation of plan are still ongoing. Some EU member states have expressed reservations about the proposal.France, which pushed the EU’s Mediterranean Union project last year, is reported to fear that increasing funding to the bloc’s eastern neighbors would shift the EU’s strategic focus away from North Africa and the Middle East.

The plan aims to promote economic and political stability in the countries and reduce Russia’s influence in the region. It includes free trade agreements, visa waivers, financial aid and economic integration with the EU.In return, the eastern neighbors are expected to step up progress toward economic modernization, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The “Eastern partnership” scheme is planned to be approved this Spring and launched in May if everything goes without further delay.

Eastern Partnership is interesting also from an othet reason.With EPp its possible to test sc „Third Way“ for EU allies those are not coming EU member-states in near future.If the outcome is promising so it could be applied with Turkey to avoid its membership.

Other topics

With new leadership in U.S. it is of course possible that the new “Détente” starts between Russia and U.S.This probably would increase the possibilities to find some kind of peaceful cooperation between Iran and western block to avoid bombing this old civilization back to stone age.Elections in Iran can support this outcome.

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), organization of world`s leading gas producers, was established in Tehran in 2001 to foster the concept of a gas cartel. Yet it does not have same organizational level as OPEC but some developments can take place. Last Autumn Russia, Iran and Qatar have taken the decision to form a “big gas troika”. …The idea is that the three countries will work on joint projects across the entire gas chain from geological exploration and production to distribution and marketing of gas.  This cooperation combination could come remarkable player in Middle East politics too.


Gas flows, everything ok or…?

January 22, 2009

After three weeks dispute Russian gas is heating European homes. Talks ended agreement, it was even signed, bills are paid, prices fixed, EU monitors are checking implementation and everything seems to be ok next ten years. I would not like to be bird of ill omen but I must state to have serious doubts and fear that on the end of year 2009 the situation is the same as three weeks ago.

I base my gloomy forecast to three main factors related to Ukraine, which are

  • Financial situation,
  • Questions related to domestic policy, and
  • International policy.

Financial situation

The price of Russian gas to Ukraine almost doubled in situation of international financial turmoil where inflation in Ukraine has been over 50 % last year, its currency has lost most of its value compared to Euro, steel (one of the main export products) is down and the signs of better future are unseen in near future.

Domestic policy

Domestic political sphere is in stagnation, everybody is waiting new elections which outcome with great possibility is not bringing any solutions. Same time The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has finished pre-judicial investigation and directed to court the criminal case of two activists of association Popular Front Sevastopol-Crimea-Russia, has launched new operations against separatist Rusin movement (Subcarpathian Rusin parliament, Carpathian Ruthenians, Rusins of Carpathian Rus), has prevented recruitment of mujahedeens and is speeding its work on revealing streamsof financing of the extremist radical Muslim organizations. An of course the Russian population in East Ukraine and Crimea is ready to activate if needed.

International policy

Ukraine is in cross-swell of declining U.S. hegemony and rising Russian sphere of interest and the country itself is divided which direction is the best. One part of playground is the energy policy of EU, but also U.S. and Russia. The latest gas dispute made it clear that Ukraine is not reliable transmitter of Russian gas to Europe. This boosts EU’s Nabucco –plan to new level. The same is true also with Russia’s South Stream, Nord Pipe and plans to increase more Liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and transport facilities. When impleneted – probably until 2015 – the new line(s) are invalidating the significance of Ukraine as transit route of energy.

Alternative paths

I believe unforeseeable future in social developments so the scenario I described above is not predestined the alternative paths are possible as well. E.g. in next elections Viktor Yanukovich’s the Party of Regions can win or lead ruling alliance in future, reconstruct better relations with Russia and minimize the impact of old parties of Orange revolution.

It is also possible that despite results in election separatist movements are gaining more support and one compromise can be creation some kind of federation with strong minority rights which also can block Ukraine’s former western dreams.

The bottom line

Whatever happens, interesting year is starting in Ukraine.  To the end I take second opinion by Czech intelligence agency as follows:

The Security Information Service (BIS), state intelligence agency of the Czech Republic, have warned members of parliament of the country that gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine most likely will repeat and it is only a matter of time, Prague-based newspaper Pravo reports.

