America’s Uzbekistan Problem

Gianpaolo Pagni

America’s Uzbekistan Problem


There is perhaps no country on earth surrounded by more difficult neighbors than Afghanistan. When the U.S. wants to ship matériel to its troops there, it can’t go through Tajikistan because the roads are so poor; it can’t go through Turkmenistan because that country maintains an isolationist neutrality; and, for obvious reasons, it can’t go through Iran.

Until Nov. 26, the U.S. military shipped about a third of its supplies through Pakistan, but after an American attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the country cut off NATO’s access to the border, and there is little indication that officials in Islamabad intend to change their minds. The U.S. military ships another third of its cargo to Afghanistan by air, but that costs so much more than shipping by land that to expand those operations would be prohibitively expensive. That leaves Uzbekistan.

Anticipating problems with Pakistan, Pentagon planners began putting together the Northern Distribution Network, a series of transit routes from Europe through the former Soviet Union. Nearly all of those routes converge at Termez, Uzbekistan, whose sleepy, dusty streets belie its strategic location: 75 percent of the network’s traffic passes through the town and across the Soviet-built “Friendship Bridge” into Afghanistan. Now, the U.S. will have to ship even more military cargo through Uzbekistan, one of Washington’s least likeable allies.

Ruled since the Soviet era by President Islam Karimov, it is the fifth-most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International, and in Freedom House’s rankings of political and civil freedoms it is tied for last.

“The challenge for the United States is to strike a balance between its short-term, war-fighting needs and long-term interests in promoting a stable, prosperous and democratic Central Asia,” John Kerry wrote in the introduction to a report released on Dec. 19 by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations entitled “Central Asia and the Transition in Afghanistan.”

This is a difficult needle to thread, but Washington has so far largely succeeded. The U.S. has kept the supply lines running while compromising little on its principles. The yearly State Department human rights reports have remained consistently critical, even as military cooperation has blossomed. Human rights advocates in Uzbekistan — a small, beleaguered community — still say that, for the most part, they feel like the U.S. Embassy is an ally.

But this balance is difficult to maintain, and lately there have been signs that America may be wavering. The defense budget authorization act passed on Dec. 15 by Congress removed restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan that had been in place since 2004 because of the country’s odious human rights record. Asked about that decision, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there had been “progress” on human rights and political freedoms, which, while not a realistic assessment of the situation, technically speaking is true.

The Kerry report makes the same claim and as evidence reaches back nearly four years to note only one such bit of progress: that the government began allowing the Red Cross to visit prisoners in 2008. But the overall picture is grim, and, if anything, getting worse.

When Clinton visited Tashkent in October, a State Department official told the reporters accompanying her that “President Karimov commented that he wants to make progress on liberalization and democratization, and he said that he wants to leave a legacy of that for his — both his kids and his grandchildren.” Pressed by an incredulous reporter, the official added, “Yeah. I do believe him.”

This new, more accommodating rhetoric is embarrassing. If Clinton were to say: “No, we don’t agree with how Uzbekistan’s government runs its country. But we need their help in Afghanistan, and so we’re temporarily putting our differences aside,” would anyone object? That is obviously the bargain being struck, and one that few in the U.S. or Uzbekistan would take issue with.

Wikileaked cables reporting on U.S. negotiations with Karimov over the past few years reveal a president who doesn’t seem to care much about how the U.S. sees his government, but just doesn’t want what he calls American “pressure and diktats” to reform.

Though the U.S. has consistently hectored Uzbekistan on human rights over the past two decades, the country has become more oppressive. The U.S.-Uzbekistan military relationship has had its ups and downs — the U.S. operated an air base there from 2001 to 2005 — and through it all, Karimov hasn’t changed.

There is no question that as long as the U.S. is in Afghanistan, it will need to engage with Uzbekistan. But how it chooses to engage can make all the difference. “Achieving our security goals and promoting good governance and human rights are not mutually exclusive,” the Kerry report says. “In fact, security and political engagement are complementary strategies that are more likely to be effective when pursued together.”

