Turkey Deepens Imprint in Central Asia

By adding Turkey as a partner and Afghanistan as an observer, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization pushed forward with its initiative to strengthen the regional powers’ ability to combat terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

Turkey has been a major factor in Central Asia’s development in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse and has expressed interest in creating even stronger ties with the region.

Turkey and Afghanistan will be an asset for Central Asia as it struggles to overcome and destroy the expansive drug trade that is undermining national institutions. By increasing aspects of cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization hopes that regional interdependence will grow and the region will be able to modernize.

Although much of its involvement in Afghanistan has been as a part of the largely Western coalition operating in the country, Turkey has taken a leadership role in many aspects of NATO operations and has stated that it will pursue independent, close political ties with Afghanistan even after the rest of the coalition packs up and heads home.

As a new SCO dialogue partner, Turkey has expressed particular concern about curtailing international terrorism in the region, as well as crimes such as human and drug trafficking. Read more “Turkey Deepens Imprint in Central Asia”

South Korea Accepts Japanese Yellow Sea Deployment

The South Korean government has stated that it will not oppose Japan’s plan to deploy Aegis equipped destroyers to the Yellow Sea to detect and monitor North Korean missile launches because it believes that the goals of such a deployment would dovetail with South Korea’s own national-security interests.

According to the Chosun Ilbo, a senior official from the South Korean president’s office stated that South Korea will not oppose a potential Japanese deployment to the Yellow Sea because “guaranteeing navigational freedom on the high seas coincides with Seoul’s security interests.”

Such a deployment would raise concerns in the three countries that border the Yellow Sea — North Korea, South Korea and China.

North Korea has condemned it as part of an American plot for global domination. South Korea’s government has voiced no opposition but the public debate continues. China has yet to make an official response publicly.

Controversy arises over whether South Korea and/or China should oppose this Japanese deployment and for what reasons — national symbolism, geostrategic maneuvering, continued historical grievances, other reasons or some combination thereof. Read more “South Korea Accepts Japanese Yellow Sea Deployment”

Weak Ruble Bad for Some But Not All

After eight straight days of currency devaluation due to slumping oil prices, Russia’s central bank decided to intervene in the markets last week by injecting liquidity and selling currency.

Currency values have dropped to 2009 levels, a result, some believe, exacerbated by the European crisis and the Russian population’s concern of another financial collapse.

The central bank’s intervention is not expected to halt or reverse the current trend but if oil prices continue to plummet, the ruble’s decline will be less dramatic.

Current market trends — lower currency pricing and relatively strong oil valuation — have created a positive environment for Russia’s oil companies. The ruble has managed the remarkable feat of falling against the euro in recent months, the only major currency to do so. Read more “Weak Ruble Bad for Some But Not All”

French Army to End Afghanistan Operations

French president François Hollande visited French military troops in Afghanistan on Friday, telling them that they will be home by next Christmas.

France has been involved in the ongoing counterterrorism activities in Afghanistan as part of the NATO coalition since December 2001. NATO has decided to pull out its troops in two years but Hollande announced that his troops would be gone before the end of the year.

Acting on a pledge made during the French presidential election campaign, Hollande stated that though the terrorism threat emanating from Afghanistan has not completely disappeared, it has been clearly diminished, something that “we all can be proud of.” Of the 3,500 French troops in Afghanistan, approximately 2,000 will be removed before Christmas and no combat troops will remain after 2012. Read more “French Army to End Afghanistan Operations”

Accidental War Waiting to Happen on Europe’s Periphery

A minor incident could cause the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to turn hot, threatening European oil supplies, the regional balance in the Caucasus and Anatolia as well as increasing the European Union’s dependence on Russia.

The border dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could flare up again, as recently demonstrated by an alleged ambush of Armenian troops by Azerbaijani forces. The incident, taking in place in Armenia proper, not the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh, is viewed as an escalation of tensions. Conflict is now more likely due to Azerbaijan’s petrofueled growth of its military capabilities.

