By opening its doors to India, Iran and Pakistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will increase its legitimacy and effectiveness among regional and international powers, and enhance its power posture in the international scene. An observation of the map of the Eurasian region, which includes the members as well as observers of the group, clearly shows the interconnectedness of the whole region. The famed Silk Road stands witness to this connectivity and places like Kashgar, Samarkand and Bukhara in the region were once centres of this Silk Road trade.
Russia will open its first military airbase in Belarus before the end of this year, air force commander Lieutenant General Vladimir Bondarev said Tuesday. The base will be near the city of Lida close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania, both of which are NATO members, Bondarev said in a report carried by Interfax. Lida was chosen for the base, which will host Su-27 fighter jets, because of it already has appropriate facilities, Bondarev said.
Eurasian specialist Paul Goble warns that the politically volatile situation of the Central Asia’s nine exclaves is “heating up”. He attributes it to the recent political actions of the regional governments, people within the enclaves, and the Russian government. If this trend continues, there is a “risk that one or more of them will become a “Central Asian ‘Karabakh’”. Some regional analysts suspect regional governments may have an interest in intensifying ethnic tensions for their own political purposes.
Addressing the Russian National Security Council meeting on May 8, President Vladimir Putin said that the forthcoming departure of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan confronts Russia with a more precarious situation on its southern borders. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the General Staff since November 2012, who was also present at the meeting, had announced last month the formation of a Special Operations Command — Russia’s version of SOCOM.
Not much time is left until 2014, when the withdrawal of NATO anti-terrorism coalition troops from Afghanistan is expected to take place; however, it still remains unknown what type of military contingent will remain in Afghanistan and Central Asia thereafter and which countries of the region will be selected by the West for this purpose.
The fact that military contingents will remain not only in Afghanistan but also in the region is doubtless and is openly stated by officials. On Tuesday, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said the fact of the coalition’s presence in Central Asia is unequivocal, adding that it is still not decided on what other transit points and bases will be maintained in the region.
Russia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday. The moves would increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, viewed by Moscow as a buffer between Russia and NATO, and could unnerve neighboring members of the Western alliance.”We have begun considering the plan to create a Russian air base with fighter jets here,” Shoigu said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk.
China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly. At the same time, some observers express concern that the project may stoke local resentment, or become enmeshed in political infighting. The refinery in Kara-Balta, about two hours west of Bishkek, is expected to produce 600,000 tonnes of fuel annually, enough to end Kyrgyzstan’s dependency on Russian imports.
According to the explanatory memorandum to the bill that President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma, FSB operatives are now being dispatched to foreign states for up to six months “to provide advice and guidance to their intelligence and law enforcement agencies in conducting operational, search and other special activities.” For the time being, those detachments will be sent only to Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Kyrgyzstan. The goal is to give them the opportunity to serve as permanent advisers.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Turkey was seriously considering becoming a member of the SCO instead of continuing its efforts to join the EU.
‘The European Union needs to stop stalling us,’ Erdogan said. ‘We have a strong economy. I told [Putin], “You should include us in the Shanghai Five [the former name of the SCO] and we will say farewell to the European Union.” The Shanghai Five is much better off economic-wise. It is much more powerful. We told them, “If you say come, we will”.’
Will armies battle each other, as the cry for “blue gold” gets furious? Will “water wars” be as prevalent as conflict for the “black gold” of oil? Two documentary films have wetted public interest – Blue Gold: World Water Wars, and Last Call at the Oasis, and a dystopia novel – The Water Wars – warns of its imminence.
In actuality, history’s pages are already splashed with dozens of conflicts. In 2,450 B.C. the Sumerian cities of Lagash and Umma warred over Tigris-Euphrates water. More recently, Senegal and Mauritaniabattled in 1989 over grazing rights in the Senegal River Valley – hundreds were killed, 250,000 fled their homes. The Pacific Institute provides an excellent map and timeline of 225 water skirmishes.
In 2012, all five Central Asian republics managed to avoid major crises and political cataclysms.
As 2011 drew to a close, experts inside and outside the region predicted threats to regime security associated with the spread of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic radicalism and leadership change — particularly in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where the incumbent presidents are well into their seventies. None of these fears materialised.
Kyrgyzstan, whose economy heavily depends on a single gold mine’s production and funds sent home by migrant workers and lacks the energy reserves of some of its neighbors, is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Republics.
