Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel staunchly refused to provide lethal military support to Kiev on Saturday, instead throwing her support behind diplomatic and persuasion efforts to enact a ceasefire between government forces and Russian backed separatist militias currently engaged in ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine. Her statements were immediately denounced by US Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who lead a coalition of US congressmen who support sending military aid to Ukraine. The UK also supported the US Congress in this proposal, with prominent Conservative politician Malcolm Rifkind publicly doubting whether a peace agreement could be reached unless there was some combination of military and diplomatic show of force on the part of Western powers. French Prime Minister Francoise Holland also opposed arming the Ukrainians.
President Putin took advantage of the division in Western ranks to once again reject a Western-centric world order while simultaneously restating that his government provides no lethal aid to eastern separatist militias. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced his disappointment that no deal came to fruition over the weekend. In a simultaneous dialogue, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to reach any agreement on the Ukraine issue, and apparently Lavrov strongly objected to the opening of a NATO training center in neighboring Georgia.
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- Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are in (public) agreement on at least one fact: the deadline for a nuclear deal will not be extended again. This categorical rejection of any further negotiations comes on the heels of an initiative by the new Republican controlled Congress to pass a bill that would enact more sanctions against Iran, and shortly before a large scale effort by the AIPAC Lobby and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu to torpedo the deal.
- According to a great detailed article by Silk Road Reporters, Kyrgyzstan has been lobbying for a direct rail link to China that would connect China directly to Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan, and consistently running up against a shortage of capital funding. The railroad would shorten the overall distance for freight travelling from China to Europe by 900 kilometers but the problem is the steep price tag of $5-6.5 billion, not factoring in the inflation of the som and building materials prices. While the government still lobbies hard on behalf of the project, the current geopolitical environment is unlikely to accommodate it as feasible.
- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Vladimir Putin had a phone conversation, ostensibly about “several practical aspects of integration cooperation as part of the Eurasian Economic Union,” but it was also announced that Nazarbayev plans to organize a meeting in a similar format to the Minsk summit for another geopolitical dialogue on the expanding Ukrainian civil war.
- Iran and Turkmenistan have doubled trade volume due to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway that was inaugurated at the end of last year. Freight has increased some 100% in year on year volume in comparison to last year, which is good news for Iran’s still-weak economy.
- Kazakhstan announced it is considering an importation ban on certain Russian products, namely petrol products, cars, construction materials, meat products, eggs, macaroni, pastry, flour, & juices. This move is thought to mostly be a defense against the lower value of Russian goods due to the devaluation of the ruble to protect domestic Kazakh industries in those sectors from a flood of lower priced goods.