Oh No, Kosovo

map-kosovo-ethnic-3Opposition lawmakers released tear gas Monday in Kosovo’s parliament as they once again tried to pressure the government into renouncing deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

Source: Kosovo Opposition Releases Tear Gas in Parliament | Al Jazeera America

This kind of shenanigans has been going on for 3 months as the opposition protests deals made by Kosovo.  One of deals gives more power to ethnic Serbs in the country, while the other sets the border with Montenegro.

Serbia does not recognized Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008.  The EU is mediating talks between the two countries.

The deal on Serb minority rights is suspended until Kosovo’s constitutional court rules on its legality. The government, which accuses the opposition of trying to seize power by force, has said it will ask international experts to decide on the border demarcation with Montenegro.


Putin’s war on the West

[T]he contest he (Putin) insists on can no longer be dodged. It did not begin in poor Ukraine and will not end there. Prevailing will require far more resolve than Western leaders have so far mustered.

via The view from the Kremlin: Putin’s war on the West | The Economist.

Putin has held power in Russia for 15 years.  What has he gained?

From his tantrums over the Middle East to his invasion of Georgia and multiple misadventures in Ukraine, Mr Putin has sometimes seemed to stumble into accidental disputes with the West, driven by a paranoid fear of encirclement. In hindsight it seems that, given his outlook, confrontation may have been inevitable.

Putin has driven a wedge between the US and Europe over how to deal with him, and thus weakened both.

For Mr Putin the only good neighbour is a weak one; vassals are better than allies. Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated. Sooner or later it may encompass the Baltic states—members of both the European Union and NATO, and home to Russian minorities of the kind he pledges to “protect”.

So what is the West to do?  Options include arming Ukraine,which some Americans but no Europeans want.  Putin wins.

Or, provide Ukraine with foreign aid that allows it to build a better state, which will then side with Western powers.  Putin loses.

Which way will the US and Europe chose?

Ukraine Conflict In One Map


Ukraine Conflict In One Map – Business Insider.

Subsidizing Protests

BBC News – Colombia troops to patrol Bogotá after protests.

Clashes broke out on Thursday afternoon after tens of thousands of people marched peacefully in support of a 10-day protest by small-scale farmers.

Colombia’s government deployed the military after protests became violent.  Small-scale subsistence farmers, along with students, teachers, and healthcare workers, have been protesting against the importation of cheap food from the EU and the US.

Because both the EU and the US subsidize agricultural production with payments to farmers and big agricultural producers, they are able to sell their products cheaper than most smallholders.  And countries with free-trade agreements have a hard time competing with the lost-cost products. So the Colombian government is negotiating with its farmers and has

promised more protection from products imported at lower prices from countries with free-trade agreements with Colombia.

It’s very hard for the small-scale farmers.

They say that free trade agreements with the European Union and the US, which have recently come into force, are flooding the market with agricultural products at prices they are unable to match.
They also complain that rising fuel and production costs have turned small-scale farming into a loss-making business.

Once they can’t make a living, they move into city slums, creating more hardship for themselves and their government.  How will this end?  Who will end up benefiting?  Probably not the poor farmers and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

Iran Cuts own Throat, Stops Oil Exports to EU

via Iran ‘stops oil exports’ to UK and France – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies, the oil ministry has said, in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil.

Most countries in the EU have stockpiles that will last them several months, until supplies from Saudi Arabia and others can catch up with the shortfall.  Hardest hit will be Greece, the debt-ridden nation.

Motor Oil Hellas of Greece was thought to have cut out Iranian crude altogether and compatriot Hellenic Petroleum along with Spain’s Cepsa and Repsol  were curbing imports from Iran.

Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd)  to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said.

By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban.

Will Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern oil-rich states be able to make up the short-fall?  How much will the price of oil rise?   How will the resulting increase in gasoline and foodstuff costs affect the worldwide economic crisis?

And in the United States, how will Newt Gingrich be able to provide $2.50/gallon gas, as he recently promised?  Doesn’t he realize that world markets are a little beyond his control?

Polenta doesn’t explode

via Rioting in Romania: The battle of Bucharest | The Economist.

“POLENTA doesn’t explode” is the gnomic phrase Romanians use to describe the attitude of resigned acceptance typical to the country. But this weekend something snapped. Thousands of people took to the streets in Bucharest and 40 other towns, venting their anger at their leaders’ perceived incompetence in dealing with Romania’s economic crisis

Like other Eastern and southern European states, Romania is experiencing economic problems.  Many of their issues are due to the legacy of their Soviet-influenced history, including a lack of industry and major pollution problems.

Although Romania’s riots did not make the US news, they are making headlines in Europe, just another sign of growing economic problems for European Union members.




Here It Goes Again

via Exclusive: EU agrees to embargo on Iranian crude | Reuters.

(Reuters) – European governments have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil, EU diplomats said on Wednesday, dealing a blow to Tehran that crowns new Western sanctions months before an Iranian election.

If the deal is approved by the EU, Iran will be ‘between a rock and a hard place.’  Other customers of Iran, including China and India, will be able to force steep price discounts, leaving Iran in hard economic straits.  Already the price for foodstuff has soared in Iran, and the value of their currency is dropping.

The embargo will force Tehran to find other buyers for oil. EU countries buy about 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iran’s 2.6 million bpd in exports, making the bloc collectively the second largest market for Iranian crude after China.

Biggest trading partner China, driving a hard bargain, has cut its orders of Iranian oil by more than half this month.

The economic sanctions and the oil embargo are a result of Iran’s nuclear program.  Although Tehran claims it is only for peaceful purposes, many other nations believe they intend to develop nuclear weapons.  Talks aimed at allowing UN inspectors into the country to visit the program broke down a year ago.

The oil embargo has already caused the price of crude to rise, and any embargo will be implemented in stages, to prevent a shock to the market.

In response to the proposed embargo Iran has been threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, and on Tuesday they threatened to take unspecified action if a US carrier group sails back into the Persian Gulf.

Washington, which has a carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis in the Arabian Sea, brushed off that threat and said its navy would continue to sail the strait.

What will happen if Iran follows through on it’s threat?  How high will the price of oil go if the embargo takes place?  Where will Europe and China go for ‘replacement’ oil?


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