Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Technological Revolution: Threat to ‘Traditional’ Media or the Future of Objective Reporting?

As discussed in a previous post, the technological revolution that has contributed to broader sweeping protests in the Arab world and the former Soviet Union is seen by many western observers as the wave of the future in regions that have yet to break the chains of authoritarianism. Through social networking sites and blogs political activists engage the public, organize mass demonstrations, and challenge the traditional media environments that marked the regime’s attempts for stability through control, intimidation, and surveillance. The fallen regimes of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions used these methods “to keep the masses depoliticized and unorganized…and ensure that citizens stay disconnected and passive.” Goldstone’s assessment is not restricted to Arab authoritarian regimes, however, as similar desires for public passivity pervade Russia and the former Soviet Union.

While the media environment in Russia has improved considerably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the populace remains skeptical about the messages the traditional media forms (press, television, and radio) are sending. As social networking sites, blogs, and independent online sources flourish the possibility for the traditional media and the traditional methods for government control to feel threatened are greater. Just how great the threat is remains a major question in observing the Russian media. The recent international media forum “Future Media”, hosted by RIA Novosti in St. Petersburg in celebration of its 70th anniversary, grappled with this question as to how different the global media environment is with the addition of big media names, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Vkontakte; and the myriad blogs and independent news sources that have flooded the Internet in recent years. The first major challenge traditional authoritarian methods of control face in this new environment, in editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media Alan Rusbridger’s assessment, “is that world media is becoming more open and those who want to stay closed are not going to survive.” As the technological revolution continues to sweep across the globe traditionally authoritarian regimes will face greater disadvantages in keeping its citizens disconnected and passive, especially as the Internet becomes more readily available to greater numbers of users.

The Internet also removes the face of the protest organizer, granting greater anonymity to activists, which challenges now outdated methods of squelching dissent. Early protests in the post-Soviet space were squashed by arresting protest organizers in advance, but actions organized online produce what Belagazeta editor Victor Martiovich calls an “amorphous civilian opposition, one with no hierarchy and no leadership.” The power of non-traditional media has most recently affected the sociopolitical situation in Belarus sparked by President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s continued control of the media and crackdown on dissent. Numerous threats to turn off “that trash, the Internet,” in his words, and the deteriorating economic situation in Belarus produces near-perfect conditions for more protests to occur.

Despite continued protests in the Arab world and the former Soviet Union fueled in part by greater organizational capabilities, the traditional media outlets do not see the burgeoning of new media as a threat to its livelihood. On the contrary, the international media forum concluded that traditional media sources will remain the “fourth power” in political media coverage. Members of the forum acknowledged the power social networking sites, blogs, and independent news sources have in developing greater interest in reporting, but on the basis that they will contribute to the greater media holdings because they are bound to face the same hidden pitfalls (podvodnye kamni) as their traditional forefathers, chief among them—censorship. Returning to our traditional Russian populace it is possible that the advent of non-state-sponsored news sources and the availability of information that is outside the bounds of state meddling will afford society a better understanding of their social, political, and economic situations. Whether the Kremlin is monitoring these sources is unknown, but due to the traditional passivity of the Russian populace, the authorities understand that these sources are not harbingers of political change. For now, the plurality of the media environment and the availability of non-state-sponsored reporting will hopefully improve reporting in Russia, granting greater objectivity and less corruption.

Articles referred to in this post:

«В Москве проходит международный форум «Медиа будущего» (“Moscow hosts international forum ‘Media Future’”)


«Массовые протести в Минске: Социальные сети и антиправительственное движение Беларуси» (“Mass protests in Minsk: Social networking sites and the anti-government movement in Belarus”)


«Мир медиа находится на сломе эпох» (“The world media is on the edge of epochs”)


«Социальные сети не заменят традиционные СМИ» (“Social networking sites will not replace traditional media”)


«Читатель и интернет подстегивают революцию в СМИ» (“The reader and the Internet spur a revolution in media”)


“Belarus Dictator Struggles with Internet-Led Protest”


“Future media: ‘Don’t be afraid to fail’”


Jack A. Goldstone, “Understanding the Revolutions of 2011: Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies,” Foreign Affairs Vol. 90, no. 3 (May/June, 2011), 8-16.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

China-Russia - The People's Bank of China and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have signed a revised bilateral currency settlement agreement. According to the revised agreement, individuals and corporations from both countries will be able to conduct settlements and payments using the yuan, the ruble and freely convertible currencies. In addition to border trade, ordinary trade may also be settled in both countries' official currencies.

U.S., British and French calls for the release of a U.N. report detailing Iran's alleged sanctions violations failed to move Russia and China on Thursday, which stressed the need for "reliable information."

