America: Securing Energy Needs

Seemingly unrelated events of last week suggest considerable trouble ahead for U.S. vital interests. As President Bush puts the finishing touches on his plans for a new strategy for waging the War for the Free World, he had best make sure he focuses not only on Iraq and Iran (as recommended in this space last week) but on energy security, as well.

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Consider the following developments:

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Is the E.U. America’s Friend or Foe?

On May 1, 2004, ten new countries,[1] with a com­bined population of 74 million, became members of the European Union, bringing the total E.U. popula­tion to 454 million. This means that the E.U. now has a population more than 50 percent larger than that of the United States. And with Romania and Bulgaria joining on January 1, 2007, another 30 million will take that to 484 million.

The European Union now stretches from the Latvi­an–Russian border in the east to Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland, and from the Arctic wastes of Fin­land and Sweden in the north to Cyprus in the south.

The question which I wish to pose is: Is the E.U. America’s friend or—dare I say it—foe?

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Risks, Perils and Potential Disasters of 2007

Middle East Online From the worsening of the Middle East to the worsening in the horn of Africa; from the potential of an Israeli-American attack on Iran to the overarching anarchy from a lack of global leaders with vision and influence, Patrick Seale offers a dire look at the problems in the New Year.

Although peering into the fog of the future is always a hazardous business, it would not be rash to say that, of all the potential man-made catastrophes that might afflict the world this coming year, for sheer destructiveness none would surpass an American/Israeli attack on Iran.

To be effective, an American/Israeli strike against Iran would have to destroy its nuclear facilities but also its ability to hit back, meaning its entire military-industrial complex.

Is such an attack probable, or even possible? Regrettably, it is.

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Syria’s forgotten — but dangerous — nuclear program

WASHINGTON – The Iraq Survey Group is calling for open negotiations with Syria, but new reports show that Damascus is up to no good. Indeed, while world attention is rightly focused on the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea, Syria has been quietly — but quickly — advancing its own secret nuclear program.

The first signs appeared in 2003 when the Russian Foreign Ministry inadvertently revealed that a Russian-Syrian agreement for the delivery of a nuclear power plant in an undisclosed Syrian location had been signed.

In 2004, Syrian President Bashar Assad made a point to say that Syria would not dispose of its WMD program until Israel did the same. “Since some of my country is occupied,” Assad added, “Syria can legitimately use all the necessary means to liberate its territories.”

German magazine Der Spiegel revealed in March 2004 that Swedish authorities and the CIA were investigating a very likely Syrian nuclear program secretly developed in Homs in the northern part of the country. That July, investigators looking into the Pakistani nuclear network of A.Q. Khan pointed out that Syria may have procured centrifuges capable of enriching uranium to produce a bomb.

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North Korea “grave threat” after nuclear test: Seoul

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea on Friday termed
North Korea a grave threat, a further sign of the deepening chill in relations between the two since Pyongyang’s nuclear test nearly three months ago.

A defense white paper used some of the harshest language to describe its communist neighbor since the South tried to set aside decades of outright hostility toward the North with the diplomacy of what Seoul dubbed its “sunshine policy.”

“Considering the seriousness of the North’s nuclear test and its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) threat, this edition of the white paper specified the North as a grave threat,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

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Belarus-Russia gas dispute threatens Poland, Europe: officials

WARSAW (AFP) – The dispute between Belarus and Moscow over natural gas prices threatens the energy security of Poland and the rest of Europe, an official at the Polish foreign ministry has said.

“This problem poses a threat to us and this is why we have had heated debate in the past few months about Polish-Russian relations and relations between Europe and Russia,” Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal said Wednesday.

“Energy security today is a fundamental issue for Poland and we want to convince the rest of the world that it is also fundamental to Europe. This example is yet another illustration,” he said.

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China’s military spending to reach $36bn

China’s defence spending is expected to reach Rmb283.8bn ($36.4bn) this year, up nearly 15 per cent from last year, according to rarely released government data that are likely to heighten concerns over Beijing’s military build-up.

The boost in funds, which many experts argue greatly underestimates actual military expenditures, is aimed at modernising the 2.3m-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a nimbler, more technologically-advanced entity, said a white paper released by the government yesterday.

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Guide to Taiwan flashpoint

Taiwan has one of Asia’s few functioning democracies and one of its strongest economies. But for the island’s 23 million people, the future is overshadowed by an unresolved dispute with China.

China sees the island as a breakaway province which should be reunified, by force if necessary. Hundreds of Chinese missiles now aim across the Taiwan Strait to bring home the point.

Both sides are used to dealing with this fraught relationship, and closer economic ties may eventually make conflict less likely. But until that happens, any flare-up over Taiwan would have much wider implications. Most importantly, it could quickly suck the US into conflict with China, because of US security assurances to Taiwan.

The BBC News website looks at the issues behind what some analysts see as one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

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China Offers Glimpse of Rationale Behind Its Military Policies

BEIJING, Dec. 29 — China warned Friday that the military landscape in northeast Asia is getting “more complicated and serious” because of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and tighter defense cooperation between Japan and the United States.

The Chinese views on regional security, articulated in a government white paper on national defense, provided a rare glimpse into the strategic assessments that underlie decisions and priorities of the secretive Chinese military and the Communist Party’s policymaking Central Military Commission.

In part, the paper was designed as a response to repeated complaints from the Bush administration that China has not explained the rationale behind its long-term military improvement program. China’s announced military budget has risen about 10 percent a year recently, reaching $35.4 billion in 2006, and Pentagon specialists estimate that also counting equipment expenditures would more than double it.

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