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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The performance and legitimacy of the Afghan government figured prominently in two reviews of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan during 2009. In his December 1, 2009, speech on Afghanistan, which followed the second review, President Obama stated that the Afghan government would be judged on performance, and "The days of providing a blank check are over." The policy statement was based, in part, on an August 2009 assessment of the security situation furnished by the top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, as well as on criticisms of the government of President Hamid Karzai by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and other U.S. officials. U.S. strategy effort is deemed to require a legitimate Afghan partner. 

The Afghan government's limited writ and widespread official corruption are identified by U.S. officials as factors helping sustain the insurgency in Afghanistan. At the same time, President Hamid Karzai's alliances with key ethnic and political faction leaders have reduced his ability to stock the government with politically neutral and technically competent officers. Despite the loss of confidence in Karzai, he went into the August 20, 2009, presidential election as the favorite. Amid widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by a U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), nearly one-third of Karzai's votes were invalidated, leaving Karzai just short of the 50%+ total needed to avoid a second-round runoff. Asserting that more fraud was likely, Karzai's main challenger dropped out of the race on November 1, 2009, and Karzai was declared the winner. He has since had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a full cabinet, and 10 ministerial posts remain unfilled. Most of the highly regarded economic ministers have been confirmed. 

Karzai's hopes to rebuild international support for his leadership at a major international conference on Afghanistan in Britain on January 28, 2010, were partly fulfilled. The conference endorsed—and agreed to begin to fund—his proposals to try to persuade insurgent fighters to give up their fight. At the conference, Karzai committed to several specific steps to try to weed out official corruption and to ensure that all future elections are free and fair. However, that pledge was undermined, to an extent, in February 2010 when Karzai issued an election law decree that would eliminate the three positions for international officials on the ECC. The decree will apply to the parliamentary elections now set for September 18, 2010, a date set to take into account international assertions that Afghan institutions would not be ready to hold credible parliamentary elections by the constitutionally mandated date of May 22, 2010. 

Because most insurgents are, like Karzai, ethnic Pashtuns, stabilizing Afghanistan requires winning Pashtun political support for the Afghan government. This support requires effective local governing structures. The trend toward promoting local governing bodies has been accelerated by the Obama Administration and received substantial attention at the London conference. From the U.S. perspective, implementing this focus is a so-called "civilian uplift" that has doubled, to about 975, the number of U.S. civilian personnel helping build Afghan governing and security institutions and the economy. That number is expected to rise by another 30% during 2010. 

For further information, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman; and


 

  CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson.


Date of Report: March 08, 2010
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: RS21922
Price: $19.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.

Central Asia’s Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs


The Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) face common security challenges from crime, corruption, terrorism, and faltering commitments to economic and democratic reforms. However, cooperation among them remains halting, so security in the region is likely in the near term to vary by country. Kyrgyzstan's and Tajikistan's futures are most clouded by ethnic and territorial tensions, and corruption in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan could spoil benefits from the development of their ample energy resources. Authoritarianism and poverty in Uzbekistan could contribute to a succession crisis. On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan's beleaguered civil society might eventually help the relatively small nation safeguard its independence. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan might become regional powers able to champion policy solutions to common Central Asian problems and to resist undue influence from more powerful outside powers, because of their large territories and populations and energy and other resources. 

Internal political developments in several bordering or close-by states may have a large impact on Central Asian security. These developments include a more authoritarian and globalist Russia, an economically growing China, instability in Iran and the South Caucasus region, and re-surging drug production and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. 

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the former Bush Administration established bases and other military access in the region to support U.S.-led coalition operations in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has highlighted U.S. interests in such continued access as well as the long-term security and stability of the region. U.S. interests in Central Asia include combating terrorism, drug production, and trafficking; assisting the development of oil and other resources; and fostering democratization, human rights, free markets, and trade. The United States also seeks to thwart dangers posed to its security by the illicit transfer of strategic missile, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons technologies, materials, and expertise to terrorist states or groups, and to address threats posed to regional independence by Iran. Some critics counter that the United States has historically had few interests in this region, and advocate only limited U.S. contacts undertaken with Turkey and other friends and allies to ensure U.S. goals. They also urge these friends and allies to enhance their energy security by taking the lead in the development of diverse export routes for Central Asia's energy resources. 

Most in Congress have supported U.S. assistance to bolster independence and reforms in Central Asia. The 106th Congress authorized a "Silk Road" initiative for greater policy attention and aid for democratization, market reforms, humanitarian needs, conflict resolution, transport infrastructure (including energy pipelines), and border controls. The 108th and subsequent Congresses have imposed conditions on foreign assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, based on their human rights records. Congress has continued to debate the balance between U.S. security interests in the region and interests in democratization and the protection of human rights. 
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Date of Report: March 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 71
Order Number: RL30294
Price: $19.95

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Moldova: Background and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

Although a small country, Moldova has been of interest to U.S. policymakers due to its position between NATO and EU member Romania and strategic Ukraine. In addition, some experts have expressed concern about alleged Russian efforts to extend its hegemony over Moldova through various methods, including a troop presence, manipulation of Moldova's relationship with its breakaway Transnistria region, and energy supplies and other trading links. Moldova's political and economic weakness has made it a source of organized criminal activity of concern to U.S. policymakers, including trafficking in persons. 

