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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Turkmenistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests - 97-1055


Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

When Turkmenistan gained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the former republic’s president and head of the Turkmen Communist Party, Saparamurad Niyazov, retained power. He was reelected president in another uncontested race in 1992, and a referendum in 1994 extended his term until 2002. Before facing reelection, however, constitutional amendments approved in 1999 proclaimed him president for life. The country’s May 1992 constitution granted Niyazov overwhelming powers to rule by decree as head of state and government. According to several assessments, he was among the world’s most authoritarian rulers, and his regime was highly corrupt and responsible for serious human rights abuses.

Following the death of President Niyazov in December 2006, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected president in early 2007. A new constitution approved in 2008 reaffirmed Turkmenistan as a “secular democracy” with a powerful president able to rule by decree. The constitution included an impressive list of individual rights, but emphasized that the exercise of rights must not violate public order or damage national security. An early legislative election was held in December 2008. International observers assessed the election as not free and fair. The next Mejlis election is scheduled for December 2013.According to some observers, the Berdimuhamedow government has retained many authoritarian features of the previous regime, and the human rights situation has deteriorated after an initial improvement at the time of the political succession.

A presidential election was held on February 12, 2012. The National Revival Movement, a civic association headed by the president, nominated incumbent President Berdimuhamedow as its candidate. In January 2012, the CEC registered eight candidates. All of Berdimuhamedow’s challengers were ministerial officials or state plant managers. Based on an inadequate legal and political framework to ensure a pluralistic election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided not to send a fully-staffed monitoring mission, although a smaller number of observers issued a report with recommendations for electoral reforms. The CEC announced that Berdimuhamedow won over 97% of the vote and that turnout was over 96%.

A legislative election is scheduled for December 15, 2013. For the first time, a newly created Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a pro-government party, has been permitted to field some candidates. The OSCE decided once more not to send a fully-staffed monitoring mission on the grounds that legal and human rights conditions remain inadequate, but will send a small team to issue a remediation report.

In Congressional testimony in late July 2012, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake praised Turkmenistan for providing some humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and for constructing or planning rail and energy links to the country, including the prospective Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. He stated that such projects illustrate that Turkmenistan has the potential to be a leader in regional economic development. At the same time, he cautioned that to reach this potential, Turkmenistan must address its human rights problems. He reported that the United States would continue to offer assistance to help Turkmenistan democratize and respect human rights. Cumulative U.S. assistance to Turkmenistan has amounted to $351.55 million over the period FY1992-FY2010 (all agencies and programs). U.S. foreign assistance amounted to $11.01 million in FY2011, $9.2 million in FY2012, and an estimated $6.02 million in FY2013. The Administration has requested $6.455 million for FY2014 (these amounts include “Function 150” foreign assistance programs and exclude Defense and Energy Department funding).

Date of Report: December 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: 97-1055
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests - RL33458


Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism; proliferation; and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons. Other U.S. objectives have included promoting free markets, democratization, human rights, energy development, and the forging of East-West and Central Asia-South Asia trade links. Such policies aim to help the states become what various U.S. administrations have considered to be responsible members of the international community rather than to degenerate into xenophobic, extremist, and anti-Western regimes that contribute to wider regional conflict and instability. Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian “front-line” states offered over-flight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan hosted coalition troops and provided access to airbases. In 2003, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also endorsed coalition military action in Iraq. About two dozen Kazakhstani troops served in Iraq until late 2008. Uzbekistan rescinded U.S. basing rights to support operations in Afghanistan in 2005 after the United States criticized the reported killing of civilians in the town of Andijon. In early 2009, Kyrgyzstan ordered a U.S. base in that country to close, allegedly because of Russian inducements and U.S. reluctance to meet Kyrgyz requests for greatly increased lease payments. An agreement on continued U.S. use of the Manas Transit Center was reached in June 2009. The Kyrgyz leadership has notified the United States that it will not extend the basing agreement when it comes up for renewal in 2014, and the Administration is moving operations to other locations. In recent years, most of the regional states also have participated in the Northern Distribution Network for the transport of U.S. and NATO supplies into and out of Afghanistan.

Policy makers have tailored U.S. policy in Central Asia to the varying characteristics of these states. U.S. interests in Kazakhstan have included securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear and biological weapons materials and facilities. U.S. energy firms have invested in oil and natural gas development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and successive administrations have backed diverse export routes to the West for these resources. U.S. policy toward Kyrgyzstan has long included support for its civil society. In Tajikistan, the United States focuses on developmental assistance to bolster the fragile economy and address high poverty rates. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the region, can gain economically if water resources are properly developed and managed. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan—the most populous state in the heart of the region—were cool after 2005, but recently have improved. Congress has been at the forefront in advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and in providing backing for the region for the transit of equipment and supplies for U.S.-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Congress has pursued these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance; security issues; and human rights.

During the 113
th Congress, the Members may review assistance for bolstering regional border and customs controls and other safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combating trafficking in persons and drugs, encouraging regional integration with South Asia and Europe, advancing energy and other resource security, and countering terrorism. Support for these goals also has been viewed as contributing to U.S. and NATO stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. For several years, Congress has placed conditions on assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan because of concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization (the Secretary of State may waive such conditions). Congress will continue to consider how to balance these varied U.S. interests in the region as U.S. and NATO military operations wind down in Afghanistan.

Date of Report: November 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 75
Order Number: RL33458
Price: $29.95


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Georgia's October 2013 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications


Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

This report discusses Georgia’s October 27, 2013, presidential election and its implications for U.S. interests. The election took place one year after a legislative election that witnessed the mostly peaceful shift of legislative and ministerial power from the ruling party, the United National Movement (UNM), to the Georgia Dream (GD) coalition bloc. The newly elected president, Giorgi Margvelashvili of the GD, will have fewer powers under recently approved constitutional changes.

Most observers have viewed the 2013 presidential election as marking Georgia’s further progress in democratization, including a peaceful shift of presidential power from UNM head Mikheil Saakashvili to GD official Margvelashvili. Some analysts, however, have raised concerns over ongoing tensions between the UNM and GD, as well as Prime Minister and GD head Bidzini Ivanishvili’s announcement on November 2, 2013, that he will step down as the premier. In his victory speech on October 28, Margvelashvili reaffirmed Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic foreign policy orientation, including the pursuit of Georgia’s future membership in NATO and the EU. At the same time, he reiterated that GD would continue to pursue the normalization of ties with Russia.

On October 28, 2013, the U.S. State Department praised the Georgian presidential election as generally democratic and expressing the will of the people, and as demonstrating Georgia’s continuing commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration. The State Department called for all Georgian political forces to work together to ensure Georgia’s political stability and stated that the United States looked forward to building upon the strong bilateral strategic partnership and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Successive U.S. Congresses have endorsed close U.S.-Georgia ties and have supported Georgia’s continued sovereignty and independence. Congressional engagement has included humanitarian and other assistance to address economic problems in the 1990s and remediation support in the aftermath of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. Through appropriations, hearings, and other legislation and oversight, Congress has strongly supported the goals of the 2009 U.S.- Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, which pledges boosted U.S. defense and security, trade, energy, and democratization cooperation with Georgia. Among U.S. interests, NATO and the United States have received significant troop support from Georgia for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Georgia serves as a land, sea, and air route for the transit of personnel and cargoes to and from Afghanistan along the “Northern Distribution Network.” Georgia’s strategic location astride east-west and north-south trade and transit routes also is exemplified by its role as part of the “Southern Corridor” for gas and oil pipelines from the Caspian region to European and other international markets.

Date of Report: November 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R43299
Price: $29.95


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