The chances of a war erupting between Turkey and Syria appear to be rising. But the heated rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government does not seem to be matched by public enthusiasm for conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly canceled his visit to Pakistan last week, but ties between the two countries nevertheless appear to be growing as a result of the Kremlin's fear of instability in Afghanistan.
Putin was supposed to be in Pakistan last week for the Dushanbe Four summit, a grouping that includes Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. But he canceled at the last minute; foreign minister Sergey Lavrov went instead and Pakistan's chief of army staff, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, visited Moscow at the same time. And despite Putin's cancellation, analysts in Russia, Pakistan and India all seem to agree that Russian-Pakistani relations are nevertheless destined to get stronger.
Part of this seems to be a very slow post-Cold War geopolitical realignment, and part is motivated by specific worries about Afghanistan. Russia and India have strong relations, especially military-to-military ties, a vestige of the Cold War when India was a Soviet ally and its enemy, Pakistan, was supported by the U.S. But India is now seeking to diversify its relations, including strengthening ties (including in defense) with the U.S. That has led some in Moscow to want to send India a message, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies and an analyst well connected to the Russian Ministry of Defense, in an interview with Kommersant:
“India remains Moscow’s most important partner in the area of [military-technical cooperation], both in terms of volume and potential. Yet Delhi’s attempts to diversify its supplies of new weapons – increasingly from Western countries – are making Russia flinch. Moscow has explained to Delhi, in no uncertain terms, that it can also diversify its military-technical ties by means of a rapprochement with Pakistan."
State Capitalism is weighing down the Russian economy, and there is not much Russian President Vladimir Putin can do to prop up the system, a leading Western expert contends. The trend raises questions about Putin’s ability to maintain his Kung-fu grip on power.
Political fighting is escalating as Armenia’s presidential election approaches. A long-time, former Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, is facing controversial criminal charges in what is widely regarded as an effort by President Serzh Sargsyan to neutralize Robert Kocharian, his predecessor and potentially most dangerous rival.
Kazakhstan recently experienced its Pussy Riot moment. But in sharp contrast to the torrent of international criticism that followed last summer’s conviction of three mischievous punk rockers in Moscow, the guilty verdict against a prominent opposition politician in Kazakhstan generated just a trickle of disapproval in the West.
We checked everywhere -- at the ministry, at the nightclubs, under the bed. The man just vanished into thin air.
Since Georgia's ruling United National Movement lost the October 1 parliamentary elections, speculations have been raging about key officials supposedly burning work documents and hightailing it out of the country. Most of these reports have proven apocryphal, except that 40-year-old Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, indeed, seems to have gone missing.
With billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition preparing to take over most government offices from the United National Movement, Georgian ministers are now busy clearing their desks, and putting away piles of papers, framed quotes of libertarian thinkers, photos of wives and cats.
In a surprisingly cooperative move, the outgoing ministers also are reportedly giving office tours to the incoming ministers to fill them in on ongoing projects, introduce them to the staff and perhaps share a few hints about nearby lunch spots.
Some of the Georgian Dream’s ministerial candidates praised their soon-to-be predecessors for being forthcoming and willing to put partisan struggles aside to make sure the country's governmental institutions continue functioning smoothly during the transition.
But, then, there is the justice minister and his alleged game of hide-and-seek with his proposed successor.
When nationalist MP Kamchybek Tashiev led his supporters over a fence surrounding parliament in early October, both foreign and local executives working in Kyrgyzstan’s mining industry braced for the worst. Throughout the year, the sector has been cloaked in uncertainty, with foreign investors confronting regulatory hassles and nationalization threats.
Protestors were back on the streets of Jalal-Abad on Monday to support a nationalist legislator charged with trying to violently seize power in Kyrgyzstan.
Late Friday, a court in Bishkek ruled that Kamchybek Tashiev must spend two months in a detention center run by the State Committee on National Security while investigators look into his October 3 calls for the government to be overthrown. That day, Tashiev led a crowd of young men over a fence surrounding parliament, before claiming he was just trying to get to work.
Tashiev, Sadyr Japarov and Talant Mamytov, all from the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party, face up to 20 years in prison.
Tashiev takes his role as an opposition leader in parliament seriously. He is most often in the news for calling for the government to resign. But the October 3 rally – which was ostensibly organized to call for the nationalization of the country’s largest goldmine – was poorly planned and few think he had intended to force out the government. Instead, members of his party say he got caught up in the moment.
It was not a coup attempt, but “just a stupid move,” Fergananews quoted his colleague Jyldyz Joldosheva, also a deputy with the Ata-Jurt party, as saying.
The opening ceremony of the CSTO peacekeeping exercise, Unbreakable Brotherhood 2012, in Kazakhstan.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization has begun what it calls its first-ever peacekeeping exercise, in Kazakhstan. According to the CSTO, the exercise will work on standard peacekeeping tasks like separating the parties to a conflict and ensuring compliance to a cease fire. But the scenario of the exercise seems a bit more active than that: "According to the scenario, a crisis situation arises connected with the activity of international extremists and terrorist organizations and conflict between ethnic groups living in the country." And a Kazakhstani military spokesperson is a bit more detailed: "People portraying terrorists will attack a military base checkpoint and retreat to a village, after which the troops will respond to free the village."
In any event, about 950 troops are taking part, the majority (535) from Kazakhstan, 160 from Russia, 50 from Kyrgyzstan and small contingents from Armenia, Belarus, and Tajikistan. This exercise, called "Unbreakable Brotherhood 2012," follows closely on the heels of another CSTO exercise in Armenia. But this one was (ostensibly) about peacekeeping, and observers from the United Nations, with whom the CSTO has agreed to cooperate on peacekeeping, were present.
Deputy General Secretary of the CSTO Valeriy Semerikov said at the opening ceremony that "the opening of the exercise is the beginning of the arrangement of national peacekeeping contingents into a single structure -- comprising the collective peacekeeping force of the CSTO."