The report doesn’t back up that assertion, and in the case of Uzbekistan it plainly isn’t true. No sort of political engagement will work, and the irony is that the more U.S. officials believe it, the more likely they are to compromise their principles. In this case, saying nothing may be the best way for the U.S. to stay true to what it believes.

Joshua Kucera is a freelance reporter based in Washington who writes frequently on Central Asia.

Russia Wins In Central Asia When the Dictators Fear Revolution More Than They Fear A US Attack On Iran

[Berdimuhamedov is flying blind, trying to navigate the treacherous currents, that are ebbing and flowing around and in his country, between two bitter “frenemies,” Russia and the US/NATO.  Keeping with the theme recently sounded on the same website, Gundogar, “Predetermined range of Turkmenistan,” that Berdimuhamedov operates under the conviction that the US and Israel will soon bomb Iran.   He therefore feels compelled to follow American dictates.  This belief apparently causes him to accept Western plans to harvest Turkmen gas, as the first stage in dominating all Central Asian gas and oil.  The author of that piece apparently agrees with my contention, that the Turkmen President, like all the Central Asian dictators, will turn to Russia, if Arab Spring revolutions rise-up in their neighborhood.  They will fear being overthrown by very real masses of protesters, more than they will fear a hypothetical American/Israeli strike on Iran.  In which case,  if the political climate in Central Asia begins to resemble that seen recently in Kazakhistan, Putin might see his Eurasian Union become a reality.]

Ghost of the “Arab Spring” reached the borders of Turkmenistan

Events in Libya and the color revolutions in the Middle East

Political analyst Andrei Grozin about the background of the unexpected visit of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to Russia …

December 23, visited Moscow, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, where he met with top officials of the Russian state. According to  the site of the Russian President , Dmitry Medvedev and Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov discussed current issues of cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan. In the official records of the negotiations of Heads of State displayed a dry-officially, without any details that point to the theme of the visit Berdimuhamedov signed the agreement.
According to the  website of the Russian government , the president of Turkmenistan met earlier with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “You have yet to negotiate with President Medvedev, I know, but I am very pleased that you took the time, stopped to talk on the current trade and economic relations – welcome guest, Vladimir Putin. – In this regard, I note that Turkmenistan – our old traditional partner in many areas of cooperation, of course, primarily in the gas sector. And it is pleasant to note that the volume of our trade grows: we have over the past year was a growth of 33%.This is a very good indicator. We are very pleased this positive dynamics, but fully understand and see with you, how difficult is the situation on world markets. I mean, that we have common interests as suppliers. It’s very good that you and I are in constant contact and coordinating our joint efforts in this direction. “

“Let me thank you for inviting me to visit your beautiful country with a working visit, – Putin said Berdymukhamedov. – I think we will have today is a good opportunity to discuss our cooperation in many aspects, that is for the current period that was done in the future, for the future. And this occasion, I would like to congratulate you. You – a candidate for President of Russia. I wish that you won the election. “

On the question of why Moscow was visited by the President of Turkmenistan and the situation in this country, in an interview with the “Russian people’s lines,” said the head of the Central Asia and Kazakhstan, the CIS Countries Institute  Andrei Grozin .

