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Rahmon celebrates Tajik democracy
President Emomali Rahmon opened Tajikistan's new parliament on March 17 with a rousing, self-congratulatory speech. International observers may have found the March 1 parliamentarian elections to be full of fraud, but Rahmon felt the vote had represented the highest form of democracy. - Edward Lemon (Mar 19, '15)

Russia, S Ossetia sign 'integration' pact
Seven years after Russia recognized Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia as an independent state, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an "alliance and integration treaty" with South Ossetia's de facto leader, Leonid Tibilovin. Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the pact amounted to the "actual annexation" of the territory. (Mar 19, '15)

Azerbaijan boosts arms imports
Azerbaijan is second only to Britain among Europe's arms importers, accounting for fully 13% of all of such imports in Europe over the past five years, even as the region's overall arms imports have been decreasing. The oil-rich nation is also the world's fourth-largest importer of drones. - Joshua Kucera (Mar 18, '15)

China, Russia move closer over Ukraine
During the past year, Beijing and Moscow strengthened their strategic partnership by deepening economic ties and enhancing bilateral military cooperation. A Chinese diplomat's recent tacit support for Russia in regards to Ukraine raises the question as to whether Beijing and Moscow are forming a de facto military alliance. - Roger McDermott (Mar 12, '15)

Air castles of Nuland Kaganate
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and her ilk are charged with wanting regime change in Moscow. Others do too, just as they might want the restoration of the Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, but they do not expect to get that anytime soon. Promoting regime change is the equivalent of shooting spitballs at the zoo lion: it simply increases the likelihood that the zookeeper will get eaten. (Mar 10, '15)

Tajik opposition figure killed in Istanbul
The murder in Istanbul of Umarali Quvvatov, an opponent of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, has raised questions about the number of Central Asian political figures meeting a violent end. Quvvatov, who reportedly turned on Rahmon's administration after a soured business deal involving the president's son-in-law, was seeking asylum in Turkey at the time of his killing. - Chris Rickleton (Mar 9, '15)

Turkmenistan 'mobilizes against IS'
Turkmenistan is undertaking the first large-scale mobilization of its reserve military forces since gaining independence, which government officials say is required to ward off the threat of Islamic State forces in Afghanistan, according to a US report that actually gets several Turkmenistan officials to talk on the record. - Joshua Kucera (Mar 9, '15)

Ukraine's old-guard dying mysteriously
Ukraine has seen a recent string of deaths involving senior officials, including an ex-city mayor, a former railway executive, and the former head of the state body in charge of privatization. Each case of death has been ruled a probable suicide. The victims' political allegiances and job histories have led many to suspect that the men were murdered. - Marichka Naboka (Mar 9, '15)

Words US 'thinkland'
dare not speak

Winston Churchill lamented the absence of war - and the loss of empire. His successor, the Empire of Chaos, faces the same quandary, particularly as some wars, as in Ukraine by proxy, are not going so well. No wonder US Think Tankland is contorting itself to produce "forecasts" that dare not reveal the most likely future, with China, Russia and Germany at the helm. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 9, '15)

Armenia recalls the Zurich Protocols
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's recall from parliament of the 2009 US-sponsored Zurich Protocols between his country and Turkey undoes the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two and the re-opening of their mutual border the protocols made possible - just as Turkey prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli and Armenia the centenary of its own people's genocide. - Erik Davtyan (Mar 5, '15)

A Chechen role in Nemtsov murder?
For many in Russia and the West, the Kremlin is inevitably the prime suspect in the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But the possibility of a Chechen connection should not be dismissed out of hand, given Nemtsov's repeated criticism of Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov. (Mar 4, '15)

Rakhmon notches another poll win
The party of Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon has swept aside all opposition to increase his hold on parliament, winning 57 out of 63 seats in a general election that international observers say fell far short of democratic standards. Rakhmon has led the country since 1992. - Edward Lemon (Mar 3, '15)

EU raises profile in Caucasus
The European Union is making a push to raise its profile in two trouble spots in the South Caucasus, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Brussels insists its forays in the region are nothing more than routine diplomacy. But some observers believe the EU is hoping to push back against Russia's troublemaking in Ukraine. (Mar 2, '15)

Thousands mourn slain Nemtsov
Thousands of people - figures range from 16,000 to 1000,000 - marched through Moscow in memory of former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov - a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin - after he was gunned down in the Russian capital on Friday. (Mar 2, '15)

Rules confusion as Kyrgyzstan
lines up for economic union

With Kyrgyzstan soon to join the Kremlin's Eurasian Economic Union, confusion over its rules is keeping small-scale Kyrgyzstani entrepreneurs guessing. The uncertainty, added to rampant corruption and Russia's stalling economy, could make for a bumpy economic transition. - David Trilling (Feb 26, '15)

Russia's quest for Balkan bases
Russia has long harbored an expansionist drive to the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. The prelude or precondition for Moscow to be able to make real progress toward securing its influence in these areas has been its domination of Ukraine and the Black Sea. - Stephen Blank (Feb 26, '15)

Azerbaijan devaluation deals shock to nation
The more than 30% devaluation of Azerbaijan's currency popped a bubble of belief in the country that Azerbaijan, rich in hydrocarbons, was protected from the kind of financial instability that has shaken other Eurasian states. - Nargiz Rashid (Feb 25, '15)

Nazarbaev opponent dies in cell
Rakhat Aliev, a former son-in-law of Nursultan Nazarbaev who became an opponent of the long-ruling Kazakh president, has been found dead in a Vienna jail in what Austrian officials said was a suicide. Aliev's lawyer voiced doubt that he killed himself and called for a "very thorough" investigation. (Feb 25, '15)

Turkmen pipeline nears completion
Turkmenistan's natural gas pipeline from Dauletabad in the southeast to the Caspian Sea coast is reportedly to be completed at the end of this year, helping the country to switch export quantities and directions between its several neighbors and customers, north or south, east or west. - Robert M Cutler (Feb 24, '15)

Energy and hybrid war
Threats to Ukraine’s energy security have become an important weapon in Russia's armory alongside the unmarked soldiers and "vacationing" regular troops. The Kremlin’s example of "non-linear" warfare could herald a future trajectory for conflict. - Michael Ruhle and Julijus Grubliauskas (Feb 18, '15)

Insult and the pre-modern mind
One person's insult is another's right to free speech, and where the pre-modern mind cannot tolerate insult, modern consciousness cannot appreciate the power of an insult to provoke a violent response. Of note, in nearly every characterization of Charlie Hebdo's portrayal of a cartoon Prophet Muhammad, the offense is not described as blasphemy but as insult. Even careless drivers should take note. - Jeff Howison (Feb 18, '15)

On the way to war on Russia
Signatories to the Minsk Agreement of February 12 included the leaders of Ukraine's Russian-cultured Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. London and Washington were excluded from negotiations. The US-led anti-Russia alliance will continue to extend its influence along Russia's borders, and no matter what happens in Ukraine's eastern areas there will be continuing confrontation with Russia, led by Washington. - Brian Cloughley (Feb 18, '15)

