US Military Giving Up on Kyrgyzstan

The United States appears to have given up on military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan – once its closest partner in Central Asia – because Bishkek has thrown its lot in with Russia and China, a senior US general has said.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, testified before the US Senate this week to present CENTCOM's annual “posture statement,” its assessment of what the US military is doing in the region. And in his prepared remarks on Central Asia, he offered a striking rebuke of Bishkek's unwillingness to partner with the Americans.

“The Kyrgyz…

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Nagorno Karabakh Leader Makes Unprecedented Visit to Washington

The de facto president of Nagorno Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, has made an unprecedented visit to Washington to try to boost American support for the unrecognized state. Azerbaijan, which claims Karabakh as its own, called the trip a “serious blow” to US-Azerbaijan relations and threatened to retaliate.

Sahakyan appears not to have visited with any administration officials, but on March 14 attended a reception organized by the Armenian Embassy…

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Armenia Wonders: Are We At Risk From US Sanctions?

The United States has reportedly notified Armenia and other countries that they are at risk of sanctions if they continue to buy Russian military equipment. But the scale of the sanctions is so great to make them nearly impossible to impose, rendering the American threat mostly toothless.

At the end of January, new US sanctions went into effect that would allow the US to impose a range of financial penalties on…

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China Denies Plans to Build Military Base on Afghan-Tajik Border

China has formally denied reports that it is building a military base on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border for the Afghan armed forces. But Afghan security officials have confirmed the original report, and offered additional details of the secretive Chinese presence in the region.

In January, reports emerged that Beijing and Kabul had come to an agreement for China to build and supply a military base in Badakhshan, the remote panhandle of Afghanistan that borders China and Tajikistan…

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Armenia Reportedly Blocks Belarus-Azerbaijan Arms Deal

Armenia has managed to block a significant arms sale from Belarus to Azerbaijan, Belarusian and Armenian sources have reported.

Azerbaijan had long been looking at Belarusian-made Polonez missiles as a means of countering Armenia's acquisition in 2016 of Russian Iskander missiles. When Azerbaijan Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visited Minsk in October, the defense ministry…

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Survey: Armenians' Attitudes Toward Azerbaijan Increasingly Hardening

People in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh are increasingly opposed to making any concessions to Azerbaijan in their long-running conflict, and are also increasingly pessimistic about the chances for peace, a new study has found.

Hardening attitudes in Armenia have been anecdotally observed for the last several years, a trend that accelerated after the heavy fighting in April 2016 in which Armenians, for the first time since the ceasefire in 1994, lost some territory. But the…

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Is Monitoring of Occupied Territories Back on the Table?

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to increase the size of the international mission monitoring their conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, as well as to reopen discussions over an assessment mission aimed at determining how many people have settled in the Armenia-occupied territories surrounding Karabakh.

The agreements came out of a January 18 meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Edward Nalbandian of Armenia and Elmar Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan. The results were modest, as expected…

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Armenian Defense Minister Crowdfunds Soldier's Surgery

The Armenian defense minister's attempt to crowdfund money for a wounded soldier's expensive medical care has caused consternation in the country, as many Armenians are questioning why the government -- regularly accused of misusing state funds for the personal use of high-ranking officials -- can't pay for the treatment itself. 

At issue is the medical care of Albert Dallakyan, a 21-year-old who was accidentally shot in the head by his commanding officer last June. Dallakyan has already undergone three surgeries in…

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Iran's Caspian Flagship "Seriously Damaged"

The flagship of Iran's Caspian naval fleet has been seriously damaged, and two sailors gone missing, in an accident caused by a storm, Iranian military authorities reported.

The accident happened on January 10, when severe winds pushed the Damavand frigate into a jetty while it was in its home port of Bandar Anzali. Initial reports said the damage to the ship was “minor,” but on January 17 an Iranian military spokesman acknowledged that “the assessment teams…

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US Planned Big Boost in Military Aid to Tajikistan

The United States planned a large increase in special forces training programs for Tajikistan, newly released US government documents show.

The US also was planning to offer special forces training programs to Kyrgyzstan for the first time since being evicted from the air base it used to operate in the country, according to the new data.

