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Turkmenistan prepares large gas breakthrough in Europe

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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

1The West has long been waiting for this step, lobbying for the idea of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline as a part of the Southern Gas Corridor, hoping to take away the convenient instrument of pressure on Europe, that is, Russian gas from the Kremlin’s hands.However, previously, Turkmenistan wasn’t ready for an open confrontation with Russia and to start major gas deliveries to the West. Meanwhile, selling almost all of its gas to China, Ashgabat found highly risky, as both the single customer, and the single seller meant constant dependence. And today, Ashgabat has an opportunity to get away from that dependence on the buyer, and to diversify its supplies to the West” Elmira Tariverdiyeva – [Trend.az]

2Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks political comeback. Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a political campaign ahead of February’s parliamentary elections in what could prove a challenge to the moderates behind a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month. Few expect a rerun of Ahmadinejad’s surprise victory in the 2005 elections, which kicked off an eight-year presidency marked by confrontation with the West, incendiary rhetoric toward Israel and refusal to compromise on the disputed nuclear program.[Associated Press]

3Russia, together with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, will hold two joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea by the end of 2015, Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Viktor Chirkov said Monday.Between August 3 and 11, the Caspian Sea is hosting the open naval competitions Caspian Cup-2015 and Caspian Derby-2015, as part of the International Army Games.”We are planning to hold at least two international naval drills in the Caspian Sea before the end of 2015,” Chirkov said at the competitions’ opening ceremony. He added that one of the exercises would be tripartite, with the participation of the Russian Caspian Flotilla, the Azerbaijani Navy and the Kazakh Navy. The second round of naval drills will involve only the Azerbaijani and Russian forces.

4Iran offers Azerbaijan to supply oil to Gulf. Iran stands ready to carry out the swap deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to the Persian Gulf, the Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said.He made the remarks August 4 in Tehran addressing a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev.Zanganeh said that oil can be transported from Iran’s Caspian port of Neka via a pipeline (with a capacity of 500,000 barrels per day) to the Tehran Oil Refinery.“Instead, Azerbaijan will get oil on the southern borders of Iran,” said Zanganeh.

5The construction of a $US10 billion ($A13.74 billion) gas pipeline stretching from Central to South Asia is set to begin in December, Pakistani officials said on Monday after meeting with a delegation from Turkmenistan.Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs in the three South Asian countries but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realization. But the project is politically complex, requiring cooperation between at least four governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

6Sweden has expelled a Russian diplomat and Moscow has retaliated by throwing out a Swedish diplomat.A Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Russian’s activities had not been in accordance with the Vienna Convention, a diplomatic code of behavior.But he did not disclose any details, nor did he say when either expulsion occurred.Sweden has been highly critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and increased military activity by Russian planes and vessels in the Baltic Sea region has intensified regional tensions.

7Russia: Gazprom, A Behemoth No More.”It was not too long ago that Gazprom, the state-controlled energy conglomerate, was one of the Kremlin’s most potent geopolitical weapons. But those days now seem like a distant memory: Gazprom is a financial shadow of its former self.The speed of Gazprom’s decline is breathtaking. At its peak in May 2008, the company’s market capitalization reached $367.27 billion, making it one of world’s most valuable companies, according to a survey compiled by the Financial Times. Gazprom’s deputy chair, Alexander Medvedev, repeatedly predicted at the time that within a decade the Russian energy giant could be worth $1 trillion.That prediction now seem foolhardy” [EurasiaNet]

8Iran’s Ambassador to India has told the country’s media that Tehran is eager to cooperate with New Delhi in mega connectivity projects in the region. Gholamreza Ansari has specifically cited an agreement between the two countries over the development of Iran’s southeastern port of Chabahar as a key connectivity project. “India can be always part of any big ticket projects in Iran,” Ansari told The Times of India in an exclusive interview.Asked about the possibility of reviving the Iran-Pakistan- India gas pipeline project, the envoy said it was up to India and Pakistan to sort out their differences.

9Elections in Donetsk and Russia’s New Conflict-Freeze Model. “Holding an electoral mandate, but fronting for Russia, the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk could then be seated at the table with Ukraine’s central government, to negotiate an “internal” Ukrainian constitutional settlement. That would introduce an entirely new paradigm of “conflict freeze” in Europe’s East. For the first time in the 25-year history of those conflicts, Moscow and the main Western chancelleries are urging the aggressed country—Ukraine in this case—to authorize elections in the territory under Russian military and secessionist control, then bargain with the predetermined winners of those elections” [Jamestown]

10Research Report: Coffee in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a nation of tea drinkers and drinking coffee is not a normal habit. Despite this, the interest in coffee increased over the review period with Kazakhstanis traveling more and getting to know other cultures and their cuisines better. The westernisation of Kazakhstani culture has also created a noticeable move towards coffee drinking. The increasing number of foreigners in Kazakhstan has had a positive effect on sales of coffee as well. [Fast Market Research]

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Former CIA analyst: ‘A costly and prolonged cold war now seems a certainty’

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‘No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end, but there is one post-war certainty: there will be a prolonged and costly Cold War between the United States and Russia,’ – predicts Melvin A. Goodman, a former CIA analyst, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.

