Eurasia News Week in Review

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

The Caucasus and Turkey:

  • The commander of Russian troops in Armenia said that those forces may support Armenia in a conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. “If Azerbaijan decides to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno Karabakh by force the [Russian] military base may join in the armed conflict in accordance with the Russian Federation’s obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” said Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky in an interview with the Russian military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. There has been much speculation about whether the CSTO’s collective security provisions would apply in a conflict restricted to Nagorno Karabakh, which is de jure Azerbaijani territory, or only if it spilled over into Armenia.

  • United States Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller has visited Ankara, reportedly to speak with Turkish officials about their purchase of Chinese air defense systems. And Reuters reported that Turkish officials have asked Raytheon, the manufacturer of the Patriot system that lost out to China in the Turkish competition, to keep its offer open, a sign Ankara may be rethinking the decision.

  • The newly elected president of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, promised to maintain the country’s current policy of pursuing integration with the West while repairing relations with Russia. “Europe is our choice and this election is a confirmation of our European course,” he said at a post-election press conference, adding that “we will try to reduce tension in bilateral relations [with Russia] and to move discussion of issues to European forums.” Margvelashvili won the October 27 election by a wide margin, replacing the country’s long-serving president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Central Asia:

  • The commander of the Kazakhstan Navy, on a visit to Iran, said his country hoped to increase cooperation in naval industries and training. As Kazakhstan is building a new navy, “Iran’s experiences in the field of military industries and building warships are very important to us,” said Rear Admiral Zhandarbek Zhanzakov. Zhanzakov visited Tehran and Iran’s Caspian Sea naval base at Bandar Anzali.

  • Russia plans to double the number of aircraft it maintains at its air base in Kyrgyzstan, with a corresponding increase in personnel, a senior Russian military official said. Viktor Sevastyanov, a senior Russian Air Force commander, made the announcement at a ceremony marking the ten-year anniversary of the establishment of the Kant air base near Bishkek. The news came shortly after the U.S. announced that it would leave its air base in the country when its lease expires next July. The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization has said it plans to use Kant as the base for its nascent joint air forces.

  • In the wake of a terror attack in Beijing that the Chinese government blamed on Uyghur separatists, Chinese officials called on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to increase its efforts in fighting terrorism. “I have notified the Executive Committee of the Regional Antiterrorism Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) of the latest terrorist attack near Tiananmen Square. I believe that SCO member countries need to step up their cooperation in fighting terrorism,” Meng Jianzhu, a senior Communist Party official, told reporters during a visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, home of the SCO’s anti-terror structure. 

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Kazakhstan’s minister of defense visited London and met with British military officials and defense manufacturers.

  • Two Kazakhstani activists were arrested in September during a protest against Russian space and military bases in the country, according to a recent report from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

  • Stanislav Lakoba, secretary of the Security Council of the breakaway Georgian territory of Abkhazia, was dismissed.

  • Kazakhstan and Russia will sign an agreement on increased military cooperation, including on supply of Russian military hardware to Kazakhstan, Russian officials said.

  • An envelope containing a mysterious white powder was sent to the U.S. embassy in Bishkek.

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