China-Kyrgyzstan - China will provide a $208 million loan for southern Kyrgyzstan to modernize its power lines. China’s Export-Import Bank (China Eximbank) will provide the loan. The $208 million credit will upgrade power lines in south Kyrgyzstan by building power stations and reconstructing existing stations. The loan will build a 500 kiloVolt (kV) station in Datka, in the Jalalabad province. Existing power stations Crystal, October, Nodal and Alai will be refurbished. New power lines will also be implemented, with 160 miles of new transmission lines carrying 220 kV of power to be launched as part of the project. The loan will have a grace period of seven years, and holds a 2 percent interest rate. China’s Eximbank has also contributed financing for two transportation projects, including the Bishkek-Torugart road under construction.

China's ethnic Kyrgyz community has agreed to assist farmers in southern Kyrgyzstan's Osh region, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Officials in the Kyzylsu-Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern China's Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous region agreed on June 19 to help farmers construct a chain of vegetable greenhouses in the Osh region. The governor of China's Kyzylsu-Kyrgyz Prefecture, Parkhat Turdu, told RFE/RL that the agreement was reached in talks in Osh between Osh Oblast officials and ethnic Kyrgyz officials and businessmen from Xinjiang.

Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan - KazTranzGas, the Kazakh state company that oversees the transportation of gas, will invest $12 million into the Kyrgyz gas sector to ensure gas deliveries to southern Kazakhstan, the company’s chief said in a Friday press conference in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. The $12 million will go towards repairing equipment and hardware on the Kyrgyz gas transport pipelines, KazTranzGas Director General Daniyar Berlibayev said. Berlibayev is in Kyrgyzstan as part of a Kazakh delegation, which includes top-level managers from the Kazakh national welfare fund Samruk-Kazyna. During this trip, the two sides resolved to establish a joint investment fund with $100 million in capital, while Samruk-Kazyna expressed interest in investing in the Kyrgyz power sector.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Россия и Китай будут вести внешнеторговые расчеты в рублях и юанях"(Russia and China will conduct foreign trade payments in rubles and yuan)

"Россия и КНР запретили публикацию «политизированного» доклада против Ирана" (Russia and China prevented the publication of "politicized" report on Iran)

"Китай поможет Кыргызстану построить ЛЭП Датка-Кемин" (China will help build a power line in Datka Kyrgyzstan)

"Китайские кыргызы помогут открыть парники в Оше" (China's Ethnic Kyrgyz To Aid Farmers In Southern Kyrgyzstan)

"Данияр Берлибаев: В газовую отрасль Кыргызстана будет инвестировано $12 миллионов" (KazTranzGas to invest $12M in Kyrgyz gas sector)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Seliger v. Anti-Seliger: Political Forums and the Future of Russia

Summer camps have a profound impact on the youth of a country. In those formative years they serve as proving grounds for young men and women to demonstrate their myriad skills and dominance over their competitors. Enter “Seliger”, the all-Russian youth educational camp sponsored by the Russian nationalist youth group “Nashi”.

Serving to mold young minds through all manner of political activities (and, apparently, extracurricular activities such as the “breeding tents”), the Seliger forum and Nashi’s platform will contribute to the protection and elevation of ‘Russianness’ and the great power of the Russian Federation. The groups ideological doctrine can be compared to that of emperor Nicholas I whose “Official Nationality” policy called for conduct in the spirit of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality” (Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narodnost’). Since Putin’s presidency and Russia’s resulting slide toward political authoritarianism, Nashi and the Seliger forum have contributed to the sociopolitical wherewithal of the ruling party, commanding constant influence over society while educating the next generation of Kremlin devotees. One is inclined to draw comparisons between Nashi and the Hitler Youth, or perhaps more appropriately the Soviet Young Pioneers, due to its political devoutness to the regime, the idolization (idolatry?) of the ruling tandem of Medvedev and Putin, and its penchant for flexing its group-exercised arms in public through counter-protest and rallies in support of Kremlin initiatives.

Nashi is known for frequently challenging civic protests from Russia’s marginalized left, sometimes through the use of violence but more often drowning out protests by its sheer numbers. When Russia appears on the verge of real democracy Nashi takes up the fight against oppositional actors deemed the ‘Fifth Column’ that “blackens [their] homeland’s reputation.” Though the movement may contribute to the larger breakdown of democracy in the Russian Federation today, Nashi affiliation has its benefits for the aspiring young Russian: placement in Russia’s top universities and courses of study that can lead to jobs in government and business. The benefits for Russian civil society stop there, however, as democratic expansion and human rights play second fiddle to the group’s xenophobia and paranoia. Nashi and the Seliger camp might be less about indoctrination than it is about continuing the Soviet trend of compartmentalization, engaging the world on one occasion and protecting Russia’s historical and cultural identity “under a shell of intolerance and paranoia” on another. When real democracy creeps into Russia’s public sphere, Nashi and its pro-Kremlin affiliates do their best to repress the left’s democratic aspirations.

