Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos
1“Those favouring the deal were mostly Shia muslims. They suggested that a better relationship between Iran and the United States would improve security in their own country, where competition between US-backed Sunni and Iran-backed Shia proxies often contributes to instability. Detente between Iran and the United States – Iraq’s two strongest allies – could allay sectarian conflict and unify resistance to the Islamic State, their argument goes.” [the guardian]
2Why Vladimir Putin’s ‘gas weapon’ may be his most powerful foreign policy tool. “Gazprom is first and foremost a tool of Russian foreign policy, which Putin is not shy about wielding to pursue Russian interests. During Putin’s years in power, the Kremlin has used its control over Gazprom — increasing or decreasing the cost of energy — to maintain influence over Russia’s neighbors. Putin once described Gazprom as “a powerful political and economic lever of influence over the rest of the world,” and a team of Russian foreign policy experts noted that “if the leaders of this or that country decide to show good will towards the Russian Federation, then the situation with gas deliveries, pricing policy and former debts changes on a far more favorable note to the buyer” writes Josh Cohen for Reuters.
3Kazakhstan Formally Joins WTO. The WTO General Council has approved oil-rich Kazakhstan’s membership, finalizing almost 20 years of negotiations. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was present at the formal acceptance event at WTO headquarters in Geneva. Kazakhstan has agreed to lower import tariffs and take further steps to attract more foreign investors.However, Kazakhstan’s domestic industrial and agricultural production levels remain relatively weak, as the country mainly relies on its oil revenue.Experts say domestic firms may struggle if the market is flooded with foreign goods once the WTO terms are implemented.Kazakhstan began WTO accession talks in 1996, but negotiations were repeatedly stalled, in part because of Kazakhstan’s membership in the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union.
4What Does Greek Crisis Mean For Azerbaijan’s Energy Interests? The near collapse of Greece’s economy has raised pressing questions for energy power Azerbaijan, which had viewed the country as a potential turbo boost for its energy ambitions in the European Union. Now, as Athens cleans house financially and talks deeper energy ties with Russia, Azerbaijan, which has an agreement to purchase a majority share in Greece’s gas distribution network, needs to protect its own interests, energy analysts say. [EurasiaNet]
5Iran and Turkmenistan signed a couple of MoUs to boost cooperation in economic, cultural, and educational areas. The documents were signed by Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi and Turkmen Foreign Affairs Minister Rashid Meredov at the end of the 14th Iran-Turkmenistan Joint Economic Committee Meeting, which was held in Tehran on July 27, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported. During the meeting, the Turkmen minister said Iran and Turkmenistan, as the two neighboring countries, will expand their bilateral, regional and international cooperation.
6The Russian Arctic: Potential for International Cooperation. The report looks into the network of circumpolar territories including new industrial regions on the Arctic continental shelf, analyses key goals of educational cooperation and identifies opportunities for international collaboration among small and medium-sized businesses in the Arctic. Authors present their vision for strategic governance in the Russian Arctic and inter-municipal cooperation in the coastal zone of the Russian Federation. Authors: A.N. Pelyasov, Dr. of Geography (Head); A.V. Kotov, Ph.D. in Economics. [RIAC]
7Azerbaijan, Iran to sign new agreement on electric power transmission. Iran’s Deputy Minister of Energy Houshang Falahatian intends to pay a visit to Azerbaijan.The objectives of the upcoming visit are to complete the conducted work on the synchronization of energy systems of the two countries and to sign a new treaty in this area, Falahatian told Trend.az.“The setting of electricity tariffs will be discussed at the meetings to be held in Azerbaijan,” he said. “Previously Iran and Azerbaijan have distributed all work on the synchronization of energy systems among themselves.The power plants and transmission lines have been built,” he said. “The infrastructure is fully ready. We hope that a final agreement will be reached and an agreement on the synchronization of the energy systems will be signed during this visit.”
8Russia is expected to see a positive growth of 2.3 percent in its economy next year, Russian economic development minister Alexei Ulyukayev said while addressing a joint meeting of Russian and Belarusian ministries of economic development held at the Belarusian port city of Brest on Monday.Ulyukayev based his assumption on the average oil price standing at $60 per barrel, Xinhua reported. The decline of inflation rate indicated improvement in Russian economy, predicting that inflation would slow down to 15.7-15.8 percent by August 1.”We think that the inflation rate will range between 10-10.5 percent at the end of this year, and according to the forecast of the Central Bank, by the end of the first quarter of 2016, it will be back to seven percent.”The minister was confident that the economic situation in Russia is getting better and the month-on-month recession is almost over.
