In the early hours of April 11, a group of spetsnaz, Russian elite forces, came under fire in the vicinity of Gimry, a large village located in the Untsukul ditrict of Central Dagestan. During the skirmish that followed, Russian forces took fire from the village of Gimry. This along with the concerns that part of the insurgents might have been based in Gimry prompted law enforcement units to launch a massive crackdown on the village next day.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdo?an earlier this year announced Turkey’s desire to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member. He openly alluded to the frustration generated by the EU’s refusal to consider Turkey seriously as a member. Erdogan’s speech quickly led to French and German concessions regarding membership negotiations in the EU and most commentators opined that Erdogan was not serious about the SCO. But what if the Turkish government sees no incompatibility between memberships in these two organizations? This article provides an initial attempt to assess the impact of a Turkish membership for the SCO.
The Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation recently issued a press release with information on the budget implementation audit of the Chechen Republic. The audit has revealed errors and violations amounting to 7.9 billion rubles (ca. US$ 252 million). While it has not yet been stated whether the violations will be classified as crimes, the Chechen leadership will have to explain how they handle the federal budget funds. To make things more complicated, the question emerges at a time when debates at the federal level increasingly question whether federal subsidies for Chechnya should be retained.
China’s new President Xi Jinping has underlined the crucial importance of China’s relationship with Russia and proclaimed that Russia would be his first foreign destination. Yet, despite mutual assurances and common interests in some areas, China and Russia also increasingly compete in Central Asia, not least in their approaches to Kyrgyzstan. In 2012, Kyrgyz authorities signed several agreements with both Russia and China. Agreements with Russia primarily stress military strategic matters, while those with China emphasize economic ties that, barring major conflict in the area, will be more important than military help for Kyrgyzstan. Hence China, not the U.S. or Turkey, is emerging as Russia’s major competitor for influence in Kyrgyzstan.
The success of the recent summit between the Russian and Chinese presidents is significant not only for agreements reached between the two sides but also for the absence of disagreements over Central Asia. Speculation abounded after the Soviet break-up over possible Russo-Chinese competition; but by the time the U.S. military established a presence in Central Asia in support of Afghanistan operations, a Sino-Russian entente had begun to close over the region. Today Sino-Russian energy cooperation outside Central Asia and deepening political elite-level friendships signify the re-assertion of that bilateral entente as the U.S. diminishes its profile in Central Asia.
After the February 18 presidential elections, opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian refused to accept the official results, which awarded victory to incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan. Opposition supporters rallied in Yerevan and in the regions in defense of his claims. They are struggling to sustain the momentum of the protests, at least before the May local elections in Yerevan. These developments may influence the ability of Armenian government to react to external challenges at a time when Armenia is facing a serious dilemma in terms of its foreign policy: while negotiations on an Association Agreement with the EU are advancing, Armenia is also facing pressure from Russia to join the so called Eurasian project.
In light of the mass anti-government street protests witnessed by Moscow in late 2011, Russia’s then-President, Dmitri Medvedev, proposed introducing a system whereby regional governors would be selected by way of popular elections. This proposal raised the specter of direct gubernatorial elections taking place in regional jurisdictions throughout the Russian Federation for the first time since 2004. But while there is a possibility that eligible voters in many of these regions will henceforth be allowed to cast their ballots for the candidate of their choosing, it seems that voters in the North Caucasus, specifically those in the republic of Dagestan, will be denied this opportunity.
High level government officials from Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector have announced that the country plans to produce 250 billion cubic meters (bcm) and export 200 bcm of natural gas per year by 2030. Yet, while these highly ambitious production figures and several events in Europe, Asia, and Middle East to promote investment in Turkmenistan’s energy sector over the past six months demonstrate the government’s optimism, western energy companies are increasingly wary of the country’s energy export plans and the future of large-scale projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.
On March 12, 2002, the U.S. and Uzbekistan signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework. The USUSP (U.S.-Uzbekistan Strategic Partnership) came about in the context of 9/11 and the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In the eleven years that have passed since the establishment of these bilateral relations, the relationship has seen several ups and downs, testing the commitment of both sides to the letter and spirit of the Declaration. On March 12, 2013, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister visited Washington and met with the new U.S. Secretary of State. What are the prospects for reestablishing the strategic partnership?
Georgia’s cohabitation process following the October 2012 elections seems increasingly dysfunctional, as the political parties of the President and Prime Minister have failed to cooperate on most issues. While Georgia’s general foreign policy direction remains a rare topic of consensus, the mutual distrust in domestic politics is increasingly also visible in Georgia’s foreign policy, as President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Ivanishvili and their associates compete for international attention to their respective narratives of developments in Georgia. While this tendency can be considered a logical continuation of the election campaign of last year, it also tests the patience of Georgia’s international partners in a situation where Georgia badly needs to reassert confidence in its political process.