Eurasia News Week in Review - November 8, 2013

Central Eurasia

A roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:

Central Asia:

  • Authorities in Pakistan have threatened to close the border with Afghanistan to United States and NATO military forces following a CIA drone attack that killed the head of the Pakistani Taliban. A previous closure, in 2011, forced coalition forces in Afghanistan to shift much of their logistics routes to the Northern Distribution Network through Central Asia and Russia. U.S. military officials said that they have only recently fully restored the cheaper, faster routes through Pakistan.

  • Belarus's president has announced that his country will help establish drone manufacturing in Turkmenistan. The drones would be used “to monitor its [Turkmenistan's] territory, its borders and drug-trafficking,” said the president, Alexander Lukashenko, after a meeting with his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in Ashgabat. In 2009 Turkmenistan bought small tactical drones from Russia.

  • Tajikistan's president Emomali Rahmon was reelected for another seven-year term to the country he has led since 1992. Serious opposition parties were blocked from competing, and the U.S. State Department said the restrictions “resulted in a lack of pluralism and genuine choice.

The Caucasus and Turkey:

  • Fallout continued from the unexpected statement by a Russian military officer that Russian forces would support Armenia in a conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan's defense minister demanded an explanation from Russia's representative to the Minsk Group, the international body leading talks to resolve the conflict. And while Armenian officials welcomed the statement, the defense ministry emphasized that it would be able to defend Karabakh even without Russian help.

  • The United States has reportedly asked American defense firms to improve the terms of the offer they made on a Turkish air defense contract. In September, Turkey announced that it would buy a Chinese system, but appears to be reconsidering after strong objections by its American and NATO allies. In the latest such statement, NATO's top military commander questioned whether the Chinese system would be interoperable with the NATO systems that are already based in Turkey. And Turkish military officers have reportedly complained both about the country's political leadership choosing the Chinese system, and their American partners, for not making a better offer in terms of sharing technology with Turkey.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Outgoing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili pardoned a former defense minister who had been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for using excessive force to put down a prison riot in 2006.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent an agreement on creating a joint Russia-Kazakhstan air defense system to the state Duma.

  • Azerbaijan's new naval base on the Caspian Sea will likely be opened in 2014, the country's defense ministry has said.

  • The United States will buy 30 Russian Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters for Afghanistan's security forces next year, the Russian state defense manufacturer announced.

  • Armenian military officers inspected army facilities in eastern Turkey as part of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.

  • China's authorities removed the military commander of the Xinjiang province from the region's governing council following an attack in Beijing that the government blamed on Xinjiang-based Uighur separatists.

  • Georgia's defense minister visited France, aiming to increase military and defense manufacturing cooperation.