Friday, March 28, 2014

Russian Far East : Still an Outsider?

           In this week i discuss the economic developments in the Russia's Far Eastern region.Russia's Far Eastern region consists of ten sub-regions : Sakha Republic, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Primorskii Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Amur Oblast, Kamchatka Oblast, Koryak Autonomous Okrug, Magadan Oblast, Sakhalin Oblast and Chukhotka Autonomous Okrug. During the Soviet period, the Russian Far East's economy was based on the defense industry and central planning. The Russian Far East also provided raw materials for Russia and other CIS countries. But after the disintegration  of the Soviet Union, Soviet economic system collapsed without a proper replacement. At the same time, federal subsidy reduced considerably and transportation cost and energy prices increased beyond control.The lack of experience with the new market realities which were based on free market and Russian leaders inexperience with it increased the difficulties of the people of the Russian Far East.

           The Russian Far East includes a major chunk of Russian Federation's geographical territory. Far East comprises  36% of Russia's territory but only 4.6% of its population. Again Far East's contribution to  the Russian Federation's GDP (only 5.2% in 2005) was lower and industrial production was insignificant compared to the regions such as central Russia and Ural. Russian Far East is considered as one of the most potential (i mean economic) region of the Russian Federation. Then why so it remains as one of the most stagnant regions of the Russian Federation? Who is responsible for this handicap? And what is contributing to it? It is quite difficult to give  simple answers for these questions. Both federal and regional authorities are equally responsible for these developments.The harsh climate and lack of infrastructure precipitate these issues.From the federal governments' side it still likes to treat Far East region as a colony for raw materials and does not want to entertain Far East's economic independence.The Kremlin fears the economic prosperity of the region may encourage secession from the center.The distance from Moscow is so far and it also increases the fear of Moscow .So federal government only concerns about the collection of tax and provides financial subsidy to the region.Or, in other words, federal government does not concern with the improvement of the infrastructure or the development of the manufacturing sector.

         From the side of the regional authorities, the regional leaders such as governors engage in their own private businesses. Regional lobby is quite strong that it neglects most of the suggestions of the federal government which regional leaders fears negatively affects their economic interests. The regional lobby was not very willing to open their region for either bigger Russian firms or foreign companies for long time.Still both Russian giants and multinational companies penetrate to this region slowly and steadily. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is still smaller but steadier and increasing. Moreover extreme cold of  Russian Far East make it difficult for large scale  human settlement without any massive financial investment from the center. At present the income from the sale of raw materials go to the hands of the private companies and  not properly utilizes for the development of the region. Besides, the economic uncertainty and closure of mines caused for the mass scale immigration of people from regions such as Magadan and Chukhotka. Other regions also found population losses to an extant.The rapid population decline also raises the question of  invasion of the region by 'Chinese.'

     The Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted the importance of Asia - Pacific region over the developments of the Russian Far East. Putin wanted to increase Russia's share in energy market of the Asia from 3 to 30% in coming two decades. According to the analysis of Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Science, 80% of the Russian Far Eastern economy is integrated to Asia-Pacific region. But big problem with this economic relationship is that the economic incompatibility between the Russian Far East and the neighboring Asian countries. Asian markets are more developed and modernized than Russian Far East.This mismatch can resolve only through the open competition and free market.The protectionist policies of the regional authorities should change and different regions of the Far East must co-operate with the federal government to ease its affect on the common people. Some of the scholars such as Hong suggested that the developments of the more advanced regions such as Khabarovsk and Primorskii may bring developments to other parts of the region. But it is impossible without considerable fiscal investment from Moscow. For that regional leaders should work together and force Moscow to think in the same manner.Will it happen in the near future?


1) Devaeva, Elena (2005), "The Foreign Trade of Russia's Far East," Far Eastern Affairs, Vol.33, No.4.

2) Hong, Sungwon (2007), "Economic Transformation in the Russian Far East," International Area Studies Review, Vol.10, No.193.

3)  Motrich, Ekaterina (2002), "Demographic Potential and Chinese Presence in the Russian Far East," Far Eastern Affairs, Vol.30, No.1.