A small incident could spiral into a full-blown conflict. While a conflict would threaten European interests — i.e., threaten oil supplies and increase Europe’s dependance on Russian energy — the European Union is expected to do little under such circumstances except condemn Azerbaijan and continue to offer free trade and visas to Armenia. Read more “Accidental War Waiting to Happen on Europe’s Periphery”

Time for Compromise on Trans Caspian Pipeline

Compromise is needed between the European Union and Russia regarding the Trans Caspian Pipeline to ensure regional energy security.

Believing the European Union’s 2009 Third Energy Package was designed to undermine Russian and Gazprom’s interests, the current discussions concerning the Trans Caspian Pipeline, the third round of negotiations, have stalled with neither side willing to relinquish to the demands of the other.

The Southern Gas Corridor has not been a contentious topic in the past. However, the Third Energy Project has created a rift between Europe and Russia on energy security.

Under the agreement, Russia demands that Gazprom should receive the entire supply chain while the EU would receive energy supplies from Turkmenistan. Concerns have arisen regarding Russia’s eventual attempts to use supply routes as a “weapon,” and the Europeans do not believe that Turkmenistan will be able to remain stable without diversifying the nation’s export portfolio, so supplies over the long term may not be realistic.

Russia’s pressure to hand Gazprom the entire supply chain has pushed the EU to attempt to negotiate with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan directly. Russia has attacked this approach citing unresolved claims of energy supplies throughout the Caspian Sea basin. Read more “Time for Compromise on Trans Caspian Pipeline”

Israel Challenges Egypt Over Sinai Security Chaos

Due to the fall of the Mubarak regime, government authority has collapsed in the Sinai Peninsula, leaving a vacuum that is rapidly being filled by Islamist militant groups. This has created a security risk for Egypt and Israel, as well as for the international community due to the strategic importance of the Suez Canal zone and threatens the durability of Israeli-Egyptian relations.

Last week, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak called on Egypt to take control of the increasing lawlessness in the Sinai as a condition for maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.

Since February 2011 when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, border security incidents have increased. These incidents range from cross-border infiltration of militants into Israel, where they launch attacks against Israeli civilians, smuggling and an increase in rocket attacks into southern Israel emanating from the Sinai.

The heightened lawlessness that has occurred along the Egyptian-Israeli border has taken place despite steps taken by the interim Egyptian government to deploy thousands of troops to the Sinai region to curb militant activity. Read more “Israel Challenges Egypt Over Sinai Security Chaos”

Russia Helping United States Get Out of Afghanistan

At a time when the United States are preparing to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, American cooperation with Russia, compromised on other foreign policy issues, including the missile defense program in Eastern Europe and the situation in Syria, turns out to look like a promising deal for both sides.

American authorities have come to understand the importance of securing Russian support in order to operate the departure from Afghanistan in safety.

Another factor adding to American-Russian cooperation is the continuing souring of relations between Washington and some of its regional allies, namely Pakistan, especially after last year’s killing of more than twenty Pakistani soldiers by an errant NATO airstrike. Read more “Russia Helping United States Get Out of Afghanistan”

Sudan Mobilizes Army as South Claims Key Oilfields

Conflict between Sudan and South Sudan reemerged last week after northern air forces struck targets south of the border.

Tensions most recently erupted when a village in South Sudan was bombarded by the Sudanese military. In an act of retaliation, the South Sudan Army attacked the town of Heglig in an effort to control the oil wells in the area surrounding it.

There is the possibility that the African Union and United Nations will get involved to try to mediate between the two countries.

The complexity of the conflict between them is not only who controls the oil but also the role of rebels in the region and lack of definite borders between north and South Sudan. Read more “Sudan Mobilizes Army as South Claims Key Oilfields”

Putin’s Port Project to Divert Russia Urals Oil to Baltic

In a move to further expand Russia’s market into the world system, Moscow commissioned a port to be constructed on the Baltic Sea, thus creating a route in which oil from the Urals could be traded more easily in the European market.

Concerns over expected future production levels — Russia’s current volume has been deemed unsustainable when compared to overall project cost — have been leveled against Moscow. Shifting the route further north and away from the Ukraine and Belarus will afford Russia the opportunity to manage price controls and ensure the product’s secure transportation routes are not undermined by political disagreements. Read more “Putin’s Port Project to Divert Russia Urals Oil to Baltic”