Kazakh media given the message
With Kazakhstan in the economic doldrums, the government is asking the "independent" media to don their rose-colored spectacles, issuing a list of detailed "recommendations" containing information on what the non-state media should publish, right down to the content, the frequency, and the thrust of the reporting. - Joanna Lillis (Feb 16, '15)

Russia wants it all
There is a dangerous false assumption at the heart of the West’s negotiations at, and reporting of, peace talks in Minsk over the fighting in eastern Ukraine. It is that Russia wants to have direct control over a small area of Ukraine. The evidence so far is that what Russia actually wants is indirect influence over the whole of Ukraine, and for the West to pay for it. - James Meek (Feb 13, '15)

Turkmenistan by the numbers
Turkmenistan is perhaps the most opaque country of all the post-Soviet states, with the government exercising tight control over almost all information and publishing only those statistical figures that serve Ashgabat's interests. That makes the results of a recent census especially interesting - Paul Goble (Feb 11, '15)

China 'in HQ-9 deal' with Central Asia
China has reportedly provided both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with air defense systems, which would represent the largest Chinese military equipment deal thus far in Central Asia. If true, the two countries would be the first to be supplied with the HQ-9 system, previously sought by Turkey. - Joshua Kucera (Feb 9, '15)

Khomeini and Russian Orthodox revival
In 1989, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, sent a message to Mikhail Gorbachev rumored to concern an arms deal. In reality, it concerned Soviet state atheism. The later full-fledged revival of the Russian Orthodox Church is not unrelated. - Issa Ardakani (Feb 6, '15)

Armenia and NATO reaffirm cooperation
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia last month expressed their satisfaction that there is a mutual desire to continue deepening their effective political dialogue and partnership in all areas of cooperation. - Erik Davtyan (Feb 6, '15)

West's agri-giants snap up Ukraine
Ukraine has the equivalent of one-third of the entire arable land in the European Union. The maneuvering for control over the country's agricultural system is a pivotal factor in the latest East-West confrontation as Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont lead the drive to control all aspects of Ukraine's agricultural supply chain. - Frederic Mousseau (Jan 28, '15)

'Turk Stream' far from a done deal
The latest part of the saga concerning Russia's southern pipelines delivering gas to Europe has attracted two wrong assumptions. The first overlooks the underutilization of the old BlueStream link to Turkey; the second, that agreement has been reached with Ankara on the route of the proposed new "Turk Stream". Not so, and in important ways. Then there is the impact of falling oil prices. - Robert M Cutler (Jan 28, '15)

Russia's 'Turk Stream' move against Europe
Russia continues to play hardball with natural gas for the European Union, trying to get Brussels to sacrifice Ukraine in return for the promise of better relations with Moscow. The latest Russian ploy - "Turk Stream" - amounts to the threat of a new cut-off, albeit one with a kinder, gentler face. - Robert M Cutler (Jan 16, '15)

Whither Ukraine's revolution?
Ukraine faces an almost impossible task: carefully balancing its internal contradictions while initiating widespread reforms. To break the cycle of democracy thwarted by violence, officials elected in October will need to devolve power from themselves and their corporate allies, yet it is a particularly challenging time for that. - Jeffrey Michels (Dec 19, '14)

Go west, young Han
If everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China's leaders), the "New Silk Road" will become the project of the new century and the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade. Washington may be intent on "pivoting to Asia", but Beijing has its own plan to pirouette to Europe across Eurasia. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 17, '14)

Usmanov does good by
Nobel laureate Watson

Tycoon Alisher Usmanov has purchased US scientist James Watson's Nobel Prize gold medal - price $4.8 million - only to return it to the 86-year-old DNA researcher. The tycoon, who amassed his first fortune making plastic bags, has a thing or two that makes him stand out of the crowd of other oligarchs. - Farangis Najibullah (Dec 11, '14)

Russia, Turkey pivot across Eurasia
Russia's decision to use Turkey as a transit country for gas destined for Europe sends geopolitical shockwaves all across Eurasia. Turkey is the obvious gainer, but how the fragile Balkans will feel about being subordinated to the whims of Ankara for their energy supplies is one big unknown. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 8, '14)

Russia confronts US containment strategy
The annual address to the Federal Assembly by the Russian president is an occasion to dilate on the state policies, but this year's speech by Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin's St George Hall before a 1,000-strong audience of the country's elites was invested with special importance.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Dec 8, '14)

Four strong winds that blow cold
Four points and, especially, the expressions chosen by Vladimir Putin really "tell the story" of what the Kremlin's position vis-a-vis the West is nowadays. Russia is disgusted with attitudes towards it and has officially given up on any pretence of dialogue. (Dec 8, '14)

Russia, Belarus in new trade war
Just days after Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said there were no outstanding problems between his country and Russia, he leveled criticism at the Kremlin on a scale not seen since a 2010 oil-tariff dispute, this time over a ban on exports of agricultural products from Belarus. - Grigory Ioffe (Dec 4, '14)

Washington plays Russian roulette
Washington loaded the gun long before Vladimir Putin accused the United States of provoking him to pick it up - and long before most watching the game of Russian roulette could identify the weapon as caliber Cold War 2.0. With the bullet marked once for "Eurasian integration" and twice to target "regime change", Barack Obama is holding tensions high. When Hillary Clinton seizes the day, all bets will be off. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 21, '14)

Eurasian consolidation
and India's foreign policy

Sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds has become an ingrained feature of Indian foreign policy practice, but the contemporary alignment of Russia and China and prospects of a stronger global East complicate India's position. The strategic elite may welcome a test of Western dominance, but the regional challenge China poses is still difficult to pin down. - Zorawar Daulet Singh (Nov 14, '14)

Russia faces new realities in Central Asia
Central Asia is often cited as another place where Russia could seek, through a diaspora, to exert the muscle it has flexed in Ukraine. But Russian populations are declining across the region, and governments there have a number of richer suitors. To counter this growing sense of political and economic independence, Moscow needs to re-position itself as the only ally that can deliver security. - Michal Romanowski (Nov 12, '14)

Russia, Ebola, NATO and propaganda
Attempts in US media to link Russia with the spread of Ebola highlight how Washington will increasingly try anything to counter Moscow's global influence. The US considers it important - perhaps vital - that Russia be prevented from developing as a nation, and thus will forward any intrigue that portrays the country as an enemy of the free world. - Brian Cloughley (Nov 5, '14)

Russian raids on immigrants
raises fears of violence

Immigrants in Russia could face a wave of violence following thousands of arrests in a crackdown on illegal immigration that has been condemned not only for human rights breaches but for entrenching a virulent negative public perception of migrants. - Pavol Stracansky (Nov 4, '14)

Key nuclear issue turns on Iran-Russia deal
Progress in talks involving the number of Iranian centrifuges and the transfer of low-enriched uranium to Russia are adding to hopes that a compromise approach between Iranian and US negotiators will succeed in resolving the main obstacle to a comprehensive agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. - Gareth Porter (Oct 29, '14)

Melting glaciers add to woes at Kumtor
Kumtor mine, the largest open pit gold deposit in Central Asia, is located amid important glaciers that feed Kyrgyzstan and neighboring countries with water. The same glaciers are melting at a rate that is being linked to dumping of the mine's waste, adding to majority shareholder Centerra Gold's woes. - Ryskeldi Satke, Dinara Kutmanova and Franco Galdini (Oct 28, '14)

