Daily Archives: August 20, 2007

Madeleine Neighbor with Vital Information Never Questioned by Police

Mrs Fenn also told police that two nights before Madeleine disappeared she heard a child crying in the McCanns’ apartment. Her screams carried on from around 10.30pm to 11.45pm until family members returned from a night out.

Express | Aug 18, 2007


By David Pilditch

A British widow has come forward with new information which could help Portuguese detectives solve the mystery of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, the Daily Express can reveal.

Ex-pat Pamela Fenn, who is in her 70’s, has told police she has three “bombshell” clues she believes could be vital to the inquiry.

In the weeks before Madeleine disappeared Mrs Fenn scared off an intruder who had apparently let himself into her apartment with a key.

It was one of a series of similar crimes reported to Portuguese police.

In a second development Mrs Fenn’s niece reported seeing a man who matched the description of a suspect peering into the McCanns holiday apartment around the time Madeleine went missing.

And she revealed vital details of the movements of Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, and their holiday friends in the run up to the night of May 3 – when Madeleine vanished.

Incredibly Mrs Fenn, who lives in the apartment directly above the flat the McCanns were staying in, was never interviewed by Portuguese police, it was claimed yesterday.

It was only when a team of British officers were called in to help carry out a major review of the case that the information was acted on.

Now Mrs Fenn will be formally interviewed for the first time by Portuguese detectives at police headquarters in Portimao on Monday morning.

Her niece, who has not been named, will also give a sworn testimony next week, after she was asked to fly to Portugal from Britain.

The Daily Express can reveal they are among a series of witnesses will be called in to give statements in the light of new evidence which has emerged.

Detectives are preparing to swoop on new suspects after a breakthrough in a major new line of inquiry.

Investigators are now working on the theory Madeleine, four, died inside the holiday apartment where her family were staying.

A police source told The Daily Express: “Next week we will be taking statements from several witnesses.

“We want to clarify details which may be relevant to the new line of inquiry in the light of the facts we have found.”

Mrs Fenn has told police how she scared off an intruder she found in her apartment in the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz in the weeks leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance.

There was no sign of a break-in and police believe he may have used a key to get in through the front door.

The terrified mother was watching TV in the evening and went to investigate a noise coming from her bedroom.

Mrs Fenn, who has lived in Praia da Luz for a number of years, discovered a man scrambling out of the window.

She tried to grab his ankle but he escaped. She reported the incident to police but did not believe anything was taken.

Mrs Fenn told how she had a niece from Britain staying with her in the week the McCanns were on holiday there.

Her niece, who has now been interviewed by detectives in Britain, spotted a suspicious looking man hanging around the McCanns’ apartment around the time Madeleine disappeared.

She told the officer the man matched the description of a suspect seen by Jane Tanner one of the McCanns’ holiday friends.

Miss Tanner reported seeing the man rushing away from the apartment with a child wrapped in a blanket under his arm.

A second witness spotted the man minutes later rushing past the church in the resort and heading to the sea front.

The dark-haired man was wearing white trousers and a dark jacket.

Mrs Fenn also told police that two nights before Madeleine disappeared she heard a child crying in the McCanns’ apartment.

Her screams carried on from around 10.30pm to 11.45pm until family members returned from a night out.

A friend of Mrs Fenn told The Daily Express last night: “She is an elderly lady who is quite nervous and was very shaken up after the break-in.

“She was surprised that neither the police nor the McCanns had approached her for information before.

“Even though she lives in the apartment directly upstairs the police had never tried to get in touch with her to ask her if she saw or heard anything the night Madeleine disappeared.

“The first time a police officer spoke to her was when the British officers with sniffer dogs knocked on her door and searched her apartment.

“She told an officer what she knew and now she has been asked to make a formal statement.

“Portuguese officers have told her they will pick her up at 10am on Monday and drive her to police headquarters in Portimao.

“On the night she found an intruder she was sitting at home watching TV when she heard a noise in her bedroom.

“She went to investigate. The man must have heard her coming and was scrambling out of the window. She just saw the back of his head and arm and she tried to push him out of the window.

