Sunday, November 30, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #77

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

In May of this year, China launched a one-year-long no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign in its far-western Xinjiang region after a major terrorist attack had struck Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, killing 43 people and wounding more than 90. In the last six months, the Chinese authorities have been arresting everyone and his brother to stop the violence in Xinjiang, including prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of advocating separatism and inciting ethnic hatred. Western governments and media did their best to highlight Tohti's imprisonment and called repeatedly for his release, to no avail. Last week, a court in Urumqi upheld the life sentence and a few days later the same court opened separatism trials for seven of Tohti's students. While Western media criticized the latest act of Chinese repression, Chinese media lauded the results of the first six months of the anti-terror campaign. According to China's Ministry of Public Security, 115 terrorist cells were quashed and more than 300 suspects detained. But only a few days after the ministry released its report, another terrorist attack reminded everyone that the violence continues:
15 killed, 14 injured in Xinjiang terrorist attack

Fifteen people, including 11 mobsters, were killed and 14 people were injured in a terrorist attack in Shache County on Friday afternoon in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local authorities announced in a statement on Saturday.

The mobsters threw out explosive devices and attacked civilians with knives at a food street in the county around 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Police patrolling nearby killed 11 of them.
A number of explosive devices, knives and axes were found at the scene.
© Photo AFP

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #76

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

So-called color revolutions have long been used by the United States to replace governments all over the world with more pliable alternatives if the respective leaders have outlived their usefulness or antagonized Washington, the most recent example being the Euromaidan in Ukraine. After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, the U.S. and its allies launched Orange Revolution 2.0 to ensure Kiev's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration and to nip Ukraine's accession to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the bud. On November 21, Ukrainians gathered in Kiev to mark the first anniversary of the start of the fateful anti-government protests, which have plunged the country into war, leading to a new confrontation between Russia and the West. In light of the developments in Ukraine, many governments are increasingly alarmed at color revolutions. Especially Russian officials have been repeatedly warning against this "new form of warfare" in recent months. A few days ago, President Putin urged Russian security chief to do everything necessary to prevent a color revolution in Russia and the issue was also high on the agenda during this week's talks between Russian and Chinese defense ministers:
Russia, China should jointly counter "color revolutions" — Russian Defense Ministry

Russia and China should jointly stand against “color revolutions” which both countries are facing, a deputy Russian defence minister said after talks between Russian and Chinese defence chiefs on Tuesday.

“We focused on those events which have recently taken place in Hong Kong, and both ministers acknowledged that no country is immune from ‘color revolutions,’” Anatoly Antonov said.

“It only seems that these “color revolutions” and these experiments by Western spin doctors, including those from the United States, are being implemented somewhere far from China or the Russian Federation,” Antonov said. “All this is in fact near us, and we believe that Russia and China should work together to withstand this new security challenge to our countries.
© Photo Xinhua/Gao Jie

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #75

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Three months ago, Armenia and Azerbaijan were on the brink of all-out war after the worst clashes in years over the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan had left more than a dozen soldiers dead. Russian President Vladimir Putin brought both sides to the negotiating table to prevent a further escalation of the conflict and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev readily agreed to postpone the recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, which fueled speculation that Baku had provoked the clashes for political reasons. Azerbaijan has shown a pattern of provoking such events in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict. Moreover, the escalation of violence in late July/early August coincided with a crackdown on human rights activists and NGOs. After this short period of heavy fighting the situation calmed down and last month French President Francois Hollande hosted "constructive" talks between Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan. The two leaders agreed to continue the dialogue to find a negotiated peace to the Karabakh conflict but this week's downing of an Armenian helicopter doesn't bode well for the shaky peace process:
Azerbaijan shoots down Armenian helicopter
The armed forces of Azerbaijan shot down and destroyed an Armenian military helicopter in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Wednesday, the defense ministries of both countries said.

The incident threatened to set off another cycle of violence between the two South Caucasus neighbors over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but along with some surrounding territory has been under the control of Armenian soldiers and local Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire.

Nagorno-Karabakh said the helicopter belonged to its armed forces and was on a training flight near the cease-fire line. All three crew members on board were killed, a high-ranking officer with the Nagorno-Karabakh forces told the AP. The officer was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #74

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Russia's southern neighbor und staunch NATO ally Georgia has been hitting the headlines on a daily basis in recent weeks. While Georgian officials were still freaking out over Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, inspired by the treaty offered to its separatist twin, began to draw up a similar agreement meant to insert the disputed territory into the Russian Federation. Tbilisi tried to win back the two regions by offering them broad autonomy and to share the prospective benefits of Georgia’s integration with the EU, but to no avail. To make matters worse, the Georgian government didn't even have the time to comprehend that Georgia is about to lose Abkhazia and South Ossetia once and for all because the country is facing yet another crisis. It all started with the arrest of five former and current officials of the Defense Ministry and general staff of the armed forces, who are accused of contract-rigging and thereby defrauding the state of $2.34 million. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who was visiting France and Germany at the time, got behind the detained officals and condemned the arrests in the strongest possible terms after his return:
Georgia: Defense Minister Claims NATO Plans under Threat

Georgia’s NATO-membership plans have come under attack from within the the country's government itself, embattled Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania claimed on November 4, as a crisis over investigations into his ministry deepens within the ruling coalition.

Alasania, rated as Georgia’s favorite political figure, declared in a televised briefing that prosecutors’ sudden spate of inquiries into the defense ministry’s work is politically motivated. After the arrest of five former and current ministry officials last week as part of a probe into a tender, prosecutors today filed criminal charges against three army medical officers in a food-poisoning case.

“This is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice. This is an attack on the agency with an outstanding record in achieving our foreign policy goals,” Alasania asserted. “I will not be intimidated by the prosecutors or by mud-slinging by certain media groups,” he added.
© Photo Georgian Ministry of Defense

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #73

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After performing a pilgrimage to Mecca and holding talks with King Abdullah and other high-level Saudi officials on his first foreign trip since since taking office in September, Afghanistan's newly selected president Ashraf Ghani travelled to China for an important four-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two neighboring countries. As the NATO-led forces are reducing their presence in Afghanistan, Kabul is looking east for foreign investment while Beijing is trying to ensure stability in the region. On the first day of his visit, Ghani met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called for "a new era of cooperation in China-Afghanistan relations." The two leaders agreed on a new long-term partnership and given that Beijing is alarmed at the prospect of a failed state or a civil war right on China's doorstep, Ghani didn't have a hard time in securing some desperately needed investments:
China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan

China has pledged two billion yuan ($327 million) in aid to Afghanistan, which is seeking new sources of foreign help amid a drawdown of U.S. troops and increasing worries about regional instability.

The offer of aid through 2017 came after China’s President Xi Jinping and newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met in Beijing on Tuesday, according to a joint declaration published Wednesday by China’s foreign ministry. Beijing and Kabul also agreed to step up intelligence sharing to fight drug trafficking and address other cross-border issues.