• KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01142 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00218 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09344 0.86%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Viewing results 1 - 6 of 341

Central Asia’s Combined ‘Army of Turan’: Could a Hypothesis Become a Reality?

Kazakhstan will host the military exercise, "Birlestik-2024" in July of this year. Notably, this became known from the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. The exercises will be jointly held by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It is a convenient occasion to refresh the topic of the 'Army of Turan', which is periodically raised by experts both in Central Asia and neighboring countries. The Army of Turan is a hypothetical military bloc of Turkic-speaking countries. Its ideas have become relevant in the context of global geopolitical turbulence.   I hear the thunder of cannons... Most military analysts consider Azerbaijan to be Turkey's proxy in the South Caucasus. In general, Baku's rapprochement with the capitals of Turkic states (plus Dushanbe) meets Ankara's interests in creating a unified cultural and economic space: Turan. However, does the integration of Turkic states mean that they will eventually be able to create a NATO-style security pact in Central Asia? Such initiatives have resumed with renewed vigor after the end of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, during which Turkey has shown the capability of its weapons. Indeed, in 2022, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan - the only country of the participants to share a land border with the Russian Federation - pondered how to protect itself from further expansion of the northern empire's borders. But in the run-up to the summer of 2024, fears have mostly subsided. Many were sobered by the obvious fact that loud declarations of assistance from strong states at best mean the delivery of obsolete weapons, but no more. At worst, your offender will be censured from high podiums, and you will be sympathized with. For example, Turkey, the most likely to defend Central Asia from outsider aggression, did not risk helping the Palestinians, its brothers in faith, and got away with accusing Israel of fascism. So, the 'Army of Turan' exists in the heads of fantasists and pan-Turkics, but in reality, something ordinary is going on — the arms trade. Let's see what the armies of the Central Asian republics are armed with, excluding Turkmenistan, which has declared neutrality.   Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan The most troublesome neighbors in the region have not been able to complete their border delimitation process. As a result, quarrels periodically erupt, in which border guards from both sides intervene, staging mini-warfare. The cause of discord is usually the same: water. The Tajik and Kyrgyz militaries gain some combat experience in these micro-quarrels. Despite or based on this experience, Dushanbe relies on agreements with other countries -- Russia, China, India, Iran, and CSTO partners -- for its defense capability. Tajikistan's armed forces number only 9,000 men. They have 38 tanks (T-62 and T-72 modifications), 114 armored vehicles (APCs, BMPs, BRDMs), 40 artillery systems, and several short- and medium-range air defense units. The Air Force has four Czechoslovakian L-39 Albatross, combat trainers. Kyrgyzstan does not have much more power in the number of its troops, at around...

The Outlook for Kazakhstan’s Rail Network

As a core infrastructure industry, railways play a strategic role in Kazakhstan’s economy. Today, over 50% of freight in the country is transported by rail, while the figure for passengers is 15%. Kazakhstan’s favorable geographical position between the largest producer of goods in the world, Asia, and the largest consumer, Europe, is spurring the development of transit freight transport and related income. However, government regulations and imperfect reforms have failed to reverse a degradation of Kazakhstan’s rail infrastructure and solve its capacity shortage problems. The robust rail network created during the Soviet period for a single national economy turned out to be ineffective under the new conditions of market dynamics. The country’s railway infrastructure, while reaching almost every region in Kazakhstan, meets neither current nor possible future needs of freight owners and has already nearly reached its limit in terms of throughput and processing capacity. The national railway carrier of both passengers and freight, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), cannot provide by itself the financial resources and investments at the scale needed to meet current and future challenges. The national budget is also unlikely to allocate such funding. A lack of prompt, large-scale modernization of key areas of rail transport, however, may hurt the country's economy.   Tentative sources of funding for improvements According to the Ministry of Transport’s plan for the modernization of rail infrastructure, 1,300 km of railway track is to be added by 2030, while 4,800 km of second track is to be constructed. The expected price tag for these additions is over $11 million. It is currently unclear where these funds will come from. There have been mentions of borrowing around $400,000 from the national pension fund. According to the Ministry of Transport’s modernization plan, private investments will also be a key source through public-private partnership projects (PPP). In recent years, state participation in financing the construction and reconstruction of sections of the rail network has been limited and paled in comparison to those involving road projects. As part of the Nurly Zhol (“Bright Path”) infrastructure initiative, $9.2 billion has been allocated for just two programs to develop roads versus only $16.1 million allocated for railways. Added to this is the involvement of KTZ in implementing major transport infrastructure projects – the Khorgos dry port, the Kuryk port ferry complex and more than 1,000 km of railway track built in recent years, among others – using borrowed funds. Thus, the company bears a considerable burden in terms of servicing and repaying loans already raised for these projects, which represent its long-term assets. Given this debt burden, it is clear that the rail industry remains underfunded.   Tariffs present a further dilemma Across the world, funding for the development of main rail networks is typically allocated from the national budget. In many European countries, for example, government funding covers up to 97% of operating and capital costs of rail infrastructure. Besides direct subsidies from the state, other sources of funds for modernizing and renewing rail infrastructure include bond...

