The size of Russian military forces gathered on Ukraine’s borders has doubled in recent days, increasing the possibility that a Russian military incursion into Ukraine is imminent. The rapid buildup of forces on the Russia-Ukraine border coincides directly with the Ukrainian military’s own siege of Donetsk, known as the last significant rebel stronghold within Ukraine. The siege of Donetsk began after legislation proposed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk authorizing the allocation of an additional $700m in funds to the Ukrainian military cause passed parliament, and what has been perceived as the last significant Ukrainian military campaign was organized. The Ukrainian military poised to attack Donetsk from all sides eerily mirrors the 17 battalions of Russian troops, seemingly poised to launch a counterattack into Ukrainian territory.
The intentions of the Russian military buildup, however, are still unclear, and could easily be a maneuver designed to provoke a politically favorable solution to the violent conflict. Russia has long claimed the right to protect “ethnic Russians” in Ukraine, and considers a large portion of Eastern Ukraine as historically part of its realm of influence. Given that the Ukrainian military appears to be prepared to deal the coup de grace to the Russia-backed separatist movement, Russia may see no other recourse but to threaten to invade Ukraine unless Kiev gives in to demands made by separatists to either become fully autonomous or become part of Russia, the latter of the two options being the more likely. If a political solution cannot be reached, and it looks more and more like the separatists will fail, the possibility that a Russian incursion, perhaps disguised as a ‘peacekeeping operation,’ will take place.
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- Astana is attempting to reform its sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna. Modeled after Malaysian and Singaporean funds, it is now so large that some have criticized the structure as “bloated and lethargic,” as well as its plans for privatization. The fund exerts great influence over its domestic state funded industries, including KazMunayGas, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (railways), Kazakhtelecom, and Air Astana, posting $3.5 billion in profits, accounting for roughly 45% of Kazakhstan’s total GDP.
- A new report from Waziristan asserts that seven Uzbek terrorists and two Pakistan army soldiers were killed in the clearance of the Miramshah/Datta Khel road. An ISPR spokesman said that Uzbek terrorists were running an IED factory and using them to make suicide vests. The Pakistani military said that several terrorist groups are operating in Waziristan, including the TTP, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Haqqani network.
- Tashkent has been busy denying rumors following a visit from US CENTCOM Commander Lloyd Austin that an American base would be reopened in Uzbekistan. Since the closure of the Manas Transit Center in July in Bishkek, the US has undoubtedly been searching for an additional airbase to support ongoing surveillance operations of sensitive regions on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The American base in Khanabad from 2001-2005 was closed after American officials citizen Uzbekistan’s human rights record.
- Russian telecom giant Mobile TeleSystems is set to return to Uzbekistan following the signing of a joint agreement with the Uzbek government. The agreement will allow for MTS to retain a majority stake in the enterprise, which extends to infrastructure, assets and telecommunications equipment. The leading telecommunications in Russia and Central Asia had previously been forced out of the country after the Uzbek government accused its officials of tax evasion and fraud, and the Uzbek subsidiary, Uzdunrobita, went bankrupt.
- A US Army Major General was reportedly shot and killed at close range by an Afghan soldier in Kabul. The coalition official did not release the general’s name, but specified that several other American service members, Afghan soldiers, and an Afghan commander were shot. Details are sketchy, but the shooting apparently took place at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. The attacker was described to be wearing an “Afghan National Army uniform.” This attack marks the first insider attack in Afghanistan in months.