For almost 100 years, the countries of Central Asia were kept out of the arena of world politics as they were part of the former Soviet Union. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, they became independent nations: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. These countries have become the focus of the economic superpowers because of their strategic location between the East and the West and their wealth as a result of large reserves of oil and natural gas which have been discovered in large quantities under the Caspian Sea.
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.
The Syrian Information Minister Omran Ahed al-Zouabi said in a new statement at his meeting with the Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council, Ilyas Umakhanov, that Syria wants to become a member of BRICS (Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa) and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in future.
Thus, Syria seeks to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well as the membership in the emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in short BRICS.
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.
At least 200 Russian-speaking Salafi Muslims are fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, according to an expert at a state-run think tank. Rais Suleimanov, head of the Kazan-based Volga Center for Regional and Ethno-Religious Studies, said he got this number from Russian militants themselves, who he said have “no interest in exaggerating it.”
He said the militants come from CIS countries including Ukraine and from different regions of Russia, among them Tatarstan and the volatile North Caucasus, where Russian law enforcement is battling an intractable insurgency of separatist Islamist militants.
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.
As the annual call-up for Uzbekistan’s armed forces gets under way next month, many young men will apply to serve for a shorter service. If they pay 1.6 million soms, equivalent to about 600 US dollars, they are enlisted for just a month instead of the standard one year. After that, all they are required to do is appear for muster once a year. They count as reserves who can be called up until they are 27 if the situation requires it.
After this early release from the forces, they still get the advantages that come with serving in the military – a direct route into jobs in the police and the tax and customs services. In this authoritarian state, such jobs offer good pay and influence.
It was reported that the American business delegation, headed by Carolyn Lamm, chairwoman of the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC), and including representatives of over 30 US companies such as Boeing, Solar Turbines, General Motors, Merk, General Electric Energy, Anadarko, Zeppelin International, Case New Holland, Nukem and others, attended the business forum.
Senior Uzbek government officials in charge of the economic sector, including ministers of finance, the economy, foreign economic relations, investments and trade and other high level officials, were also in attendance to brief their guests on the state of Uzbek economy and to discuss possible investment and economic cooperation.
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.
Surveillance State: Ecuador Implements “World’s First” Countrywide Facial- and Voice-Recognition System
Ecuador has installed a nationwide system that lets government officials ID “several million” people by their voices and faces, Slate reported. If an Ecuadorian agency taps a phone line, for example, it is now able to match the voices in a call with a database of “voiceprints” of known criminals, suspects and persons of interest. The voice system is 97 percent accurate, says the system’s maker, SpeechPro
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.
“While CSI’s nominal purpose is to promote civil society, it is actually a branch of the National Security Service (NSS) and its true purpose is to prevent a color revolution in Uzbekistan,” the cable quotes the contact as saying. “The headquarters of CSI had also grown from roughly 200 personnel to 300 personnel” and “CSI closely monitors the behavior of non-government organizations, exchanges information with law enforcement agencies and the rest of the NSS, and reports to the Presidential Apparat [administration],” according to the cable.
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.
The Afghan government could fall apart after NATO troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year are fraudulent, a report by the International Crisis Group said Monday.
“There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO’s withdrawal,” said Candace Rondeaux, the ICG’s senior Afghanistan analyst. “The window for remedial action is closing fast.”
Gold is now a strategic metal for present and future SCO governments, which between them have over 40% of the world’s population; and now that the price of gold is re-establishing its rising trend, understanding its future role as a replacement for the US dollar is increasingly urgent, because gold is wealth and this wealth is being transferred from west to east.
Scores of foreign jihadists have crossed into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some of them telling Syrians that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join a decisive battle against regime troops, says Martin Chulov, correspondent of The Guardian.
According to locals who have dealt with them, the new arrivals embrace a global jihadist worldview that sets them apart from most leaders in the armed Syrian opposition and is stirring deep discontent among the rebel leadership.
Rebel leaders inside Syria say about 15-20 foreign fighters have been crossing each day since mid-July, trying to join up with an estimated 200-300 foreigners in Syria.
As a result of the visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake to Uzbekistan, sides will sign an agreement on placement of American military troops at the territory of Uzbekistan. This prediction is made by Kazakh media.