Andrei Grozin

In the media there is almost no information about what they were talking in Moscow the leaders of Russia and Turkmenistan. One gets the feeling that it was just a “friendly trip.” In fact, it is certainly not the case.Berdymukhamedov, of course, younger and more mobile Niyazov, but just try not to go in vain, as opposed to, for example, from the Tajikistan counterparts Emomali Rakhmonov, who goes wherever he can, if only to ask anyone for money. In Berdimuhamedov with the money more or less in order, and the basis for relations between Russia and Turkmenistan, of course, is a gas.
Obviously, during a visit Berdymukhamedov discussed namely “gas issue”. As far as the discussion was conducted “in private”, and hence – the absence of a leak, a variety of interpretations, etc. I believe that the Russian side is not so much worried about the construction of “Nabucco” (which was built in the foreseeable future will not be), but the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline as a first step towards the implementation of major projects out of Central Asian hydrocarbons to Russian territory. Turkmenistan, in addition to what has serious resource base (which in itself is interesting for the European and U.S. corporations), is a bridge actor, cycling who can uncork the whole of Central Asia and try to expand trade and energy flows from the north and east to west.
The position of Ashgabat depends very much, and in Moscow understand that. Therefore, in my opinion, Berdymukhamedov tries until recently did not give anyone any solid guarantees. Something he said, and the EU are talking about the notorious 10 billion cubic meters, of which argue for three years, but it is so vague that even European bureaucrats who support the idea of ​​”Nabucco”, few believe in the marketability of these promises. Another thing is that, unlike Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan does not have the physical and geographical features to really turn around and refuse to supply gas to the north. So they have to conduct a more cautious, more balanced policy. The same Berdimuhamedov will do next – do nothing, just promise to further extend the pipe the Chinese.
Berdymukhamedov mass care and other issues, not only the possibility of pressure from Europe to Ashgabat in connection with the “theme of the gas.” In February, there are presidential elections, when the easiest way to organize unconstitutional change of power or polukonstitutsionnuyu in any state. In addition, in Ashgabat, as well as throughout Central Asia, many excited bloated reports of some “Russian winter” and everything connected with it. It is clear that Berdymukhamedov came to personally clarify the situation for people that really depends on the political development of Russia as opposed to counter-elite that is trying to ride a strange vague ferment inside individual heads, and sectors of society of the capital.
Of course, Berdimuhamedov is worried about the results of the elections. Now nobody in no way certain. Probably Berdimuhamedov to Moscow to seek confirmation of the fortress of Russian power.Turkmenistan is located in a information vacuum – not only in relation to it, little is known, but little is seen from there. In Turkmenistan, very seriously concerned about the ongoing in various expert groups, talk about the fact that Russia is not highly interested in any attempt to build an alternative pipeline from Turkmenistan to the West and will resist such attempts. Against the backdrop of Russia 2006-2007, such arguments by some Russian experts could skip past the ears, but after August 8, 2008, all, including the Central Asian regimes, began to treat the Russian rhetoric is much more closely. Therefore Berdimuhamedov needed to hear the Russian position, as well as hints on how Russia will act if Turkmenistan is still dare to join the Trans-Caspian, where it is actively being dragged and because of which, if it is in this matter will be actively resisted, can emerge serious trouble in the February elections.
In Central Asia, are also seriously concerned as the “Arab spring” (and reaction to it in Russia) as well as what is happening and will happen in Afghanistan. Technologies that are used in the Arab world, perfectly fit the Central Asian soil. Of course, there is its own specifics, but as the experience of the year, clean technology to implement this kind of scenario is not difficult, especially when it comes to such vertically oriented political systems of Central Asia, which differ in the degree of Russian weakness. Our “vertical of power” still a hybrid, and, by the territorial and other factors, more adapted to the external challenges. However, any Central vertical weak in the first place, sharpened by one person when there is no alternative centers of decision-making and crisis response, and secondly – the limited capacity of a single leader (especially since two of the four Central Asian authoritarian already over 70 years, and there discussed the question of who will replace them), that does not add strength to these political structures that undermine the same way just as the Mubarak regime, it is much easier than, for example, in Libya.
Therefore, all the Central Asian rulers gradually catching up to Moscow, because they understand that moving away from Russia, they find themselves in a situation depending on the mood of the West, in other words, the Anglo-Saxon elite. Nobody does not want such a relationship, especially against the background of how the fate of even such a pro-American policy, as Hosni Mubarak.
Now they are nothing more than not believe and try to get some form of compensatory mechanisms in support of Russia. If the situation will be shaken in any of the Central, frankly, despotisms, in parallel with the worsening situation in Afghanistan, they will become more and more pro-Russian – will sign documents of a close partnership, to pursue a Eurasian Union, etc.
It should be noted another important point. The following year, Turkmenistan – Chairman of the CIS.Given the special position of Turkmenistan (Turkmenistan is not transferred to the CIS championship following in alphabetical order the applicant, taking it to yourself), it is quite revealing. It is quite possible that next year, the Turkmen foreign policy will be less neutral and more attempts to integrate into obscheevraziysky mechanism.

