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Friday, September 28, 2012

Tajikistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests



Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Tajikistan is a significant country in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location bordering China and Afghanistan and its ample water and other resources, but it faces ethnic and clan schisms, deep poverty, poor governance, and other severe challenges. Tajikistan was one of the poorest of the new states that gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The new country was soon plunged into a devastating civil conflict between competing regional and other interests that lasted until a peace settlement in 1997. Former state farm chairman Imomaliy Rahmon rose to power during this period and was reelected president after the peace settlement as part of a power-sharing arrangement. He was reelected in 2006. His rule has been increasingly authoritarian and has been marked by ongoing human rights abuses, according to many observers.

The civil war had further set back economic development in the country. The economy recovered to its Soviet-era level by the early 2000s, and GDP had expanded several times by the late 2000s, despite setbacks associated with the global economic downturn. Poverty remains widespread, however, and the infrastructure for healthcare, education, transportation, and energy faces steep developmental needs, according to some observers. The country continues to face problems of political integration, perhaps evidenced in part by recent violence in eastern Tajikistan. The country also faces substantial threats from terrorism and narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan.

The United States has been Tajikistan’s largest bilateral donor, budgeting $988.57 million of aid for Tajikistan (FREEDOM Support Act and agency budgets) over the period from fiscal year 1992 through fiscal year 2010, mainly for food and other humanitarian needs. Budgeted assistance for FY2011 was $44.48 million, and estimated assistance for FY2012 was $45.02 million. The Administration requested $37.41 million in foreign assistance for Tajikistan in FY2013 (these FY2011-FY2013 figures exclude most Defense and Energy Department programs).

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Tajikistan seemed to be willing to cooperate with the United States, but hesitated to do so without permission from Moscow. However, Tajikistan had long supported the Afghan Northern Alliance’s combat against the Taliban. Perhaps after gauging Russia’s views, Tajikistan soon offered use of Tajik airspace to U.S. forces, and some coalition forces began to transit through Tajik airspace and airfields. U.S., French, and British personnel have used the Dushanbe airport for refueling, and there are some French troops and some aircraft based at Dushanbe. During a January 2009 visit, the then- Commander of the U.S. Central Command reached agreement with President Rahmon on the land transit of goods such as construction materials to support military operations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. While most land transport along this Northern Distribution Network traverses Uzbekistan to final destinations in Afghanistan, Tajikistan serves as an alternative route for a small percentage of supplies. In March 2012, the land transit of ISAF material out of Afghanistan through Tajikistan began.



Date of Report: August 31, 2012
Number of Pages: 19
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Kosovo: Current Issues and U.S. Policy



Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. The United States and 22 of the 27 EU countries (including key countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and Italy) have recognized Kosovo’s independence. The Kosovo government claims that 91 countries in all have extended diplomatic recognition to it.

When it declared independence, Kosovo pledged to implement the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, drafted by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The document contains provisions aimed at safeguarding the rights of ethnic Serbs and other minorities. An International Civilian Representative (whose role ended in September 2012) and EULEX, a European Unionled law-and-order mission, have been tasked with guaranteeing Kosovo’s implementation of the plan. KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force that includes several hundred U.S. soldiers, has the mission of providing a secure environment.

Serbia strongly objects to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It has used diplomatic means to try to persuade countries to not recognize Kosovo. It has retained parallel governing institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo. However, after a July 2010 International Court of Justice ruling that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not illegal, the EU pressured Serbia into agreeing to hold direct talks with Kosovo over technical issues. The talks, which got underway in March 2011, produced agreements on freedom of movement, trade, land registry records, and other issues. However, many of the accords have not been implemented or only partly implemented. Serbia, Kosovo, and the EU are discussing the format and content of future talks, which may include the situation of the north of Kosovo, now under de facto Serbian control.

Kosovo faces other daunting challenges, aside from those posed by its struggle for international recognition and the status of its ethnic minorities. According to an October 2011 European Commission report on Kosovo, the country suffers from weak institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement. Kosovo has high levels of government corruption and powerful organized crime networks. Many Kosovars are poor and reported unemployment is very high.

The United States has supported the EU-brokered talks between Serbia and Kosovo, but has stressed that it is an observer, not a participant in them. On September 10, 2012, the White House issued a statement by President Obama hailing the end of international supervision of Kosovo. He said Kosovo has made “significant progress” in “building the building the institutions of a modern, multi-ethnic, inclusive and democratic state.” He added Kosovo had more work to do in ensuring that the rights enshrined in the country’s constitution are realized for every citizen. President Obama also called on Kosovo to continue to work to resolve outstanding issues with its neighbors, especially Serbia.

Since U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, congressional action on Kosovo has focused largely on foreign aid appropriations legislation. Aid to Kosovo has declined significantly in recent years. In FY2011, Kosovo received a total of $85.428 million in U.S. aid. In FY2012, Kosovo will have received an estimated $67.45 million. For FY2013, the Administration requested a total of $57.669 million for Kosovo. Of this amount, $42.544 million is aid for political and economic reforms from the Economic Support Fund, $10.674 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account, $0.7 million in IMET military training aid, $3 million in Foreign Military Financing, and $0.75 million in NADR aid to assist non-proliferation and anti-terrorism efforts.



