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The United States and Britain continue secret biological research in Central Asia

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 19.10.2022 

Despite numerous publications about military research in secret US biology laboratories in the post-Soviet space and demands to place their activities under strict international control, there is, unfortunately, no qualitative improvement of the situation in this matter. Therefore, it is not surprising that at the recent 22nd Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State, the Chinese president additionally drew the attention of the association’s member countries to the need “to effectively meet the challenges in biosecurity, and other non-traditional security domains”. As part of the Samarkand Declaration of 2022, SCO countries were urged to strictly adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention and to adopt a protocol to it that provides for an effective verification mechanism.

After Russia initiated the special operation to denazify Ukraine, alongside publicly exposing the illegal US biological weapons development activities in secret biolabs, the Pentagon sought to move unfinished programs in Ukraine to other countries in the post-Soviet region as quickly as possible. This particularly pertains to the territory of the states of Central Asia (CA) and Eastern Europe.

Recently, Russia Today journalists have found out that the US has decided to study the deadly anthrax in a bio-lab in Kyrgyzstan. In this regard, the US Department of Health & Human Services plans to fund this work and allocate about a quarter of a million dollars for this purpose. According to the tender published on the procurement portal of the US government, the regional hospital in the city of Osh in the south of the republic will become the base for these tests. At the same time, the publication reminded that Kyrgyzstan and the United States are negotiating a new agreement between the two countries in the field of US biological laboratories in the Republic of Kazakhstan, but the nuances and points of the future document are hidden from the public.

Very disturbing information in this regard has recently come from Uzbekistan, where, according  to the Telegram channel, the active work of US representatives to create a powerful military-biological cluster in that country is confirmed. This is particularly evidenced by the growing “work” in Uzbekistan in recent years on the part of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). On this issue, the publication has prepared an infographic on US military-biological activities in Uzbekistan, which clearly indicates the potential damage to the security of the countries of Central Asia, the Russian Federation and China, the main political opponents of the White House.

There is also information that the United States and the United Kingdom continue to conduct joint research at the Kazakhstan Central Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Almaty. In early 2022, the United Kingdom shipped a large number of samples of virus strains, laboratory equipment, diagnostic instruments, etc. through the British shipping company WN Shipping the first half of the year.

Kazakhstan’s CRL in Almaty was built with Pentagon funds and has a third level of biohazard because a repository for particularly dangerous infectious agents is located on the premises of this facility, which are examined by staff of specialized laboratories for plague, cholera, zoonotic bacterial and natural viral focal infections. According to Kazakhstan’s official information, no US military experts (biologists and virologists) reportedly work at CRL, and as of January 1, 2020, it is fully funded and owned exclusively by Kazakhstan’s budget. However, in reality, this facility is not directly funded by the United States, but through a system of American grants, i.e. the research is carried out in the interest of the United States under a certain program of the Pentagon. And apparently this “cooperation” continues.

This is confirmed, in particular, by the fact that on November 5, 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development of Kazakhstan initiated the process of public discussion on the construction project of the BSL-4 laboratory for work with especially dangerous strains and an underground storage facility for a collection of dangerous and especially dangerous strains in the village of Gvardeisky in the Zhambyl region, the construction of which is planned for 2025. The fourth biological safety code BSL-4 (Biosafety Level 4) of this planned biological laboratory alone indicates that the facility poses a high risk to people and society of the viruses being studied, most of which are simply impossible to handle.

The Kyrgyz public has already reacted very critically to this project. Protesters have gathered in front of the US Embassy, outraged that the lab will be built near the border with Kyrgyzstan, just 90 kilometers from Bishkek. Kyrgyz experts, together with the International Association for the Control of Biological Research, sent a letter this summer to the president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, asking that the construction of a biological laboratory in the border region be stopped.

Obviously, Washington is eager to preserve the countries of Central Asia as a testing ground for its military biological research. Hence the US efforts to develop similar projects in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. At the same time, Washington has an increased interest in Tashkent and Alma-Ata, as these two countries have better developed infrastructure and more qualified personnel compared to other Central Asian states. The increased US interest in Uzbekistan is also due to the fact that the country is not a member of the CSTO, which gives Washington more freedom of action.

October 19, 2022 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran given roadmap for joining Russia and China in major bloc

Samizdat | September 15, 2022

Iran has signed a memorandum paving the way to transition from its current observer status to full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Middle-Eastern nation, which the US has long sought to undermine with diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions, made a formal step on Thursday to become the ninth member of the organization. Among the SCO’s heavyweights are Russia and China, two major powers that are on Washington’s list of geopolitical opponents.

The SCO was created in 2001 as an intragovernmental forum aimed at fostering trust and developing economic and humanitarian ties in Asia.

It currently has eight permanent members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The last is currently hosting the annual summit of the leaders of the member states in the city of Samarkand.

Iran has been an SCO observer since 2005. Its delegation to the summit is headed by President Ebrahim Raisi, who met with senior Uzbek officials on Wednesday.

The memorandum, which spells the commitments that Tehran will undertake to become an SCO member, was signed by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming, the host country’s foreign ministry reported.

Yury Ushakov, a foreign affairs advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said earlier this week that Iran could qualify for being upgraded to full membership before next year’s SCO summit in India.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev touted this year’s event as a turning point for the organization. He cited the rapidly growing interest of nations in closer involvement with the SCO and said that it served as an example of how a “deep crisis of trust at the global level” can be overcome by parties willing to do so. He also stressed the scale of the group, which accounts for roughly half of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

Belarus, also an SCO observer, is set to start the formal process for full membership this year. Egypt and Qatar formally joined the organization as dialogue partners on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia is scheduled to do the same, while Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Myanmar, and the Maldives are expected to begin their respective paths to receiving the same status.

September 15, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran and SCO sign protocol to start accession process for Tehran

Press TV – March 12, 2022

Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have started a formal process for Tehran’s accession to the major economic bloc.

A Saturday report by Iran’s IRIB News said that a document had been signed a day earlier in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent between representatives of the eight-member SCO and Iran to allow the organization to consider Iran’s accession bid.

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the signing of the protocol would practically allow the implementation of decision by SCO heads of state in Tajikistan last year to provide membership to Iran.

The next step in the process will be for Iran to sign a memorandum of commitment at an SCO summit in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand in September 2022, said the statement, adding that SCO heads of states will then decide to include Iran in the bloc.

Iran was an observer member of the SCO before applying to join the bloc that includes Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Experts says Iran’s accession to the SCO will be a major boost to the bloc’s influence in the region mainly because Iran’s massive transportation network can facilitate regional and international trade.

Iran is also expected to benefit economically from membership in the bloc. The Iranian customs office (IRICA) said on Saturday that Iranian exports to SCO members had increased by 41% year on year in the 11 months to late February to reach nearly $18.3 billion.

IRICA figures showed that Iran had imported $14.4 billion worth of goods from the SCO countries between March 2021 and February 2022, an increase of 31% against the previous similar period.

March 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The US is Gaining a Foothold in Uzbekistan

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 22.12.2021 

To create sustainable groundwork for further expansion into Central Asia, Washington has recently placed particular emphasis on developing relations and cooperation with Uzbekistan.

One of such work areas in this country has been the active opening of “American Corners” in Uzbekistan. It is a US government-supported global network of more than 600 open-access educational centers, already implanted in more than 140 countries, seemingly dedicated to “spreading American culture and American values to every country in the world.” However, created in modern libraries, they are one of the main elements of American soft power. The US Embassy opened an “American Corner” in Qarshi in March 2021; the US Embassy plans to open at least six more such facilities throughout Uzbekistan. It has already allocated over $860,000.

