Burmese Nuclear Ambitions

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The Norwegian paper Morgenbladet today carries a worldwide scoop: the first interview (Burma’s worst enemy) provided to the Western press by Sei Thein Win, a former major in the Burmese army who defected months ago. What makes what he has to say so remarkable is that he was – or he claims to have been – deeply involved in an alleged campaign by the military junta in power there to develop atomic weapons.

As written, the piece is really something out of James Bond. “I’m not really here” Sei tells the Morgenbladet journalist, who cannot be permitted to provide any outside details whatsoever of the defector’s location, to protect him against Burmese assassination-teams scouring Europe to find him. But we do get some internal details: the locale is an anonymous apartment where even the landlord is not allowed to know who his tenant really is; the major sports long hair quite unsuited to the military man that he once was, along with glasses that are for disguise, not actual use; the living room is “furnished with military minimalism” that includes only a table, a computer, a book of “Business English verbs” – and a razor-sharp dagger.

And inside his head is copious information that he has already spilled about the Burmese government’s attempts to develop its own nuclear weapons. He has brought along “hundreds of photographs” as well. The regime back home has already denounced him as a “deserter and criminal”; on the other hand, no less than Robert Kelley, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), calls him “a source with truly extraordinary information,” information which happens to be consistent with the other evidence investigators have accumulated about the alleged Burmese nuclear effort. Kelley himself has already heavily relied on Sei Thein Win’s account for a report he brought out last May under the imprint of the dissident TV/radio station Democratic Voice of Burma (based in Oslo – there’s the Norwegian connection), entitled “Nuclear Activities in Burma” (whose short version is available here for you on the Scribd site).

It’s damning testimony. Then again, it’s (so far) based on only one witness. Can he be trusted? How will the world’s great powers react? And what will “M” say – especially when he learns that the account on the Morgenbladet’s website is but an abridged one, that the full Norwegian article on Sei Thein Win is only to be found in today’s printed edition?

Miss Moneypenny, get our man in Oslo on the line immediately! Not so fast, Chief. Turns out that the Independent newspaper has grabbed the full Norwegian piece and – with some shifting words-and-phrases around – brought it out in English.

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Deep Purple Funk

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Next Monday, 11 February, is promising to be quite an eventful day on the Gazprom front – that’s of course the gigantic Russan natural gas company, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, of which the Russian government owns a majority stake. On the one hand, it’s the same-old same-old, what we’ve all seen before, for Monday is the day that Russia, speaking for Gazprom, will cut off all natural gas supplies to the Ukraine due to alleged non-payment by the latter of $1.5 billion. Curiously, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has been scheduled for some time to arrive in Moscow for a visit on Tuesday. At least he’ll be glad to be away from his native country and someplace instead where it’s actually warm inside the buildings, though one can imagine that the diplomatic talks he will engage in might still be rather frosty.

But that is all par for the course for a European winter; I can remember recently thinking to myself “Hmm, it’s already February – shouldn’t we have had the regularly-scheduled Russian energy cut-off crisis by now?” More interesting is that next Monday is also the evening of the going-away concert in honor of Dimitri Medvedev – Gazprom chairman now, but Vladimir Putin’s “recommended” candidate for president of the Russian Federation at the upcoming March 2 elections, and therefore also a shoo-in as the next Russian president. The concert will be headlined by the legendary English rock-n-roll band Deep Purple, and this was recently commented upon in the New York Time’s weblog “The Lede: Notes on the News,” by Mike Nizza, who notes that Putin himself will surely be present as well. (more…)

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Blind Love

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

Another change-of-pace here at EuroSavant today – but we love to keep you all off-balance, after all. Today’s subject is the “sex scandal” currently embroiling Britain. And today’s text, for once, is itself in English and from an American newspaper, namely a recent entry (Anatomy of a Political Sex Scandal) in the “World Opinion Roundup” series Jefferson Morley writes regularly for the Washington Post. That “sex scandal” involves David Blunkett, who is Britain’s Home Secretary (i.e. the cabinet minister in charge of law-and-order and internal security, the equivalent of the Attorney General in the US). Morley’s piece will give you all the links that you need to articles in the British press examining various facets of this case, from various points-of-view. And even now, a couple days after it first appeared, none of the links have yet gone dead. (more…)

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Prodi Goes Off Berlusconi-Hunting

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

The new European Commission started work today – finally. They were supposed to start work on November 1, but got held up by one Rocco Buttiglioni, the Italian Commission candidate who was supposed to get the Justice and Home Affairs portfolio. In nomination hearings before a European Parliament committee, Buttiglione was not shy in setting forth his personal value-system in which homosexuals are sinners and women encouraged to stay home and care for the children. Those sorts of sentiments just won’t do for the EU of the 21st century, to the extent that if the Parliament had no other choice but to reject the entire new Commission proposed by Commission President Jose Manual Barroso in order to keep Buttiglione from taking his place within it – and, the way the EU’s rules now stand, it didn’t – then fine, they were willing to reject the entire new Commission. Barroso pulled back from this brink and managed to get rid of Buttiglioni and find another Italian much more to everyone’s liking.

