Sunday, August 28, 2011

Central Asian News This Week

Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline - The Central Asia-China natural gas pipeline’s annual export capacity will reach 55-60 billion cu m by 2015, media reported August 26, quoting a China National Petroleum Corporation company newspaper (China Petroleum Daily). That figure would almost double the current estimated 2012 export capacity of 30 billion cu m. The pipeline, since it began operating at the end of 2009, has delivered 13.8 billion cu m of gas to China, according to China Petroleum Daily. To meet the capacity expansion goal, workers are scheduled to finish construction of a third branch of the pipeline in 2013, Russia’s EnergoNius reported.

Uzbekistan - Russia, Kazakhstan and China became the largest trade partners of Uzbekistan in the first half of 2011, stated in the report of the State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan. The share of Russia's foreign trade turnover with Uzbekistan in the first half of 2011 was 26.1%. The second-largest trade partners of Uzbekistan is Kazakhstan, with a share of 9.5%. The third-largest trade partners of Uzbekistan is China, with a share of 7.8%.

Russian Orthodox Church in Central Asia - The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has decided to form a Central Asian Metropolitan District containing four independent parts, archpriest Igor Dronov, secretary of the Bishkek diocesan administration of the ROC, told Central Asia Online. The move is meant to simplify church governance, he said. In each of the four affected countries – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan – the ROC will form two independent dioceses, one named for the capital and one for the country (such as Tashkent and Uzbek dioceses). The decision did not affect Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan-South Korea - Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and visiting South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak signed four agreements worth US $8 billion (1.2 trillion KZT) August 25, reported. The deals include plans to build a coal-fired power station in Balkhash and a natural-gas-chemical plant for manufacturing polypropylene in Atyrau, media reported.

Kyrgyzstan - Eighty candidates are trying to become Kyrgyz president, but no real concern that the most capable won’t win. Of the 80, 16 represent parties and the others are independent. The election is scheduled for October 30. The number of candidates reflects society’s political schism, political analyst Mars Sariyev said.

China-Tajikistan - Dushanbe deeply appreciates the cooperation with China, especially in the economic sphere. "China is one of the largest investors in Tajikistan's economy by participating in the implementation of 50 joint investment projects of regional and national significance" - said President Rahmon, receiving Monday night a delegation of the Communist Party of China headed by a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Zhou Yongkang. During the talks, the sides discussed issues of expanding and strengthening cooperation, particularly in energy, transport and communications. They also discussed the importance of "stepping up cooperation in defense and security." Under the government-to-government agreement on technical and economic cooperation, China will award a 120 million Yuan (18.76 million USD) grant to Tajikistan.

Russia-North Korea - Moscow and Pyongyang have agreed to build a pipeline to bring gas from Russia through North Korea to South Korea. North Korea also agreed to resume six-party talks on the nuclear issue without preconditions. All of this is the outcome of negotiations between Dmitry Medvedev and Kim Jong Il, who have been in Buryatia - on the territory of military units under the Ulan-Ude.

South Korea-Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak continued his Central Asian tour on Thursday, signing $8 billion in deals with Kazakhstan. One project, worth $4 billion, will see South Korean firm LG Chem jointly build a petrochemical complex in Central Asia’s largest state. The other $4 billion project involves building a coal-powered electricity-generating plant in southern Kazakh city Balkhash. Plus, South Korea is expected to soon present Kazakhstan with detailed proposals on building a nuclear power plant in the Central Asian state.

Meanwhile, several South Korean firms will participate in a $4 billion project to build a gas and chemical production plant in Uzbekistan as well as a gas field, according to a contract signed Tuesday. The contract was signed as part of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the Central Asian state.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Пропускная способность газопровода СА-Китай будет удвоена" (Central Asia-China gas pipeline’s capacity to nearly double)

"Россия и Казахстан стали самыми крупными партнерами Узбекистана" (Russia and Kazakhstan became the biggest partners of Uzbekistan)

"РПЦ в СА разделена на 4 части" (Russian Orthodox Church in CA to be divided into 4 parts)

"Казахи, корейцы подписали соглашения на $8 млрд" Kazakhs, S. Koreans sign $8 billion in deals

"Кыргызстан готовится к президентским выборам" (Kyrgyzstan prepares for presidential election)

"Китай участвует в 50-ти крупных инвестиционных проектах в Таджикистане" (Китай участвует в 50-ти крупных инвестиционных проектах в Таджикистане)