Apart from widespread poverty, another key problem in the country is drug trafficking and consumption. The country is situated on the so-called drug trafficking Northern Route, transporting drugs from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe. More than 20 percent of the trafficked drugs remain in Kyrgyzstan.
A close adviser to the Russian president said the Kremlin was paying close attention to “events” in former republics of the Soviet Union. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Security Council of Russia, said the Kremlin is keeping a close eye on potential “color revolutions” in former republics. “Events are in motion in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine; we’re dealing with it every day. Are these (events) a danger for us? Yes,” he was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.
THE ex-Soviet states of Central Asia are engaged in an increasingly bitter standoff over water resources, adding another element of instability to the volatile region neighbouring Afghanistan.
Plans in mountainous but energy-poor Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for two of the world’s biggest hydro-electric power stations have enraged their powerful downstream neighbour Uzbekistan which fears losing valuable water. Russia as well as the other Central Asian states of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are also being pulled into a dispute which dates back to the allocation of resources when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.
Russia will hold the talks on the establishment of the CSTO military base to strengthen its position in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The purpose of establishing the base is not only to implement its military ambitions, but also prevent the creation of a radical Islamic Fergana caliphate. Also needed is control over a reliable highway, which will bypass the territory of Uzbekistan, for the 201st military base’s material and technical supply chain from South Siberia in Tajikistan and of course, to prevent the expansion of China’s military and political capabilities in the region.
Next year Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will receive the latest Russian weapons worth $1.1bn and $400m, respectively. Why is Moscow arming Uzbekistan’s neighbours? Russia is expected to start its first weapon supplies to Kyrgyzstan as early as in the spring of 2013. Russia is expected to provide military aid for Tajikistan too.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are landlocked and mountainous countries—75% and 90%, respectively—in Central Asia. The countries’ mountains provide abundance of potable water, which feed the two major rivers of Central Asia. The scarcity of other natural resources understandably results in Bishkek’s and Dushanbe’s attempts to use the water more wisely—building hydropower plants (HPP) for generating electricity.
A court in Kyrgyzstan on Friday charged three opposition nationalist members of parliament with attempting to stage a coup after they led a crowd which tried to storm government headquarters in a protest over a Canadian-owned gold mine. The charges followed a protest on Wednesday during which demonstrators demanded that the state should nationalise the Kumtor gold mine
It seems that a possible U.S. attack on Iran is at hand. In recent days, Iran is making frantic efforts to find allies to repel aggression. Last week, Secretary of Defense Persian state A. Vahidi made a sensational statement. According to the head of the military department, it’s time to create a “military alliance of Muslim countries to reflect external aggression to them, and to protect the Palestinian people.”
Observers immediately drew an analogy with the Russian-led military-political alliance CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization Security) and was named the alleged formation of a new “Islamic CSTO” . Recall that now the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty includes six countries: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan .
The fighting is the most severe in Tajikistan for almost two years and will worry Western politicians who are counting on the former Soviet state to act as a bulwark against any surge north by Islamic militants when Nato forces withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014.
The Associated Press news agency quoted a Tajik security service officer as saying that 20 soldiers had been killed in gun battles around the town of Khorog, near the border with Afghanistan.
Central Asia’s strategic value came to prominence after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the start of the Afghan war. Before then, the region was known for its considerable natural resources but otherwise rarely mentioned. Today, however, these countries are relevant beyond their oil and natural gas reserves. Both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have hosted—and the latter still does—U.S. military installations in support of Afghan combat operations. Moreover, the region has been a vital component of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which is used by NATO to transport almost all non-lethal and some lethal supplies to Afghanistan.
Central Asian presidents are deeply worried about the potential contagion and effects of the “Arab Spring” events in their countries – which could spark a democratisation process aimed to modify the political status quo – mainly because they fear to lose their power: moreover, the potential overthrow of their secular governments, a following condition of prolonged instability and uncertainty could draw up a kind of power vacuum which radical Islamist forces could dangerously fill.
Russia’s plan to use regional organizations as levers in Central Asia has some flaws, argues Richard Weitz.
Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) highlights the growing influence of this often overlooked Moscow-led military alliance in Eurasia. But it also underscores the limited ability of Russia to dominate the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Even more, it indicates how the typical “great game competition” framework for analyzing great power competition in the region is misleading.
All Central Asian countries suffer from pervasive corruption, acute income inequalities, political succession problems, and transnational criminal groups that cooperate more effectively than the region’s frequently feuding governments do. Deteriorating public services contributed to the overthrow of Kyrgyzstan’s government, and could lead alienated citizens to support extremists.
