Sunday, July 7, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #10

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The defeat of Nabucco West is seen by many as a heavy blow to the Southern Gas Corridor. In particular, Ashgabat's plans to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to Europe are affected. While Nabucco West could have accommodated significant volumes of Turkmen gas, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline lacks the sufficient capacity. So some members of the European Commission are still talking about the realization of both projects:
EU Commissioner: Both TAP and Nabucco West are needed in medium term
Vladimir Socor explains why this won't work:
Gazprom one winner from Nabucco demise
"During the Nabucco-TAP contest, the European Commission had insisted that the winner project would "open" the Southern Corridor, strongly implying that the other project would be implemented next. According to this logic, the two projects could be sequenced; the contest over Shah Deniz gas would merely determine the order of sequencing Nabucco-West and TAP; and they would coexist in the future, each supplying Caspian gas to different parts of the European market, once a trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenistan materialized. 
That logic, however, is not being borne out now. There will not be another iteration of Nabucco-West without guaranteed supply sources and financing. Connecting the Caspian basin with Central Europe will be a matter for a post-Nabucco project. This will require a stronger consortium and more credible leadership than has been the case until now."
According to his prediction, especially one company will profit from Nabucco's demise:
"The Continental European Gas Hub at Baumgarten near Vienna will continue to suffer from limited competition to the Russian gas flooding the terminal. Nabucco gas would have introduced a greater element of competition, contributing to the development of spot-market pricing. With Nabucco's defeat, however, Gazprom will continue to dominate the price-setting process in Central Europe."
 

Meanwhile the President of Russian petroleum giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, was received in Azerbaijan by President Ilham Aliyev. Sechin visited Russia's southern neighbour to talk about future cooperation in the oil and gas sector:
Rosneft, SOCAR eye prospects for co-op under future projects

Russian Arms For Everyone

As previously mentioned, business connections between the two countries remain largely unaffected by Baku's close relationship with the United States. Rosoboronexport's latest arms delivery to Azerbaijan demonstrated this further. In Armenia, however, the deal caused a great stir and Moscow "was forced" to promise more military support for Yerevan as well:
Russia Announces Upgrades To CSTO Military Presence In Armenia
Russia has promised to upgrade its military base in Armenia, while also helping to bolster Armenia's own air forces, as controversy continues to brew in Armenia over Moscow's huge weapons delivery to foe Azerbaijan. It's not clear to what extent the former is tied to the latter, but Armenian analysts say that Russia does appear to be trying to assuage public opinion among Armenians stung by Russia's apparent betrayal.
Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Nikolay Bordyuzha was in Armenia last week, and though details were scarce, he appeared to endorse a CSTO base in that country, as well as creating a Caucasus-based CSTO air force.
Russia's military industrial complex has every reason to celebrate because the South Caucasus is not the only region which will be flooded with Russian weapons:
Central Asia preparing for war?
In 2014, the deliveries of Russian military equipment to Kyrgyzstan will begin. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu confirmed this at a recent meeting with President Atambayev in Bishkek. Shoigu said that the program on supporting and equipping the Kyrgyz Army had been worked out almost completely. In 2012, Moscow promised Bishkek aid in the amount of $1.1 billion in order to modernize its army.
And if several countries are being armed by Moscow, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization cannot stand idly by [emphasis mine]:
Some analysts believe that Russia renders assistance to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with the purpose to counteract Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, by supplying Uzbekistan with weapons, NATO plants a time bomb that could blow up the whole region. It is evident that, once again relying on Karimov's authoritarian regime, the Pentagon is trying to undermine the integration process of Central Asian countries and Russia. The strengthened position of Uzbekistan in the region can weaken the influence of Kazakhstan as a key ally of Russia. The reason is clear — enhanced military power will allow Tashkent to solve problems from a position of strength.
Thus, the region, armed by both Russia and NATO, can not count on peace and stability yet.