9Ziraat Bank Azerbaijan has started its operation in Baku. According to sources in the bank, having the founding capital of AZN 50 mln, the bank has only one affiliate in Isherisheher. The activity of the bank will be aimed at strengthening the economy of the country and improving the foreign trade and development of economic ties with other countries.
10A look at Almaty’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Central Asian city of Almaty is vying with Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The winner will be selected Friday in a vote of the International Olympic Committee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here’s a quick look at Almaty’s bid. [Washington Times]
Assad-Xi Jinping meeting: China-Syria strategic partnership
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday jointly announced the establishment of a China-Syria strategic partnership, Chinese Xinhua Net informs.
The two presidents met in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, ahead of the opening of the 19th Asian Games.
Syria was one of the first Arab countries that established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was one of the countries that co-sponsored the resolution to restore the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations, Xi said.
Over the 67 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the China-Syria relationship has stood the test of changes in the international situation, and their friendship has grown stronger over time, he said.
Xi noted that the establishment of the strategic partnership will be an important milestone in the history of bilateral ties.
China is willing to work with Syria to enrich their relationship and continuously advance the China-Syria strategic partnership, Xi said.
Xi emphasized that China will continue to work with Syria to firmly support each other on issues concerning the two sides’ respective core interests and major concerns, safeguard the common interests of both countries and other developing countries, and uphold international fairness and justice.
China supports Syria in opposing foreign interference, rejecting unilateralism and bullying, and safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.
China supports Syria in conducting reconstruction, enhancing counter-terrorism capacity building, and promoting a political settlement of the Syrian issue following the “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” principle, Xi said.
China also supports Syria in improving its relations with other Arab countries and playing a greater role in international and regional affairs, he added.
China is willing to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation with Syria, increase the import of high-quality agricultural products from Syria, and jointly implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative to make active contributions to regional and global peace and development.
Assad said that in international affairs, China has always aligned itself with international fairness and justice, and upheld international law and humanitarianism, playing an important and constructive role.
Syria highly appreciates and firmly supports the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, and will actively participate in them, Assad added.
The Syrian side thanks the Chinese government for its invaluable support to the Syrian people, firmly opposes any act of interference in China’s internal affairs, and is willing to be China’s long-term and staunch friend and partner, he said.
Assad said Syria will take the establishment of the Syria-China strategic partnership as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral friendly cooperation and step up their communication and coordination in international and regional affairs.
After the talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation documents in areas including Belt and Road cooperation, and economic and technological cooperation.
Seymour Hersh: “Zelensky’s army no longer has any chance of a victory”
Next Tuesday will be the anniversary of the Biden administration’s destruction of three of the four pipelines of Nord Stream 1 and 2. There is more I have to say about it, but it will have to wait. Why? Because the war between Russia and Ukraine, with the White House continuing to reject any talk of a ceasefire, is at a turning point, writes Seymour Hersh, a famous American investigative journalist.
There are significant elements in the American intelligence community, relying on field reports and technical intelligence, who believe that the demoralized Ukraine army has given up on the possibility of overcoming the heavily mined three-tier Russian defense lines and taking the war to Crimea and the four oblasts seized and annexed by Russia.
The reality is that Volodymyr Zelensky’s battered army no longer has any chance of a victory.
The war continues, I have been told by an official with access to current intelligence, because Zelensky insists that it must. There is no discussion in his headquarters or in the Biden White House of a ceasefire and no interest in talks that could lead to an end to the slaughter. “It’s all lies,” the official said, speaking of the Ukrainian claims of incremental progress in the offensive that has suffered staggering losses, while gaining ground in a few scattered areas that the Ukrainian military measures in meters per week.
“There were some early Ukrainian penetrations in the opening days of the June offensive,” the official said, “at or near” the heavily trapped first of Russia’s three formidable concrete barriers of defense, “and the Russians retreated to sucker them in. And they all got killed.” After weeks of high casualties and little progress, along with horrific losses to tanks and armored vehicles, he said, major elements of the Ukrainian army, without declaring so, virtually canceled the offensive. The two villages that the Ukrainian army recently claimed as captured “are so tiny that they couldn’t fit between two Burma-Shave signs” — referring to billboards that seemed to be on every American highway after World War II.
