One key element of this campaign is a revitalized naval base on the Russian Black Sea coast to house the eastern section of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. When the USSR dissolved in 1991, Ukraine and Russia fought bitterly over the Black Sea Fleet. After much wrangling, they divided up the fleet and its personnel (Russia 82%, Ukraine 18%, Georgia 0%) and Ukraine signed an agreement to rent to Russia part of the naval base at Sevastopol for its portion of the divided fleet. The lease runs until 2017, and Russia plans on having it renewed, but it has begun also efforts to build a major new naval base at the port of Novorossiisk on the eastern littoral of the Black Sea (southwest of Krasnodar). On 4 October 2003, Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Masorin announced, "Preliminary estimates indicate that the construction of the Black Sea Fleet naval base in Novorossiisk will be completed by 2010. Its cost will total approximately 2-3 billion rubles." (INTERFAX, 29 Sep 2003 via gazeta.ru) Masorin noted that the first phase would serve to enlarge and enhance the facilities for the forces already assigned there, namely a brigade securing the sea district and marine and fleet aviation units of the Black Sea Fleet. The plan then envisions expanding the two existing piers and enhancing port defenses. However, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated "This does not mean that we intend to leave our main naval base in Sevastopol and withdraw the Black Sea Fleet to Novorossiisk. The main base of the Black Sea Fleet will remain in Sevastopol." (KOMMERSANT, Ibid.) Ivanov noted that the new base will be used for mooring the warships withdrawn to the Krasnodar region since 1991 (i.e. the Eastern squadron of the fleet).
Masorin also stated that, "Further development of the Black Sea Fleet on the Russian coast has been planned. A state target program will be adopted. It will be linked to the overall development of the Russian Navy," he said. "The Black Sea Fleet commanders hope that it will be an excellent base not only for the forces currently stationed there but for additional forces as well," he said. (INTERFAX, 29 Sep 2003; gazeta.ru via Lexis-Nexis)
The bottom line: in addition to the modernized and expanded naval base, Russia intends to build a network of airbases, ports and military bases for the Armed Forces, to include the FSBs newly reacquired Border Guard Service (THE HINDU, 29 Sep 03; The Financial Times via Lexis-Nexis).
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to disagree with the proposal that the U.S. has put forth regarding additional international help in Iraq. Twice in recent days, Mr. Putin, or senior members of his government, have compared Iraq with previous lingering conflicts in places like Vietnam (for the U.S,) and Afghanistan (for the U.S.S.R.). He demanded that a UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) should enhance the involvement of those who previously worked in the area (no doubt referring to both Russia and France), because "others" would lack the expertise and ability to work with the Iraqis. He even hinted at the quid pro quo he expects: Russia would accommodate the U.S., but Washington must ensure that Iraq honors its previous commercial contracts, both with Russia and others who opposed the war. Apparently, Presidents Putin and Bush were unable to come to terms at their recent Camp David summit. President Putin indicates Russia wont even entertain thoughts of sending Russian troops until a UNSCR is approved, but, judging by the Bosnian and Kosovo precedents, is it not precluded that Russian troops may participate eventually. (RTR and POLIT.RU, 3 Oct 03 via RFE/RL Newsline Part I, 6 Oct 03; RIA NOVOSTI (en.rian.ru), 6 Oct 03 The New York Times via russiajournal.com, 6 Oct 03)
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Dept of Defense or the United States government.
While the War on Terrorism goes on, non-proliferation efforts continue to curb the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). A myriad of diplomatic, military, and regulatory measures coalesced to create the security framework to protect the current inventories of WMD allowed for signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Warfare Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In contrast to the previous period and in response to the seemingly omnipresent threat of terrorism, this new "world order" has presented an image of increased cooperation and joint approaches to non-proliferation and collective defense.
Consequent to the cooperative biological security efforts with Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the United States and Ukraine have negotiated a foundation from which to conduct joint research for protection from biological weapons. Nearing final agreement are implementation measures under the aegis of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR). According to Brigadier General (Ret.) Thomas Kuenning, Director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the aim of the CTR Program is to install the measures necessary to "safeguard Ukrainian biological materials and facilities that pose a potential threat as weapons of mass destruction" (ITAR-TASS, 29 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0929 via World News Connection).
