US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton worked quietly and diligently during her recent trip through Central and South Asia to lay the groundwork for a regional stabilization plan, dubbed the “New Silk Road.” The vision sees expanded trade as the balm that can heal the region’s wounds.
Uzbekistan has been keeping the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-dominated security bloc of post-Soviet countries, at arm's length: formally, it's a member, but it hasn't lately participated in any CSTO events, like the recent large-scale military exercises the group held. And now Belarus's president Alexander Lukashenko says it's time for Tashkent to decide -- and that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agrees:
“Even Uzbekistan that today has a specific stance will eventually understand that it will find it hard to preserve independence without the CSTO,” the President of Belarus said. He emphasized that the accession is a domestic matter of Uzbekistan and “we are not interfering”. “Although I have recently shared my thoughts with the President of Russia. We need to make a decision on Uzbekistan. Because Uzbekistan cannot join the CSTO as long as it is playing this triple game,” Alexander Lukashenko is convinced. After all, Uzbekistan has not ratified a single significant document of the CSTO yet, it only formally stated that it is allegedly returning to the CSTO."
The saga of the mysterious drone shot down over Nagorno-Karabakh keeps getting more and more intriguing. You'll recall that the Armenian de facto authorities of Karabakh released photos of the downed UAV and claimed that the drone was from Azerbaijan. Makes sense: Azerbaijan operates drone similar to the one shown in photos, with which they try to surveil the area of the line of contact between them and the Armenians. Azerbaijan's state news agency countered with another theory: that the drone was actually Israel's. That was last month, and the story has gone cold since then.
But now, an Israeli website, DEBKAfile, has a new scoop/conspiracy theory: it was Russia! Their take:
Western sources believe Moscow had the Azerbaijani drone shot down as a one-off incident for four objectives:
1. A hands-off road sign to Israel to stay out of the Caspian Sea region and its conflicts. Moscow has taken note of Israel's deepening economic and military footholds in four countries: Azerbaijan, which is the largest, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Georgia, and regards its supply of arms to these countries as unwanted interference in Russia's backyard.
2. Revenge for Israel reneging on its 2009 commitment to build a drone factory in Russia. Moscow decided to confront Israeli drone technicians with Russian antiaircraft crews with an unwinnable ambush.
3. Moscow was also telling Tehran that it was serious about cooperating with Iran to safeguard its rights in the Caspian Sea and willing to use diplomatic, military and intelligence means to halt the spread of Azerbaijani and Israeli influence in the region.
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.”