catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Tour d'horizon

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A lot has happened in the past month on the world stage. I’ll quickly summarise what I see as having been the most significant events.

Ukraine: On 10 January the Ukrainian Parliament voted to sack the Cabinet (the President’s position was not affected by the vote). The vote was pushed through by President Yuschenko’s erstwhile colleague, Yulia Tymoshenko, and the loser of 2004’s Presidential election, Yanukovich. The pretext for the decision was the Government’s failure to protect the national interest in signing the new gas deal with Russia. Although not earth-shattering, it shows how the trouble over gas can open up opportunities for the opponents of the ‘Orange Revolution’.

Georgia: On 22 January the pipeline carrying gas from Russia to Georgia and Armenia was damaged by two explosions in North Ossetia, effectively cutting off supply. On 24 January the supplementary gas supply from Azerbaijan was partially disrupted when a gas compressor station on the Russian side of the pipeline was damaged. With Georgia freezing in an unusually cold northern winter, Georgian President Saakashvili is screaming blue murder, claiming that Russia is withholding energy to punish Georgia for its pro western policies. True or not, the episode demonstrates Georgia’s dependence on Russian gas.

Russia: Then we get the ‘tech rock’ – an advanced piece of gadgetry that ‘Q’ has devised to allow British agents to communicate with their sources. The Russians claim that one of the agents was involved with non-governmental organizations. I don’t think that stories like this just ‘appear’ – they are dropped to the press tactically, to send messages to and/or embarrass the subject. Here, I think the message that the Russians hope to send to the west, in conjunction with the gas shortages in the former Soviet Union and Russia’s intervention in the Iran nuclear dispute, is “I’m here, I can hurt you and your interests, or I can help you: don’t tread on me”.

Iran: The US and China have endorsed a Russian plan that would allow Iran to refine ‘yellowcake’ uranium into uranium hexafluoride at Isfahan. The hexafluoride is (apparently) the material that is enriched in centrifuges for use as a fuel in nuclear weapons. Under the plan, the hexafluoride would be shipped to Russia for enrichment, and then re-shipped to Iran for use in its nuclear reactor at Bushehr. The plan concedes to Iran the right to create hexafluoride. This indicates (to me, anyway) that the west has little leverage in this dispute, has few good ideas for dealing with Iran, and, to what must be the immense pleasure of Moscow, is reliant on Russia for a solution to its problems.

East Asia: The Financial Review reported on 6 January that relations between China and Japan were deteriorating. The two are apparently moving into deeper competition for export markets and energy supplies, that Japan has no strategy for countering China’s strategy of isolating Japan in the region, and that the US has lost its ability to place pressure on China.

Israel-Palestine: One maxim that I’ve heard repeated a few times recently is ‘your fight’s not over til the other guy says so’. I won’t comment on the Israel-Palestine issue, I will only say that the landslide election of a Hamas-led Government in Palestine tells me that the ‘other guy’ hasn’t yet called it quits.

Written by Admin

January 28, 2006 at 9:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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