Eurasia Week in Review

A round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the last week: 

Central Asia:

  • The United States is reportedly considering entirely pulling out its military forces from Afghanistan after 2014. While U.S. plans have called for a small force to remain behind after the bulk of troops leave in 2014, the White House is now looking at the option of pulling out entirely, reported the New York Times. Governments of Central Asia have repeatedly warned of the potential dangers to their region as a result of possible instability in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdraws.

  • The government of Kyrgyzstan announced that it is selling its shares in the Dastan factory, a Soviet-legacy manufacturer of torpedoes. The company has been struggling to find business, and Russia has long sought to acquire it. Kyrgyzstan recently changed the terms of the sale, now putting the entire factory up for sale, not the 48 percent it had previously offered, reported the Russian newspaper Kommersant (in Russian). The last order the factory had was with India, but that work is long done, the newspaper said. “The government of Kyrgyzstan hopes that Moscow will value not just this, but also other steps toward increasing Russia’s military and economic presence in Kyrgyzstan,” the newspaper reported.

The Caucasus:

  • Azerbaijan has reportedly protested to France and Germany after online reports suggested that Armenia has acquired anti-tank missiles produced by the two countries. Azerbaijani news agency APA cited military sources saying that the government in Baku asked for clarification from the French and German embassies there regarding “how these countries that imposed an embargo on the sale of weapons to the conflicting parties could deliver these systems to Armenia.” The French ambassador to Baku said that his government was “investigating the credibility of that information” but added that French or German arms sales to Armenia are “very unlikely” because of sanctions in place against both Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledged publicly that drones the country bought from Israel had been “compromised” by Israel giving their data codes to Russia, which was then able to ground them. While documents released by Wikileaks had reported that fact before, this was the first time that Saakashvili acknowledged it. “The codes of those drones, which we bought from Israel, became available to our adversary in a very suspicious circumstances and they [the drones] were downed. After that we realized that we should not depend on anyone and created our drone with our own software,” he said, according to Civil.ge

The Caspian:

  • Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has established a presence on the Caspian Sea, suggesting that Tehran is placing a higher priority on security in the Caspian. Iran’s Fars News Agency reported that the IGRC Navy is setting up a training center on the Caspian “tasked with training the IRGC Navy vessel crews to enable them conduct the necessary maneuvers in the Caspian Sea waters.” While the IGRC Navy already had responsibility for security in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s conventional navy has had responsibility for the Caspian. 

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus: 

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov in Washington to discuss issues related to transit of military equipment from Afghanistan.

  • China and Russia conducted joint naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean.

  • The Collective Security Treaty Organization held joint exercises in Rostov, Russia, with special forces units from Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia participating.

  • Naval forces from countries including Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey participated in joint exercises in the Black Sea, called Sea Breeze 2013.

  • Activists in Kazakhstan objected to the testing of Russian missiles on Kazakhstan territory, and accused the country’s media of covering it up.

  • The four NATO aspirant countries – Georgia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia – agreed to formalize military cooperation, including joint exercises.

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