With NATO members meeting soon to discuss the future of the alliance's nuclear weapons, and next-door neighbor Iran threatening to get nuclear weapons itself, it's a volatile time for Turkey and nukes. Currently, Turkey hosts some U.S. nuclear bombs, along with four Western European countries. NATO has been undergoing a review of how U.S. nukes should be deployed in Europe, which was supposed to be finished by next month's summit in Chicago. But according to a recent paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the alliance "is unlikely to resolve the question of what to do about its forward deployed nuclear weapons before the summit."
The most likely eventual outcome, however, would seem to be that some of the European hosts of U.S. nukes (Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands) would decide to give them up, while Italy and Turkey would keep them. Turkey has been interested in maintaining that concrete measure of NATO's dedication to its defense, but some other analysts are wondering if other developments are causing Turkey to rethink its nuclear strategy.
Sinan Ülgen, also writing for Carnegie, notes that many policymakers (generally with an interest in ginning up the Iranian threat) have claimed that if Iran got nuclear weapons, that Turkey and other countries in the region would follow suit:
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is on a visit to Dushanbe, where he said that Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon has "confirmed" his interest in extending the lease on the base for Russia's 201st Motorized Rifle Division. From the AP:
Lavrov told reporters that no date for the deal’s signing has been set yet, but added that Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon had given the necessary instructions will be issued to “speed up the negotiation process.”
But there's just one snag: the price.
Tajikistan’s ambassador to Russia hinted this week that his government would seek $300 million annually in cash or equivalent in military assistance for the bases. Moscow is expected to seek a much lower fee.
Lavrov also emphasized in his speech that the base's presence wasn't just in Russia's interest, but operates under the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and is ready to counter "external" threats to Tajikistan as well.
Anyway, it's hard to argue that you're close to a deal when the two sides apparently remain far apart on the financial terms. Also telling is that Rahmon himself didn't seem to make any comments. In other words, we're still basically at the same place we were eight months ago, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said they had reached a deal. Of course, what we see in public is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of the negotiations that are going on, so perhaps there has been some real progress. But if they are still far apart on price, then that suggests there's a long way to go.
Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov Meets NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Will he be shaking hands with Obama next?
U.S. President Barack Obama should meet with his Uzbekistan counterpart, Islam Karimov, at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, says the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce. The AUCC has written two letters, one to Obama and the other to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguing that an Obama-Karimov meeting would improve opportunities for American businesses in Uzbekistan:
[T]he Republic of Uzbekistan is important to U.S. interests in ensuring stability and security in the region, and under the Partnership for Peace Program, NATO and Uzbekistan are developing practical cooperation in a number of areas through Uzbekistan's Individual Partnership Program and the Planning and Review Process.
The Republic of Uzbekistan's political stability as well as its determination and commitment to ensure peace in the region are important features for business success. For AUCC member companies, the positive political dialogue between the United States of America and the Republic of Uzbekistan pursued by your office reinforces the U.S. business community's ability to increase investments and exports to the Uzbek market.
The AUCC would welcome your support for the request that you meet Uzbek President Islam A. Karimov during the NATO Summit in Chicago, IL. The U.S. business community believes that such a meeting with further enhance our bilateral relations, reiterate the U.S. commercial interest in this resource-rich country and strengthen our companies' business stance in the region.
The Bug Pit obtained copies of the letters, you can read the entire letter to Obama here. (The letter to Clinton is almost identical.)
The person who sent me the letter wasn't sure if Karimov was already planning to attend the NATO summit, but if he does, that will certainly be a bit of a spectacle.
The Estonian Swan drone, above, and its Georgian younger brother, below.
Georgia made a splash last week when it rolled out what it said was its first domestically produced drone aircraft. “No one will share this [pointing to the Georgian-made drone] with others; it’s ours," said President Mikheil Saakashvili, at its unveiling. "We no longer depend on others.”
But now it's emerged that the drone may not be quite as homegrown as was originally presented. A variety of observers have noticed a strong similarity between the Georgian drone and the Swan, a UAV produced by Estonian company ELI. (See here for some more photos of both.) Even the digital camouflage pattern on the ground control system (visible at about 0:41 of the video in the original post) seems to be the same pattern used by Estonian armed forces.
Irakli Aladashvili, the editor of a Georgian military magazine, says the drone does in fact appear to be a close relative of the Estonian. Writing in the newspaper Kviris Palitra (below translation from BBC Monitoring), he says:
A detailed study showed that the Georgian unmanned aircraft presented last week looks very similar to the Estonian one, which makes us think that the unmanned aircraft christened as Georgian, might be made under the license of Estonian ELI. Suspicion is deepened by the camouflage cover of the computer of the land complex for the control of the pilotless aircraft. This kind of camouflage is typical only of the Estonian Army.
Saakashvili examines the fruits of Georgia's defense industry in a visit to the "Delta" defense plant in Tbilisi.
Georgia showed off its new domestically produced drone last week, a symbolic step in the development of the country's nascent defense industry. But President Mikheil Saakashvili has much bigger plans for the country's military-industrial complex, he has revealed, including an armed drone -- by next year -- and air defense systems.
Saakashvili laid out the plans in a speech at a state-run defense factory in Tbilisi, as reported by Civil.ge:
“I am sure that if we work well we will make air defense system too,” he continued. “Yesterday when we tested unmanned [aerial vehicle], some thought it was a toy… Go and buy if you can such a ‘toy’, which can fly for eight hours, equipped with cameras capable to capture images at night,”
“From next year we will have similar [drone], but capable to carry arms… and it will be much more efficient then old Russian [ground] attack aircraft,” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili, who invoked Singapore as a model for Georgia's defense industry to follow, also said that the country was in "serious talks" about exporting its Didgori and Lazika armored vehicles.