The documents show that in fiscal year 2017, the US planned to train 1,200 special forces troops from Tajikistan. Of those, 600 were from the National Guard and a branch…

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Report: China Building Military Base on Afghan-Tajik Border

China is building a military base for the Afghan armed forces in the province of Badakhshan, a senior Afghan military official has said. The plan, if it is realized, promises a deeper Chinese military involvement in Tajikistan, which is necessary as a supply corridor to Badakhshan. 

The plans for the new base were worked out during a visit last month by an Afghan defense delegation to Beijing,  the official, General Dawlat Waziri, told…

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Iran Denies Compromise on Caspian Division

Iran has denied Russian claims that it has agreed on how to divide up the Caspian Sea, casting doubt on reports that the decades-long dispute over the sea is about to be resolved.

After a meeting earlier this month of the five Caspian states' foreign ministers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared victory: “With great satisfaction, I declare that we have found solutions to all the remaining open key issues related to the preparation of the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The text of the document…

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US Signals Return to Great Power Competition in Eurasia

The new National Security Strategy of the United States portrays the Caucasus and Central Asia primarily as a site of great power competition, a striking return to a Cold War footing -- at least rhetorically. But how much the stated strategy reflects actual US policies remains unclear.

President Donald Trump unveiled the strategy document on December 18, and the overarching theme was geopolitics. 

"[A]fter being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned," the…

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Uzbekistan Restoring Closer Military Ties with Russia

Uzbekistan has agreed to buy Russian attack helicopters, the latest sign that the new leadership in Tashkent is committed to reversing the country's previous policy of shunning Moscow's military advances.

The purchase of the 12 Mi-35 helicopters wasn't formally announced, but reported by Russian news agency TASS, citing a “diplomatic source.” The source said the deal was reached after “prolonged negotiations” during the visit of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev to Tashkent in November.

The deal appears to be the first…

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Russia Claims Caspian States Reach Agreement on Sea's Status

The five states bordering the Caspian Sea have finally agreed on "all the remaining open key issues" regarding the sea, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. Lavrov also said the presidents of the five countries will be ready to sign a treaty on the sea next year in Kazakhstan.

However, it remains unclear what -- if any -- compromise has been reached on the most contentious issue: how to divide up the sea, and its rich underwater oil and gas resources.

Lavrov made his comments at a meeting of the Caspian littoral states' foreign ministers in Moscow on December 5…

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Iran Launches New Corvette on Caspian

Iran has launched a new warship on to the Caspian, in what a senior naval commander called a "symbol of the authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran at sea."

The new ship, called Separ ("Shield") was launched at a December 5 ceremony from Iran's Caspian naval base at Anzali. There was apparently some sort of last-minute delay, as earlier press reports had said that the ship would be launched on the occasion…

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CSTO Ready, But Not Yet Willing, To Send Troops to Syria

Leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russia-led security bloc, have gathered but remained mute on the most closely watched item on the group's agenda: sending peacekeepers to Syria.

Discussions on deploying troops from Russia's CSTO allies -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- to Syria has gained momentum over the past year.

Russia has long sought a greater CSTO involvement in Syria. "Sending [CSTO peacekeepers] to Syria could, in Moscow's view, substantially strengthen the…

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US Approves Long-Sought Sale of Anti-Tank Missiles to Georgia

The State Department has approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. The approval is a big win for Tbilisi, which for years has sought the American weapons as a means of protecting itself from a potential Russian invasion.

The U.S. approved the sale of 410 of the missiles and 72 launch units, according to the November 20 announcement. "This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Georgia…

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Uzbekistan to Relaunch Defense Industry with Turkish Joint Venture

Uzbekistan will produce more than 1,000 armored vehicles in a joint venture with Turkey, a deal finalized during a visit by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Ankara. 

The deal is significant in a number of ways: It is the first arms deal between Turkey and Uzbekistan, and was made during the first visit of an Uzbekistan president to Turkey since 1999. Mirziyoyev, who took power last year after the death of longtime president Islam Karimov, has been gradually opening the country up…

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Azerbaijani Navy Visits Iran for First Time Amid Warming Ties

Azerbaijan's navy has made its first-ever visit to Iran, signaling warming ties between the wary neighbors and Baku's growing desire to show that it has non-Western geopolitical options.

Two Azerbaijani patrol ships visited the Iranian port of Enzeli, where the crews visited an Iranian missile boat and did some sightseeing. The visit was low-key, but it was a big step in Azerbaijan-Iran relations…

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