Central Asian Views on Pro-Palestinian Protests in the West

Pro-Palestinian protests erupted in university campuses and other locations worldwide in response to the ongoing conflict involving the Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinians in Gaza. European cities, including in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium, have been major flashpoints where, in some cases, the police resorted to using batons, shields and tear gas on protestors. In the U.S., The New York Times has reported on May 13 that since April 18, over 2,500 individuals had been arrested or detained at 54 college campuses nationwide. The increasingly violent nature of the protests causes alarm. A poll conducted by USA Today and Suffolk University, published on May 8, has revealed that almost 32% of Americans express "very concerned" sentiments about the potential for the protests to lead to violence, while slightly over 35% say they are "somewhat concerned". Some of the messaging coming out of the protests has also been characterized as antisemitic, leading to a congressional bill in the U.S. known as the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which aims to expand the legal definition of antisemitism to curb any speech that provokes violence. Free speech advocates, including some international human rights organizations, have challenged these measures.   Remembering their own turbulent times, Central Asians generally support state measures to maintain order Central Asians' perspectives on the pro-Palestinian protests sweeping through Western cities, and the way various governments respond to them, are naturally influenced by their own historical and political contexts, shaped by decades of political transition and international rivalry. Emerging as new democracies just three decades ago, these nations have witnessed a tumultuous mix of violent power struggles among oligarchs, and intense competition from foreign actors vying for control over the region's abundant natural resources and strategic geopolitical position. At the same time, the region hosts a large Muslim population who may sympathize with the Palestinians, even though many do not know the history of the conflict in the Middle East, according to Daniyar Kumpekov, a 46-year-old economist in Kazakhstan. “The Arab-Israeli conflict is beyond the attention of most citizens,” says 21-year-old Kazakhstani student, Anar Zhakupova, adding that they are more concerned about the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia. In Kyrgyzstan, 29-year-old merchant, Dmitry Povolotsky, says that there were only small rallies in support of the Palestinians. There also seems to be a sense of skepticism towards the protests. Kumpekov, for instance, draws attention to a trend of “Islamization” in Kazakhstan’s society”.  Mahmut Orozbayev, a Kyrgyz civil servant in his 50s, cautions about terrorist cells in the country, which, he says, “should be feared” from a security perspective. “We have a majority of Muslim citizens. They can gather and condemn Israel's actions. But all this [should be done] within the limits of what is permissible, so that there is no unrest,” he adds. According to Donokhon Ruziboyeva, an Uzbekistan resident in her 20s, pro-Palestinian protests raise awareness, but “they don’t stop the conflict in Palestine”. While the devastation in the Gaza Strip seen on social networks deeply moves Ruzboyeva,...

Central Asia’s “C5” Security Bloc Can Become a Reality

Central Asia is an emerging economic region that offers the world immense natural resources, a viable trade corridor, and a young, educated workforce. On a diplomatic level, major global powers have sometimes chosen to engage with the five Central Asian nations (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) as a bloc rather than individually, thus giving rise to the term C5+1. The United States, Germany, Japan, and the European Union have C5+1 initiatives grouping the five countries as a block. The C5+1 is not entirely a Western construct as, in addition to Japan, China also has its own C5+1 launched in 2023 that mirrors the U.S. version. Russia’s economic and security cooperation platforms are not all-inclusive when comes to Central Asia and include other CIS countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Moldova.   Cooperation vis-à-vis Afghanistan shows a united front on regional security On May 18, 2024, the heads of the Security Councils of Central Asian countries gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan, for a meeting aimed at enhancing regional security and cooperation. This high-level assembly brought together senior officials from the five states to discuss pressing security challenges and explore collaborative solutions. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who chaired the meeting, impressed that Afghanistan should be the focus of the region’s common attention as Central Asia’s most dire security challenges relate to this southern neighbor. Afghanistan has been a focal point for the spread of violent extremism and oppressive ideologies, impacting global peace and security. The country's history of conflict and provision of safe havens to extremist groups to train fighters and spread their ideologies have long posed threats to neighboring countries and beyond. In Central Asia, this has led to increased terrorism, with groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and ISIS-Khorasan exploiting Afghanistan's instability to establish bases and train fighters. They have carried out cross-border attacks, spreading violence into countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, the dissemination of radical ideologies from Afghanistan has recruited and radicalized individuals in Central Asia, contributing to other local insurgencies and destabilizing the region. An attack on a Russian concert hall in March 2024 by ISIS resulted in 144 deaths.  This event led President Tokayev to note that “there remains high risks associated with the activity of international terrorist organizations”. Narcotics trafficking funds terrorist operations in Afghanistan, fuels region-wide organized crime and increases addiction rates. Effective border control is essential to prevent the movements of militants and drug traffickers from Afghanistan into Central Asia, and thus enhance regional security and stability. In addition to combative and preventive measures, the UN wants Afghanistan to be brought into the international fold to manage these threats. Central Asian countries can facilitate this transition and have already made their own individual bilateral efforts to integrate the “Islamic Republic” into the international arena. Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev, for instance, proposed the creation of a UN Regional Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan, to be based in Kazakhstan.   Regional unity helps withstand unwanted external...