At the same speech, though, Saakashvili said Georgia would also be relying on a lower-tech means of defense: a volunteer reserve force, which will grow from about 70,000 members this summer to 150,000 next year. Again, from Civil.ge:
Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon said that the country won't consider the possibility of countries other than Russia setting up military bases there. From a Reuters report:
"Russia is the main strategic partner and our natural ally, and I hope that it will always be like this," Rakhmon said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
"On my desk, I have a folder containing offers from other states, promising wonders in return for opening their military bases and other facilities, but we are not even considering them," he said, without naming the countries.
Oh, to see that folder! One can only imagine what "wonders" are being promised.
Anyway, U.S. diplomatic cables from WIkileaks tell a different story, saying that Tajikistan government officials "have indicated they would be happy for the U.S. establish an air base in Tajikistan."
But Rahmon's statement is nonetheless notable at a time when India still appears to be holding out hope to use the Ayni airbase outside Dushanbe, and the rumbling about a possible U.S. base of some sort is getting louder. (And not just in Dushanbe, where such rumors are fairly constant, but even in Washington.) So is Rahmon serious this time?
After Turkey and Armenia signed historic protocols in 2009 to normalize relations and reopen the border between the two countries, the reconciliation process between the two countries quickly stalled. As my colleague Yigal Schleiffer wrote, "not much longer after they were signed, the agreement was as good as dead, killed off by a combination of Turkish buyer's remorse, Azeri bullying and Armenian naivete." A thorough report on the history of the diplomatic reconciliation process, by David Phillips, a scholar who has long experience working in Turkish-Armenian relations, concluded that the protocols were in fact effectively dead.
But Phillips spoke Tuesday in Washington, and said he is now more optimistic about the protocols' prospects than he was when he finished that report last month. Recent trips to Ankara and Yerevan and conversations with diplomats in both places gave him new reason for hope, and he said he now wanted to "disassociate himself" from the pessimistic conclusion he gave in his report.
Kazakhstan is about to launch its first domestically produced naval vessel, the country has announced. The missile boat, called the "Kazakhstan," was produced at the Zenit shipyards in Uralsk and will be launched into the Caspian by the end of April, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The ship "is designed to destroy surface ships, boats and transports of the enemy on their own and in collaboration with naval strike forces," said an MoD release.
The Kazakhstan will thus become the most powerful ship in the eponymous country's nascent navy, and the first that is really a naval ship, as opposed to a coast guard vessel. By next year, two more ships of the same class are scheduled to be launched as well. Kazakhstan naval officials had earlier said they were planning to buy three corvettes (a somewhat larger ship), as well, from South Korea, but little has been said about that lately.
The ship will have a displacement of 240 tons, has a top speed of 30 knots and is armed with "modernised anti-aircraft missile and artillery units," according to a report from CaspioNet, where you can also see a video interview with the ship's captain.
It's much easier to hype a security threat than to prove one doesn't exist, a fact that has bedeviled China's Uyghur minority. That many Uyghurs oppose the Chinese government -- sometimes violently -- is beyond doubt, but Beijing has sought to tie the Uyghur political movement to a larger global Islamist jihad. And thanks to the U.S. government, the United Nations and various charlatan "terrorism experts," they have succeeded. That's the conclusion of Sean Roberts, a Central Asia scholar at George Washington University, in a new report (pdf), "Imaginary Terrorism?"
In November 2001, the Chinese government published a paper, “Terrorist Activities Perpetrated by ‘Eastern Turkistan’ Organizations and their Ties with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban,” which identified a group called the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as the most dangerous Uyghur threat. That was the first-ever public identification of the ETIM, and it was followed by another white paper two months later. That these documents were released just after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. was no coincidence, Roberts writes:
Given the timing of the release of these two initial official documents, many experts on China and the Uyghurs viewed them as attempts by the Chinese state to link its struggle with Uyghur political dissent to the United States’ “Global War on Terror.” Whether or not this was the intent, it appears to have been the result.
Later in 2002, both the U.S. and the United Nations placed the ETIM on their official list of terror organizations.
President Mikheil Saakashvili has unveiled Georgia's first domestically produced drone aircraft. The drone is designed for reconnaissance and surveillance, with a photo and infrared camera, and Saakashvili said that it being homegrown means that "no one will share this with others," apparently referring to an embarrassing episode with previous UAVs that Georgia bought from Israel. After selling the drones to Georgia, Israel reportedly gave Russia data link codes that allowed the Russians to hack into the Georgian drones. The Georgian government hasn't publicly confirmed those reports, but Saakashvili surely had them in mind when speaking at the drone's launch, reports Civil.ge:
“When you make procurement from abroad a seller may not give you a full technology or may share technology [bought] by you to your adversary,” Saakashvili said at a presentation of the drone. “No one will share this [pointing to the Georgian-made drone] with others; it’s ours… We no longer depend on others.”
The drone can fly for eight hours, reach an altitude of 3,000 meters and reach a top speed of 160 km/hour, Georgia says. The Georgian Ministry of Defense has video of the demonstration here (and which you can see below). I asked a UAV expert, who asked not to be named, what he thought. He was impressed, but doubted that it was as homegrown as was being portrayed: