Saturday, March 26, 2011

This Week in the News

The April 2011 issue of National Geographic contains an article by Cathy Newman on Crimea. In it, she gives a general historical overview of the peninsula and the current issues of identity, perceptions of governance, and land issues of the various groups in the ARC. She interviewed a staunch Russian nationalist whose entire family--or at least the male members of it--has worked in the Black Sea Fleet. For her, like many others, Crimea will always be Russian. Newman also includes statements from Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, displaying the various perspectives of the other two major ethnic groups in Crimea, before culminating in a quote from Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of Ukraine, on the problem that the ARC presents for Ukraine as a whole. Whereas Potemkin called Crimea the "wart on Russia's nose," Kravchuk considers it a "festering carbuncle."

This article, in a relatively short space, covers all of the major angles of Crimea-as-problem: Crimean Tatar land issues, Russian nationalism, separatist movements, ethnic tension between Crimean Russians and Tatars, etc. In exchanging depth for breadth, Newman provides a succinct and knowledgeable piece on the Crimean issue. That said, nothing is too damning or shocking, and she seems to be above taking sides in the matter. This makes sense, especially considering that as summer approaches, the Crimean tourist season is about to enter full swing and it is in no one's interest to diminish one of Crimea's major sources of revenue.

The Kyiv post reports that this summer, Crimean tourism is expected to rise 5% more than last year, to 6 million vacationers. Crimean Resorts and Tourism Minister Heorhiy Psariov stated that this means that the Crimean government will need to increase infrastructure spending and money for hotel development. To do this, the government is auctioning off several land plots for private investment to spark economic growth, especially in the tourism sector. Selling land plots seems to me to be a dicey move, especially since a sizable chunk of an ethno-religious minority--the Crimean Tatars--has been petitioning for government land to resolve the squatting problems and providing homes for tens of thousands of families. Should the Crimean government auction off hectares and hectares of land without adequately providing for the needs of the Tatars, it is possible that may serve as the tipping point to violent conflict.

Radio Free Europe, in their continuing coverage of the Crimean Tatars, this week posted the video below, again highlighting the very poor conditions that many Tatars face daily.

Articles referenced in this post

Crimean Tatar Repatriates Fight For Land Rights
Crimean Tourism Minister: Crimea expects to host 6 million tourists this summer
A Jewel in Two Crowns: Russia’s paradise lost belongs to Ukraine—and that’s where the trouble begins

Central Asian news this week

Moscow - Russia's state-owned monopoly Gazprom rushed to sell extra gas to European nations when their supplies from Libya ran dry during the escalating violence there. It will also gain from selling energy to Japan, where an earthquake and tsunami have shut down 12 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. Experts say Russia could also take advantage of the greater levels of uncertainty in world energy markets — which have pushed crude prices to 2 1/2 year highs above $100 a barrel — to extract long-term concessions from Europe.

Russia has resumed selling duty-free gasoline and diesel fuel to Kyrgyzstan. The decision came after Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev's trip to Moscow for negotiations with Russian colleague Vladimir Putin. Atambayev said on Kyrgyz TV Kyrgyzstan has eliminated Russian rent payments for the Kant military base. Meanwhile, Russia has decided to ramp up export duties on crude oil and related products sold to Tajikistan. Former Tajik trade and economic development minister Davlat Usmon suggested to RFE/RL Russia may be seeking Tajik concessions in exchange for a rollback of the duty hike, such as permission to install a Russian base in Tajikistan.

Russia and the United States are planning joint operations to crack down on drug trafficking in Central Asia that generates as much as $20 billion per year, Russian anti-drugs chief Viktor Ivanov said in Moscow on Thursday. Fighting the flow of heroin from Central Asia will continue to be one of the priorities in the joint efforts of Russia and the United States, said Viktor Ivanov.

Astana - Recent high global oil prices had not put pressure on Kazakhstan's economy, Minister of Finance Bolat Zhamishev said Friday. The minister said that all revenues from the mineral sector went to the National Fund. "Any increment in the oil price is accumulated in the National Fund. In accordance with the existing law, the transfers from the Fund amount to 8 billion dollars a year, irrespective of the oil price. However, growing oil prices indirectly affect the budget, which has to be revised to reflect the growth of the whole economy and the increase in revenues from its sectors. In my opinion, if the prices do not collapse and remain within today's range, they will produce a positive effect on our economy," Zhamishev said.

