Saturday, June 29, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #8

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Last week's round-up dealt with the power struggle in Georgia and the interesting discovery of several arms caches. After the Georgian authorities found more weapons and surveillance videos, President Saakashvili came clean a few days ago and admitted that the caches were set up on his order:
President Saakashvili said on June 23 that arms caches, which the Interior Ministry says it found in Samegrelo region, were in fact those secret storages which he instructed to create after the August, 2008 war as part of a broader defensive plan in case of resumption of aggression against the country.
This prompted some talk about an impeachement of the Georgian President and Prime Minister Ivanishvili mentioned the possibility of an arrest following October's presidential election, when Mikheil Saakashvili will leave office after his second term as President.
The struggle is apparently taking its toll on the Prime Minister and Ivanishvili announced his plans to leave after the next election as well. But until then, he is debunking the claim of being a Russian puppet. During this week's visit of NATO's senior political governing body, the North Atlantic Council, Georgian PM Ivanishvili reinforced that "joining NATO as soon as possible" is a priority for his country.
Thus Tbilisi is is cementing its military ties with Washington and Prime Minister Ivanishvili headed to Israel to talk with the closest ally of the United States:
Georgia, Israel discuss intensification prospects of bilateral relations
Georgia, Israel discuss regional security
"Today vital topics are the preservation of peace and the fight against terrorism, and the experience of Israel in this area are very important for Georgia, and we intend to cooperate in this field," Ivanishvili said.
Israeli PM Netanyahu emphasized the great relations between the two countries and expressed his desire to "to expand this relationship in every way".

Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli government’s press office

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #7

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of this week Georgia was rocked by an extremely interesting discovery:
Interior Ministry: Large Arms Cache Uncovered
Underground cache included “large amount of explosives and explosive devices; hand grenades; firearms and other weapons and military munitions; communications gear, as well as large amount of narcotics and psychotropic medicines including heroin, opium, cocaine, subutex etc,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The Interior Ministry said that the cache also included video tapes showing “brutal torture, sexual abuse, beating and inhuman treatment of individuals by representatives of the law enforcement agencies.”
Photo released by Georgian Interior Ministry (Police.ge.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #6

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held its 10th joint counterterrorism drill in Kazakhstan this week. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan assisted the host nation while China, Russia and Uzbekistan observed the drill. Since 2002 the SCO member states have been conducting joint military exercises, primarily focusing on anti-terror operations. The recent drill featured a terrorist invasion in Kazakhstan:
The drill stimulates a situation where terrorists enter Kazakhstan by helicopters and automobiles, hijack hostages in a bordering village and attempt to conduct terrorist activities.
The mission is for counter forces from SCO member countries to crack down on the terrorist group and rescue hostages through both ground and aerial operations.
Professor Wang Baofu from the PLA National Defence University explains the underlying motives:
"This year the drill is not massive in scale but involves multiple central Asian countries. We know that the situation in Afghanistan is facing a critical point with unclear prospects, as the Taliban and NATO forces are taking undergoing fierce combats in important locations. Additionally, terrorists inside Afghanistan are operating rapidly. All these factors pose threats to these central Asian countries." 
China immediately adressed concerns about the increasing military cooperation and emphasized that the Chinese-led SCO will not turn into a military alliance.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #5

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

Kazakhstan's appeal to suspicious players was already mentioned last week and this trend is continuing:
Kuwait embassy to open in Kazakhstan by year end
Kazakh and EU presidents plans to intensify negotiations on new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
The Central Asian country has learned to use its strategic location as leverage and to play both ends against the middle in order to make a profit


Saturday, June 1, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #4

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

This week the presidents of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan met in the Kyrgz capital Bishkek. Armenia and Belarus did not attend the one-day summit, which focused on issues concerning Central Asia. ISAF's withdrawal from Afghanistan next year was at the top of the summit's agenda and the presidents discussed measures to prevent further deterioration of the security situation in the region. CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha explained the specific plans [emphasis mine]:
Bordyuzha said the measures discussed included boosting security at state borders, modernizing the CSTO joint rapid-reaction forces, and joint efforts against extremism and illegal drug trafficking.
Russia-Led Group to Beef Up Tajik-Afghan Border Security
The leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have agreed to reinforce the organization’s military capability and step up control at the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border ahead of the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan next year, CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha said on Tuesday.
The leaders of the CSTO, a Russia-led intergovernmental military alliance of former Soviet states, also discussed the need to supply the CSTO rapid response force with modern weapons and deepen cooperation between the member states’ special services in combating extremism.