Russia has been warning Tajikistan that the U.S. wants to overthrow President Emomali Rakhmon for the sake of eliminating Russian influence in the country and creating “a string of anti-Russia military bases from Baghram (Afghanistan) to Manas (Kyrgyzstan).” That’s according to a U.S. State Department cable just released by WikiLeaks. It recounts a conversation with then-U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan Richard Hoagland and Tajikistan’s ambassador to Washington, Homrahon Zaripov, who was back home in Dushanbe at the time.
[...] This is, of course, before the relatively West-friendly Dmitry Medvedev came to power in Moscow and the Obama administration’s “reset” with Russia, so it’s worth wondering if this attitude still pervades. A more recent cable, from February 2010, describes deteriorating Russia-Tajikistan relations, but doesn’t much touch on Russia’s perception of what the U.S. is doing in Tajikistan.
Continue Reading >> Eurasianet | February 5, 2011
Recent causes of US-UK animus towards Russia include the Khodorkhovsky verdict (the US position being that a finance oligarch that rich should of course be above the law), the inability of NATO to foment a gas crisis this winter, President Medvedev’s endorsement of a Palestinian state (re-affirming the 1988 decision by the USSR), and Afghan President Karzai’s visit to Moscow, where he created the premises for a long-term post-NATO strategic relationship with Russia including the Salang tunnel, hydroelectric plants, and a Turkmenistan-India gas pipeline the US has been seeking to block. Also worth noting is that, in a recent Wikileaks document dump, the impotent gaggle of marginal Russia opposition figures assembled by Obama’s lightweight NSC Russia director Michael McFaul demonstrated a special desire to oust Chechen President Razman Kadyrov, a Putin ally. Are their alleged human rights concerns only a cover story for their fear that Kadyrov is actually suppressing NATO-backed terrorism in Chechnya?
Tarpley | January 25, 2011
The Obama administration is working to maintain positive US-china relations; however the nation remains a serious enemy in the minds of many American politicians.
To make matters more contentious, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced $78 billion cuts to the Pentagon budget and is currently on a trip to China. Those who see China as a greater threat argue cuts will damage America security and what is really needed are boosts in US defense spending.
Journalist Pepe Escobar from the Asia Times explained that the Pentagon, from a Chinese perspective, can easily be conceived as a threat, but not the other way around.
US forces are based in South Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia, as well as Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and the Indian Ocean. US military expansion in Asia is ongoing through regions strategically important to China.
Russia Today | January 11, 2011
Murghab, Tajikistan — On the outskirts of this wind-scoured town, founded in 1893 as a Russian military post, the construction of a new customs compound heralds the return of another major power.
When it opens this year, the sprawling new lot will accommodate much larger caravans of Chinese trucks than the existing trade depot, speeding the flow of clothing, electronics and household appliances that have lately flooded Central Asia, from nomadic yurts on the Kyrgyz steppes to ancient alleyways in Samarkand and Bukhara.
“Trade is growing between China and all these countries around it,” said Tu’er Hong, whose truck was one of about 50 from China transferring goods to Tajik drivers one day recently at the current post.
While China is seizing the spotlight in East and Southeast Asia with its widening economic footprint and muscular diplomacy, it is also quietly making its presence felt on its western flank, once primarily Russia’s domain.
Chinese officials see Central Asia as a critical frontier for their nation’s energy security, trade expansion, ethnic stability and military defense. State enterprises have reached deep into the region with energy pipelines, railroads and highways, while the government has recently opened Confucius Institutes to teach Mandarin in capitals across Central Asia.
Central Asia, says Gen. Liu Yazhou of the People’s Liberation Army, is “the thickest piece of cake given to the modern Chinese by the heavens.”
The New York Times | January 2, 2011
Chinese advisers are believed to be working with Afghan Taliban groups who are now in combat with NATO forces, prompting concerns that China might become the conduit for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, improved communications and additional small arms to the fundamentalist Muslim fighters.