Another area of US expansion in Uzbekistan is USAID’s aspirations to take control of the country’s pharmaceutical industry. To this end, USAID has opened a so-called “Quality Club” in Uzbekistan, which, it says, will promote the development of the pharmaceutical industry and local pharmaceutical manufacturers. According to a US Embassy release, the assistance will consist of discussions on updates, problems, and solutions related to regulating drugs and medical devices in Uzbekistan. US representatives present at the “Quality Club” opening discussed the current state of the Uzbek pharmaceutical industry, the contribution of local medicine producers to the common market, and achievements, obstacles, and development directions in the pharmaceutical industry. The advertising declarations of the US Embassy sounded, as always, noble, unless, of course, one keeps in mind that American charities do not do anything for nothing.

For the sake of objectivity in assessing this event, it should be recalled that there is a rigorous certification in the field of pharmaceutical products. And this, in particular, is clearly illustrated by the pharmaceutical war on vaccines against coronavirus. The United States has done quite a lot to keep the Russian Sputnik V vaccine out of that market. Therefore, it is easy to assume that the result of USAID activities will not be the promotion of Uzbek pharmaceutical products on the American and European markets, but the imposition of imports of American drugs to Uzbekistan and the capture of the Uzbek pharmaceutical market. As for the Uzbek industry, which has shown significant growth in recent years, it is unlikely to survive under pressure from USAID and Western corporations, as multinational corporations do not need competitors.

However, in addition to gaining complete control of Uzbekistan’s pharmaceutical industry, USAID has another goal. And it lies in the expansion through Uzbekistan to the entire EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union ) pharmaceutical industry, given that this Central Asian state has obtained observer status in the Eurasian Union and has already begun to adapt its national standards to EAEU requirements. And, given the importance of the EAEU market, USAID expects to take appropriate positions in the EAEU market through the mediation of Uzbekistan and gain access to the latest pharmaceutical developments in the EAEU.

However, the recently intensified “outreach to Uzbekistan” is being carried out by Washington not only in these directions. For example, recently, in Uzbekistan, there have been active discussions of political and economic partnership between the two countries with the participation of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu. The most promising directions of further expansion of the bilateral economic partnership, including mining, chemical, agriculture, textile, and other industries, have been outlined during the meeting held on December 13 in Tashkent. The US side emphasized that in the eleven months of 2021, trade turnover between the two countries increased by 48.5% compared to the same period in 2020. In addition, the number of enterprises with American capital in Uzbekistan has doubled over the past few years. The sides expressed readiness to hold in the first half of 2022 a business forum for representatives of American and Uzbek business communities jointly with the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC).

The US representatives also stressed the importance of strengthening security cooperation by deepening ties between defense, law enforcement, border, and customs agencies. The United States expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by Uzbekistan to humanitarian aid providers at the Termez Cargo Center and welcomed Uzbekistan’s initiative to establish a regional logistics hub in Termez under the auspices of the UN to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.

In the conditions mentioned above, the intensification of military cooperation with Uzbekistan remains on the active agenda of Washington. Uzbekistan remains the most convenient Central Asian country to locate a US Air Force base or counterterrorism center, targeting Afghanistan. Hence, discussions of American and NATO partners with Tashkent continue. Like many post-Soviet republics, Uzbekistan has partnered with NATO for peace since the 1990s, participating in consultations, delegation exchanges, and even joint troop maneuvers on US soil. And yet, for the past 20 years, Uzbek servicemen have not helped the Pentagon in Afghanistan with weapons in their hands like Georgians, Ukrainians and others. On the contrary, closer to the finish line of the infamous US mission in Afghanistan, Tashkent began to successfully establish constructive relations with the Taliban’s “political office” and promote Uzbek-Afghan economic cooperation projects.

Nevertheless, Washington has not given up hope of strengthening the strategic partnership with Uzbekistan in military projects or facilities. The regional choices are too limited. Therefore, representatives of CENTCOM will appear more than once in Tashkent, but the influence of Americans on the situation in the hot region will steadily diminish.

December 22, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

MICHAEL MCFAUL’S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE POLICY PROPOSALS

Irrussianality | January 22, 2021

War, said the great Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz, is an “interaction.” It is “not the action of a living force upon a lifeless mass, but always the collision of two living forces.” One might say the same thing about international politics. Whatever you do always involves others, who have a will of their own and who act in ways which impede the fulfilment of your plans.

The good strategist doesn’t assume that others will simply comply with his demands. Rather he considers their likely response, and if it is probable that they will respond in a way that harms his own interests, he jettisons his plan and looks for another.

Joe Biden’s victory against Donald Trump in the recent US presidential election has led to a slew of articles suggesting the policies that the new administration should pursue towards Russia. All too often, instead of considering how Russia will respond, they treat it as a “lifeless mass” which can be pushed in the desired direction by pressing the correct buttons. Experience, however, suggests that this is not the case, and the Russian reaction to the proposed policies is not likely to be what the United States desires.

An example is an article by the former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, published this week in the magazine Foreign Affairs. Full of suggestions for ramping up the pressure on Russia, it fails to take into consideration how Moscow is likely to respond to such pressure. Consequently, it ends up proposing a line that if put into practice would probably be entirely counterproductive.

McFaul accuses Russian president Vladimir Putin of leading an “assault on democracy, liberalism, and multilateral institutions,” with the objective of “the destruction” of the international order. From this McFaul concludes that the United States “must deter and contain Putin’s Russia for the long haul.” He then makes several suggestions as to what this policy should involve.

First, he suggests that NATO build up its armed forces on Russia’s border, “especially on its vulnerable southern flank”. Why precisely this is “vulnerable” McFaul doesn’t say, but he does tell us that NATO “needs new weapons systems, including frigates with antisubmarine technologies, nuclear and conventionally powered submarines, and patrol aircraft.”

Second, he argues that America must increase its support to Ukraine. “A successful, democratic Ukraine will inspire new democratic possibilities in Russia,” he says, as if a “successful, democratic Ukraine” is something that can simply be wished into existence. But McFaul wants to do more than just help Ukraine; he also wants to punish Russia. “As long as Putin continues to occupy Ukrainian territory, sanctions should continue to ratchet up,” he says.

Third, McFaul wants the US to get more deeply involved in other countries on Russia’s borders. “Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan all deserve diplomatic upgrades,” he suggests. He also recommends that Joe Biden, “should meet with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya”.

Fourth, McFaul wishes to venture into the world of censorship. America and other Western democracies, “should develop a common set of laws and protocols for regulating Russian government controlled-media,” he says. To this end, he argues that Biden should get social media to “downgrade the information Russia distributes through its propaganda channels.” If a search engine produces a link to RT, “a BBC story should pop up next to it,” he says.

Finally, McFaul says that the United States should bypass the Russian government to forge contacts with the Russian people, so as to “undermine Putin’s anti-American propaganda.” The USA should also train Russian journalists as part of an effort to “support independent journalism and anticorruption efforts in Russia.”

Strategy, as Clausewitz, pointed out, is about using tactics to achieve the political aim. But it is almost impossible to see how the tactics McFaul proposes could help the United States achieve any useful objective. The simple reason is that Russia is hardly likely to react to them in a positive fashion.

Let us look at them from a Russian point of view. How will the Russian government see them?

Sanctions are to “ratchet up” in perpetuity (as they must if they are connected to Russia’s possession of Crimea, which no Russian government will ever surrender); NATO will deploy more and more forces on Russia’s frontier; America will interfere ever more in Russian internal affairs, building up what will undoubtedly be considered a “fifth column” of US-trained journalists and opposition activists; the USA will intensify efforts to detach Russia from its allies and build up a ring up of hostile states around it; and finally, America will launch all-out information warfare to bend the international media to its will.

What does McFaul imagine Russia will do when it sees all this? Put up its hands and surrender? If he does, then it’s clear that in a lifetime studying Russia, he’s managed to learn nothing.

In reality, the response would probably be not at all to his liking. The growing sense of external and internal threat would lead to an increase in repressive measures at home, undermining the very democracy and liberty McFaul claims to be supporting. In addition, we would most probably see Russia increasing its own military forces on its national frontiers; doubling down on its support for the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in Eastern Ukraine; and pressing further with its own activities in the information domain.