“She was shaking with fear and called the police. There was no sign of a break in and she thought he must have somehow come in through the front door.

“She now thinks the information may prove significant in the investigation.

“Her niece who lives in England was staying with her when the McCanns were on holiday.

“When details of a suspect were released a few weeks later the niece remembered she had seen a man fitting the description hanging around in the street outside the McCanns’ apartment.

“He was acting suspiciously and appeared to be looking into the window of the apartment. She has given a statement to police in Britain.

“Mrs Fenn says that two nights before Madeleine disappeared one of the children in the apartment was constantly screaming from around 10.30pm to 11.45pm.

“She was crying out for her dad and nobody answered until somebody returned.

“She remembers the times because she was talking to a friend back home on the phone and she was watching the news at 10.30pm.

“On the night Madeleine disappeared the first she knew of it was when there was a commotion downstairs.

“She looked over the balcony and saw the child’s mother. She was in a state of panic. She was repeatedly saying ’We’ve let her down. We’ve let her down.’

“All the people in their group were running in and out of the apartment. She asked someone if she should call the police and was told it had already been done.”

Last night Mrs Fenn refused to reveal details of her evidence.

Under Portugal’s strict secrecy laws witnesses are banned from speaking publicly about details of an on-going investigation.

But when she answered the door at her apartment yesterday she said: “I will speak to the police on Monday.”

Last night a Portuguese police source claimed officers had already been given statements by Mrs Fenn and her neice.

A police source said: “We have already spoken to them but they will be re-interviewed because of the new evidence we have.

“They are among a number of witnesses who we will talk to next week. They include employees from the Ocean Club.”

Police in Portugal are still awaiting the results of forensic tests carried out on two samples of blood found in the McCanns’ holiday apartment.

The source said friends of Madeleine’s parents who were on holiday with them when their daughter disappeared could also be questioned.

The source said: “It is possible the McCanns friends will be brought in again but not will not happen before we have received the results of the forensic tests.

“The results of the blood tests are important but the investigation does not hinge solely on them.

“The blood is just another clue that could help us in the investigation. If there are four or five major clues that is stronger than just two or three.”

Asked why the police had not carried out their weekly update meeting with the McCanns.

The couple reportedly asked for urgent showdown talks after reports were leaked to newspapers that police now believe Madeleine is dead.

Senior police chiefs later confirmed they are now working on that theory.

The source said: “It is not the McCanns who decide when we meet.

“We do that only when there is relevant information to tell them.”

A second holidaymaker told police an intruder used a key to enter her Ocean Club apartment just three weeks before Madeleine went missing.

The Scottish woman said that on the first night of her stay in Portugal,she and a friend returned to the flat to find their belongings and £500 worth of foreign money had been taken.

The woman said: “It was in the same block as the one where the little girl was taken from.

“The police were called that night. They told us that someone with a key had got into the flat. There’s no proof of that, but that was their opinion as there was nothing else disturbed. No broken windows, no forced entry.”

. . .


Widow Mrs Fenn told police that two nights before Madeleine went missing she heard a little girl in the apartment crying for over an hour. She said the toddler, who is believed to have been Madeleine, was crying “Daddy, daddy” constantly between 10.30 and 11.45pm. The crying had stopped when the parents returned to the apartment. On the night Madeleine disappeared, Mrs Fenn also heard a child crying, but it was when Kate returned from a nearby restaurant to check on her daughter that she was first aware something was wrong.

Accidental death new focus of McCann case
“They say that abduction is no longer the main lead and that accidental death is the strongest theory they are working on,” the anonymous source said. “The apartment is the key — all the answers lie there, they say – but they are far from resolving what exactly happened and why the body disappeared,” he told the British newspaper.

The Portuguese police hunting Madeleine McCann have been branded “Keystone Cops” by British officers shocked at their appalling blunders. Detectives from Leicestershire are said to be horrified that clues which could have led to the tot’s abductors have probably been lost forever. The British cops, drafted in to review the three-month investigation, were stunned by the “incompetence, inaccuracy and crass inefficiency” they found. “Local police appear to have been running around like the Keystone Cops without any proper co-ordination.”