"Москва и Пхеньян договорились о транзите газа через КНДР" (Moscow and Pyongyang agreed on transit of gas through DPRK)

"Южная Корея станет «главным» инвестором в Казахстане" (South Korea will be a "main" investor in Kazakhstan)

"Узбекистан и Южная Корея подписали контракты на 4 млрд долл." (Uzbekistan and South Korea signed $ 4 billion contracts)

Topic of the week

German Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor) Angela Merkel’s visit to Belgrade headlined nearly all Serbian news outlets this past week. Her visit marks the first time since 2003 for a German chancellor to address the Serbs on their own soil. Merkel’s visit also calls attention to the important economic relationship between the two countries. German investments have grown to 1.5 billion Euros annually. There are now approximately 250 German companies employing about 20,000 workers in Serbia. Serbian émigrés living in Germany wire Euros amounting up to five million average Serbian paychecks yearly to their relatives in Serbia. However, the Chancellor’s visit did more than showcase the close economic ties. Her visit raised three connected issues: Serbia’s bid for EU membership, Kosovo’s “unilateral” declaration of independence and Belgrade’s firm stance by UN Resolution 1244. The online magazine Beta, for instance, noted that Merkel will increase ‘pressure’ on Serbia to acknowledge Kosovar independence prior to Belgrade’s admission to the European Union.

The Chancellor’s visit was preceded by skirmishes on the Kosovo-Serb border by which Kosovar groupings challenged Serb authority over the Jarinje and Brnjak border control in early August. By the time of Merkel’s arrival clashes have been restrained. Serbian President Boris Tadić urged Serbian Kosovars to dispose of their roadblocks and peaceful protest while Albanian Kosovars agreed to the status quo of Serb border control on both the Jarinje and Brnjak borders.

“KFOR se povukao iz Rudara”. Vecernje Novosti Onlie. accessed July 29, 2011.

“Merkel o Beogradu o Kosovu, Evropi i ekonomiji”. Novi Magacin. accessed August 21, 2011.

“Ekonomska veza Beograda i Berlina”. PTC, Radio-televizija Srbije. August 22, 2011.

Serbia: Internal Reaction

Merkel stated that she expected Serbia to halt the continuance of parallel institutions in Kosovo. This statement became a hot button issue following the visit. Such institutions include but are not limited to education, health and local government establishments. Following the Chancellor’s statement, Kosovo and Metohia’s (K and M) Minister Goran Bogdanović stated that Serbia plans on continuing to offer its services across the K and M region and will do so with utmost determination. Bogdanović maintained that the very existence of said organizations guarantees the wellbeing being of the Serb population in the region and posed that, in fact, it were Priština’s institutions that were parallel and illegitimate. Serbia’s institutions were after all, as the Minister asserted, democratically elected.

Goran Arsić, head of the Kosovo district based in Gračanica, agreed with Bogdanovic and confirmed that health, education and governmental services were the only institutions linking Kosovar Serbs to Belgrade. Arsić added that, should this worst case scenario occur, Serbs could not stand by silently while witnessing the closure or their trusted establishments.

Tomislav Nikolic expressed that it would be in Tadić’s best interest to hold a governmental meeting where Merkel’s, and by extension the European Union’s (EU) requests presented to Tadić could be discussed. Nikolic is the leader of Serbia’s Progressive Party (SNS) and presidential contender for the upcoming presidential elections of June 2012. Nikolic solidified his party’s stance and assured that it was unacceptable that Serbia withdraws its institutions from K and M. President Tadić, member of the Democratic Party (DS), meanwhile seeks to appease all sides by assuring Kosovar Serbs that he has no intentions of abandoning the Serbian people who reside in K and M territories. Serbia is not planning to give up its EU membership aspirations.

“Tadić: Srbia neče napustiti svoj narod na KiM i neče odustati od evrointegracija”. Politika Online. accessed August 27, 2011.

“Jedinstvo…Lider SNS Tomislav Nikolić Traži consensus - Tadić da pozove na dogovor”. Press Online. August 26, 2011.

“Srpske institucije garant opstanka Srba na KiM”. Politika Online. accessed August 27, 2011.