In addition to U.S. initiatives with Russia and the CIS, Germany has invested both significant capital and technology in non-proliferation protocols with Russia. Recently, a delegation from the German Defense Ministry and other federal agencies visited the chemical weapons disposal plant in Gorny, in the Saratov region. The premise of this consortium of German and Russian agencies is "to study and monitor the implementation of the projects aimed at eliminating chemical weapons, storing and disposing of hazardous waste." (ITAR-TASS, 29 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-0929 via World News Connection) The Gorny plant came on line in December 2002 and has been instrumental in diminishing chemical weapons stockpiles of yperite and lewisite. Further construction continues at Gorny with a complex for burial of solid waste planned. All in all, Gorny is meant as a symbol of international cooperation in combating the transfer of inventory and the spread of chemical weapons. It's output will be vital in Russia's ability to "scrap 20 percent of its store of chemical weapons under a federal program and an international convention by 2007." (ITAR-TASS, 29 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-0929 via World News Connection)
On the nuclear issue, U.S. and Russian scientists are attempting to initiate cooperative efforts aimed at stemming the tide of potential nuclear terrorism. According to Gennadi Mesyats, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "joint projects are being implemented by the working group for countering radiological terrorism, which was created by the academies of sciences of the two countries...similar groups were created for countering computer terrorism and urban terrorism." (ITAR-TASS, 24 Sep 03: FBIS-SOV-0925 via World News Connection) At the 2nd International Conference on Nonproliferation, UN Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe proclaimed that "the U.S. and Russia as two powers, bear a special responsibility for strengthening the WMD nonproliferation regime
. These two countries have made considerable progress, having signed the Moscow Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. However, we would like to have more actions...(relating) to the implementation of the program on the reduction of a universal threat and global partnership against the proliferation of arms and mass destruction materials." (ITAR-TASS, 19 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-0919 via World News Connection)
It is clear that the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction is more complex than just their intended use - their storage and that of their nuclear byproducts is of equal concern. A recent focus of admittedly contentious reporting is the possibility that Russian Navy personnel recently was exposed to potentially high doses of radiation at a base in the Northern Fleet.
The Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmentalist group, recently released a statement claiming that several seamen working on a nuclear reactor were exposed to high doses of radiation. According to Bellona, "ten enlisted men in the Northern Fleet, handling a nuclear reactor in early September, were exposed to intense hard radiation. This happened in Gremikha, the technical base of the Northern Federal Enterprise for Handling Radioactive Waste [a structure of the federal Nuclear Energy Ministry]" (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 25 Sep 03; via ISI Emerging Markets database) Gremikha Base Director Valeri Panteleev supports the Bellona Foundations claim. Panteleev claims that the Navy and the Nuclear Energy Ministry lacked specific knowledge of where on the base radioactive waste was located. From all accounts, it appears that "in mid-July this year, while digging, some personnel at the base struck a waste burial site and were exposed to hard radiation. The doses they received amounted to the average annual dose." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 25 Sep 03; via ISI Emerging Markets database).
In a rather scathing analysis, Nezavisimaya Gazeta (25 Sep 03; via ISI Emerging Markets database), complains that "all through the 1990s, senior officers of the 12th Main Directorate of the Defense Ministry [security of nuclear weapons and all sorts of nuclear components] repeated over and over that all radioactive substances and elements were monitored and under control, that the sites were absolutely secure. We see now that radioactive substances were simply dumped and forgotten."
That remains to be seen. To this end, really genuine international collaboration and cooperation on all aspects of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons security would be prudent and potentially valuable instruments in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction.