Madeleine McCann’s parents told not to leave
“The answers to this case are all in the apartment”
Detectives now believe that abduction is no longer the main lead, and that Madeleine died in the apartment on the night she disappeared. The source said that the key focus is now the two-bedroom apartment in the Ocean Club, where the four-year-old disappeared on May 3. “The answers to this case are all in the apartment,” he said. He said: “It’s natural that in a crime of this nature more than one person took part. This analysis is not based on anything concrete, but rather on logic.

Police Claim They Know Who Killed Madeleine McCann
DETECTIVES leading the Madeleine McCann investigation now know the identity of her killers, it has ­been sensationally alleged. Reports in Portugal claim police are convinced the four-year-old died inside her family’s holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz – even though blood traces found […]

Sniffer dog detected scent of a body inside McCann apartment
After exhausting all leads suggesting Madeleine was abducted, police are now working on the theory she suffered an accident or was killed inside the flat. A British sniffer dog detected the scent of a body inside the apartment of Madeleine McCann, Portuguese police said today.

First DNA tests on ‘Madeleine’ blood completed
The most recent theories aired in Portuguese newspapers have suggested that Madeleine may have been killed in the apartment while the McCanns were enjoying dinner with friends nearby, then she was bundled into a sack weighed down with stones and thrown into the sea.

Police believe Madeleine McCann murdered at home, not kidnapped
“It is confirmed that there were vestiges of blood found in the apartment occupied by the McCanns,” Diario de Noticias cited unnamed police sources as saying. Diario de Noticas, a tabloid newspaper, claimed yesterday that police were “definite” that it was not a kidnap and that Madeleine died in her room.

7/7 victims launch legal action against govt

The group argue that the State has failed with its obligation to protect the right to life, citing former Home secretary Charles Clarke’s claim that two of the bombers were ‘clean skins’, meaning that they were not known to police and intelligence agencies previously, which as a result of the crevice Trial into Pakistani terrorists suspects concluded in April last year, was revealed as untrue.

TheLawyer.com | Aug 16, 2007

A group of survivors and relatives of victims of London’s 7 July 2005 bombings are to take legal action against the government to force an inquiry into the events of that day.

The group is being represented on a pro bono basis by London’s Oury Clark Solicitors, a 20-lawyer white collar crime boutique.

The firm released a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Secretary today setting out the legal case for the need to hold an independent inquiry, open to public scrutiny to allow for participation from the bereaved and survivors.

Their letter outlines their intention to pursue a Judicial Review if the Government continues to refuse to grant such an inquiry.

Solicitor advocate and senior partner James Oury said: “There needs to be a forum away from the executive to look at things in anobjective way, and find out if there was something that could have been done and how we could have improve those processes in future. The government has said that Britain could face a terrorist threat for a generation, so there is a genuine public interest at stake here.”

Oury argued that there is continued uncertainty over the events leading up to the attacks on 7 July 2005, and that an independent inquiry was an appropriate way to address this concern.

“Our clients have endured unimaginable suffering and it is unfair and inappropriate for the Government to force our clients into an adversarial, costly and complex court setting – a litigation corner”.

The group argue that the State has failed with its obligation to protect the right to life, citing former Home secretary Charles Clarke’s claim that two of the bombers were ‘clean skins’, meaning that they were not known to police and intelligence agencies previously, which as a result of the crevice Trial into Pakistani terrorists suspects concluded in April last year, was revealed as untrue.

It concludes that the intelligence and scrutiny Committees report published by government is therefore imperfect, and that in order to be seen to be accountable an inquiry is in the public interest.

. . .


James Oury LLB ACA, Solicitor – Advocate Higher Court Criminal Proceedings

Gordon Brown’s Frowning Achievement

Or maybe it’s a Clowning Achievement. This clown sure has some serious problems. He ain’t no smoothie like old Tony Bilderblair, that’s for sure. But what he does seem to have is an obsession with world government and proving that he can be just as sick and evil as his mentor. So he’ll do for the task ahead of completely dismantling British sovereignty, torching citizens’ rights, sweeping away their wealth and basically jabbing butcher knife right in the backside of  the Brits to satisfy his obviously festering vendetta against them.