The socio-political newspaper of Kazakhstan “Liter” on August 15, published an article where author says that as a result of the visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary Robert Blake to Uzbekistan, parties will agree on placement of military bases.
The newspaper writes that Blake changed plans to visit Kazakhstan and went to Uzbekistan instead.
As potential clients go, the brash expat British businessman and his Uzbek colleague could not have been less sympathetic characters.
They were, they said, trusted representatives of the “Azimov Group”, an agent for the central Asian government of Uzbekistan – a dictatorship responsible for killings, human rights violations and child labour – and also representing its cotton industry, which wanted to sell to the West.
Who better to help them than a selection of Britain’s lobbyists?
The European Union’s response to the Arab awakening again highlighted its inability to react swiftly and decisively to extraordinary events unfolding in its neighborhood, Hrant Kostanyan and Magdalena Nasieniak write in a report for the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies. But the new European Endowment for Democracy has the potential to make the EU a committed, pro-active and effective leader of democracy assistance, free of nationally-driven decisions, European ‘turf wars’ and cumbersome bureaucracy.
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.
Iran’s issues, the operation in Afghanistan, the establishment of military bases in Uzbekistan will be discussed at the upcoming meeting with U.S military and diplomatic leadership in Tashkent.
The U.S. has sought military cooperation for a long time with Uzbekistan because of the strategic and geopolitical positions of the country. Uzbekistan’s obligations as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) were one of the main factors that can prevent it and the creation of U.S bases in the Republic.
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.
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.
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.
Without a mediator, the Tajik-Uzbek conflict could lead to another civil war in Tajikistan and to a serious destabilization of the whole of Central Asia. For Russia, this means it has to urgently develop a new strategy.
The relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent have worsened considerably lately and both countries are on the brink of open conflict as a result of this. Uzbekistan, knowing that Tajikistan is completely dependent on it has completely cut off the country from gas and transport. Tashkent claims that the blockade is purely economic: the Tajiks do not pay for the transit of gas and it is therefore more profitable to sell gas to the Chinese.
The BBC has been told by doctors that Uzbekistan is running a secret programme to sterilise women – and has talked to women sterilised without their knowledge or consent.
Adolat has striking looks, a quiet voice and a secret that she finds deeply shameful.
She knows what happened is not her fault, but she cannot help feeling guilty about it.
Adolat comes from Uzbekistan, where life centres around children and a big family is the definition of personal success. Adolat thinks of herself as a failure.
“What am I after what happened to me?” she says as her hand strokes her daughter’s hair – the girl whose birth changed Adolat’s life.
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 money and blood pit that is Afghanistan – where the United States and Britain have spent more than 2100 lives and £302 billion ($580 billion) – is about to pay a dividend.
But it won’t be going to the countries which have made this considerable sacrifice. The contracts to open up Afghanistan’s mineral and fossil-fuel wealth, and to build the railways that will transport it out of the country, are being won or pursued by China, India, Iran, and Russia.
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and EU to support Southern Gas Corridor
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and the EU are preparing two documents that will allow them to take delivery of the Caspian and in particular Turkmen gas to Europe, Azerbaijani Industry and Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev said at a meeting with members of the Caspian-European Integration Business Club (CEIBC). He said Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and the European Union are preparing a political document to support the Southern Gas Corridor, as well as an inter-governmental agreement on Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This should take place before the end of the year.
The Syrian situation has evolved since October and has surged as a geopolitical struggle over the future of the Iranian regime, control of the Middle East’s oil and the perpetuation of the West’s preponderant influence in that region. Russia and China sense that they could be booted out of the Middle East.
With the double veto, the only option available for the US and its allies in Syria is to flout both international law and the UN charter and overthrow the regime in Damascus. Indeed, the option exists to backtrack from the path of covert intervention, but it is a remote possibility.
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.
The short point is, the renminbi, the “people’s currency” also known as the yuan, is appearing in Doha. The China-United Arab Emirates (UAE) currency swap deal which was signed during Wen’s visit to Abu Dhabi last week already brings the yuan to the Emirates. The deal with the UAE is worth US$5.5 billion and the Chinese central bank statement said that it aims at “strengthening bilateral financial cooperation, promoting trade and investments and jointly safeguarding regional financial stability”.