By Paul J. Lyons (email@example.com)
Much ado about nothing
On September 19, 2003, at the CIS summit in Yalta, the Presidents of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on the formation of a Single Economic Space (SES). The agreement envisages "unification of the customs territories of the states, in which the same economic mechanisms will function to ensure free movement of goods, services, assets and labor. The member states will pursue the same foreign trade, taxation and monetary, crediting and foreign exchange policy." (ITAR-TASS, 22 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis)
The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenka, stated that the agreement would solve 90%-95% of Belarussian economic problems. (WWW.BELARUSTODAY.INFO, 20 Sep 03) He also expressed his hopes that the economic union would bring Belarus and Ukraine in to closer cooperation.
Compared to Belarus', Ukraine's chances of benefiting from this treaty are significantly smaller. Even the act of signing the agreement has generated controversy in Ukraine. Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the Fatherland Party, appealed to the international community not to recognize the signature of Leonid Kuchma on any international documents. The party started a new stage in its campaign to impeach the president. (BBC MONITORING, 23 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis) Victor Yushchenko, the leader of Our Ukraine alliance party blok also threatened Kuchma with impeachment, claiming that the president had sold out Ukraine's sovereignty. Even Kuchma's own ministers (of foreign affairs, economics, and justice) opposed the agreement, saying that it harmed the economic and political interests of the country.
The reaction of the Ukrainian opposition and of some current government members to signing the accord is well justified. Of all four members, Ukraine has the most to lose.
Firstly, the Yalta accord requires all members to synchronize the WTO negotiations and join on the same terms, which disadvantages Ukraine immensely. Experts agree that of these four countries, Ukraine has progressed the farthest in WTO negotiations, with Russia lagging far behind and Belarus not even close to membership. Thus, actual accession is very likely to be delayed. In addition, a clause in the treaty stipulates that should one SES member decide to break away from the agreement and join the WTO separately, it would not be able to set conditions for other members. On this issue too, Ukraine will lose. Thus, there is a clear interest on the part of Ukraine to join before Russia in order to extract import trade concessions from Moscow for example in sugar production.
Secondly, by entering into an economic agreement with Russia, Ukraine also jeopardizes its relations with Europe and North America. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine alluded to potential criticism of the treaty: "I think the consequences of such steps need to be looked at carefully, in order to see if they accord with Ukraine's aspiration to integrate with the Euro-Atlantic Community." Naturally, Kiev's rekindling of ties with authoritarian Russia does not please many Western commentators. Questions also arise regarding Ukraine's closer integration with East or West. The German ambassador to Ukraine, Dietmar Stuedemann, called on Ukraine to be more consistent in relations with EU. "We have no clear-cut idea of Ukraine's purposes concerning the EU," he said. (UKRAINIAN NEWS AGENCY, 23 Sep 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Thus, an already remote possibility of Ukraine's accession to the European Union might be put off even longer. Should the customs union with Russia enter into force, free trade with the EU will become impossible, as it is not feasible for Ukraine to harmonize its tariff policy with the EU and Russia at the same time. (WWW.TOL.CZ, 26 Sep 03)
Thirdly, cheap Russian energy sources, which Ukraine strives to obtain by signing the accord, might turn out to be a mixed blessing. The SES agreement speaks of "ensuring non-discriminatory access and an equal level of tariffs for several natural monopolies." Yuliya Tymoshenko, nonetheless, noted that tariffs and prices were different concepts. Tariffs are set by the state, while prices are determined by the market. "There are no monopolies in Russia today on oil and gas extraction, and so prices will be set by owners, not the state," she claimed. (ZERKALO NEDELI, 20 Sep 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis 23 Sep 2003) Even if cheap energy were to become accessible, it is not necessarily desirable. Cheap energy sources will increase Ukraine's dependency on Russia and will not provide incentives for Ukraine to move away from its energy-intensive economy, thus stifling the potential competitiveness of its products by stifling new technological development.