The Bosniak National Council is debating the possibility of receiving the same minority rights as does the autonomous region of Vojvodina. Džudžević Esad, Chairman of the Executive board for the Bosnian National Council (BNV) said that Bosniak heritage and culture is deteriorating and collapsing due to inadequate governmental response despite and/or due to the BNV’s request for protection thereof. Džudžević thus suggested that the BNV ought to possess full autonomy so as to preserve their culture and customs in the Sandžak region. The chairman has no intentions of politicizing the institution. Prior to the BNV’s bid for full autonomy, the cultural committee condemned police and city administration abuse of authority as well as islamophobia in the region of Sandžak. Various forms of intimidation, humiliation and pressure were exerted, according to the Elektronske Novine Sandžak Press, on those who observe as well as supporters of the Islamic faith. The report was released just three days before īd al-fitr (feast of fast breaking at the end of Ramadān), a canonical festival in the Islamic year.

Politika Online reported that the Sandžak experiences a growing number of persons who practice Islam in accordance with Wahhābīsm. Individuals who formerly resided in Austria, Germany as well as Bosnia are now though to move to the Sandžak region while monetary supply and support, according to the news agency, is coming from Saudi Arabia. Sarajevo is thought to have had relations with Riyadh since the Yugoslav wars in the 1990’s. While a majority of mujahedeen fighters left the area following the end of the conflicts, some who married Bosnian women and stayed in the region. These individuals are believed to carry out missionary work with aid from Saudi Arabia.

“Bečki ‘Prese’: Vehabije se sele u Sandžak”. Politika Online. accessed August 28, 2011.

“Islamophobia i nasilnižko ponašanje čelnih ljudi Gradske uprave Novi Pazar”. Elektronske Novine Sandžak Press. accessed August 26, 2011.

“Sandžak: Ista prava kao u Vojvodini”. B92. accessed August 27, 2011.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Uzbekistan-China - Uzbekistan has invited Chinese companies to jointly explore and develop uranium sands deposits on its territory. "Now Goskomgeo and Navoi Mining is considering cooperation with Chinese companies on the exploration of promising uranium areas of sandstone-type", - informed the representative of the geological department. According to him, this work is carried out in accordance with the agreements reached during President Islam Karimov's visit to China during April. Uzbek mineral authorities set up in 2009 a $4.6 million 50-50 joint venture with China’s CGNPC Uranium Resources to prospect for uranium. This is the first joint venture created to develop uranium deposits in Uzbekistan.

Ukraine-Russia-Turkmenistan - Ukraine is interested in importing natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan, the Ukrainian premier told a visiting top level Turkmen official on Wednesday. "We are continuing negotiations with Russia regarding the possibility of the resumption of deliveries of Turkmen gas," the Itar-Tass news agency reported Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov as telling Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Rashid Meredov. The Ukrainian premier said his country stands ready to participate financially in the project, which would position the Eastern European country as a link in the shipment of gas supplies to hungry markets in Europe. Ukrainian’s pipeline system, which currently handles up to 140 billion cubic meters of gas per year, has a potential annual volume of 200 billion cubic meters with upgrades, he said.

Russia-Turkmenistan - On Thursday Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov development of the bilateral relations between two states by telephone. The heads of states invited each other to visit the other state at any convenient time. The heads of states discussed topical issues in Russian-Turkmen cooperation, as well as the outcome of the recent significant bilateral activities in various fields.

Kazakhstan-China - Kazakhstan’s rare-earth metal exports rose 75% in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period last year, the Development Bank of Kazakhstan said in an August 18 statement. Kazakhstan has opportunity for growth in this sector because the world’s top rare-earth metal exporter, China, has curtailed its exports. “Kazakhstan, with its rich mineral and raw material basis, has good chances to take its niche [in rare earth metal production] provided that it succeeds in technological renovation,” the development bank said.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Узбекистан хочет вместе с Китаем разрабатывать урановые месторождения песчаникового типа" (Uzbekistan wants to work with China to develop uranium deposits)

"Украина ведет переговоры с Россией о поставках туркменского газа" (Ukraine negotiates with Russia on the supply of Turkmen gas)

"Медведев провел телефонные переговоры с президентом Туркмении" (Medvedev held telephone conversation with President of Turkmenistan)

"Президенты России и Туркмении до конца года обменяются визитами"
(The presidents of Russia and Turkmenistan will exchange visits by the end of year )

"Казахский экспорт редких металлов вырос на 75% в первом полугодии 2011 г" (Kazakh rare-earth metal exports up 75% in 1st half of 2011)

"Казахстан потеснит Китай на рынке редких металлов?" (Kazakhstan to press China on the market of rare metals?)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom

Evgeny Morozov. The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. xvi + 409 pp. $27.95. ISBN 978-1-58648-874-1.

