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: 

  • Russia will upgrade the equipment at its military base in Tajikistan by the time the United States starts withdrawing from Afghanistan next year, Russia’s defense minister said. “By December we will complete this division to about 80 percent, and by the time of elections in Afghanistan and the departure of the coalition forces we will complete it 100 percent with the newest weaponry and military equipment,” said Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. Previously, Russian officials had said that the new equipment for the base would include Tigr and Rys all-terrain vehicles and Tor air defense systems.

  • Kazakhstan’s defense minister visited Washington and met with United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, while his delegation met representatives of companies including General Atomics, Boeing Defense, OshKosh, Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky and others. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan denied reports that it will establish a military base in the Caspian Sea port city of Aktau. The embassy statement noted that less than one percent of military cargo being shipped out of Afghanistan passes through Kazakhstan. 

The Caucasus and Turkey

  • Armenia is the fourth most militarized country in the world, and Azerbaijan eighth, according to a ranking produced by the Bonn International Center for Conversion. The index measures a country’s spending on defense compared with its spending on health and other social spheres. Of other countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan ranked 47th, Georgia 54th and Kazakhstan 58th.Among countries neighboring the Caucasus and Central Asia, Russia was the third most militarized country, Mongolia 22nd, Turkey 23rd, Iran 28th, Afghanistan 57th and China 83rd.

  • Azerbaijan will reportedly begin building warships starting next year, military sources told the APA news agency. The reports gave no details on the size or type of the ships, or with whom (if anyone) Azerbaijan would be partnering on the project, which would be its first military shipbuilding venture. Azerbaijan has been building a navy base and bought naval missiles from Russia and Israel.

  • Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, visited Turkey and toured defense manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries. He observed performances of training aircraft and the T129 attack helicopter, of which Azerbaijan has announced it will buy 60. “The military equipment manufactured in Turkey meets the highest world standards,” Aliyev said during an appearance with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Meanwhile, the two countries will hold high-level defense cooperation meetings in Baku in December.

  • Turkey plans to decide within six months whether it is feasible to proceed with a contract for a Chinese air and missile defense system, the country’s top defense industry official said. If not, it would start negotiations with the next-ranking bidder, European firm MBDA. “Our procurement process is such that we begin with the first company with the intention to sign the contract but of course if there are difficulties that are not foreseen, we go down through the rank,” said Murad Bayar, Turkey’s Undersecretary for Defense Industries. The potential Chinese purchase has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies, who say the Chinese system would not be interoperable with NATO systems now in use.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Azerbaijan is expanding its NATO-compatible Operational Capabilities Concept battalion into a brigade next year, the country’s defense ministry reported.

  • The presidents of Armenia and the de facto republic of Nagorno Karabakh observed military exercises in Karabakh.

  • Israel’s foreign ministry denied reports that the country had cut off weapons supplies to Azerbaijan as a result of Russian pressure.

  • The U.S. will stop buying Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the armed forces of Afghanistan, the Pentagon reported. Members of Congress had pressed for the move, arguing that Russia’s state defense manufacturer, Rosoboronexport, was continuing to supply weapons to the Syrian government.

  • The Collective Security Treaty Organization will hold peacekeeping exercises in Kyrgyzstan in 2014.

  • A shooting incident on the Iran-Azerbaijan border resulted in the closure of several border posts for over a week.

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