In short, the Russian response would involve Russia doing all the things that McFaul dislikes, but even more so. It is hard to see how his strategy could be deemed to be a sensible one.

If it was just McFaul, it would probably not matter too much. But he is far from the only person saying these things. The general theme among supporters of the new Biden administration is that Trump was too soft on Russia, and that America needs to take a more robust line. This does not bode well for the next few years.

“Know your enemy and know yourself,” said another great strategist, Sun Tzu. Unfortunately, Americans seem to have forgotten this advice. They would do well to heed it.

January 22, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Biothreat from US on the Rise

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 03.06.2020

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate many nations of the world, the global community and media outlets have been increasingly focusing on questionable activities being carried out at biolabs financed by funds from the US Department of Defense budget.

There have already been a number of publications expressing concern about the collection of human specimens for research from members of various ethnic groups by the Pentagon. The total budget for this program is supposedly $2 billion. The key long-term aims of USA’s biological defense program are to “counter and reduce the risk of biological threats and to prepare, respond to, and recover from them if they happen” in any given region. These goals include monitoring all the research conducted on pathogens; collecting biological specimens in countries of interest (and then handing them over to the United States); studying how susceptible certain ethnic groups are to various diseases and their responses to appropriate treatments, and conducting clinical trials of drugs in regions with ethnically diverse populations. In order to reach these objectives, the United States has ensured the establishment of partner alert and response systems for epidemics in the aforementioned countries, which encompass national, regional and local research laboratories, institutes of veterinary medicine as well as medical facilities.

USA’s National Security Strategy, unveiled in 2017, stated that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity”. Hence, it is not surprising that research on bio-threats is being actively conducted in partnership with the United States in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region. In addition, a network of US partner biolabs is being established on the borders of Russia and China. In this regard, the USA seems to be particularly interested in Central Asian nations, Ukraine and Eastern European countries. It is particularly frightening that, in recent years, new US partner biological laboratories have reportedly been established in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Ukraine (altogether, there are several dozen facilities of this nature in 25 countries).

For example, in Ukraine, which appears to be under Washington’s direct influence after the Maidan Revolution, the USA has purportedly opened a network of 15 secret biolabs. Recently, Oleksandr Lazarev, a Ukrainian political scientist, told Ukrainian TV channel ZIK that these laboratories were conducting research on weaponizing viruses and could therefore jeopardize national security. He added that 15 laboratories had been established in Ukraine since the so-called Orange Revolution in 2005. The political scientist pointed out that these facilities were funded by the US Department of Defense, which meant that their presence in the region was in line with USA’s military objectives. Oleksandr Lazarev used biolabs in Georgia as an example of facilities where questionable research was being carried out. According to the Ukrainian expert, in 2008, when the Georgian–Ossetian conflict occurred and there was a flare-up in tensions between the United States and Russia, the African swine fever virus (ASFV) spread from Georgia to Russia. The political scientist said that numerous factors suggested that the pathogen came from the aforementioned biolabs in Georgia. He also reminded the audience that ASFV then reached the territory of Ukraine, where it indiscriminately killed livestock. Oleksandr Lazarev also opined that outbreaks of various dangerous diseases, which had occurred in different regions of Ukraine, were directly linked to the US partner biolabs in the country.

Many media outlets have reported about the work carried out at the Richard Lugar Public Health Research Center (a US partner biolab in Alekseyevka, Tbilisi). These news items have expressed concern about the legitimacy of US-funded activities in Georgia. Secret experiments are being conducted at the facility. Some research is even done on people, who are isolated in special units and subsequently infected with the most dangerous diseases.

Another region that the US Department of Defense is particularly interested in is Central Asia, where the US military and political leadership has decided to establish partner laboratories in Soviet-era facilities, called the “anti-plague system”. In Kazakhstan, four out of nine regional research centers (in Nur-Sultan, Otar and Oral) have already been repaired and equipped with necessary instruments as part of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) program.

In recent years, the United States has continued to ramp up its activities in partner biolabs in Uzbekistan, a country not far from Russia, China and Iran. The Pentagon started increasing the reach of its secret biolabs within Uzbekistan since the end of 1990s, during the upheavals that followed the collapse of the USSR. Hence, US experts from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA, a body within the US Department of Defense) could have gained access to previously secret biological and chemical facilities in this nation. The first National Reference Laboratory opened in 2007 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2013, two more began operations in Andijan and Fergana, and in 2016, another laboratory opened in Urgench (the Khorezm Regional Diagnostic Laboratory). These facilities, as others in countries of the region, were built with the support of the DTRA of the US Department of Defense. Currently, there are more than 10 laboratories aside from the one in Tashkent: in Andijan, Bukhara, Denau, Qarshi, Nukus (the capital of the Republic of Karakalpakstan), Urgench, Samarkand and Fergana. As this network of US partner biolabs continues to expand in Uzbekistan (the most highly-populated Central Asian country), periodic outbreaks of unknown origins have occurred in the nation. However, there is very little information about them at present. For instance, in August 2011, within 24 hours, 70 sick individuals were admitted to hospital in Yangiyul, a city not far from Tashkent. In 2012, an unknown disease spread in Uzbekistan and dozens of people died as a result. In spring 2017, there was an outbreak of chickenpox (a dangerous disease especially for infants, caused by a virus). It had a negative effect on the health of the population in the region and the country, and spread among individuals of working age. Strangely, the rise in infections coincided with the opening of US partner facilities supposedly aimed at reducing the risk of biological threats. It is, therefore, not surprising that there have been rising concerns among the public about the lack of transparency in these laboratories and reporting practices used by them involving US officials.

The United States has been increasing its sphere of influence in the bio defense sector by, first and foremost, expanding its network of partner biolabs and conducting more experiments of interest to the Pentagon. As a result, the aforementioned countries are losing their ability to function independently in this particular field. Fulfilling its objectives could allow the United States to subsequently use these biolabs for military purposes; to ensure US servicemen are protected if they are deployed in the regions where the laboratories are located, and to conduct in-depth research into pathogens that can affect ethnic groups in different ways.

Recently, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Washington’s rejection of the protocol containing verification measures to strengthen the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction was a cause for concern. “Tensions around the issue have escalated and Washington’s unwillingness to ensure the transparency of its military biological activities in various parts of the world raises questions about what is really going on there and what the actual goals are,” the official pointed out.

June 3, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

The Latin Alphabet in Central Asia — America’s Geopolitical Tool

By Vladimir Odintsov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.12.2019

Central Asia has long been one of the key fronts in America’s ideological battle and information war against Russia.

A year ago, the American geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor published its forecast for US policy in Central Asia, which focuses much attention on Russia. Analysts from this agency, which is dubbed the “Shadow CIA”, indicated in this forecast that the United States is looking to strengthen ties with countries along the periphery of the former Soviet Union — from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia — in an effort to put more pressure on Russia. A geopolitical war is going to be waged against Russia, or a multi-domain battle to use the American military terminology, affecting the political, economic, energy and military spheres.

Washington has long identified the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan a “zone of US national interests”, which is why this region is targeted with the full spectrum of American information campaigns. In order for these campaigns to be effective, not only have so-called “independent” media outlets and pro-Western NGOs, been making a massive contribution in Central Asia over the past number of years, which the US has been busily implanting in the region, but military specialists in information warfare have also been recruited — servicemen from the United States Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group. The 8th Psychological Operations Group is responsible for work in Central Asia, which runs the Caravanserai information portal, a website specifically created to counter Russia, sponsored by the United States Central Command and targeted at residents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The main aim shared by most of the information campaigns Washington supports is to separate the regional population from Russia, mentally and psychologically, and to undermine Russia’s position in Central Asia. The campaigns mainly target young people in the hope that the leaders of the future in these countries will have been brought up on Western “democratic” ideals and will therefore be less inclined to partner with Russia.

