Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Royal Proposition

What two things do the following countries have in common?

Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#occupythis

Scenes of protest by predominantly young people in the developed world continue to cross our television screens.  The causes are mixed and the aims are varied, but there is a common thread: a sense that the dream is over, and that this generation will be the first since the industrial revolution whose prospects in life will be worse than those of their parents.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The growth dogma

As we all know, the rich world has a debt problem. It's been living beyond its means for some time now, a situation exposed in so many ways by the 2008 financial crisis. Governmment finances in particular are in disarray, as they have been forced to bail out their banks, are receiving less in tax and paying more in benefits. Without drastic action, government blance sheets can only deteriorate further as demographic change (primarily aging populations).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reset, or just good old-fashioned appeasement?

There's been quite a lot of comment in the international press recently about the efficacy or otherwise of the Obama administration's "reset" of relations with Russia.

Fans of the reset claim the following gains for the US:
1.  A Russian abstention from a UN security council resolution authorising sanctions against Iran for continuing its nuclear weapons program.
2.  The right of passage through Russia for NATO personnel & equipment headed for Afghanistan.
3.  A treaty reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the two countries.

Let's take each of these in turn.

1.  The sanctions on Iran have proved to be ineffective and the nuclear weapons programme is proceeding unabated.  Russia continues to support the Iranians to the fullest extent it can.  No gain to the US.
2.  NATO success in Afghanistan is as important to Russia as it is  to the US.  Afghanistan is a major source of drugs flowing into Russia and its fall to the Taliban would generate Muslim insurgencies in Central Asia and in possibly Russia itself.  It's in Russia's interests to cooperate and this should not be seen as a "win" for the US.
3.  Russia needed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons it was maintaining, as many of them were old, insecure and would have required a substantial investment to upgrade.  Furthermore, by moving down to equal numbers of weapons on bothe sides, Russia will gain in a relative sense, as the US currently has superiority.  No US win here either.

In summary, US gains form the reset are, well, zero.

Russian gains, on the other hand, are substantial:
A. The US has turned a blind eye to Russia's gross abuses in Georgia.  These are too numerous to go into here.
B.  The US has imposed an informal arms embargo on Georgia.
C.  NATO has backtracked on membership plans for Georgia and Ukraine.
D.  The US is championing Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation
E.  The Administration is attempting to thwart the passage of the Magnitsky Act.
F.  The achievement of parity in nuclear weapons capabilities, as noted above.

Now don't get me wrong; there are some good things about the reset.  It's a good thing for nations to talk with, rather than yell at, each other.  The concept of trying to make progress on issues where progress is possible is useful, as is, in some cases, the idea of de-linking certain topics from others.

All that notwithstanding, there is a major problem with how the reset has unfolded. It is that the US has been comprehensively out-negotiated by Russia.

Some more equal


Moldova's constitution demands equal treatment for all citizens.  Moldovan law, however, segregates citizens into two differnt groups, and gives one group an additional right compared to the other group.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 22nd

June 22nd 1941 was a very special day for two reasons:
  1. It marked the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Germany, and
  2. It market the liberation of Basarabia from Soviet occupation

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Benighted Botanica

It's the gateway to Chisinau, the first district you enter as you approach the city from the airport, from Tiraspol.  It's the largest and most populous sector of Chisinau, housing over 26% of the city's residents.  In Soviet times it was the place to be, a modern, go-ahead sort of place near to the fresh air and greenery of the Botanical Gardens after which it takes its name.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Democratic Federalism

Amidst the tension related to the Chisinau mayoral election, another important movement is taking place behind the scenes.  Germany and Russia are trying to organise a solution to the Transnistrian conflict.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Let my people go!

Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All tied up in ribbons


The St. George Ribbon is a piece of orange and black tape, sometimes accompanied by a rosette which has a hammer and sickle at the centre, circled by the words "Patriotic War", written in Russian.  It celebrates the Soviet Union's victory over fascism in the great patriotic war of 1941-45.  All well and good, except that 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

McCainescu-Feingoldciuc


You may be wondering why I haven't written a post for several months.  In part, it was due to being very busy doing other things, but in part it was also due to my disappointment at realising that all of Moldova's parliamentary parties had become hostages to business interests.  I don't understand or necessarily agree with Mihai Godea's reasons for leaving the PLDM, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that Moldova's economy was being run by the three Vlads - Voronin, Filat and Plahotniuc.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

One of the reasons I am fascinated by Eastern Europe, and Moldova in particular is that the machinations of the institutions of state, which are normally used to grind down the citizenry, occasionally and involuntarily throw out decisions which, though absurd, work to the benefit of the ordinary person.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On cooperation and friendship

To a western mind, co-operation entails working closely together towards a common goal in a win-win relationship.