Kazakhstan's green future starts to dim
Kazakhstan helped to secure the right to host the next World Fair, in 2017, with a pledge to emphasize green-energy alternatives. Now President Nursultan Nazarbayev appears to have had a drastic change of view. - Paolo Sorbello (Oct 27, '14)

Rouble decline hits home in Central Asia
The sharp decline in the value of Russia's currency is rippling across Central Asia, where economies are dependent on transfers from workers in Russia. As local currencies follow the rouble downward, import costs rise, reminding Central Asians how dependent they are on their former colonial master. - David Trilling (Oct 24, '14)

Uzbek president faults
Soviet system, keeps relics

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov is a strong critic of the former Soviet Union, but is reluctant to dispense parts of its system, rules that curb the ability of Uzbeks to live in the capital. Demands for change could prove a vote-winner in forthcoming elections, especially from young, talented and frustrated voters. - Fozil Mashrab (Oct 24, '14)

Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle
Take a trip back in time on a rumbling Trans-Siberian rail journey in the early years of the 1990s, then leap forward to the modern-era, circa 2020, with the route linked to a Chinese-driven high-speed rail network flashing across Eurasia. It's as if we were still frozen in time: both Russia and China remain pariahs in the eyes of the world's unipolar, imperial elite. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 17, '14)

China deals blow to Australia coal
The Chinese government has struck a new blow against the domination of global commodity markets by countries allied with the United States in the sanctions war against Russia, with the announcement of a 3% to 6% tariff on coal imports to China. Australia will take the largest hit in its trade. Russia is amongst those who should benefit. - John Helmer (Oct 17, '14)

Azerbaijan pursues
drones, new security options

Increasingly distrustful of long-time ally Russia, Azerbaijan is tamping down arms imports from Moscow, focusing on indigenous military innovation and forging new alliances with Turkey and Georgia. Baku increasingly feels that Moscow's interests in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are closer to Armenia's, and the Kremlin's support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine does little to reassure the Azeris. - Shahin Abbasov (Oct 10, '14)

Iron ore revolution to benefit China
The Ukrainian civil war, and its aftermath, economic warfare between the US, the European Union, and Russia, are transforming global flows of the minerals from which steel is made. Starting with iron ore, the future for steelmaking will start at the minehead, not in Australia, nor Brazil, but in West Africa - and to China's benefit. - John Helmer (Oct 8, '14)

China, Russia hold US in Eurasian squeeze
Think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century in which the United States might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance emerging as a Great Game-changer. Place your bets soon. They’ll be called in by 2025. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 6, '14)

Green light for Rogun dam?
After decades of delay, a hydropower dam project in Tajikistan that will cost US$3-5 billion, involve the relocation of around 42,000 people and enrage downstream neighbors has been given an apparent go-ahead by the World Bank. Although Uzbekistan has raised the specter of war over the project, domestic political pressures and electricity shortages leave the Tajiks with little choice. - Alec Forss (Sep 16, '14)

Rattled by Russia, Tashkent looks east
Russia's aggressive actions toward Ukraine are vexing Central Asian states. First, officials in Kazakhstan were chagrined to hear comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin that appeared to denigrate Kazakhstani statehood. Now, Uzbek leaders are showing signs of displeasure with Moscow. - Joanna Lillis (Sep 15, '14)

Corruption concerns over Kumtor
As negotiations continue to give Kyrgyzstan's crucial Kumtor gold mine a new legal footing, independent analysis by Israel-based investigators into past restructuring deals opens a disquieting sore concerning allegations of bribery at a project that accounts for nearly a quarter of the country's industrial production. - Ryskeldi Satke and Franco Galdini (Sep 10, '14)

NATO poised to escalate Ukraine tensions
NATO members have certainly not welcomed either the growing confrontation with Russia or with the Islamic State in the Middle East. These developments have nevertheless provided the alliance with greater cohesion than it has experienced in years. The sense of purpose reflected at last week's NATO summit in particular raises the prospect of escalating NATO-European-Russian tensions over Ukraine. - John Feffer (Sep 9, '14)

Will NATO liberate Jihadistan?
Even as North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state gather for a confab in the United Kingdom, Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim broadcasts his disdain of Western military power with the beheading of another American journalist - then declares that Russia's Vladimir Putin is next - which would kind of place him as a NATO contractor. And in return? The Pentagon couldn't care less. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 5, '14)

Russian oil, gas gain in troubled economy
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's recent call for "tightening belts" has convinced even optimists that something is deeply wrong with the Russian economy. The "solution" appears to lie in stimulating more oil and gas projects while charging the rest of the economy with an additional tax burden. - Mikhail Matveev (Sep 2, '14)

Obama's 'stupid stuff' legacy
Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski, the grand old man of geopolitical strategy and long-time adviser to White House inhabitants, has long delivered his own version of sage advise to present incumbent Barack Obama. Yet what a mess has been made of such "wisdom". As always alert former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said: "Don't do stupid stuff". Yet "stupid stuff" is all that the Obama foreign policy team knows how to do. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 2, '14)

Russia welcomes Asia food imports
Russia has urged 10 Asian countries to boost their agricultural exports to Russia amid a Kremlin ban on products from many Western countries. Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev made his call at a meeting of Russian and Association of Southeast Asian Nations officials in Myanmar. (Aug 29, '14)

Food ban 'against Russia's interests'
Sergei Guriyev, former dean of the prestigious New Economics School in Moscow, says Russia's ban on food imports is good news for local producers, but protectionist policies pose dangers for economic growth. - Charles Recknagel (Aug 25, '14)

Sanctions rebound to hit Europeans
The United States can now add eastern Europe to its litany of catastrophic meddling in foreign parts. Its sanctions against Russia over events in Ukraine, will, as sanctions always do, hit ordinary folk hardest, especially, and only too ironically, food producers in the European Union. But the complacent suits in Washington, London and Brussels will claim: "We think the price is worth it." - Brian Cloughley (Aug 21, '14)

Iran 'no longer needs' Turkmenistan's gas
Turkmenistan may be about to lose its second-best customer for natural gas, Iran, with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh claiming that expansion of his country's gas production means it no longer needs to import from its northern neighbor. - Bruce Pannier (Aug 18, '14)

Vanishing point …
First, passenger airliner MH370 vanished, then it disappeared from the news cycle. Its fleet "sister" aircraft, MH17, was then shot down - and also quickly disappeared from the front pages - complete with black boxes, data recorders and the rest. MH370's fate may remain unknown; MH17's is much more prosaic - but will civil society will accept that it, too, remain a mystery? - Pepe Escobar (Aug 15, '14)

Putin's double standards in Ukraine
The long-standing fear of NATO's eastward expansion that has shaped the Kremlin's position on eastern Ukraine invites comparisons with the fears of foreign influence that prompted Stalin to establish his European empire. Russian President Vladimir Putin's double standards on arming the pro-Russians in Crimea are even worse than Western moral myopia towards the peninsula's desire to reunite with Mother Russia. - Brad Williams (Aug 15, '14)