Stakes and options

Stakes and options

Zafar Hilaly

If you err by as much as 14 miles when it comes to giving your location and then ask whether there are any “friendly” forces in close vicinity, the answer is irrelevant. That single US error, more than any other, is responsible for what happened at Salala, the rest is nitpicking and off the mark.

Many continue to feel that the US attack on our border posts was not a genuine mistake, and if that was the case it hasn’t been proved so far. Admittedly, the Americans are notorious for being trigger-happy, but they also know which side their bread is buttered. It makes no sense for them to take on Pakistan or teach us lessons, not as yet, anyway. Our cooperation remains indispensable for the war in Afghanistan and for the safety of their forces. Therefore, ignoring that reality and jeopardising what it is in their best interests seems pointless. Besides, military cooperation between the two militaries was improving after the bin Laden fiasco. And so was the exchange of intelligence information between them, which the US deeply values because without such assistance it would be operating clueless in some situations, and hence far less effectively.

Bearing all this in mind – and the fact that the original grid reference of the position of US forces and, hence, where they were operating in relation to border posts was wide off the mark – Washington would have been better off to accept the advice of its ambassador in Islamabad and have apologised for the mistaken bombing. That no casualties occurred on the American side meant they had little to gripe about and were under no pressure to extract their pound of flesh from those who had apparently fired on them. An apology would have facilitated a joint investigation into the incident and the truth would have been established. Even if the investigation revealed, for example, that Pakistan was entirely to blame, the apology could have been withdrawn and sought from the other side.

Therefore, had the US apologised immediately or soon after their investigators discovered the initial mistake (of giving the wrong grid location of their forces), Pakistan would have had to admit that to err is human, accept the apology and compensation on offer, and move on. And that’s what the world too would have appreciated because honourable nations are not ashamed to own their mistakes and to apologise for egregious errors. The US did not, despite the findings of its own investigators; ergo: the US is thus not an honourable nation. And that’s always been the feeling here and now – thanks to Washington ’s lack of grace and, worse, bullying – it has become the popular credo. So what’s new? Not much, perhaps, but the repercussions can be serious if the US fails to mend its ways.

The sense of outrage in Pakistan , not only among the people but also in the army, has generated much talk of revenge and how it could be exacted to account for the loss of Pakistani lives. This is because, in the minds of many, the deliberate killing of innocent soldiers, unaccompanied by an apology, is a blood debt which must be settled. No one will be surprised if relatives of those killed are already making preparations to join the Taliban or get even with the Americans in some form or other.

Similarly, any chance that the supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan would be reopened in the near future has diminished, if not evaporated entirely. Their closure will give the US an opportunity to make good on its boast that they don’t count for much. But one thing is clear: it will, nevertheless, become infinitively more expensive for the US to ferry their supplies by alternative routes. And if the supply lines are reopened as a result of US pressure on the current weak and vacillating leadership here, routes will likely be blocked by demonstrators or made impassable by local Taliban supporters. Parliament too will demand that the government ensure they remain closed.

Even if the US-Pakistan relationship returns to an even keel with the passage of time, Salala will linger in public memory. The sense of hurt in Pakistan will persist and the trust and willing cooperation on which so much depends for a constructive relationship will be sorely missing. Of course, many in both countries will feel the ill-fated Pakistan-US relationship, which has suffered several shocks, in addition to the bin Laden raid, was in any case done for. And that the best we could hope for in the future was a relationship based on cold and correct calculation. The Salala episode has proved them right.

Sadly, the tragedy of Salala could so easily have been turned into an opportunity to restore a modicum of trust between the two countries and their respective militaries. Instead, that moment was frittered away.

Obama stood on his stubborn pride – the never failing vice of fools – and showed he did not have the grace to apologise or the guts to heed the advice of his ambassador in Islamabad , rather than the rednecks in the Pentagon.

But that is water under the bridge. It’s perhaps time to adjust to the new situation we face and that, quite frankly, is to look upon the US as a potential and reckless adversary. Or would that be compounding the error? Can we tackle the Afghan imbroglio on our own without some cooperation with the United States ? Do we have resourceful allies who can help us deal with the security challenges we face if we should decide to sever our cooperation with America and treat it as an adversary?