Special programs are being launched and implemented by NGOs and “independent” media outlets in order to counteract Russia’s influence in the CIS countries. For instance, a new five-year program called MediaCAMP was presented at the end of last year in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which is run in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by an American NGO called Internews Network (California, USA), and receives heavy funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program has a budget of $15 million. Its official goal is “to develop a more balanced information environment”, but in reality, it is used for intensive anti-Russian propaganda. Internews Network had its activity suspended in Russia back in 2007, but it has continued to operate efficiently in most Central Asian countries up to this day. The USAID Agency, funded by the United States federal government, also ran programs in Russia up until 2012 when it was banned.

One clear example of the United States’ involvement in this anti-Russian information war in Central Asia would be the material that was published at the end of January by the Pentagon’s Caravanserai information portal mentioned earlier, pushing Central Asian countries to switch to the Latin alphabet. At the same time, Washington does not try to hide the fact that specialists in information warfare are pushing people to use the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet, and it is part of their plan because it primarily acts as a tool to drive a cultural wedge between Russia and the Central Asian republics, and would erase the Russian language’s historical presence in Eurasia, constricting and shrinking the Russian-speaking cultural sphere and sphere of information.

It is important to remember that the extensive process of transcribing almost all the languages spoken in the Soviet Union into Cyrillic, which began in 1935, was one of the measures the Soviet government took to unite people in the former USSR. This included transliterating languages with a rich written tradition, interrupted by the reforms of the late 1920s, and languages that had only recently adopted a written form. By 1940, the “Cyrillization of the entire country” was largely complete. Dozens of languages acquired a writing system which united them with the Russian cultural sphere, and it was essentially the first time speakers of these languages received access to a single Eurasian space to share information. After the Second World War ended with Soviet victory in 1945, the Cyrillic alphabet was further consolidated as the main alphabet in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc which was beginning to take shape (for example, the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in Mongolia).

That is why Caravanserai’s sponsors not only see replacing the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet as a kind of symbolic act; it is also meant to drive a mental and psychological wedge between Central Asian countries and Russia. This is the precise aim of the language conflict and Russophobia Washington has been encouraging in the Baltic States, Ukraine, and in some countries in the Caucasus.

It was Washington that began stirring things up, stressing the need for Latinization in Central Asian countries through various channels under its control in Kazakhstan, where Russian is not only a native language for the ethnic Russians who live there, but also for many of the Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Germans and Koreans living in Kazakhstan. Now the Russian language has even been erased from Kazakhstan’s national tenge banknotes. Around 300 thousand people have emigrated from Kazakhstan over the past 10 years, most of them Slavs, and to some extent, it is due to this policy. As it was put in an article published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in November 2017, “by abandoning the Cyrillic alphabet, Nazarbayev is cutting the umbilical cord with Russia.”

Latinization has also been foisted in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as we have seen in recent years, switching to the Latin alphabet has clearly been an unhappy experience in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Thus, it is worth recalling that Uzbekistan looked to the Turkish model in its first years of independence, and switching to the Latin alphabet was viewed a sort of “basis for unity”. Transitioning to the Latin alphabet also came to symbolize national identity and independence for the new Uzbek authorities. At the time however, no one stopped to consider the financial side of this transition, the costs associated with transliterating a huge archive of literature from Cyrillic into Latin script. Another thing no one saw coming was the conflict between generations reading in different alphabets. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey cooled within a very short space of time, the alphabet stayed the same, but the country’s education suffered a significant loss, which even affected basic literacy.

Attempts to switch to Latin have unleashed significant problems in Kazakhstan. In the 80 years since Kazakhstan made the transition from Arabic to Cyrillic, a huge network of libraries was created in this country, even in remote villages. The country had already achieved a literacy rate of 100%, which meant that the whole “matrix” of thinking for the entire population would need to be changed in switching to a new alphabet, and that would not only entail significant financial costs, but would also create generational conflict.

People in the region have responded to the attempts the West has been making to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet in Central Asian countries as fast as possible. They have increasingly begun to realize that there is no point in making this transition. Russian is a second language in Central Asian countries anyway, these states are geographically, economically, politically and linguistically distant from the West, and they are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, where the working language is Russian. Given these circumstances, there is a growing understanding that this issue requires a logical approach and some common sense, and linguistic problems should not be politicized.

Various foreign NGOs, such as Freedom House and other similar organizations, have been interfering in the domestic affairs of Central Asian states, destroying the linguistic and cultural heritage of the people who live there, and clearly pose a threat to their constitutional order, a threat coming from outside the region, so it is therefore unsurprising that this issue has been discussed more and more heatedly over recent years, with an increasingly resounding negative tone.

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban cross the Rubicon

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 12, 2018

The Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry announced in a terse statement on Saturday that a Taliban delegation led by the head of its political office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai visited Tashkent last week and the two sides “exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban has been somewhat more forthcoming with details. A press statement said that the 5-day visit (August 6-11) took place on the basis of a “formal invitation” from Tashkent and talks were held with Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov and the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev. The press release added that the two sides “discussed current and future national projects such as security for railroad and power lines,” apart from exchanging views “about the withdrawal of foreign forces and how to achieve peace in Afghanistan.”

The Uzbeks have had direct dealings in the past with the Taliban. Kamilov himself is known to have visited Afghanistan and negotiated with the Taliban government in the late 1990s. Irgashev, too, is a familiar face to the Taliban, having served as deputy foreign minister under Kamilov. But this is the first time that a Taliban delegation has been invited to visit Tashkent for formal talks at the Uzbek Foreign Ministry.

This is an extraordinary development. It significantly enhances Taliban’s regional profile and standing and is precedent setting.

The relations between Tashkent and the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani have been exceptionally warm of late. The bilateral exchanges intensified in the past year with Uzbek companies picking up lucrative contracts in northern Afghanistan. The US has actively encouraged such collaboration. Most certainly, Washington promoted the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan on March 27, which was attended among others by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon. The event was intended to marshal some degree of regional consensus behind an “Afghan-led, Afghan controlled” peace process without any preconditions regarding the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.

As a gesture of gratitude, President Donald Trump rewarded Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev with an invitation to visit the White House on May 16, the first-ever visit of that kind. Indeed, things have been going splendidly well in the US-Afghan-Uzbek triangle. During a visit to Kabul on July 9 Kamilov discussed with Ghani several big investment projects such as a free trade zone spread over 3000 hectares on the Uzbek-Afghan border, a $500 million railway project to connect Mazar-i-Sharif with Herat (linking northern and western Afghanistan), establishment of 6 textile factories in Afghanistan by Uzbek companies and so on.

However, the Uzbeks have a reputation for making their foreign policy moves very cautiously and therefore, the meeting in Tashkent last week should not be seen as signifying a shift in the Uzbek policies toward Afghanistan.To be sure, Tashkent has closely coordinated with Kabul and Washington. Interestingly, Kamilov also had made a phone call to Lavrov on July 31. The crisply worded readout from the Russian Foreign Ministry merely said that the two ministers “exchanged opinions on topical bilateral matters and cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan on the international agenda.” Quite obviously, consistent with the Uzbek style of diplomacy, Tashkent touched base with Moscow before the Taliban arrived.

Ostensibly, therefore, Tashkent is following up on the offer made by Mirzoyiev after the Tashkent conference in March when he had said: “We stand ready to create all necessary conditions, at any stage of the peace process, to arrange direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban movement.” Clearly, Washington has encouraged Tashkent to be a peace broker between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Following the first-ever direct talks between the Taliban and US officials at Doha last month, a second round is expected in September. The meeting at Tashkent comes in between.

However, it is highly improbable that the Taliban will accept Ghani as its interlocutor. Tashkent must be quite aware of the strong undercurrents in regional politics as well. Therefore, trust Tashkent to have made its own calculations in self-interest, too.