Date of Report: September 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 12
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Turkmenistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests



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.

In October 2011, the Turkmen Central Electoral Commission (CEC) announced that a presidential election would be held on February 12, 2012. During the last two weeks of December 2011, initiative groups nominated candidates for president and gathered 10,000 signatures in a majority of the country’s districts in order to gain registration of their candidates. The National Revival Movement, a civic association headed by the president, nominated 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 decided not to formally monitor the election. The CEC announced that Berdimuhamedow won over 97% of the vote and that turnout was over 96%.

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 and an estimated $9.89 million in FY2012. The Administration has requested $6.73 million for FY2013 (these latter amounts include “Function 150” foreign assistance programs and exclude Defense and Energy Department funding).



Date of Report: August 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy



Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

Since Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine’s presidency in 2010, many observers have expressed concern about Ukraine’s democratic development, including the government’s use of the courts to neutralize opposition leaders, including Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2011. These actions have led to serious doubts about whether parliamentary elections scheduled for October 28, 2012, will meet international standards.

The global economic crisis hit Ukraine hard. Ukraine’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15% in 2009. The economy began to recover in 2010, and GDP increased by 4.7% in 2011, due in part to a surge in demand for Ukrainian steel exports. However, living standards for many Ukrainians remain low, leading to a rapid drop in Yanukovych’s popularity when compared to the period soon after his inauguration. Expected slow growth in Western Europe will likely result in slower growth in 2012 for Ukraine as well.

President Yanukovych has pursued closer ties with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. A major focus of his policy has been to seek reduced prices for natural gas supplies from Moscow. In April 2010, he agreed to extend the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine for 25 years in exchange for a reduction in gas prices. However, the impact of the deal on gas prices has been less than anticipated, as oil prices (on which Ukraine’s gas price is calculated) have soared due to unrest in the Middle East. As a result, Ukraine has sought additional gas price cuts from Moscow, so far without success. Ukraine has so far fended off Russian pressure to sell it control of its gas pipeline system and join Russia-led political and economic integration structures.

Yanukovych has said that EU integration is a key priority for Ukraine, but EU criticism of what it views as the politically motivated conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko and others has called into question whether a long-awaited association agreement with the EU (including a free trade agreement) will be signed and enter into force. Yanukovych has made clear that his country is not seeking NATO membership, but will continue cooperation with NATO, including the holding of joint military exercises.

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 reminder of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Administration has not publicly expressed concern about what some observers view as the pro-Russian tilt of Ukraine’s foreign policy under Yanukovych. The Administration has focused on helping Ukraine rid itself of its supplies of highly enriched uranium, assisting Ukraine with the clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear site, and diversifying Ukraine’s sources of energy, including advice on developing Ukraine’s shale gas reserves. Administration officials have expressed concerns about regression in Ukraine’s democratic development since Yanukovych took power, including in such areas as media freedoms and selective prosecution of the government’s political opponents.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 112th Congress calling for Tymoshenko and other victims of politically motivated prosecutions to be released from prison. Two of them, S.Res. 466 and H.Res. 730, call for sanctions against Ukrainian leaders responsible for selective prosecutions.



Date of Report: September 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 15
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Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests



Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) came to be dominated by government-approved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed a low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitriy Medvedev, Putin’s long-time protégé, was elected president in early 2008 and immediately designated Putin as prime minister. President Medvedev continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and that Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching some reforms (such as the return of gubernatorial elections) and by holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re-)elected president by a wide margin. The day after his inauguration on May 7, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, the Putin administration appears to be tightening restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.

Russia’s economy began to recover from the Soviet collapse in 1999, led mainly by oil and gas exports, but the decline in oil and gas prices and other aspects of the global economic downturn beginning in 2008 contributed to an 8% drop in gross domestic product in 2009. Since then, rising world oil prices have bolstered the economy. Russian economic growth continues to be dependent on oil and gas exports. The economy also is plagued by an unreformed healthcare system and unhealthy lifestyles; low domestic and foreign investment; and high rates of crime, corruption, capital flight, and unemployment.

Russia’s armed forces now number less than one million, down from 4.3 million Soviet troops in 1986. Troop readiness, training, morale, and discipline have suffered, and much of the arms industry has become antiquated. Russia’s economic growth during most of the 2000s allowed it to increase defense spending to begin to address these problems. Stepped-up efforts have been launched to restructure the armed forces to improve their quality. Opposition among some in the armed forces, mismanagement, and corruption have seemingly slowed this restructuring.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States sought a cooperative relationship with Moscow and supplied almost $19 billion in aid for Russia from FY1992 through FY2010 to encourage democracy and market reforms and in particular to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the past, U.S.-Russia tensions on issues such as NATO enlargement and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe were accompanied by some cooperation between the two countries on anti-terrorism and non-proliferation. Russia’s 2008 conflict with Georgia, however, threatened such cooperation. The Obama Administration has worked to “re-set” relations with Russia. The Administration has hailed the signing of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April 2010, the approval of new sanctions against Iran by Russia and other members of the U.N. Security Council in June 2010, the accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization on August 22, 2012, and the cooperation of Russia in Afghanistan as signifying the “re-set” of bilateral relations. Congress is considering legislation(H.R. 6156 and S. 3406) to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status.



Date of Report: September 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 81
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