Finally, the accord contains a provision that introduces a supranational body the SES commission with the power to influence Ukraine's internal affairs. This directly contradicts the Ukrainian constitution, which prohibits surrendering Ukraine's sovereignty to any supranational body. Furthermore, decisions within the commission will be taken by a majority vote, based on economic potential. Clearly, the Ukrainian economy does not compare to the Russian economy in size, resulting in a potential vote distribution of 9.9% for Ukraine versus 83% for Russia. (UNIAN News Agency 22 Sep 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)
On the other hand, SES is far from being the first endeavor of the CIS members to create some sort of economic or political union. Most of these attempts ended with words on paper rather than actions. The Eurasian Economic Community (EuAsEC), for example, was formed less than three years before the current treaty, in October of 2000 by five countries Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, with Moldova, Ukraine, and Armenia having observer status. Defining a common stance at negotiations on entry to the WTO, establishing a free-trade zone, creating a common customs, transport and energy space were some of the goals of this accord - goals, very much like those of the SES. Creation of an almost identical organization (SES) would have been redundant, had the EuAsEC been successful in implementing its aims.
The Russian-Belarussian union likewise is struggling to get off the ground. The introduction of the non-cash Russian ruble, initially planned for October 1, 2003, was recently postponed in Belarus. The CIS itself has become a largely bureaucratic body, that implements only a fraction of all signed documents.
Another likely drag on the efficacy of the accord is an "out" clause, which gives any member state the option of not participating at any stage of the treaty. It is already becoming clear that Kiev might be interested only in the free-trade zone and not the customs union. President Kuchma himself has voiced doubt that the national parliament would ratify the SES accord. (ITAR-TASS 30 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis)
The question arises why sign an agreement, which is already harming Ukraine politically and could potentially harm it economically? The answer might be that Kuchma is desperately seeking the Kremlin's political support before the upcoming presidential elections. In fact, President Putin himself hinted at a recent press conference that "Kuchma's bitter rivals" are queuing up for Russian approval. (WWW.TOL.CZ, 26 Sep 03) And who could doubt the choice Kuchma would make between the well being of the country and his own political security?
By Elena Selyuk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the past month, energy security has dictated much of U.S. and Russian foreign policies toward the South Caucasus, and in particular toward Azerbaijan and Georgia. In Georgia, on 27 September, the Assistant Coordinator of the U.S. Department of State announced that future U.S. aid to Georgia is to be reduced by a quarter, from about $110m to about $77m. (SARKE DAILY, 27 Sep 03 via ISI Emerging Databases) These funds would have aided both the Ministries of Finance and of Fuel & Energy. The catalyst for the U.S. declaration became clear on 30 September, when Georgian President Shevardnadze announced that his government had signed a 25-year contract with Russias Gazeksport, a subsidiary of Gazprom, to begin delivery of gas to Georgia on 15 October (SARKE DAILY, 2 Oct 03 via ISI Emerging Databases). At present, Georgias three gas suppliers are Azerbaijan, via the soon-to-be-functional Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline (KAVKASIA-PRESS, Oct 1 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1001 via World News Connection), and the Russian energy companies: Itera and Gazprom. This new venture will allow the Russian government, which owns the controlling stock of Gazprom (KAVKASIA-PRESS, 27 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0927 via World News Connection), the ability to transport Iranian gas to Europe and Russia via the South Caucasian transit route, mainly through Georgia and Armenia. In exchange for giving Russia control of Georgias energy markets, the United States has staked its claim in the Azerbaijan oil sectors (addressed in detail later in the report).
By ceding control over Georgias energy sector, the United States may have hastened the end of GUUAM, the cooperative alliance of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, while indirectly promoting a Russian dominated CIS communal economic zone. Not coincidentally, at the recent CIS summit in Yalta, the presidents of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan signed an agreement for the creation of a "CIS Free Economic Zone." (GEORGIAN RADIO, 22 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0922 via World News Connection). Although Georgia was not a signatory, it is considering bilateral cooperation with the free trade zone. (BBC Monitoring, 22 Sep 03; via Lexis-Nexis)
Georgias future economic integration, along with the Abkhazian issue, are sure to be the most debated issues in the upcoming 2 November parliamentary elections, in which nine political blocs are registered to participate.
