Italy has approved its closely-watched 2011 budget, which continues its austerity program that I have posted about previously. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s budget decreases spending in order to reduce Italy’s large deficit significantly, while further cracks down on delinquent taxpayers, ANSA, the Italian news agency, is reporting. The only taxes increased were on gambling, ANSA reported. Italy’s fiscal condition is of critical importance to Europe, which is trying to limit the fiscal contagion from Greece and Ireland, both of which have been bailed out by the European Union. Portugal is under the next most pressure, followed by Spain. The latter has by far the largest economy of the four European states under fiscal strain, and thereby poses the greatest threat of contagion. The Italian economy, the seventh largest in gross domestic product in the world, is significantly larger than Spain’s.
Nevertheless, Berlusconi’s government of faces a no-confidence vote on December 14 after the Speaker of Parliament had bolted from the Premier’s center-right governing party and is forming a centrist coalition to deny the government confidence, ANSA reported. In a parliamentary system, a government must resign if it loses a no-confidence vote. Elections would be called. A caretaker government might be formed in the meantime with or without Berlusconi leading it.
Recently leaked cables reveal that the United States suspected Russia of waging a sometimes violent campaign of aggression against Georgia since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, especially after the election of its pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakasvhili in 2004, the Washington Times reported. Russia had blamed the Georgians for provoking the war between the two states in 2008. The cables validate Georgia’s claims that the Russians had been supporting separatist movements in its southern neighbor in the Caucuses, which necessitated a Georgian defense. Russia was allowed to escape unpunished for the war in which it established puppet states in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are widely expected eventually to be assumed back into Russia. See also my post from April of 2009, NATO Forgives Russia for Georgian Invasion.
The new South Korean Defense Minister has threatened to bomb North Korea if the Communist state attacks South Korea again. His predecessor had resigned recently after being criticized for the government’s weak response to the latest North Korean attack, the first one that targeted civilians since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The bloody shelling of a South Korean island followed the North Korean sinking of a South Korean naval vessel by torpedo earlier this year, an attack for which North Korea was left unpunished, except by United Nations sanctions. The UN is not expected to increase sanctions on the rogue regime after the attack because of opposition from Communist China, Communist North Korea’s neighbor and ally. The South Korean threat of a reprisal represents a belated, but sharp shift from the accomodationist policies of the previous liberal government. The North Koreans are usually the ones doing the threatening on the Korean Peninsula. The Communist regime has become accustomed to bullying with impunity, at least in military terms. Sometimes, its threats have even been rewarded with appeasement from their southern neighbors and the United States. A South Korean threat against its northern neighbor might be what is necessary to deter a third attack from the North.