Ashgabat - Twenty-five delegates representing the gas, oil and financial sectors in Turkmenistan gathered in Ashgabat on Thursday to learn how to better communicate with international energy companies. The OSCE Ashgabat office along with the Turkmen Foreign Ministry and the OSCE’s Vienna-based Economic and Environmental Activities bureau organized the two-day seminar.

Tashkent - Uzbek President Islam Karimov last week hosted for the first time since Uzbekistan’s independence a Defense Minister from China. Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie visited the country on Friday to discuss bilateral relations with top Uzbek officials. Karimov told Guanglie that Uzbekistan staunchly supports China’s efforts to tackle the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism. He said military cooperation will expand as agreed by the two countries’ presidents during a meeting in Uzbekistan in June. He also praised the rapid development of economic and political ties between the two countries.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) announced during a meeting in Tashkent on Friday that it will hold anti-terrorism drills in China in May. The exercises, dubbed the Tian Shan 2-2011 exercises, will be held May 6. Friday’s meeting included SCO officials from member states Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Kyrgyzstan. Meeting participants also heard the report of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Director Dzhenisbek Dzhumanbekov on the implementation of the security organization’s 2010-2012 plan to combat separatism, terrorism and extremism.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Russia set to profit from Libya, Japan crises"

"Россия-США: борьба с афганским наркотрафиком" (Russia-USA: the fight against the Afghan drug traffic)

"Россия отменила пошлины на топливо для Кыргызстана, подняла для Таджикистана" (Russia ends fuel duties for Kyrgyz, raises them for Tajiks)

"Рост цен на нефть в мире не оказывает существенного давления на экономику Казахстана" (high global oil prices had not put pressure on Kazakhstan's economy)

"Turkmen energy leaders learn international business diplomacy"

"Делегация Китая посетила Миноборону Узбекистана" (Chinese delegation visited the Ministry of Defence of Uzbekistan)

"Страны ШОС проведут антитеррористическое учение на территории Китая в мае" (SCO to hold anti-terror drills in China in May)

"В Ташкенте прошло очередное заседание Совета РАТС ШОС" (SCO-RATS held regular meeting in Tashkent)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Week in the News

While on an official visit to Turkey, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated that the Ukrainian government is prepared to begin a dialog with the Crimean Tatars to address their needs. This policy is in continuation of the Yanukovich's efforts of negotiation with the Tatars as Prime Minister and governor of Donets'k, Azarov added. The Prime Minister is committed to resolving the Tatars' complaints exclusively through negotiation. Turkish ambassador to Ukraine Ahmet Bülent Meriç commented that there is no "hidden agenda with respect to Crimea" on the part of Turkey. The Turkish government is likewise committed to help the Crimean Tatar population preserve their cultural identity and language in their homeland. Hopefully this means that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv will take a stronger approach in protecting the Tatars especially in light of the determined efforts of Istanbul.

Meanwhile, various Crimean Tatar groups picketed the headquarters of the Mejlis, expressing dissatisfaction with the Mejlis' failure in satisfying the needs of the Tatars and in not securing land for the Tatar population. Server Kerimov, a member of the Координационный совет общественно-политических сил крымско-татарского народа (Coordinating council of socio-political forces of the Crimean Tatar people) accused the Mejlis and Dzhemilev of corruption and of assuming too much power. After the speeches and picketing, the protesters entered the Mejlis building, but no one was in there. Dzhemilev, in response, was displeased with the protest, stating that the protesters were putting on a show, not actually trying to resolve any issues or problems. He also criticized the protesters for being angry with the Mejlis for not solving the land issue when the Mejlis has no jurisdiction over it.

Релігія в Україні (Religion in Ukraine) reported that these protests are an outgrowth of the confrontation between the Muftiat of Crimea--aligned with the Kurultay and Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars--and the Spiritual Administration of Ukrainian Muslims (DUMU) in Kyiv. At the end of February, the DUMU sent a mufti from Kyiv to Crimea. This sparked an immediate angry response from Crimean Tatar muftis, calling the followers of the DUMU's mufti cultists and directly attacked Ridwan Veliyev (the DUMU mufti sent to Crimea) as a cowardly opportunist and without any authority to even call himself mufti. At the very least, the move by the DUMU in Kyiv to send down their own religious representative displays a lack of knowledge of the Crimean Tatar religious culture and political situation. At the worst, this is an intentional schismatic move. Regardless, this issue is laden with conflict. Although none of the articles I read expressly linked the protesters to the DUMU or Veliyev, the implied relationship between them is problematic. If Azarov intends to keep his promise, getting the Mejlis and the DUMU to have talks should be of high priority.