Fractured Opposition in Uzbekistan

                Popular opposition groups in Uzbekistan are faced with two substantial problems: disunity and restriction of association.  While the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU) is frequently listed as a key coalition of opposition parties, with a shared ideology and intent, the reality is that the coalition has significantly splintered since 2011.   This post will elaborate on the fractions within the ranks of the PMU and recent travel restrictions encountered by opposition figures.
                The PMU, led by Mohammad Solih, was organized in 2011.  As an oath, it declared that Islam Karimov, by Allah, would be removed within six months.  Is the PMU a united, Islamist opposition coalition?  It appears that the movement has since been divided.  News agency Mahalla reports that the states goals of the coalition are conflicting: calling for the preservation of a secular democracy on the one hand, and promoting a theological order on the other. [1]  Parties critical of the Karimov administration are also critical of the behavior of the PMU’s leader Mohammad Solih.  He is described as an Islamic fascist, promoting the superiority of Uzbek ethnicity over others (particularly Russians) in Uzbekistan, and leading the coalition as a dictator. 
                PMU is also suspected by some oppositionists of being a National Security Service trap, luring upset Uzbeks into joining and engaging in violent protest against the state.  Independent journalist,  author of the Zamondosh blog, Rizo Obidov states that the oppositionist Abdulaziz Mahmudov made this claim against Mohammad Solih. [2]  Perhaps this is why Obidov reports that the PMU has significantly splintered, losing Bahodyr Choriyev’s Birdamlik (Unity) party, Andijan-Justice-Progress party, and others.  Obidov estimates that the PMU presently only consists of three or four people, though this is not a verified claim.  What this current discussion indicates is that popular opposition within Uzbekistan and among the Uzbek diaspora cannot be labeled as a cohesive coalition.  For example, Choriyev’s Birdamlik party is based in the United States, acting independently of PMU leadership. 
                The Turkish Gülenists have, as alleged by Mohammad Solih, called for the extradition of Solih to Uzbekistan, in exchange for permission from President Karimov for the Gülenists’ permission to operate in Uzbekistan. [3]  The Gülenists are an Islamist party which was founded in Turkey, though their leader Fethullah Gülen currently lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.  It is not likely that President Karimov would agree to such an arrangement, though his administration has persistently sought after Solih. 
            Though political opposition in Uzbekistan appears to be divided in organization, they are still closely monitored by the state.  In March 2014, a Birdamlik member (Nuriniso Khobayevoi) attempted to travel from Uzbekistan to the United States, but her passport was taken by authorities and her transit was denied. [4]  Khobayevoi planned to attend an upcoming April 2014 opposition congress in St. Louis, MO.  On the agenda of the congress is the organization of a “color” revolution in Uzbekistan. 
            As can be seen, Uzbek opposition to the government of President Karimov is divided and rife with in-fighting and suspicion.  The state, anticipating diasporic-organized popular revolution, is restricting the exit and likely the entry of opposition party members and leaders.  Though no recent statements have been issued by the government, the actions are speaking the loudest.

1. Radzhabov, Abdumalik.  «Narodnoye dvizheniye Uzbekistana»: tseli i posledstviya.  Mahalla.  Jan. 23, 2014.
2. Obidov, Rizo.  "Padeniye NDU so skaly v boloto."  April 2, 2013.
3. Central Asia Today.  "Mukhammad Salikh: Storonniki Fetkhullakha Gyulena dobivayutsya moyey deportatsii iz Turtsii"  March 13, 2014.
4.  "Iz Uzbekistana na kurultay “Birdamlika” ne pushchat'!"  March 24, 2014.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is Russia's Cooperation with Iran "legal?"

As discussed in former posts, Russia and Iran are set to finalize an oil trade agreement follow the start of the Iranian calendar year (March 21). [1] The negotiations are worth $1.5 billion a month that would let Iran increase oil exports substantially. Such a deal would seriously undermine sanctions that helped persuade Tehran to accept a deal to limit its nuclear program a few months ago. However, Russia claims that the sanctions are only legitimate to the West. As a result of this view, Russia discussed with Iran a possible bilateral nuclear agreement. [2]

However, on December 23, 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737 that would impose sanctions against Iran for failing to abide by a Resolution 1696, an injunction for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program. [3] Although Russia had many objections about 1737, it voted on the resolution. Chapter VII of the UN Charter gives the Security Council the right to draft resolutions to (1) determine the existence of a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, or an act of aggression in accordance with Article 39, and (2) make an explicit decision to maintain or restore international peace and security. [4] Although not all resolutions are explicit, Resolution 1737 lays out straightforward terms and organizations to which it applies.

