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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)

Kyrgyz president fears war in the south
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's announcement of the imminent delivery of arms under a US$1 billion agreement with Russia, allied to his warning this week of a possible "foreign army attack" on his country, ratchet up the risk that cross-border skirmishes in the Ferghana Valley may give way to open conflict in Central Asia. - Ryskeldi Satke (Dec 20, '13)

Domestic violence rises on Kazakh agenda
The reporting of assaults on women including an attack by a rural mayor in northern Kazakhstan has put domestic violence on the country's political agenda again as legal amendments to tighten up landmark legislation against abuse that was passed in 2009 make their way through parliament. - Joanna Lillis (Dec 18, '13)

Russia media takes a turn for the worse
Russia is set to lose one of its few relatively objective news outlets as the Kremlin moves to tighten its grip on the country's media. While one outlet has been closed, the head of a new global news agency has previously praised Stalinist policies and called for homosexuals' hearts to be burned when they die. (Dec 16, '13)

Kyrgyzstan: Local roots of global jihad
In southern Kyrgyzstan, it appears to be mostly ethnic Uzbeks who are answering the call for jihad in Syria. The notion of helping defenseless Syrian Sunni Muslims and the appeal of Saudi funds are proving alluring to a minority that has felt isolated and oppressed since violent clashes in 2010 with the Kyrgyz majority. - The Fake Spaniard (Dec 16, '13)

Lives unrepaired after Armenian earthquake
With the devastation from the earthquake that crushed Armenia's second-largest city and killed 25,000 people a quarter of a century ago still apparent in a fractured urban landscape, many survivors who still call the area home live in inadequate shelter and have had a tough time putting the trauma behind them. - Gayane Abrahamyan (Dec 9, '13)

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan:
Cold leaders, warm ties

Agreements and cordiality flow when Turkmenistan's Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov get together these days, a sharp contrast to the cold way both leaders regard their respective peoples. The personal chemistry and developing business ties make relations markedly different to a just over a decade ago, when they had entered a deep freeze. - Kitty Stapp (Dec 6, '13)

Europe warns on South Stream deals
The European Commission is warning European Union members signed up to Russia's South Stream natural-gas pipeline project to renegotiate the terms or risk legislation infringement procedures. EU candidate Serbia, for one, says that is too much to ask. (Dec 6, '13)

Ukraine's Russian gambit all about cash
The bitter protests in Ukraine over whether the country's future lies with Russia (as the government seems to favor) or the European Union cannot mask that the official message to the EU is little changed: what we need is money, not the human rights sermon. For the country's elite, this tug-of-war is just that - not about values, not about identity. In the end, it's all about money. - Mikhail A Molchanov (Dec 4, '13)

The gates of hell open in Ukraine
European politicians and Ukrainian opposition parties have gone into overdrive to attempt yet another color-coded revolution in Kiev. As the gates of hell open, events bode for more outpouring of hypocritical crocodile tears from the so-called "international community" while the people of Ukraine turn on each other. (Dec 2, '13)

Off-radar gold mine sustains Kyrgyz village
Jobs are hard to come by in Kyrgyzstan, forcing large-scale movement of workers to Russia. One village, however, has found a way to survive, by tapping into a gold mine while avoiding the watchful eye of the authorities. - Asel Kalybekova (Nov 21, '13)

Kyrgyz workers query Chinese influx
Chinese funds are helping to upgrade Kyrgyzstan's highways and other infrastructure, but labor activists are demanding to know why so many jobs are also going to Chinese workers when locals have to seek employment in Russia. - Bakyt Asanov and Farangis Najibullah (Nov 18, '13)

China extends grip in Central Asia
President Xi Jinping's latest tour through Central Asia underlined China's growing economic clout in the region. While local public attitudes to the superpower can turn hostile, presidents and ruling elites see Beijing as offering a lifeline for their political survival. - Baktybek Beshimov and Ryskeldi Satke (Nov 13, '13)

HIV 'wave' feared in Central Asia
Healthcare systems in Eastern Europe and Central Asia remain woefully unable to cope with HIV/AIDS, as the region's epidemic - the fastest growing in the world - takes on a new dimension, according to a senior United Nations official. While some countries have managed to bring down new infection rates, others, notably Russia, are apathetic or even hostile to harm reduction. - Pavol Stracansky (Nov 4, '13)

Georgians debate Saakashvili legacy
Giorgi Margvelashvili's election as the new president of Georgia has closed the chapter on Mikheil Saakashvili's near-decade hold over the country. The outgoing president's role as a state builder, thrusting his country outside Russia's political orbit, is well documented, but beyond that Georgians struggle to define the true legacy of a domineering leader. - Molly Corso (Oct 30, '13)

Crash prompts rage against Tajik machine
It's nothing new for the well-connected to raise hell in the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe, racing through the capital in expensive luxury cars. But now there is blood on the streets after a fatal car crash involving a young driver with links to the first family, and it's an election year. - Farangis Najibullah (Oct 18, '13)

Russia-bashing debunked
Opening a new occasional column on Asia Times Online, blogger The Saker debunks recent Russia-bashing in the Western media and sees no end to the barrage of propaganda, simply because it has become a form of psychotherapy for a panicked and clueless plutocracy. (Oct 17, '13)

Rahmon's critic out of race, but alive
Oinihol Bobonazarova's open criticism of Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon and her focus on jobs and migration might have been sufficient to force a run-off in next month's presidential election. Instead, her "failure" to secure enough supporting signatures to run leaves Rahmon, who has run controlled country since 1992, with no real opposition to his securing another term. At least Bobonazarova can console herself that she is still alive. - Fozil Mashrab (Oct 15, '13)

Reports of Russia’s
death are exaggerated

Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America

The United States can make strategic plans in Asia on the premise that Russia's recent return to world power status will ultimately be undermined by demographic disaster triggered by long-term social collapse. But while that outcome - put forward in Ilan Berman's new volume, cannot be excluded, neither is it likely. Russia will be around for quite a while, and requires strength, not bluff, to handle. (Oct 15, '13)

Aliyev wins, Azeri opposition cries foul
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev appears headed for re-election to a third five-year term by a landslide, declaring the ballot transparent and a "triumph for democracy". While international observers are yet to declare their verdict on the fairness of the polls, the opposition alleges electoral fraud took place on a massive scale. (Oct 10, '13)

Moscow seeks full-spectrum US engagement
An element of the tectonic shift in Syria sees Free Syrian Army "moderates" engage Damascus in jaw, not war, as President Bashar al-Assad emerges as the only figure capable of rolling back the al-Qaeda. The growing strength of groups linked to al-Qaeda puts the US and Russia (and also Iran) on the same page, and presents an opportunity for the Kremlin to build on "common achievements" and focus White House eyes on fronts beyond Syria's civil war. - M K Bhadrakumar (Oct 4, '13)

Sanctions-lusting US gets free ride - so far
Washington feels free to sanction Russian entities for conduct legal in Russian and international law. Put the boot on the other foot, and international action against Google, Microsoft, Apple et al for illegal data interception could cost them as much a US$35 billion. - John Helmer (Oct 3, '13)


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