On April 29, 2008, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Georgian government in Tbilisi of preparing to invade the pro-Moscow separatist region of Abkhazia, which is located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, along the Russia-Georgia border. Russian officials announced that they would deploy more peacekeeping troops in the region to defend the separatists. Russian government representatives have claimed that the Georgian military has been reinforcing its garrison in the strategic enclave of the Upper Kodori Valley, the most important part of Abkhazia still under control of the Tbilisi government. The Russian Defense Ministry attributed the current crisis […]

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This Hindustan Times story about how Pakistan’s governing coalition is already on the brink of collapse (due to the PPP’s refusal to reinstate the Supreme Court justices sacked by Pervez Musharraf) reminded me to link to Arif Rafiq’s very smart piece on how America should reconfigure its strategic partnership with Pakistan: Historically, ties between the United States and Pakistan have been strongest with a Republican in the White House and an army general in power in Islamabad. In this scenario, Congress generally plays an antagonistic, if not wholly hostile role. The goodwill usually ends when Democrats in Washington and democrats […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — After two weeks of counting, Nepal’s election results are official: a solid win for the former rebel Maoists and a humiliating slap in the face for the country’s traditional political parties. Almost nobody predicted the landslide victory, and now Nepal’s political elite and the international community are scrambling to deal with the world’s first ever elected Maoist government. The Maoists, for their part, have been sure to make the right noises on economic and diplomatic issues. They say they will use capitalism and multiparty democracy as stepping stones to achieve their socialist vision. But first they must […]

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda met with outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, outside Moscow this past weekend. The talks addressed preparations for this July’s Group of Eight summit, which Japan is hosting, as well as such perennial issues as how to improve the often strained security and economic relations between the two countries. Tokyo-Moscow ties have remained troubled for decades. This weekend’s Moscow summit failed to change the underlying causes of these difficulties. Despite the end of the Cold War, the two countries have been unable to resolve their territorial dispute over what the Russians […]

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We’re used to hearing about the coming resource wars, in particular how the increased global demand for scarce energy resources will lead to increased conflict. But as this post from 2point6billion.com about the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline points out, energy can also be the basis for cooperation between historical enemies. The beauty of natural gas is that transit fees actually encourage interconnectivity. Ultimately that’s why the West probably has a better chance of integrating Iran into its sphere of interest through the Nabucco pipeline project than it does at containing it. Of course, gas pipelines also create pressure points, as Russia […]

Over the course of the last month, Chinese officials have engaged in a systematic campaign to purge dissent in Tibet. These actions are part of a long-term policy to assimilate Tibet into Han Chinese society. With the much anticipated 2008 Olympic Games a few months away, the international community and non-state actors have turned up the heat, demanding that Beijing engage in dialogue with the Dali Lama and stop repression of Tibetans and other minority groups, such as Uighurs. Heads of state have variously threatened and committed to boycotts of participation in the games’ opening ceremony. But those calling for […]

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Arms Control Wonk just posted the full transcript from the Syria-N. Korea intel briefing to “senior U.S. officials.” This is the key passage explaining what the intelligence community concluded about the site from the available evidence: We told our President four things: This is a reactor; the North Koreans and the Syrians are cooperating on nuclear activities; the North Koreans and Syrians are cooperating on the construction of this reactor; and this reactor – its purpose – is to create fuel for a nuclear weapons program. Here’s the breakdown of evidence supporting each conclusion: . . .[T]he fact that it […]

Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, just completed his first official visit to Kazakhstan since September 2006. In a joint media appearance following talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Karimov noted that the two countries are the most influential states in Central Asia. He correctly observed that, “Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan may play a crucial role in solution of a number of principal matters, connected with the stability in the Central Asian region and prospects of its sustainable development.” Unfortunately, Uzbek-Kazakh relations have been characterized more by conflict than cooperation. Although Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have signed approximately 100 bilateral agreements since […]

