Russia announced that it will boost its arsenal of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by 40 as part of a large-scale modernization of the Russian military. While the modernization has been ongoing for quite some time, the latest announcement seems to come as a direct counter to NATO’s own announcement that it would place forces in a number of eastern European states near Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.
Russia was critical of the decision, and its latest counter has drawn similarly negative commentary from NATO, which has already labeled the Russian decision to expand its nuclear arsenal as “sabre-rattling” and “destabilizing.” The escalation of military posturing in the region has drawn independent criticism labeling both sides as irresponsible and liable for greater military buildup in anticipation of what could become another arms race. NATO recently undertook large-scale naval military exercises in the Baltic Sea, and has pledged increased logistical and military support for Eastern European and Baltic states.
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- In a follow-up to Eurasia Net’s coverage of the water conference recently held in Tajikistan, The Diplomat writes of an impending water crisis in Central Asia. It notes specifically that continued political tensions between Central Asian states will weaken efforts to mitigate water shortages and hinder cooperation between regional governments and international bodies.
- Russia and China will use the yuan and the ruble to make payments on gas supplied by Russia to China. This decision has drawn attention due to its notable exclusion of the US dollar on transactions worth the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars. Gazprom has declined to divulge the pricing formula used to supply China.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry is backpedaling on State Department indications that they were willing to make a number of concessions in order to reach a nuclear deal. Earlier this week it had been reported that the US would not require to Iran to acknowledge past efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, although since then Kerry has contacted US senators in order to communicate that the State Department will not cede this point to Iran.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is configuring a new fund to “deal with the legacy” of uranium mining and processing in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Initial funding for the effort is $8 million and will be allotted to “rehabilitation” projects in the three countries where uranium mining was prevalent during the Soviet Union. Little has been done to correct dumping-related mistakes in these countries since the fall of the Soviet Union and is one of the key issues the EBRD seeks to address with this new fund.
- A new spate of clashes between Indian military and local militant groups has many in the restive Indian region of Kashmir anxious that a prolonged wave of violence may be looming. The latest fears stem from the killing of four men with ties to militant groups in the region by an unnamed third party, and the killing of five Indian telecom workers last month. Local law enforcement officials believe that the recent outbreak of violence could represent a fracturing of militant groups that have been “regrouping” over the past several months as dissent has steadily risen.
- India announced that it will conduct a feasibility study into whether or not oil and gas imports from Kazakhstan will be feasible. The two means being studied are through an as of yet unconstructed natural gas pipeline and the import of LNG. The logistics of transporting gas through a pipeline seem complicated given that it would have to traverse Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and either China or Pakistan to reach India, whereas the LNG option would involve shipping LNG from Kazakhstan to Iran via the Caspian Sea and then using a currently nonexistent pipeline to funnel it into India.