On 2 October, the withdrawal of Heidar Aliev from the October 15 presidential elections was announced, and his son Ilham Aliev was named as the sole candidate of the regime's Yeni Azerbaijan Party. (Associated Press, 2 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) This move proved helpful to obtaining American support and continuing economic involvement in Azerbaijan, while also signifying a potential for more political openness in what had been viewed widely as the corrupt and autocratic Aliev regime.
The U.S. interest in keeping either Heidar or Ilham Aliev in Baku was stated even before Heidar Aliev stepped down, as indicated by President Bush's letter of congratulations to Ilham Aliev on his appointment as prime minister (Associated Press, 2 Oct, 03 via Lexis-Nexis), and also in meeting Aliev at a party arranged for the 58th UN Summit Conference. (Financial Times Information, 24 Sep, 03 via Lexis-Nexis) The United States is concerned with the continuity of power in Azerbaijan, prevention of Russian and Iranian meddling, construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, and stability for American and international energy investors. These short-term goals outweigh the constant barrage of media reports emanating from Azerbaijani and international media sources regarding the tough methods used by the current Aliev government against opposition candidates. (Baku Tehran, 22 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0922 via World News Connection; Baku Tehran, 23 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0923 via Lexis-Nexis; BBC Monitoring, 2 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) These interests also eclipse the recent bribery allegations surrounding attempts to privatize the Azeri oil company Socar, in which both Heidar Aliev and Ilham Aliev are implicated. (Energy Intelligence Group, Inc, 16 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis) In one incident to date, Washington succumbed to pressure from the Helsinki Citizens Assembly sufficiently to indicate at least a desire to see "free and open elections" in Azerbaijan. (Baku Tehran, 23 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0923; via World News Connection)
Ilham Aliev appears more concerned with maintaining solid economic relations with the West then sustaining the autocratic system his father created, perhaps because of his background as a senior executive of Socar (Energy Intelligence Group, 2 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis), his current connections with American and European companies, such as Omega Advisors and Oily Rock (United Press International, 24 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis) and statements by former business associates in Socar. (Energy Intelligence Group, 2 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) Granted, the elections will not be completely open or free, but the current environment does indicate signs of greater political openness in the areas of media and political competition.
In addition to American support, Ilham Aliev recently met with Russian President Vladmir Putin at the Yalta CIS Summit, at which time Putin indicated support of Ilham Aliev as a successor to Heidar Aliev. (Associated Press, 18 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis) Russian and Azerbaijani bilateral trade has increased precipitously in the past few years, 70% in 2002 and 20% in the first five months of 2003 (Interfax, 18 Sep 03; Associated Press via Lexis-Nexis), indicating a deepening of relations between the two countries. This extension of ties validates the notion that GUUAM has ceased to be a working mechanism while indicating also that the existing rivalry over South Caucasian energy sources between the United States and Russia may soon center on Azerbaijan.
The 6 October 2003 Chechen elections represent Moscows desire to appear as separating itself politically from the Chechen quagmire. In Moscows desperate effort to portray the Chechen situation as stable and fully capable of building a working democratic apparatus and policy making structure, every endeavor was made to provide the 6 October elections with all the "proper" democratic trappings. These included the distribution, to over 600,000 Chechens, of proper forms of identification (in the form of Russian passports) to enable them to vote (Financial Times, 27 Sep 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) as well as the closure of Ingushetian refugee camps (which held an estimated 10,000 refugees) by the Interior Ministry (Agence France Presse, 1 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) to give the refugees greater access to the polls and to preempt international critique for preventing proper electoral representation for the Chechen refugee population.