The fervor of the Seliger attendants and their discipline is unprecedented in Russia’s small leftist camp. Despite its marginalized status in Russian civil society the left receives a great deal of attention from western observers, as worldwide environmental and human rights activism spreads. When these domestic activists challenge Kremlin-sponsored projects or policies, however, observers fear government crackdown meant to shun dissident movements from gaining influence in society. Russia’s left recognizes this persistent threat and has decided to mimic the pro-Kremlin Seliger camp, aptly titled “Anti-Seliger,” and educate the next generation of dissidents and activists. Held for the first time in the contested Khimki forest, notable activists such as Evgeniia Chirikova, renowned for her campaign to protect the forest against the construction of a highway, and Aleksandr Navalniy, known for his fight against corruption in Russian business and government, met to discuss new methods for civil activism and prototypes for new systems of governance in an open-air forum. The addition of music groups to the mix gives the Anti-Seliger forum a decidedly Woodstock atmosphere. Fervent social and political activism coupled with contemporary musicians challenges the status quo in Russia today.

Oleg Kozyrev’s report on the Anti-Seliger forum notes four distinct outcomes of the weekend’s proceedings. First, it identified the vast network of civil activists in Russia and their willingness to cooperate and coordinate their efforts for various causes other than their own. Second, it recognized the success of activists, such as Chirikova and Navalniy, who serve as archetypes for future activists and movements. Third, the “traditional political opposition forces are willing to listen to representatives from the non-political civilian force, to help them and, in return, receive some support for themselves.” Fourth, the Anti-Seliger forum reiterated the need for civil activists to merge against the “huge bulldozer” that is Putinism, which “wants to lay the track through all of us.” Though Russia’s left remains marginalized, and activists continue to be repressed or censored in various spheres of Russian civil society, the Anti-Seliger forum removed some of the fears caused by its pro-Kremlin antithesis, and was a necessary step for oppositional movements to grow and succeed. The future of Russia’s left and its aspirations for a fair and free civil society are less bleak and, if the Kremlin does not meddle in later forums, will grant Russians decidedly better outlooks for the future.

Articles referred to in this post:

«Антиселигер зовет в Химкинский лес» (“Anti-Seliger Convenes in Khimki Forest”)


«Антиселигер. Итоги» (“Anti-Seliger. Results”)

http://oleg-kozyrev.livejournal.com/3596167.html and http://echo.msk.ru/blog/gagman/786864-echo/

«Антиселигер: Первый интеллектуальный форум «несогласных» (“Anti-Seliger: First Intellectual Forum of Dissent”)


«Антиселигер: прямая трансляция Радио Свобода» (“Anti-Seliger: Live Broadcast of Radio Svoboda”)


«Все в лес!» (“Everything in the woods!”)


«Всероссийский форум Селигер 2011» (“All-Russian Seliger Forum 2011”) Official Website


«Новый защитник» (“The New Defender”)


«Чтобы в лес никто не влез» (“In order that no one would meddle in the woods”)




“In Khimki Forest, Opposition Seeks a Voice”


“Russia’s Nationalist Summer Camp”


“Sex for the motherland: Russian youths encouraged to procreate at camp”


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Interactions among Member States upon the SCO Summit This Week

Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline - Construction of the second west-east natural gas transmission pipeline that will transport Turkmen gas to China has been completed, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) contractor said on Monday. The pipeline, with a capacity of 30 billion cm annually, will carry 10 bcm gas from Turkmenistan and China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the industrialised Yangtze and Guangdong Pearl River deltas per year. (China’s first west-to-east pipeline transmits natural gas within the country from the northwest province of Xinjiang to Shanghai in the east.)

On Thursday, the Kazakh Oil and Gas Ministry predicted that Central Asia will increase its natural gas exports to China to 65 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year. The ministry previously said that China would receive 40 bcm of natural gas via the Central Asia-China pipeline by 2013. Central Asia is exporting 10 bcm per year to China at current rates. Kazakhstan’s increased gas exports to China will be facilitated by the construction of a third spur on the gas pipeline.

SCO - On June 15, a summit meeting commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The presidents of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will join together to discuss major issues concerning the development of the SCO. In addition to hailing the 10 years' achievements, the summit also touches a series of current regional and world security issues. In particular, the President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva highly appreciated the SCO' prompt reaction to last year's events in Kyrgyzstan and said it has the potential to resolve the conflicts. In response to the US-backed NATO missle defense plan, the member countries signed a declaration condemning any unilateral build-up of missile defenses. The SCO also said its member states will focus on cooperation in trade and counter-terrorism, calling for an end to the Libyan crisis. In terms of economic cooperation, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov supports the establishment of the SCO Development Bank to finance major projects in the Central Asian region.

