Communist Tax Lawyer

A news, research and discussion platform for monitoring the evolution of Communist and ex-Communist countries to market economies


American Hopes Dashed as Kyrgyz Parliament Confirms the Closure of U.S. Air Base

February 20th, 2009

The Obama Administration has maintained hope that Kyrgyz government officials would reconsider shutting down the Manas Air Base as the U.S. makes plans for an additional 17,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan. The Kyrgyzstan parliament, however, voted yesterday in favor of closing the base to U.S. forces, giving America six months to withdraw from the facility.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev first announced plans to close down the air base following a summit in Moscow, during which Russia pledged more than $2 billion in aid to the country. Nato and U.S. officials believe that this is a strategic move by Moscow to reassert their influence over the region and force foreign military presences to deal directly with Russia.

“What Moscow is after is the tacit recognition that Central Asia is Russia’s strategic area, so that the next time the U.S. wants to do something militarily with the people in the region, it will first come to Moscow,” said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Russia Looks to Asian Markets for Energy Sales

February 19th, 2009

Sakhalin 2, Russia’s new $22 billion liquefied natural gas plant, opened this Wednesday – following Russian interest towards Asia and away from Europe. The plant, constructed on Sakhalin Island north of Japan, has greatly increased Russia’s ability to supply natural gas to their cash rich neighbors to the southeast as financial markets to their west dry up and deals become less lucrative.

Operated by the British-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell, and majority owned by Russia’s Gazprom, the plant will supply five percent of the world’s total liquid natural gas by 2010 and is Russia’s largest energy enterprise supplying Asia. Japan and China are to be the likely recipients of the bulk of the plant’s output, but futures contracts have been made to ship Russian gas as far away as the United States.

Furthermore, Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, has recently accepted a $25 billion loan from the China Development Bank that will send 300,000 barrels of oil a day to China over the span of 20 years.

Council on Foreign Relations – China, Satellites, and the Future of Military Operations

February 19th, 2009

Author Bruce W. MacDonald of the Council on Foreign Relations has come out with an interesting overview assessing the future of military operations in space. The report comes in the wake of China and the United States’ successful use of anti-satellite weapons over the last two years.

Satellites have become a vital part of modern military operations, providing information and intelligence to armed forces across the globe while working from a remote location. As other nations develop similar devices to be deployed in space, the growing need for cooperation and regulation on these matters is needed.

The report calls for the development of “space diplomacy” to counter the troubling idea of space conflicts as countries construct sophisticated weapons that extend beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Secretary of State Clinton Travels to Asia Next Week

February 18th, 2009

In her first overseas trip as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton will be visiting Japan, South Korea, China, and Indonesia starting this Sunday. The choice of Asia as the location for Clinton’s first tour underscores how important the Obama administration holds future U.S. relations in the region, and rightly so. Many Asian economies have featured rapid growth and military expansion over the last few decades as they profit from an abundance of natural resources and increases in foreign direct investment.

The United States also plans to use its diplomatic presence in Asia to counter China’s growing influence in the region, particularly in Southeast Asia. Countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have seen a notable expansion of Chinese commercial interests in their countries, and the support of the United States as a counter-force is reassuring.

Georgia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia to Meet Foreign Delegations in Geneva

February 18th, 2009

Georgia and the former Georgian republic of Abkhazia are seeking to renew security talks in an upcoming summit in Geneva. The conference will include delegations from the U.S., Russia, the EU, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the UN, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Previous talks were abandoned in 2006 as relations between the two sides worsened regarding Abkhazia’s southern most district of Gali.

South Ossetia, another former Georgian territory, will also send a delegation to Geneva to participate in the talks. This will be the fifth meeting of nations following the war between Russia and Georgia over the region during August of this past year. Russia was largely condemned for its invasion of South Ossetia and, so far, Nicaragua is the only other country to recognize South Ossetia or Abkhazia’s independence.

Khmer Rouge Trials Begin

February 17th, 2009

Trials began today for the first member of the former Khmer Rouge regime to face a mixed Cambodian and international criminal court on charges of genocide. Kaing Guek Eav, the former warden of S-21in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, has been indicted on charges that include crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions. At least 1.7 million Cambodians died between 1975-1979 at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from execution, disease, starvation and overwork.