The point is, there is dire necessity today for Tashkent to maintain a direct line to the Taliban. The security situation in the Amu Darya region bordering Uzbekistan is steadily deteriorating. The growing presence of Islamist State-Khorasan (ISK) in northern Afghanistan worries Uzbekistan, since its ranks have a preponderance of fighters drawn from the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is sworn to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, Ghani’s ill-advised standoff with the ethnic Uzbek leader in Amu Darya, Rashid Dostum (who was forced into exile in Turkey for a year and was prevented from returning. Dostum’s prolonged absence seriously destabilized the northern region, which also worked to the advantage of the ISK. Ghani finally made peace with Dostum and beseeched him to return – and eventually went overboard by giving him a grand ceremonial welcome on arrival in Kabul last month. But the ground realities in northern Afghanistan have changed phenomenally. The old stability that Dostum provided has disappeared.

There was a time in the 1990s when the Uzbek leadership of late president Islam Karimov had regarded Dostum as its Praetorian guard in the Amu Darya region. He used to be lionized and lavishly funded by the Uzbek intelligence during his regal visits to Tashkent. But Tashkent summarily dumped him once the US moved into Afghanistan in 2001 and co-opted him as their warlord. (The US too subsequently dumped him.)

In sum, Dostum is today a freewheeling entity available to the highest bidder and is no more the uncrowned king of the Amu Darya. And yet, he is still locked in a blood feud with the Taliban dating back to 2001 when in a bloody massacre he slaughtered a few thousands Taliban fighters who had surrendered in the northern provinces following the US intervention and were assured of safe passage to Pakistan.

Tashkent seems disinterested in Dostum. On the other hand, the Taliban have emerged today as the most promising counterweight to the ISK in the Amu Darya region. In such murky situations, Tashkent never loses clarity of purpose. Realism always prevails. Conceivably, Tashkent is beginning to see the Taliban as the most meaningful Afghan interlocutor for today and tomorrow  – and, perhaps, forever.

Of course, for Taliban, this is like hitting the jackpot. The invitation from the foreign minister of an important neighboring country to hold direct talks is a novel experience. It is a game changer, no doubt. The Taliban have crossed the Rubicon in their long search for gaining international legitimacy.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

China’s Investment Trap has Become a Major Concern in Central Asia

By Grete Mautner – New Eastern Outlook – May 26, 2018

Perhaps the most curious topic of today’s Central Asian agenda is the growing dependence of local states on Chinese loans, which would often be referred to in regional media sources as “means of neocolonialism.”

In recent years, China has visibly stepped up its involvement in the affairs of Central Asia states, taking advantage of both its loans and its soft power. However, Beijing is trying to pacify worried voices across the region terrified by the demographic and economic might of China. There’s no denying that Central Asia for China is among the most crucial regions, since it shares a common border with a number of regional countries that play a pivotal part in ensuring China’s security and supply of energy and resources.

Nobody is making a big secret today of the fact that China lends regional governments long-term loans with low annual interest rates that can get as low as 2%. Against the backdrop of those hard-to-get Western financial investments, there’s really no alternative to Beijing’s loans. However, those always come with strings attached, as China’s loans would often be provided to back up large infrastructure projects, with Beijing’s contractors demanded be involved, providing labor, logistics and technology.

This financial hegemony never seems to be after a swift return on investments, as it would be typically interested in getting the other state financially dependent. The debt that has grown with time can be restructured and paid through granting China access to raw materials or stakes in the national companies of those states that borrowed money from Beijing. But in what way does this differ from the classic colonial scheme when investments would often be repaid with natural resources and lands? It’s no wonder that the West is trying to do the same to Ukraine these days, demanding it to open the agricultural market to bring its fertile lands to the hammer.

Kazakhstan

There’s little doubt that Kazakhstan ranks first among regional states who’s national wealth relies on Chinese loans and direct investments. According to its national bank, Astana owed China the staggering 12.6 billion dollars at the beginning of this year.

Against the backdrop that China’s loans are granted on the condition of Beijing receiving access to this country’s raw materials along with stakes in a handful of national enterprises, the topic of Chinese loans remains by far the most uncomfortable for Kazakhstan to discuss publicly. The situation got even worse when in 2016 in local media sources announced that Kazakhstan was planning to put another 1.7 million hectares of land on sale, with spontaneous mass protests breaking out across the state, as no one believed that the land would not be sold to foreigners. These protests led to the adoption of moratorium on such sales until the end of 2021, but still such a possibility remains on the cards.

Kyrgyzstan

The American Center for Global Development published a report on China’s debtors last March, identifying a total of eight most financially vulnerable countries. Of the Central Asian countries, both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan made the top of the list, since the sheer amount of money they are bound to pay Beijing has surpassed 50% of their total foreign debt.

Last year, Bishkek‘s national debt reached the staggering rate of 65% of this Kyrgyz state GDP, with external debt making up to 90% of this total.

As it was announced at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance of Kyrgyzstan in April, the total debt of Kyrgyzstan to China has reached 1.7 billion dollars. The sole largest outside creditor of Bishkek is China’s own Export-Import Bank, that can demand local politicians to hand a total of 470,000 dollars back at any given moment. Sure, China’s involvement in Kyrgyzstan would be unthinkable without large infrastructural projects like roads, electric power infrastructure, along with local industries like the oil refinery of Kara-Balta and gold mines of Taldy-Bulak Levoberezhny.

The country will have to pay China back at least 320 million dollars in the next five years. At the same time, local elected representatives would repeatedly stress the fact that back in the day when an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China was drafted, those negotiating it were not really taking Kyrgyz interests into consideration, so there’s a chance that when the above mentioned period is over, Bishkek won’t have the money to pay its largest creditor. In addition, the agreement implies that all legal disputes between Kyrgyzstan and China are to be settled in the the Hong Kong arbitration court, which doesn’t make things any more promising for the debtor. Moreover, in the next couple years additional 300 million are to be spent on the servicing of the external debt of Kyrgyzstan, and, according to the local ministry of finance, the Kyrgyz Republic will be theoretically capable to repay its debt to China in the next quarter century or so.

The matter of the massive Kyrgyz debt to China is kept out of the public discussion in the country, as it can trigger massive protests. But since Bishkek has an abundance of natural resources in the form of gold, iron, rare earth metals and other deposits, Beijing doesn’t look too worried about the prospects of its involvement in the affairs of this state.

Tajikistan

In the regional media, Tajikistan is often being referred to as the “ultimate hostage of Beijing” or even “the Chinese colony”, along with all sorts of equally humiliating comparisons.

Dushanbe’s national debt to the Republic to China at the beginning of the year reached 1209.6 million dollars, which amount to 50% of the total foreign debt of Tajikistan.

China is eagerly making investments into Tajik energy and road construction projects, along with a wide range of other sectors, including aluminum production, cellular communications, and gold mining.

As for the repayment for this massive debt, China’s TBEA has recently received exclusive rights to mine the Upper Kumarg gold mine. Earlier, this same company obtained access to the East Douba deposits. TBEA will be extracting gold from these sites until it returns the funds invested in the construction of a large power plant in Tajikistan. Earlier, TBEA received similar rights on the mining of coal in Tajikistan. But now it’s talking gold.

In addition to natural resources and shares in national enterprises, Tajikistan can grant China control over its transport routes and lands. For instance, back in 2011 Tajikistan surrendered to China 1% of its total territory, which amounts to more than 400 square miles of once disputed lands in the Eastern Pamirs. China is particularly interested in those areas that are rich in minerals (uranium, gold, bauxite, asbestos, rock crystal and much more). Therefore, it is possible that China is going to be more that willing to explore various scenarios of Dushanbe fulfilling its financial obligations to it in the future.

