International organisations in the former Soviet Union

Enough of going through country by country. Time to prod the regional organisations. For once these seem to be acting as more than talking shops, and the tectonic plates of regional politics are moving in time with the rise and fall of the three major groupings.

These three are the declinging


, the grouping of post-Soviet states which is inexorably declining to a talking-shop, as Russia tries to take advantage of smaller states without having the financial or military power to back up its arrogance.

Then there are the rising powers filling the gap filled by the collapse of CIS. These are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with China as the driving force, the five Central Asian states as members, and Russia, inside the club but apparently quite weak within it. It seems fairly likely that Iran – currently an observer – will be granted membership in due course.

Then there is GUAM – the name a simple acronym for the four member-states Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It may be smaller, but it has backing from America and to some extent from the EU, and the members are both converging in their political systems and moving ever-further out of Russia’s sphere of influence.

So what we have is the Western sphere of influence expanding to include the Caucasus, the Chinese sphere of influence extending to cover everything East of the Caspian, and Russia scrabbling to keep its claws in wherever it can.

More details of all three groups is below the cut

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Ramadi besieged

Dahr Jamail claimed that a major Coalition assault on Ramadi is beginning:

the US military has been assaulting the city for months with tactics like cutting water, electricity and medical aid, imposing curfews, and attacking by means of snipers and random air strikes. This time, Iraqis there are right to fear the worst – an all out attack on the city, similar to what was done to nearby Fallujah.

It looks as though he’s right. Granted, there has been almost no mention of this in the British press. The US military have given the kind of semi-denial which all but confirms something is happening. According to a Pentagon spokesman discussions of large-scle offensive “may be somewhere off the mark” – but when George Bush himself has spoken of an offensive in Ramadi, “off the mark” likely means little more that that there will be more focus on putting Iraqi rather than American troops in the front line. The Americans, with 1500 troops recently brought from Kuwait to Anbar, will simply be “helping them do that with our own military forces and our forces that operate as embedded trainers and in other ways”.

However it is spun, the offensive has already dramatically affected Ramadi for the worse. By one rport some 300,000 Ramadi residents have fled their homes this past week. And we’re seeing use of the same tactics which were widely condemned when they were used in Fallujah, Tal Afar and elsewhere.

The city is now virtually cut off, with Al-Jazeera reporting that the roads are blocked, and .”a giant wall of sand has been piled up around the perimiter”

As we have documented in previous campaigns water and electricity supplies have been cut off, possibly as part of an illegal US tactic of denying essential amenities to besieged cities. One report talks of “outages in the water, electricity and phone networks”. Dahr Jamail has been told that “Ramadi has been deprived of water, electricity, telephones and all services for about two months now”, and former governer of Anbar province has said that:

“The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water”

So, all in all it seems we’re going back through the same mistakes and crimes seen in a half-dozen previous cases.


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China in Africa

Yesterday I found (surprise!) that Chinese foreign policy was a bit much to cover in 500 words. So today I’ll retreat to the only slightly more ridiculous idea of covering China’s role in Africa. As always now, this is a ‘getting my head round things’ post, not one actually worth reading.

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting “all but closed down” Shanghai. Huh? This is a [city of 10 million people]( – surely it’s crazy to interrupt all that for five days?

China, oil, Tibet and Xinjiang

This began with me wanting to have a look at China’s foreign policy, but that’s far too huge a topic to take in one bite. All that you get under the cut is a bit about Xinjiang, Tibet, and oil politics. If you want the rest (or something better-informed), go watch the BBC documentary on China that’s showing right now.

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