The strange case of the Armenian-Moldovan-Libyan-Latvian arms deal has reached a sort of conclusion: Moldova's ambassador to Baku has apologized for the deal, reports News.az:
'Those responsible for arms sale have been called to the Security Committee of Moldova and commission for security issues of the parliament and brought to responsibility.
Though no sanctions have been applied in Moldova related to arms sales to any country, it was politically incorrect to sell arms to Armenia. We will try not to tolerate such cases anymore', the ambassador said.
That's some pretty serious groveling. At least from the official Azerbaijani perspective, relations between them and Moldova are not all that strong, with just $1 million in trade: "The products imported into Moldova from Azerbaijan were natural juice and medicines." They do have a common cause as countries with territories occupied by another country. But there is likely some nuance to Moldovan-Azerbaijan relations I'm missing, that would explain why it is so "politically incorrect" to sell arms to their neighbor. Anyone with the answer, let me know.
A Chinese military doctor tends to a Pakistani patient during a PLA humanitarian mission to Pakistan in 2010.
In its effort to combat separatist Uighur groups, China is apparently seeking to establish military bases in the part of Pakistan that borders the Uighurs' home province of Xinjiang. That's according to Pakistani journalist Amir Mir, writing in Asia Times:
While Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at its southwestern seaport of Gwadar in Balochistan province, Beijing is more interested in setting up military bases either in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan or in the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) that border Xinjiang province.
The Chinese desire is meant to contain growing terrorist activities of Chinese rebels belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) that is also described as the Turkistani Islamic Party (TIP).
The Chinese Muslim rebels want the creation of an independent Islamic state and are allegedly being trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan. According to well-placed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, Beijing's wish for a military presence in Pakistan was discussed at length by the political and military leadership of both countries in recent months as China (which views the Uyghur separatist sentiment as a dire threat) has become ever-more concerned about Pakistan's tribal areas as a haven for radicals.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai raised a few eyebrows this weekend by suggesting that he would go to war against the U.S. -- the country without whose protection he would have been run out of Kabul years ago -- on the side of Pakistan. Reports the New York Times:
“God forbid, if there is ever a war between Pakistan and America, then we will side with Pakistan,” [Karzai] said in the interview with Geo Television, which was conducted partly in Urdu, partly in English. He added that Afghanistan would back Pakistan in a military conflict with any other country, including its archrival, India...
The prospect of a war between the U.S. and Pakistan is, of course, remote, and Karzai's statement was likely a ham-handed attempt to declare Kabul's loyalty to Islamabad, as tension between the two capitals has been rising; there have been high-profile attacks in Afghanistan originating in Pakistan, and Afghanistan just signed a strategic partnership agreement with India.
"This is not about war with each other," said Gavin Sundwall, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. "This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries."
Anonymously, the interpretations were less generous: "It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible," said one Afghan official [to the Journal]. "He hasn't pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals."
The arrival of reclusive billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili on to Georgia's political scene is big news among Tbilisi's pundits, but it's also sparking some curiosity in foreign capitals, as well. Would be continue the same pro-Western, NATO-oriented foreign policy as the current government. To what extent is that orientation dependent on one man, the current president Mikheil Saakashvili?
His public statements thus far give some clue. He suggests a pro-Western orientation but a less hostile attitude toward Russia.
In one public letter, he refers to accusations that he is pro-Russia, as opposed to the pro-Western Saakashvili, but frames it in terms of politics, not foreign policy:
Quite recently Ia Antadze described me without any arguments as a pro-Russian force, and Saakashvili – as an apologetic of pro-western liberal values.
Ok, I will not take offence at whatever Ia Antadze calls me, but how can one see liberalism and pro-western orientation in Saakashvili, who established an authoritarian regime in Georgia? When you have a reputation, when the society knows you as a highly skilled and honest journalist and when you make such conclusions, such action is already equal to a crime.
(His notion that making such a statement is a crime undercuts somewhat his anti-authoritarian stance, but anyway.)
He also says that it was Georgia who invaded South Ossetia, not Russia (and that he advised against it). That is by now a pretty mainstream view outside of Georgia, but is certainly contrary to Saakashvili's take. Here, in the same letter, he's addressing Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili:
As the U.S. and NATO prepare to pull their troops out of Afghanistan starting in 2014, everyone is wondering how to keep the country -- and its neighbors -- from the instability that seems inevitable. And the preferred strategy seems to be regional integration: the U.S. is convening a regional conference in Istanbul next month to coordinate strategies with Afghanistan and its neighbors, of which the U.S.'s new Silk Road Strategy is one component. Russia, too, is promoting the CSTO as the security component of what promises to be a larger, regional diplomatic effort including Pakistan, China and other neighbors.
