VOL. 16 NO 17, 17 September 2014

By Dmitry Shlapentokh (09/17/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Bishkek has long considered whether to join the Russia-led Eurasian Union. Yet recent events relating to the resumed hostility with Uzbekistan, border disputes with Tajikistan, and Russia’s move against Ukraine could play a decisive role in Bishkek’s decision to accommodate Moscow’s geopolitical project. An additional factor is the worsening situation in the Middle East, where the rise of Islamic extremism and the clear inability of the U.S. and its allies to deal with the problem is clearly taken into consideration by Kyrgyzstan’s leadership and likely provides an incentive for reinforcing its alliance with Moscow. 

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By Mushtaq A. Kaw (09/17/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Alongside the current U.S.-Taliban conflict, the U.S. has unsuccessfully sought reconciliation with the Taliban for a political settlement of the Afghan crisis. Nonetheless, in May 2014, the U.S. swapped five Taliban prisoners for one U.S. soldier to renew the peace process and ensure stability in Afghanistan before the planned exit later this year. However, the prisoner exchange failed to deliver results due to the Taliban’s indifference to dialogue and democratic processes. Consequently, no political settlement for peace in Afghanistan is forthcoming before the U.S. drawdown. A settlement is equally unlikely in its immediate aftermath, which will likely be dominated by rivalries between the Taliban and their competitors.

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By Valeriy Dzutsev (09/17/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Russia’s rapidly changing economic and political landscape is affecting relations between the peripheral North Caucasus region and the central government. As Moscow’s resources dwindle or are projected to diminish significantly, its ability to support an elaborate system of dependencies and allegiances in its semi-colonial periphery plummets. The central government seeks to reap more revenues from the regions and to decrease the appetites of local elites in order to finance its expansionist policies abroad. As a result, political uncertainty is growing and the previously muted criticism of Moscow’s policies from the North Caucasus’ ruling elites is coming to the forefront.

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By John C.K. Daly (09/17/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

In the 23 years since the collapse of the USSR, Central Asia’s interest in its Islamic heritage has grown, with many mosques opening and increasing numbers of Central Asians making the haj. This interest has coincided with militant unrest roiling the Muslin world, from the Maghreb to Xinjiang, leaving Central Asian governments concerned whether radicals, particularly from neighboring Afghanistan, may seek to raise the banner of jihad in their countries. In mid-August, Kazakh FSB officers detained four men in Pavlodar in northeastern Kazakhstan, ranging in age from 20 to 46, who called themselves Salafis. The quartet was subsequently charged with promoting terrorism and extremism under Chapter 9, Article 233 of the Criminal Code of the Republic.

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  • Russia's Intervention in Ukraine Reverberates in Central Asia
    Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:46
    Russia's Intervention in Ukraine Reverberates in Central Asia

    By Slavomír Horák (03/19/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

    While Russia's intervention in Ukraine at first glance has few implications for developments in the Eastern part of former Soviet territory, Central Asian governments and elites are likely to analyze Russia's recent actions carefully. While the Crimea intervention could serve as a short term deterrent against foreign orientations away from Russia's regional integration project, the increasing Chinese influence in Central Asia will in the long term offer these states a powerful alternative to Russia and the crisis in Ukraine is increasing China's attractiveness as a partner.

    Article 3

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    • Authored Slavomír Horák
  • The Crimean Crisis and Georgia's Breakaway Territories
    Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:50
    The Crimean Crisis and Georgia's Breakaway Territories

    By Valeriy Dzutsev (03/19/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

    Russia’s support for the secession of Ukrainian Crimea is likely to affect Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia unilaterally recognized after the brief Russian-Georgian war of 2008. Following the open confrontation with the West over Ukraine's territorial integrity, Moscow is now ramping up its control over Georgia's breakaway territories. Russia's entrenchment in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is linked to the Russian government's general sense of entitlement to the post-Soviet space and the perceived threat of retreating from it. While there are many parallels between how the situation in Crimea evolves and that in the South Caucasian semi-recognized territories, there are also some important differences.

    Article 2

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    • Authored Valeriy Dzutsev
  • Crimea is not a Pawn on the Ukraine Chess Board - Russia is There to Stay
    Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:57
    Crimea is not a Pawn on the Ukraine Chess Board - Russia is There to Stay

    By Avinoam Idan (03/19/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

    Russia’s move to gain control over the Crimean Peninsula deviates from the context of the crisis in Kiev. Gaining control over Crimea is not a tactic in President Putin’s hands vis-à-vis the competition over Ukraine's future. Crimea is not a pawn on the Ukrainian chess-board in the rivalry between Putin and Obama. The Crimean Peninsula is the “queen” in the chess game Putin is playing; it is aimed at nothing less than improving Russia’s position in the entire Black Sea region, as well as in the area referred to as the Mediterranean Basin.