However, the measures are more clearly indicative of a larger Russian objective, to cloak the republic in a security blanket, and thus ensure the absence of foreign observers and prevent escape for Chechen citizens living in the republic. The military forces, which consist of the FSB, the Defense Ministry (via GRU units), the Interior Ministry and the Chechen Internal Police force, sprang into action in the week before the election in a series of movements which included the FSB strengthening the border between Georgia and Chechnya (ITAR-TASS, 30 SEP, 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0930 via World News Connection); and an increased presence of both the Interior Ministry and the Internal Chechen Police to "guard the polling stations" and "monitor the traffic" around Grozny. (ITAR-TASS, 2 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) Indeed, there was an armed security guard for every ten people eligible to vote on election morning, while estimates place the number of Interior Ministry personnel at 5,000 and Chechen Internal Police at 13,500. (WHAT THE PAPERS SAY - Russian Political Monitor, 6 Oct 03 via ISI Emerging Databases; ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 26 Sep 03 FBIS-SOV-2003-0926 via World News Connection)
All 30,000 Russian federal forces were allowed to cast their vote while the estimated 50,000 Chechen citizens living abroad in Georgia, Russia or elsewhere were not provided transportation or access papers to participate in the election. (Associated Press, 3 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis)
Additionally, Kadyrovs victory in the election was guaranteed before a vote was cast by the absence of other viable candidates, such as Malik Saidullayev, Aslambek Aslakhanov, and Husein Dzhabrailov, all of whom had been either pressured or prevented from participating in the elections by the Moscow or Chechen authorities. Thus, the election failed to provide either pluralist competition or proper representation of the Chechen political will by "electing" Akhmad Kadyrov in an unprecedented 81.1% majority. (New York Times, 6 Oct 03; What the Papers Say, 6 Oct 03 via ISI Emerging Databases)
International criticism of the election has been pointed, but has avoided the denunciation of Kadyrov as the legitimate leader of the Chechen government. Among the critics are the U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher and NATO's secretary-general designate Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, both of whom asserted that the election did not meet international standards. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 6 Oct 03 via ISI Emerging Markets; FINANCIAL TIMES, 7 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) The Bush-Putin Camp David Summit of 26-27 September and the U.S. desire for a U.N. mandated military presence in Iraq, may explain the relatively subdued U.S. criticism of the Chechen elections.
No bservers were sent by any of the major NGOs, including the U.N., PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), or the OSCE because of wide skepticism regarding these "elections." However, the Organization of Islamic Conference, to which Russia has recently applied to be an observer state, the Arab League and CIS countries did send observers. (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5 Oct, 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)
Thus, in a mockery of the democratic process, which is sure to embitter war-battered Chechens, Kadyrov has been handed a republic rife with internal divisions, powerful interest groups, and a radicalized young Chechen population. With few institutional precedents or structures to guide him in ruling the Chechen people, he will continue his policy of enforcing the "rule of law" via the machine gun and bayonet. Thus, the elections have served to harm the one societal element it was supposedly aimed to help the Chechen populace. Indeed, the increased activities of the militants, Kadyrov's low popularity in the republic, and massive human rights violations perpetrated by the federal forces and Internal Chechen Police will further radicalize Chechens in the republic and beyond, inuring them to violence and embittering them with regard to "solutions" forged through the so-called democratic process.
By Ariela Shapiro (email@example.com)
Political parties, international relations, and defense
Though some anti-regime activity is brewing, opposition parties in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan remain relatively weak. Some groups try to unite to challenge the status quo; the U.S. and Russia vie for influence in Central Asia; Kazakhstan pushes a multi-vector foreign policy; and Tajikistan reaches out to everyone. One factor common to the entire region is military cooperation in preparation for "anti-terrorism" action.
Surviving a 2002 assassination attempt, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov came down heavily on political opposition groups. On 29 September, the leaders of the four most viable opposition entities announced a willingness to join forces within the newly-created structure of the Union of Democratic Forces of Turkmenistan (UDFT). The ability of the four groups to function as a unified force is somewhat questionable and, given that most members of the group remain in exile, the effectiveness of their proposed "democratic" platform is uncertain. Akmukhammet Velsapar, a dissident émigré writer, referred to the UDFT as "the beginning of the end of the Niyazov regime," whereas poet in exile Shirali Nurmukhammet described the UDFT as a "fictitious marriage
[that] wont last long." (EURASIANET, 30 Sep 03 via www.eurasianet.org) Despite the uncertain future of UDFT, it does represent the most significant challenge to Niyazov's hegemony in recent years.