Zelensky’s message this week to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York offered little new and, the Washington Post reported, he received the obligatory “warm welcome” from those in attendance. But, the Post noted, “he delivered his address to a half-full house, with many delegations declining to appear and listen to what he had to say.” Leaders of some developing nations, the report added, were “frustrated” that the multiple billions being spent without serious accountability by the Biden administration to finance the Ukraine war was diminishing support for their own struggles to deal with “a warming world, confronting poverty and ensuring a more secure life for their citizens.”
President Biden, in his earlier speech to the General Assembly, did not deal with Ukraine’s perilous position in the war with Russia but renewed his resounding support for Ukraine.
Biden, with the support of Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — but diminishing support elsewhere in America — has turned his unrelenting financial and moral support for the Ukraine war into a do-or-die issue for his re-election.
The American intelligence official I spoke with spent the early years of his career working against Soviet aggression and spying has respect for Putin’s intellect but contempt for his decision to go to war with Ukraine and to initiate the death and destruction that war brings. But, as he told me, “The war is over. Russia has won. There is no Ukrainian offensive anymore, but the White House and the American media have to keep the lie going. The truth is if the Ukrainian army is ordered to continue the offensive, the army would mutiny. The soldiers aren’t willing to die any more, but this doesn’t fit the B.S. that is being authored by the Biden White House,” Seymour Hersh concludes.
Biden UN speech: no Ukraine compromise, negotiation
President Joe Biden gave an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20th. The speech was a disaster, stresses Stephen Bryen at Asia Times. Putting aside Biden’s slurred words, the message from Biden is there will be no compromise at all when it comes to Ukraine.
By saying that the US will “not allow Ukraine to be carved up” Biden is claiming that there can be no territorial compromise in respect to Ukraine.
Virtually every peace plan put forward by numerous parties has foreseen territorial compromise as the only way a solution can be found. Even the Minsk Agreements, which Ukraine signed in 2014 and again in 2015, allowed for compromise on territory.
Ruling out territorial compromise is a message that already is understood in Russia. Russia is fighting the Ukraine war because, in its view, it wants to (a) protect the Russian speaking population of Ukraine and (b) to keep NATO out.
NATO’s presence in Ukraine is a Russian red line.
In respect to the first, protecting the Russian speaking population, this applies to the recently returned to Russia parts of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaphorize and Kherson. Previously Russia returned Crimea as its historic part and held a plebiscite.
As a practical matter, there is no chance that Ukraine has any ability to retake any significant part of these annexed areas. Almost all the fighting along the contact line, especially since the start of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, has been about a Ukrainian attempt to break Russia’s first line of defense protecting these territories. Today there is a consensus that the counter-offensive has failed to achieve any meaningful results other than to kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians and chew up billions of dollars of western military assistance.
Biden had nothing to say about NATO and Ukrainian membership, even though for Russia this has been a red line from the start, and it was NATO’s buildup of Ukrainian forces that triggered the Russian special military operation in the first place. The Russians declared many warnings to the United States and NATO about NATO’s presence in Ukraine, as late as more than a month before Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory. The US and NATO refused to have any discussion with Russia on the subject.
Biden did not discuss any peace process other than saying that Russia can do what Zelensky has demanded, namely leave Ukrainian territory and accept punishment of its military and civilian leaders for alleged war crimes.
Meanwhile the US and its allies have been working overtime to destabilize Russia by promoting attacks from Ukraine on Russian territory, assassinations and bombings in Russia, and sabotage inside Russian territory. These measures have triggered calls in Russia for the use of nuclear weapons as a way of terminating the Ukraine war and erasing Ukraine from the map.
Russia continues its military buildup, including enlarging its army and producing more weapons and ammunition. NATO and the United States’ massive support for Ukraine has changed the strategic landscape in Europe. From Russia’s point of view, it is involved in a war against NATO with Ukraine as the proxy. There is, unfortunately, a point where the proxy fails and where the war’s backers decide to put their own troops on the front line. There already are NATO “advisers” in Ukraine, as US “advisers” once were in Vietnam before the US sent in the Marines and the Army.
If Biden is reelected, it is almost a certainty he will send in US troops to try and “save” Ukraine. In turn that will mean war in Europe.
One of the questions is how long Russia can accept attacks on its territory. The US wants to step up these attacks, as Victoria Nuland has made clear. Such measures are not going to tame the Russians. To the contrary, the Russians will put even more pressure on Ukraine, and may start to strike US and NATO assets elsewhere.
Unfortunately Biden’s speech was a disaster from the point of view of finding a peaceful solution for Ukraine. Probably the speech was intended to help his reelection, notes Asia Times.
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