The new token Italian – but Italians, don’t get offended: every one of the 25 member-states gets a “token” of its own on the Commission – turned out to be a very safe choice, namely Franco Frattini, or the Italian government official who is supposed to be most congenial to foreigners, that is, the foreign minister. (more…)

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Another Casualty of Brussels: Tony Blair

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

You’re probably aware that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was hurried from Chequers to the hospital last Sunday suffering from chest pains and an irregular heartbeat. (You may or may not know that, at roughly the same time, his colleague, finance minister, and possible rival, Gordon Brown, was at a hospital in Scotland doting over his newly-born son.) Now, where did that come from? Tony Blair is renowned, among other things, for his rude health – a fact that was confirmed on a BBC World Service broadcast from earlier this week, in which one of his close acquaintances spoke of his diet of fruit, the Downing Street treadmill that he uses regularly, and his low weight for his height.

Maybe it was the coffee, that strong stuff that Blair’s Belgian hosts served at the end of last week at the European Council. At least that’s what Blair himself thinks, according to this article (“Bitter Blend” from The Independent, and therefore in English), which I was alerted to by this article in the Danish newspaper Politiken. Turns out he simply drank too much of it. And doctors quoted in that Independent article confirm that too much caffeine can indeed trigger the heart complaint that Blair was discovered to be suffering from – but that it can also “come out of the blue.”

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Poles in Iraq V: The Poles Get a Break

Wednesday, August 27th, 2003

I’ve always envied Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry‘s seemingly endless supply of “alert readers,” ready to send word to him whenever they catch sight of any phenomenon out there having to do with the subject at hand – in Dave Barry’s case, namely the bizarre. But now even I am starting to attract “alert readers,” one of whom pointed my attention to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent about how the Americans are not ready yet to give up to Polish-controlled forces quite all of the vital sector that is supposed to be entrusted to them as of 1 September, not in light of recent troubles within that sector.

Of course, the “€S way” is to take any such English-language reporting as merely an initial guide, and then to go seek confirmation and possible amplification in the relevant foreign press. Sure enough, Gazeta Wyborcza also recently had an article telling about, and analyzing, this new development. (more…)

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Draft Euro-Constitution Stirs Up British Hornets’ Nest

Thursday, May 29th, 2003

Today’s subject is the new EU constitution, which was released to the public this past week in four installments, and specifically about the reaction in the country where that has been most vociferous – namely the United Kingdom. Yes, this once again means a weblog entry that belies EuroSavant’s self-description as “Commentary on the European non-English-language press.” But the unveiling of the EU Constitutional Convention’s draft constitution has converged with an outbreak of public discussion over British adoption of the euro – ahead of Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown’s speech scheduled for June 9 as to whether the country is at the stage where a referendum over the euro would be appropriate – to produce some truly noteworthy reporting and commentary to which I thought I would draw your attention. Even NATO does not escape unscathed. (more…)

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Eurovision: Turkey Tops, Great Britain Null

Monday, May 26th, 2003

Time now to switch from overtly political subjects – the lifting of Iraqi sanctions at the UN Security Council – to a phenomenon which may seem apolitical (in fact, it’s downright shmaltzy) but which contains within itself potentially very serious political implications. I refer here to the Eurovision Song Contest, which came to its conclusion on Saturday night by declaring the Turkish entry, “Everyway [sic] That I Can,” sung by Ms. Sertab Erener, the winner of the 26-nation competition. (Those of you from outside of the European continent who don’t know what I’m talking about – or, bless you, even those of you who actually live in Europe but still haven’t a clue – click here for an explanation.) That Turkey would win – and for the very first time in the contest’s 48-year existence – is serious enough. Really: serious. I’m working on an essay on the subject, to tell you what I mean. When I post its link to the left side of this website under “My Articles,” I’ll re-edit this entry to announce this and give you the link directly.

But right here I’d rather like to call your attention to the other end of the scale, namely the very bottom, occupied for the year 2003 by Great Britain whose entry, the song “Cry Baby” by the boy-girl duo JEMINI, came in dead last with zero points. (more…)

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