On Monday, the United States and Britain announced it would be excluding Russia from the G8 and boycotting the planned summit in Sochi in protest of the invasion of Crimea. The cancellation of the planned June summit was declared by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama while they met at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands (which ironically, Russia was also not a party to). UK Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement as well, noting that “international law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”
He also emphasized that the crisis has driven home to Europe that it must find alternate sources of natural gas for its markets, so it does not rely so heavily on Russia. Ironically this came after UK natural gas prices jumped on the shortage, allowing more profitable export and bolstering markets. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had his own comments on the decision, saying “…we don’t believe it will be a big problem if it doesn’t convene.” Putin also commented, telling reporters that “if our Western partners believe the format has exhausted itself, we don’t cling to this format.”
Lavrov added to this, citing that there are far more important councils which Russia is still involved with, citing the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, which recently ended its second round last week, and the UN Security Council, where Russia retains a permanent seat and veto power. He focused then on the future of Ukraine, citing the need for constitutional reform to accommodate the loss of Crimea. The West has promised more sanctions if Russia expands its intervention, but most see these sanctions as little more than symbolism, as they merely freeze foreign assets and restrict travel of senior business and military leaders. Even Western experts have affirmed this.
However, the economies that will be the hardest hit by increased Western sanctions will be the ones that supply Russia with a large proportion of its resources – those of Central Asia. A summit of the Customs Union on March 5 was convened largely as a show of economic solidarity in the face of economic isolation, but it is expected that energy exports to Europe will decline as a result of the Crimean annexation. So who is the real winner?
- An agreement on border demarcation between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is said to have been agreed upon and ultimately signed. The agreement, which was brokered in the western Kyrgyz city of Kochkor-Ata, came on the eve of Nowruz, or the Persian New Year, and was pursued with the goal of establishing better demarcated borders between the neighboring countries. Kyrgyz officials also met with and discussed the possibility of a land swap with Tajikistan as a possible solution feuds disputed frontiers.
- Georgia has removed excavation restrictions on Sakdrisi-Kachagiani, which archaeologists claim to be one of the oldest gold mines in the world. The action, taken by the Georgian Ministry of Culture and Heritage Protection, has generated controversy and in some cases outrage due to the site’s distinction as not only an ancient mine, but also one of the earliest known human settlements in the world. Russian-owned RMG Gold has announced plans to excavate the nearly five thousand year-old mine, though an exact date has not yet been established.
- Mongolia has announced plans to partner with Australia in a new mining venture, to which Australia will contribute $20m over five years. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop released a statement with Mongolian Foreign Minister Lusanvandan Bold that details the terms of the detail and outlines the initiative’s goals. Among the project’s stated aspirations is the goal of making the benefits of the mining endeavor felt across the whole of the Mongolian populace. Australia will also contribute human capital and advisory services to the Mongolian government, as it continues to develop its burgeoning mining sector.
- Radio Free Europe reports on growing unrest amongst Afghan villagers near Afghanistan’s northwestern border with Turkmenistan. Tensions have risen as a result of the natural shift of one of Central Asia’s most historic rivers, the Amu Darya. As traditionally Turkmen portions of the river come to rest on the Afghan side of the border, reports have arisen of Turkmen aggression, including the assault and detention of Afghan villagers seeking to lead their cattle and goats out to graze.