By Rafis Abazov
May 23, 2019, the CACI Analyst
The resignation of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in spring 2019, after 30 years of uninterrupted stewardship, had an unexpected timing. However, even more unexpected was the Parliament of Kazakhstan’s hastily announced early presidential elections scheduled for June 9, 2019. Even some major political insiders were caught unprepared. Indeed, leading local analyst Sergei Domnin of Expert Magazine wrote that the entire political establishment woke up to find Kazakhstan at a political “crossroad.” Some believe that the elections are just a face change and that the ruling elite will continue to pursue the same policies. Others claim that the elections could lead to the emergence of an “entirely new political model.”
By Uran Botobekov
May 2, 2019, the CACI Analyst
In January 2019, the Central Asian terrorist group Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) publicly renewed its Bayat (oath of allegiance) to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s global chief. More than seven years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda continues to attract Central Asian Salafi groups. This trend has intensified since the start of the Syrian civil war, where several thousand radical Islamists from Central Asia went to wage Jihad. The conflict has allowed al Qaeda to claim Syria as its newest and most important safe haven for a global Jihad ideology. The ideological assimilation of the Central Asian groups with al Qaeda took place precisely in Syria.
By Natalia Konarzewska
April 29, 2019, the CACI Analyst
In March 2019, two high-ranking Armenian officials revealed that Armenia and Russia have not yet reached an agreement on the price of natural gas. Negotiations on gas tariffs are ongoing and remain high on the bilateral agenda. In late December 2018, Gazprom announced that it will raise gas prices for Armenia in 2019. Subsequently, Armenia has sought to reduce the price for Russian supply, with little success. In a move to improve Armenia’s negotiating position vis-a-vis Russia, Yerevan started to explore the possibility of importing gas from Iran. The gas row comes amid heightened tensions in post-revolutionary Armenia’s relations with Russia. Moscow has traditionally used its gas deliveries as a lever in bilateral relations and now routinely expresses its distrust in Nikol Pashinyan’s government.
By Stephen Blank
April 18, 2019, the CACI Analyst
The Washington Post recently reported that China has an operating military base in Tajikistan, confirming earlier accounts of this base and opening a window on China’s interests and strategic developments across Central Asia. However, China may have a second base situated in the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan. Chinese forces have been present there since 2017, around the same time that the base in Tajikistan became functional. The newly discovered base, along with the base in Djibouti and the possible base in Afghanistan, reflects the pressures building from within the PRC and PLA to project military power beyond China’s borders, e.g. in the South China Sea.
By Natalia Konarzewska
March 22, 2019, the CACI Analyst
In February 2019, Kazakhstan saw a wave of protests triggered by various social and economic grievances. Rallies burst through the country in multiple locations, indicating that popular distress is strong and unlikely to fade soon. In an attempt to placate social discontent, President Nursultan Nazarbayev fired the government, citing its inability to improve living standards and announced his own plan to provide social relief for the families. Kazakhstan’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy is struggling to recover after the 2014 plunge in oil prices and the spillover effects of Western sanctions against its largest trade partner Russia. On March 19, president Nazarbayev announced his immediate resignation after ruling Kazakhstan for thirty years.
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.