Ukraine at risk from austerity demands
Financial aid packages to Ukraine from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, contingent on austerity reforms, will have a devastating impact on Ukrainians’ standard of living and increase poverty in the country. - Frederic Mousseau (Aug 13, '14)

NATO is desperate for war
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is desperate for a war in Ukraine, with scratcher-in-chief US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's talk of a build-up of Russian troops and warning that "of course it's a reality, it's a threat, it's a possibility - absolutely" - sort of, even when those troops are already packing their bags go head home. For Ukraine, read Gaza, or vice versa. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 8, '14)

Western plutocracy
goes bear hunting

The post-Cold War status quo in Eastern Europe, not to mention in Western Europe, is now dead and a Cold War 2.0 inevitable. The Empire of Chaos will never accept Russia's sphere of influence in parts of Eurasia (as it doesn't accept China's). It will never accept Russia as an equal partner. And it will never forgive Russia - alongside China - for openly defying the creaking, exceptionalist, American-imposed world order. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 1, '14)

Ukraine pact may deal blow to dollar
A deal between Germany and Russia could help to end the conflict in Ukraine. While recognizing Crimea's annexation by Russia, it could also further erode the importance of the US dollar in the region's energy transactions. - Chris Cook (Aug 1, '14)

Central Asia clash mars China gas plan
A fresh outbreak of border violence in Central Asia has raised doubts about China's plan to start building a gas pipeline through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan this year. - Michael Lelyveld (Jul 29, '14)

Russia told to pay $50bn in Yukos case
A court based in The Hague has ordered Russia to pay about US$50 billion to a group of former shareholders of the Yukos oil company, formerly owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, freed last year after eight years in prison on tax-evasion and embezzlement charges. The court said officials at state-owned Rosneft, which acquired most of Yukos's assets, were working for Russian President Vladimir Putin in destroying Yukos. (Jul 29, '14)

A chessboard drenched in blood
The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake, but it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. Washington has been quick off the blocks to ignite and in theory win the spin war to persuade the world that Russia's hand was wittingly or otherwise behind the downing of the civilian aircraft. Moscow, more rationally, is seeking the facts first, before pointing fingers of blame. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 23, '14)

The charge of the Atlanticist Brigade
No credible version of events points to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine as intentional mass murder or terrorism, and with international experts now getting access to the black box, there seems to be little the Atlanticist Brigade can use to point the finger at Moscow. Still, expect sanctions on Russia to follow, and for the reverberations to reach east all the way to China. - Peter Lee (Jul 22, '14)

Dutch try to reach plane crash site
Dutch experts hope to reach the crash site of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine today to help identify their nationals among the 298 victims. Amid international condemnation of pro-Russian rebels, who piled nearly 200 bodies from the downed jetliner into refrigerated rail carts, the UN will call for full access to the site for investigators. (Jul 21, '14)

It was Putin's missile!
Here's the spin war verdict on the latest Malaysia Airlines tragedy. It's "terrorism" perpetrated by "pro-Russian separatists" in Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is the main culprit. End of story. Anyone who believes otherwise, shut up. Why? Because the CIA said so. Unlike the United States, Russia will take its time to know the basic facts of what, where, and who, and engage on proving the truth to Washington's spin. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 19, '14)

US urges Ukraine ceasefire for crash probe
As relatives of the 298 people on board a Malaysian airliner grieve, the United States has called for an "immediate ceasefire" to ensure an unimpeded investigation into the crash of the aircraft over eastern Ukraine, amid claims that it was shot down in an incident that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has labeled a "terrorist act". Click here for news updates. (Jul 18, '14)

Karimov and Nazarbaev: 25 years on top
The last of the Soviet-era leaders still in power, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, left, and Nursultan Nazarbaev in neighboring Kazakhstan, have both marked 25 years at the helm. While they started out in 1989 with a relatively common past and destiny, a quarter of a century later they and their countries are very different. - Bruce Pannier (Jun 27, '14)

Ukrainian firms fight thuggery
Entrepreneurs in Ukraine are fighting back to recover property taken illegally in incursions by thugs who threw them out. The Anti-Raiding Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs claims 7,000 businesses were seized in the three years of Viktor Yanukovych's rule. - Tom Balmforth (Jun 26, '14)

Ukraine crisis reaches watershed
Numerous interpretations are at hand as to what really lies behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to remove the threat of intervention after the ceasefire in Ukraine. If the ceasefire holds, then a bafflingly complex phase of negotiations will begin. Aside from local actors, Uncle Sam's view needs to be factored in. And that's where the conflict looks far from being over. (Jun 25, '14)

Russian-Ukrainian 'gas war'
different this time around

Russia has halted gas supplies to Ukraine - a major escalation of a dispute in which Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom is demanding that Kiev settle its huge gas debt. But in many ways, what many have dubbed the third "gas war" between the two countries is different than previous disputes in 2006 and 2009. - Claire Bigg (Jun 18, '14)

Kyrgyz bazaar faces Russia, China choice
Dordoi Bazaar is experiencing dark days as Russia strives to consolidate its economic clout in former Soviet territories. The real money for the sprawling market in Kyrgyzstan is in the re-export of cheap goods from China and elsewhere, but traders say these these have dwindled since Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formed their customs union. - Chris Rickleton (Jun 18, '14)

Serbia warns of South Stream halt
Serbia may have to suspend construction of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline through its territory, according to energy minister Zorana Mihajlovic after Bulgaria said it was halting work on its segment of the pipeline. (Jun 11, '14)

Eastern interest in Eurasian economic deal
Kazakhstan is pressing ahead with a newly minted Eurasian Economic Union with Russia despite concerns over sovereignty exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict. Looking to deepen its involvement in Central Asia, South Korea is also glossing over foreign policy complications and taking a close look at the financial prospects of the union. - Philip Iglauer (Jun 11, '14)

Kurdish oil and a value vacuum
The "surprise" announcement that crude oil from Kurdistan had been shipped to Europe after being piped through Turkey raises important questions, not least of which concerns how, and in what currency, if any, this and later shipments will be paid for. - Chris Cook (Jun 11, '14)

Bulgaria halts work on South Stream
Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has announced that Bulgaria is suspending work on the disputed Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline, planned to transport Russian natural gas to the European Union bypassing Ukraine, following criticism from the EU and the United States. (Jun 9, '14)

Time runs out on Ukraine's gas debt
A deadline expires on Thursday for Ukraine to pay off its natural gas debts to Russia's state-controlled Gazprom or face a supply cut that also would impact other parts of Europe. Failure to pay could lead Russia to cut off its natural supply next week. (May 29, '14)

The future visible in St Petersburg
The now symbiotic China-Russia strategic alliance, with the possibility of extending towards Iran, is THE fundamental fact on the ground in the young 21st century. All roads in this partnership - an unholy alliance to eyes in Washington - converged in St Petersburg last week at Russia's answer to Davos, a week that arguably bore witness to the birth of the Eurasian century. Pepe Escobar (May 29, '14)