“The Revolution Will Be Twittered,” wrote the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan in a blog post after “Green Revolution” protests began in Tehran in June 2009. Touting the inherent power of the Internet for fostering democratic change, Sullivan’s now infamous words fell on deaf ears as the Iranian government imposed harsh restrictions on internet access, reporting, and civil assembly in the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sweep of the (contested) elections. Though the Internet and social media allowed protesters to act quickly, the very same tools granted state authorities access to records and ultimately the identities of opposition supporters. Where Western “cyber-utopianism”—the “naïve belief in the emancipatory nature of online communication that rests on a stubborn refusal to acknowledge its downside”—failed; repression, arrests, and violent censorship brought a rapid end to the Green Revolution. The spread of Internet access and Internet freedoms have become synonymous with democratic potential; however, the supposed democratizing power of the Internet has done little to shift social and political motives in any of the authoritarian regimes that remain. Why is the democratizing power of the Internet backfiring? Why does the Internet fail to convert all of its users to faithful supporters of democracy? These are questions Evgeny Morozov attempts to answer in his study of the darker sides of the Internet.

Morozov contends that Western policymakers overlooked the reality of “digital diplomacy,” failing to realize it requires the same if not greater scrutiny, consideration, and oversight as traditional diplomacy. The cyber-utopianism and internet centrism—a “philosophy of action that informs how decisions, including those that deal with democracy promotion, are made and how long-term strategies are crafted”—that typifies Western policymaking has been misinformed since the Cold War. Morozov is explicit in his challenge of the two major contenders for the title of the great liberator: United States President Ronald Reagan did not win the Cold War by airing the emancipatory power of information (p. 49), nor did Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, or other Western radio and information technologies exercise similar power in destroying the Iron Curtain (p. 50). Instead, the Soviet Union was crippled from within after Glasnost’ granted access to the archives that provided facts and figures of Soviet atrocities.

“Liberation by facts,” as Morozov calls it, was far more imperative in felling the Soviet monolith than any Western information technology, or what Morozov dubs “liberation by gadgets.” The latter theory, which ascribes greater and greater democratizing power to technologies from the telegraph to today’s Internet, serves as a sobering history lesson in how regimes—from Western democracies to authoritarian strongholds in Belarus, Iran, or China—use the same technologies for controlling their respective societies. What is labeled as censorship in one political discourse is called advertising (Google as “marketing intelligence firm”, p. 164-65) or “cybersecurity” (state intervention in cyberspace to ensure lawlessness does not enter the real world, p. 219) in another. The raw truth is that new technologies that can ambitiously enhance civil society—state authority and global discourse, such as Twitter and Facebook, are also powerful tools for regimes to deeper entrench their cults of personality, their control over society, and provide another means for tracking down and silencing, by any means necessary, dissent.

Morozov takes this last point to its darkest conclusion by emphasizing the similarities between the West’s policies on the Internet with those of authoritarian regimes. Morozov’s “wicked fix” for the Internet and freedom is brief but seemingly logical. The task at hand for policymakers is to manage the differences among their political objectives effectively, the key to which is greater interaction and understanding. He notes that there is no silver bullet for authoritarianism (p. 319), so Western policymakers must find solutions based on interaction with those regimes while remaining true to their rhetoric and political objectives. Political actors must identify and use a mixture of small policy maneuvers to identify major (“wicked”) problems before they are mislabeled as minor (“tame”) and serve to undermine the Western cause for Internet freedom. Though Morozov’s conclusions are stimulating they fail to hit their mark due to his relentless—bordering on repetitive—criticisms of Western cyber-utopianism. Though his remarks are well-founded they distract and outweigh the brevity of his ultimate fix at the conclusion of the present volume. His analysis of social media, journalism, and the danger of voluntary information exposure are equally overshadowed. If these technologies and tools are under government surveillance, what is to be done? Morozov fails to elaborate on this point, instead placing too much emphasis on the infallibility of a “free” media (p. 264-5).

