Russia-Ukraine Crisis Alarms Central Asian Strongmen

Euromaidan Kiev 2014-02-18. Image: Wikipedia.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis is having a profoundly unsettling effect on authoritarian-minded governments in Central Asia. On the one hand, they are keen to keep the forces unleashed by the Euromaidan movement at bay; on the other, they appear unnerved by the Kremlin’s power play.

State-controlled media outlets in Central Asian states are reticent when it comes to covering developments in Kyiv, Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. The parallels between the ousted and allegedly corrupt president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and leading members of Central Asian elites are obvious to many in the region, so it’s not surprising that the Euromaidan Revolution has received little play in Central Asia’s press. » More

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Russia’s Choices in the North Caucasus after the Attacks in Volgograd

Trolleybus torn to pieces by the explosion in Volgograd. Image: Wikipedia.

Explosions in Volgograd (29 and 30 December 2013), as a result of which 34 people died, shocked Russian society and rekindled the debate on methods of combating terrorism. Some Russian politicians, experts and journalists stress that “liberals” are to blame, meaning those who want to restrict the police forces and special services. Others simply point to the incompetence of the authorities in the sphere of combating terrorist threats. Among the first proposed actions were stiffer penalties for terrorists (including the death penalty), and the restriction on the right of the media to publish information about terrorists and their activities. A public discussion about the nature of Islam began again. Some columnists try to fight the stereotype that terrorism is an inherent feature of this religion and its followers from the Russian North Caucasus. However, there are also opposing voices, which influence the growth of xenophobia among ethnic Russians, and hostility towards migrants from the North Caucasus republics. » More

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From Russia without Love: Russia Resumes Weapons Sales to China

Sukhoi Su-35S

Sukhoi Su-35S. Photo: Alex Beltyukov/Wikimedia Commons.

In March 2013, Russian and Chinese media reported that Beijing was acquiring significant quantities of advanced military equipment from Russia. Among the multi-billion dollar systems to be bought by the Chinese military are six Lada-class attack submarines and 35 SU-35 fighter jets. These acquisitions are significant because they are sophisticated systems and it has been more than a decade since China purchased any significant weapon systems from Moscow.

After making substantial purchases from Russia from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, China began to reverse engineer weapons such as the SU-27 multirole fighter, the NORINCO T-90 tank, and several components of its most advanced conventionally powered submarines. Occasionally, China legally purchased licensing rights to Russian systems. Achieving self-reliance in military technology has long been a major priority of China s defense policy. » More

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Russia’s Multi-vector Nuclear Policy: a Hindrance to Disarmament

Chemical Nuclear Warheads

Chemical Nuclear Warheads. Photo: jenspie3/flickr

Today, Russia and the US possess approximately 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons, and bilateral nuclear relations between these two countries still constitute one of the main issues in global nuclear disarmament.

In spite of recent Russia-US agreements to reduce their respective nuclear stockpiles, however, Russia still maintains an active and robust nuclear policy, one that is now no longer solely dependent on the issue of balancing against the United States, but which must also take into account a number of nuclear states – both lesser, traditional nuclear threats such as China, France and the United Kingdom as well as newer potential threats such as Pakistan and North Korea. Russia’s nuclear strategy is encapsulated in an unpublished but widely-acknowledged document called “Foundations of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence” (Russian: Основы государственной политики в области ядерного сдерживания). The Russian Ministry of Defence acknowledges that all nuclear states have their own particular nuclear strategies, which account for their own respective national security needs as well as nuclear reduction and non-proliferation. » More

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Mediation Perspectives: Armenia and the Customs Union – Window of Opportunity for Nagorno-Karabakh?

Sargsyan, Medvedev, Aliev

Sargsyan, Medvedev and Aliev. Photo: kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons.

Policymakers and analysts have spent the past two decades applying the same insights and settlement approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the same limited impact. There is an underpinning perception that everything that could have been said has already been said. This, combined with a set of overused words such as ‘stalemate’, ‘deadlock’, ‘frozen’ and, more recently, ‘simmering conflict’ brings with it a certain level of fatigue and apathy on the part of the conflict parties and external observers.

However, tangible contextual changes within protracted conflicts often open up windows of opportunity for new dynamics in peace processes. In this respect, does Armenia’s stated intention to join the Russian-led Customs Union provide a window of opportunity for renewed mediation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? » More

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