When mulling over such questions, we must keep in mind our strengths and limitations, and that means, above all, our internal situation, starting with our economic and financial condition. Are we politically and economically strong and stable enough to up the ante with the United States and to get involved in a more heated situation on the Afghan border? Or are we better off establishing a purely transactional relationship based on clear terms of engagement?

On the first count – our economic and financial condition – the popular belief is that we are not, although that’s not entirely true. Pakistan ’s dependence on foreign aid looks more like a “debt trap” from which we could escape given better governance. So we need to get our act together on that as a national priority. But on the second count – how we should handle ourselves in the geostrategic game underway in Afghanistan – we had better play our cards well. And that means making the right bid and using our trump cards skilfully, not impetuously, so that in the end, whenever the Afghan imbroglio comes to a closure, we come out in better shape than we are currently. It will affect us more than anyone else and it has already hurt us badly over the course of this longest-running civil conflict in the world.

And there are no grand slams to be made in this high-stakes game by any side. It is much too complex and multidimensional to be brought under anyone’s control. So it’s best to play it with a sense of realism about its complexity and challenges.

The writer is a former ambassador.


Turkey Has Given Russia a Final Permit To Build the South Stream Gas Pipeline

Turkey gives Russia green light to build South Stream gas pipeline

Turkey gives Russia green light to build South Stream gas pipeline

Turkey gives Russia green light to build South Stream gas pipeline

© RIA Novosti. Igor Zarembo

MOSCOW, December 28 (RIA Novosti) –

Turkey has given Russia a final permit to build the South Stream gas pipeline intended to carry Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to Europe, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

“I want to address the Turkish government with the words of special gratitude due to its decision to grant final permission to Gazprom to build the South Stream gas pipeline along the bed of the Black Sea in its exclusive economic zone,” Putin said at a meeting with Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz.

The accord will contribute to stable energy supplies to the European market, Putin said.

Russia also agreed with Turkey on extending two long-term contracts on gas supplies until 2021 and 2025, Putin said.

The gas export monopoly would boost gas supplies to Turkey by about eight percent or 2 billion cubic meters in 2012 compared with 25.5 billion cu m planned for this year, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said.

“As it normally happens in such cases, a final agreement is the result of a compromise acceptable for both parties,” Putin said.

The South Stream pipeline is intended to transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas to central and southern Europe, diversifying Russian gas routes away from transit countries such as Ukraine. Commercial gas deliveries via South Stream will start at the end of 2015, Miller said.

The neighboring ex-Soviet republic accounts for 80 percent of Russian gas transit to EU nations but frequent rows with Moscow over gas prices have sometimes ended with Kiev switching the gas tap off in wintertime.

Miller said that Turkey’s permit to build the South Stream pipeline in its territorial waters will not affect the gas price formula for Ukraine or other countries.

“As for market gas prices, they are linked to petroleum product prices and contractual gas deliveries to our partners are pegged to a basket of oil products, and the permit to build South Stream will not affect in any way the pricing formula Gazprom uses in its contracts as a whole and with separate countries,” Miller said.

Ukraine has long been seeking to alter the terms of the 2009 gas deal it signed with Russia. The deal ties the price of gas to oil prices, which have risen sharply since 2009, inflating Ukraine’s gas bill.

Moscow Protests and Occupy Wall St. Are Twin Instruments of Destabilization

[Putin complains that the new opposition is leaderless, without the ability to formulate one coherent complaint against him and the system.  With this description, he could have been talking about the American “Occupy Wall St.” movement.  The Occupy movement and the anti-Putin movement are twins, fake grass roots movements, generated by the same American sponsors.  Occupy and its twin may be nearly identical in composition, but they have diametrically opposed goals–Occupy is intended as an American pressure relief valve, to confuse any real grass roots “praire fire” from sweeping Obama and friends from power; the leaderless Moscow protests are attempting the impossible, to organize around all issues, hoping that one of them will truly light the fuse and destroy Putin in the process. 