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Arms Control Wonk’s got the video presentation made to the House and Senate intel committees on Syria’s Al Kabir facility. To a layman, it makes a pretty convincing, if entirely circumstantial, case for the claim that the facility was a nuclear reactor, although questions remain, which means I’ll be checking back in with the gang at ACW for further updates. Here’s what Jeffrey Lewis had to say yesterday: Assuming the provenance, interpretation and timing are all square, I would think the presumption now shifts to “it was a reactor” — which is not to say that hitting it was a […]

Though international policy analysts — past and present — have lavished attention on arms races, oil wars, blood diamonds, and other such sources of insecurity, few have spilled ink on an issue that now threatens global stability: the rising cost of grain. No surprise. Arms races have been the subject of Star Wars and James Bond movies, and conflict over diamonds carried the story in “Blood Diamond,” with the dashing Leonardo DiCaprio and the luscious Jennifer Connelly. Writing about rice and wheat is just not as sexy. But average food prices have risen 45 percent in the past nine months. […]

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If it weren’t for all hell breaking loose in the Middle East, the tectonic shifts going on in South Asia would probably be the decade’s storyline. As it is, they still might be. In addition to China’s rise and India’s emergence, there’s also all sorts of movement towards warmer relations between the region’s traditional rivals that could smooth the way for further growth. Pakistan-India relations, while still prickly and marked by tit-for-tat missile tests, are more cordial than they’ve ever been. Same goes for China-India relations.As for China-Pakistan relations, a couple of articles (one here at Asia Times Online, and […]

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That Chinese cargo boat carrying weapons bound for Zimbabwe has now been turned away by Mozambique and South Africa, with a gathering campaign now focused on keeping it from docking on the African continent: The International Transport Workers Federation says it has asked its members across Africa not to help unload the An Yue Jiang, which is reportedly carrying three million rounds of ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 2,500 mortar rounds. Namibia and Angola have been mentioned as possible alternatives for getting the weapons into Robert Mugabe’s hands, but American pressure is reportedly being applied to keep that from happening. […]

RACH GIA, Vietnam — It’s not hard to imagine the Mekong Delta under water. Much of the region lies barely three feet above sea level. According to some projections, nearly half of the delta’s farmland could be destroyed from rising sea levels due to global warming. Yet most locals here know nothing of what’s coming. While many of the planet’s well-off calculate their “food miles” and “carbon footprints,” many of the world’s poor have never heard of climate change or global warming. Even though many can sense that their climate is changing, they are largely ignorant about why it’s happening […]

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How do you respond to a democratically elected governing party that just happens to be a terrorist outfit? I guess that depends who the outfit is. According to an unconfirmed report citing the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Nancy Powell, the State Dept. is ironing out the final “technicalities” needed to remove the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), winners of Nepal’s recent elections, from its terrorism watch list. Now, there are several terrorist listings maintained by the U.S. government, including the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, the Terrorist Exclusion List, and EO 13324 (an executive order issued in the aftermath of the […]

Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze travels to the United States this week to consult with American officials and attend an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council regarding the latest crisis affecting Russian-Georgian relations. On April 16, President Vladimir Putin precipitated the most recent flare-up by instructing Russian officials to establish direct legal and economic relations with separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia without first obtaining the approval of the central Georgian government in Tbilisi. Putin’s decree also authorized Russian government offices located in Krasnodar Territory and North Ossetia, Russian territories adjacent to the two breakaway regions, to provide […]

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The Times reports on the growing internal debate within the Bush administration over requests by American military commanders in Afghanistan for more operational leeway to go after Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Pakistan’s tribal frontier areas. The usual dilemma over the overall costs of more agressive tactics on Pakistan’s stability have been complicated by the fact that the new Pakistani coalition government is even more hostile to American intervention than Pervez Musharraf was. So far the discussion seems to center around targeted missile strikes from UAV’s, but that hardly seems like an adequate response to what’s basically a hostile local […]

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To follow up on Judah’s post on Nabucco, the recent (rather amusing) comments of the Russian ambassador on the Nabucco project show that Russia is also trying to use the Iran threat to undermine U.S. and EU support for the project. Thanks to John Rosenthal for sending along this story from the EU Observer: EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Moscow has questioned the viability of the EU-backed Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc’s dependency on Russia. “I know few things about political geography. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline is to rely on Iranian gas,” […]

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