China offers Russia
a bridge to Europe

Even before the Ukraine crisis, Russia's excessive reliance on Europe and possible deeper integration into the continent as an "equal" partner had seemed a recipe for disaster. By drawing closer to China, Russia can secure Siberia and fashion its presence in Central Asia as an imperial mission. However, there is a risk this could encourage Moscow's monopolistic tendencies. - Francesco Sisci (May 27, '14)

Ukraine: A military-industrial
complex to die for

Ukraine's surprisingly well developed military industrial complex is responsible for Russian armaments ranging from aircraft and helicopter engines to space rockets, missiles and warships. If Russian President Vladimir Putin loses the country to the Europeans or worse, to the Atlantic alliance, this could spell doom for his country's military modernization and in the longer-term its position of regional strength. - Gregory J Moore (May 27, '14)

China's Silk-Road lessons for India
While US plans for a "new" Silk Road have faded in the Obama administration's second term, China is capitalizing on its better relations and rising economic clout in Central Asia to press ahead with land and maritime connections that emulate the ancient trade route. Given India's inferior connectivity ambitions, prime-minister elect Narendra Modi could take note of Beijing's ability to think big. - Tridivesh Singh Maini (May 23, '14)

China pivot fuels Eurasian century
The first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making light the sky this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin drops in on Chinese President Xi Jinping. As the two leaders seal a "Pipelineistan" of energy deals, look no further than the difference between China's focus on economic ties versus the US global military-first strategy for a measure of relative rise and decline. - Pepe Escobar (May 19, '14)

Break the silence: World war is beckoning
As the United States brings the world closer to war over Ukraine, just the latest in a long list of countries in which it meddles to often disastrous effect, rising poverty and hemorrhaging liberty at home are the historic corollary of a perpetual war state. Add the risk of nuclear war, and the question begs: why do we tolerate this? (May 14, '14)

Ukraine: The waiting game
The US hated the referendums - direct democracy in action - in Ukraine, and with the newly declared Donetsk People's Republic proclaiming itself willing to negotiate secession into Russia, the NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta gave the "illegal" votes no shrift. What's to do but wait for the junta to go broke? Then a neutral, Finlandized Ukraine might emerge to end the mess. - Pepe Escobar (May 13, '14)

Guilt and shame in Crimea
The Crimean conflict, said potentially to be triggering a new Cold War, is like the last Crimean War that ended in 1856 because it is about the difference between guilt and shame culture. Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the side of guilt, and perhaps without realizing it, also defending free-market principles and free speech against the bigotry of Western liberal statism. - Friedrich Hansen (May 12, '14)

Putin displays Ukraine chess mastery
Russian President and chess master Vladimir Putin, with a sacrifice of two pieces, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have secured a deal on Ukraine that will hold as long as the regime-changers in Kiev - and the Obama administration's juvenile delinquent school of diplomacy - abandon their "anti-terrorist operation" and are ready to negotiate with the federalists in the east and south of the country. - Pepe Escobar (May 9, '14)

Ukraine gets its Mafia-type loan
The first US$3.2 billion tranche of the International Monetary Fund's $17 billion loan to Ukraine has arrived, with nothing remotely key to reviving the Ukrainian economy among the conditions attached to this Mafia-style "loan" and its austerity package - from tax hikes and frozen pensions to an over 50% rise on the price of natural gas for heating homes. Ukrainians face a long cold winter. - Pepe Escobar (May 8, '14)

How Putin is re-inventing warfare
To many, including the US president, the crisis in Ukraine shows that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trapped in a Cold War, or even a 19th century, mindset. What Barack Obama and other critics fail to appreciate is that far from backward thinking, Putin's strategy indicates a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.
Other news
from Ukraine. (May 7, '14)

Moscow wrestles with Ukrainian meaning
As the Kremlin continues to spin the causes of conflict in Ukraine for domestic political consumption, the generals in Moscow have every reason to re-examine their views on modernization and the future structure of their forces. The country's military theorists are examining what the operation in Crimea means for the nature of warfare itself. - Roger McDermot

NATO's soft war on Russia
NATO, still humiliated on a daily basis by a bunch of Pashtuns with Kalashnikovs in Afghanistan, is considering "new defensive measures" to deter "evil" Russia from "aggression" against its members, mostly the Baltic states. That will mean deployment of more combat forces to Eastern Europe - permanently. As if any doubt remained that Cold War 2.0 is here to stay. - Pepe Escobar (May 2, '14)

Russia bars outsiders from Okhotsk Sea
Russia has closed to all outside shipping and fishing the entire Sea of Okhotsk - some 52,000 square kilometers of water that had been open to other countries for fishing and deep-water exploration, a move that both exacerbates international conflicts in the Western Pacific and suggests how Moscow plans to proceed in the Arctic. - Paul Goble (Apr 30, '14)

Obama's 'strategy' against 'pariah' Russia
If the United States applied real, hardcore sanctions against Russia, they would be devastating mostly for US allies, not Moscow. Nor does a failed pariah state - the White House goal for Russia - do mega energy deals. No adults in Europe will follow Washington down this ill-fated road. - Pepe Escobar
(Apr 29, '14)

Erdogan inches forward on Armenia killings
Turkish-Armenians are welcoming Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's offer of "condolences" for the mass killings of Armenian that began 99 years ago during the Ottoman era. It is likely to need more than Erdogan's words, including political agility, to lead other important steps toward reconciliation. - Joshua Kucera (Apr 25, '14)

Moscow's shady Ukraine denials shed light
Moscow's denials of military involvement in eastern Ukraine bear a resemblance to the official line on Crimea until President Vladimir Putin recently confirmed otherwise. Certain aspects of these official denials may shed some light on Russia's wider strategy to stop the crisis from escalating. - Roger Mcdermott (Apr 25, '14)
Click here for the latest news from Ukraine.

Hypocrisy carries a price in Ukraine
Theories abound as to what exactly caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they can be trumped by one reason alone: an unbearable cognitive dissonance or, to put it more simply, an all-prevailing sense of total hypocrisy. As the US desperately seeks some kind of victory in the Ukraine, its AngloZionists should be all too aware of the price to pay for prizing vanity above truth. (Apr 23, '14)

Putin warns of US navy threat
President Vladimir Putin last week described North Atlantic Treaty Organization missile batteries aimed at Russia's Black Sea coastline as threatening the nuclear defenses of southwestern Russia, the first time the president or Russian defense officials have put Crimea into Russian strategic survival doctrine. US Navy deployment in the Black Sea of ships armed with Aegis missiles is one of the concrete threats Putin was referring to. - John Helmer (Apr 22, '14)

Hoodwinked by the Strangelove effect
As NATO's post-Cold War eastward expansion rolls relentlessly towards Ukraine, and as US plans to mass troops in the Asia-Pacific evolve, it is as if the dark world of nuclear lunacy glimpsed in the Stanley Kubrick satire Dr Strangelove had been reborn for the 21st century. The maniacs in charge may be different, but the US vision to dominate the Eurasian landmass hasn't changed. (Apr 22, '14)

Ukraine and the
grand chessboard

In a sane, non-Hobbesian environment, a neutral Ukraine would only gain by positioning itself as a privileged crossroads between the European Union and the proposed Eurasian Union, as well as a key node of the Chinese New Silk Road - not to mention of vital link in a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Instead, the present disaster is a big spanner in the works - a spanner that suits only one player: the US government. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 17, '14)

