Friday, October 31, 2014

Porkins Great Game: Episode #2 - Crisis in the Caucasus and Mysterious Crashes

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I discuss briefly the appointment of Jens Stoltenberg as new Secretary General of NATO before we move on to the conflicts brewing in the Caucasus region. We talk about the significance of this month's suicide bombing in the Chechen capital Grozny as well as Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. Later we also take a look at the mysterious crashes of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie and Press TV reporter Serena Shim before we close out with a humorous look at CIA (and Gladio B) operative Graham Fuller’s futile attempts to change his public image by way of the Huffington Post.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #72

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.

Every day, the new star in the world of takfiri terrorist groups, the Islamic State aka ISIL aka ISIS aka Da'ish, is dominating the headlines. Western media is eager to highlight every atrocity committed by ISIS while similar crimes committed by the "moderate Syrian rebels" have been swept under the rug for years and are still being ignored. The "Syrian rebels" used chemical weapons?! No, that is completely inconceivable. ISIS used chemical weapons?! Yes, that goes without saying. Although the Kurds exposed the new darling of Western media as "the most overhyped military force on the planet" during the siege of Kobane, there is no end in sight to the ISIS hype, much to the dismay of the previous number one boogeyman al-Qaeda. The organization of U.S./NATO puppet Ayman al-Zawahiri is desperately trying to get some attention. Last month, Zawahiri released one of his dubious videos announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent and lately the group threatened China, stressing that Xinjiang needs to be "recovered [into] the shade of the Islamic Caliphate":
Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too

Al-Qaeda central appears to have joined the Islamic State in calling for jihad against China over its alleged occupation of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

This week, al-Sahab media organization, al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the first issue of its new English-language magazine Resurgence. The magazine has a strong focus on the Asia-Pacific in general, with feature articles on both India and Bangladesh, as well as others on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the first issue also contains an article entitled “10 Facts About East Turkistan,” which refers to the name given to Xinjiang by those who favor independence from China. The ten facts seek to cast Xinjiang as a longtime independent state that has only recently been brutally colonized by Han Chinese, who are determined to obliterate its Islamic heritage.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #71

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.

Much to the dismay of the United States, Russia "has been steadily strengthening its foothold" in Kyrgyzstan in recent years. This became apparent in June of this year, when American troops vacated the important U.S. air base at Manas International Airport after the Kyrgyz government had yielded to Russian pressure and agreed to kick the Americans out. Since 2001, the U.S. had used Manas not only to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, but also to engage in all kinds of nefarious activities. After years of unsuccessful attempts to convince Bishkek of closing the base, the Russians finally got their way a few months ago, marking "Kyrgyzstan’s new era as a Russian client state" according to Alexander Cooley, Deputy Director for Social Sciences Programming at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, which is famous for its anti-Russian bias. Cooley's statement shows that the closure of Manas was a heavy blow for the United States. Moscow lost no time in capitalizing on the departure of U.S. forces and is now apparently planning to expand Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan as well as its base in Armenia [emphasis mine]:
Russia Strengthens Air Defenses With Bases in Belarus and Central Asia

As Moscow moves to bolster its military presence in ex-Soviet allied states, the head of the Russian air force announced that Russia will establish an airbase for fighter jets in eastern Belarus in 2016, state media outlets reported Wednesday.

Colonel General Viktor Bondarev also said Moscow planned to expand its airbases in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

The three nations are members of a loose Russia-dominated security alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has accelerated efforts to create a unified air defense network as the Ukraine crisis reenergizes the West's military powerhouse, NATO.
© Photo AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #70

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.

After nearly four years of negotiations, the European Union und Kazakhstan finally agreed on a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) during this week's visit to Brussels by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The agreement, which is expected to be signed next year, "aims to boost cooperation in around 30 policy areas including trade and foreign and security policy." Given that the PCA is a far weaker deal than the infamous European Union Association Agreement and that the Kazakh negotiators had been "very careful that the agreement respects their country's commitments to the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union," the Kremlin won't get worked up over the agreement. With the PCA negotiations concluded, Nazarbayev travelled to Minsk to attend summits of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and, most importantly, the Eurasian Economic Union, which welcomed a new member:
Armenia Joins Eurasian Union

After months of delay, Armenia formally joined the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on Friday, drawing praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 


President Serzh Sarkisian signed a corresponding accession treaty with Putin and Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus at a summit of the Russian-led bloc held in Minsk.

Speaking at the gathering, both Putin and Sarkisian expressed hope that the treaty will be ratified by the parliaments of the EEU’s three member states by the end of this year. The Armenian president said his country should be able to “start working from January 1” as a full-fledged member of an alliance which critics fear will restore Russian hegemony over much of the former Soviet Union.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #69

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, the presidents of the five Caspian littoral states gathered in the Russian city of Astrakhan to attend the fourth Caspian Summit. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question of how the Caspian shelf should be divided has been dispute and although Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan made some progress at the recent summit, they remain divided on this key issue. While Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbajev were talking about a "breakthrough", Turkmenistan's leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow reminded everyone of the disagreements when he reiterated that "Turkmenistan believes that the construction of pipelines under the Caspian Sea is the sovereign right of the states through whose section of the seafloor they pass." Berdimuhamedow was of course referring to the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, which is vehemently opposed by Russia and Iran. Moscow and Tehran will have a hard time convincing Berdimuhamedow and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev to give up on this pipe dream but they accomplished another important objective in Astrakhan:
Russia and Iran Lock NATO Out of Caspian Sea

Iran and Russia have built unanimous consensus among the Caspian states, which also feature Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, over the inadmissibility of a foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea, ruling out any future possible deployment of NATO forces in the basin.

A political declaration signed by the presidents of the five Caspian states at the IV Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan, Russia, on September 29, “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian,” according to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of the summit.