He writes: In an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who has been doing the bidding of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency for several decades, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of a “long-term goal of deterrence.” Ignatius took this to mean that the Biden administration will make sure that Russia “should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.”

In addition to this year’s record defense budget that found the Congress providing $45 billion more than the Pentagon requested, a so-called “emergency” provision will lay the foundation for adding scarce resources to defense spending in the coming year. This provision will allow multiyear, noncompetitive agreements to produce such ordinary weaponry as rockets and munitions.

According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon will now have a way to replenish its stockpiles that will provide a “new golden age” for military contractors.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales. Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy. The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

The increased defense spending and the new emergency provision coincide with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s creation of a new committee — the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. In view of the recent rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States, it can only be hoped that Democrats appoint members to the committee who understand the domestic consequences of hyping the threat from China at this particular time.

Our China policy is not working, and the exaggeration of the China threat comes just in time for the hawks in the political aviary who fear that the severe deficiencies of the Russian military in Ukraine is making it more difficult to exaggerate the Russia threat. I’ve been calling attention to the exaggeration of the Russian threat for the past 50 years.

But the policy community, the bipartisan congressional community, and the pundit community can’t let go of the idea that the Soviet Union and Russia present a ‘threat to the national security of the United States’.

The Biden policy ensures a robust military presence on the Russian border that will worsen Cold War 2.0. There will be prolonged and unnecessary increases in defense spending, and the absence of a diplomatic dialogue in those important areas where there is Russian-American agreement.

These areas include a variety of arms control and disarmament issues, such as stopping the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and limiting the use of space in the military competition as well as dealing with insurgencies and terrorism; environmental degradation; and future pandemics.

It is hard to imagine any Russian government willing to pursue diplomatic solutions with a United States that has sponsored a NATO with more than 30 members; a military base in Poland; a regional missile defense in Poland and Romania; and the use of Romanian military facilities close by Russian forces and the Black Sea.

This serious turning point is being ignored by the policy community as well as the pundit and academic communities.”

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NATO press South Korea to provide arms to Ukraine

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Image source: NATO

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea to provide military support to Ukraine, saying the country is in urgent need of ammunition, stresses “The Wall Street Journal”. Mr. Stoltenberg met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. After the meeting, Mr. Yoon promised to provide continued support to Ukraine, without saying whether Seoul would consider sending arms.

NATO is calling on South Korea to supply Ukraine because it is a U.S. ally with substantial capability to provide weapons, said Cha Du-hyeogn, a research fellow at Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. It means that NATO efforts are no longer enough.

While not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, South Korea is a close U.S. ally, and Mr. Yoon attended the NATO summit last year in Madrid. South Korea has sent materials such as gas masks, bulletproof vests and medical supplies to Ukraine, but has declined to provide lethal weapons, citing a law that prevents it from arming countries engaged in conflicts.

South Korea has been supplying arms to countries that have been supporting Ukraine in the war, including NATO member Poland. Seoul has signed deals to provide Poland with tanks and aircraft since the start of the war.

But, Seoul has sought to tread carefully with Russia, which is a large energy supplier to South Korea and holds sway with North Korea.

Mr. Stoltenberg in Seoul called North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development and missile tests grave threats that violate United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Pyongyang called Mr. Stoltenberg’s visit to South Korea and Japan a “prelude to confrontation and war,” saying it could bring a new Cold War to the Asia-Pacific region, according to North Korean state media.

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Russia restored Syrian air base for joint use

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Jarrah Base, Syria (Photo Credit: TASS)

Russia and Syria have restored the ‘Al-Jarrah’ military air base in Syria’s north to be jointly used, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

“Russian and Syrian military personnel restored the destroyed al-Jarrah airfield,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging. “The joint basing of aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force at the al-Jarrah airfield makes it possible to cover the state border.”

The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017.

Russia has been a dominant military force in Syria since launching air strikes and ground operations there in 2015. It further asserted its presence after the United States pulled out its forces in 2019.

The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has entered into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years, writes ‘The National’ from Abu Dhabi, UAE.

With backing from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has recovered most of its territory.

Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west, and Kurdish fighters backed by the US also control territory near the Turkish border.

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