Friday, January 31, 2014

The Russian Far East and 'Yellow Peril'

                                                The Russian Far East and 'Yellow Peril'

             This semester i  will be discussing on Eastern Siberia and Russian Far East.It will be more about political,social and economic aspects of these regions.The Russian Far East which lies east of the Eastern Siberia includes the following regions : Maritime, Khabarovsk, Amur,Kamchatka, Magadan, and Sakhalin.It also includes Jewish Autonomous Region and the Republic of Sakha. Among this wide region, the Republic of Sakha is going to be the major topic of the discussion of this semester.But without including other parts of this wide geographical space it may find difficult to conduct a meaningful discussion.Along with Eastern Siberia (it includes the Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk,Chita, Tuva, Khakass, and Buryat republic), the Russian Far East is one of the most neglected regions of the multi-ethnic Russian Federation.

              This week i discuss on one of the major issue faced by the Russian Far East : Migration of Chinese into Russian territory. I find scholars have quite contradictory opinion on this issue. Russian sources in general find Yellow Peril as a threat to the security of their nation.They even think that the Russian Far East will become a Chinese territory in future.But non-Russian sources including Chinese find it in another way.They argue that the Chinese migrants to Russian Far East more as a 'floating population.' Or, in other words, they will not settle in Russia.According to them  Chinese may want to do their business in Russia but stay in china. It is better to start with the first argument ; The so called Yellow Peril.The Chinese migration to the Russian Far East had a long history.It started in the nineteenth century when Russia was under tsars. The rapid economic developments of the Russian Far East forced imperial government to encourage migration from south.Two major engineering projects of the time ; the Trans-Siberian Railway and the port of Vladivostok built with the help of Chinese laborers. Both the mining and agricultural fields also utilized Chinese labor force.But this labor migration was more of a seasonal kind and majority of the laborers returned back to China after their project was over.

            The Soviet period effectively blocked the Chinese movement into the Russian Far East.The Great Terror under Stalin caused for the fleeing of many Chinese back to China.But changed scenario under the post-Sovit Russia again encouraged the Chinese movement back into the Russian Far East. Russian population declined (almost 16.5% in Russian Far East in 1991).Or,in other words, Russia was forced to compensate this loss.According to Olga Alexeeva there are different categories of Chinese migrants into Russia : 1) Entrepreneurs who wanted to invest and take advantage of the favorable economic conditions, and whose intention was to settle in Russia more or less permanently, if not always legally, 2) Small traders who entered Russian territory on tourist visas and traveled constantly back and forth between China and Russia, carrying their goods ; 3) Temporary workers under contract, with few qualifications,employed in construction or farming, 4) Migrants in transit on the way to Western Europe; 5) Chinese students registered at Russian universities.

          There is still great ambiguity over the exact population of Chinese in  the Russian federation.It starts anywhere from 200,000 to 4 million.Some of the reports make them fourth largest ethnic group of Russia just after Russian,Tatars and Ukrainians.It is considered that the biggest number of them settled in East Siberia and  the Russian Far East.The biggest problem with this number is that the ambiguity of the exact number of Chinese who really settled in Russia permanently.But doubtful Russians think other way. For example the Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded Russians about the dangerous of Chinese occupation of Far East during one of his trip to Blagoveshchensk in Amur region. Russians of the Far East also shares similar view. According to Galina Vitkovskaya, a researcher at the Carnegie Center in  Moscow : "It is clear that any steps that might lead the Chinese to take root in Russian territory would be rejected by the local population.The shadow of the 'Chinese threat' is a burden on people's consciousness with 74 percent of the population questioned believing this to be a real threat to Russia and only 20 percent denying its possibility". The declining Russian population (around 7 million in 2.4 million square miles) and huge population of the near by Chinese provinces ( around 100 million in three provinces of the former Manchuria) exacerbate this fear.

                        It is true that Chinese still has a large presence in the labour markets of Eastern Siberia and  the Russian Far East and they also have a significant presence in the local markets of the region.But it is very difficult to say that it will end up in the Chinese acquisition of the Russian territory.As Maria Reprikova and Harley Balzer observe that there is no need for Chinese population to stay in  Russian territory forever. First of all Chinese economy is booming and they need skilled people in Northeastern China.In contrast the Russian economy in East Siberia and  the Russian Far East is shrinking. So it is not an ideal place for any of the potential Chinese migrants.They also mentions that Chinese may prefer more Asian looking regions of the ex-USSR such as Kazakhstan and Buriyatia over Russian Far East due to the increased xenophobia and violence from  Russian side.But one thing is clear that Moscow allows Chinese and others to exploit the natural resources of the area at the expense of the locals.It is also probable that the diminishing Russian population and out migration of Europeans to Central Russia and other parts of the world make both Russian federal government and regional governments helpless.So for them China and its cheap products are not only  a necessity but also unavoidable.

References :

1) Alexeeva, Olga (2008), "Chinese Migration in the Russian Far East," China Perspective, 3 : 20 - 32.

2) Balzer, Harley and Maria Reprikova (2009), " Chinese Migration to Russia : Missed Opportunities ",     Eurasian Migration Papers, 3 : 5 - 50.