Just another psychotic New World Order minion of the Illuminati ruling class.


Illuminati Gordon Brown

Vladimir Putin rearms his Cold War military

“They [the Soviets] intend to induce the Americans to adopt their own ‘restructuring’ and convergence of the Soviet and American systems using to this end the fear of nuclear conflict. Convergence will be accompanied by blood baths and political re-education camps in Western Europe and the United States. The Soviet strategists are counting on an economic depression in the United States and intend to introduce their reformed model of socialism with a human face as an alternative to the American system during the depression.”

– Anatoliy Golitsyn, The Perestroika Deception 1990


Russia’s planned military might

The Telegraph | Aug 19, 2007

By Gethin Chamberlain, Tim Shipman and Nick Holdsworth

In a hangar at an airfield 24 miles south east of Moscow, technicians were yesterday checking over the latest additions to the burgeoning military arsenal which a resurgent Russia hopes can restore its status as a major world power.

The MiG-35 and MiG-29 fighters which Russia plans to showcase at this week’s -Moscow international air show are just a small part of a £100 billion plan to return the Russian military to the heights of its Cold War might.

putin5On Friday President Vladimir Putin caused consternation by announcing the resumption of regular, long-range nuclear bomber patrols, but there is more to come; Russia is planning to double combat aircraft production by 2025 with more nuclear missiles, aircraft carriers and tanks at the top of Moscow’s shopping list.

The message to the West is clear: the days of being able to dismiss Russia as a spent force are over. Bolstered by the cash from sales of oil and gas and President Putin’s steely determination to re-establish the country on the world stage, the Russian -military machine is back in business.

Various theories have been put forward for the dramatic military expansion, not least the need to appeal to nationalists in the run-up to forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The real reason, however, appears to be that Russia has taken offence at what it regards as the West’s insulting indifference to its very existence.

Intelligence sources say Washington and London have been taken aback by just how seriously Russia has viewed the perceived slight and admit that in concentrating so heavily on Iraq and al-Qaeda, they took their eyes off the ball.

“They were slow to see that these people are still players,” said a former White House staffer, who served both Ronald Reagan and George Bush. “My great fear is that I wake up one day soon to discover that we lost the Cold War, or rather that like everything else, we won the war and then lost the peace.”

A source close to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who cut her teeth in government as a Kremlinologist in the Eighties, said that Middle East issues had diverted her attention from a more rigorous engagement with Moscow.

“She wants to spend more time on Russia but that hasn’t always been possible. She said to me that she regrets the fact that she has not done enough on what is, after all, her major area of expertise.”

The carefully-staged pictures of the president stripped to the waist and striking various manly poses on holiday in Siberia last week are not the only Russian muscle-flexing that has been going on in recent months.

While Russia’s submariners have managed to upset even the mild-mannered Norwegians and Canadians by planting a flag under the Arctic ice, its long range TU-95 Bear bombers have rattled America’s cage by buzzing its US naval base on the island of Guam in the western Pacific. The Georgians are furious after a Russian missile landed on the outskirts of a village near Tbilisi and a series of war games in Russia’s southern Ural Mountains featuring some 6,500 troops from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sparked Western concern over the emergence of a new Warsaw Pact.

The alarm may have sounded too late, however, according to Matthew Clements, Eurasia editor of Jane’s Country Risk. “I think what has not been seen is the way Russia perceives itself as a new, great power, and how it feels it has not been taken as seriously as it should be,” he said.

The latest developments have exacerbated an already tense situation. Russia has responded angrily to US plans to station an anti-missile system in the Czech republic and Poland by threatening to site its own missiles in Kaliningrad to counter the threat. Earlier this summer Mr Putin upped the ante by threatening to target US strategic nuclear sites in Europe. Tensions with Britain over the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko have prompted tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, while on Friday the BBC’s World Service was thrown off Russian FM radio.

The Foreign Office last week refused to be drawn on its attitude towards Russia’s newly-assertive attitude, other than to observe that “we are not alarmed”.

But perhaps the only positive that Britain can draw from Russia’s military resurgence is that its new Typhoon fighter aircraft, purchased at about £20 billion to counter a Cold War threat, might finally have found a worthy adversary.

