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Sunday, January 31, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Russia

Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs


In recent years, the United States maintained limited cooperation with Russia on Iranian and North Korean nuclear concerns and on nuclear non-proliferation in general. Tensions increased, however, on issues such as NATO enlargement, the recognition of Kosovo, and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008 heightened bilateral tensions. 

The Obama Administration moved to revitalize or "reset" U.S.-Russian cooperation on mutual issues of strategic interest while continuing to press U.S. concerns about Russia's military conflict with Georgia and other Russian foreign policy actions. At their first "get acquainted" meeting on April 1, 2009, in London, President Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev issued two joint statements on opening nuclear weapons talks to replace the expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and on U.S.-Russia relations. In the latter joint statement, the two presidents agreed to "deepen cooperation to combat nuclear terrorism," and to "support international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons." 1 Russia agreed to assist the United States and the international community in responding to terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to drug trafficking from Afghanistan. The two sides pledged to strengthen Euro-Atlantic and European security, including through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the NATO-Russia Council. In addition, the presidents announced that an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation would be formed.



Date of Report: January 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40383
Price: $7.95

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Friday, January 29, 2010

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

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has emphasized maximizing their assistance in U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and in helping them combat terrorism, proliferation, and arms and drug trafficking. 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 America on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian "frontline" states offered overflight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism efforts 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 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 "transit center" was reached in June 2009. In 2009, most of the regional states also agreed to become part of a Northern Distribution Route for the transport of U.S. and NATO military and related materials to Afghanistan. 

Policymakers 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. Economic and democratic reforms have been among U.S. concerns in Kyrgyzstan. In Tajikistan, U.S. aid has focused on economic reconstruction following that country's 1992-1997 civil war. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan—the most populous state in the heart of the region—were cool after 2005, but recently have improved. 

During its second session, the 111th Congress is likely to continue advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and providing backing for the region for the transit of equipment and supplies for U.S.-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Congress is likely to pursue these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance, security issues, and human rights. Ongoing congressional interests are likely to include boosting regional border and customs controls and other safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combat trafficking in persons and drugs, encourage regional integration with South Asia and Europe, advance energy security, and counter terrorism. Support for these goals also contributes to stabilization and reconstruction operations by the United States and NATO in Afghanistan. Congress will continue to consider whether and how to balance these interests against its concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization in the regional states.


Date of Report: January 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: RL33458
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on the Caucasus and Central Asia

Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs



In the second session of the 111th Congress, legislative and oversight attention to the Caucasus and Central Asia likely will focus on humanitarian assistance, economic development, democratization, security support, energy security, and the protection of human rights.1 Key objectives regarding the Caucasus are likely to include bolstering Georgia's democratization, security, and pro-Western stance; Azerbaijan's relations with the West and energy development; Armenia's independence and economic development; and the region's potential as an east-west trade and security corridor linking Europe with Central Asia and China. The on-going Armenia- Azerbaijan conflict over the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region threatens these objectives, as does Russia's August 2008 military invasion of Georgia, its recognition of the "independence" of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia, its establishment of military bases in these regions, and its ongoing economic sanctions against Georgia.

The second session of the 111th Congress is likely to review plans for added foreign assistance for rebuilding war-torn Georgia. At the same time, Congress may scrutinize Armenia's and Georgia's reform pledges as recipients of Millennium Challenge Account grants. The Congress may conduct oversight hearings on the issue of European energy security and the role of the Caucasus and Central Asia as critical energy sources and transit areas. In addition, Congress likely will remain concerned about reports of Russia's ongoing human rights abuses against its North Caucasian citizenry, including those in the Chechnya region, and about the threats posed by terrorism and instability in the North Caucasus to the wider region and beyond.



Date of Report: January 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40305
Price: $7.95

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


October 2009 marked the fourth anniversary of the European Union's decision to proceed with formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union and launched the annual period when all three European Union institutions, the Council, Commission, and Parliament, would be required to assess the progress Turkey had made or failed to accomplish in the accession process and to issue recommendations on whether and how the process should continue. 

Many "Turkey-skeptics" saw the end of 2009 as a deadline for Turkish action that would have marked a critical juncture for the future of Europe's relationship with Turkey. At issue was not only the positive progress Turkey had achieved in meeting the requirements of the EU's acquis communautaire but whether a specific lack of progress by Turkey would force EU member states into a difficult debate pitting loyalty to another member state, being shunned by a candidate for Union membership, versus Europe's long-term strategic interests in Turkey. The principal issues regarding Turkey's accession center around what the EU believes has been too slow of a pace for certain critical reforms within Turkey; a perceived ambivalence toward the EU by the current Turkish leadership; Turkey's failure to live up to its agreement to extend the benefits of its customs union with the EU to Cyprus, including the continued reluctance by Turkey to open its sea and air ports to Cypriot shipping and commerce until a political settlement has been achieved on Cyprus; and a continued skepticism on the part of many Europeans about whether Turkey should be embraced as a member of the European family. Further complicating the attitude toward Turkey was the lack of a settlement of the political stalemate on Cyprus and the ongoing debate within parts of Europe over the implications of the growing Muslim population in Europe and the impact Turkey's admission into the Union would have on Europe's future. Thus, the talk once again was of a potential "train wreck," the suspension of negotiations, revised talk of a different relationship with Turkey, and renewed expressions of doubt over whether Turkey should ever be admitted into the Union. 