Kyrgyzstan's military is among the weakest in the region and in need of foreign assistance. So besides the large amount of military aid from Russia, the country is also getting help from China:
China rendered military and technical assistance to the Ministry of Defense of Kyrgyzstan
Beijing wants to ensure stability in Kyrgyzstan in order to prevent a further deterioration of the situation in Xinjiang
Recently, Kyrgz President Atambayev attended the opening ceremony of the Datka electric substation, seen as the first step towards energy independence, and spoke about measures to strengthen the security of his country:
Kyrgyz President promises “strong country” by 2016 but experts skeptical
Touching upon the upcoming growth, President Atambayev also spoke about security issues. Particularly, in his words, the rearmament of the army will start in two years. “We will have a strong army and borders. Kyrgyzstan will be a strong country. The country’s law enforcement bodies will be reformed and the borders will become reliable over the course of two years,” KirTAG quotes him as saying.
But Kyrgz experts warn that Bishkek is dependent on Moscow to resolve its army problems and voice their concerns regarding the current government policy:
A security expert Miroslav Niyazov claims President Atambayev’s statements are “hollow”: “They are empty claims, which the president is often seen making. There are no supports for them in reality. This causes disappointment. One could believe him once or twice. But continuing [to make such statements] is not serious and damages his personal authority. We met no prerequisites to have either a strong army or well-protected borders. Intergovernmental commissions were unable to resolve this issue in 20 years, and they will not be able to do so in future.Therefore, heads of state must have political will in this matter, because problems [stemming from the issue] can cause not only local conflicts. Changing the situation with such a budget, which was appropriated by the officials, is impossible. Not understanding this and speechifying are things that presidents should not do.”
Confronted with all these challenges, the Kyrgz authorities appreciate every assistance to improve the security:
USAID supports Local Crime Prevention Center in Talas
On June 28, 2013, representatives of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI) together with local government officials and residents of Talas celebrated the opening of the newly rehabilitated Talas Local Crime Prevention Center (LCPC) #2.
USAID's latest rehabilitation of a Local Crime Prevention Center is hardly surprising, since the agency rehabilitated already several passport offices all over Kyrgyzstan. The CIA front was especially interested in the strategic located Osh Province and apparently USAID's work is paying off:
Alleged Members Of Banned Islamic Group Arrested In Kyrgyzstan
A group of alleged members of the banned Islamist Hizb-ut Tahrir group have been arrested in Kyrgyzstan's southern province of Osh.
With the countries in Central Asia facing more terrorist activities in the near future, Kyrgyzstan's armed forces are being prepared for the fight. Unfortunately they won't gain expertise from the army with the best track record in the fraudulent War on Terror, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), but from the army with the worst track record:
Joint Kyrgyz-American training to combat terrorism is going on in Tokmok
Nine representatives of the U.S. Army Special Forces Central Command headed by senior instructor Jeremy John and forty Kyrgyz soldiers of special forces share their knowledge during a month.

 

Wahhabi-only Prisons?!

So the Central Asian governments continue to take worrying decisions. In the last round-up, Tajikistan's choice for the training of its law enforcement officers was questioned and these officers will probably be put to the test sooner rather than later [emphasis mine]:
Government to prevent any attempts to stir unrest in society, Rahmon says
The President underlined extremist ideas spread by certain groups who are interested in the situation destabilization in the country. “According to available information, there are around 80 families of our citizens stay in the province of Waziristan in Pakistan. You know, what people go there for,” he said.
As for the crimes committed in the country, there are individuals among criminals who went through the ceremony of hajj and received the sacred title of Haji. “For example, for the entire 2012 and 5 months of 2013, 50 Haji committed crimes. We opened many madrasah and religious schools in the country to ensure our children receive proper religious education, but dozens of young people, especially those who have been trained in madrasah abroad, are convicted of terrorism. Some of them bear responsibility for their actions abroad, some of the them – here,” President Rahmon continued.
Extremism is one of the main security threats for the region and this fueled again a debate in Russia about the appropriate punishment. Religious research specialist Roman Silantyev suggested tougher sentences to reduce the incentives for extremists to leave their respective countries:
Religious research specialist urges to toughen punishment for extremism in Russia
"So fundamentalists from the Central Asian countries move to Russia, where they feel themselves free," Silantyev said. He also pointed out to Kazakhstan positive experience in struggling against "prison Jihad" - spreading radical Islamism among convicts under influence of fundamentalist cellmates.
"In Kazakhstan they made special prisons for the latter, thus isolating them from other imprisoned. If Russia has special colonies for former officials of the law enforcement agencies who committed crimes in order to isolate them from other convicts, why can't we set up the same prisons for Wahabis?" the religious expert wonders.

Prisons only for Wahhabis?! Well, there will be enough candidates for these special facilities if the Kremlin is not able to stop the Islamization of Russia:
Two illegal Uzbek migrants caught building mosque in Pyatigorsk
Two illegal Uzbek migrants have been caught at a closed down mosque under construction in Pyatigorsk, Interfax reports.
Experts say that the building does not meet construction standards and is dangerous for people. The mosque construction was prohibited in November 2012. The building was not legally registered.
And we can expect that Amnesty International will be the first group to criticize such measures. The mouthpiece of the U.S. State Department is already concerned with Moscow's treatment of citizens which are accused of Islamic radicalism:
Amnesty Condemns Abductions, Torture in Ex-Soviet Asian States
The security agencies in Russia and other former Soviet republics have been involved in abductions, illegal extradition and torture of thousands of citizens of Central Asian states falsely accused of Islamic radicalism, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said this week.
Nevertheless, the Russian government needs to keep a close watch on the "evolution of Islam" in its country and preventive measures are necessary:
Russia forbids religious organizations to be set up by personae non grata
President Vladimir Putin signed a law into effect that denies foreigners or stateless persons who have been declared persona non grata in Russia and people who have been involved in what have been judicially qualified as extremist activities the right to found a religious organization.
Furthermore, President Putin emphasized that the fight against foreign funded NGOs will continue. But as previously feared, this won't be easy and current efforts are not sufficient. The "independent" election watchdog Golos, which was famously compared by Putin to the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus, apparently managed to circumvent the new legislation: 
Russian Electoral Watchdog Dodges Gov’t Ban
Nongovernmental organization (NGO) Golos, would transform into a new legal entity with the same function as before, its deputy head Grigory Melkonyants told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

 

Doku Umarov To 'Prevent Sochi Olympics'

More bad news reached the Kremlin from the Caucasus. After a long absence, Moscow's arch-enemy, Doku Umarov, recently resurfaced and posted a new video:
North Caucasus Insurgency Leader Seeks To 'Prevent Sochi Olympics'
In a video issued on the North Caucasus Islamic insurgency website on July 3, Doku Umarov -- the leader of self-proclaimed independent Islamic state, Imarat Kavkaz (The Caucasus Emirate), called on "all mujahedin fighters in the region and Russia's other subjects not to allow Satanist games to be held on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many Muslims who died and are buried on our territory along the Black Sea."