In summary, Morozov’s analysis of the darker sides of Internet freedom and the problems caused by rampant cyber-utopianism in the West are well-researched, well-founded, and stimulating. Though his conclusions often leave much to be desired the analysis that precluded them will serve researchers of information technology, mass media and new media, as well as students of censorship, political economy, and comparative studies of authoritarian and democratic regimes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Russia-Turkmenistan - Russia and Turkmenistan are about to agree on new cooperation projects in the oil, gas and transport industries. Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov met on Friday and "confirmed the readiness of their countries to build up mutually beneficial cooperation in such priority areas as fuel and energy sector, agriculture, education and science, where there has been accumulated positive experience of teamwork." Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Zubkov also said that cooperation with Russian partners has been and remains one of the strategic priorities of Turkmenistan's foreign policy.

According to the Turkmen Economics Ministry, Russia is currently second largest export trading partner of Turkmenistan and third largest importer of local products. In January-July 2011 Gazprom purchased more than 6.4 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas.

On August. 10th, Russia’s Itera and Zarubehzneft signed a Caspian production sharing agreement with Turkmenistan for exploring the country’s offshore Caspian sector for oil and natural gas. Itera general director Vladimir Makeyev and Zarubezhneft CEO Nikolai Brunich signed a production-sharing agreement to develop jointly the 21st block of Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian sea.

China-Turkmenistan - Also on August. 10th, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, during which Berdimuhamedov and Yang noted the great potential of cooperation between the two states in the energy industry, trade, economic, transport and communications and humanities. The two sides also discussed major issues and aspects of the upcoming state visit of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to China. According to Yang, the upcoming state visit will certainly be a milestone in the strengthening of the historical relations of friendship, brotherhood and cooperation between Turkmenistan and China.

Russia-Uzbekistan - Trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Russia grew by 22.3% year-on-year to US$3.144 billion in the first half of 2011, the State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan said. Russia was the largest trade partner of Uzbekistan in the first half of 2011 and it share in Uzbekistan’s foreign trade turnover reached 26.1%.

China-Uzbekistan - Uzbek state joint-stock company "Uzbekistan Railways' plans to purchase 10 locomotives from China manufactured by CSR Zhuzhou Electric locomotive Co. ltd. Total purchase valued is at approximately $ 35 million.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Россия и Туркмения договариваются о новых проектах сотрудничества в нефтегазовой и транспортной сферах" (Russia, Turkmenistan to agree on new projects in oil, gas, transport)

"'ИТЕРА' И 'ЗАРУБЕЖНЕФТЬ' ПОДПИСАЛИ СОГЛАШЕНИЕ О СОВМЕСТНОЙ ДЕЯТЕЛЬНОСТИ ПО РАЗРАБОТКЕ 21 БЛОКА ТУРКМЕНСКОГО СЕКТОРА КАСПИЙСКОГО МОРЯ" ("Itera" and "Zarubezhneft" sign agreement on joint efforts to develop the 21st block of Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian sea)

"Президент Туркмении провел переговоры с первым зампредом правительства России" (Turkmen president met with first deputy chairman of the Russian government)

"Президент Туркменистана встретился с главой МИД Китая" (Turkmen President meets with Chinese Foreign Minister)

"Президент Туркменистана нанесет государственный визит в Китай"
(President of Turkmenistan will pay a state visit to China)

"Товарооборот Узбекистана с Россией превысил $3,1 млрд" (Turnover between Uzbekistan and Russia reached $ 3.1 billion)

"Россия - крупнейший торговый партнер Узбекистана" (Russia - Uzbekistan's largest trading partner)

"Китай продаст Узбекистану электровозы на $35 млн" (China sells locomotives to Uzbekistan by $ 35 million)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: Mass Media and Modern Warfare

Greg Simons. Mass Media and Modern Warfare: Reporting on the Russian War on Terrorism. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010. vii + 207 pp. $99.95. ISBN 978-0-7546-7472-6.

The Global War on Terrorism has spawned a large body of literature that encompasses research devoted to as diverse of topics as the historical roots of the western conflict with Islamic fundamentalism to the cultures that are accused of aiding and abetting terrorists, and everything in between. The present volume engages the highly politicized conflict between the Russian Federation and Islamic fundamentalism in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, serving as both a precursor to the events of September 11, 2001 and as an additional case-study in the burgeoning literature on understanding terrorism and modern warfare. What Greg Simons’ book highlights, in an informative and objective way, is how far Russia has to go before its media can be considered free and independent considering the near constancy of state intervention in the media and its desire to garner support from civil society by any means necessary. Russia’s historical heavy-handed approach to governing is not unique, but Simons’ book provides observations about the use of the media as a tool of socialization in the global clampdown on extremism.