While there may be discontent with the Niyazov government, the media in Turkmenistan remain rigidly controlled by the state and informing the population about UDFT may prove difficult. A recent poll in Kyrgyzstan, for example, suggests caution about the ability of opposition parties to get out their message: of 900 surveyed, over 40 percent were unable to name any of the opposition parties, while over 65 percent were unable to name a party they trusted. The three most popular parties were: Ar-Namys (Honor) the party of Felix Kulov, the imprisoned former Vice President and Mayor of Bishkek at 35 percent awareness and 17 percent trust; the Communist parties at 25.2 percent awareness and 14 percent trust; and the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party at 24.8 percent awareness and 14 percent trust (KABAR, 1035 GMT, 3 Oct 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1003 via World News Connection; RFE/RL, 6 Oct 03 via www.rferl.org). Yet, compared with Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan has a relatively high degree of freedom of the press, suggesting the difficulty opposition groups face in trying to initiate social change and assert political control.
While groups such as UDFT, Ar-Namys, and Ata-Meken, among others, seek leadership roles within the decision-making structure of the state, external forces also vie for influence. The jockeying for position of the U.S. and Russia is the best contemporary example of Central Asia playing home to "Great Game" rivalries. By the end of the month, both countries will have military bases operating in Kyrgyzstan and though the presence of U.S. troops is described as temporary, until the end of the end of the campaign in Afghanistan, the U.S. undoubtedly will want to continue to assert a role in the region. The Russian military will remain in Kyrgyzstan for an indefinite period and is settling in to re-establish its hegemonic influence over Central Asia.
Central Asian leaders astutely use the interests of other governments to their own advantage. Looking to expand markets for its energy resources and gain admittance next year to the World Trade Organization, Kazakhstan has a multi-vector policy of simultaneously engaging China, Russia, and the U.S. (EURASIANET, 03 Oct 03, via www.eurasianet.org) Kazakhstan was one of the driving forces behind the Almaty-Bishkek-Kashgar-Islamabad-Karachi trade route opened 7 October 2003. This will facilitate the transit of automobile shipments by issuing a limited number of licenses with unrestricted movement throughout Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-China-Pakistan. (ITAR-TASS, 1607 GMT, 01 Oct 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1001 via World News Connection)
Tajikistan on the other hand, with its weaker economic base, has been reaching out to everyone with a slew of proposals hoping someone will take interest: from designating Central Asia a "nuclear free zone" and declaring 2005-2015 the "International Fresh Water Decade," to increasing regional railway effectiveness and lobbying for a global partnership to combat the drug trade. (ITAR-TASS, 0918 GMT, 03 Oct 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1003; 1752 GMT, 1329 GMT, 1802 GMT, 30 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0930 via World News Connection)
While the various countries of Central Asia confront internal opposition and court lucrative trans-national trade relations, one issue upon which they seem able to agree and work together is the defense front. For the most part, the various administrations have cooperated in their anti-terrorism efforts, even when some aspects of this approach clearly have been politically motivated, e.g. the proposed shift of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Regional Anti-terrorism Center from Bishkek to Tashkent. (see NIS Observed, 10 Sep 03) Kyrgyzstan recently held exercises of the Collective Rapid Deployment Force, which may double its number of troops over the next few months. (ITAR-TASS, 1118 GMT, 26 Sep 03; 1255 GMT, 25 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0926 via World News Connection) Kazakhstan has called for the creation of a center to foster preventive diplomacy and to counteract conflict in Central Asia. The center, which would be based in Almaty, in essence would serve as a conduit for UN peace and security initiatives in the region. (ITAR-TASS, 0618 GMT, 26 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0926 via World News Connection) And NATO, wanting to continue working with Uzbekistan on defense reforms, also has expressed readiness to begin working with Turkmenistan on the Partnership for Peace program. (ITAR-TASS, 0458 GMT, 26 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0926; 1319 GMT, 29 Sep 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0929, via World News Connection)
By David W. Montgomery (firstname.lastname@example.org)