Putin warns of Ukraine 'civil war'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Ukraine is "on the verge of civil war", speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Ukrainian armed forces retook control of a military air base in the east of the country, part of an action the White House described as a "measured" response to an "untenable" situation after pro-Russian separatists seized control of buildings and other facilities in at least nine cities. (Apr 16, '14)

This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993
YouTube is full of amateur footage showing all sorts of militarized units being moved towards the Ukrainian cities of Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk. Local people have tried to stop them, without success. This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993, when the subsequent bloodbath was hidden from the public. Something very similar might happen soon in eastern Ukraine. (Apr 11, '14)

Crimea crisis may cut China gas price
Western pressure on Russia over its annexation of Crimea has raised expectations that it will offer China better terms on a long-delayed gas deal in time for President Vladimir Putin's planned visit in May. - Michael Lelyveld (Apr 8, '14)

Afghan vote count underway
Ballot boxes from Afghanistan's 34 provinces are being transferred to Kabul for final counting in the wake of the country's presidential election - after a first counting of the same ballots in local polling stations. At least one set of votes will not tally - a truck carrying full ballot boxes was struck by a roadside bomb, killing three people. (Apr 7, '14)

Armenian tilt toward Kremlin draws fire
Although it has always had close ties with Russia, Armenia raised eyebrows with its decision last month to vote against a UN resolution condemning Moscow over its incorporation of Crimea. The harshest critics of the move have been domestic ones, who say the government in Yerevan has now made the country little more than a Russian satellite. - Emil Danielyan (Apr 7, '14)

Ukraine gripes about Gazprom gouging
In the wake of Ukraine's turn to the West and Russia's move into Crimea. Ukraine is paying more for gas from Russia than states in the European Union, and it claims Moscow is engaging in economic warfare via state-owned gas provider Gazprom. - Radio Free Europe (Apr 7, '14)

The US-Russia
Ukrainian deal

The heart of the matter - obscured by a rainbow bridge of hysteria - is that neither Washington nor Moscow want Ukraine to become a festering wound. Moscow told Washington, officially, it has no intention of "invading" Ukraine. And Washington told Moscow that, for all the demented rhetoric, it does not want to expand NATO to either Ukraine or Georgia. What the European Union wants is neither here nor there. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 4, '14)

Let's embrace the new cold war
For better or for worse, Russia is objectively the undisputed leader of the world resistance to the AngloZionist Empire. With the crisis in Ukraine, Russia has openly accepted the US challenge and all the pretenses of some kind of US-Russian strategic partnership are long gone. The big beneficiaries will be Iran and China. (Apr 4, '14)

Russia makes bid for Kyrgyz airports
Russian state energy firm Rosneft has made an offer for a majority stake in the company that owns Kyrgyzstan's civilian airports. With the US military pulling out of Manas airport and few Western firms willing to invest in the troubled former Soviet state, the Rosneft offer may be the only way to ensure future air service in Kyrgyzstan. - Asel Kalybekova (Apr 4, '14)

Turkish voters get the message
The Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s landslide victory in Turkish local elections on Sunday defied the international media's depiction of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dictator, and the AKP as a secretly anti-Semitic religious cult with designs on state and security apparatuses. Either there was a massive miscount or Western media can't hear the Turkish people's true voice. - Adam Bennett McConnel (Apr 3, '14)

Cold War paradigm well suited to Crimea
Talk of a "new cold war" between Russia and the West following the Ukraine crisis appears to be undermined by the realities of today's multipolar, globalized world. However, similarities do exist in the way the United States has reacted. Then, as now, Washington framed every crisis around the world as vital to US security interests. - Urvashi Aneja (Apr 2, '14)

Russia eases citizenship demands
Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has proposed legislation that would make it easier for Russian speakers from abroad to obtain citizenship in the country. The move may simplify Russia's incorporation of Crimea following a referendum there. It may also draw already scarce specialists and entrepreneurs away from Central Asia's ex-Soviet "Stans". - Farangis Najibullah (Apr 1, '14)

Geography and ideals
clash in Ukraine

While Russia's deepest historic connection is with its land and people, the United States is focused on ideas and ideology. These contrasting perspectives represent the biggest East-West disconnect over the crisis in Ukraine. Europe's leaders likely understand Russian President Vladimir Putin's motivations more than Washington, but Putin's unpredictable lashing out left them with little choice but to turn away. - Francesco Sisci (Apr 1, '14)

The Kerry-Lavrov
chess match

As Russia's leaders continue to point out, a loose federation is the only possible solution for Ukraine, as part of a "deep constitutional reform", implying ethnic Russian eastern and southern Ukraine would be largely autonomous. US Secretary of State John Kerry might just be starting to realize that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will play the final move in this game. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 31, '14)

Crimean conquest shows China the way
While Chinese hawks know that Russia's annexation of Crimea is not an easily transposable template for forcible takeovers, those advocating a harsher line on maritime territorial claims likely view the crisis as both a precedent and a window of opportunity. With Washington and Brussels focused on Moscow's next move, miniature "land-grabs" could be attempted in the South China Sea at reduced cost. - Euan Graham (Mar 31, '14)

Why the EU can't 'isolate' Russia
Most eurocrats were busy taking selfies or twittering as Barack Obama pompously lectured them on the evils of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The US president's exhortations in Brussels for Europe to frack away from dependency on Russian business fall on deaf ears when everybody knows there is no energy - in every sense - for the European Union and its neighbors to isolate the Kremlin. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 27, '14)

Crimea sets dangerous precedent for Asia
Russia took Crimea in full knowledge that the United States lacked any resolve to fight over the issue, a capitulation not missed in the capitals of China and North Korea. To prevent similar aggression in East Asia, Washington must not only improve its own military relations with Japan and South Korea - it must also ensure these countries' troubled relations are fully reconciled. - Victor Cha (Mar 27, '14)

Asia will not 'isolate' Russia
Envy the fly on the wall in The Hague when cool Xi Jinping met Barack Obama, pivoting around himself because China and the rest of Asia will not "isolate" Russia. China is Russia's strategic partner and along with Japan and South Korea (essentially US protectorates) identifies more with a steady supply of oil and gas, and business deals struck in Moscow, than helping stir an anachronistic Western-provoked New Cold War. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 25, '14)

Sanction me baby one more time
Sanctions salvos from the West in the war-as farce over Russia's annexation of Crimea are coming in thick and fast. Sanctioned Russians, however, are not exactly quaking in their made-in-London brogues: the practical impact of sanctions on them is exactly zero. As Moscow returns fire by announcing it will play hardball - Western geopolitical interests and Europe's dependency on Russian energy supplies make easy targets. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 21, '14)

How Crimea plays in Beijing
China is officially absolutely neutral on the Cold War battlefield of Ukraine and Crimea, yet the real deal is support to Moscow, unspoken because Beijing is not interested in antagonizing the West unless heavily provoked (by hardcore encirclement). Meanwhile, Western dogs - like American ambassador to the UN Samantha Power - bark, and the Sino-Russian caravan passes on. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 20, '14)