Turkmenistan

This republic is being known as a place where China has occupied a dominant position in a number of financial fields. The country has virtually no other revenues on top of those that it receives from exporting natural gas to China, however this country’s closed nature makes further analysis virtually impossible.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, perhaps, can be found in a list of less defendant states in the region when China’s loans are concerned. However, recently China has been trying to address this drawback, as Uzbekistan looks a much more promising market for investments than most its neighbors.

There’s no point in arguing that loans are an instrument of external pressure. And China is known for its way of never writing off debts, like Russia would often do. On top of this, Beijing has a large number of unresolved territorial disputes, like the ones with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And if we take into consideration the fact the return of China’s historic territories is part of Beijing’s foreign policy, one can not exclude the fact that land concessions in exchange for investments will remain among China’s most desirable aspect of its foreign policy in the Central Asia region.

Today, there are strong fears across the region that China, which has become one of the largest regional players and a principal partner can demand them to pay the whole sum, while  Beijing sees no reason to be finicky in its investments, but there’s those that don’t want to experience this.

May 26, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

US in Afghanistan to Influence Russia, Iran, China – Russian Foreign Ministry

Sputnik – March 14, 2108

The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.

According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.

“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.

The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban by force.

Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.

The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.

“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.

Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.

“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.

Furthermore, disagreements between the presidential administration and its political opposition regarding the parameters of the upcoming elections still remain unresolved, the official noted.

“In my opinion, if elections are conducted in the current circumstances, their results will not improve the political situation in the country and confidence in the current government, will not force the armed opposition to cooperate with the government,” Kabulov added.

The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.

“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks

Russia considers the so-called Moscow format of talks an optimal platform for the promotion of national reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov noted.

“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.

“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.

In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.

Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hybrid Wars 4. In the Greater Heartland (III)

By Andrew KORYBKO | Oriental Review | April 8, 2016

(Please read Part I and Part II prior to this article)

Turkmenistan:

The threat facing Turkmenistan is less of a Color Revolution than an Unconventional War. The catalyst for this conflict would be a terrorist invasion coming from Afghanistan that unexpectedly sweeps northwards along the Murgab River. Such an offensive doesn’t even have to reach the national capital in order to be successful, since all that it really needs to do is capture the city of Mary, the capital of the resource-rich Mary Region. This part of the country contains the lion’s share of Turkmenistan’s gas reserve, which includes the massive and decades-long functioning Dauletabad Field and the newly discovered Galkynysh Field, the latter being the world’s second-largest find.

It wouldn’t be all that difficult for terrorists to take over this plot of land either, since the Murgab River is scattered with tiny villages along its banks that could provide cover from government airstrikes and places to provoke pitched battles from. The fertile land nearby is endowed with agricultural potential that’s surely being stored somewhere closely accessible, and this could help feed the occupying forces until greater conquests are made. In short, the Murgab River is the most militarily and logistically sustainable route for an ISIL-like invasion of Turkmenistan, and it leads straight to the gas heart of Eurasia that’s critically connected to China and will possibly be linked to India in the coming decade as well.

The risk of terrorists gaining control of the largest source of China’s gas imports and possibly even destroying the facilities is too much for multipolar strategists in Beijing and Moscow to bear, and it’s assured that they’ve already engaged in some sort of unofficial contingency planning with their counterparts in Ashgabat. An anti-terrorist Chinese intervention is largely precluded due to geographic distances and a lack of support and logistics facilities en route, but the Russian military has no such hindrances and would be much more likely to assist the Turkmen authorities if called upon to do so. This is of course a last resort and would only be commissioned if Turkmenistan proves itself unable to stem the terrorist tide and defend its gas infrastructure, but such an event is most assuredly being planned for just in case the Turkmen-Afghan border proves to be just as fragile of a defense against terrorists as the Syrian-Iraqi one was before it.

Туркмения-нефть-и-газ

Kazakhstan:

Kazakhstan and the other three remaining states of former Soviet Central Asia are greatly at risk of a “Central Asian Spring” breaking out in the Fergana Valley, and Part IV of the Greater Heartland series will focus exclusively on this ever likely scenario. Accordingly, the rest of this section will explore the other Hybrid War vulnerabilities facing these four countries.

The geographically largest state in the Greater Heartland region is surprisingly immune from many of the conventional socio-political factors that lead to Hybrid Wars (excluding the variables that will later be discussed about the “Central Asian Spring”). If one was blind to the domestic and international contexts pertinent to Kazakhstan, then they’d be inclined to believe that the Russian population constitutes the greatest threat to the country’s sovereignty, although this couldn’t be anywhere further from the truth. Theoretically speaking, this demographic satisfies all of the criteria necessary for sparking a Hybrid War, but Kazakhstan’s multipolar alignment with the Eurasian Union and respectful treatment of this influential minority group precludes any chances that they or Russia would ever try to move forward with this scenario. On the reverse, the very inclusion of such a large Russian minority within Kazakhstan ties Astana and Moscow closer together than just about any other state in the former Soviet Union and works to enhance, not deteriorate, relations between them.

The only vulnerability in this relatively secure setup is if the US and its proxy NGO affiliates succeed in brainwashing the Russian-Kazakh population with Pravy Sektor- and Navalny-esque extreme nationalism, which could then create a delicate geopolitical situation where the raucous Russian minority agitates against Astana and attempts to drive a wedge between Kazakhstan and Russia. Security officials in both states are likely well aware of this obvious scenario and can be predicted to have rehearsed coordinated contingency measures for responding to it. Nonetheless, if such a virulent, discriminatory, and destructive ideology as “Greater Russian Nationalism” is allowed to fester in multicultural Kazakhstan and parts of the Russian Federation itself, then a scandalous outbreak in the Near Abroad could provoke a simultaneous cross-border event inside of Russia, especially if ‘sleeper sympathizers’ organize anti-government protests against Moscow’s “betrayal” of its compatriots out of its refusal to replicate the Crimean scenario in Northern Kazakhstan.

Another destabilization possibility that mustn’t be discounted in Kazakhstan is a repeat of the Zhanaozen riots, the ‘localized’ Color Revolution attempt that was sparked by a simmering labor dispute in 2011. The oil field workers were fed up with what they complained to be poor working conditions, low wages, and unpaid salaries, and this created an attractive atmosphere for Color Revolutionaries to exploit. Keeping with Color Revolution tradition, the riots started on 16 December, the 20th anniversary of Kazakh independence, and were presumably expected to signal the beginning of the regime change attempt to other cells across the country, almost one year to the day that the “Arab Spring” Color Revolution first broke out in Tunisia.

Seething with preexisting anger, the workers were extraordinarily easy to exploit, and the carnage they committed killed over a dozen people and injured more than 100 before a state of emergency and necessary military intervention restored order. The authorities’ decisive reaction and the multicultural, patriotic identity of most Kazakhs can be credited with preventing the spread of the Color Revolution virus from the distant Turkmen border all the way to centrally located capital, but the strategic lessons that can be learned from this episode are that: labor disputes and organizing could be both a cover and spark for a Color Revolution; and that destabilizations could start outside of the major cities and originate in the far-flung provinces.

Kyrgyzstan:

This tiny mountainous republic is notably split along a steep North-South divide, with the capital of Bishkek being located along the northern plains while the major population centers of Jalal-abad and Osh reside in the southern Fergana Valley. The clan-based nature of Kyrgyz society has played a strong role in influencing the political system, and this has consequently created identity resentment among whichever group was disproportionately underrepresented at the given moment. Although the situation has relatively stabilized and become somewhat more ‘equitable’ since the 2010 Color Revolution, clan-based tension and its geographic affiliations are still deeply ingrained in the national psyche, and any visible calmness simply belies the aggravating tensions that lay just beneath the surface. As confirmation of this assessment, one need only remember the misleading “stability” that many had inaccurately judged to be prevalent in the country just prior to the 2005 and 2010 Color Revolutions, and after witnessing the ferocious clan-based and ethnic violence that exploded after each of them, it’s improbable to assume that the individual drivers of such identity conflicts simply disappeared on their own after only half a decade.

