The Greater Caucasus Mountains form a natural buffer between Russia and Georgia. But in the absence of a border agreement between the two states, even some of the highest peaks in Europe are not enough to protect Georgia from the risk of Russian territorial nibbling, analysts say.
From the June 11, 2013 ceremony in Riga of U.S. and Baltic country officials celebrating the 100,000th container to pass through the Baltics en route to military forces in Afghanistan. (photos: The Bug Pit)
The U.S. embassy in Riga held a ceremony on Tuesday celebrating the 100,000th container to be shipped through the Baltic states en route to Afghanistan via the Northern Distribution Network. The ceremony featured an NDN-themed cake, speeches by top officials from all three Baltic states and a formal "christening" of the 100,000th container by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Lynne Tracy. It spoke to the fact that unlike many of the Central Asian countries, which tend to try to keep their cooperation with the U.S. military quiet, the NATO members on the other end of the NDN -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- are proud of their role in the NDN.
The day after the ceremony, the Latvian foreign ministry held a conference devoted to the NDN and broader Eurasian economic and transportation integration. The Bug Pit was lucky to have been in Riga at the time, and the event was a terrific opportunity to learn more about how this less famous end of the NDN works. And one of the major messages of the conference was how the Baltic countries are hoping to use their role in the NDN to deepen ties with their former compatriots in Russia and Central Asian countries.
In using strong-armed tactics against his critics in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has counted on the support of his political base, which is centered in Turkey’s Anatolia region. A visit to two strongholds of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) suggest that while his backing in the conservative Turkish heartland is still strong, it’s potentially brittle.
Increasingly under pressure in Egypt, the Copts, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, are starting to migrate to Georgia, a bastion of Orthodox Christianity in the South Caucasus. But the transition is not entirely a smooth one.
To make sure exiles from Syria feel at home in Armenia, the government has commissioned the construction of an entire settlement called New Aleppo.
Located 20 kilometers shy of the capital, Yerevan, the residential project will accommodate some of the thousands of Syrians of Armenian descent, who escaped the war in Syria.
New Aleppo, named in honor of the wartorn northern Syrian city that houses most of Syria's ethnic Armenian population, will sit on 4.8 hectares (some 11 acres) of land in the industrial town of Ashtarak.
Armenia's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs reports that some 600 families have expressed willingness to move into the development's apartments. They will be expected to pay half the cost of the flats; the authorities and charity groups are expected to pick up the rest of the tab.
With some 7,000 Syrian-Armenians now seeking residency in Armenia, the government says that more Syrian quarters will be popping up across the country as well.
The Syrian Diaspora, estimated to be over 100,000-strong, descends from ethnic Armenians who fled World-War-I-era massacres in Ottoman Turkey. Now, a century later, the bloody rebellion in Syria has driven the community back to what is considered their ancestral homeland.
Some commentators say that preserving the Armenian community in Syria should be the main priority for Yerevan. Fears exist that the Diaspora exodus could reduce Armenia’s ability to exert any influence in the Middle East, long seen as an important Diaspora outpost.
Kseniya Sobchak, a well-known Russian political activist and social butterfly, is an outspoken critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But, curiously, she seems to be taking a much softer line on Azerbaijan’s authoritarian-minded ruler, Ilham Aliyev.
Glance at the parking lot outside parliament, at the fleet of Lexus SUVs kitted out with chrome, and you might think Bishkek is the capital of a wealthy country. A block down Chui Avenue, a shiny new Range Rover is parked on the sidewalk. Police drive their own BMWs.
Look a little closer, though, and the real Kyrgyzstan comes into focus.