    Article 1

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    • Authored Avinoam Idan
  • Bishkek's First Official Statement on Ukraine
    Wednesday, 19 March 2014 18:12

    By Arslan Sabyrbekov (03/19/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)

    On March 11, Bishkek made its first official statement on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The Kyrgyz Ministry for Foreign Affairs says that the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych can no longer be considered the country’s legitimate leader, as he continues to claim.

    Bishkek reacted to Yanukovych's statement on March 11 that he is still Ukraine’s only legitimate President. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry stated that the current crisis in Ukraine was caused by widespread corruption and wrong decisions taken by the former authorities of that country. “The only source of power in any country is its people, a president who lost his people’s trust, who de facto lost his presidential authority and moreover, who fled his own country, cannot consider himself to be the legitimate leader,” the statement says. Furthermore, Bishkek described the people who died during the violent clashes in Kiev as “innocent people.”

    The statement did not directly mention the critical situation in Crimean peninsula. But Kyrgyzstan expressed its concern over the development of the general situation in Ukraine and condemned all activities aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country, without specifying who it considers to be responsible for destabilization. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry also called on the country’s current political leadership and all other actors to use peaceful methods in resolving the crisis and adhere to national and international law, citing specifically the Charter of the United Nations. Thus, the statement implicitly recognizes the new Ukrainian political elite and power holders.

    Bishkek's reaction immediately turned into a source of discussion among local political analysts. In the words of the Bishkek based political analyst Marat Kazakpaev, “even though the statement of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry against Yanukovych seems to contain some sort of political attack on Moscow, it is in fact very tuned and precise.” According to the expert, the statement from the Kyrgyz MFA will not cause a negative reaction from the Russian leadership, especially taken into account its growing economic presence in the Kyrgyz republic, particularly in the form of gas, hydropower, and mining investment projects.

    Based on this opinion, the statement seems to be directed primarily to the domestic audience. On the one hand, it neutralizes a constant claim of the opposition that the current leadership is subordinated to Moscow. On the other hand, it would be illogical for the Kyrgyz authorities, who came to power by means of demonstrations and many casualties to express its support for Yanukovych, who has often been compared to ousted ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Like Bakiyev, the ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovych had established a heavily corrupt authoritarian regime, used force against demonstrators, and also settled in a foreign country with continuous statements of his legitimacy. Even in terms of foreign policy, the ousted presidents resemble one another in terms of lacking a clear vision and playing with all the big actors in their efforts of maximizing dividends, which were often personal.

    On the contrary, political analyst Mars Sariev believes that "the statement of the Kyrgyz Ministry for Foreign Affairs will negatively impact and cool down the Kyrgyz-Russian relations. As a response to this statement, the Russian Federation can and is in a position to block Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the Customs Union under preferable terms and conditions asked by Bishkek." Sariev also recalled that in 2008, Bishkek took another position than that of the Russian Federation over the Ossetia-Abkhazia conflict in Georgia, which at that time did not cause a heavy deterioration but cooled down relations between the two countries.

    In turn, the U.S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic issued its own statement commending the Kyrgyz Ministry for Foreign Affairs “for its strong statement recognizing the new Ukrainian government. By condemning all acts that would lead to further destabilization in Crimea and elsewhere, and affirming that the legitimate source of power in any country is the will of its people, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic has shown respect for the democratic aspirations of both the people of Ukraine and the Kyrgyz Republic.”

    While it remains to be seen what this statement will bring, it has turned Kyrgyzstan into the first member of the Russia-led Commonwealth of Independent States with a view that largely contradicts the Kremlin’s.

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    • Authored Arslan Sabyrbekov

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Joint Center Publications

Silk Road Paper S. Frederick Starr, Bulat Soltanov, et. al., "Looking Forward: Kazakhstan and the United States", September 2014. 

Analysis
Svante E. Cornell, "No More Frozen Conflicts"The American Interest, 21 July 2014.

Op-Ed
Svante E. Cornell, "Why America Must Step Up Its Role in Resolving Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict", Christian Science Monitor, 10 June 2014.

Analysis Halil Karaveli, "Cold Turkey: Reforming Ankara from the Outside In", Foreign Affairs, April 23, 2014. 

Op-Ed
Svante E. Cornell, "Checking Putin's Eurasian Ambitions",Wall Street Journal, 6 April 2014.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, "Crimea and the Lessons of Frozen Conflicts", The American Interest, 20 March 2014.

Op-Ed S. Frederick Starr, "Moderate Islam? Look to Central Asia", New York Times, 26 February 2014.

Book 
Svante E. Cornell and Michael Jonsson, eds.,Conflict, Crime and the State in Postcomunist Eurasia, University of Pennsylvania Press, February 2014, 304pp. (Click here for contents and first chapter)

Monograph
Svante E. Cornell, Getting Georgia Right, Brussels: Center for European Studies, December 2013.

Silk Road Paper Stephen Blank, Azerbaijan's Security and U.S. Interests: Time for a Reassessment, December 2013.

Book S. Frederick Starr, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, Princeton University Press, September 2013.

 

 

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with Johns Hopkins University's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst brings cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

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