Articles referenced in this post:

Azarov: Kyiv ready for dialog with Crimean Tatars
Азаров в Турции пообещал продолжать помогать крымским татарам (Azarov in Turkey promises to continue to help the Crimean Tatars)
Оппозиционные Меджлису крымско-татарские организации выразили недовольство его деятельностью (Crimean Tatar opposition groups expressed dissatisfaction with the Mejlis' work)
Между муфтиятом Крыма и Духовным управлением мусульман Украины разгорелось противостояние (Conflict erupts between the Muftiat of Crimea and the Spiritual Administration of Ukrainian Muslims)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Central Asia-Russia energy news this week

Moscow - President Dmitry Medvedev and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Thursday held talks on bilateral ties and both vowed to further boost strategic bilateral cooperation. Russia will continue to do everything possible to develop relations with Kazakhstan, which is a strategic partner, said President Dmitry Medvedev. Russian President also praised for Nursultan Nazarbayev's contribution to integration of the two states, and wished Nazarbayev success in the upcoming Kazakh presidential election slated for April 3. Nazarbayev said he believe that there is no problems in Russia-Kazakhstan relationship.

According to Kazakhstan press service, the bilateral trade volume between Kazakhstan and Russia grew by 27.8% to $ 15.8 billion in 2010. The heads of Kazakhstan and Russia discussed the current state and prospects of the bilateral cooperation in several key areas - the transportation of oil and gas resources and exploration of hydrocarbons of the Caspian shelf, nuclear and electric power, transit and transport, aerospace and industrial innovation. In particular, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that almost all oil produced in Kazakhstan will be transited across Russia, which will be ensured mainly by expanding the capacity of the North Caspian oil pipeline to 67 million tons of oil a year. "That is to say, practically the entire oil produced in Kazakhstan now or in the future will be transported via the Russian Federation," he said. Putin, for his own part, confirmed Russia's readiness to share output in north Caspian oil fields with Kazakhstan on a 50:50 basis.

Astana - The volume of export of Kazakh oil is planned to increase up to 84 million tons by 2015, in accordance with the plan of the Ministry of Oil and Gas of Kazakhstan, published on Monday in the official press. It is noted that "exports will increase mainly in two directions: the Caspian Pipeline Consortium and the Kazakhstan-China pipeline." In 2015, the expected growth of oil and gas condensate production will be 124.2% of that of 2009, and production growth will amount to 118.5 million tons, the document says. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan plans to raise natural-gas production by 12 percent this year. Kazakh gas output will be bolstered by ramped-up production at the Karachaganak, Tengiz, Zhanazhol, Tolkyn and Kashagan fields, the ministry said. Russia shipped 48 billion cubic meters of gas across Kazakhstan, while Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan shipped 11.9 billion and 13.4 billion respectively in 2009, it said.

Tashkent - Lukoil may supply gas from Uzbekistan to China, if the Government of Uzbekistan adopts such decision, head of the company Vagit Alekperov said during the telephone conversation with investors. He said that if the Government adopts decision on gas supplies to China and it is economically sound, Lukoil will follow policy of Uzbekistan.

Astana - Defence ministers of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) member-states ratified a 2012-2013 co-operation plan March 17, Kazakhstani Defence Minister Adilbek Dzhasybekov said after the organization's Astana conference. The SCO will focus on strengthening security and counter-terrorist measures, he said, adding that the co-operation plan envisions action that stresses the principles of mutual respect and mutual advantage and the spirit of consultation.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Главы Казахстана и России обсудили реализацию стратегических совместных проектов" (Presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia discussed the implementation of joint strategic projects)

"Россия рассчитывает на долгосрочное сотрудничество с Казахстаном - Медведев" (Russia is counting on long-term cooperation with Kazakhstan - Medvedev)

"Назарбаев многое сделал для интеграции - Медведев" (Nazarbayev has done much for the integration - Medvedev)

"Медведев пожелал Назарбаеву успеха на выборах" (Medvedev wished Nazarbayev success in the elections)

"Почти на треть вырос товарооборот между Казахстаном и Россией в 2010 году" (trade between Kazakhstan and Russia increased nearly one-third in 2010)

"Назарбаев: Казахстан готов пустить всю свою нефть через РФ" (Nazarbayev: Kazakhstan is ready to put all of its oil through Russia)

"Казахстан намерен увеличить объем экспорта нефти к 2015 г до 84 млн тонн" (Kazakhstan intends to increase oil exports by 2015 to 84 million tons)

"Kazakhstan Gas Production to Increase 12 Percent This Year"

"ЛУКОЙЛ может поставлять газ из Узбекистана в КНР, если Ташкент примет такое решение" (Lukoil may supply gas from Uzbekistan to China)

"ШОС утвердила план сотрудничества на 2012-2013" (SCO affirms 2012-2013 co-operation plan)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reading the MAR Assessment of the Crimean Tatars

The Minorities at Risk (MAR) program at the University of Maryland's Center for International Development and Conflict Management tracks 283 non-state communal groups with "political significance" in the world and the state(s) they are located in. Included among these 283 are the Crimean Tatars. Their data sets are gleaned from secondary sources, statistics, the census, and news reports, cited on the webpage. The assessment of the Crimean Tatars (which I urge you to open and read along with this blog post) was completed in 2006, yet it provides a good starting point for examining the conflict potential on the peninsula.

The initial risk assessment establishes that there is a very high conflict potential regarding the Crimean Tatars, particularly between the Crimean Tatars and the Crimean Russians. The report states that the Tatars exhibit "four of the five factors that encourage rebellion: persistent protest; territorial concentration; high levels of group organization and cohesion; and recent regime instability during the Orange Revolution of November 2004 - January 2005." The one missing factor is current rebellion.

The MAR data also suggests that any conflict will like be over socioeconomic issues, such as land, housing, and jobs, and political representation and control in the ARC. The importance of Kyiv's political influence is stressed more than once. Because of the growing number of Crimean Tatars through continues resettlement and a growing birthrate--while the number of Crimean Russians is declining, as much of that population is made up of retirees--the potential for conflict also grows.

Reading the Assessment
Assessments in the MAR are coded; because a reading of these codes is meaningless without references or a knowledge of the codes, I will go through the assessment of the Crimean Tatars and explain what the codes and their values mean using the MAR codebook. As a general rule, higher values represent higher risk to the minority groups (although some values are merely markers and do not necessarily correlate to risk factors).

Because the Crimean Tatars are concentrated in Crimea and not spread across Ukraine, the group spatial distribution (GROUPCON) is 3, concentrated in one region (highest value). As the report states, the "Crimean Tatars differ from the majority Ukrainians racially, religiously, and linguistically," although two of these coded values conceal some very contested issues. RACE = 1 means that the group in question is a physically distinguishable subtype of same racial stock of the majority; because the MAR follows the concept of continental or geographic race, there are only 5 "racial stocks:" Asiatic, African, Europoid, Indio, and Oceanic. These groups are too large of supertypes and can potentially hide any racial tension. The Europoid supertype, for example, includes "European peoples, indigenous peoples of North Africa (Berbers, Egyptians), Middle Eastern peoples (Arabs, Persians), some Central and South Asian peoples (Pashtuns, Baluchis)." Therefore, even though the Crimean Tatars are only given a value of 1 for RACE, that is by no means an empty value. For LANG, or different language group, the Crimean Tatars are given a 1 as well, signifying that the group speaks multiple languages, at least one different from plurality group. Here also, one must not write off a value of 1, because language rights are one of the most heated issues between the Tatars and the Crimean government. The BELIEF value of 2 (highest value) indicated that the minority group has a different religion than the plurality group.

AUTLOST, or the index of lost political autonomy, is a formula comprised of three separate values and equated thusly: AUTLOST = (MAGN+PRSTAT-1)/YEARWT, where MAGN stands for magnitude of change on a 0-3 scale; PRSTAT is group status prior to change, a scale of 0-4, from no history of autonomy to full statehood; and YEARWT, a scale of 0-5 based on how long ago autonomy was lost. From the narrative of the assessment and to the best of my abilities, I have arranged the following values to complete the formula above: 1 = (3 + 3 -1) / 5 (MAGN = 3: loss of long-term autonomy, owing to the long-standing history of Crimea as its own space; PRSTAT = 3: traditional centralized authority and autonomous people under colonial rule, because although there was a short-lived independent Tatar state in the 15th century, Crimea has been since the Ottoman takeover of the peninsula an autonomous region under colonial rule; YEARWT = 5: >100 years ago, owing to Crimea's 600+ years as an autonomous region). To be sure, this is only one configuration, as there are many other solutions to that formula.

