Rummy Rummy

Rummy:

Chiefly British Odd, strange, or dangerous; rum.

 

          For those of you laboring under the misapprehension that Eurasia watchers have a niche market with little or no competition from the population of wonks-at-large, I say follow the money. Or, in this case, follow the Rummy.  It turns out that Donald Rumsfeld has set himself up a foundation with his personal friend S. Frederick Starr (relation to Kenneth?….), head of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute.  So far they’ve only financed a fellowship here and there, sending students off to Pipelineistan to study, and so far the money has come from Rummy and some so-far undisclosed “friends” (eventually, when the tax man cometh, those contributors and any sundry un-indicted co-conspirators will have to be named, but that’s okay. For now we can guess. It’s not hard.)

          Ostensibly the raison d’etre  for the foundation lies in the fact that other post-Soviet countries have expats abroad (presumably because there was fleeing involved) and as far as diasporas go, Continue reading

Raise that Jolly Roger!

          Arrr! Matey! At long last I have a reason to write about Pirates! Not only that, but I can blather on about Russia, too– it’s a match made, well, on a gangplank, really. The unpredictability of both parties is such that whatever I write is bound to be proven ludicrously off the mark in moments. Well, I’ve been wrong before, so here goes: the stage is set with Russian warships steaming full speed ahead across the briny deeps, en-route to the Gulf of Aden, where the Yanks are caught in standoff with pirates who have hijacked a Ukrainian ship. I can just see (through my magic telescope, held to the eye which hasn’t got a patch on it, and after I’ve seen what I need to, I collapse the telescope resolutely, and order someone around), anyway I see a man standing on the deck of one of the ships singing “I am the very model of a modern major general…” in Pirates of Penzance style. But here come the Russians! Will they shout “Avast ye Scurvy Knaves!” or whatever that is in Russian when they arrive on the scene? The suspense is killing me. Continue reading

Football diplomacy

          Who ever thought that news from Azerbaijan would be of interest? Well grab your thinking caps, kids, and start thinking about not just Baku, but Dushanbe, Tashkent, Astana and Bishkek, because that’s where the action is about to be, if you ask me, which, once again, no one has. Sigh. Anyway, Baku got as friendly a visit as it is possible to get from our grumpy friend Dick Cheney the other day. One can only guess that it left the Azeris feeling a bit like toothpaste, about to be shot out of the tube. Dick is squeezing the tube in his typical gorilla grip while Russia’s Putin – oops! I meant Medvedev – is trying to roll the tube up methodically from the bottom by signing yet another deal with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to pipe gas to Russia; a pipeline which would make the Nabucco pipeline, favored not only by Baku, but by Dick and the rest of the Western Imperialists, obsolete. Given all this high-level attention Continue reading

Hubris

 

 

          The volume of chest-thumping moxie pouring out of the Kremlin these days, swift and ebullient as a mountain stream, could choke a horse. President Medvedev, proud and provoked, labeled Georgia’s actions in South Ossetia a genocide – even though the death toll appears to be about 200 Ossetians – and declared independence for his Caucasian brethren.  As if he could.  His moral rectitude has metastasized to hubris. Until someone, anyone else agrees that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are sovereign nations, the Russians are occupiers.  Konstatin Zatulin, who is the Duma official in charge of former republics explained the Russian position thus: “The time when we needed Western applause is over.”  Prime Minister Putin said -perhaps presciently, perhaps prophetically- that Kosovo’s independence from Serbia was a precedent. Go figure.

          But when it comes to partitioning states, Moscow should be careful what it asks for, for it just might get it, and get it good and hard. Chechnya, after all, is right next door to Georgia, wants out of Continue reading

Whew.

           Whew. What a lot of hubbub in the Caucasus!  And the whirlwind amongst the geopolitical blowhards who are trying to figure it all out is such that it’s disturbing local weather patterns.  You know the scene:  a butterfly flaps its wings in the Caucasus, and spawns a tornado a half a world away.  What is becoming clear is that Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili (Misha to his friends) acted recklessly in the 7 August shelling of the South Ossetian capitol, Tskhinvali, theoretically in response to Russian troops moving through the Roki tunnel from North to South Ossetia and otherwise raising a ruckus.  He was reckless, but his recklessness was not a function of excess aggressiveness, it was because he fell into a Russian trap.  Russia had been conducting flyovers of the region, staged massive military maneuvers on the border and otherwise rattled sabers. That they could switch from “peacekeeping” to “ousting the aggressor” at the drop of a shapka ushanka (hat) is just too convenient for anyone to not be at least tempted to cry wolf (mixed metaphors, anyone?). Just like in Chechnya, only this time the Russians said they were doing just what Georgia said it was doing this time: restoring order within a sovereign state. Continue reading

News botting: WWOD?

          In these days of geopolitical percolation when nation states boil through statehood to dissolution as easily as steam bubbles in a mud bath, I’ve become interested enough to become a little news-bot. I troll the international press, snagging on worthless, submersed fallen logs of information as often as catching an interesting trend, but it passes the time. Of course the topic de jour is Kosovo, when it isn’t (when hasn’t it been?) some dusty country, brimming with oil. Energy is and always will be the topic, but nowadays it’s not all about who’s got it, but how they get it to you.  In the American press there hasn’t been as much attention paid to Pipelineistan  as there has been to Islamistan, Continue reading