3) Nemets, Alexandr V and John L Scherer (2004), " China's 'Takeover' of Russia's Far East", The World & I, 19.2 : 1-7 

Russia Considers Itself Not Bound by Sanctions on Oil Trade with Iran

Despite US and EU protests, Russia is negotiating a trade deal with Iran. This trade deal will consist of Russia acquiring 500 thousand barrels of oil a day in exchange for Russian goods, making Russia the largest importer of Iranian oil and bringing 1.5 billion dollars a month to Iran. Moreover, this comes only a month and half after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on December 11th to discuss topics such as the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, which the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Iran made an agreement upon during talks in Geneva a few weeks before. 
According to US authorities, a Russia-Iran trade deal may make Tehran less likely to comply with the agreement made in Geneva and other sanctions such as those imposed by the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia has veto power. This deal would likely affect the legitmacy of other UN sanctions. However, Russia's representative to EU Vladimir Chizhov, in anticipation of the Russia-EU Summit on January 28th, stated that Russia is not violating any sanctions against Iran because it only follows UN sanctions, not Western trade sanctions against Iran. Russia finds these Western sanctions illegitimate.
Some Russians believe that if they wait until the sanctions are lifted, Western countries will infiltrate the Iranian market first. Moscow is currently in a good position to establish economics ties with Iran, which would would be more difficult if the West, primarily the United States, established relations first. Rajab Safarov, Chairman of the Center for a Modern Iran, says that Russia is in a favorable situation; Iran needs the money and goods because in the last 18 months sanctions have limited its exportability of oil, and Russia gains a political and economical advantages with one of the strongest countries in the region.
Why does Russia need Iranian oil? It is already the largest producer of oil in the world. One important aspect of oil and gas is that it is hard to prove of its origin. Russia will likely sell the imported Iranian oil as Russian. Iranian law forbids foreign investors having mining rights for oil and gas, but Russian companies are seeking that exclusive right. The Sberbank Investment Research team suggests that because of the need for more energy domestically, Russia could sell the the Iranian oil to the Asian-Pacific market while keeping some of its own, strengthening itself in the regional and global energy market. However, Russia and Iran attempted to make such deals in the past, but without success after Iran withdrew from the agreement with Gazprom in 2011 after "failed negotiations."

2014: A New Year for Uzbekistan's National Security

               This semester I will be posting my research and commentary on Uzbekistan’s emerging national security policies, strengths, and complications in 2014.  Conversation concerning national security is occurring in both state and citizen media circles, and I intend to elucidate these perspectives.  I will also provide these within a context of developing current affairs in the country and region.
                One of the chief national security concerns facing Uzbek policymakers is the stability of Afghanistan and the expected 2014 withdrawal of international coalition forces.  The leadership of Uzbekistan suspects the withdrawal of coalition forces to precipitate an increase in border violence and instability.  In January 2014, President Islam Karimov issued a rallying cry in the form of a statement to the armed services of Uzbekistan.  In the statement, he congratulates the armed forces of Uzbekistan on the 22nd anniversary of their formation.  He states that the armed forces of Uzbekistan must remain vigilant and battle-ready.  Karimov warns of “growing threats” in Uzbekistan’s border areas, and that it is necessary for Uzbek forces to increase their mobility in order “to pre-empt” them.  Specifics of the message include preparing helicopter assault units and reviewing the training of non-commissioned officers.
                Afghanistan is most likely not the singular Uzbek national security concern at the moment.  On January 11, 2014, Tajik guards of the Vorukh enclave exchanged fire with Kyrgyz border guards.  The Vorukh enclave is a settlement of ethnic Tajiks situated with guarded borders within the southwest of Kyrgyzstan.  According to RIA Moscow’s special correspondent Arkadiy Dubnov, the recent violence at the Vorukh enclave is currently the main threat to stability in the region, rather than the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan.  Perhaps this is one of the “growing threats” President Islam Karimov referred to in his January 13, 2014 message to the armed forces of Uzbekistan.  While the Vorukh enclave is located closer to the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border, it is not far from Uzbekistan’s Fergana valley border either.  What can be said, then, is that President Karimov is also marshaling the armed forces of Uzbekistan in anticipation of a return of violence in the Fergana valley.
                What was typical of conflicts in the region in the past was the migration of opposition fighters across the borders of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan through the Fergana valley, which is divided between the three republics.  Any violence or perceived threat of armed forces in the area is likely to prompt Uzbekistan to assume a defensive, even “pre-emptive” position, as seen with the call to maintain combat readiness and increase capacities. 
In 2013, Uzbekistan modified itsmigration policy to call for longer sentences of imprisonment for Uzbek nationals and foreigners who engage in any sort of illegal migration into or out of the country.  Through this legislation, Uzbekistan has manufactured deterrence to the inward migration of potential or listed enemies of the state.  It is likely that the Uzbek state increased the severity of punishment after considering the amount of Uzbek jihadists fighting in the Syrian civil war in association with the al-Nusra front. 
                These developments signify a climate of anxiety and uncertainty among Uzbekistan’s policymakers.  As was the case during Tajikistan’s civil war in 1992, Uzbekistan is assuming an increasingly defensive and possibly pre-emptive national security policy.  For now, it appears that any progress towards intraregional cooperation for security is being overshadowed by a policy of suspicion and defense mobilization.
1 - ministerstvo inostrannykh del respubliki uzbekistan "Prazdnichnoye pozdravleniye zashchitnikam Rodiny po sluchayu 22-letiya obrazovaniya Vooruzhennykh Sil Respubliki Uzbekistan" 13 Jan 2014

2 - Dubnov, Arkadiy. RIA Novosti "Pervaya voyna 2014 goda prodolzhalas' okolo chasa" 13 Jan 2014

3 - Nuriya. Golos Islama "V Uzbekistane za nezakonnuyu migratsiyu budut sazhat' v tyur'mu"
10 Jan 2013