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Showing posts from March 27, 2014

Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev

By Steve Weissman

If the US State Department's Victoria Nuland had not said "F**k the EU," few outsiders at the time would have heard of Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the man on the other end of her famously bugged telephone call. But now Washington's man in Kiev is gaining fame as the face of the CIA-style "destabilization campaign" that brought down Ukraine's monumentally corrupt but legitimately elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

"Geoffrey Pyatt is one of these State Department high officials who does what he’s told and fancies himself as a kind of a CIA operator," laughs Ray McGovern, who worked for 27 years as an intelligence analyst for the agency. "It used to be the CIA doing these things," he tells Democracy Now. "I know that for a fact." Now it's the State Department, with its coat-and-tie diplomats, twitter and facebook accounts, and a trick bag of goodies to build support for American policy.

A retired apparatch…

Japanese Aid and Investment in Africa

Historically, Japanese aid to Africa was split rather evenly between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Japan has multiple reasons for maintaining involvement in both of these sub-regions. However, the pattern of Japan's donations has changed since the global financial crisis. Not only has the aid come in bursts rather than a steady stream, but since 2008, Japan has shifted the bulk of its aid away from North Africa toward nine Sub-Saharan states, most of which are located in eastern and southern Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Cameroon and Cape Verde. Kenya and Tanzania have always been among the top beneficiaries, but in the past five years Kenya has received nearly half of the aid -- well above its historical average -- and Tanzania's share has grown considerably. Uganda, Mozambique and Mauritius have seen a much greater share of aid in the past five years than their historical average.

South Africa has long been Japan's major …

EU Links to Russia Will Constrain Actions Against Moscow

Several events from the past few days highlight the degree to which the Russian and European economies are intertwined and how, despite current frictions over Ukraine, both actors will maintain strong economic links. Citing energy and trade, tourism and infrastructure projects, many members of the European Union recognize the need to preserve their links with Russia and vice-versa. This will severely affect the European Union's next moves against Russia and limit the possibility of meaningful sanctions.

The South Stream pipeline project, which would transport Russian natural gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Austria, is a prime example of Europe's inability to present a coherent response to Russia. On March 26, Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said his country must look after its national interests, which include the South Stream pipeline. Questions over the fate of the project are only some of the…

Venezuela's New Economic Tool Could Advance Negotiations

Venezuelan bolivars and U.S. dollars in Caracas on March 24. (JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The new foreign exchange mechanism implemented by the Venezuelan government March 24 probably will relieve some of the demand for foreign currency, but it is only a short-term solution. The new mechanism, referred to by its Spanish acronym Sicad II, is one of three such currency exchanges used by the government to distribute foreign exchange. Sicad II could provide additional opportunities for elements of the political opposition to negotiate with the government for preferential foreign exchange allocation. Low-key negotiations between the government and the national business sector are already underway. If parts of the opposition become involved in meaningful negotiations over political matters, including an end to the protests, they may further divide the overall movement and cost the protests crucial political support.

Analysis


The Venezuelan government held the first currency auction …

Moldova Faces Russian Pressure Against EU Integration

Summary


As the standoff continues between Russia and the West over Ukraine, tensions have grown to encompass Ukraine's neighbor Moldova, which like Ukraine has been making efforts to integrate further with the West. Most recently, Russian military exercises held March 25 in Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria have stoked these tensions. Russia has many economic, political and security levers to employ in Moldova in response to its Western integration efforts, and Russia can use this leverage to destabilize the country, if not derail integration efforts altogether.

Analysis


Moldova was, after Ukraine, the most logical and likely country to experience a growing competition between Russia and the West over the former Soviet periphery. Moldova has made efforts to build closer ties to the European Union, primarily by working toward signing the EU association and free trade agreements. Moldova initialed these agreements at the November 2013 Vilnius summit, during which form…