Some SCO observer states and dialogue partners have also related their concerns over regional security and efforts to combat emerging threats. Notably, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the United States and the West passionately in his remarks at the summit, calling for alliance against West. India and Pakistan – two other observer states of the SCO and also two countries often regarded as enemies – expressed their will to join the organization in the near future. Moreover, the SCO summit calls for aid and more cooperation with Afghanistan.

China-Russia - Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for a state visit aimed at deepening pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia. Noting that this year marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, Hu said the two countries should always adhere to the principles of the treaty and advocate the idea of friendship from generation to generation. In 2010, Hu and Medvedev held six bilateral meetings, and reached important agreements on further deepening the China-Russia strategic partnership of cooperation. On Thursday China and Russia issued a joint statement on a broad range of key international issues. The statement was signed by visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, on a visit this day to St. Petersburg said that China and Russia set a goal of increasing trade fourfold during this decade. As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nodded approvingly, Hu told an international gathering of corporate executives that the two leaders have set a goal of $200 billion in bilateral trade by 2020. Nevertheless, the most eye-catching issue upon Hu's visit to Russia is a 30-year $1 trillion gas deal, the talks on which started 10 years ago. Unfortunately, once again, the two sides failed to agree on the gas supply deal with China in time for signing on Friday because of differences over the price. Negotiations have long been stuck on the issue of price, with Gazprom saying it will not accept a lower effective price than it receives from its core European customers. Negotiators for CNPC have signaled that they will pay no more than $250 per thousand cubic meters, sources at Gazprom said on Wednesday. Russia's gas export monopoly is still targeting a price that will make deliveries to China as profitable as those to European clients, who Gazprom says will pay $500 per thousand cubic meters in the fourth quarter of this year.

China-Kazakhstan - China and Kazakhstan have signed a strategic partnership agreement and vowed to double their trade in the next four years. The deal was signed on June 13 in the Kazakh capital Astana as Chinese President Hu Jintao held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. The Chinese president said the two neighboring countries had set a goal of increasing their trade turnover to $40 billion by 2015. An agreement announced between the two sides on June 13 calls for a $1 billion currency swap to encourage economic cooperation. China and Kazakhstan also agreed to cooperate on nuclear and alternative energy including solar and wind power as the countries deepened bilateral ties and pledged to coordinate on global and regional issues. Kazakhstan will start supplying uranium tablets to China this year.

Russia-Uzbekistan - Islam Karimov and Dmitry Medvedev met in Tashkent on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. Karimov noted that relations between Russia and Uzbekistan, primarily in economic terms, show a good momentum, as evidenced by the more than 40% increase in turnover in 2010. The Russian and Uzbek leaders are particularly concerned by the Arab spring sweeping North Africa and the Middle East this year. Medvedev told Uzbek leader Islam Karimov he hoped events in the region would develop in a way "that is clear and predictable for us". A broadcast on Russia's "Kommersant FM" radio interviewed Sergei Zatsepilov, the general director of the "For a Just Foreign Policy" center on June 14, where Zatsepilov said Medvedev wants to impress upon Islam Karimov the need for Uzbekistan to have a "peaceful transfer of power" and that to ensure this the SCO was willing to "take it upon itself to guarantee security."

US-Turkmenistan - On June 13th President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov received the US Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Mr. Richard Morningstar. Thee President and his guest exchanged views on the prospects of Turkmen-American cooperation in the energy sector. Morningstar noted that leading U.S. companies are interested in the promising Turkmen market and major projects implemented by Turkmenistan in the oil and gas industry.

Articles referred to in this post:

"首条跨国天然气管道将输气入粤 年输入百亿立方" (First transnational natural gas pipeline to Guangdong will deliver 10 billion cubic meters Turkmen gas to Guangdong per year)

"Туркменистан наращивает экспортные поставки природного газа в Китай" (Turkmenistan increases exports of natural gas to China)

"Казахстан хочет в шесть раз увеличить пропускную способность газопровода Туркменистан-КНР" (Kazakhstan expects a six-fold increase in the capacity of the Turkmenistan-China)

"Шанхайская организация сотрудничества: итоги 10 лет работы" (The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Achievements of 10 years)

"Отунбаева: помощь ШОС помогла предотвратить катастрофу в Киргизии" (Otunbayeva: SCO helped avert disaster in Kyrgyzstan)

"Страны ШОС осудили американскую ПРО и войну в Ливии" (The SCO countries condemned the U.S. missile defense and Libya war)