All five countries have yet to fully recover from the disintegration of Soviet infrastructure networks, and require urgent domestic and region-wide measures to strengthen their education, transportation, energy provision, health care, and other public services. And their myriad interdependencies increase the risks of transnational threats, such as disease outbreaks, and resource-related confrontations.
Armed forces from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states will hold the “Peace Mission 2012″ drill in Tajikistan from June 8 to 14, Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun announced Thursday.
The drill is a joint anti-terrorism military exercise launched under the SCO framework, Yang said, adding that the drill will involve more than 2,000 military personnel from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Yang said the drill will focus on the preparation and implementation of joint anti-terrorism action in mountainous areas in the context of a regional crisis incurred by terrorist activity.
In his turn, Omurbek Babanov, the first deputy prime-minister from Kyrgyzstan, has suggested that the proposed SCO Development bank could be helpful for implementation of major regional scale infrastructure projects, such as high-voltage power lines or the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan rail road construction. Whereas the Tajikistan’s prime-minister Akil Akilov believes that such a bank should provide support and incentives for weaker regional economies.
Wen Jiabao, the chairman of Chinese State Council, has urged to provide for free transit of goods, capital and services through the SCO territories, along with faster development of the regional infrastructure networks for transportation, energy and communication. In turn, China has committed itself to offer soft loans in support of infrastructure projects in the SCO states.
Russia has given a call to speed up the process of India and Pakistan’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an intergovernmental mutual-security organisation, RIA Novosti reported.
The call was given by Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while participating in a meeting of foreign ministers of the SCO member states in Beijing Friday.
He also said delaying the decision on their membership was “counterproductive”.
The SCO, set up in 2001, includes Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The economy of Ukraine lost its leading positions due to color revolutions. Georgia lives on credits. All these make successful future of these countries doubtful. Kyrgyzstan has ongoing permanent revolution and livelihoods of people do not improve from that, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev said in an interview with the Russia-24 television channel.
When asked about risks of recurrence or continuation of color revolutions in the CIS region, Nursultan Nazarbaev said some attempt was observed after the presidential elections in Russia, but color revolutions, their first wave, lost their strength, since the population of the post-Soviet countries became cold eyed.
On April 12, 2012, the Seventh Meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils of the SCO Member States was held in Beijing. Chinese State Councilor Meng Jianzhu chaired and spoke at the meeting.
Meng Jianzhu said that China is the rotating presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year. The 7th Meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils of the SCO Member States, which marks the prelude to a series of SCO summits, has laid a solid foundation for the successful holding of the SCO summits this year and for the Organization to better perform the functions of safeguarding regional peace, security and stability in the next 10 years.
Since the government of Uzbekistan’s economic and budget reports are unreliable, making proxy indicators about the only things that allow for any kind of realistic assessment of the government and country’s financial health. The latest sign of the Uzbek government’s poor financial health is the news that teachers and doctors in Vobkent district of Bukhara province have beenpaid a portion of their salaries in the form of chickens.
Public sector workers get 10 chicks each under the initiative, launched after cabinet ministers in February urged regional governments to boost domestic production of poultry, eggs, meat, and vegetables.
Russia is playing a careful balancing game in Central Asia – stirring up worries about the U.S. military presence is just part of the game.
In keeping with their post-Soviet realpolitik, Russian officials consistently voice support for NATO’s Afghanistan mission. After all, they don’t
want NATO forces to withdraw from Afghanistan too soon for fear that the Afghan War burden will be dumped on them. But should the alliance’s stabilization effort succeed, Russians will be the first to demand the departure of Western troops. And in the meantime, Russian officials are determined to constrain NATO’s military presence in Eurasia by making it dependent on Moscow’s goodwill.
The 3rd Millennium crusaders US, UK, France and other NATO members along with their ‘democracy lover’ Arab clients in Gulf Cooperation Council, Riyadh and Qatar with an Islamists ruled Ankara have been halted at Homs in Syria with stiff military ,political and strategic resistance internationally by Moscow and Beijing in UNSC and elsewhere. The delicate task of defusing the violent conflict situation and then working out some solution to save face has been entrusted to Kofi Annan; former secretary general of UNO, not Washington’s favorite .Kofi had described US led 2003 invasion of Iraq against the UN Charter and hence illegal .So an agreement on Annan is a significant trend in itself.
The South Caucasus can no longer be viewed as a region in regard to which the balance of forces is arranged. The states of the south Caucasus were not given the opportunity to be more independent, their policy was practically aimed at the external actors.