Eight years ago, when -President Putin first came to power, the Russian military was in meltdown. The Russian army was crippled by low morale, the navy was rusting away and the air force was at half its Cold War strength.

But no longer. Russian defence spending rose by 22 per cent and 27 per cent in the past two years and could be up as much as 30 per cent this year. In February, Sergei Ivanov, then defence secretary and now one of the front-runners to replace Mr Putin next year, announced a £100 billion programme of expenditure. According to Jane’s Sentinel Country Risk Assessments, the Russian shopping list includes two new submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles, the Bulava and the Sineva, both with a 5,000 mile range and capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads, and a new anti-aircraft missile, the S-400, which the Russian ministry of defence claims is effective against incoming missiles.

It also plans to spend heavily on the new TU-160 strategic bomber, which can launch cruise missiles, the SU-34 “Fullback” fighter-bomber capable of all-weather attacks on heavily defended targets and a new fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, which is expected to come into service in 2008 as Russia’s main lightweight front-line fighter. The expanded Russian fleet will include six new nuclear powered aircraft carriers, it has just one at present, and eight ballistic missile submarines. Alex Pravda, a Russia expert at London’s Chatham House foreign policy think tank, said the new aggressive approach was typical Putin.

“He believes in fighting for your place in the sun and has said that nobody appreciates weakness. They are not looking for the imperial reach of the Soviet era. What they want is an international presence.”

But with Mr Putin unable to stand for a third term, his former defence secretary Sergei Ivanov is well-placed to benefit from domestic approval of the tough new stance when Russians go to the polls next March.

Whoever succeeds Mr Putin, the West is likely to have to accept that the balance of power has changed. As Mr Putin said when he announced the resumption of strategic bomber patrols: “Combat duty has begun.”

Vladimir Putin rewrites Russia’s history books to promote patriotism

“The Soviet strategy of ‘perestroika’ must be exposed because it is deceptive, aggressive and dangerous. Gorbachev and ‘glastnost’ have failed to reveal that ‘perestroika’ is a world-wide political assault against the Western democracies…. It must be revealed that ‘perestroika’ is … not just Soviet domestic renewal but a strategy for ‘restructuring’ the whole world…. Gorbachev’s renunciation of ideological orthodoxy is not sincere or lasting, but a tactical manoeuvre in the cause of the strategy. The Soviets are not striving for genuine, lasting accommodation with the Western democracies but for the final world victory of Communism…”

– Anatoliy Golitsyn, The Perestroika Deception 1990

The Independent | Aug 20, 2007


By Shawn Walker in Moscow

Critics are accusing President Vladimir Putin’s government of a Soviet-style rewriting of Russian history with a series of new “patriotic” textbooks to be unveiled in the new school year.

New laws passed this summer have given the government sweeping powers over which textbooks will be used in schools. Teachers and other critics have voiced concerns that this will allow the government to force the use of a single, approved book in each subject – essentially a return to Soviet practice.

Mr Putin has complained that the negative view of the Soviet past in current history textbooks is down to the fact that the authors received foreign grants to write them.

Now, the Kremlin claims it wants to change that situation and a recommissioning of Russia’s history textbooks is under way. A handbook for teachers, on the basis of which a future textbook for students could be written, is called The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006. Only one of the authors is a professional historian. The book calls Joseph Stalin a “contradictory” figure, and states that while some people consider him evil, others recognise him as a “hero” for his role in the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) and his territorial expansion.

“Learning history should make people feel part of the nation, but it depends on how it’s done,” said one history teacher from Moscow. “If the idea is to hide everything that was bad and only speak of strength and military victories, I’m not sure that this is the best way to create that kind of feeling.”

The law seems to have come from a meeting Mr Putin held with teachers when he lamented the state of history teaching in the country, saying that both society and teachers were “confused”. He called for a more patriotic approach to the subject.

Officially, little attention has been paid to the darker aspects of Russia’s Soviet past, such as the Stalinist purges or the deportation in appalling conditions of 3 million of its own citizens during the Second World War, with the focus instead on the strength of Stalin’s Soviet Union and the victory over Germany.

