Archive for the ‘resources’ Category

New Secretary Faces Fixing Under-Resourced State Department

November 15, 2008
On news that president-elect Barack Obama is considering Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of state, Fox News brought out Democratic strategist Bob Bechel this morning who asked, “What does Hillary really want to do?  Get more post offices for the finger lakes region of New York or, as Secretary of state, visit European capitols and China?” In my opinion, this is one of the key problems with the State Department.  The Secretary of State often enjoys being “diplomat and traveler in chief” but often ignores his or her role as a key department head of the U.S. government charged with actually managing the Department of State.  During Condoleezza Rice’s time this came to a head when several of State’s diplomats refused to go to assignments in “hot spots” like Iraq.  These “public servants” were mostly coddled and cajoled while U.S. military volunteers, who take the same oath of service as State’s employees, face discipline when they refuse orders or assignments.  The point is that the next Secretary of State will have to deal with Russia, Iran, Iraq, China, Pakistan the Middle East and a host of other ‘hot spots.”  He or she will have to also get and keep the State Department at Foggy Bottom in line, on track, and in order — or it will become foggier still….

 
Seal of the United States Department of State

 

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008; Page A04

The next secretary of state not only will face the challenge of repairing the nation’s tattered image and grappling with an array of global crises and hot spots, but also must solve a problem closer to home: reforming an under-resourced State Department to handle its growing duties, such as rebuilding war-torn societies, coping with worldwide pandemics and working with other countries to curb global warming.

“In the last eight years, we have significantly reinvented and transformed every national security agency except the Department of State,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Our core Foreign Service officers and aid officers are not large enough to play the role that’s been cast for them, nor do we have the training establishment to prepare them for their roles.”

Speculation swirled yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama might be ready to offer the secretary of state post to an instantly recognizable star, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). But other contenders apparently remain in the mix, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and retiring GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.). And after watching a administration whose tenure was marked by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world appears ready for the nation’s new top diplomat — whomever it may be — to lead the reinvigorated diplomacy Obama has pledged to deliver.

“The next president and the next secretary come into office at a time when our economy is in recession, our military is tied down and our reputation is tarnished,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Diplomatic tools are arguably the one set of instruments that are available. It’s a natural moment for American diplomacy.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/14/AR2008111403505.html

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Vietnam Tightens Oil, Energy Ties to Russia

November 8, 2008

Thirty-three years after the fall of Saigon, Vietnam is never far from the American psyche, as witnessed during the presidential campaign. In a frisson of nostalgia for what might have been, U.S. oil companies can only note with regret the announcement last week by the Kremlin that in the wake of talks between the Russian and Vietnamese presidents, their governments have concluded an agreement on further cooperation on geological exploration and hydrocarbon production by their Vietsovpetro joint venture.

For those with a sense of history and irony, in 1975, several months before the fall of Saigon, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin, commenting on Mobil’s and Pecten’s recent Dua-1X and BH-1X oil well discoveries in the South China Sea off Vietnam, opined that if the South Vietnamese government could hang on, oil revenues from the new finds could benefit from the surge in oil prices in the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo to finance the war.

By John Daly
UPI
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Western geological exploration of South Vietnam’s offshore South Continental Shelf began in the late 1960s. Mobil and Shell subsidiary Pecten drilled offshore in the Nam Con Son and Cuu Long basins and found the largest oil fields in the South China Sea. The prize that they uncovered was significant, with Nam Con Son estimated to contain 20 percent and Cuu Long 30 percent of Vietnam’s total hydrocarbon resources. But the course of the war meant that changing military and political realities would shortly overwhelm both the South Vietnamese government and the dreams of the Western energy concerns.

Saigon fell on April 30, and Martin evacuated on the last helicopter to leave the embassy. Vietnam’s new government immediately canceled all foreign concessions granted by the now defunct South Vietnamese government, leaving Mobil with lost millions in investment and a bunch of now useless geological data.

Visiting Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, left, hands ...
Visiting Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, left, hands over a medal to Russia’s OAO Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in the Moscow Kremlin on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008. Russia and Vietnam agreed Monday to boost their energy cooperation and explore new prospective oil fields.(AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Read the rest:
http://www.upi.com/Energy_Resources/2008/11/07/Analysis_Russia_and_
Vietnam_deepen_energy_cooperation/UPI-59391226098887/#top

Russia pushes an ‘OPEC’ for natural-gas nations

October 30, 2008

The nations with the world’s three biggest reserves of natural gas – Russia, Iran, and Qatar – are quietly moving ahead to form a “gas OPEC,” an organization modeled after the oil cartel.

By Fred Weir
The Christian Science Monitor
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In Tehran last week, representatives of the Russian natural-gas monopoly Gazprom met with counterparts from Iran and Qatar and agreed to create “a big gas troika.” The group will meet quarterly to discuss pricing and supplies. Between them, these three countries hold an estimated 55 percent of known global gas reserves. The possibility of a cartel has long been opposed in Washington and European capitals.

The new cartel plan may be finalized Nov. 18, when Russia hosts a forum of gas-exporting countries in Moscow, including possible additions to the group such as Algeria, Indonesia, Libya, and Venezuela.

For Russia, which blames the US for causing the current global financial crisis and the attendant collapse of oil and other commodity prices, forging new energy-based international relationships holds political promise. “There is a clear desire in Moscow to work toward breaking what it perceives as US dominance of the world economy, but it’s way too soon to predict where this global crisis is leading,” says Masha Lipman, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “If the US should really go into decline, I suppose we shall see new groups of states, and new contenders, come forward.”

As global energy prices plunge, cooperating with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to stabilize markets has gained fresh traction in the Kremlin while the long-discussed idea of creating a “gas OPEC” of leading producers is suddenly getting a big push from Moscow.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/2008
1030/wl_csm/oredopec_1

Dying China oil town a warning to Beijing

April 17, 2008

By Emma Graham-Harrison

YUMEN, China (Reuters) – Dying towns are rare in booming China, but the expanses of rubble and abandoned homes that ring the once-wealthy oil centre of Yumen mark it out as one of them.

And though it is home to just a few thousand people, in a nation of over 1.3 billion, Beijing‘s stability obsessed bureaucrats are fretting about their fate.

A statue is seen near an abandoned apartment block on the outskirts ...
A statue is seen near an abandoned apartment block on the outskirts of the oil-producing town of Yumen, Gansu province.(Emma Graham-Harrison/Reuters)

They worry because Yumen’s poor, disgruntled inhabitants are the thin end of a wedge of discontent that could engulf hundreds of thousands of people within a decade unless the central government can tackle one of the more obscure but troubling legacies of past socialist policies.

The potential troublemakers live in dozens of “resource towns” scattered across China, which were built by Mao-era economic planners to exploit energy or mineral deposits regardless of how remote or inhospitable the location.

Now some seams of oil, coal and ores are starting to run out, pushing up unemployment and migration while leaving behind shells of towns that are impoverished tinderboxes of unrest.

Yumen is one of many resource towns that should probably never have existed, clinging to….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080417/lf_nm/energy_china_poverty_dc_4

Opposition to Iraq war is divided after 5 years

March 13, 2008

By Susan Page
USA Today
March 13, 2008

WILMINGTON, Del. — Five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Bree Tease is trying to balance the obligations she feels to Iraqis and to the children whose needs she sees every day in her fourth-grade class.

“Over here, there are so many ways we could use that money,” the teacher, 27, says. “But then I think about the poor families and children in Iraq, and they didn’t do anything wrong.” If U.S. troops withdraw, Iraq could fall into chaos. So should they stay? “You have to leave at some point,” she says, uncertain over when.

Read the rest:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-12-warpoll_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Spratlys: China Worried At Nervousness Over Seismic Survey

March 13, 2008

By TERESA CEROJANO,Associated Press Writer 

MANILA, Philippines – China said Thursday it is concerned that controversy over its joint study with the Philippines and Vietnam to find possible petroleum reserves in the disputed South China Sea may harm relations with Manila.
Photo
A Chinese patrol boat.
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Filipino lawmakers have filed several bills in Congress calling for a probe into the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking to see if it compromised their country’s sovereignty and territorial claims to portions of the Spratly Islands.

The move follows media reports that the agreement covers Philippine territory not even claimed by China, and was allegedly signed in exchange for Chinese loans for overpriced projects.

The three-year seismic survey that ends in June 2008 is intended to detect petroleum reserves in the South China Sea. The possibility of oil and gas revenues is one reason why the remote Spratlys are under such dispute.

Read the rest:
http://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/ap/20080313/tap-as-gen-philippines-china-spratlys-fe2a5de.html

Putin: Persistent, Popular, Pugnacious…Paranoid

February 20, 2008

By David J. Smith
Tbilisi 24 Saati
February 18, 2008

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two farewell performances—farewell as president, anyway—revealed no new substance.

Instead, his February 8 Development Strategy to 2020 speech and his February 14 mega-press conference showcased a persistent, popular and pugnacious Kremlin strongman who increasingly defines Russia in terms of foreign bogymen.

Take heed.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Владимир Владимирович Путин
Vladimir Putin

Putin’s twelve-year strategy—to use his word—must have brought a smile to the face of anyone nostalgic for Soviet times. It was stuff worthy of a Communist Party Congress: denunciation of earlier times, glowing progress report, indignant criticism of unnamed officials, frank talk of what is yet to be done and a pinch of paranoia.

Putin’s Russia is looking more-and-more Soviet—or maybe some of us are only now noticing how Russian the Soviet Union was.

These days, of course, Putin mixes capitalist and socialist themes. Investment, stock market capitalization and GDP are all skyrocketing.

And Russia has made major advances in machine building, transportation, housing, education and health care. One expected happy peasant girls to dance across the stage, their baskets brimming with food for the people!

However, Putin’s February 8 speech was more notable for what it did not say. Russia’s soon-to-be prime minister failed to mention Dmitry Medvedev, the man he chose for Russians to elect as president on March 2.

Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev
Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев

Medvedev, it seems, has little to do with Putin’s strategy to persist in the Kremlin.

In his 4½-hour Saint Valentine Day press conference, though, Putin managed a few words about Medvedev. Prime Minister Putin will place President Medvedev’s picture on his wall. “We will establish our personal relations,” said Putin, “I assure you there will be no problems here.”

There will be no problems because Putin reread the Russian Constitution to achieve an understanding that had eluded him during eight years as president. “The highest executive authority in the country is the government, which is led by the prime minister.”

Putin’s Duumvirate with Medvedev may change some of the Kremlin’s personal dynamics and style, but he said, “If I see that in this post I can continue realizing these goals, I will work as long as possible.”

Though Putin’s switcheroo may appear odd to some westerners, his persistence in the Kremlin is fine with most Russians.

With the presidential election less than two weeks away, Medvedev shuns campaigning and debates, counting on Putin’s popularity to elect him president. Expect him promptly to appoint Putin prime minister.

With this kind of popularity, it was appropriate for Putin to give his Castroesque press conference on February 14. An adoring Russian journalist even passed him a Valentine Day present—a wire service photo captured Putin leaving the stage clutching the pink and red heart.

In this loving environment, concern for the integrity of elections and the scrutiny of foreign observers is misplaced. Indeed, there will be no observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the foremost election observation group.Asked about the OSCE spurning the March 2 presidential election, a pugnacious Putin replied, if the election monitors want to teach something, “Let them teach their wives to make shchi.” (Shchi is a Russian cabbage soup.)

And there was plenty more in that vein.

Asked about reports of corruption, he replied that these were rumors that journalists “picked from a nose and smeared onto their papers.”

One might dismiss these remarks as crude muscle flexing for domestic consumption, but Putin’s pugnacity sparks greater concern when considered with his apparently growing paranoia in the international arena.

“I cannot but say a few words…about our foreign policy strategy,” said Putin toward the end of his strategy speech. No foreign policy strategy followed—nothing about trade, neighbors, world peace, climate change or any of the usual foreign policy topics.

Instead, Putin recapitulated his familiar grievances against the west: American missile defenses in Central Europe, “a new spiral in the arms race,” purportedly violated treaties and NATO enlargement.

Then he added, “A fierce battle for resources is unfolding, and the whiff of gas or oil is behind many conflicts.”

In his press conference, Putin connected western criticism of Russian elections with disagreement on Kosovo: “Who is going to listen to Russia’s position on Kosovo if Russia itself is supposedly an undemocratic country?”

On most of these matters the Russian position is just plain wrong.

On Kosovo, Moscow has a point, but stupid western diplomacy is just that, not an anti-Russian plot. Criticism of Russia’s democracy deficit is well founded and unconnected to Kosovo.

But cogent arguments only detract from the image Putin is creating. “We are effectively being forced into a situation where we have to take measures in response, where we have no choice but to make the necessary decisions.”

One cannot escape the fear that Putin is not cataloging Russian foreign policy challenges—or even grievances—but defining Russia by his paranoia.

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David J. Smith is Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington.

Peace and Freedom wishes to thank Ambassador Smith andMr. James T. Hackett who made use of this article on the internet possible.

Understanding China’s Hunger for Oil

January 28, 2008

China’s search to gain and maintain access to energy sources is increasingly influencing China’s foreign policy.  China is discussing options for a Persian Gulf naval base and is embroiled in an increasingly ugly dispute with Vietnam over oil reserves beneath the sea floor.

We have two reports at our flagship “Peace and Freedom” website.  See:
http://peace-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2008/01/understanding-chinas-hunger-for-oil.html

China closes 11,000 mines in safety crackdown

January 13, 2008

BEIJING, China (AP) — China has closed more than 11,000 small coal mines as part of a two-year-old safety crackdown aimed at stemming the industry’s high death toll, the government reported Sunday.
art.china.mines.afp.gi.jpg

Chinese mining claimed 3,786 lives in 2007, an improvement on 2006 but still the worst record globally.
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The total of 11,155 represents 45 percent of all small mines slated for closure, according to a report on the central government’s official Web site.

Reasons cited for closure include failure to obtain proper permits or safety equipment, causing undue damage to the environment, and exclusion from government economic plans.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/01/13/china.mines.ap/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Related:
China’s coal mines kill 3,786 in 2007

Fighting Inflation, China Freezes Energy Prices

January 9, 2008
January 9, 2008
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BEIJING — Prime Minister Wen Jiabao responded Wednesday to growing public anxiety about inflation by announcing that China would freeze energy prices in the near term, even as international crude oil futures have continued to surge.The new effort to fight rising prices comes with inflation hitting an 11-year high in China. A recent nationwide public opinion survey found that “rising prices of consumer goods” ranked as the top public concern, followed by income inequality and corruption.

The latest freezes, announced on the government’s main Web site, came after Mr. Wen presided over a Wednesday meeting of the State Council to revise policies on price controls.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/business/worldbusiness/09cnd-yuan.html