What really happened is that they went underground as usual and abstained from the national discourse, while still remaining psychologically mobilized and ready to act the moment a future destabilization distracts or dissolves the security forces and provides another strategic opening for settling unresolved blood feuds that still linger from last time. The most violent-prone area of Kyrgyzstan is its southern Fergana region that abuts Uzbekistan, and it’s here where radical Islamic elements have taken root. The difficulty in forcibly eradicating them is that any major Kyrgyz security operation so close to the Uzbek border, let alone one that potentially targets ethnic Uzbeks, could create a hostile impression towards much-stronger Uzbekistan, which in turn could use the events as a pretext for activating a prearranged plan to mobilize in response to the ‘human rights violations’ allegedly being committed against its ethnic compatriots. Tashkent’s geopolitical loyalty has always been nebulous and ill-defined, and the country’s been working more closely with the US ever since the 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. Washington needs a Lead From Behind partner in Central Asia, and it’s possible that Uzbekistan has been designated this role, which if it doesn’t comply with, could lead to the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will soon be discussed.

To return to the Hybrid War threats facing Kyrgyzstan, it’s important to highlight that the country’s mountainous terrain is very accommodating to guerrilla warfare. The southern mountain ranges are sparsely populated and the government barely has any presence in some of the more isolated areas. Looking at the regional geography at play, it’s conceivable that Fergana-based terrorists could receive weapons and fighters from Afghanistan by taking advantage of the lack of governance present in Southern Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. After all, this route is already used to smuggle tons of drugs, so it’s certainly possible that it could be used to transport terrorists and weapons along the way as well (if this isn’t being done already). It’s very difficult for the Kyrgyz authorities to exert full control over this region because of tight financial and human resources, a current prioritization on the more populated areas, and the inhibitive geography involved.

To emphasize the last point, wintertime typically renders all of the few north-south roads impassable and strands the mountainous southern-based citizens in their villages for the duration of the season. This effectively splits the country into two, and if timed to coincide with a Hybrid War, then it could give the regime change insurgents active in that region enough time to consolidate their gains and prepare for the hostilities that would inevitably recommence after the snow melts in spring. When one thinks of a terrorist-driven “caliphate”, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a mountainous, snow-covered retreat, but this is exactly what ISIL or any likeminded group could feasibly create in Southern Kyrgyzstan if they played their cards ‘right’. It would be extremely challenging to dislodge the terrorists in such a scenario, and the danger in doing so would critically spike if it were revealed that they had access to anti-aircraft weapons. The Kyrgyz military would obviously be unsuited for such a difficult task and would have to resort to their Russian partners in the CSTO for assistance, with Moscow predictably helping through a combination of drone surveillance and air strikes just as it’s currently doing in Syria at the moment.

Tajikistan:

The threat facing Tajikistan is structurally similar to the one in Kyrgyzstan, and it’s that the country’s large swath of mountainous geography could be exploited by terrorist groups in facilitating smuggling routes or providing cavernous shelter. It goes without saying that Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan is perhaps its greatest vulnerability, but some respite could be found in the fact that there are more ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan, and that if this community were properly mobilized to its fullest extent, then it could provide an effective bulwark against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. At the moment, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case, since the Taliban was able to briefly capture the northern provincial capital of Kunduz at the end of September and achieve their greatest military success since 2001.

Up to this point, it had been largely assumed that this part of Afghanistan was the least welcoming to the Taliban owing to the valiant history of the Northern Alliance and the relatively secular Tajik community that inhabits the region. What Kunduz taught observers is that these two factors are no longer the strongest determinants of regional security, and that the Taliban has succeeded in the past decade and a half in proselytizing their ideology, gaining sympathizers, and infiltrating enough fighters into the area so as to set up an effective base of operations. The converts that they’ve claimed, the supporters that they’ve acquired, and the terrorists that they’ve relocated to Northern Afghanistan all played an integral role in the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz, and just because they had to conventionally retreat from the city doesn’t mean that their soft infrastructure had to withdraw as well. The reason that this is relevant to Tajikistan is that it proves that the Taliban have a strong presence right along the Amu Darya river border and that fears about their cross-border militant potential are not misplaced.

More domestically, however, the greatest threat comes from the Islamic Renaissance Party, the newly banned organization that represented the last legal party of political Islam in the region. The process was in the works for a while, but ultimately it was decided that the group was full of terrorists and needed to be shut down as soon as possible, with the decision being spurred by rogue former Deputy Defense Minister Abdukhalim Nazarzoda’s coup attempt earlier that month. He and a group of followers slaughtered over 30 soldiers in the capital of Dushanbe before fleeing into the mountains where they were finally hunted down and killed a week later. The subsequent investigation revealed that the deputy head of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Mahmadali Hayit, had consorted with the coup plotters earlier in the year and that 13 members of the party were suspected of being involved in the attacks, so it makes absolute sense that the organization would be outlawed soon thereafter in the interests of national security. At the same time, however, the proclamation came so abruptly that the authorities didn’t have time to completely extinguish the organization, and countless sympathizers and probable sleeper cells can be assumed to be embedded in society. Whether they’ll make the transition to militant action on behalf of the terrorist organization or repent for their prior allegiance to it and disown its ideology remain to be seen, but the actionable threat remains nonetheless and is obviously a destabilizing factor that could be leveraged in any coming Hybrid War against Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan:

Aside from the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will be detailed in Part IV, there are still quite a few other Hybrid War threats facing the region’s largest country. Uzbekistan is first and foremost threatened by a complete breakdown in law and order stemming from a succession crisis after the passing of Islam Karimov. The author previously explored the contours of these chilling possibilities in his piece “Uzbekistan’s Bubbling Pot Of Destabilization”, but to concisely summarize, the clan-based nature of Uzbek society coupled with the competition between the National Security Service and the Interior Ministry creates a cataclysmic scenario where a black hole of disorder arises in the heart of Central Asia and rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the region.

The only thing that could stop the previously held-together society from dramatically decentralizing down to Somalian-style warlordship would be the rapid reconsolidation of power under one of the two competing security agencies, but since their rivalry could predictably intensify in the days following Karimov’s death (and with the resultant security breakdown this would entail if they focus more on one another than on their designated subjects), it can’t be precluded that Uzbekistan could unravel before anyone realizes what even happened. Of course, if Karimov publicly designates a successor prior to his death or steps down and allows his designee to rule before then, this could potentially assuage the risks inherent in this scenario, but it doesn’t look too likely that this would happen, nor would these steps prevent the rival agency from attempting a major power play the moment the ‘head honcho’ inevitably dies anyhow.

Parallel with this possible tumult could be an explosion of terrorism from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb ut Tahrir, ISIL, the Taliban, some yet-to-be-named organization, and/or a combination of these groups, which would exacerbate the already deteriorating security situation in the country and divide the security services’ focus even more. There’s also the likelihood that the Taliban or ISIL might even make a conventional move on Uzbekistan amidst the greater breakdown of regional order, which in that case would usher in a global crisis similar to the one that transpired when ISIL crossed into and began conquering Iraq.

Therefore, true to the theory of Hybrid War, any type of social disruption in the tightly controlled Uzbek society, be it through a Color Revolution, succession crisis, or a combination of factors, would create a tantalizing opportunity for Unconventional Warriors to rise up against the state and increase the odds of regime change. In this case, if there’s no real government in power at the moment, then it would prolong the “regime vacuum” and amplify country’s disorder until it reaches the critical point of spreading to its neighbors. Therefore, in such a scenario as the one previously described, it’s important for some leader or leading entity (e.g. military junta) to assume power as soon as possible in order to preempt a regional breakdown. In hindsight, it was precisely this quick emergence of leadership, however weak and fragmented, that emerged in Kyrgyzstan after the 2010 Color Revolution that helped to miraculously contain the chaos and prevent it from turning into a “Central Asian Spring”.