Russia issues passports in Crimea
As Ukrainian officers leave their navy's southern headquarters in Novoozerny, Russian soldiers stand guard. In a day of high tension on Wednesday, Moscow has begun issuing passports to residents of Crimea, saying they are now Russian citizens and Ukraine started to withdraw its forces from bases were taken over by militias and Russian troops. (Mar 20, '14)

Six lessons from the Crimean crisis
The speed and ease with which Russia reclaimed its hold on the Crimean Peninsula have left much of the world reeling. But the factors that went into it were years in the making. Here are six life lessons for acquisitive future dictators and countries trying to break free of them. - Daisy Sindelar (Mar 19, '14)

Crimean youth mistrustful of Moscow
While older generations in Crimea have welcomed its annexation by Russia, youths who've grown up as Ukrainians are fearful of what will happen to their jobs and freedoms "under a different regime". As violence grows between pro-Russian communities and those supporting the new Kiev government, Russia's new region appears set for a troubled birth. - Pavol Stracansky (Mar 19, '14)

Sanctions help US feel better, no more
Clear messages emerge from the American fanfare that has accompanied the "most comprehensive" sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War and the drumbeating preceding it: aggression is accepted if it doesn't threaten US economic interests, there is no morality in foreign policy, and sanctions are just for keeping up appearances. (Mar 18, '14)

Death throes of world supremacy
There is more to re-building a bankrupt nation than parading in wannabe Nazi uniforms, taking US money, and screaming "Glory to the Ukraine!" Yet the US helped Ukraine get into this crazy situation because its foreign policy is not run by diplomats, but by politicians for whom signs that the US is no more a real global superpower make this goal a higher priority. (Mar 18, '14)

From Kiev to Beijing … and Taipei
If Taiwan were tempted to follow Ukraine's example and disassociate itself from China, the One China policy would become fair game and embolden ethnic regions in their demands for independence. Alarm in Beijing is tempered by the current Taipei government's independence-averse stance. But Taiwan is in play should the geopolitical win in Kiev prove lure enough for Washington to rock the boat. - Peter Lee (Mar 18, '14)

Russia 1, Regime Changers 0
The US State Department has practically agreed to a Finlandized Ukraine - the solution being proposed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov right from the start. Expect Secretary of State John Kerry to go on overdrive to steal the credit and for the US corporate media to buy it. Essentially, Moscow didn't need an assist from the Crimean referendum; the "Khaganate of Nulands" has scored an own goal.
- Pepe Escobar (Mar 17, '14)

Ukraine looks West to fill gas gap
Russian threats to stop gas deliveries to Ukraine and the expectation that Gazprom will cancel recent discounts force Kiev to send its energy minister to Brussels this week to seek EU imports. Costly gas from the West and the withdrawal of Russian loans exact a huge blow to Ukraine's finances. - Oleg Varfolomeyev (Mar 17, '14)

Crimea and Western 'values'
Crimea - historically, culturally, sentimentally - is Russian, conquered by Catherine the Great from the Ottomans in 1783. Sevastopol was founded by Catherine. If a swing band would play a version of I Left My Heart in Sevastopol, all hearts involved would be Russian. Yet Western Cold War-style warriors warp their own record to selfishly deny that the people of Crimea have a right to self-determination in Sunday's referendum. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 14, '14)

If a tree falls in Dushanbe …
When the former Soviet city of Dushanbe bore Stalin's name, he had its boulevards lined with sycamores. But they are being replaced with expensive chestnut trees from Belgium, leaving residents wondering what lies behind the swap, given Tajikistan's notorious corruption. (Mar 14, '14)

Mongolian rivalries deter investors
Competing interests among business factions and politicians are adding layers of complexity to the country's foreign policy and undermining its fledgling democracy. But intense domestic rivaly welcomes assertive Russian interests, increases Chinese dominance, and discourages Western investors. - Mendee Jargalsaikhany (Mar 13, '14)

The new Great (Threat) Game in Eurasia
Few in the West seem to have noticed that in Ukraine - and for the first time since the end of World War II - fascists and neo-nazis are at the helm of a European nation. But the glitterati in Washington and the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels supporting "our bastards" in Ukraine know that, sanctions threats to Moscow or not, Europe will come crawling back to get its Russian gas fix. Vlad the Hammer knows it too. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 12, '14)

The Rocky punch in US foreign policy
When US Secretary of State John Kerry invoked an anti-Russian Hollywood movie to implore a Russian leader to heed US warnings over the Russian putsch in Ukraine, he displayed the lack of self-awareness that is stamped all over US foreign policy. Rocky IV was a masterpiece of political propaganda, and a showcase for the absurdities of faith in American exceptionalism. - Issa Ardakani (Mar 12, '14)

Moscow buries North Caucasus revival
Plans such as those by oil behemoth Rosneft to build an oil refinery in Chechnya under government pressure on Russian companies to invest in the North Caucasus are unlikely to materialize. After years of optimistic statements, Moscow's economic revival strategy for the region has essentially been pronounced dead. - Valery Dzutsev (Mar 12, '14)

'Dostumistan' back on Afghan map
Ethnic Uzbek leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum set up his own foreign affairs ministry and airline in northern Afghanistan after Taliban forces captured Kabul in 1996. With the general casting his net in neighboring Central Asian capitals this year, the state jokingly referred to as "Dostumistan" is back in view. Uzbekistani authorities are serious about the value of a buffer should Afghanistan fracture after US troops withdraw. - Igor Rotar (Mar 11, '14)

More sitcom than CENTCOM
Americans stumble into the world's troubles like incongruous clowns in a tragedy, concluding from the anguished faces of other characters that everyone else on stage is insane. In the situation comedy of errors in Ukraine, the chance to forge a new consensus was missed - and now the US must grin and bear the consequences. (Mar 10, '14)

'Yesterday Stalin, today Putin'
A woman holds a sign reading "Yesterday Stalin, Today Putin" as descendants of Crimean Tartars deported by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944 protest in Istanbul against Russian actions in Crimea. Demonstrators argue that Turkey should use its influence to ensure that the Black Sea peninsula remains a part of Ukraine and is not annexed by Russia. - Glenn Kates (Mar 10, '14)

Turkey walking a tightrope over Crimea
As Russia's intervention in Crimea plays out, pressure is growing on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act to protect Crimean Tatars, a pro-Ukrainian ethnic minority group with strong cultural links to Turkey. Domestic critics will pounce on any hint that Erdogan is not supporting the Tartars, but taking a more confrontational position with Moscow could cause a major disruption in trade. - Dorian Jones (Mar 10, '14)

C'mon baby, light my (Crimean) fire
March 16 is C Day, when Crimean voters choose between joining the Russian Federation or staying in Ukraine as an autonomous region. Whatever incandescent "diplomatic" gestures Washington and Brussels keep making meanwhile, the facts on the ground show Moscow is lighting the way. As Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy "Yats" Yatsenyuk's Western-backed "government" in Kiev rages, the question is can cooler German heads damp the fire? - Pepe Escobar (Mar 7, '14)