From April to September 2009, Moldova was locked in a political crisis. The victory of the ruling Communist party in the April 2009 parliamentary elections sparked protests against alleged electoral fraud. Some demonstrators sacked and looted the parliament building and the offices of the president. A stalemate ensued when the Communists lacked the supermajority in parliament needed to elect a new president. This triggered new parliamentary elections on July 27, 2009. The center-right opposition won the vote, and in September 2009 they formed a new government headed by Prime Minister Vlad Filat. Filat has said that his government is attempting to dismantle the country's negative Communist legacy and build a state ruled by law. The new government has moved quickly to improve relations with Romania and the European Union. Due to continuing inability of the parliament to field the supermajority needed to elect a permanent president (the parliament speaker is currently the acting president), the new government will have to hold another round of parliamentary elections later this year, unless it can change the constitution to eliminate the supermajority provision. 

Moldova is Europe's poorest country, according to the World Bank. Living standards are low for many Moldovans, particularly in rural areas. Remittances from Moldovans working abroad amounted to 31% of the country's Gross Domestic Product in 2008. The global financial crisis has had a negative impact on Moldova. The leu has weakened and remains under pressure. Remittances have dropped, as Moldovan emigrants have lost jobs in other hard-hit countries. Moldova's GDP dropped by 7.3% in 2009, on a year-on-year basis. 

As a self-declared neutral country, Moldova does not seek NATO membership, but participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) program. Moldova is currently negotiating an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), which provides for cooperation in a wide variety of spheres and holds out the possibility of an eventual free trade agreement. Moldova hopes to become a candidate for EU membership, although the EU is unlikely to accept Moldova as a candidate in the foreseeable future, due to Moldova's poverty and the EU's own internal challenges. 

The United States and Moldova have enjoyed good relations since the country's independence in 1991. The United States has supported democracy and free market reform in Moldova. The United States reacted cautiously to the outcome of the April 2009 Moldovan election, saying its view of the vote was "generally positive," but noting some problems. After the July 2009 election, a State Department spokesman noted that international observers reached a similar conclusion. The United States has tried to support the country's fragile sovereignty and territorial integrity by advocating the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova and the negotiation of a settlement of the Transnistria issue consistent with Moldova's territorial integrity.


Date of Report: March 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS21981
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Security Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

The South Caucasus region has been the most unstable in the former Soviet Union in terms of the number, intensity, and length of ethnic and civil conflicts. Other emerging or full-blown security problems include crime, corruption, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and narcotics trafficking. The regional governments have worked to bolster their security by combating terrorism, limiting political dissent they view as threatening, revamping their armed forces, and seeking outside assistance and allies. 

The roles of neighbors Iran, Russia, and Turkey have been of deep security concern to one or more of the states of the region. These and other major powers, primarily the United States and European Union (EU) members, have pursued differing interests and policies toward the three states. Some officials in Russia view the region as a traditional sphere of influence, while Turkish officials tend to stress common ethnic ties with Azerbaijan and most of Central Asia. EU members are increasingly addressing instability in what they view as a far corner of Europe. Armenia has pursued close ties with Russia and Iran in part to counter Azerbaijan's ties with Turkey, and Georgia and Azerbaijan have stressed ties with the United States in part to bolster their independence vis-a-vis Russia. 

The United States has supported democratization, the creation of free markets, conflict resolution, regional cooperation, and the integration of the South Caucasian states into the larger world community. The Administration has backed regional energy and pipeline development that does not give Iran and Russia undue political or economic influence. U.S. aid has been provided to bolster the security and independence of the states, including substantial rebuilding aid after the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. In January 2009, the United States and Georgia signed a partnership agreement to underline such U.S. support for Georgia. All three regional states have supported the global war on terrorism and sent troops to assist the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. 

Congress has been at the forefront in supporting U.S. assistance to bolster independence and reforms in the South Caucasus, but debate has continued over the scope, emphasis, and effectiveness of U.S. involvement. Congressional support for the security of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (NK; a breakaway region of Azerbaijan mostly populated by ethnic Armenians) led in 1992 to a ban on most U.S. government-to-government aid to Azerbaijan. Congress authorized a presidential waiver to the ban after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, to facilitate U.S.-Azerbaijan anti-terrorism cooperation. Congressional support for U.S. engagement with the region also was reflected in "Silk Road Strategy" legislation in FY2000 (P.L. 106-113) authorizing greater policy attention and aid for conflict amelioration, humanitarian needs, economic development, transport and communications, border control, democracy, and the creation of civil societies in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Congressional concerns about rising Russian military and economic coercion against Georgia were reflected in legislation criticizing Russian actions and supporting Georgia's NATO aspirations. In the wake of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, Congress condemned Russia's invasion and provided boosted aid for Georgia's rebuilding. Congress regularly has earmarked foreign aid to Armenia and upheld a South Caucasus funding category to encourage conflict resolution, provide for reconstruction assistance, and facilitate regional economic integration. 
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Date of Report: March 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 69
Order Number: RL30679
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

On February 7, 2010, Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine's presidency. International monitors praised the conduct of the election. President Yanukovych will try to form a parliamentary majority from parties in the current parliament. If he cannot, new parliamentary elections will have to be held later this year. 

