In response to the increasing instability in Northern Afghanistan, Russia has bolstered its diplomatic and security activities in Central Asia, grasping the opportunity to endorse its vision of “greater Eurasia”. Russian grand strategy of reshaping security dynamics in the region has already included strengthening its existing alliances while vying internationally to be considered a great power. A series of meetings with Central Asian leaders induced promises to Tajikistan to increase Russian military presence in the country as well as talks with Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev and Afghan officials, and finally, initiating meetings with Uzbek officials to foster closer relations. As a result, Moscow will extend its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan until 2032 and 2042 and increase troop numbers in the Kyrgyzstan from 5,900 to 9,000 soldiers by 2020. Moreover, Moscow intends to renew its aircraft fleet stationed in Kant, Kyrgyzstan by 2016.
Russian military ambitions have seeped into its collective security agreements with Central Asian countries as well. Leaders of the CIS member countries just adopted a provisional military cooperation concept until 2020 at the CIS summit in Kazakhstan. The statement concerned the combat of international terrorism through military cooperation, and recommends setting up a program for enhanced security cooperation particularly for the border and customs management for 2016-2020. Outlined activities include forming various agencies for external border crises, cooperation on law enforcement, and preventing more generalized emergency situations.
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- Russia and Kazakhstan struck several deals during Vladimir Putin’s recent state visit to Astana. The Presidents signed amendments to the agreement on delimitation of Northern part of Caspian Sea’s bottom dating back to July 6, 1998. The agreement asserts sovereign rights of subsoil use and the amendment includes provisions for the joint extraction of oil or other mineral resources. The agreement, however, is suspected to once again raise the issue of determining Caspian Sea status that has been a matter of dispute for the past 20 years now. Moreover, Kazakh and Russian leaders also signed agreements on cooperation in Russian missile launch as well as joint construction of Kazakhstan’s first power plant.
- Germany intends to close its airbase in Uzbekistan, citing its declining usage. The base in Termez, at the border with Afghanistan had presence in the country for 14 years now and served to supply German troops in Afghanistan. Even though Germany still maintains 850 soldiers in Afghanistan, its combat mission officially ended a year ago. Closing the base is probably linked to the fact that Uzbekistan doubled its rent price to 35 million Euros a year and was trying to further increase to 72.5 million Euros per year.
- Iran’s low-key role in Syrian conflict has changed after Tehran sent hundreds of troops from its elite forces to fight in support of Bashar Al-Assad. The troops are to be deployed alongside of its ally Hezbollah’s fighters and foreign Shia militia that is under cover of Russian airstrikes. Iran is assumed to have urged Russia on intervention in Syria during General and intelligence chief Qasem Suleimani’s visit to Moscow, however, some suggest competition among the two over Damascus. Iran backed the Assad regime from the beginning, however maintained a relatively passive role until now.
- Georgia endeavors to become a prominent energy exporter in the region as it plans a new hydropower plant project. Tbilisi plans to start the plant construction as it secures $673 million investment from Georgian co-Investment Fund (GCF). GCF is Tbilisi’s sovereign wealth fund and one of its investors includes billionaire and former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili. The plant will allow Georgia to guarantee complete self-supply as well as export electricity to Turkey through a transmission line funded by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) wing of the World Bank. Tbilisi will cooperate with Icelandic companies for feasibility study of the construction site.
- Between 35,000 and 40,000 Moldovans have rallied in Chisinau streets, protesting over $1 million bank fraud and demanding resignation of the president Nicolae Timofti and early elections. The disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system, which comprises almost one eight of Moldova’s GDP, resulted in rapid depreciation of its national currency, the leu, leading to rapidly increased inflation that drastically affected living standards of the country of 3.5 million inhabitants. The current leadership, in power since 2012, has undertaken a pro-European stance and some protesters were carrying pro-EU flags indicating that they were not against European integration but against wealthy oligarchs.
- The UN warns Kazakhstan over breaching independence of associations (or freedom of assembly) by its amendment to the law on non-governmental organizations. The new draft law considers setting up a centralized Governmental agency, which will accumulate grants from international organizations, diplomatic missions and international non-profit organizations as well as governmental funding with the aim of redistributing later on. The UN Special Repporteur expressed the concern over the law to grant authority to the government to limit resources and control entire non-profit sector.