The various PROT, protest, values are separated by years, hence the 60X, 65X, 70X, and 99-00, etc. The values range from none, 0, to large demonstrations, 5. Since all values in between are represented, I will reproduce the full entry on PROT:

0 None reported
1 Verbal opposition
Requests by a minority-controlled regional group for independence (public letters,
petitions, posters, publications, agitation, court action, etc.).

2 Symbolic resistance
Sabotage, symbolic destruction of property OR political organizing activity on a
substantial scale (e.g. sit-ins, blockage of traffic).

3 Small demonstrations
A few demonstrations, rallies, strikes, and/or riots, the largest of which has total
participation of less than 10,000

4 Medium demonstrations
Demonstrations, rallies, strikes, and/or riots, the largest of which has total participation
between 10,000 and 100,000

5 Large demonstrations
Demonstrations, rallies, strikes, and/or riots, the largest of which has total participation
over 100,000

-99 No basis for judgment
ECDIS and POLDIS stand for economic and political discrimination respectively. The ECDIS value of 1 means that "significant poverty and under-representation in desirable occupations due to historical marginality, neglect, or restrictions. Public policies are designed to improve the group's material well being." While there have been remedial policies passed for the benefit of the Crimean Tatars, their effectiveness is another matter altogether, but effectiveness is not a part of this particular value. POLDIS = 1 carries a similar definition to the previous one, recognizing that there is substantial under-representation in political office and participation, but there are remedial public policies in place. Again, I have the same reservations about the effectiveness of these policies that I do concerning the economic ones.

GOJPA measures the group organization for joint political action. The value of 1 signifies that "group interests promoted by one or more conventional political parties or movements." This is evidenced by the effectiveness of the Kurultay and Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars in representing the community as a whole. The value is not higher because of the lack of militant Tatar groups.

The final three codes--POLGR, ECGR, and CULGR--deal with the highest levels of political, economic, and cultural grievances of the minority group. The definitions of the values are: POLGR = 3, the political grievances focused on creating or strengthening autonomous status; ECGR = 2, the economic grievances focused on creating or strengthening remedial policies (highest value); and CULGR = 1, the cultural grievances focused on ending discrimination. These values represent the Crimean Tatar's desires for Crimean Autonomy. It is interesting to note, however, that the focus of these grievances is increasingly being moved toward Kyiv rather than Simferopol in reaction to the local government's ineffective policies.

The report concludes with the following statement: "in the long run, the situation of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine will depend to a large degree on the economic situation in the country, so that economic funds can be freed up to better their living conditions without taking resources away from Russians and Ukrainians, and on the political leadership in Kiev and Simferopol." I fully agree with this sentiment. Kyiv and Simferopol must work together in addressing first the economic concerns of the Crimean Tatars, especially considering that in 2004, 35,995 Crimean Tatar families were living in unfinished or temporary housing. That will significantly diminish the conflict potential of the ARC and will allow for more discussion on the political and cultural grievances the Crimean Tatars hold.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Central Asia news this week

According to Bloomberg, Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) announced on Monday that Turkmenistan will be ready to pump gas to China from its massive South Yolotan field by the end of 2013. The project will take 32 months to be completed, after which Turkmenistan will be able to pump 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year out of the field. South Yolotan field was discovered in 2007 and is estimated to hold 16 trillion cubic feet gas reserves. In December 2009, Turkmengaz signed a $ 3.128 billion contracts with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for developing of the field. CNPC will ensure the field's annual production of 10 billion cubic meters. In the long term, China plans to receive from Turkmenistan annually 60 billion cubic meters of gas. However, realization of the deals made between Turkmenistan and China face certain difficulties. A price need to be set that both parties can agree on and that will appease other players such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and especially Russia.