"Узбекистан поддержал предложения Китая о создании Банка развития ШОС" (Uzbekistan supports China's proposal on the establishment of the SCO Development Bank)

"Для Ирана саммит ШОС в Астане станет возможностью разъяснить свою позицию по ряду важных вопросов" (For Iran, the SCO summit in Astana is an opportunity to clarify its position on several important issues)

"Источник: Индия и Пакистан могут стать полноценными членами ШОС" (India and Pakistan could become full members of SCO)

"ШОС будет укреплять сотрудничество с Афганистаном" (SCO will strengthen cooperation with Afghanistan)

"Россия и Китай подписали совместное заявление по ситуации в мире" (China, Russia issue joint statement on major international issues)

"Китай планирует увеличивать товарооборот с Россией до 200 млрд долларов" (China, Russia Vow to Quadruple Trade This Decade)

"Лидеры РФ и КНР обсудят связи в экономике, в том числе в газовой сфере" (The leaders of Russia and China discuss cooperation in economic sphere, including in the gas sector)

"Сделка «Газпрома» и китайской CNPC неожиданно откладывается, контракт в Петербурге не подпишут" (Deal between "Gazprom" and China's CNPC unexpectedly delayed, the contract is not going to be signed in St. Petersburg)

"Стратегическое партнерство между Казахстаном и Китаем стало всесторонним" (The strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and China has become comprehensive)

"Казахстан и Китай хотят удвоить объем торговли" (Kazakhstan, China aim to double trade)

"我国与哈萨克签70亿元人民币双边本币互换协议" (China, Kazakhstan signed 7 billion RMB currency swap deal)

"Казахстан начнет поставку урановых таблеток в Китай в 2011 году" (Kazakhstan will supply uranium to China tablets in 2011)

"Президенты Узбекистана и России обсудили сотрудничество" (Presidents of Uzbekistan and Russia discuss cooperation)

"Medvedev To Karimov -- Leave Office Voluntarily"

"Визит представителя Госдепартамента США" (US special envoy visits Turkmenistan)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Western versus Russian Notions of Internet Freedom

Western interpretations of democracy rest partially on the notion of an ‘open society’; a society that is afforded access to information as it pleases. The recent restrictions or denial of access placed on the Internet by governments during the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions (namely Egypt, Syria, and Bahrain), as well as longstanding limits on Internet accessibility by North Korea, Russia, and China (among others) has influenced the United States government to spearhead and fund the creation of “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems. The $2 million State Department grant is part of a growing global effort to undermine repressive governments that seek to limit, censor, or shut down dissident telecommunications networks. According to the New York Times report on June 12, the State Department is recognizing the widespread concerns about Internet accessibility and restrictions on freedom of information across the globe, and “is simply taking advantage of enterprising dissidents who have found ways to get around government censorship.”

From burying Chinese cellphones in the hills bordering North Korea to the creation of the “internet in a suitcase” system that can be concealed and transported into repressive countries, granting quick and easy setup of a wireless communication network with a link to the global Internet, the technological revolution—namely the extensive use of the Internet, text messaging, and social networking sites—has changed the face of protest and revolution in recent months. These technologies have created new avenues for mass sentiment to erupt into mass protest, therefore allowing for public disapproval to more quickly effect political change. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports. So we’re focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world.”

It remains to be seen what the official stance of the Russian Federation will be regarding the United States’ initiative. Nikolai Troitsky, analyst for Russian news agency RIA Novosti, offered the assessment that the United States was overstepping its bounds, simply assuming one of these nations was totalitarian or authoritarian and severing its ability to maintain the stability of the country, through its support of foreign dissidents. Troitsky highlights the differences in understanding of the ideas of freedom and democracy, notions of openness that differ in Russian society, as suggested by Vladimir Shlapentokh: “The assumption that openness always promotes democracy and guarantees it will function turned out to be wrong, since the extension of openness and the fading away of Russia’s fledgling democracy have been evolving simultaneously.” This disconnect between interpretations of openness suggests that the future of Russian openness will continue to stifle dissident information, therefore coming into direct conflict with Western understandings. Troitsky’s stance becomes especially heated by the end of his report, as he argues against the effectiveness of the US “shadow” Internet project:

You should not confuse technological progress with policy. Revolution does not live within technology. It is necessary to lay down an objective situation. The impotence of the rulers. Large-scale demonstration of solid masses. And no civil society activists, armed with iPhones, Androids and other gadgets. Offline, that is, in reality, they [the authorities] are simply catching everything, clearing them out and suppressing them. And there is no alternative network that will help. Democracy, like revolution, cannot be exported overseas like fruit, which the local public organism is not used to. It does not take root. Or it causes indigestion.

