Monday, March 03, 2008

The GWOT: All roads lead through Kosovo? Oil, gas, and Camp Bondsteel. Pt. 1

The AP reports:

"The surging price of oil reached another milestone Monday, jumping to an inflation adjusted record high of $103.95. The weaker dollar that has propelled oil and other commodities prices higher sent light, sweet crude for April delivery past $103.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That's the level many analysts consider to be the true record high for oil, after its $38 barrel price from 1980 is translated into 2008 dollars."

Apparently, this surge in oil prices has more to do with speculators trying to make money, now that the stock market has gone south, than it does with any lack of oil. However, there are always potential actual threats to the lifeblood of our economy to justify panicking. Like, Hugo Chavez sending troops to the border with Columbia or another gas dispute between Russia/Gazprom and Ukraine, for example. Or Nigeria falling apart or Iran acting up again or about a million other things.

My money is on gas issue; not necessarily in the short term but down the road . . . It's never good to be reliant on someone like Vlad the Impaler Putin for your electricity or heat.

The Australian reports:

"RUSSIA overnight sharply reduced gas supplies to neighbouring Ukraine in a debt dispute, prompting Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko to warn of a possible new 'gas war' with Moscow. . . Russian state-run gas monopoly Gazprom said it was forced to cut gas supplies by 25 per cent after Ukraine failed to pay a $US600 million ($645 million) debt, and that EU supplies would not be affected."

European supplies won't be affected yet, anyway.

If I were the government of France or the UK, for instance, I wouldn't be so confident of Dimitri Medvedev's reassurances about a steady flow of gas in the future. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the oil of the future, the major energy source Europe will be relying on for the next several decades and guess who controls all the pipelines from the source of the gas to the energy hungry markets of Europe? That's right: Russia/Gazprom.

This why Kosovo declaring independence comes at such a fortuitous moment. It just so happens most of the routes for new pipelines to supply the West with natural gas, including the US, coming on-line in the near future all seem to run near or right through the Balkans.

Allow me to explain . . .

Two events last week I found of interest coming on the heels of Kosova independence and the upcoming "election" of Putin's handpicked CEO of Russia/Gazprom this Sunday:

Feb 23:

"The United States Friday threw its full diplomatic weight behind the European Union's Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Basin to central Europe. A senior U.S. official said Nabucco was as important to the United States, to help European allies diversify sources of supply and reduce dependency on Russia, as the Baku-Tblissi-Ceyhan (TBC) oil pipeline had been in the 1990s. 'The Nabucco pipeline will be built, I am convinced, because it makes commercial sense,' Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza told reporters after talks with EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. 'We are trying to build on the success of the last decade and expand the infrastructure put in place with the same commitment, the same intensity,' he said."

Intensity is right!

Feb 25:

"Russia and Serbia signed Monday an agreement on implementation of a project to construct a pipeline for the transit of the Russian natural gas through Serbia to the Balkans and on to other European countries. The agreement was signed in Belgrade in the presence of the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica . . . The South Stream project envisions transportation of 10 billion cu m of Russian gas annually across the Black Sea. Russia's Gazprom Neft signed a deal on the purchase of a 51% stake in the Serbia state-owned oil monopoly Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS) during talks between the two countries' leaders in Moscow on January 25. Gazprom had reportedly offered $580 million for a 51% stake in NIS amid fears in Europe over perceived growing energy dependence on Russia."

The Russians/Gazprom are hell bent on keeping Europe hooked. They don't want any competition in the gas junky biz getting in their way.

Camp Bondsteel: America's bulwark in the Balkans.

All these countries sure are putting a lot of money and effort to build these pipelines, so there must be some plan to protect them, right? This is where Kosovo comes in. Back in '99 the US began building a military base in southern Kosovo to "keep the peace" in the Balkans after the Serbs withdrew. The question I always had was why was Camp Bondsteel so damn big to begin with?

From the World Socialist web site:

"Camp Bondsteel, the biggest 'from scratch' foreign US military base since the Vietnam War is near completion in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. It is located close to vital oil pipelines and energy corridors presently under construction, such as the US sponsored Trans-Balkan oil pipeline. As a result defence contractors—in particular Halliburton Oil subsidiary Brown & Root Services—are making a fortune. " [Iraq prequel?]

"Camp Bondsteel [CBS] is quite large: 955 acres or 360,000 square meters. If you were to run the outer perimeter, it is about 7 miles. Bondsteel is located on rolling hills and farmland near the city of Ferizaj/Urosevac. There are two dining facilities at Camp Bondsteel: one in North town and one in South town. The food is very well prepared and there are always a variety of main and side dishes to choose from. There are also salad bars, potato bars and multiple dessert offerings. Due to General Order #1, only alcohol-free beer is served, but it is better than nothing! There are set hours for meals, but each dining facility also has a 24-hour section for sandwiches, coffee, fruit, and continental breakfast items."

According to Stars and Stripes:

"KFOR has split what are now 16,000 troops into five brigade-sized task forces, each of which includes a different contingent of KFOR’s 35 NATO and non-NATO members. The U.S. is the lead nation for Multinational Task Force (East), which is headquartered at Camp Bondsteel. MNTF (E) also includes units from Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Ukraine."

That's a lot of troops for a country (if you want to call it that) with a population of about 2 million. What's the ratio for our troops in Iraq to the population? Ah, but there's more going on than meets the eye . . .

Pepe Escobar writes for Asia Times Online:

"Bondsteel . . . is a sort of smaller - and friendlier - five-star Guantanamo, with perks like Thai massage and loads of junk food. According to Chalmers Johnson in The Sorrows of Empire, 'army wags say facetiously that there are only two man-made objects that can be seen from outer space - the Great Wall of China and Camp Bondsteel'. Bondsteel will also double as Kosovo's Abu Ghraib - the largest prison in the independent entity, where prisoners can be held indefinitely without charges pressed and without defense attorneys."

If you'll recall, Khaled el-Masri, the German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA in May of 2004 was picked up in Macedonia, a stone's throw from Bondsteel. Swiss senator Dick Marty issued a preliminary report for the Council of Europe's investigation into CIA rendition and "black" detention centers in Europe in Feb. of 2006 which:

"Highlight[ed] the case of the US-run KFOR detention centre (Camp Bondsteel) in Kosovo. It acknowledges that the camp is not 'secret,' but there have been longstanding concerns about what takes place there: 'At the hearing with our committee on 13 December 2005 the commissioner for Human Rights repeated that the KFOR detention centre had ‘many parallels with Guantánamo: prisoners arrested without recourse to any kind of judicial procedure or legal representation.’ Camp Bondsteel is not open for inspection by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). This is despite the CPT legally having the right to inspect 'all places of detention in States Parties to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture (including Serbia and Montenegro), and which has not hitherto obtained authorisation to visit.'” [WSW]

[Note: The fates are conspriring against me today, so the parts about our support for Kosovar president Hashim Thaci (aka "The Snake") and his involvement with the KLA (UCK), which Clinton special envoy to Kosovo Robert Gelbard said in 1998 was "without a doubt a terrorist group," and the drug/human smuggling connection and Bubbah's ignoring al-Qaeda's help for the KLA, will have to wait until tomorrow or later on tonight, possibly.]


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