Eurasia News Week in Review - February 7, 2014

Central Eurasia

While State Department officials were in Tajikistan this week to discuss law enforcement and border security cooperation with the country’s Drug Control Agency, the Department’s top counternarcotics official admitted in a Congressional hearing that the Central Asian states have not always met the United States’ desired level of collaboration on this issue. 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:

Top Stories from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a subcommittee hearing on U.S. Counternarcotics Operations in Afghanistan, with representatives from the State Department, Defense Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency testifying. Erin Logan, the Principal Director for Counternarcotics and Global Threats at the Defense Department, was the only witness to directly address her department’s efforts in Central Asia in her written testimony. Logan stated, “Given these countries’ systemic lack of training, maintenance, and standardization, dating back to the Soviet era, DoD has provided modernized CN equipment, training, and facility investments.”

However, during the question and answer session, Ambassador William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, admitted that INL’s own regional counternarcotics program, the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI), “has not yet been a resounding success.” When asked whether the Central Asian states and Russia are cooperating more effectively with the United States through bilateral channels, the Assistant Secretary replied, “some yes, some less yes.” For a more detailed look at Asst. Secretary Brownfield’s comments, please read our blog on the hearing.  

  • U.S. troops deploying to Afghanistan traveled through the Manas Transit Center’s replacement air base in Romania for the first time this week, part of ongoing preparations to close the Kyrgyzstani base by July.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force discontinued its air traffic control liaison positions at Manas on January 31, as operational support for the base becomes less crucial. Despite these signs of an impending U.S. military withdrawal from the country, some Russian officials – reportedly including President Valdimir Putin – still believe the U.S. intends to establish intelligence-gathering operations in the country, according to Joshua Kucera.
  • The opening ceremony of 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is being held today. Much has been written about the domestic terror threats to the Olympics and the U.S. responses to these threats. However, the Olympics also carry geopolitical significance for relations between Russia and its southern neighbor, Georgia. Although relations between the countries have improved since the 2012 election of the Georgia Dream party, the Sochi Olympics represent a “missed opportunity” for Russia and Georgia to coordinate more closely on security issues, according to Carnegie Endowment’s Thomas de Waal. In fact, in preparation for the Olympics, Russia expanded its ‘security zone’ deeper into Georgian breakaway territory Abkhazia (located just five miles south of Sochi), a move criticized by Georgia’s western allies.


Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Georgia’s Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Munich Security Conference last Friday, where they discussed “issues related on defense and security” and the NATO led mission in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister also held a meeting with NATO’s Secretary General this week, in which the Secretary praised Georgia’s significant progress but did not commit to signing a Membership Action Plan with Georgia later this year. 
  • Peacekeepers from Armenia’s armed forces joined soldiers from the U.S., Germany, Romania, Albania, and other countries this week in a multinational peacekeeping exercise at the U.S. military training center in Germany.
  • Armenian President Serzh Sargasyan expressed hope that Georgia would combine its aspirations for NATO membership with its relations with neighboring countries, “including those states that play a major role in our regional security.”
  • Armenian Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan called for the support of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the event Azerbaijan declares a war on Armenia, noting Armenia’s status as a founding member of the organization.  The statement came the same day as his meeting with the CSTO’s Secretary General, during which the two sides discusses a number of joint military enterprises and the establishment of a CSTO academy in Yerevan in September.
  • An Azerbaijani delegation led by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visited Turkish Aerospace Industries in Ankara this week in order to inspect the capabilities of Anka, an unmanned aerial vehicle. Azerbaijan is particularly interested in an armed version of this drone.
  • Representatives from the U.S. State Department and Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency met on Wednesday to discuss law enforcement cooperation and the problem of drug trafficking.  Special attention was paid to the problems along the Tajik-Afghan border and cooperation with Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin stated Thursday that Russia and Tajikistan are beginning a new, “more profound, more substantive and stable” stage of cooperation, referring to a basing-for-aid deal the two countries worked out last year, as well as separate negotiations on renting the Aini military airfield in Tajikistan.  However, Joshua Kucera writes that, to the contrary, Tajikistan has been slow to ratify last year’s deal.
  • Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu announced on Monday that deliveries have already begun to equip Kyrgyzstan’s army with “modern Russian armaments.” General Shoigu emphasized Russia’s intention to protect the security of Kyrgyzstan and all CSTO members following the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan this year.
  • The CSTO’s Secretary General defended the organization’s limited response to the January border clashes between CSTO members Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, arguing that NATO also avoids resolving internal disputes between members.