In the course of a number of years the impression was that the United States and Russia mostly had shared goals. Now one can claim confidently that the United States, Russia and other great powers were interested in limited factors of the states of the South Caucasus because not only the possibility of ousting their opponents but also the possibility of holding active operations of political and military character is there, having a larger scale of importance than just regional.
Statements from Kyrgyz officials about U.S. forces vacating the Manas air base have made the news often in recent months, but in recent days Russia is facing problems over its use of bases in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan’s president brought the subject of Russia’s unpaid rent for use of a base in his country during a February 23-25 visit to Moscow. Now Tajikistan is bringing up the subject of rent for Russia’s use of bases on its territory.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Tajik Service on February 28, Tajik Ambassador to Russian Abdulmajid Dostiev said his country and Russia are preparing to extend Russia’s use of three bases in Tajikistan for another 49 years. Asked why there was a delay in signing, Dostiev indicated among the details still being negotiated was the matter of rent for use of the Tajik bases and said “no one in the world today intends to give up even a small plot of their land for nothing.”
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, who is in Russia on a two-day working visit, said on Saturday that if there was a possible conflict between the United States and Iran, Tehran could deliver a missile strike at American facilities in Kyrgyzstan.
However, the Kyrgyz president said the US airbase in Kyrgyzstan could not be used against Iran. He stressed that the US base at Bishkek’s airport “cannot go beyond the mandate” which “allows support to an operation only if it is carried out in Afghanistan”.
“I have said many times that there must be no military facilities at a civilian airport,” the president pointed out. He noted that the American military should leave Bishkek’s airport by 2014.
Russia on Wednesday said it could not rule out that the United States would use the U.S. Manas airbase in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan for an eventual strike on Iran over its contested nuclear program.
“It cannot be excluded that this site could be used in a potential conflict with Iran,” foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters. “We hope that such an apocalyptic scenario will not be realised.”
Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in December said it was “very dangerous” for the state to host the U.S. Manas military airbase and has threatened the Americans with eviction when the current lease expires in 2014.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia’s two smallest economies, are discovering that breaking free of Russian domination is a hard task, particularly when they lack their own hydrocarbon resources and struggle to forge good relations with other neighbors that might make up for that shortage.
Russian oil supplies meet more than 90% of Kyrgyzstan’s and Tajikistan’s oil needs, but Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are rich in hydrocarbon resources and could potentially overtake Russia as the two smaller countries’ main source of petroleum and other fossil-fuel supplies.
he Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) today announced that no-one will be able to establish military bases on the territory of a CSTO member state without the express agreement of all other member states.
In practice, this is a setback for the United States, who will find it next to impossible to establish a new base in Central Asia once the lease on the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan expires in 2014, and a boost to Russia who, as a CSTO member state, has a veto on the construction of future bases.
The decision was taken at a meeting of all seven CSTO members – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Rigged elections sparked the so-called color revolutions in the post-Soviet states of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. But in Moscow, nostalgia for the old order and fear of change have been more entrenched. Mr. Putin often plays on those sentiments. State TV reminds Russians of the initial euphoria and crushing disappointments of perestroika, the Gorbachev-era thaw whose political debates and mass demonstrations were followed by the grinding poverty and humiliations of the Yeltsin years. “We’ve gotten up off our knees, now we want more,” says Tina Kandelaki, a 36-year-old talk-show host.
Now, that a Kyrgyz politician who is easy to negotiate with and familiar to Russian political circles is to come to power, projects may be unfrozen for providing financial assistance to Kyrgyzstan through the Eurasian Economic Community, the actual process of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Customs Union may be started and the implementation launched of the previously announced numerous joint projects in the energy sphere. Moreover, the analyst believes all this can be part of a strategy of creating a Eurasian Union.
After its ambitious plans for an air base in Tajikistan were thwarted, India appears to be reorienting its military strategy in Central Asia toward a more modest, soft power approach.
India began renovating an airfield at Ayni, just outside Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe, in 2004. While it never publicly announced its intentions for the base, Indian press reports said New Delhi planned to station a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets there. It would have been India’s first foreign military base, and a dramatic entrance into the geopolitically volatile Central Asian region.
Indian analysts have spoken about the base’s opening in grand terms. ‘Once called the white elephant of Asia, India’s strategic aspirations have now finally come of age,’ wrote Shiv Aroor, an Indian journalist who obtained classified information about India’s plans in 2007.