Mar.11th Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov met with the Chinese ambassador to Turkmenistan Wu Hunbin, who accomplished his diplomatic mission. In their talk, commissioning of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline through the territories of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in December 2009 was held up as an example of the strategic and reliable partnership between the two states. The meeting stressed "the vast potential of the Turkmen-Chinese relations effectively realized due to the high level of political confidence between the two countries, similarity of views on key issues of international agenda, as well as regular contacts at the presidential level", the report says.

Kazakhstan state-run energy company KazMunaiGas Exploration Production posted a 12 percent rise in net profit in 2010 on the back of higher crude prices and a production increase, after-tax profit earnings grew by $1.59 billion. Especially noteworthy is that its boosted production was primarily spurred by its purchase in December 2009 of a 33 percent stake in foreign energy firm PetroKazakhstan Inc. The integrated oil and gas company is majority owned by China’s largest energy firm China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

WikiLeaks recently released a reported State Department cable declassified February 11, 2010 and dated February 11, 2000 that describes Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov as critical of what he characterized as Russia's meddling and even provocations in the Central Asian region. In this cable, according to political counselor of the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Russia Farhad Khamrayev, "the West must understand that the" old dynamics in the region has changed, that Uzbekistan is pursuing its own interests. He then, rather bravely, to offer examples of the "new dynamics", saying that Russia abandoned its plans to deploy a military base in southern Kyrgyzstan, where Uzbeks expressed concern with the proximity to their border. He said that now its infrastructure will be used as a training center of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Besides, Ivan Shafranchuka, an American diplomat wrote that Karimov was not impressed by Dmitry Medvedev, showed him little respect.

Defense Minister of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) member-states will meet in Astana to discuss cooperation and security on March. 17th. The meeting will include the leadership of the SCO Secretariat and its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. Topics will include international and regional security and further co-operation among the SCO member-states' defence ministries.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Китай в 2013 году получит газ из крупнейшего месторождения Туркмении" (China will receive gas from Turkmenistan's largest gas field in 2013)

"Difficulties Loom For A Turkmen-China Energy Deal"

"Президент Туркменистана принял Чрезвычайного и Полномочного Посла Китая" (President of Turkmenistan received of Chinese ambassador)

"РД КМГ в 2010 году увеличила чистую прибыль на 12%" (KazMunaiGas posts 12% profit in 2010)

"WikiLeaks: Каримов мало уважает президента России" (WikiLeaks: Karimov has little respect for the President of Russia)

"WikiLeaks: Karimov Played U.S. Off Against Russia"

"Главы Минобороны стран ШОС обсудят в Астане сотрудничество и безопасность" (Defense Minister of the SCO member-states will meet in Astana to discuss cooperation and security)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Week in the News

In two interviews this last week, Mejlis head Mustafa Djemilev repeated his disappointment and lack of confidence in the Crimean, Ukrainian, and Russian governments. As reported on, Dzemilev said--on День защитника Отечества, or Defender of the Fatherland Day, the day of the first drafts into the Red Army--that Russia's Black Sea Fleet, stationed in Sevastopol', is weak and poses no military threat, stating that it is several times weaker than the Turskish fleet. It does however, Dzhemilev said, constitute a political threat. He noted the separatist feelings from various polls, that a majority of the Russian-speaking Crimeans see their future with Russia, and the 23,000-person strong Russian Navy only fosters such feelings. The majority presence of ethnic Russians in the peninsula is also the major cause of conflict in Crimea, both with the Tatar population and the Ukrainian government. Dzhemilev contends in an interview with Kyiv Post that in the course of the last year--Victor Yanukovich's first as president--the situation has only worsened. This is not just because of the personal and personnel issues the Tatars have with the Yanukovich administration, but because of the perceived "fifth column" the Russian population presents. He draws connections with the armed conflict in Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the situation in Crimea, commenting on the number of Ukrainian-Russian dual citizens (illegal in Ukraine) and the fact that should Russia move to overtake Crimea militarily, Russia already has a significant armed force in the form of the Black Sea Fleet.

Dzhemilev also stated that he is skeptical of the recent land allocation for the central mosque in Simferopol', is still unsatisfied with the lack of participation of Tatars in local government bodies, and that he is interested in stepping down as head of the Mejlis. I found this third point to be the most interesting, as Dzhemilev has been the vanguard for Crimean Tatar rights since the 60s. He has headed the Mejlis since its inception in 1991 and states that it has become "undemocratic" because the Tatars have been conditioned to look to him for leadership. Jokingly, he even threatened to have himself taken out like Mubarak in Egypt. All humor aside, the issue of succession in the Mejlis is a very important one.