But as an excellent analysis by George Gavrilis in Foreign Affairs suggests, the countries surrounding Afghanistan are not likely to be too invested in any regional coordination:
Ex-Chief of General Staff of the Moldovan Army, Iurie Dominic, sacked after an arms deal with Armenia
Armenia has bought some weapons from Moldova, and Azerbaijan is not happy about it, reports RFE/RL:
Azerbaijan has expressed serious concern over Armenia’s reported purchase from Moldova last month of rockets and other weapons worth millions of dollars, saying that it will complicate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Elnur Aslanov, head of an analytical unit at President Ilham Aliyev’s administration, on Friday described this and other arms acquisitions by Yerevan as a “serious destabilizing factor” in the region.
“The policy on Nagorno-Karabakh pursued by Armenia testifies to the destructive position of that state in the region,” Russian and Azerbaijani news agencies quoted him as telling journalists in Baku. “Any arms acquisition, any increase in the number of weapons in the region certainly does not lay the groundwork for establishing peace and stability and, on the contrary, impedes that.”
Kyrgyzstan is a dark-horse candidate in elections for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, but one of its advantages is the Manas air base, according to an analysis by Bloomberg:
The impoverished former Soviet state, which has no credit rating or international bonds, has been criticized by the U.S. and UN for corruption and a range of human rights abuses, including the abduction of girls for forced marriages.
Still, it has two cards to play in seeking a place in the UN’s most powerful group: a woman leader and air bases.
The land-locked country has Central Asia’s first female president and is unique in having both Russia and U.S. use military bases on its territory. The U.S. relies on the Manas Transit Center to support operations in Afghanistan, after Uzbekistan evicted U.S. military from its airfield in 2005....
[President Roza] Otunbayeva “is certainly going to do her best to ensure the maximum number of Western votes for the only democracy in that part of the world with a valuable transit military base leased by the U.S,” said Lilit Gevorgyan, a London-based analyst at IHS Global Insight.
Well, and that's the only evidence presented that Manas will have any effect on the vote. Kyrgyzstan is a candidate for the de facto Asia seat on the council, and its primary competition is Pakistan. And there is much speculation in the South Asian press that the U.S. is marshaling support for Kyrgyzstan over Pakistan. From the Times of India:
A Washington task force headed by two U.S. senators has released a report on Georgia and its relations with the U.S. and Europe, "Georgia in the West: A Policy Road Map to Georgia's Euro-Atlantic Future." It makes a variety of recommendations for U.S., European and Georgian policymakers, including some provocative ones in the security realm:
-- Propose an international security presence in the occupied territories: As part of an effort to go on the offense diplomatically, the United States should work with its allies to lay out a clear vision of what security arrangements should be in the context of a fully implemented cease-fire agreement: an Abkhazia and South Ossetia in which additional Russian forces and border guards have withdrawn and security is provided by a neutral international security presence working closely with local authorities...
-- Advance Georgia’s NATO aspirations. US officials should use the NATO summit in Chicago to advance NATO’s commitment to Georgia’s membership aspirations in practical ways, including by adopting a package of intensified cooperation, reiterating that Georgia will become an ally, and making clear that the NATO-Georgia Commission and Georgia’s Annual National Programme are mechanisms through which Georgia can eventually achieve membership...
Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan in 2005
The press service of the U.S. Air Force's Air Mobility Command (whose mission it is to transport troops) has written a brief history of the war in Afghanistan, which turned ten years old on Oct. 7. And one of the three parts is dedicated to the role of Uzbekistan's Karshi-Khanabad base, or K2. It is a straightforward account of the base's operation, some quotes by then-top Pentagon officials Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Myers about the importance of the base, and then this:
Although the 416th Air Expeditionary Group stopped operations in Uzbekistan in mid-2005, many elements of its former mission are in use at other locations. Most notably is the 774th EAS which now operates from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan...
This neglects to mention that the US "stopped operations" there because the government kicked them out, after the State Department objected to the Andijan massacre.
Now, I'm almost certainly reading too much into a press release written by a staff sergeant in Illinois (with no disrespect intended), but this is interesting reading in light of recent events. The U.S. and Uzbekistan are now somewhat tight again; Uzbekistan is allowing massive amounts of U.S. military cargo to pass through en route to Afghanistan, and the U.S. has removed restrictions on military aid. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even suggested that Uzbekistan is making progress on democratization and human rights. Does this rose-tinted history fit in to this story somehow? (It's also noteworthy that Kyrgyzstan's Manas base, where Air Mobility Command continues to operate to this day, does not receive a mention in the history.) Something to ponder...