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Putin, Judo, Austria - Gazprom

by wegerje Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 10:43:12 AM EST

All in all, armed with the decisions of the trilateral Central Asian summit on May 11-13 (which cemented Russia's role in the export of Central Asian gas), Putin's visit to Austria has ensured that: (a) Gazprom is enlarging its market share in Austria; (b) Gazprom is gaining direct access to the European consumer; (c) Russia will use Austria as a transit corridor for capturing other European markets; (d) Washington's hopes regarding Nabucco suffered a setback; (e) Moscow will link up with the Balkan countries via Austria, defeating the US strategy of excluding Russia from the region.

In an article titled A pipeline into the heart of Europe likening the Russian moves to Judo expertise . . .
Not many people know that Russian President Vladimir Putin co-authored in 2004 a fascinating book on classical judo titled Judo: History, Theory, Practice. In his book, Putin describes how with "minimum effort, maximum effect", it becomes possible to bring your opponent flying on to the mat. The trick is to "give way in order to conquer".

When Putin flew into Zagreb last weekend, his words came to mind - instead of "digging in your heels and resisting your opponent's onslaught", you just unlock at the last minute, and your big and strong opponent, "not meeting any resistance and unable to stop", will lose balance and fall. It seems the bigger the opponent, the heavier he falls.

. . . M K Bhadrakumar writes an analysis of recent Russian moves in the energy arena in Asia Times.

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So is France Really about to Bushicize?

by wegerje Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 12:13:49 PM EST

I have actually met Diana Johnstone. Like myself, she is well above average height-wise. She is enough older than me, five to seven years (I'm 61) to have not been so swept up in a lot of the crazinesses of those times known as the 60's. She also probably had a much more solid grounding in left-wing politics. While my father was taken to socialist marches on his immigrant father's shoulders during the times of Wobbly strife in Chicago, he himself settled on a solid respect for FDR's role in the Great Depression. He died during my twenties, so I never got a real chance for a true peer exchange of political history from his perspective.

But I digress. I became a fan of Diana Johnstone from the days of her writing about Europe for "In These Times". She has always been a radical's radical. I fully realized that when she defended Serbia during the breakup of Yugoslavia. But if you don't already have an appreciation for Johnstone's political complexity I will not be able to do her justice.

So here's the point of this post. I am looking for some fine-tuning of the observations she and Jean Bricmont bring to the current presidential race going on in France. She says a lot of things in this article, "A Coming Political Tsunami", over at "radical" CounterPunch and I will blockquote a bit. But feel free to read and comment here on any part of the article.

Despite a dozen candidates to choose from, a striking aspect of this campaign has been the enormous number of undecided voters. This is an effect of the crisis of European democracy : more and more powers have been devolved to the central EU bureaucracy in Brussels, in general with the support of the Socialists and the Greens. The European left (especially the Greens) have defended this devolution as the necessary cure for "nationalism", condemned as the greatest evil. The result is that economic policy is firmly under control of powerful business lobbies intent on transforming Europe into a profitable field for financial investment, notably at the expense of wage costs, social welfare and public services. People recognize by now that no candidate can possibly redirect economic policy and therefore keep his social promises, whatever they are. The only autonomy left, assuming the European construction does not make further "progress" towards "integration", is in foreign policy, which, in France, is the prerogative of the president of the Republic. That is where a Sarkozy victory might make a big difference, since he would eagerly align himself with the U.S. and Israel.

The polls are made highly unreliable by the large number of undecided voters, not to mention those who refuse to tell the truth or who simply hang up on the telephone pollsters. It is by now well known that Le Pen's voters, in particular, are reluctant to reveal their true intentions.

So what can be expected on April 22 ? Le Pen may do well where least expected, in ethnically mixed working class areas, while possibly losing votes on his right to Sarkozy, who has been fishing in National Front waters. The radical left is too fragmented to fulfill the promise of the 2005 referendum movement. Royal has been playing too much to the center to gain "useful" votes from the radical left, although she will probably take votes away from the Green and Communist Party candidates, who appear to be heading for humiliating defeat. Still, the mainstream left once again risks not making it into the second round, and if it does, risks being defeated by Sarkozy.

The only candidate who, according to polls, has a good chance to beat him is Bayrou, whose electorate is the least stable. The worst case scenario, improbable but not impossible, would be a Le Pen/Sarkozy runoff, leading to a huge victory for Sarkozy. This would be the ghastly climax of a process that started with Mitterrand and led the left, including the CP, into increasing isolation from the working class.

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