It’s generally the contention among observers of Central Asia that most governments fear a spillover of violence from Afghanistan into their own territories, feeding nascent Islamist movements and causing large-scale violent disruptions in governance. This is hard to refute given the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan and the increasing recruiting activities of ISIS among Central Asian citizens. In contrast to the US’s diminishing role, Russia has reasserted itself as a prime military vendor for the CIS.
At the beginning of the month, Russia’s 201st military base in Tajikistan increased its troops from 5,900 to 9,000 over a period of five years and another report from the same day said that Tajikistan is being offered some $1.2 billion in military aid from Russia. Last month, Russian troops were dispatched to the southern border of Turkmenistan with Afghanistan – it’s thought that this was specifically requested by the Turkmen government to prevent the spillover. Russian news media is frequently touting the buildup of Islamic militants in Afghanistan preparing to set up shop in the former Soviet Republics. Tajikistan has also banned the hajj, the traditional Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, for all citizens under the age of 35, in an effort to prevent younger citizens from returning to the country with thoughts of jihad.
Additionally, Uzbekistan confirmed earlier in the week that it would take the necessary measures to combat ISIS recruitment efforts within the country, asking Russia for support. It also probable that the recent CTSO meeting last week specifically was scheduled to discuss Russian outreach for anti-terrorism measures.
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- President Barack Obama announced he would sign a compromise bill that would give Congress the power to approve the proposed nuclear accord with Iran – the US Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the legislation for a full vote in the Senate, indicating an unusual alliance of Republicans and Democrats. White House officials have been insisting that the negotiating team, led by Wendy Schiller of the State Department, were able to extract crucial last-minute concessions last week.
- Despite the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from conflict zones in eastern Ukraine, Kiev’s military accused separatists of using those same weapons after several incidents in which soldiers were killed. The Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany are due to meet in Berlin next Monday to discuss implementing a more forceful ceasefire with the stipulations outlined in the Minsk II Accords earlier this year as the framework.
- Iranian officials announced that they will expect delivery of the Russian S-300 Missile air defense system this year. Russian officials insisted that the delivery would take far longer. The timing of the announcement of these deliveries is likely another strategic ploy on the part of Moscow to accomplish two objectives at once – to increase cooperation and ties with Iran and to test the boundaries of the new nuclear accords.
- Mining.com has an excellent graph illustrating the struggles of Mongolia to attract foreign direct investment, and how the expansion of Oyu Tolgoi copper mine is a positive sign that will encourage foreign capital inflow. Due to the approval of the mine several years ago, Mongolia was formerly the world’s fastest growing economy by a longshot. Growth has now flagged to its pre-Oyu Tolgoi levels but the graph indicates that the lifting of the crisis could incite economic development once again.
- Two former Kazakh powerbrokers have gone on trial in Vienna, Austria for the murder of two bankers in 2007. The main suspect, Rakhat Aliyev, who was formerly ambassador to Austria, was found hanged in February. The charges relate to the killing of the two managers of Kazakh Nurbank, in which Aliyev and current Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev were major shareholders.
- The Russian financial community questioned Moscow’s statement yesterday confirming that an oil-for-goods swap with Iran was taking place, citing the fact that there were no signs of additional trade. Despite this, Russian officials insisted that Russia was sending grain, equipment, and construction materials to Iran as part of the barter deal in order to secure a foothold in the new market. Likely the reason they want to take possession of Iranian oil is to keep the price from falling precipitously, which, if Iran’s oil markets do open up to the rest of the globe for trade, they will.