The Resolution imposed a freeze on assets supporting or associated with Iran's proliferation nuclear activities and established a committee to oversee the implementation. One of the key organizations of Iran's nuclear program and the Resolution placed sanctions on is the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. However, Russia is lax on the sanctions. This month representatives of Russia's Rosatom held a series of talks with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. These talks resulted in a preliminary agreement between the countries to build at least two new nuclear power plants in Iran. Russia claims that this considered peaceful nuclear energy, and according to Russian Nuclear Safety Specialist Anton Slams, it is "not the cause or reason for the restrictions and sanctions imposed by the UN Security council." [5]

Article 49 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter calls for all members to take on measures to aid decisions by the Security Council. Russia, as a member of the Security Council, voted on Resolution 1737 to maintain international security. Not only are its dealings on oil trade with Iran undermining sanctions imposed by the West, it seems apparent that Russia's nuclear agreement is in direct violation of "international law," which Russia itself passed.


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Friday, March 14, 2014

Sakha Energy and Resources : Some Thoughts

                                        Sakha  Energy and Resources : Some Thoughts
                           This week is going to deal with the exploitation of natural resources and its management in the Sakha Republic.To a certain extent the handling of natural resources is much common in large area of Russian North.As i discussed in my earlier blog Russian North is rich of  natural resources and exploited in different way by the federal government.But the regional government or people are not benefited much by the federal government's policies but they are the one who faces the negative impact of the mineral extraction.The Russian North which includes the big chunk of Sakha Republic still remain as economically backward with limited manufacturing industries.It is still remain as a raw material producing area with limited infrastructure for converting it into finished products.Studies shows that the effective use of natural resources such as diamond, gold, oil, gas and coal may help Sakha and other parts of the Russian North to become financially independent and also convert these areas fit for more human settlement.But not-so well planned exploitation of natural resources causes more troubles than gains.

                        Sakha Republic's natural landscape changed significantly by the wide scale of mining for various natural resources such as diamond, gold, oil and gas.Another major issue with the hydro electric plants in almost all major rivers of the region.Sakha Republic's well known diamond mining is only possible with the underground nuclear explosions. The nuclear residues of these explosions causes various environmental issues.Similarly oil and gas exploration of the Russian North creates further environmental problems.It is well known fact that the oil exploration contaminates underground water system and through that other water bodies too.Besides in the case of  the Sakha Republic, waterways are the only way which can use for the export of oil and other related products.It may causes for the spill over of oil and polluting of fragile Arctic river systems.Spilled oil creates a layer over the water bodies and absorbs oxygen for its oxidation process.This process naturally leads to the lack of oxygen for the existence of various living beings of the rivers such as fishes. It also converts the large part of the affected area as dead zone.

                              Researches shows that petroleum products of the concentration of 1.2 mg/liter is enough for the destruction of fish eggs and larvaes. For example tank farms of  Batagai, Zhigansk, Nizhneiansk, Ust-Kuiga, Zyrianka and others already released around 3,000 mg of petroleum products and 1.5 - 2 mg of tetraethyl lead per litre of water.Pollution of Yana River with petroleum products is almost six times of the 'Maximum Permissible Concentrations (MPC)'. The cases of other Arctic rivers are also not different.This level of pollution already threatens the survival of fish species such as muksun and inconnu. Pollution of  rivers naturally lead towards the pollution of fragile Arctic Ocean. Studies shows that the spilled oil take almost fifty years to decompose in Arctic situation.It also increases the seriousness of the issue.The irresponsible mineral extraction and release of the toxic wastes already converted some of the rivers of the Sakha Republic such as Ireliakh and little Botuobuia into a drainage.The diamond and gold extraction also causes for the similar developments.For example 'Klerichi' a toxic fluid which uses for the final stage of diamond extraction may causes for the Cancer or mental or physical abnormalities.The mining of gold also releases pollutants such as sulfates, chlorides, iron, copper, manganese, and cyanides into the river systems.