The CIA has, over the years, perfected its formula for social agitation and behavioral control.  Real control of activist populations is a powerful instrument for change, sowing destabilized populations wherever this weaponized political process is deployed.   This weaponized form of democratic-revolution is being used in Moscow to destroy the one man who can pull Russia through the time of testing that we have been forced into.  Both Eastern and Western movements are also identical to the “Arab Spring” movements, only in the case of the Middle East and North Africa, Washington’s “Islamists” are the pawns, the agitators deployed by the State Dept. to stir the boiling broth. 

If the world manages to survive the forces that the CIA has unleashed, the end result will be an entire world organized against the perpetrator of all the trouble and chaos.  Only God knows what will happen after that.]

Russian protesters seeking to sow chaos: Putin


MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that mass protests against his 12-year rule were being stoked by a hollow collection of leaderless opposition groups who wanted to sow chaos in Russia. 

In his first comments since Saturday’s protest, Russia’s prime minister said it was impossible to annul the December 4 parliamentary election – the opposition’s key demand – but promised the March presidential vote, in which he is running, would be transparent.

Comparing protesters to Russian revolutionaryLeon Trotsky, Putin said they were more interested in sowing chaos than implementing a concrete set of ideas on how the world’s biggest energy producer should develop.

“The problem is that they have no single program,” the 59-year-old leader told top members of his All Russia People’s Front, an umbrella movement of supporters, at his presidential election campaign headquarters in Moscow.

“They have many individual programs, but no unified one and no clear way to reach their goals, which are also not clear, and there are no people who would be able to do anything concrete,” Putin said. 

Facing the biggest protests since he rose to power in 1999, Russia’s most powerful politician has looked out of touch in recent weeks, dismissing thousands of protesters as chattering monkeys while offering gradual political reforms.

With supporters, Putin took the protests more seriously, saying his opponents deserved respect despite their hunger for what he termed “Brownian motion,” the apparently random movement of particles observed by Scottish scientist Robert Brown.

Paramount leader

Putin presented himself as a leader able to ensure stability and protesters as spoilers bend on chaos, a potentially appealing strategy in a country which has been racked by crises and political chaos since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Putin, who polls show is Russia’s most popular politician, said that he had a solid agenda which included modernization of the $1.9 trillion economy and strengthening of defense.

He said protesters were trying to undermine the legitimacy of the parliamentary vote and called for a transparent presidential election.

“When this kind of situation emerges, there is always an attempt to devalue and undermine the legitimacy of everything that happened in the public sphere, including and, most of all, the electoral process,” he said.

“Therefore, everything must be done in order to ensure that elections are understandable, transparent and objective.”

Putin said his government would spend $500 million to install web cameras at all polling stations, an idea he first aired on December 15, although some of his supporters argued it would do little to boost transparency.

The gulf between Putin and tens of thousands of people who came out onto the streets of Russia’s biggest cities has stoked speculation that Putin may seek to ditch some senior aides.

The Kremlin’s powerful first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, did not attend Putin’s meeting, the first such absence for months at a meeting of such importance. Surkov did not return calls.

Other Putin’s allies, including trade union activists, industry workers and war veterans, complained to their boss about the methods used by the opposition, with some calling for tighter Internet regulation.

The West tries out old tricks in Russia

The West tries out old tricks in Russia

By Mikhail L. Titarenko (China Daily)

The West tries out old tricks in RussiaLong before the State Duma elections of Dec 4, the ultra-rightist and liberal mass media, collaborating with anti-Russian elements in the West, forecast that the ruling United Russia party would suffer a serious defeat.

They organized all sorts of sociological surveys to support this thoroughly planned campaign and to push their “predictions” on the “crisis” facing Russian leaders and “sharply declining rating” of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. The anti-Putin campaign became really vociferous when the United Russia congress officially and unanimously approved Putin as its nominee for the presidential election in March 2012.

It is true that the election results showed the correlation of political forces and sentiments in Russia, which is experiencing the difficult strategic consequences of the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the impact of the global economic crisis.