“We have received overwhelming information from intelligence and counterspionage services”, said the head of the Czech parliament’s lower chamber committee on security issues, Frantisek Bublan. He marked that these data testified to presence of commercial and political factors which could provoke the next gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “It is impossible to guarantee that both sides will come to an agreement and the situation will normalize”, noted Bublan, having pointed out that there was lack of transparency of the contracts concluded by Gazprom and Naftogaz. (Source: http://www.axisglobe.com 21.1.2009)

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The new tradition of non-negotiation

January 11, 2009

I am a bit worried about a trend at the beginning of year 2009 – a trend I hope will not dominate the rest of the year.  The phenomena in my mind is the new tradition of non-negotiation.  Crisis management and solving conflicts will be much more harder if local stakeholders are unable even to talk each other.

Few examples from last weeks:

  • Israel does not negotiate with Hamas so war and human catastrophe will continue before some outsiders are broking s.c. temporary ceasefire or truce while sustainable solution would need long and deep negotiations between local partners.
  • U.S. and Iran are discussing in UN and direct talks we must wait until new President takes his office in White House.  Let’s hope that situation does not escalate before that. If real talks had been implemented earlier some today’s problems in Middle East could be now smaller or non-existing.
  • Separatist government in Kosovo province does not want talk with Belgrade authorities about technical details of UN six-point plan from November 2008 before Belgrade recognizes Kosovo;  Belgrade will talk with Pristina’s separatist government only when they act under UNMIK (administration of Kosovo international protectorate) umbrella.  So many practical problems will not be solved.
  • Russia and Ukraine and EU knew problems with gas deliveries years ago, last October was clear that after New Year deliveries maybe stop – no constructive talks even Xmas-week.  When homes in Europe started frozen there seemed to be no hurry to negotiate.  When finally EU broke the deal to accept EU monitors to check if Ukraina is stealing gas from pipes or not the last delay was waiting if Ukraina will sign the agreement.  Big mess again when leaders are not willing to discuss in due course.

It is amazing how on the modern time of information society the authorities are not discussing common problems.  Everywhere else the information flow is huge, on-time debate over today’s conflicts is going on around the globe.  Some forums are of course for those who in principle are thinking same way over issues but also real unlimited and open forums are available.  Internet is full of  ideas, arguments, real-time situation information, proposals and solutions.  It is sad that when we have all real-time information and modern communication means those who can deside do not bother to have simple old fashion or modern discussions with their colleagues.


Visa rank and the Western Balkans

December 19, 2008

Earlier I wrote about political rights, citizen liberties and press freedom in Balkans (“Freedom in Balkans“).  To travel from one country to other is a fundamental freedom restricted however more or less depending about which passport the traveler holds.  In practice traveling especially nowadays is restricted because lack of money but I limit this article only formal visa restrictions.

Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across  borders.  They are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations. Visa restrictions also are reflecting the political situation of the time e.g. some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely.
The Henley Visa Restrictions Index

Henley & Partners is a firm specialized in international immigration, consular and citizenship law. Henley & Partners has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. It has created an index which ranks countries according to the visa-free access its citizens enjoy to other countries.  This Index is globally known as “The Henley Visa Restrictions Index”.  (Source and more about H&P please visit in their homepage http://www.henleyglobal.com )

Rank. Passport[s] of Country/Countries, Number of Countries Accessible Without Visa / Visa on Arrival (Balkans and Caucasus bold)

01. Denmark, Finland, United States, 130.
02. Germany, Ireland, Sweden, 129.
03. France, Great Britain (UK citizen passport), Italy, Japan, 128.

04. Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, 127.
05. Netherlands, 126.
06. Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, New Zealand, 125.
07. Portugal, 123.
08. Singapore, 122.
09. Australia, Greece, Iceland, Malaysia, 120.

10. Liechtenstein, 116.
11. Malta, South Korea, 115.
12. Cyprus, 113.
13. Hong Kong, 110.
14. Chile, San Marino, 109.
15. Monaco, 108.
16. Poland, 106.
17. Slovenia, 105.
18. Israel, 104.
19. Argentina, Brunei, Hungary, 101.

20. Andorra, Brazil, Uruguay, 99.
21. Czech Republic, Mexico, 98.
22. Slovakia, 97.
23. Costa Rica, 95.
24. Lithuania, 94.
25. Venezuela, 92.
26. Estonia, Latvia, 91.
27. Vatican City, 87.
28. Croatia, 84.
29. Bolivia, Bulgaria, 83.

30. Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, 82.
31. El Salvador, 81.
32. Honduras, 80.
33. Nicaragua, 75.
34. Romania, 73
35. Bahamas, Barbados, Macau, 71.
36. Trinidad and Tobago, 66.
37. South Africa, 65.
38. St.Vincent and Grenadines, 64.
39. Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, 63.

40. St. Kitts-Nevis, 62.
41. Grenada, 60.
42. Belize, 58.
43. Jamaica, 57.
44. Solomon Islands, 54.
45. Gambia, Guyana, 53.
46. Dominica, Mauritius, Seychelles, Turkey, 52.
47. Lesotho, 51.
48. Tuvalu, 50.
49. Kiribati, Western Samoa, 49.

50. Botswana, Malawi, 48.
51. Fiji, Sierra Leone, Vanuatu, 47.
52. Kenya, Maldives, Swaziland, Tonga, 46.
53. Ghana, Zambia, 45.
54. Nauru, 44.
55. Ecuador, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, 41.
56. Suriname, 40.
57. Kuwait, Mauritania, Uganda, 39.
58. Bahrain, Mali, Tunisia, 38.
59. Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Qatar, Senegal, 37.

60. Benin, Cape Verde, Marshall Islands, Oman, 36.
61. Burkina Faso, 35.
62. Nigeria, Russia, Togo, United Arab Emirates, 35.
63. Guinea-Bissau, Micronesia, Philippines, 33.
64. Belarus, Colombia, Palau Islands, Serbia-Montenegro, Ukraine, 32.
65. Liberia, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, 31.
66. Morocco, 30.
67. Indonesia, Moldova, Thailand, 29.
68. Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, 28.
69. Armenia, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Cuba, Tajikistan, 27.

70. Cameroon, 26.
71. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dominican Republic, India, Madagascar, 25.
72. Egypt, Gabon, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, 24.
73. Algeria, Rwanda, 23.
74. Haiti, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, Sri Lanka, 22.
75. East Timor, Jordan, 21.
76. Comores Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Nepal, 20.
77. Angola, Bhutan, Djibouti, Libya, Turkmenistan, 19.
78. Burundi, China, Ethiopia, North Korea, Vietnam, Yemen, 18.
79. Albania, Cambodia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, 17.

80. Congo, Syria, 16.
81. Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, 15.
82. Iran, 14.
83. Afghanistan, 12.

Schengen and West Balkans

Visa-free travel to EU has been in the top of wish-lists for citizens of the Western BalkansSchengen area covers the most of EU.  The visa facilitation agreements between EU and countries in West Balkans ease visa application procedures, but they do not abolish the requirement of a visa.

The core law of visa restrictions in EU is Council Regulation 539/2001.  This law lists all the countries whose nationals require a visa to enter the Schengen area (“black list”) as well as the countries whose nationals are exempt from this provision (“white list”). The Council will vote by majority, which means that opposing member states could be outvoted.

The European Commission has made visa roadmaps listing around 50 individual activities in each country in terms of existing legislation and practice. The conditions range from purely technical matters, such as the issuance of machine-readable passports with a gradual introduction of bio-metric data, to the adoption and implementation of a raft of laws and international conventions, to very broad matters such as progress in the fight against organized crime, corruption and illegal migration. Once a country meets the conditions, the Commission will make an official proposal to the Council to lift the visa restrictions for this country by amending Council Regulation 539/2001.

An assessment about progress with visa roadmaps has recently been made and a second round of assessment is tentatively scheduled for spring 2009 so there is hope that after one year citizens in Western Balkans have a bit more freedom to travel abroad.



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Ten things you maybe didn’t know about Pridnestrovie

December 16, 2008

Recently I was searching some information about Transnistria – aka Pridnestrovie – and found a probably official web-portal of this not recognized state.  Originally Transnistria called my attention first because its quite ready statehood elements without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted  that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine.

In any case my bet is that in western Europe here is lack of wider knowledge over Transdnistria and therefore I copy here Ten things you maybe didn’t know about the place.   Of course one can have some reservations due the reason that material is from “official” web-sites; however if you go to original source you can have more information about every point, compare it to other information available and make your own conclusions.

Here are some quick facts that will no doubt surprise you:

10: Double of Iceland’s population

9: Multi-party democracy

8: Signed UN human rights charters

7: Market based economy

6: A total of 35 nationalities live here

5: OSCE-ruled elections

4: “Clean” report from EU border monitors

3: Historically, never part of Moldova

2: Industrial powerhouse

1: Government success

And open the countdown to get full picture from here!