While Troitsky’s remarks do not necessarily represent those of the Russian Federation, his sentiments provide a starting point for watching and analyzing changes in official policy toward the Internet and freedom of information, as revolutions continue in the Arab world. Should ‘Arab Spring’ stir any revolutionary tides closer to Russia’s borders, one must only remember the changes in Russian policy that occurred during the Color Revolutions in the early 2000s as a benchmark for official reactions to oppositional or dissident information.

Articles referred to in this post:

«Дайджест российской прессы – 14 июня» (“Russian Press Digest – June 14”)


«Свобода приходит онлайн» (“Freedom comes online”)


«США обсуждают власти Сирии за отключение интернета из-за протестов» (“US condemns the Syrian authorities over shutdown of Internet because of protests”)


“U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors”


“US State Department Backing ‘Shadow’ Internet and Cellphone Projects”


“Russia’s Openness to the World: The Unpredicted Consequences of the Country’s Liberalization”


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Russia-China - Russia and China once again took same stance on the international stage regarding the UN Syria talks. The two great powers snubbed UN Security Council talks convened to discuss a draft resolution that would condemn Syria’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, UN diplomats said. The European drafters of the resolution convened Saturday’s talks in the hope they could break their deadlock on a draft resolution that would not impose sanctions on Syria but would condemn it for the crackdown and suggest Syrian security forces might be guilty of crimes against humanity. Diplomats said the meeting produced no changes among the 13 council members attending. Currently, nine members, including Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, plan to vote for it. Russia and China dislike the idea of any council discussion of Syria and have suggested they might use their veto to kill the resolution.

In addition, China is willing to strengthen cooperation with Russia and other energy-producing and energy-consuming countries to jointly safeguard the stability of world energy market and achieve mutual benefits and win-win results, President Hu Jintao said Friday. President Hu made the remarks in a written interview with Kazakh and Russian media on the eve of his upcoming visit to Kazakstan, Russia and Ukraine from June 12 to 20.

Meanwhile, Gazprom and the Chinese Petroleum Corporation CNPC held the first round of negotiations on the deliveries of natural gas to China on Sunday. The talks were held in Moscow, and they attended the head of the Russian gas holding company, Alexei Miller and CNPC President Jiang Jiemin. Earlier official representative of "Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that the talks will continue on Tuesday, June 14.

China-Kazakhstan - Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived at Astana on Sunday for a state visit and an annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). President Hu was greeted at the airport by his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev. In a statement released upon his arrival at the airport, Hu expressed the belief that his visit will be a success and serve to advance the strategic partnership between China and Kazakhstan to a new stage. During his visit, Hu and Nazarbayev are expected to discuss the future development of the bilateral strategic partnership. He will also meet Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov. The two sides will exchange views on major regional and international issues of common concern. Sino-Kazakh bilateral trade reached $20.4 billion in 2010, 50 times the trade volume during the early years of the two countries' diplomatic relationship in the 1990s.

At the same time, an NPR article on Sino-Kazakh relations under the title "As China Invests, Many Kazakhs Say: Not Too Fast" caught my eye. According to the article, as China offers billions of dollars in loans to Kazakhstan, many Kazakhs fear China's ambitions and worry that Chinese influence could rob Kazakhstan of its identity — all but swallow up a country whose population is outnumbered by China's 80 to 1. China's influence can certainly be felt in western Kazakhstan's Aktobe region, a place that looks and feels like Texas oil country. Through direct investments and tax dollars, China and its state-owned energy companies have invested $14 billion into the Aktobe region's economy. Chinese money now makes up somewhere between 30 percent and 50 percent of the entire regional budget. "We are losing our resources, and losing our independence," a 38-year-old Kazakh who worked from 1996 to 2009 for the China National Petroleum Corp. says. "In the future, we'll have to rely on China. They'll give the orders here. Sure, they'll give us jobs and small salaries, maybe a bowl of rice. But we'll be working just like if we were in China." Scholars say China is desperate for energy — but, above all, influence.