Kyrgyz coal wars stymie investment
The Kara-Keche coal deposit in Kyrgyzstan is a key asset for the country's struggling economy, but production at the open-pit mines is split across an array of local outfits, with gangsters also looking for a cut. Foreign investors are needed, but are wary. (Mar 6, '14)

Ukraine: The clash of partnerships
Just when you thought it was safe to get back into geopolitics, the Cold War has reared its ugly head once again, with the clash of stereotypical characters and the hope that history is repeating itself as farce, not tragedy, in Ukraine. Yet even those who condemn the introduction of Russian troops in Crimea have to remember that the Cold War is over - and both sides must act that way. - John Feffer (Mar 6, '14)

Putin's army salutes a Nulandized Kiev
US support for the pro-EU faction in Ukraine in the lead up to dramatic events in Crimea was unambiguous, with the Obama administration's European and Eurasian affairs supremo Victoria Nuland even planting steel-capped boots on the ground during the political upheaval. But the clumsily executed regime-change strategy and the exclusion of Russia from the process let Vladimir Putin imagine the worst - and act accordingly. - Peter Lee (Mar 4, '14)

US hawks take flight over Ukraine
A familiar clutch of US hawks has taken wing over the rapidly developing crisis in Ukraine, claiming that Washington's "credibility" as a superpower and the current post-Cold War international order have been put at stake over the White House's decision to favor diplomacy over military action. - Jim Lobe (Mar 4, '14)

Ukrainian blood on Kerry's hands
How far the threatening posture US Secretary of State John Kerry took toward President Vladimir Putin over Russia's military stance on Ukraine, and specifically Crimea, was genuine doesn't really matter. What matters is that Kerry demanded virtual capitulation by Russia under the shadow of US retribution, and that's being plain dishonest and unrealistic. Nor can Kerry say there is no blood on his own hands. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 3, '14)

Carnival in Crimea
NATO's ultimate desire is to command a Western puppet Ukrainian government to kick the Russian navy out of its Black Sea base in the Crimea and scupper its plain-sailing to Syria. So far, the Ukrainian revolution seems to be keeping that party going, but the Russian-leaning Crimean parliament's strong signal of a split from Ukraine adds a new twist to the plot. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 28, '14)

Putin stands up to Western decadence
Vladimir Putin has his gaze firmly on Barack Obama's botched progressive agenda when taking issue with a sclerotic and decadent turn in Western culture, even as critics are quick to dismiss his thinking as backward. Yet a tour through some influential ideas of European thought should alert everyone that the Russian president is not to be underestimated, particularly not intellectually. - Friedrich Hansen (Feb 28, '14)

'Neutral' Turkmenistan boosts defenses Turkmenistan has pursued a UN-recognized policy of international diplomatic neutrality for the past 18 years, yet that is no impediment to recent government measures presented to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the country’s president and supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to strengthen border security and boost the fight against drug-trafficking. Turkmenistan is concerned about its borders, and with politically unstable neighbors, it should be. - John C K Daly (Feb 27, '14)

Kazakh devaluation sparks social action
Protests over Kazakhstan's devaluation of its currency this month signal a fresh interest in social action among younger people. Much of the anger shown in street protests was focused on President Nursultan Nazarbayev personally. - Dauren Altynov (Feb 26, '14)

Careful what you wish for in Ukraine
Western governments jubilant at the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich can justly claim the ouster of a Russian ally as a well-deserved embarrassment to Moscow. But in sizing up European anxiety over the size of the bill to settle Ukraine's problems, the Kremlin is telling the West to be careful what it wishes for, knowing that the waiting game favors Russia's higher tolerance for pain. (Feb 24, '14)

T-10 - or Ukraine in a test tube
Ukraine's crisis, which developed from a simple protest to regime change and perhaps eventually a full-blown civil war, highlights humans' inability to assess the potential evolution of events from the ordinary to revolutionary sea-changes. Predictions of how such events might progress would be less contradictory if thought were given to such simple cases as the growth of bacteria in a test tube. (Feb 24, '14)

Migrants feel pinch of Kazakh devaluation
Migrant workers from around Central Asia securing jobs in Kazakhstan welcome the chance to send hard-earned savings back home. The task has now been made much more difficult, thanks to the devaluation of Kazakhstan's currency. - Farangis Najibullah
(Feb 24, '14)

Global fingers stir Ukrainian conflict
The footage coming out of Ukraine creates an illusion that what is taking place is total chaos and that nobody controls it. That is the wrong impression. Actors behind the conflict are pulling strings, though those who have got that far and think Russia is involved with the aim of reviving a sense of empire are very much mistaken. (Feb 21, '14)

Back to basics in the Ukraine
As dramatic events in the Ukraine unfold, this is a good time to go back to basics and look at what a government - any government, regardless of its political orientation - can and even must do when confronted with an urban armed insurrection. The oligarchic puppet in power is doing everything wrong, and nothing positive will happen in the Ukraine until he is unseated. (Feb 20, '14)

Migrant influx leads to Moscow clashes
An influx of migrant workers from Central Asia and the South Caucasus and of workers from the North Caucasus has triggered clashes in Moscow and other Russian cities, and this flow appears likely to spark violence in places far from the Russian capital. - Paul Goble (Feb 19, '14)

EU-Gazprom showdown nears
A long-standing row between Gazprom and the European Union over alleged price fixing and monopoly practices by the Russian company is coming to a head, with the findings of an impending European Commission report not expected to be pretty. - Charles Recknagel (Feb 12, '14)

Iran nears oil barter deal with Moscow
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Moscow this week, where he will reportedly discuss an unprecedented deal to barter Iranian oil for Russian goods, with an agreement close to being finalized. - Pavel Felgenhauer (Jan 17, '14)

Kyrgyz-Tajik border clash provokes road row
Tensions are still running high around a Tajik enclave in southern Kyrgyzstan after border troops clashed on January 11, when the Tajik side confronted workers laying a road through an area in the Ferghana Valley where sovereignty is disputed. While incidents are common on the complex frontier, this clash stands out because it has escalated into a full-scale diplomatic row.
(Jan 16, '14)

Russia needs the US in Afghanistan
Russia's need to ensure that Afghanistan remains a buffer state between it and the Islamic world will see unprecedented support lent towards American plans to remain encamped there. Moscow knows US bases can be used for running spies and influencing Afghan policy, but the specter of Islamic insurgency - glimpsed in recent suicide blasts in Volgograd - leaves it with little choice. - Salman Wattoo (Jan 15, '14)

Russia collects on Ukraine's bills
The cost of Russia's plan to restore “full-fledged” ties between Moscow and Kiev are becoming more apparent as representing a gradual Russian leveraged buyout of Ukraine, which is liable to wake up one morning soon and find that its independence and territory have been gradually sold off to Russia. Stephen Blank (Jan 9, '14)

Russian arms nudge Central Asia to edge
Russia's donation to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan of weapons worth US$1.2 billion, ostensibly to help counter possible threats emanating from Afghanistan, risks encouraging escalation of present serious disputes involving Central Asian states to open conflict. The chance of onward sales to militant groups is also all too high. - Fozil Mashrab (Jan 8, '14)


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