Eurasia News Week in Review - May 23, 2014

Central Eurasia

Georgian troops are participating in the U.S. Army's Combined Resolve II exercises in Germany, while tensions simmer between the government and the local population Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region. Below is a roundup of these stories and some of the other top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:

United States Policy in Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • The U.S.-led multinational training exercise Combined Resolve II is taking place in Germany. The exercise, which runs from May 15 through June 30, brings together 4,000 troops from various European countries (including Georgia) and aims to improve interoperability during land operations.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday, includes an amendment by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) that calls for the U.S. to support Georgia’s quest to receive a Membership Action Plan from NATO. 
  • The U.S. Agency for International Developments made public a report it commissioned last year on the threat of violent extremism in Uzbekistan. The report’s author, Noah Tucker, utilized USAID metrics to evaluate the potential catalysts of violent extremism in Uzbekistan. Tucker concluded: “Terror and insurgency have at times been a legitimate threat to public safety, but the damage done to the civilian population by the government’s heavy-handed response has exacerbated the threat posed by extremist or militant groups in every case.”
  • Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty conducted a lengthy interview with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar, in which Morningstar sharply criticized Azerbaijan’s crackdown on opposition activists and civil society. Nonetheless, Morningstar defended the United States’ approach in addressing these concerns and discussed other issues of importance to the U.S., such as the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s role as an energy provider to Europe. The chief of Azerbaijan’s presidential office criticized some of Morningstar’s statements in the interview.    


Other top security stories from the region:

  • Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty’s Turkmenistan service held an interesting discussion on Central Asian security following the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan, featuring Columbia University professor Alex Cooley, analyst and blogger Joshua Kucera, and other regional analysts. Some of the topics covered: Turkmenistan’s border security strategies, the potential resurgence of Central Asian extremist groups fighting in Afghanistan, and internal and external causes on instability in the region. 
  • This week China hosted the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit, which was attended by leaders from Central Asia, the South Caucasus, South Asia and Russia. The presidents of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan all held separate meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, while the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan further discussed security cooperation with Chinese government officials. For analysis on the geopolitical significance of the summit, check out Joanna Lillis’ coverage in; for more information on the meetings that took place during the summit, see Xinhuanet’s coverage of the summit.
  • During remarks at the CICA Summit, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov called on coalition forces in Afghanistan to postpone their withdrawal, currently planned for late 2014. Also at the CICA Summit, Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon pushed for increased international aid to Afghanistan following the withdrawal of coalition forces, arguing that long-term aid commitments would help assure stability and security in the country.
  • Protestors demanded an investigation into clashes between security forces and suspected criminals that left three people dead in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region. The government and local opposition offered conflicting reports about what sparked the violence, which brought up memories of a 2012 military operation in the region that resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians and security forces. Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon promised to investigate the incident.
  • NATO opened a Liaison Office in Uzbekistan last Friday, which will coordinate the alliance’s relations with the Central Asian states. NATO’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Apparthurai, visited Uzbekistan for the opening and held meetings with Uzbekistan’s foreign and defense ministers. For more information about the office, check out Joshua Kucera’s post on The Bug Pit.  
  • Armenian defense officials visited NATO’s headquarters on Tuesday to mark a new cycle of the Armenia-NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan. During the visit, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen thanked Armenia for its peacekeeping contributions to NATO-led missions and pledged continued support for Armenia’s security sector reform efforts.