On 5 August, the Orthodox Church held a ceremony to mark 70 years since the start of Stalin’s “Great Purge”, but no government officials attended. Mr. Putin said that while 1937 shouldn’t be forgotten, other countries had behaved far worse, making references to Hiroshima and the Vietnam War. “We should not allow anyone else to make us feel guilty. Let them think about themselves,” he said.

Vladislav Golovanov, a history teacher from Yakutsk in Siberia, told Putin at the meeting that Russia’s history should help the country to be unified. The state should return to the teaching of history, he said, and ensure that it is used to instil a sense of patriotism and pride. “Our history should not be about self-flagellation.”

“In the official state view of history, the main event of the twentieth century is the victory in the Second World War,” said Boris Dubin, an expert at the Levada Centre think tank and polling agency. “The Holocaust is hardly taught at all in Russia, nor is the history of the gulag system. The rehabilitation of Stalin is connected to the emphasis on the war victory.”

The textbook’s final chapter covers Mr Putin’s rule. It describes the Yukos affair as a message from government to big business: “Obey the law, pay your taxes, and don’t attempt to rise above the state.” The message was heard, says the book. This or similar books could soon be the only option Russian history teachers have for use in the classroom.

Sino-Russian Coalition flexes military muscle

War games staged under the flag of Shanghai Co-operation Organization


Chinese soldiers march past the flags of SCO members during a parade to mark the end of joint military exercises in Russia yesterday.

Reuters | Aug 18, 2007


Russia and China staged their biggest joint exercises yesterday but denied this show of military prowess could lead to the formation of a counterweight to NATO.

The war games were staged under the flag of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO), a regional grouping that includes Russia, China and four central Asian states.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who watched the war games with Chinese President Hu Jintao, dismissed comparisons with NATO.

“Today’s exercises are another step toward strengthening the relations between our countries, a step toward strengthening international peace and security, and first and foremost, the security of our peoples,” Putin said.

Fighter jets swooped overhead, commandos jumped from helicopters onto rooftops and the boom of artillery shells shook the firing range in Russia’s Ural mountains as two of the largest armies in the world were put through their paces.

The exercises take place against a backdrop of mounting rivalry between the West, and Russia and China for influence over central Asia, a strategic region that has huge oil, gas and mineral resources.

Russia’s growing assertiveness is also causing jitters in the West.

Putin announced at the firing range that Russia was resuming Soviet-era sorties by its strategic bomber aircraft near NATO airspace.

Commanders said the aim of the exercises – involving 7,500 troops from SCO member states – was to practise joint operations for putting down a militant uprising.

Moscow has been fighting a separatist insurgency in its southern Chechnya region, while China says it is fighting Uighur Muslim rebels in its westerly province.

“I am convinced that the current exercise will definitely serve to stimulate the SCO to play a bigger role in the struggle against terrorism in the region,” Hu said.

Asked by a reporter if the SCO was turning into a counter-balance to NATO, Putin said: “That is not the case.

“The military aspect is not dominant and not the main thing. … The SCO is an organization that deals with questions of a political character and an economic character … and the economic aspects are at the forefront,” he said.

Marcel de Haas, an expert on security in ex-Soviet countries, said the war games, and the presence of SCO heads of state, was “another indication that they are slowly but surely working toward being a mutual security organization.” “We cannot neglect them. We have to pay attention.” But the senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael said the SCO was unlikely to turn into an anti-Western club.

“Russia wants to use the SCO for its anti-Western (aims) but the others will not allow it.” Building the alliance might be hindered by the ambiguous relations between Russia and China.

Moscow wants to supply energy to China’s booming economy and sell weapons to its military, but is also wary of Beijing’s growing economic and military might.

. . .


Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded on June 14, 2001 by the leaders of the China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The organization has denied that it is an emerging military bloc, but western speculation suggests that the SCO serves as a possible counterbalance to NATO.

Great powers cast bids for strategic Central Asia

At the heart of the teeming Kayal market in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, he hawks military uniforms from all three protagonists of a 19th century-style Great Game for control of the strategic region.