In other news, the Young Leader's Club has announced a new youth program in Crimea entitled "Многонациональный Актив Крыма (Multinational Asset of Crimea)." It is a three-month program, March-April of this year, wherein the young participants will be introduced to the multiethnic history and culture of Crimea and will learn the "origins of nationalism and chauvinism." The information provided was scant, but as more news comes out on this program, I will be following it.

Articles referenced in this post:

Crimean Tatars: Russian fleet poses no threat; it is much weaker than Turkish Navy
Life 'changed for the worse' under Yanukovych, says Crimean Tatar leader
АНОНС: молодежная программа «Многонациональный Актив Крыма» (март-май) (Annoucement: youth program "Multinational Asset of Crimea" [March-May])
У Черноморского флота деловые отношения с Севастополем и стабильные с Крымом (The Black Sea Fleet's business relationship with Sevastopol' and Crimea is stable)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Central Asian and Eurasian news this week

President Hu Jintao accepted the invitation of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to visit Astana upon the jubilee SCO summit, which will be held on June 15 this year. In a joint communique the two sides praised the contribution of the SCO to the development of member states of the Organization as well as to security and stability in the region. The Chinese side highly appreciated the contribution of the Kazakh side to strengthening cooperation during its Presidency of the SCO. Meanwhile, Nazarbayev said February 23 that Kazakhstan could supply 40% of China's nuclear fuel needs. China is building 19 nuclear power station blocks and is planning 25 more, Nazarbayev said, adding that Kazakhstan could make tens of billions of dollars by supplying uranium to China.

At the same time, Turkmenistan has agreed to boost its future natural gas deliveries to China by 20 billion cubic meters. Turkmenistan began delivering gas to China in a newly-completed pipeline in late 2009, but that route is only expected to reach full annual capacity of 40 billion cubic meters in 2012. Government newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported Wednesday that President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov will visit China later this year to formalize the deal. New pipelines will need to be built to increase deliveries to 60 billion cubic meters. China's turning to Turkmenistan is to some extent resulted from Gazprom's delay in agreement on prices and pipeline routes with Asia’s fastest-growing market. In 2009, Gazprom said plans to deliver gas to China would be delayed to 2014 or 2015 from this year as the sides failed to reach a consensus on price and volume. The company aims to close a deal by July to supply 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year for 30 years starting in 2015, via the Altai region to China’s northwestern border. Supplies of as much as 40 billion from an eastern route near Russia’s Pacific coast may come at a later date, according to Gazprom.

On Mar.5th, China opened its annual parliamentary session. Nearly 3,000 National People's Congress (NPC) deputies from across the country, and more than 2,000 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, are present in the Great Hall of the People at the opening meeting of the Fourth Session of the 11th NPC. Several long documents from Premier Wen Jiabao, the Finance Ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) were released. While these reports are dry and full of bureaucratic and political jargon, they also offer a comprehensive view of the government’s assessment of the economy, and its plans for this year. Links are below. Among the issues two became the center of the West's attention: the government of China announced Friday that it plans to increase its defense budget by 12.7%, and plans to announce strict five-year goals for energy conservation in the next two weeks.

On the Russia side, according to Moscow Reuters's report, Russia is turning military gaze east to counter China. "Russia is still an Asia-Pacific power," said Pavel Baev of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. "Moscow's plans are definitely a signal to China that Russia takes this area seriously." "They're still worried that China will invade Siberia one day because of the resources," Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior analyst at military and public sector think tank CNA, said in an interview last month.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Президент Назарбаев пригласил главу КНР посетить с визитом Казахстан" (President Nazarbayev invited president Hu to visit Kazakhstan)

"Казахстан может поставлять до 40% ядерного топлива в Китай" (Kazakhstan could supply 40% of China's nuclear fuel)

"Туркмения увеличит поставки природного газа в Китай на 20 миллиардов кубометров в год" (Turkmenistan to increase natural gas supplies to China by 20 billion cubic meters per year)

"Пока Газпром раскачивается, Китай подумывает о газе в Туркмении" (While Gazprom swings, China is considering gas in Turkmenistan)

"China NPC 2011: The Reports"

"Report: China to raise defense budget in 2011"

"China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy"

"Russia turns military gaze east to counter China"