There is an interesting piece posted recently on Foreign Policy’s website that highlights how authoritarian-minded leaders in Eurasia are becoming adept at leveraging thuggish behavior.
The article, titled “The League of Authoritarian Gentlemen,” is written by Alex Cooley, a Central Asia specialist at Columbia University. It examines the ways in which Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have used the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to stifle dissent.
The fall of the Soviet Union presented what should have been a golden opportunity for Turkey to develop a sphere of influence in the Turkic republics of Central Asia. For various reasons, though, things didn't quite work out that way. In many ways, Ankara now finds itself having better relations and more influence in the Middle East -- a region whose countries it traditionally kept at an arm's length -- than in Central Asia.
What went wrong? Nadir Devlet, a professor in the International Relations department of Istanbul Commerce University, tries to answer that question in a new paper for the German Marshall Fund that takes a look at the last 20 years of Turkey-Central Asia relations and that suggests that a new outreach effort from Ankara may be on the horizon. From his paper:
Turkey’s efforts to penetrate the Turkic regions of the former Soviet Union with its own influence have had a number of successes and failures. President Gül has been a particular advocate for a more assertive Turkish approach in this regard. Yet to date, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turk- menistan are not important business partners for Turkey, despite their geographic proximity, energy riches, and other resources. Turkey’s relations with Turkmenistan are in fact deteriorating, and its relations with Uzbekistan — which with a population of nearly 30 million is Central Asia’s most important actor — are at their lowest level in many years. Turkish-Turkic integration clearly has a long way to go. Yet we should not be surprised to see Ankara assigning height- ened importance to the larger Turkic world in its emerging foreign policy as Turkey gives up its former commitment to the status quo for a more visible strategic activism.
Speaking in Washington on October 27 following her return from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that bipartisanship is essential if the United States is to achieve its strategic objectives in the region.
Clinton defended the Obama administration’s approach in the face of growing skepticism among Republican Party members of Congress. She insisted that the administration was "meeting our commitments and progressing towards our goals" in Afghanistan and across the region and needed to remain fully engaged.
“America paid a heavy price for disengaging after the Soviets left in 1989,” she said. “We cannot afford to make that mistake again. … We have to be smart and strategic. And we have to work together to protect our interests.”
Clinton stressed a need to strengthen security in the Afghan-Pak border area. In Islamabad, she joined with senior US military and intelligence leaders in insisting that Pakistan’s government and military get out of the terrorist sponsorship business since “trying to distinguish between so-called good terrorists and bad terrorists is ultimately self-defeating and dangerous.”
Clinton reassured committee members that “talking” with the Taliban and their allies did not mean that administration was abandoning its core goals. “Insurgents must renounce violence, abandon al Qaeda, and abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, including its protections for women and minorities,” Clinton said. “If insurgents cannot, or will not, meet those redlines, they will face continued and unrelenting assault.”
An allleged State Department cable from Brussels recently released by the activist group WikiLeaks illustrates the challenge to governments by the radical Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir which seeks to restore theocratic government under the caliphate. WikiLeaks said the full text of the original cable, which was sent September 8, 2004 and discusses events in the Caucasus and Central Asia, was not available.
The cable is a good example of how governments talk about groups in civil society behind their backs, hoping to encourage some civic actors even as they remain ambivalent about others. Referenced in the cable are Michael Swann, South Caucasus and Central Asia Desk Officer in the EU Council Secretariat, and Jan Lucas Van Hoorn, Director of the Southeast and Eastern Europe Department in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the Netherlands was then EU president):
On Central Asia, both sides agreed on the difficulty and importance of helping to build civil society. Swann commented that the EU had to deal with "substandard governments and substandard civil society" -- the governments were suspicious of efforts to reach out to NGOs and other groups, while NGOs and the press tended to take irresponsible actions that aroused further government suspicion. The U.S. and EU, suggested van Hoorn, needed to call all parties on their behavior -- and to encourage further contact between government and civil society representatives.
Uzbekistan is ranked at 102 in the "Medium Human Development" category, out of 169 countries of the world. It has improved since last year, when it was at 119.
Russia ranks at 65, which puts it in the "High Human Development" category.
Kazakhstan is at 66 also in the "High" list; Turkmenistan at 87; Kyrgyzstan at 109; and Tajikistan at 112 are all in the "Medium" list; and Afghanistan at 155, is in the "Low" list.
This index is based on information that the UN gets from the governments of the countries where it has a presence. While the HDI report tries in all sorts of ways to compensate for skewed data to try to relay the real picture of poverty and the gap between the rich and poor, it relies on the official reports from governments known to have no accountability or transparency -- so the numbers may be not be reliable.
According to the HDI, in Uzbekistan, life expectancy is at 68, there is a maternal mortality ratio of 24 deaths per 100,000 and a per capita income of $3,084 a year.
By contrast, Turkmenistan, has a life expectancy of 65, a maternal mortality of 130, and per capita income of $7,052. That suggests the gas revenues aren't going into health care investment.
In general, the Central Asia region has worsened its HDI due to inequality of income and gender.
Norway occupies first place and Zimbabwe holds last place in the HDI.
Gulnara Karimova has worn many hats in her life: presidential daughter, pop star, jewelry designer, humanitarian, diplomat. But now she has another one: Professor Karimova is a regional security analyst. She waxes geostrategic in an analysis published by one of Washington's top think tanks, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
The development of geopolitical processes over the past decade demonstrates that Central Asia has become one of the key Eurasian regions, with major impact on the overall climate of the continental and global security.
It goes on for 4,000 more words of similarly trenchant analysis. What might we expect in the future from Carnegie? Maybe Maxim Bakiyev on good governance in Kyrgyzstan? James Giffen on transparency in Kazakhstan's energy sector?
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