The CSS Blog Network

Kyrgyzstan: China Muscles into Energy Market, Fueling Suspicion

Image by Sergio Russo/Flickr.

China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly. At the same time, some observers express concern that the project may stoke local resentment, or become enmeshed in political infighting.

The refinery in Kara-Balta, about two hours west of Bishkek, is expected to produce 600,000 tons of fuel annually, enough to end Kyrgyzstan’s dependency on Russian imports, currently pegged at 1,150,000 tons a year, according to the State Statistics Committee. Slated to receive crude piped from Chinese-run fields in Kazakhstan, the project, operated by a smallish Chinese state-run entity called Junda, has already witnessed regular environmental protests and labor disputes, which one lawmaker claims are backed by opposition politicians bent on using the facility as a weapon in a political struggle against the government. » More

Fatal Thaws

The big thaw is here

The big thaw is here. Photo: rosipaw/flickr.

MOSCOW – During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and, in a milder way, the United States imposed external limits on the activities of states and societies, causing longstanding conflicts among smaller countries to be “frozen.” Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in the 1990’s, those conflicts began to “unfreeze.”

With interethnic tensions already on the rise, Yugoslavia was the first country to dissolve into conflict. Soon after, war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by fighting in Transdniestria and Chechnya. While some conflicts were addressed – the West finally intervened militarily in the former Yugoslavia; and Russia fought in Chechnya for almost a decade, and imposed peace in Transdniestria – others, such as that between Armenia and Azerbaijan, were simply frozen again. » More

Why is Russia Favored by Mongolia and North Korea?

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

Border between Russia and Mongolia. Photo: Geoff Sowrey/flickr

Russia is favored by Mongolia and North Korea just as the United States is welcomed by some of its Southeast Asian partners. At the same time, Mongolia and especially North Korea provide opportunities for Russia to raise its stakes in Northeast Asian matters.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and relative inattention by the Kremlin in the 1990s, Ulaanbaatar and Pyongyang never abandoned their attempts to renew ties with Russia. High-ranking political and military officials constantly made calls to advance political, military, economic, and cultural ties with Moscow. Positive responses came after a decade, under Russian President Putin. Putin’s visit to the DPRK and Mongolia in 2000 demonstrated the Kremlin’s new emphasis on two its former allies, whose industrial facilities and enterprises were built with Soviet assistance and technology. Their treaties of mutual assistance with Russia were replaced by treaties of good neighborliness in 1993 (Mongolia) and 2001 (North Korea). And the $11 billion debts incurred during the Soviet era, were resolved favorably for Mongolians in 2003 and North Koreans in 2012. As a result, Russia seems to have secured its stake in key infrastructure development projects. In North Korea, Russia will invest in the trans-Korean railway, a gas pipeline, special economic zones, and education. Russia will invest in the trans-Mongolian railway, its extension, and the mining of uranium and aluminum in Mongolia. Economic cooperation with Mongolia and North Korea will play an important role in Putin’s agenda to develop Russia’s long-neglected Far East and Siberia and to secure Chinese and East Asian markets for its mineral exports. » More

Using Passports to Construct Enemies?

Russian passport

Russian passport. Photo: paukrus/flickr.

Two decades after the demise of the Soviet Union, tensions between Russia and its neighbors remain. Over the past twenty years or so, the former Soviet space has experienced, among others, border disputes and controversies over army exercises, military bases and oil supply routes. However, underlying issues like the withholding of citizenship rights remain largely unnoticed and, as a consequence, unaddressed.

The Usual Suspect?

Russia is widely regarded as the main culprit behind tensions with its neighbors and controversies surrounding citizenship issues. Scott Littlefield has argued that Russian passports and citizenship have facilitated Abkhazian and South Ossetian separatism in Georgia and served Russian ‘geo-strategic gains’. Some authors have even argued that Russia has ‘weaponized’ citizenship by combining its right to grant citizenship with its sovereign ‘right’ or ‘duty’ to protect its citizens at home and abroad. In light of the growing mobility of citizens, and Russia’s continued policy of conferring its nationality extraterritorially, such as in Transnistria and Crimea, this could spur similar secessionist feelings elsewhere.

Yet Russia is not the only state responsible for such behavior. Georgia has also been accused of using the 2008 conflict to discredit Russia internationally, thereby turning the war into a battle between ‘east and west’. However, Tbilisi was nevertheless responsible for fanning the flames of conflict by marching its military into its northern regions, thus violating agreements between Abkhazians, South Ossetians and the Georgian government. Russia perhaps overplayed its ‘responsibility to protect’ card by marching its army into Georgia, however concerns that ‘its’ Russian passport holding citizens were in need of protection appeared reasonable. » More


Russia’s European Prospects

EU-Russia Summit in 2011

EU-Russia Summit, Nizhny Novgorod, 9 and 10 June 2011. Photo: President of the European Council/flickr.

MOSCOW – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle’s vision of a Europe “that stretched from the Atlantic to the Urals” was provocative. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has advanced an even more ambitious goal: “a common market stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

In the race toward globalization, the stakes are high for both Russia and Europe. If Russia continues on its current path toward becoming solely a raw-materials producer, it will not only become increasingly vulnerable to global energy-price fluctuations, but its scientific, cultural, and educational potential will decay further, eventually stripping the country of its global clout.

If Europe, for its part, fails to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century, it will face chronic economic stagnation, rising social tension, and political instability. Indeed, as industrial production migrates to East Asia and innovation remains in North America, Europe risks losing its position in the most attractive international markets. As a result, the European project itself could be called into question. » More

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