Simons’ greatest contribution to this field of research is providing insight into the role of the media in shaping public opinion by focusing on the official version of events rather than providing objective reporting from on the ground. The role of the media as ‘watchdog’ for government and military actions in Chechnya is nearly nonexistent under the present media environment in Russian reporting on the Chechen War. Though Simons notes a number of worthy exceptions (Andrei Babitsky, Raf Shakirov, and Anna Politkovskaya to name a few), the subservient coverage and lack of credibility that has largely typified the media environment surrounding Russia’s war on terrorism has undermined the reputation of the Russian media as a whole.

The history of post-Soviet authoritarianism that saw a state-led heavy-handed approach to undercutting resistant media outlets, namely assaults or murders of journalists and raiding media offices has become increasingly rare. Dmitri Medvedev’s tenure has made considerable improvements over his predecessor’s Soviet-style methods for garnering public support through lessons from western media outlets which ‘manufacture consent’ (to borrow a term from Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky) by filling the post-Cold War void with an “‘ideology’ of anti-terrorism” (p. 71). In this regard Simons concludes that the Kremlin has become more astute in its methods of managing Russian media outlets through carefully placed rhetorical responses to oppositional sources; a ‘propaganda model’ for a new era of war reporting. On this point Simons conclusions shine and provide insight into a sobering area of research: the fact that democratic regimes are not alone in their perceptive manipulation of media. Terrorist organizations and authoritarian regimes alike have shown how adept they can be in manufacturing and maintaining an ideology (p. 192-193). The Internet has been touted as a beacon of democratic expectation and hope but, as Simons has shown freedom of speech and expression via the worldwide web is a double-edged sword. The present volume’s analysis of the current struggle in Chechnya is just one case-study of a greater field of research that challenges previous conceptions about the transformative nature of the media.

Finally, it must be noted that the work does suffer in a few areas, namely editorial oversights and cases where empirical evidence challenges or undermines Simons’ conclusions throughout. Both are cause for concern during the reading of the book as they defy understanding, but the discrepancies are generally cleared up in Simons’ final remarks. The book also lacks synergy. Terrorist acts, such as the Nord-Ost theater siege (2002) and the Beslan hostage crisis (2004), are found throughout the work, but the synergy is lost in the analysis. Though Simons consults various news sources, the analysis fails to bridge any larger trends, or tease out any deep-seated issues that could breed future acts of terrorism. This volume, while lacking a comparative study of media coverage in the greater Global War on Terrorism field of literature, provides a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how democratic aspirations in civil society challenge the Kremlin’s attempts to combat extremism. Researchers of the Russian mass media, Russian military and security actions, as well as the general public interested in the Chechen War will find Simons’ work helpful in understanding some of the finer details of the conflict.


Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon, 1994.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko Draws Moscow’s Interest; Opposition Actors Continue to Face State Scrutiny in Former Soviet Union

This week Ukraine’s most visible opposition actor and ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was removed from a Kyiv courtroom after her arrest was ordered by Judge Rodion Kireyev for “repeatedly disrupting courtroom proceedings” during her trial on abuse of power during her tenure as prime minister. Facing as much as 10 years in prison on charges of striking a politically profitable but financially crippling deal with Russian energy company Gazprom in 2009, Tymoshenko’s trial has drawn considerable attention from outside observers, largely condemnations from the British and United States governments. Many observers have called Tymoshenko’s trial and arrest a political move by her 2010 opponent and current president Viktor Yanukovych in an attempt to combat oppositional civil and political actors and consolidate his power base by squeezing Tymoshenko out of politics. The most unlikely reaction to Tymoshenko’s arrest came from the Kremlin. Despite his Party of Regions affiliation, Yanukovych has fallen out of favor with the Medvedev-Putin tandem, and his recent actions taken to curb dissent in the Ukrainian press and public sphere have only worsened the situation. News agency REGNUM reported that “the best people are afraid of the Party of Regions – Akhemtov, Firtash, others whose business is substantially linked to the price of gas.” Gas wars between Russia and Ukraine seem inevitable and, as REGNUM continues, the relationship between the Party of Regions and Russia is not as easy as it had been before. REGNUM reported that a source in Medvedev’s administration stated “the arrest will cause an international resonance and is unlikely to have positive implications for Yanukovych.” The myth of “fast friends” has been dispelled by recent developments in Ukraine, and Russia seems to be distancing itself from its man in Kyiv.