                            Experts point towards the lack of manufacturing as one of the main drawback of the Sakha industry.Even in 2001, the share of manufacturing is only 8% of the Sakha industrial production. At the same time place such as Alaska which is quite similar to Sakha in several aspects crossed 30% even in mid 1980's. So we can see some serious problem lies in the regional development policies of the Moscow.The major issue with this policy is that very limited authority of the regions over the exploiters of the natural resources of their territory.In effect federal government has a strong control over the distribution of license and other rights to various parties who are not directly linked to the region.A region such as Sakha Republic which  still imports major chunk of its food and consumer products from other parts of  Russia  do not have big say over the developments on its own region.The solution to the problems of Sakha only materialized through the more responsible behavior of the resource exploiters and the proper co-ordination of both federal and regional governments in the managerial level. The experts also point towards two other important solutions for the rapid development of the Russian North in general and Sakha in particular.They promotes the use of coal over energy resources such as oil and other petroleum products.Estimated coal reserves of the Sakha comes around 36.6 % of the total Russian production.Similarly experts also argue for the upgradation of technologies and industrialization of the Northern region.It may lead to the reduction of the pollution and integration of Sakha and other parts of the Russian North well into the Russian economy.It may also helps Russia to reassert its position in North East Asia.


1) Balzer, Marjorie Mandelstam ( 2006), " The Tension between Might and Rights : Siberians and Energy Developers in Post - Socialist Binds," Europe - Asia Studies, 58 (4) : 567 - 588.

2) Bykov, A (2006), " Natural Resource Management : Regional Policy in the Far North", Russian Social Science Review, 47(6) : 86 - 96.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Islamic Law and Political Opposition in Uzbekistan

                The role of Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence has been a priority concern of administrative systems in the republic of Uzbekistan.  “Official” Islam was promoted under the administration of the Soviet Union.  To establish a formal state foundation for Islamic jurisprudence, the Soviet administration commissioned the Muslim Spiritual Directorate for Central Asia and Kazakhstan (SADUM).  Through the SADUM, the authoritative voice for Soviet Muslims in Central Asia was a Mufti who was employed and advised by the state.  The Soviet Mufti legitimized certain aspects of Islam and cultural tradition, permitting a supervised function of mosques and Islamic worship within Soviet Central Asia.
                “Official” Islam in contemporary Uzbekistan is promoted by the former SADUM, which was reorganized into the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.  This apparatus is formally led by the state-sponsored Mufti Chairman Usmanhan Alimov.  Usmanhan Alimov has the authority to issue fatwah (opinions to guide the deliberations of Uzbek civil and criminal courts) and is tasked with promoting Islam in a manner that is satisfactory or non-threatening to the concerns of the state.  The role of the Chairman appears to be limited to the issue of fatwah, which may officially direct the practices of Uzbek Muslims.  For example, the Mufti Chairman can issue calls to regulate hajj pilgrimages to Mecca, and can also issue fidyas (fees to Muslims failing to observe fasting during Ramadan) which are said to go to the benefit of the community.[1]
                What does the Mufti Chairman say about the unofficial voices of Islam in Uzbekistan?  In a 2012 statement in Tashkent, he was quoted: “Recently in the territory of Central Asia, some political and extremist forces are also trying to politicize religion to influence the minds of people, young people in particular.[2]  This activity can lead to a breach of international and interreligious unity and the separation of people into opposing groups.”  He went on to say that it is necessary to reveal to citizens of Uzbekistan that these groups are seeking to serve their own selfish goals, and that Islam does not call for violence, but tolerance instead.  This statement provides further distance between the Uzbek state’s “official” ulama (Muslim scholars and jurists) and alleged extremist organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir.  Such is the official stance of the state Mufti. 
                Meanwhile, the political Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir of Uzbekistan continues to produce videos listing alleged martyrs and prisoners held in Uzbek prisons and camps.[3]  The most recent video, published in January 2014 lists almost a dozen alleged victims.  The video presents a message of opposition to the administration of President Islam Karimov, including the prayer “Oh Allah!  We pray for the speedy victory of Islam and Muslims over the unbelievers and for a speedy restoration of the righteous state of Caliphate, the ruler of swearing Muslims!  Then marginalized, humiliated and insulted Muslims of Uzbekistan will be sheltered under the patronage of Caliphate, the ruler of Muslims.  Then the widows and orphans will be able to exact revenge on their oppressors!” 
                Another opposition coalition, the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan, issued a call in February 2014 for violent struggle against the government.  On its website, an author by the pseudonym of Usman Khaknazarov posted a transcript of an alleged speech made by President Karimov to his Cabinet of Ministers.[4]  In it, Karimov allegedly accuses his Cabinet of attacking his family and vying to become his successor, and states that he intends to remain in power for life.  The accuracy of the transcript is under debate, but the author proceeded to call for the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan and other Uzbek citizens to unite and overthrow the regime with force.  Some have accused exiled Erk party opposition leader Mohammad Solih of authoring the statement, though he publicly denies any involvement in its production.[5] 
                In summary, the official stance of the Uzbek government and its appointed Mufti Chairman appears to condemn religious political opposition from developing.  However, this does stance so far does not appear to have silenced publicized voices of opposition from groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan.  If opposition statements continue to be produced, it is likely that the government will further widen the scope of its military and security apparatus.  These developments are precipitating in advance of the 2014 Uzbek parliamentary elections and the recently postponed presidential election due in 2015.  