Daily Times | Aug 20, 2007

By Sebastian Smith

High energy prices also mean Russia is swimming in cash, allowing Moscow to take on China and the United States at their own game

IN the titanic contest for power over Central Asia between China, Russia and the United States, Akmamat Kasimov’s market stall must be the smallest battlefield.

At the heart of the teeming Kayal market in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, he hawks military uniforms from all three protagonists of a 19th century-style Great Game for control of the strategic region. Just 400 som, or 10.5 dollars, buys a set of Chinese camouflage trousers and smock. An authentic Russian army outfit costs double. Top of the range, the US version carries a price tag of 34 dollars. “The Chinese one sells best. It’s cheap,” Kasimov, 38, says.

Today those same three powers are engaged in an infinitely larger power struggle right across Central Asia. This often sparsely inhabited region of deserts, mountains and steppe boasts huge gas and oil reserves. It also links Europe, Russia, China, and the unstable Muslim world to the south, including Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.

As demonstrated in joint military exercises and a summit last week of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), China and Russia are working together to stem US advances into the region. But for all its vast open spaces, Central Asia may not be big enough for more than one great power and in a three-way struggle, analysts say, China could have the edge.

Unlike Russia and the United States, China has no military presence in the region, instead relying on the lure of the yuan. “China is quietly expanding through economic means,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, said. “They make no drama, but are persistent.” Look around any market in Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished country of just 5.3 million just across the Tien Shan mountains from China, and stands are awash with Chinese goods.

Trade turnover reached 2.8 billion dollars last year – nearly all of it Chinese imports – and, according to Chinese President Hu Jintao, leapt another 73.5 percent in the first half of this year. In the Kayal market, everything from sewing needles to fishing line and paint rollers is labelled in Chinese. At Kasimov’s booth, one shopper claimed even the US uniforms with their NATO labels were Chinese counterfeits.

“Well it says American, but it could be Chinese. Who the hell knows?” Kasimov responded. “We say it’s American.” While the Chinese fund and build infrastructure projects through Central Asia, then funnel their goods to new markets, the US is currently focused on maintaining military reach and lobbying for access to energy riches.

Crucial to the military presence is an airbase in Kyrgyzstan for planes supporting the war against the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. Neither Beijing nor Moscow wants the Taliban back and, while unhappy about the US base, they are toning down calls for Kyrgyzstan to follow Uzbekistan’s 2005 closure of a similar US air force facility.

“The US will strengthen itself in Kyrgyzstan. This is a forward post of a global strategy,” Kyrgyz political analyst Marad Kazakbayev says. According to Kazakbayev, Washington’s strategy is to deal with governments in Central Asia on a bilateral basis, not in blocs, in order to exploit the region’s often shifting alliances. “They tell these small countries: ‘Why should you do what China and Russia tell you to do? Be with us!’”

In addition to Kyrgyzstan, Washington has close relations with Kazakhstan, a major oil power, and is attempting to woo the reclusive leader of gas-rich Turkmenistan. But the military quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq are damaging US standing, while Washington’s lectures on democracy often fall flat in a region of strongman rulers, analysts say.

“There was Western momentum, but that has passed now and many aspects of Western policy are extremely unpopular,” said Oksana Antonenko, at the London-based Institute for International and Strategic Studies. Meanwhile, Russia still dominates existing gas and oil export pipelines out of the region. The most important new projects revolve around delivering Kazakh oil and Turkmen gas not to the West, but east to China.

High energy prices also mean Russia is swimming in cash, allowing Moscow to take on China and the United States at their own game. President Vladimir Putin promised Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev two billion dollars of investment last Thursday. Russia’s historic role as former colonial power can also be advantageous: while almost no one in the region speaks Chinese and only a small minority know English, Russian is the lingua franca for millions.

Even the president of Mongolia, which was not part of the Soviet Union, spoke fluent Russian when meeting Putin in Bishkek last week. In the flyblown bustle of Kayal, which means “dream” in Kyrgyz, Kasimov says his country is learning to ride the geopolitical wave. “It’s good in a way. They all come to help us,” he said, smiling. “Tell America ‘hello’ from me!”