Turkmenistan’s Gas and Türkiye’s Plans to Become a Gas Hub

By Robert M. Cutler   A series of ongoing political consultations between Turkmenistan and Türkiye continued on 25–26 April, as a Turkmen delegation led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Gurbanov visited Ankara, hosted by Turkish counterpart Burak Akçapar. Beyond the regular bilateral agenda of political-diplomatic, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation, the two sides emphasized the implementation of bilateral agreements reached at the third Antalya Diplomatic Forum in early March, particularly the prospects for cooperation in the energy sector. On 1 March 2024, Turkmenistan and Türkiye signed two documents — a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a letter of intent — aimed at strengthening cooperation in the natural gas sector. In theory, this seems to be a positive development for the two countries as well as for Europe. The two possible routes for Turkmen gas to reach Türkiye and Europe are (1) via the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan, and (2) through Iran's existing pipeline infrastructure via a gas swap agreement. Neither one is likely to happen soon. The project to export Turkmen gas to Europe through a shore-to-shore high volume pipeline, at 31 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) is no longer alive after various parties have failed to realize it over the past quarter-century. It was bruited when it was announced that Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov planned to visit Brussels in late 2023 (which ended up not happening) and definitively killed when the initiative by American company Trans-Caspian Resources (headed by a retired U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan) failed to persuade Ashgabat to construct short low-volume (8–11 bcm/y) "Platform Option" pipeline in the Caspian Sea.   Gas "swaps" and Türkiye’s ambitions The idea of a "Turkish gas hub" arose from Russia's search to depoliticize trade between Gazprom and European firms by facilitating a platform where Gazprom's origination of the gas would be obscured and anonymized. Buyers and sellers could meet through Turkish intermediation. Türkiye, however, seeks to draw advantage by imposing the condition of long-term contracts with Gazprom for gas sales at below-market prices. This would guarantee a role for the Turkish intermediaries and, moreover, ensure for them a profit margin through mandatory service fees. "Swap" operations mean an exchange of gas amongst Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan; however, this would involve only a few billion cubic meters. Even if all participants agree, several questions still remain: Will swap transactions be profitable, given the price of gas in Europe? Even if Iran agreed to a Turkmen gas swap, would Tehran execute the agreement in good faith? In fact, Tehran would prefer to offer its own gas to Turkish and European markets, rather than transit competitive Turkmen gas through his territory. In addition, the gas that Azerbaijan produces for export already has contracted buyers under long-term agreements. Azerbaijan would be interested in the Turkish gas hub only if it should in future produce surpluses of gas that cannot be sold under long-term contracts. Then, such surpluses could be sold at a gas hub under short-term contracts, assuming that transit and profitability are...

Without Security, There Can Be No Development in Afghanistan

Indian author Arundhati Roy once said, “Either way, change will come. It could be bloody, or it could be beautiful. It depends on us.” Almost three years after Taliban’s resurgence to power in Afghanistan, there are practically no developments to highlight in its relations with the outside world. The situation remains at a dead end as the international community and the authorities in Kabul are stuck on intransigent issues, and as Afghanistan continues to face a humanitarian crisis. In the context of current geopolitical realities after the recent fall of its “democratic” regime, Afghanistan finds itself in a gap between the experiences of the past and a yet undetermined future. It has a unique opportunity to transcend its reputation as the “graveyard of empires” and determine its own fate while simultaneously integrating into the international community. How the de facto authorities in Afghanistan handle this opportunity will not only shape the future of the Afghan people and the region, but also influence the development of the entire global security paradigm. Currently, the Taliban have every opportunity to lay the foundation for a new model of regional and international security, which would allow them to create conditions for the return of Afghanistan to the system of normal international relations. But they need to act quickly. Rising tensions in the Middle East engage almost every global and regional power, and further escalation there will negatively affect the situation around Afghanistan. In this unpredictable geopolitical environment, the Taliban can either take the lead on new security arrangements or once again experience an undesirable worsening of the security situation that goes beyond their control.   A path forward is possible with the Taliban acting responsibly at the helm It seems that since the Anglo-Afghan wars of the 19th century, the world has become accustomed to seeing Afghanistan as a place where global geopolitical steam can be let off. But the Afghan people deserve progress, and various outside actors have offered different proposals. What the Taliban need is a chance at a breakthrough where they are the key player and can take full responsibility. The international community needs to allow such an opportunity to serve as a “maturity test” with which it can gauge the Taliban. At this important juncture, the international community must support Afghanistan in determining its own future. If external actors continue to promote political blueprints, Afghanistan will once again become a site for proxy wars, an arena of rivalry and a fertile ground for old narratives about international terrorism and other threats. Slamming the Taliban for their democratic failings, on which they clearly do not share the outsiders’ perspectives, will not yield productive results. For its part, if Kabul is really seeking to be a key player in Asia and a regular participant in international affairs, and if it seeks to realize its significant geographic and economic potential, then it must start implementing practical initiatives involving regional countries and international organizations in a dialogue on security. Maintaining internal security and stability...

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