Russia-Uzbekistan - Lukoil aims to borrow $500 million from a consortium of banks to develop its oil ventures in Uzbekistan, the company said on Monday. The Russian energy major plans to invest the financing to develop and expand the Khausak-Shady-Kandym project of natural gas fields in the country. A top Lukoil official said last month the company plans to hike gas production in Uzbekistan to 18 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year by 2017, a six-fold increase over current levels. To achieve that target, the Russian firm will increase its investment 400 percent to $5 billion.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Россия и Китай проигнорировали обсуждение сирийской резолюции в ООН" (Russia and China ignored the discussion of the Syrian resolution at the UN)

"胡锦涛接受哈萨克斯坦、俄罗斯媒体的书面采访" (President Hu took written interview with Kazakh and Russian media)

"«Газпром» провел первый раунд переговоров по поставкам газа в Китай" (Gazprom held the first round of talks on gas supplies to China)

"胡锦涛开始对哈萨克斯坦进行国事访问" (Hu Jintao pays state visit to Kazakhstan)

"Укрепление китайско-казахстанского партнерства способствует поддержанию мира и стабильности в регионе" (Strengthening Sino-Kazakh partnership contributes to the maintaining peace and stability in the region)

"As China Invests, Many Kazakhs Say: Not Too Fast"

"ЛУКОЙЛ привлечет 500 млн долларов под проекты в Узбекистане" (Lukoil seeks $500M to develop gas projects in Uzbekistan)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Week in the News

On Thursday June 2, 2011 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (Sledstvennyi komitet Rossiiskoi Federatsii) announced the indictment of Rustam Makhmudov, the suspected gunman in the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya. Makhmudov was detained in Chechnya on Tuesday May 31, after nearly five years on Interpol’s wanted list. The announcement made by the Investigative Committee was welcomed by members of the international community and the Russian press. Ambassador of the United States to Russia John Beyrle commented on his Livejournal that the arrest of Makhmudov was “certainly good news,” because the Politkovskaya murder had become “a symbol of the high price that journalists around the world, especially in Russia, pay for an honest and compelling investigative journalism to resonate in society.” Makhmudov’s indictment brings the investigation closer to identifying those individuals who organized or ordered Politkovskaya’s murder, especially after the acquittal of three defendants: Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov; in February 2009. The official report from the Investigative Committee stated, “To date, the evidence [against Makhmudov] is sufficient to prove his guilt in the crime.” The Committee is continuing its investigation of Makhmudov’s role in Politkovskaya’s murder as it searches for and collects more hard evidence to build the case while also attempting to establish and detain any other associates that may have played a role in Politkovskaya’s murder.

While Makhmudov’s indictment is a crucial step in the criminal investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder it does not end this chapter of judicial impunity in post-Soviet Russian history. Politkovskaya’s murder is one of numerous others that typify the most brutal trend in post-Soviet Russian censorship: the killing of journalists who have reported on politically-sensitive topics. Politkovskaya’s coverage of the wars in Chechnya shed light on the darker aspects of Russian military actions in the North Caucasus and was critical of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, accusing him and the FSB of limiting civil liberties and repressing oppositional sentiments by any means necessary. Though the verdict is still out vis-à-vis specifics of involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder, the actions taken against her have been echoed in twelve other murders and numerous instances of harassment. While the motives behind a number of these murders remain unconfirmed and the perpetrators are still at large, the role of the Kremlin in this most brutal form of censorship remains undefined.

The perpetuation of “vicious” actions against oppositional voices in Russian society has observers, such as Pavel Felgenhauer, wary of the future of the Kremlin’s actions, especially as Putin continues to build and assert a “vertical of power.” Russia appears on track to plunge into “a system of personalized authoritarian rule,” in Felgenhauer’s assessment, which Putin has been cultivating since 1999 as the leader of the United Russia party (Edinaia Rossiia), and will continue to build through the All-Russian People’s Front (Obshcherossiiskiy narodniy front, ONF; official website found here). As election season warms up in the Russian Federation the ONF and United Russia will make for interesting analysis amid the rumors surfacing about the potential competition between Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev. Furthermore, if Felgenhauer’s predictions are correct, the 2012 election campaign could mark a drastic change in the Kremlin’s media policy if soft authoritarianism does indeed plunge into totalitarianism.

Articles referred to in this post:

Рустаму Махмудову предъявлено обвинение в убийстве журналистики «Новой газеты» Анны Политковской» (Rustam Makhmudov charged in murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya)


Suspected gunman indicted in Anna Politkovskaya's murder


Махмудову предъявили обвинения в убийстве Политковской (Makhmudov charged in Politkovskaya murder)


В вине Махмудова не сомневаются (No doubt in the fault of Makhmudov)

Арест Рустама Махмудова хорошая новость (Arrest of Rustam Makhmudov – good news)

Three men acquitted in Politkovskaya murder

Pavel Felgenhauer, “Putin Moves Russia From Authoritarianism to Totalitarianism,” Eurasia Daily Monitor Vol. 8, no. 106

Общероссийский народный фронт (
All-Russian People’s Front)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

