By Roger N. McDermott
February 25th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Moscow has stated that among its defense and security priorities for 2016, Central Asia and the South Caucasus will top its agenda. Kavkaz 2016, the main strategic military exercise of the year, will take place in the Southern Military District (MD), while Tsentr 2015 occurred in Central MD with among its vignettes a rehearsal of intervention in Central Asia. Surprisingly in this context, the Defense Ministry plans to restructure the 201st Base in Tajikistan from divisional to brigade status. This initiative is driven by Moscow’s growing concerns about the future of Central Asian security as it faces multiple potential threats stemming from Afghanistan and Islamic State (ISIS). But paradoxically, Moscow’s latest moves to strengthen the basing of its forces in Tajikistan serves as an indicator of official perceptions that the region could suffer a serious security challenge.
By Armen Grigoryan
February 22nd, 2016, The CACI Analyst
The confrontation between Russia and Turkey, and the fast-changing situation on the oil and natural gas markets, have strongly impacted the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process, as well as the internal state of affairs in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia recently increased its military presence in Armenia, which has unsuccessfully sought support from fellow CSTO members in its confrontation with Azerbaijan. The ongoing clashes along the line of contact imply that the situation will likely remain tense in the short term. Meanwhile, the economic downturn in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as in Russia, increases the risk of domestically motivated escalation of the conflict.
By Stephen Blank
January 19th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Throughout its tenure, the Obama Administration has minimized U.S. involvement with and engagement in both the Caucasus and Central Asia. However, a change in this policy may now be visible. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent, and first, visit to Central Asia suggests a new interest in an expanded and hopefully regular mutual dialogue with the region. In the case of Azerbaijan, three high-ranking U.S. delegations have come through Baku in the last few months, clearly signifying renewed interest in dialogue and the subjects of their discussion, as revealed in the press, tend to corroborate that impression.
By Arslan Sabyrbekov (19/08/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On July 21, Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Tamar Sariev signed a government decree, unilaterally terminating the 1993 cooperation framework agreement with the U.S. Bishkek’s decision came as a reaction to the State Department’s decision to reward Azimjan Askarov with the Human Rights Defender Award. To Kyrgyz officials, Askarov is an ethnic Uzbek political activist serving a life sentence for organizing and taking part in the mass riots in Southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. In its official protest note to Washington, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has referred to him as “a symbol of disruption” and described the award as evidence of an attempt to undermine the country’s unity.
By Mamuka Tsereteli (05/27/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
The South Caucasus enjoyed significant political support from U.S. policy makers since the mid-1990s, when the region was seen as an integral part of the proactive U.S. security and energy policy towards Europe. Those policies were successful, resulting in several pipeline projects connecting Caspian resources to European and world markets. But a direct natural gas connection between Caspian fields and Europe remains to be developed. It is in the common interest of the U.S., EU, producer and transit countries to overcome multiple challenges and make this connection work. While the debate currently includes efforts to build a false connection between Caspian producers and exemptions from the Iran sanctions, Washington needs a serious and strategic discussion on America’s role in Caspian energy.
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 the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.