The global economic crisis has hit Ukraine hard. Ukraine's real Gross Domestic Product fell by an estimated 15% in 2009. In November 2008, the International Monetary Fund approved a $16.4 billion standby loan for Ukraine to bolster its finances. The loan was conditioned on a commitment from Ukraine to allow its currency to depreciate in a controlled way, to recapitalize the banking sector, and to pursue more rigorous fiscal and monetary policies. Political infighting during the presidential election campaign hindered Ukraine's implementation of the conditions of the IMF loan. A post-election struggle for a parliamentary majority could further delay Ukraine's reforms. 

Under the leadership of former President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine sought integration into the global economy and Euro-Atlantic institutions. In the longer term, Yushchenko set the goal of Ukrainian membership in the European Union and NATO. Relations with Russia have been tense over such issues as Ukraine's NATO aspirations and energy supplies. President Yanukovych has said he will pursue closer ties with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. He has said he will seek reduced prices for natural gas supplies from Moscow, in exchange for giving Moscow an ownership stake in Ukraine's pipeline system. He has said EU integration is a key priority for Ukraine. He has said he will drop Yushchenko's policy calling for NATO membership for Ukraine. 

U.S. officials have remained upbeat about Ukraine's successes in some areas, such as securing WTO membership, as well as in holding free and fair elections and improving media freedoms, while acknowledging difficulties in others, such as fighting corruption, establishing the rule of law, and adopting constitutional reforms. The Bush Administration strongly supported granting a Membership Action Plan to Ukraine at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008, a key stepping-stone to NATO membership. However, opposition by Germany, France, and several other countries blocked the effort. On the other hand, the Allies surprised many observers by confirming that Ukraine will join NATO in the future, without specifying a timetable. 

The Obama Administration has worked to "reset" relations with Russia, but has warned that it will not accept any country's assertion of a sphere of influence, a tacit reminder of U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty. It has reaffirmed its support for NATO's "open door" to NATO aspirants such as Ukraine. In a telephone conversation with Yanukovych on February 11, President Obama praised the conduct of Ukraine's 2010 presidential elections and expressed a willingness to work with President Yanukovych to promote the two countries' shared values and interests. 
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Date of Report: March 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: RL33460
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Central Asia’s Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs


The Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) face common security challenges from crime, corruption, terrorism, and faltering commitments to economic and democratic reforms. However, cooperation among them remains halting, so security in the region is likely in the near term to vary by country. Kyrgyzstan's and Tajikistan's futures are most clouded by ethnic and territorial tensions, and corruption in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan could spoil benefits from the development of their ample energy resources. Authoritarianism and poverty in Uzbekistan could contribute to a succession crisis. On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan's beleaguered civil society might eventually help the relatively small nation safeguard its independence. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan might become regional powers able to champion policy solutions to common Central Asian problems and to resist undue influence from more powerful outside powers, because of their large territories and populations and energy and other resources. 

Internal political developments in several bordering or close-by states may have a large impact on Central Asian security. These developments include a more authoritarian and globalist Russia, an economically growing China, instability in Iran and the South Caucasus region, and re-surging drug production and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. 

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the former Bush Administration established bases and other military access in the region to support U.S.-led coalition operations in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has highlighted U.S. interests in such continued access as well as the long-term security and stability of the region. U.S. interests in Central Asia include combating terrorism, drug production, and trafficking; assisting the development of oil and other resources; and fostering democratization, human rights, free markets, and trade. The United States also seeks to thwart dangers posed to its security by the illicit transfer of strategic missile, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons technologies, materials, and expertise to terrorist states or groups, and to address threats posed to regional independence by Iran. Some critics counter that the United States has historically had few interests in this region, and advocate only limited U.S. contacts undertaken with Turkey and other friends and allies to ensure U.S. goals. They also urge these friends and allies to enhance their energy security by taking the lead in the development of diverse export routes for Central Asia's energy resources. 

Most in Congress have supported U.S. assistance to bolster independence and reforms in Central Asia. The 106th Congress authorized a "Silk Road" initiative for greater policy attention and aid for democratization, market reforms, humanitarian needs, conflict resolution, transport infrastructure (including energy pipelines), and border controls. The 108th and subsequent Congresses have imposed conditions on foreign assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, based on their human rights records. Congress has continued to debate the balance between U.S. security interests in the region and interests in democratization and the protection of human rights. 



Date of Report: March 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 70
Order Number: RL30294
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties

William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance


The change in Russia's trade status will require legislation to lift the restrictions currently applied to Russia under Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, which includes the "freedom-of-emigration" requirements of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. On November 19, 2006, U.S. and Russian officials signed the bilateral agreement on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). This step allowed Russia to move closer to acceding to the WTO. Members may confront the issue of whether to grant Russia PNTR during the 111th Congress.

Date of Report: February 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: RS21123
Price: $29.95


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