Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random End of Year Thoughts

I've been away from my usual place of work, recouperating in the Seychelles which improved my less than stellar French and driving on the left without careening into trees or oncoming traffic.  At least there - as opposed to here - driving is civilized, correct and polite.

My objective while away was to refrain from outside contact.  I succeeded - with no computer, no phone(mobile or otherwise) and no newspapers (which I've largely stopped reading anyway).  On returning to my terribly unique place of work (so the natives seem to believe) I noted a couple of things happened in the world despite my vacation.

The first is that President Lukashenko was re-elected in a landslide.  I'm shocked. Let's see if Brussels can figure out a greater than submissive response to the joke of Eastern Europe. It is time to dump the Eastern Partnership Program as it applies to Belarus. It may be time to seek alternative means to rid Europe and Belarus of Mr. Lukashenko - whether the Kremlin likes it or not.

Speaking of the Kremlin, a Moscow court on Monday found jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty in his second fraud trial, a judgment that should be seen as a pivotal moment in Russia's post-Soviet history . This joke of rule of law should be a warning to potential investors that Russia is not a safe place to do business, that democracy of any form is dead and that it is time for the world to see the back of Putin and his concept of "controlled democracy".   Foreign policy dealings with Moscow should reflect that this is not a free country but is rather one with no press freedom, saddled with a legal system riddled with corruption and a government that is little better than a dictatorship, marginally better than China, but without the grace.

Then, of course, there is Israel whose foreign policy is being run by the boorish, dangerous, car-salesman from Moldova. If anyone must go, and go soon, it is the current government.  It is isolating Israel through genuinely stupid remarks made by Lieberman, a simpleminded thug. Although both Turkey and Israel have been trying to reconcile behind closed doors, Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the fundamentalist wing of Netanyahu’s right wing government appears determined to be a total spoiler of any rapprochement between the two. The fact that Lieberman is under investigation for corruption yet still controls the foreign policy of the country is appalling.  In 2011 there will be recognition of an independent Palestinian state wheter Israel likes it or not. The war for more bedroom space will enter a new phase.

Then Hugo the Pompous of Venezuela didn't like the last election result so he has arranged for the lame duck legislature to allow him to rule by decree for 18 months.  Now, a true dictator, he too needs to go.

Finally, Africa remains itself.  The refusal of the Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo to step down following his election loss is an African leadership disease. It remains to be seen whether Africa will back up its threat to oust him by force. They failed with Mugabe.

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