A British military official contends that Chinese specialists have been seen training Taliban fighters in the use of infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles. This is supported by a May 13, 2008, classified U.S. State Department document released by WikiLeaks telling U.S. officials to confront Chinese officials about missile proliferation.
Aviation Week | December 13, 2010
The countries of the Caspian region are trying to find a solution to a long-standing dispute about the Caspian Sea. There is something to argue about indeed: sturgeons, crude and natural gas deposits, as well as the transportation of oil and gas. The leaders of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan gathered in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) to discuss the problem in detail.
The legal status of the Caspian Sea has not been solved yet. Consequently, not all Caspian states could settle the question about sea borders. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan seem to have agreed on the issue, but the state of affairs in the southern part of the Caspian Sea is still unstable.
Iran’s position is the main problem here. This country claims its rights for one-fifth part of the sea, which is unacceptable for all other Caspian states.
Similar problems exist in the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, as well as between Azerbaijan and Iran. These countries still argue about the borders of their sectors of the sea.
The Caspian dispute has triggered the militarization of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbangully Berdymuhammedov approved the establishment of the Navy of Turkmenistan. The country only had patrol boats before, and it was obvious that Turkmenistan was too weak to compete against the navy of Azerbaijan, which has the second largest navy in the region (following Russia).
“The Caspian Sea is not just a pool, as many people call it. The sea is very rich with oil and gas reserves. A special agreement, signed by the Caspian states, divides the sea into several zones, but some members of the agreement still argue about its terms. It seems that there is no peaceful solution to the problem, so the navy will play an important role at this point. One should also take account of the destructive influence of the West, the USA, first and foremost, as they attempt to destabilize the situation in the region,” the expert said.
“Andrey Grozin, a senior expert with the Institute for CIS and Baltic States, believes that any country, including Turkmenistan, wants to defend its interests.
“The dispute between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan is one of the key ones. They fight for the right to develop three large oil fields. Azerbaijan already develops two of the three disputed fields, which Turkmenistan considers its own. Western partners hoped that it would be possible to change the situation for the better after Turkmenistan had a new leader, but the problem still remains unsolved,” the expert said.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan realize their importance to the West as fuel suppliers and they compete with each other. Turkmenistan understands that Nabucco will not happen without Turkmen gas. The resources of Azerbaijan play an important role in the work of the trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Azerbaijan is much more important when it comes to the transit of Central Asian gas to Europe.
It is an open secret that neither Iran nor Russia were considered as partners for Nabucco project. As for Russia, Nabucco was designed to eliminate Russia’s influence in the transportation of natural gas to Europe.
Pravda | November 19, 2010
The United States has established several new transit corridors to deliver non-lethal goods to its forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan had previously been the main transit point for all types of supplies, but the increasingly fragile security situation along its border with Afghanistan convinced the US authorities of the need to establish alternative routes. A major component of this strategy is the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a series of rail, water and road links to deliver cargo to Afghanistan through the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The network now handles about 30% of all ground supplies.
The NDN comprises a southern route – starting at the Georgian port of Poti, going over land to the port of Baku, Azerbaijan, then by ferry to Aqtau, Kazakhstan, and on through Uzbekistan to Afghanistan – and a more heavily used northern route, traversing Latvia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A spur of the northern route bypasses Uzbekistan and runs from Kazakhstan via Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but is hampered by bad roads in Tajikistan. Moving supplies via the northern rail route costs approximately 10% of the cost of movement by air.
The US military is keen to have a diverse range of supply routes so as to avoid dependency on any particular one. For example, if it were to secure a transit agreement with Turkmenistan, the port of Turkmenbashi could be an additional destination for goods leaving Baku by ferry. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Baku in June 2010 to strengthen ties with Azerbaijan and discussed ways to diversify routes. Washington is also exploring the idea of expanding the NDN eastwards by adding a Chinese branch, originating in China’s Pacific ports and travelling via road and rail to Afghanistan.
IISS | November 23, 2010