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, responded in his own inimitable way:
Russian Officials Play Down Warlord’s Sochi Olympics Threat
In a harsh response to Umarov’s threats, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov vowed on Wednesday to eliminate the notorious warlord before the start of the Sochi Olympics.
“He is Satan. I am certain that we will eliminate him before the Olympics,” Kadyrov said.
He added that Umarov’s threats were “an empty talk” aimed at keeping people in fear as terrorists continue to lose influence among residents in North Caucasus.
Maybe Kadyrov is right but the Russian authorities won't take any risks:
Russia Pledges Tight Security at 2014 Sochi Olympics
“Security will be ensured by special services from not only Russia but from a number of leading world countries as well,” Patrushev said. “Activities aimed at ensuring security are being coordinated now.”
The good news is that there have been several offers to assist Moscow and ensure security at the Sochi Olympics. However, the countries are not exactly among Russia's close allies:
U.S. Offers to Help Prevent Terrorist Attack on Sochi Olympics
Georgia ready to assist in providing security for Sochi Olympic Games
There is always the threat of a terrorist act during large-scale events such as the Olympics, Georgia's Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said on Wednesday, commenting on the call by 'Caucasus Emirate' leader Doku Umarov to his fighters to disrupt the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The minister stressed that Georgia has officially expressed its willingness to cooperate with Russia on security matters during the Sochi Olympics.
Considering the role of the United States in creating and sustaining Chechen terrorism, the Kremlin should accept the U.S. offer. Who better than Washington to stop Doku Umarov from attacking the Olympics?! Almost the same can be said about Georgia:
Russia and Georgia: cooperation of special services
Accusation of Georgia of supporting the North Caucasus terrorist started in the late 1990s. The discussions became intensive after the events in the Lopota Gorge near the village of Lapankuri in the north-east of Georgia (near the Russian-Georgian border). In late August 2012, according to official Tbilisi, its special services destroyed a group of 11 Chechen militants who came to Georgia from Dagestan.
The Sochi Olympic Games provide the perfect opportunity for cooperation between Moscow and Tbilisi:
The problems of the regional security especially ahead of the Sochi Olympic Games is one of point of contact between Russia and Georgia; and a constructive dialogue is possible even now. Honest investigation of the mentioned events can contribute to normalization of the bilateral relations.
Despite the attempts of Georgian PM Ivanishvili to normalize the relations, there is still enormous potential for conflict and small actions can cause major tensions:
Depardieu 'Violated Georgian Law On Occupied Territories'
Georgian officials say French-born actor Gerard Depardieu "violated Georgian legislation on occupied territories" by visiting Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Tsikhelashvili added that Depardieu's action is "punishable" as it violates Georgian law.

If a collaboration between Russia, the United States and Georgia at the Sochi Olympics will materialize and eventually contribute to the region's security, remains to be seen. But Doku Umarov will certainly play a vital role in upcoming developments in the North Caucasus. His latest appearance coincided with increasing militant activity in Chechnya which had been spared from violence in recent time in contrast to neighbouring Dagestan: 
1 Soldier Killed, 3 Injured By Chechen Militants - Police
The incident is the latest in a recent string of clashes in mostly calm Chechnya. Two policemen were killed and 17 injured in a firefight with militants Saturday, while two soldiers died in a roadside blast on April 28.

The head of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov proposed to create an anti-drug operations center on the basis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to fight Afghan drug trafficking. National headquarters will be located in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the basis of certain special services in these countries, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper) reported on July 2, referring to the session of the Council of CSTO Heads of Anti-drug Agencies.
Such center is necessary for effective resistance to the Afghan drug aggression, especially considering the 2014 problem (withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan), Ivanov noticed.
- See more at: http://en.ca-news.org/news:525431/#sthash.lxmWWb17.dpu
Britain has been accused of abandoning a Foreign Office employee who says he was tortured by the Uzbek authorities and accused of spying for London, reported The Independent.
Kayum Ortikov, 44, a married father of four who worked for the British government as a security guard, ended up in a dungeon in Tashkent after being arrested on charges of "human trafficking". It appears the extent of his "crime" was trying to help arrange visas for some relatives to work in Russia.
Mr Ortikov claims that his refusal to become an informant for Uzbekistan's secret police led to torture sessions in which he was accused of spying for the British.
- See more at: http://en.ca-news.org/news:525417/#sthash.7F4Arvg9.dpuf