Before addressing this curious concept that’s been alluded to a few times already, it’s necessary to briefly touch upon a minor socio-political factor in Uzbekistan that shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing forthcoming disorder there. The autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan is a little-known administrative entity in the former Soviet Union that handsomely sits atop rich oil and gas reserves and provides transit to two energy pipelines to Russia. The dried-up majority of the Aral Sea has endowed the region even more oil and gas than was previously accessible, meaning that Karakalpakstan will likely become more important than ever to the Uzbek state.

Still, its energy potential isn’t the exact reason why the autonomous republic is brought up when discussing Hybrid War scenarios, since there lately have been whispers of a Karakalpakstan “independence” movement that provocatively wants to join Russia. In all probability, this isn’t a genuine movement but rather a proxy front controlled by the US to advance the objective of straining the already frayed ties between Russia and Uzbekistan. The appearance of a “pro-Russian” separatist organization at the crossroads of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan isn’t incidental, and its’ designed to destabilize the entire region if ever given the opportunity. On its own, the Karakalpakstan “independence” movement is powerless to do anything to upset the Central Asian balance, but in the event that the eastern more populated part of the country descends into bedlam following one or some of the abovementioned scenarios, then it’s likely that this group will emerge from the shadows (or more likely, be parachuted or infiltrated into the theater) to violently lay stake to its secessionist claim so that it can then transform into an American protectorate.

UZ_map

To be continued…

Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for the Sputnik agency. He is the post-graduate of the MGIMO University and author of the monograph “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change” (2015). This text will be included into his forthcoming book on the theory of Hybrid Warfare.

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Day, Another Billion for Color Revolutions Near Russia’s Borders

Sputnik – February 13, 2016

Last week, the Obama administration proposed its final, 2017 fiscal year budget proposal to Congress. Among the proposed outlays is a State Department request for nearly a billion dollars to counter “Russian aggression” and “promote democracy” in the former Soviet Union. In other words, Washington thinks the region needs more color revolutions.

On Tuesday, the State Department and USAID held a special joint briefing, laying out a $50.1 billion spending request for 2017, including $953 million in “critical support for Ukraine and surrounding countries in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia to counter Russian aggression through foreign assistance and public diplomacy.” The funds, officials specified, would go toward “enhancing access to independent, unbiased information; eliminating corruption and supporting rule of law; strengthening civil society; enhancing energy security, supporting financial reforms, trade, and economic diversification; and increasing some defense capabilities” in countries including “Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova [and] in Central Asia.”

The spending would be separate from the proposed $3.4 billion (up from $789 million in 2016), provided by the so-called “European Reassurance Initiative,” which aims for “a significant reinvestment in the US military presence in Europe after decades of gradual withdrawal” to counter “the growing threat Russia poses to long-term US national security interests in Europe and beyond.”

With most of the Western media basically ignoring the plans and focusing on other aspects of the budget’s whopping $4 trillion in proposed spending, Russian security analysts, naturally, couldn’t let this ‘minor detail’ simply slip by unnoticed, given that the spending proposal is openly oriented against Russia.

Analyzing the State Department’s proposed new spending spree, Svobodnaya Pressa columnist Andrei Ivanov says that the outlays raise as many questions as they answer.

“It’s not difficult to guess what is implied by [the proposed spending for] ‘democratization,'” the journalist noted. “However, several questions arise. Firstly, this year, the State Department has already allocated $117 million ‘to support democracy’ in Ukraine, and $51 million for Moldova and Georgia. But in these countries, so-called color revolutions have already taken place, and the Americans have already almost achieved what they set out to do.””Secondly, it’s unclear what kind of ‘countering of Russian aggression’ the State Department means in relation to Central Asia. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have long been oriented toward Moscow, and even joined with Russia in the common customs area of the Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are also part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s unified security system. Russia has also signed a series of bilateral cooperation agreements with Uzbekistan.”

The proposed spending, Ivanov notes, “assumes a serious US commitment to pursuing its [geopolitical] goals, which threatens Russia with obvious negative consequences. The question thus arises about the countermeasures our country might take in response.”

“According to experts, on the eve of the coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014, over two thousand non-governmental organizations were created, from training camps for militants to various clubs of political scientists and media workers.”

Unfortunately, the journalist recalls, “Moscow relied more on the agreements reached with Ukrainian elites; the result was disastrous. Today, the question again arises about the need to work actively with the civil society of neighboring states.”

Asked to comment on the State Department’s new spending proposal, Andrei Manoilo, a professor of political science at Moscow State University, expressed a commonly held view among Russian security professionals.

Namely, the professor told the newspaper, “when Washington talks about spreading democracy, and allocates money for this purpose, it is referring to ‘color revolutions’ – the overthrow of undesirable regimes and the drive to bring puppets who mimic democracy to power.”

“Factually, these countries find themselves under American control. Ukraine is a vivid example. Until recently, Georgia too served as a good example, with each department and ministry in the country featuring an advisor and curator from the State Department. In Ukraine, supervision is carried out through the US Embassy, and through officials loyal to Washington, charged with implementing its instructions.”

As for the earmarking funds for countries which have already undergone color revolutions, Manoilo explained that the money “is allocated for the purpose of maintaining the stability of the dependent regime.” This is especially true in Ukraine’s case, he said. It is also meant “to ensure the loyalty of local elites.”

In Georgia’s case, “after Mikheil Saakashvili resigned from his post and was forced to flee the country, the American position weakened somewhat, mainly due to the perceived negativity which the color revolution had brought the country. So here, the US [spends] in order to maintain its influence. It is also possible that the US is considering ensuring the loyalty of Georgian elites by ‘nourishing’ cyclical color revolutions, thus carrying out a rotation of the elite.”

As for Central Asia, the State Department announcement seems to indicate, according to Manoilo, “that color revolutions are planned there as well. The Americans need to see regime change in the countries which, for the most part, are oriented toward Russia. In Central Asia, Moscow has several projects geared toward integration, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the CSTO. Today, the countries in the region face a difficult situation, with disintegratory processes growing among them.”

In Tajikistan, the professor warned, the State Department may attempt to reignite the embers of the country’s civil war, which took place between 1992-1997, taking advantage of disagreements between the country’s north and south. “US NGOs, which operated freely in the country until recently, are taking advantage [of discontent] among both northern and southern elites. It was not until about a year ago that President Emomali Rahmon began to restrict their activities.”In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, “the situation has changed little since the last color revolution. The protest mood remains strong. US NGOs and foundations have been working actively with the rural population, which is not very versed in politics, but is easy to agitate to participate in demonstrations against authorities, as the ‘melon’ revolution of 2010 demonstrated.”

In all the countries of Central Asia, Manoilo noted, “there is the strong factor of Islamist radicalism. By and large, only the presence of Russian military bases holds back an Islamist offensive in the region.”

Unfortunately, he says, “practice has shown that when it comes to overthrowing undesirable governments, the State Department easily finds a common language with even the most rabid fundamentalists. It’s sufficient to recall the color revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring. It would not be out of place to presume that the US is preparing their repetition, except this time in the post-Soviet space.”

“In addition to Central Asia, there is the southern Caucasus. Last summer, Armenia saw a rehearsal of a color revolution under non-political slogans – a new technology called the ‘Electro-Maidan’. Armenia is a Russian ally in the South Caucasus, and the US has plans for regime change, using their methods of the so-called ‘democratic transition’.”

Ultimately, Manoilo warns, “by dismantling the political order in Russia’s neighboring countries, the US wants to create a vacuum around our country. Simply put, this indicates a repeat of the Ukrainian scenario. After all, until very recently it was simply impossible to imagine Ukraine as a country which is hostile to Russia.” … Full article

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment