Eurasia News Week in Review

A roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:

Central Asia:

  • On a visit to Tajikistan, the speaker of Russia’s parliament Sergey Naryshkin, reportedly began talks on Russia’s use of the Ayni air base outside the capital of Dushanbe. Naryshkin visited as the lower house of the Tajikistan parliament’s ratified an agreement for a land base for Russia’s 201st motorized rifle division, and the Russian military wants to use Ayni as an air complement to that land base, according to a report in Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gaezta, citing Russian government and military officials. “Signing of an additional agreement on the Ayni air force base, which Moscow also intends to rent and to consider part of the 201st military base, is expected,” the newspaper wrote.

  • A train carrying soldiers from Tajikistan derailed in Uzbekistan. The train was traveling from southern to northern Tajikistan, and the only rail line that connects those two parts of the country passes through Uzbekistan. About 200 of the 300 passengers on board were Tajikistani conscripts. Tajikistan rail officials blamed their Uzbekistan counterparts for not alerting the Tajikistan train of repairs on the tracks. Tajikistan has repeatedly accused Uzbekistan of imposing an informal “blockade” against them by closing borders and hindering transportation.

  • A Russian government report predicted three potential scenarios for Afghanistan after the departure of Western coalition forces in 2014: the Taliban coming to power, a lengthy civil war, and a division of spheres of influence between Taliban and the incumbent regime. The report, leaked to Russian newspaper Kommersant, concluded that the final scenario was the most likely, but that all three threatened the stability of Central Asia and therefore Russia.

  • About 2,500 soldiers from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan took part in joint exercises of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The troops practiced a scenario involving a conflict in the fictional CSTO member state of Uralia, where the peacekeepers were tasked with protecting a convoy of humanitarian aid from “extremists” trying to attack it. The CSTO also held a conference in Bishkek on security threats related to the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Caucasus

  • NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Georgia would be included in the alliance’s Response Force in 2015. “Participation in NRF is important as Georgian Army units will have opportunity to increase interoperability with other NATO member countries,” said Georgia’s defense minister, Irakli Alasania, on twitter. “This fact is acknowledgment of the high level of preparedness and professionalism of the Georgian Armed Forces.”

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Kazakhstan’s government denied media reports that U.S. military cargo was being shipped through the port city of Aktau, and emphasized that all U.S. equipment transiting the country from Afghanistan was “non-military.”

  • Kazakhstan vowed that its military would be fully professional by 2016.

  • Ships from Russia’s Caspian Sea Flotilla will make a visit to an Iranian port soon, an Iranian naval official said. 

  • On the holiday dedicated to naval forces, Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov urged the nation’s sailors to “consistently raise their combat readiness.” (On state television, via BBC Monitoring.)

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