Iranian and Russian officials inked a new cooperation deal this past Tuesday. The agreement has a two-tier focus, the first of which is military, whilst the other is technological. The military aspect was signed off on by the two countries’ respective defense ministers, and was seemingly engineered to counter a perceived threat posed by the United States. The two sides issued a joint statement condemning “expansionist intervention and green of the United States,” and agreed to work together to counter it. The agreement made brief mention of the issue of an ongoing dispute between Russia and Iran over the delivery of a missile defense system.
In 2007, Russia committed to deliver Iran a sophisticated S-300 missile system, but has failed to do so, provoking a still-unresolved Iranian lawsuit with an international court in Geneva. Details of defense cooperation were predictably few, though it is known that Iran recently contracted a Russian firm to build two new nuclear reactors onto its Bushehr power plant. Russia has also proven to be a key facilitator in the Iranian nuclear negotiation. Tehran has tentatively agreed to ship all slightly enriched uranium (SEU) to Moscow for conversion into fuel rods should a deal be reached in Vienna.
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- A new report released by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicts that the Armenian economy will suffer from a lack of growth in 2015. The report, labeled “Regional Economic Prospects in EBRD Countries of Operations,” lists among the strongest contributors to the stagnation an increasingly weak ruble and the correlation between the weak currency and a declining amount of remittances coming from abroad.
- The government of Tajikistan spent nearly half of its foreign reserves in 2014 in order to prop up its currency. The Tajik central bank justified the maneuver as a necessity due to the currency crisis surrounding the ruble, and the sharp drop in remittances that followed. The Tajik central bank reduced its reserves total from $1.1bn to $480mn in 2014, though the influx of cash did little to prevent Tajikistan’s currency, the somoni, from losing approximately 11% against the dollar, with inflation reaching nearly 7.4%.
- Canadian gold mining firm Centerra Gold announced that its operations in Kyrgyzstan reached their production goals in 2014, yielding “approximately 567,693 ounces of gold” from Kyrgyzstan’s Kumtor mine. The company’s spokesmen announced that 2015 goals to be lower – between 480,000 and 535,000 ounces, and that production through 2015 is expected to be steady.
- A new report in The Economist shows that the Ukrainian economy could face an even tougher economic situation in 2015. In 2014, the Ukrainian economy was ravaged by a confluence of events that resulted in the country defaulting on natural gas payments to Gazprom, a multibillion dollar bailout by the IMF and still billions more of looming debt payments in 2015. In addition, Ukraine’s current debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 60%, leading ratings agency Moody’s to declare that a default may be looming.