Supporters of Tymoshenko’s opposition party bloc, All-Ukrainian “Fatherland” (Vseukrayinsk’e Obyednannya Bat’kivshchyna), have also come under the scrutiny of the Ukrainian authorities. Activists immediately set up tent cities in Kyiv after Tymoshenko’s arrest was announced. In the following days, Ukrainian police forces announced they would dismantle the camps, therefore bringing another round of crackdowns on civil unrest and protest (supported by a court order by the District Administrative Court of Kyiv). Fortunately for the protestors, their fears of a night assault by Ukrainian security forces never materialized. The results have not been in Yanukovych’s favor thus far as protests have spread beyond Kyiv. Political scientist Aleksandr Medvedev believes that if the protests continue and the government continues to take a heavy-handed approach to silencing the protestors, August 24 will see ten times more supporters on Independence Square than the Independence Day festivities on August 23. Political analyst Dmitri Tulchinsky believes, however, that while the rallies may continue the number of opposition supporters will reach its peak within the next week or two.

Articles referred to in this post:

«Крещатик зачистят: от сторонников Юлии Тимошенко» (“Cleaning the Kreshchatyk [capital]: from supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko”)

«Спасет ли Путин Тимошенко?» (“Will Putin Save Tymoshenko?”)

«Сторонниками Тимошенко позволили переночевать в палатках» (“Tymoshenko Supporters allowed to spend night in tents”)

«Тимошенко: Я не ожидала такой реакции России на мой арест» (“Tymoshenko: I never expected Russia’s reaction to my arrest”)

“Britain, U.S. Concerned over Ex-Ukraine Prime Minster Arrest”

“Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Tymoshenko Arrested”

“Tymoshenko Protests Continue In Ukraine, as Interested Moscow Looks On”

“U.S. Calls for Ukraine Review of Tymoshenko Arrest”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Russia-China - Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft is ready to cut off oil supplies to China and to repay its $10 billion loan to China ahead of schedule, if it goes to a London arbitration court to sue Chinese partners over a decrease in payments for Russian oil supplies, reported by Izvestia on August 4th. The Russian side claims that it does not wish to go to court, but they have to if they keep being underpaid for the supply of oil. The Russian side also points out it can sell the oil to Europe if China would not pay for the oil. On Chinese media, a professor from Tsinghua University comments that the Russian's side's move is only to stimulate the government's actions rather than really posing threats to the Sino-Russian energy cooperation.

On the same day, the chief of the Chinese army's General Staff Chen Bingde discussed military cooperation with Russian Defense Minister Anatoli Serdyukov. Leaders of the Russian Defense Ministry and the PLA Chief of General Staff will review the status and prospects of military and military-technical cooperation between the defense ministries of both countries and exchange views on reforming the National Armed Forces, as well as discuss other issues of mutual interests in ensuring regional and international security. Also, Russian military officials expect to hold joint naval exercises with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said the Chief of Staff of Russian Armed Forces, Army General Nikolai Makarov.

Kazakhstan-Russia - Kazakhstan offers to develop Eastern Siberia together with Russia. Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Kazakhstan Kairat Kelimbetov said that Russia will not pull the development of East Siberia alone. According to him, it will be an international project in which Moscow will need experience from Kazakhstan for the construction of cities in Siberian climate and labor force from Central Asia.

In an interview with "Kommersant" Kairat Kelimbetov also said Russia and Kazakhstan should become a service economy in China. In his view, both Russia and Kazakhstan should deliver more raw materials to China instead of only looking to the west.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Россия готова прекратить поставки нефти в Китай" (Russia is ready to cut off oil supplies to China)

"俄可能提前偿还中国100亿美元贷款 或终止供油" (Russia may repay $10 billion loans to China early or cut off oil supply)

"Генштаб Китая прибывает на переговоры в Россию" (General Staff of China arrives at Russia for talks)

"Китай и Россия планируют углублять межармейские связи -- начальник Генштаба НОАК Чэнь Биндэ" (China and Russia plan to deepen the connection between armies)

"Генштаб России рассчитывает провести с Китаем морские учения" (Russia's General Staff expects to conduct naval exercises with China)

"Казахстан предлагает России вместе осваивать Восточную Сибирь" (Kazakhstan offers to develop Eastern Siberia together with Russia)

"Казахстан: Россия должна стать сервисной экономикой Китая" (Kazakhstan: Russia should become a service economy for China)