Last week, two friends—one a former parliamentarian, the other a current lawmaker andformer colonel in Russia’s spy service—met up at a café popular among members of Russia’s Parliament. The café, Akademiya, is situated a few blocks away from the Kremlin. There the men—Vladimir Ryzhkov and Gennady Gudkov—had what they thought was a private conversation.
But someone was secretly filming the conversation. On Monday, that someone posted 10 minutes of the film on YouTube. No one seemed to notice.
The years to come will see Central Asia at the centre of an economic competition as traditional ally Russia tries to regain ground from an increasingly powerful Chinese presence, a leading Italian expert on the region says.
IWPR asked Fabio Indeo, a research fellow at the University of Camerino who specialises in the geopolitics of Central Asia and the competition of external players for influence in the region, to comment on the growing role of China, and how Moscow is trying to counter it.
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.
One of Britain’s largest lobbying companies has been secretly recorded boasting about its access to the heart of the Government and how it uses the “dark arts” to bury bad coverage and influence public opinion. An undercover investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, published in The Independent today, has taped senior executives at Bell Pottinger:
* Claiming they have used their access to Downing Street to get David Cameron to speak to the Chinese premier on behalf of one of their business clients within 24 hours of asking him to do so;
Uzbekistan-focused media have reported in recent days on what appears to be a wave of arrests among high-placed government officials.
Reporting on what might be the most high-profile casualty to date, the Tashkent-based Uzmetronom said on November 22 that President Islam Karimov’s law enforcement adviser, Ravshan Mukhiddinov, has been arrested as part of a corruption probe. At almost exactly the same time, deputy General Prosecutor Mukhiddin Kiyemov tendered his resignation, although nothing more of his fate is known, Uzmetronom said.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, in a move initiated by the Obama administration, has voted to waive Bush-era human rights restrictions on military aid to the Islam Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan, one of the most brutal and repressive regimes on the planet.
Torture is endemic in Karimov’s Uzbekistan, where his regime has banned all opposition political parties, severely restricted freedom of expression, forced international human rights and NGOs out of the country, suppressed religious freedom, and annually taken as many as two million children out of school to engage in forced labor for the cotton harvest. Thousands of dissidents have been jailed and many hundreds have been killed, some of them literally boiled alive.
Russia and China would like to seek India and Pakistan among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Foreign Ministry said on Monday, October 31, after a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and his Chinese counterpart Cheng Guoping.
“The sides called for accelerated SCO enlargement in keeping with the decisions of the Council of the SCO Heads of State made in Astana in June,” the ministry said, referring to admission of India and Pakistan as members and Afghanistan as an observer, and granting of the status of dialogue partner to Turkey.
Central Asia: Russia faces a dilemma in the field of security in connection with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan
Russia has recently taken steps aimed at strengthening the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in the hope that he can thus overcome the growing risks to security, which may arise in connection with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan. Completion of the withdrawal of foreign troops is scheduled for 2014 . At the moment, NATO is keeping the CSTO in the distance, rejecting requests from the last joint of the threats to regional security. Making the alliance to change his opinion was not an easy task for Russia, and the problem is definitely irritated the Kremlin.
A week ago, after Human Rights Watch issued a statement criticizing the White House for seeking to ease restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan, a State Department spokesperson promised to provide me with more information on what exactly sort of aid was being sought. After repeated inquiries, I still haven’t heard anything, so it’s safe to assume there will be no information for now. HRW suggested that the aid was to bribe Uzbekistan into greater cooperation with the Northern Distribution Network, the overland supply lines to Afghanistan that pass through Uzbekistan. The spokesperson told me that they had gotten several inquiries, but the only additional information (and it’s not much) has come from Steve LeVine, of Foreign Policy, who talked to an unnamed U.S. official:
The senior U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, argued that the U.S. is not bribing the Uzbeks, but “seeking congressional support so small amounts of non-lethal assistance can be provided so Uzbekistan can defend itself against possible retribution from militants who might attack them for supporting NDN.”