The news of the trial’s start made headlines in the country, and people were feeling “very numb,” Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, where about 20 members of the public had gathered to watch the televised proceedings, told CNN.

In memory of those who were lost:

As a child trying to understand the Khmer Rouge regime, I had many questions about the strange world that had overtaken my homeland. At twelve years of age, during the Khmer Rouge regime, I asked my older sister, Chea, a question in the hope of understanding our pain and the loss of those I loved. He answer became the seed of my survival, planted by a sister who I idolized.

“Chea, how come good doesn’t win over evil? Why did the Khmer Rouge win if they are bad people?”

Chea answered: “jchan baan chea preah chnae baan chea mea,” which means “Loss will be God’s, victory will be the devil’s.” When good appears to lose, it is an opportunity for one to be patient and become like God. “But not very long, p’yoon srey,” she explained, and referred to the Cambodian proverb about what happens when good and evil are thrown together into the river of life. Good is symbolized by klok, a type of squash, and evil by armbaeg, shards of broken glass. “The good will win over evil. Now, klok sinks, and broken glass floats. But armbaeg will not float long. Soon klok will float instead, and then the good will prevail.”

From “When Broken Glass Floats” by Chanrithy Him

China’s Minmetals to Buy Oz Minerals for US$1.7bn

February 17th, 2009

Citing the best interest of its shareholders, Australian based mining company Oz Minerals has agreed to sell their company to China’s Minmetals in a deal reportedly worth US$1.7 billion.

The deal comes as commodity prices continue to drop in response to the global economic downturn. Last week, Oz Minerals stated that commodity price-falls have led to an asset depreciation of almost US$1.3 billion.

Approval by Australian foreign investment regulators is still pending, which would make the deal between the two companies official.

“Minmetals intends to continue to operate Oz Minerals’ portfolio of assets, and its acquisition will provide the opportunity to support the development of Oz Minerals’ assets and projects,” said Zhou Zhongshu, chairman of Minmetals.

Annual Delegation from the Vatican Meets in Hanoi

February 17th, 2009

A diplomatic delegation from the Holy See arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday for the Vatican’s 16th annual visit to the country. Their arrival, however, comes at a time of discord between the Vietnamese government and the Catholic Church – a result of recent protests by Catholic followers regarding the confiscation of Church property.

“Many properties that once belonged to the Church have been administered by the State on the grounds that they were needed for social purposes. Even when their purposes are no longer met, the buildings are seldom returned to their owners,” said Fr. J.B. An Dang.

Yesterday and today, the delegation from the Vatican will be meeting with government authorities at the Foreign Ministry and the Central Committee on Religious Affairs to discuss future diplomatic relations between the two parties.

Controversial Writer Stabbed During Public Reading in Beijing

February 16th, 2009

Noted Chinese author Xu Lai was stabbed in the stomach when two men accosted him in the bathroom during a public reading in Beijing this Saturday. A long-time reporter, novelist, and blogger, Xu has developed a following among China’s more progressive citizens in response to his often critical satires portraying Chinese current affairs.

Some of Xu Lai’s recent article topics include censorship, the melamine milk scandal, and the recent fire at the CCTV tower in Beijing this past week.

Friends and associates of the writer speculate that the attack may be one of retribution due to the nature of his articles. Xu Lai’s editor, Xiao Sanlang, has also said that the men responsible for the attack had said they were “here to take revenge.”

While Xu Lai remained in the hospital on Sunday, his wounds are reportedly not life-threatening.

After 46 Years, America May Lift Ban on Travel to Cuba

February 16th, 2009

Introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act may lift America’s current ban on travel to Cuba – a measure which has been in effect since 1963.

The current ban, firmly supported by former U.S. President George W. Bush, makes few allowances for Americans to travel to Cuba. Aside from journalists and researchers, exceptions are currently made for Cuban-Americans who may only return home to visit direct relatives once every three years. Those who don’t have direct relatives must obtain special authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Current U.S. President Barrack Obama has a more receptive stance regarding Cuba.

“We’ve been engaged in a failed policy with Cuba for the last 50 years,” Obama said to a crowd in Miami during his presidential campaign this past year. He also expressed a willingness to meet with Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, to discuss the future directions of the two countries.

The result of bi-partisan efforts between democrats and republicans, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would allow all Americans to travel freely to Cuba and may signify a step in the right direction between two countries that have been at odds for almost 50 years.