The Russian authorities should learn the lessons from the protests, which shows the global crisis has had a serious impact on Russia’s economy. For example, it has increased the cost of housing and utilities substantially, and led to proliferation of corruption, lack of discipline among bureaucrats, strong bureaucratic stranglehold, and chaos in army and military reforms. Quite naturally, these factors have influenced people’s attitude toward the United Russia party and the bureaucracy, which has won the “top prize” in terms of public repulsion.

However, the “go ahead” for the nasty campaign came from politicians in the United States, who made it clear that they would not welcome Putin back as president of Russia. The opposition in Russia took the signal immediately and went on the “offensive”.

Voters manifested good understanding of the fact that in the past decade as well as during the current difficult times Putin, the non-partisan leader of United Russia, and Medvedev have made substantial efforts to consolidate the country and solve its political and social problems. As for Putin, he has won wide public recognition as a Russian patriot who cares and works for the consolidation and prosperity of the country and to improve the lives and livelihoods of the working people, especially the less-protected section of society.

The West assumes that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was the result of its victory in the Cold War. It hopes that with Western support, separatists and criminals will take the next step to cause the collapse of Russia. In their writings, American politicians such as political scientist and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright have described scenarios of an expected collapse of Russia and even redrawn its national borders.

Putin, who posed the main geopolitical obstacle to the realization of such goals, outlined the strategy for Russia’s revival and consolidation of its status as an important independent country that would cooperate with other countries, including the US, on the principle of equal rights.

As shown by the Dec 4 election results, the United Russia party, notwithstanding the weakening of some of its authority, retained a very considerable percentage of voters’ confidence and won 50 percent of the popular votes. The results also reflect that the Russian people still have the undoubted confidence in Putin and Medvedev.

The Western media try to fan the liberal opposition’s passions in every which way they can. But the Russian authorities, manifesting maximum tolerance, have allowed such anti-government demonstrations to take place.

Some media outlets are engaged in unbridled propaganda, aimed specifically against Putin. But the Russian people know that it is a preplanned political provocation, designed by anti-Russia elements to destabilize the situation in the run-up to the presidential election.

When the liberal media in Russia and in the West loudly advertise their concern over “democratic development” in Russia, they expose their involvement in efforts to silence true public sentiments, as evident in the protests in the US, Britain, Italy, Germany and France. The demonstrations in the West are aimed against the ruling oligarchs in those countries who have fattened their wallets during the economic crisis and distributed multi-million-dollar bonuses among themselves, thereby aggravating the financial and economic chaos.

The Western media should reflect on their double standard on democracy and protests for justice. As the Holy Bible says, before pointing out a mote in another’s eye, they should remove a beam from their own eyes.

The author is president of Russia-China Friendship Association and director of Institute of Far Eastern Studies, affiliated to the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Taking on Turkmenistan’s ruling personality

Taking on Turkmenistan’s ruling personalityPresident has promised clean elections in February, but critics doubt if he’ll risk losing power. Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan is weeks away from elections, but the image of only one candidate is to be found in public spaces.The image in question is of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the country’s second president since independence and a leader know for commanding absolute power and being intolerant of dissent.Berdimuhamedov has promised the February 12 elections will be transparent, but five years after he came to power, his pledges of democratic reforms have yet to materialise.Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker reports from Ashgabat.

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China GPS rival to U.S. goes operational

[China has equalized the odds in its immediate neighborhood.  Hopefully, this will make Western militaries hesitate to make aggressive moves in this region.  Whenever the network is completed, China will extend this capability around the world.]

China GPS rival to U.S. goes operational

China aims to make its military less dependent on foreign technology (Getty Images)

(CBS/AP)  BEIJING – A Chinese rival to the U.S. global positioning system network has started providing services in China and the surrounding area.

The director of China’s satellite navigation system office, Ran Chengqi, told reporters Tuesday that the Beidou navigation system is offering services including positioning, navigation routes and time.

Ran did not specify who the target users are, but he said Beidou would be available to Chinese and foreign companies for research and development.