China-Kazakhstan - The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center will become operational on July 1, providing a transnational market place for citizens from China, Kazakhstan and third countries to negotiate business and trade. According to Xinhua, Chinese citizens with the second generation identity cards can enter the cooperation center for trading after obtaining passes, said Liang Xinyuan, the executive deputy director with the Administration Committee of the Horgos Special Economic Development Zone. "Citizens of China, Kazakhstan and third countries can have a single stay within the center for 30 days," Liang added. The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center is a transnational cooperation zone initiated by leaders of China and Kazakhstan, and a demonstration area of regional cooperation under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao will pay a state visit to Kazakhstan on June 12. The visit will be held at the invitation of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev; a statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry reads. As the message notes, Hu Jintao will take part in the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Astana. The anniversary SCO Summit will be carried out in the capital of Kazakhstan on June 15. Moreover, the Chinese President will visit Russia and Ukraine and attend the 15th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

China-Kyrgyzstan - China’s Sinohydro plans to invest about $2 billion in Kyrgyzstan, Ferghana.ru reported June 3. Kyrgyz First Deputy Premier Omurbek Babanov, during a June 1 meeting in Beijing with representatives of Sinohydro, noted the priority Kyrgyzstan placed on developing hydroelectric power. Kyrgyz and Chinese officials signed an agreement to research the feasibility of building a series of hydro-electric power stations known as cascade stations on the Suusamyr and Kokomeren rivers.

China-Russia - Russian Deputy Prime-Minister Igor Sechin said on Tuesday following the seventh round of the China-Russia energy negotiators’ meeting that Russia will finalize a 30-year deal with China by the 10th of June to supply a total of 68 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Meanwhile, Gazprom is using China as a leverage vis-a-vis Europe. "If Europe does not like the price for Russian gas, Gazprom will supply gas to Asia, " - said Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller.

Trade turnover between Russia and China doubled to $60 billion last year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said during a meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in Singapore on Saturday. The two ministers met on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Singapore. The Russian minister also expressed hope that an upcoming visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Moscow, which is to take place later in the month, will further strengthen the two countries' ties. Liang said the relations of the two armies maintain a favorable momentum, the content of cooperation has constantly enriched, cooperation fields have been expanded and deepened.

However, Russia's new stance on the Libya war irritates China. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strikingly joined the Western powers in urging Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to give up power at the latest round of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in the northern French seaside town of Deauville. And Beijing feels that Moscow led it up the garden path and left it alone. A Moscow-datelined commentary by Xinhua displays genuine irritation. It begins with a wry remark that Russia "strikingly joined the Western powers" in urging Gaddafi's exit. It adds, "Experts and analysts believe Russia made the move to protect its own interests in Libya and have a stake in the country's future. Yet they remain skeptical over whether Russia could help make a difference in the Middle East country."

Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan may lengthen its ban on the export of hydrocarbons to preserve supplies for the domestic market, a top energy official said on Tuesday. The move to extend the ban beyond the current expiration date of July 1 has been prompted by rising local demand for light hydrocarbons distillates in tandem with a shortfall in refining capacity in the country. "We hope to extend the ban. We have to agree it with our partners in the Customs Union," said Kazakh Minister of Oil and Gas Sauat Mynbayev. Mynbayev did not provide a new time limit for the export ban on light distillates, kerosene and gas oils, but not domestic heating oil and special gasolines, saying its length would be decided in response to the market situation.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Председатель КНР нанесет государственный визит в Казахстан - МИД КНР" (Hu Jintao to pay state visit to Kazakhstan - Chinese MFA)

"中哈合作中心7月封关运营 跨国'大市场'将正式揖客" (China-Kazakhstan cooperation center to open in July, providing a transnational market place)

"Китайская компания вложит 2 млрд. долл. США в гидроэнергетику Кыргызстана " (Chinese firm to invest $2 billion in Kyrgyz hydro-power)

"Россия и Китай продолжат энергетическое сотрудничество" (Russia and China continue energy cooperation)

"Россия и Китай отказываются от разногласий ради экономической выгоды" (Russia and China set aside differences for the sake of economic benefits)

"胡锦涛访俄前 敲定天然气协议" (To finalize the gas deal Hu Jintao's visit to Russia)

"'Газпром' пугает Евросоюз Китаем" (Gazprom uses Chian to scare the European Union)

"Россия и Китай укрепят экономику друг друга" (Russia and China strengthen each other's economy)

"梁光烈会见俄副总理:不断提高两军务实合作水平" (Liang Guanglie met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister: increasing the level of pragmatic cooperation between the two armed forces)

"Роль России в Ливии раздражает Китай" (
Russia's Libya role irks China)

"俄对利比亚态度转变 俄外交'变脸'常令世界惊讶" (Russia changes attitude toward Libya, shocking the world)

"В Казахстане запрет на экспорт ГСМ может быть продлен" (Kazakhstan may lengthen export ban on hydrocarbons)