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Moscow strengthens presence in U.S.’ backyard

Alex Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune
MOSCOW—When the Bush administration dispatched two U.S. warships to the Black Sea to deliver humanitarian aid to war-stricken Georgia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted with indignation and a warning.

“There will be an answer,” Putin said during a visit to Uzbekistan. Asked to elaborate, he replied, “You’ll see.”

This month, the Kremlin has made it clear what Putin meant. It deployed two Russian strategic bombers to Venezuela to patrol Caribbean waters earlier this month, and on Monday it dispatched a navy squadron to Venezuela for military exercises.

The appearance of the Tu-160 bombers and the expected arrival of four Russian warships in a Latin American country run by one of the Bush administration’s most outspoken foes, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, marks Moscow’s clearest signal yet that it intends to ramp up its influence in Latin America if Washington persists in setting root in territory the Kremlin regards as its backyard.

“It may look unfriendly to Americans, but now you can have the same feeling as we had in Russia,” said Andrei Klimov, a Putin loyalist and deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee for the Duma, Russia’s lower chamber of parliament…
(23 September 2008)

US generals planning for resource wars

Dr Tom Clonan, Irish Times
The US military sees the next 30 to 40 years as involving a state of continuous war against ideologically-motivated terrorists and competing with Russia and China for natural resources and markets, writes Tom Clonan

AS GENERAL Ray Odierno takes command of US forces in Baghdad from troop surge architect Gen David Petraeus, America has begun planning in earnest for its phased withdrawal.

The extra brigade combat teams – or battlegroups – deployed to Iraq by Petraeus have already withdrawn and a further 8,000 troops have been diverted to Afghanistan.

In January, the next president of the United States will conclude America’s timetable for withdrawal in final negotiations with the Iraqi government.

Further evidence of America’s future military intentions is contained in recently published strategy documents issued by the US military.

Under the auspices of the US department of defence and department of the army, the US military have just published a document entitled 2008 Army Modernization Strategy which makes for interesting reading against the current backdrop of deteriorating international fiscal, environmental, energy resource and security crises…
(22 September 2008)

Pakistan’s Zardari Tries to Keep His Distance from US

Omar Waraich, Time
It was supposed to be a triumphant week for Asif Ali Zardari. Inaugurated as Pakistan’s new President on Saturday, the sharp-suited, silver-tongued and often controversial widower of Benazir Bhutto was then to fly to New York City to make his debut on the world stage by addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Instead, he finds himself struggling to maintain his political footing in the face of contending pressures that threaten to knock him off balance.

Hours after his inauguration, “joy was turned into grief,” as he put it, as a massive explosion ripped through the Marriott Hotel in the heart of his capital, killing 53 people and injuring over 250 in what local media dubbed “Pakistan’s 9/11.” The shock and anger provoked by the attack did spark a long-overdue debate on the increasingly lethal threat posed by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants sheltering in the mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border and in the scenic Swat valley — not just to NATO forces in Afghanistan but also to Pakistan itself.

Still, Zardari finds himself precariously balancing, on the one hand, growing demands from Washington for more sustained and decisive action against the extremists, and on the other, widespread opposition at home to Pakistan’s involvement in the Bush Administration’s “war on terror.” Former President Pervez Musharraf once described it as a delicate art of “tightrope walking”; the problem for Zardari is that the rope is fraying and the winds are growing fierce. According to a June poll conducted by the International Republican Institute, 71% of Pakistanis oppose Pakistan’s cooperation with the U.S. against Islamist militants. For critics of the policy, it has always been “an American war” forced on an unwilling country, and they blame it for bringing the Afghan conflict over the border and encouraging a wave of terrorism in Pakistan’s major cities. …
(24 September 2008)