However, on October 15, the European Commission issued its fourth formal report on Turkey's accession progress. The Commission's 2009 report, like its previous reports, was marked by a mixed assessment of Turkey's accomplishments thus far in working through the various chapters of the accession process that have been opened. The report, while noting some progress in judicial reform and relations with the Kurds and Armenia, and little progress in other areas, contained nothing new or dramatic. Contrary to some views within Europe, the Commission did not view its 2009 report as any more significant or important than previous annual reports. 

Shortly after the Commission issued its report, the EU Parliament, on November 23, adopted a resolution regarding the Union's enlargement strategy. The Parliament's assessment was very similar to that of the Commission. Finally, on December 8, the EU Council issued its conclusions on Turkey's progress and prospects and adopted a very non-controversial position. 

Unification talks have continued between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but a settlement in the near term remains elusive, and, short of such a settlement, Turkey appears unlikely to open its ports to Cyprus. Although the debate in all three institutions was animated in part, the Union clearly decided to defer any difficult decisions regarding Turkey's accession negotiations to a later time.


Date of Report: January 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RS22517
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states’ ties with the West in part to end the dependence of these states on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian-Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. The former Bush Administration supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan’s energy sector as a means of increasing the diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of the U.S. global war on terror, the U.S. military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia’s military and security forces. Azerbaijani troops participated in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Armenian and Georgian personnel served in Iraq. The South Caucasian troops serving in Iraq had departed by the end of 2008.

On August 7, 2008, Russia and Georgia went to war involving Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops quickly swept into Georgia, destroyed infrastructure, and tightened their de facto control over the breakaway regions before a ceasefire was agreed to on August 15. The conflict has had long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but the United States and nearly all other nations refused to follow suit. Russia established bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that buttress its long-time military presence in Armenia. Georgia’s military capabilities were degraded by the conflict, and Georgia has requested military assistance to rebuild its forces. The conflict temporarily disrupted railway transport of Azerbaijani oil to Black Sea ports and some oil and gas pipeline shipments, but no major pipelines were damaged. Although there were some concerns that the South Caucasus had become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan later began to barge oil across theCaspian Sea for transit westward, and the European Union still planned eventually to build the so-called Nabucco gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria.

Key issues in the second session of the 111th Congress regarding the South Caucasus are likely to focus on supporting Georgia’s integration into Western institutions, including NATO; Azerbaijan’s energy development; and Armenia’s independence and economic development. At the same time, concerns might include the status of human rights and democratization in the countries; the ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region; and threats posed to Georgia and the region by Russia’s August 2008 military incursion and its diplomatic recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Congress will continue to scrutinize Armenia’s and Georgia’s reform progress as recipients of Millennium Challenge Account grants. Some Members of Congress believe that the United States should provide greater attention to the region’s increasing role as an east-west trade and security corridor linking the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, and to Armenia’s inclusion in such links. They urge greater U.S. aid and conflict resolution efforts to contain warfare, crime, smuggling, and Islamic extremism and to bolster the independence of the states. Others urge caution in adopting policies that will heavily involve the United States in a region beset by ethnic and civil conflicts.

Date of Report: December 22, 2009
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: RL33453
Price: $29.95

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Monday, January 4, 2010

STABILITY IN RUSSIA'S CHECHNYA AND OTHER REGIONS OF THE NORTH CAUCASUS: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Jim Nichol

Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Summary
Terrorist attacks in Russia's North Caucasus—a border area between the Black and Caspian Seas that includes the formerly breakaway Chechnya and other ethnic-based regions—have appeared to increase in recent months. Moreover, civilian and government casualties are reaching levels not seen in several years and terrorist attacks again are taking place outside the North Caucasus. Illustrative of the new level of violence, the Nevskiy Express passenger train was bombed after leaving Moscow in late November 2009, resulting in over two dozen deaths and dozens of injuries.

Before the recent rise in terrorist attacks, it seemed that government security forces had been successful in tamping down their range and scope by aggressively carrying out over a thousand sweep operations ("zachistki") in the North caucasus. During these operations, security forces surround a village and search the homes of the residents, ostensibly in a bid to apprehend terrorists. Critics of the operations allege that the searches are illegal and that troops frequently engage in pillaging and gratuitous violence and are responsible for kidnapping for ransom and "disappearances" of civilians. Through these sweeps, as well as through direct clashes, most of the masterminds of previous large-scale terrorist attacks were killed.

Some observers suggest that the increasing scope of public discontent against zachistki and deepening economic and social distress are contributing to growing numbers of recruits for terrorist groups and to increasing violence in the North Caucasus. Inter-ethnic and religious tensions are also responsible for some of the increasing violence. Many ethnic Russian and other non-native civilians have been murdered or have disappeared, which has spurred the migration of most of the non-native population from the North Caucasus. Russian authorities argue that foreign terrorist groups continue to operate in the North Caucasus and to receive outside financial and material assistance.

The United States generally has supported the Russian government's efforts to combat terrorism in the North Caucasus. However, successive Administrations and Congress have continued to raise concerns about the wide scope of human rights abuses committed by the Russian government in the North Caucasus. The conference agreement on Consolidated Appropriations for FY2010 (H.R. 3288), calls for $7.0 million to continue humanitarian, conflict mitigation, human rights, civil society and relief and recovery assistance programs in the North Caucasus. It also repeats language used for several years that directs that 60% of the assistance allocated to Russia will be withheld (excluding medical, human trafficking, and Comprehensive Threat Reduction aid) until the President certifies that Russia is facilitating full access to Chechnya for international non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to displaced persons.



Date of Report: December 16, 2009
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RL34613
Price: $29.95


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