China, and especially its military, have long been wary of relying on the United States’ dominant GPS network, fearing that Washington might take the system offline in a conflict or an emergency. The Beidou project began at the start of the last decade as China sought to develop an alternative to the United States’ government-run GPS. Another six satellites are slated for space launch next year, when the system will cover most of Asia. by 2020, China expects to have 35 satellites circling the globe.

China has brushed aside suggestions that it might use its global satellite network for military purposes. However, policy analysts aren’t persuaded by the regime’s public statements. In 2004, MIT published a paper, outlining how Beidou might be deployed to aim cruise missiles against Taiwan

More recently, a report by the website noted that an independent global navigation system would afford China “a considerable strategic military advantage” in a regional military conflict.

“Such an advantage could prove useful in deterring or hindering the ability of the United States or even India to project air power to intervene with any military operation China decides to take against Taiwan, the Philippines or any other interests China has in the South China Sea,” it wrote.

Kabul May Withdraw from Its Own Rabbani Commission If Islamabad Continues Blocking Efforts

Rabbani murder probe: Kabul may withdraw from joint commission

Iran’s efforts to bring Afghan and Pakistani leaders together at the trilateral summit fail. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has threatened to withdraw itself from a bilateral joint commission set up earlier this year to evolve a consensus on negotiations with the Taliban. Kabul has  accused Pakistan of non-cooperation in former presidentBurhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination probe, an official told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.

“They (Afghan authorities) are no more interested in any bilateral engagement with us … Kabul wants more cooperation from Islamabad in the Rabbani murder probe,” the official told The Express Tribune.

He added diplomatic channels between Pakistan and Afghanistan had been halted since the killing was blamed on elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Even though Pakistan allowed a team of Afghan investigations to visit Islamabad last month, Kabul claimed that the ISI did not cooperate with them.

“It seems as though Rabbani’s murder has cast a long shadow over Pak-Afghan relations … and the situation is worrying Islamabad as the Afghan endgame nears,” said another official, requesting anonymity.

Published in The Express Tribune

Iraq on the Brink of Civil War

Iraq on the brink

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki’s accusation that Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi has been ordering the bombing and assassination of political opponents has caused the fragile coalition government to collapse and taken Iraq close to the kind of sectarian violence that followed the United States-led invasion in 2003. It has also exposed the hollowness of Washington’s claim that Iraqi democracy is now stable enough to justify the December 18 removal of the remaining U.S. combat troops. Mr. al-Hashimi has flown to the Kurdistan regional capital, Erbil, where he is relatively safe for the present. The national President, Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdish regional president, Masoud Barzani, have called for an immediate political conference. But the central government’s issue of an arrest warrant for Mr. al-Hashimi, and the withdrawal from parliament of Ayad Allawi’s secular-nationalist Iraqiya group, bring to an end a coalition that actually took 289 days to form after the March 2010 general election. The purported quiet of recent times, in which political violence has claimed 200-300 lives a month, has been shattered by a dozen bombings in Baghdad on December 22 that left 57 killed and 176 injured. Ominously, the attacks happened mainly in Shia-majority neighbourhoods, and could provoke sectarian retaliation.

Even temporary compromise will be very hard to achieve, not least because the Iraqi constitution itself institutionalises ethnic and sectarian divisions. The violence of the post-invasion years caused Shias and Sunnis to flee from mixed areas to regions with greater numbers of their own sect. That deepened mutual distrust and suspicion, which has been exacerbated by allegations that the Shia-dominated government is denying Sunni politicians ministerial posts or is obstructing those who hold them. Now three Sunni-majority provinces on the Syrian border are trying to form a self-governing region. Moreover, the U.S. abolition of civic bodies and the invaders’ destruction of physical infrastructure, on the assumption that all who ran those were fanatical Saddamites, have done more than wreck the everyday functioning of Iraq. They have facilitated arbitrary and brutal policing and judicial practices, with trials conducted as much by confession as on the basis of evidence — a tactic Mr. al-Maliki is now using against his political adversaries. Now the country faces disintegration. That will only add to the terrible price millions of Iraqis have paid already, while the main invader, the United States, washes its hands of responsibility for either causing or preventing it.