Last week, the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) met informally to bolster diplomatic solidarity in the face of increasing isolation from the West over its role in the Ukraine crisis. However, the meeting lacked several key members – among them, Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan. The only attending members were Armenia, Bealrus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. During the meeting, which ended with a tepid call to reduce “tension,” hardly mentioning Russia’s stance on Ukraine at all.
Instead, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon chastised his allies for not delivering promised aid to guard the border with Afghanistan, through which hundreds of tons of opium move every year along the so-called “Northern Route.” Additionally, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan criticized fellow CSTO members Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan for not opposing the United Nations Resolution condemning the referendum in Crimea. He further noted that the CSTO does not present a “united front to the world,” seemingly questioning the very purpose of the organization.
Instead, the CSTO reassured its members that they will not be forced to participate in any military intervention in Ukraine, despite the fact that several prominent Russian think tanks had proposed the idea of sending peacekeeping forces from the CSTO. Nazarbayev’s absence from the meeting was also noted, as he was meeting with William Burns, the US Deputy Secretary of State. The fact that Nazarbayev prioritized the meeting with Burns over the CSTO meeting may also be cause for concern for the future of the organization.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- China has announced that it will begin to import an increasing amount of gas from Turkmenistan. The bilateral energy agreement forged by the two nations was announced recently by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov during a visit to Beijing this past week. The China-Central Asia gas pipeline is comprised of three lines (A, B and C) and development on a fourth, D line is expected to culminate in additional functionality in 2016.
- Ukraine has ramped up imports of Russian oil, even while the two countries face one of the rockiest patches their relations have faced in the two countries’ history. Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom has invoiced the Ukrainian government a total of $17 billion, and threatened to cut off access to Russian gas and oil if Kiev’s government doesn’t begin to make advance payments. Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for energy has placed the country in a difficult situation as officials’ attempts to project an image of pro-Western dependence from Russia have been consistently belied by the reality of its reliance on its energy-rich neighbor for nearly all of its oil and gas.
- Tajikistan Aluminum Company (TALCO) reported a sharp drop in aluminum profits at the end of Q1, as the Tajik metals giant was forced to reduce output by nearly 40% due to falling metal prices worldwide. The drop in production was expected, and fits with what Tajik officials predicted would be a 31% drop in in production during 2014. Aluminum exports currently count for a third of all Tajik exports, down nearly 9% from the first quarter of 2013.
- Uzbek officials approved a plan of action that delineates the country’s procedures for parliamentary election to be held in late December of this year. Approval of the plan of action represents an early stage of the election process in Uzbekistan, and is designed to “ensure the transparency and openness of the elections at all stages of the election campaign.” Electoral transparency, or a lack thereof, has been well documented by foreign publishers covering Uzbekistan, and actions taken by the Uzbek Central Election Commission to indicate fair and transparent elections are not likely to culminate in elections of that nature, if the past is any indication.