1. Farishta.  "Upravleniye musul'man Uzbekistana ob"yavilo razmery zakyata v svyashchennyy mesyats Ramadan"  July 07, 2013. 
2.  Islam i politika v Tsentral'noy Azii.  "Usmankhan Temirkhon ugly Alimov muftiy Respubliki Uzbekistan i predsedatel' Upravleniya musul'man Uzbekistana"  Dec. 04, 2012.
3. Halifat News.  Jan. 07, 2014.  "Rezhim Islama Karimova nikak ne nasytitsya krov'yu shakhidov" 
4. Khaknazarov, Usman.   Narodnoye Dvizheniye Uzbekistana.  "Usman Khaknazarov: Islam Karimov reshil pozhiznenno ostat'sya u vlasti"  Feb 03, 2014. 
5. Salid, Muhammad.  "Lzhivaya dusha"  March 13, 2014.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Role of International Law in Energy Investment and Transit in Russia

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a reliable supplier of gas to Europe. Russia supplies Europe with 100.7 million tons of gas a a year, approximately 38.7% of the total gas import in Europe. [1] Lately, and particularly since the situation in Ukraine started, Russia and Europe's relationship has degraded. As a result, recent legal developments prove that the energy market in the region tend to have restrictive procedures and ease high tensions. [2] However, international law that is currently in force does not always create a "mutual reliance," but rather a a panic over supplies and markets. With Russia as a relatively new member of the WTO, and taking into account the current political climate in Europe/Russia, what is the future of Russian energy relations on investment and transit, and the role international law has it?

In accordance with the general principle of international law of permanent state's sovereignty over natural resources through the United Nation's General Assembly resolutions 523, 626, 1515, 1803, and 3201 entitled "Declaration on the Establishment of New International Economic Order", every state has a right to nationalize its resources, and cannot be subject to economic, political, or other coercion to prevent the exercise of that right. [3] However, there are no specific rules that strictly deal with energy trade, but some general provisions from the WTO could apply to energy products and transit. Furthermore, the Energy Charter Treaty and the Treaty of Rome establish a common position for the EU and Russia on regulations, and thus frameworks for settling disputes where the host state fails to fulfill an obligation. [4] The aforementioned treaties and resolutions a crucial for the development of international law on energy production and transit, and provide possible solutions between producers, such as Russia, and consumer, particularly members of the EU.

Russia is the most important energy trade partner of the EU. [5] All of Russia's exports to the EU are supposed to be governed by the Energy Charter Treaty and WTO provisions to provide a balanced, efficient, and safe energy relationship. However, Russia has never ratified the Energy Charter Treaty, claiming that it is ineffective. [6] Since 2009, Russia has lobbied for a new treaty that creates a system for regulating international energy cooperation. As a response, the EU has proposed a "gradual convergence of legislation and standards between Russia and the EU, in line with the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, that would create a common economic space." [7] However, neither party has specified the clear content of the term "common economic space." Specific policy areas that may be included in this space include issues involving the economy, environment, security, research, education, and culture. With such a broad language, it seems that international law does not have an large affect on energy production and transit in Russia. Moreover, with the future of Ukraine uncertain, the viability of Russia and Ukraine as energy partners (More than 80% of Russia's gas imports transit through Ukraine), the EU's energy dependency on Russian gas creates economic and political problems, and international law does not seem to solve such issues. [8]


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