Monday, December 22, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #80

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.

At the end of last year, the Volgograd bombings highlighted that Russia is still struggling with the foreign-backed insurgency in the North Caucasus and 2014 ends on a similar note due to this month's clashes in the Chechen capital Grozny. Although the overall security situation in the North Caucasus has improved significantly over the years, the attacks in Volgograd last year as well as the attacks in Grozny in October and December of this year serve as a stark reminder that terrorists can strike at any time, anywhere in the region. Violence in Russia's volatile south has long been associated with Chechnya but the neighboring Republic of Dagestan has become Russia's hot spot of insurgent activity in recent years. The leaders of the Dagestani insurgency just pledged loyalty to ISIS, defying the leader of the Caucasus Emirate and perhaps spelling more trouble for Russia's security services. One of the frequent special operations in Dagestan resulted last week in the killing of the leader of a terrorist group linked to the 2013 Volgograd bombings and a number of other attacks in Dagestan. While the Dagestani authorities have their work cut out, the Chechen authorities are free to support the resistance in eastern Ukraine and, unperturbed by the attacks in Grozny, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov announced this week that he wants to focus more on Ukraine:
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wants to quit his high post to go to help militias in Donbas

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on Tuesday that he wanted to quit his high state post and leave for Ukraine’s Donbas region to help the local militias, the NTV channel reported on its website.

Commenting on initiation of criminal proceedings against him in Ukraine and Kiev’s threats to put him on the international wanted list, Kadyrov told NTV’s “Bez Kupyur” (Without Banknotes) program that they could keep wagging their tongues for as long as they liked.

“They can keep saying whatever they like. But I am going to ask the (Russian) president for permission to quit my post in order to go to Donbass to protect the interests of those citizens who are fighting there now,” Kadyrov said.
© Photo RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin

Monday, December 15, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #79

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.

While U.S. President Barack Obama is still trying to convince the public that Russia is completely isolated, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid official visits to Uzbekistan and India, strengthening Russia's ties with the two countries. On December 10, the Russian President traveled to Tashkent, where he held talks with his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov. Putin's visit was a show of support for Karimov ahead of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Uzbekistan, which could get interesting for a change given that Karimov has not stated whether he will stand for re-election as president. Russian-Uzbek relations have been tense since the end of the Soviet Union and the Karimov regime has always been a difficult partner for Russia but the Kremlin is now looking to forge closer ties with Uzbekistan, regardless of who is running the country. The two presidents signed an important agreement, significantly reducing Uzbekistan's debt to Russia in order to pave the way for new loans from Moscow, which are intended for a particular purpose [emphasis mine]:
Russia Cozies Up to Uzbekistan With $865 Million Debt Write-Off

Russia on Wednesday wrote off $865 million of debt owed by Uzbekistan as President Vladimir Putin sought to bolster ties between the former Soviet republics during a one-day visit to the country, news agency TASS reported.

The agreement, which was signed in the presence of Putin and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov, freed Uzbekistan from almost all of its $890 million debt to Russia. Uzbekistan will have to pay just $25 million, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Wednesday.

Presidential aide Yury Ushakov said Wednesday that settling the debt issue will allow Russia to expand sales of arms and military equipment in the country, TASS reported.
© Photo AFP

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #78

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.

At the beginning of October, a suicide bombing struck the Chechen capital Grozny, reminding the Chechen and Russian authorities that the foreign-backed insurgency in the North Caucasus, which has been largely confined to Dagestan in recent years, could also rear its ugly head again in Chechnya. Although Chechen police stopped the suicide bomber in time to prevent a far more devastating attack, the bombing sent a strong message because it happened in peaceful Grozny on October 5, when Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was celebrating his birthday, residents of Grozny were celebrating City Day and Muslims around the world were celebrating Eid al-Adha. After the attack in October, which left five police officers dead and twelve wounded, things returned to normal in Chechnya but this week, on the eve of Vladimir Putin's annual state-of-the-nation address, Grozny was again the center of attention as heavy fighting rocked the city, calling to mind the violence in the 1990s:
Gun Battle Breaks Out In Grozny, Chechnya, Leaving At Least 19 Dead

Security forces in the capital of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya stormed two buildings, including a school, in fierce gun battles with militants early Thursday that left at least 19 dead, authorities said.
 
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said militants traveling in three cars entered the republic's capital, Grozny, at 1 a.m., killing three traffic police at a checkpoint, and then occupied the 10-story Press House in the center of the city. The federal agency said six gunmen were killed inside the building, which was gutted in a blazing fire that also spread to a nearby market.

More gunmen were later found in a nearby school and security forces were sent to "liquidate" them, the agency said. No students or teachers were in the school when it was seized by the militants, RIA Novosti quoted vice principal Islam Dzhabrailov as saying.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gladio B and the Battle for Eurasia

Studium Generale Groningen recently hosted a lecture series on "The Battle for Resources," which ended with an excellent presentation by James Corbett on Operation Gladio B. In this presentation, James Corbett lifts the lid on Gladio B, its covert operatives, and the secret battle for the Eurasian heartland (transcript and sources):

Monday, December 1, 2014

Porkins Great Game: Episode #3 - Afghan Withdrawal, Kyrgyz Maidan & Trouble in Georgia

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I talk all things Afghanistan: the booming opium production, Turkmenistan's invasion, NATO's "withdrawal" and China's growing role in the war-torn country. We also examine the possibility of a Euromaidan-style color revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the sacking of Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, which caused a great stir in Brussels and Washington.