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Der Spiegel: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role

SPIEGEL Staff (Germany)
The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. Still, this is no time to gloat.

There are days when all it takes is a single speech to illustrate the decline of a world power. A face can speak volumes, as can the speaker’s tone of voice, the speech itself or the audience’s reaction. Kings and queens have clung to the past before and humiliated themselves in public, but this time it was merely a United States president.

Or what is left of him.
(30 September 2008)

The Geopolitics of Energy: A Systems-Thinking Approach

Jeff Vail, blog
Here’s my presentation from last week’s ASPO conference in Sacramento. I’ve taken my speaking notes and turned them into a narrative after each slide, so the text is probably quite close to what I actually said. Here’s the PowerPoint file if you’re so inclined. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki–though I’ve given innumerable Power Point presentations in the past, in the spirit of continual innovation I tried some of his “Top 10” format for this presentation and I’ve received nothing but positive feedback.

Jeff Vail is an energy intelligence analyst with experience in infrastructure protection, electronic warfare, and the theory of rhizome organization.
(29 September 2008)

After war, Russia’s influence expands

Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor
… Though Moscow threw relations with the West into crisis by striking with massive force when Georgia attempted to seize breakaway South Ossetia in August, the impact in Russia’s turbulent, multiethnic northern Caucasus appears to be in the Kremlin’s favor – at least for now.

Many experts in North Ossetia, the most important of the seven ethnic republics in this troubled region because of its historic and current loyalty to Moscow, say Russia would have risked disaffection if it hadn’t acted to protect South Ossetia.

Some add that the Kremlin should now allow North and South Ossetia to unite, creating a pro-Moscow Ossetian republic that straddles the Caucasus Mountains, to enhance stability in the whole region.

… The biggest winners in Russia’s war against Georgia may turn out to be the Ossetians, who number less than 1 million, in the two republics. Many here believe it’s a matter of time before their divided nation is united under a 2001 Russian law that permits outside territories to join the Russian Federation. Unification would make the Ossetians Moscow’s bridgehead into the energy-rich and strategically important south Caucasus, which includes independent Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
(3 October 2008)

Tension as EU monitors enter Georgia

Vanessa Mock, The Independent
The start of a European Union mission to monitor Russia’s promised troop withdrawal from Georgia got off to a nerve-racking beginning yesterday because of last-minute taunts by Moscow, and remaining doubts over its ultimate chances of success.

More than 200 peacekeepers are being deployed under a French-brokered ceasefire to force Russia to pull back its troops from buffer zones inside Georgia by 10 October. But the launch stuttered when Moscow refused to allow the monitors access to what it calls the “security” area, citing technical issues related to the peace agreement.

The peacekeepers, led by France and Italy, were eventually able to reach their regional headquarters yesterday, but full access remained an issue. The head of the mission, Hansjoerg Haber, said that assurances given by the Kremlin were “understood differently” by the military on the ground, amid reports that some observers were forced to turn back from border regions.

The EU hopes to set up a “step by step” withdrawal of Russian troops and a simultaneous return of Georgian police to avoid a security vacuum, which could play into the hands of roaming militias. But its longer-term success is a greater gamble as it will depend if peacekeepers are able to go beyond the buffer zones, and into the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia, whose troops arrived in August after Georgia sought to retake South Ossetia, has recognised the independence of both territories and has defied all calls to withdraw its troops. Instead, it says it plans to post more than 7,000 to “guarantee security” in those areas. ..
(2 October 2008)