Two of the most despotic leaders in the world sit atop the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to rights groups. But in sharp contrast to the way they regard their respective peoples, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov seem to treat each other with courtesy and respect when they get together.
After 26 years of frustration over its start-and-stop bid to join the European Union, would Turkey ever consider joining a rival regional bloc led by the Kremlin? Few observers believe it likely, but it’s not completely out of the question.
Officials and political analysts in Tbilisi believe the Kremlin is ready to reach deep into its bag of tricks to try to coerce Georgia into ditching its European Union membership ambitions and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Union vision.
Kremlin kingpin Vladimir Putin’s pet project to drive former Soviet states back into Moscow’s embrace – via the Customs Union -- is gathering momentum. But the possibility of expansion doesn’t thrill all the union’s current members.
China is striving to forge Central Asia into a streamlined conduit for its regional trade and energy ambitions. But Beijing is finding that domestic insecurity and fractious bilateral relations among the region’s five former-Soviet republics have created a web of obstacles.
Central Asian states are becoming entangled in a trade spat involving Russia and Ukraine. Ostensibly, the dispute’s origin can be traced to Russian concerns over the quality of Ukrainian chocolate. But Russia’s real aim, according to some observers, is enhancing the viability of the Kremlin-led Customs Union.