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
1Oil, the lifeblood of many countries that produce and sell it, appears to be rapidly turning into an ever-cheaper economic curse.While the price has been declining for months, forecasts have always been hedged with the assumption that oil would eventually stabilize or at least not stay low for long. But new anxieties about frailties in China, the world’s most voracious consumer of energy, have raised fears that the price of oil, now 30 percent lower than it was just a few months ago, could remain depressed far longer than even the most pessimistic projections, and do even deeper damage to oil exporters. [New York Times]
2Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi along with King Abdullah II of Jordan and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Nahyan, in a series of talks starting on Tuesday in Moscow. Putin’s meeting with King Abdullah will pay special attention to the implementation of joint projects, including the construction of the first Jordanian nuclear power plant, according to a statement released by the Kremlin on Monday. Talks with Crown Prince Al-Nahyan, also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, will focus on enhancing security and stability in the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to bilateral cooperation in energy and investment.
3New gas field discovered in Turkmenistan. A powerful commercial natural gas inflow was obtained at the ‘Bagly-1’ area in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan’s Mary Province, the Turkmen newspaper ‘Neutral Turkmenistan’ said. According to the newspaper this happened after the first exploration well at the area reached a depth of 4,690 meters. The daily hydrocarbon output at the new field exceeds one and a half million cubic meters. The newspaper said the new field’s prospect can also be judged from its being located a few dozen kilometers away from the gigantic Galkynysh field, which is famous worldwide for its explored and proven natural gas reserves.
4Azerbaijan`s investment potential will be discussed as part of “Milan Expo-2015″ international exhibition on Tuesday.”Invest in Azerbaijan: Business environment and opportunities” event will be co-organized by the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and Azerbaijan-Italy Trade Institute (ITAZERCOM).The agenda includes discussions on prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of information and communication technologies, agriculture, chemistry, mechanics, environment, industry and construction.The event will bring together representatives of AZPROMO, Azerbaijan Investment Company, Sumgait Chemical Industrial Park, and Clean City company.
5Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces have received five air defence missile systems from Russia according to the press-office of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense.“These S300PS air defence missile systems will be tested during live fire exercise and transferred to military bases of Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces to be in operation readiness covering the airspace of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the Commander of Kazakhstan’s AA Troops Nurzhan Mukanov said. The S300PS AA missile systems were given to Kazakhstan free of charge.
6Preparation for the official visit of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov to Afghanistan, scheduled for August 27 was discussed at the last meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers in Ashgabat, the Turkmen government reported. The president of Turkmenistan said that the country’s stance is exclusively peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan by taking concrete steps to restore the Afghan economy and social infrastructure, according to the message.All this is proved by large-scale projects initiated by the Turkmen side, such as the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, which started in 2013.
7Azerbaijan has expanded the investment in the social and economic spheres of the country in January to July, 2015.The investments in the mentioned spheres increased by 3.5 percent as compared with the same period of the past year, according to the report of the Azerbaijan State Statistical Committee.The total amount of investments amounted to 9.37 billion manats (over $8.94 billion), including 58.6 percent of internal investments.The government allocated the largest investments in the field of the construction and installation works for this period, amounting to 74.7 percent of the total volume of investments.
8Ahead of a high-level technical delegation from Iran, the Ministry of Commerce on Monday explored various avenues to enhance bilateral trade to $5 billion in the next five years after lifting of international sanctions against Iran. A delegation from Iran will visit Islamabad on August 25-26 to revive the trade links. Pakistan has a narrow export basket to Iran because 63 per cent of exports comprised of rice alone. Pakistan’s exports to Iran fell to a low level of $43 million in 2014 from $182m in 2010. While Iranian imports fell to $186m in 2014 from $884m in 2010.
9Duda on Top of Russian Threat. Poland sees Russia as a pre-eminent threat. This has been the essence of speeches made by Andrzej Duda, the newly appointed President who has called for additional security guarantees from NATO and has plans to create an anti-Russian bloc within the organization alongside other Eastern European countries. Given Duda’s attitude, it would seem that Russian–Polish relations could deteriorate even further, while tensions in the Baltic–Black Sea Region as a whole will increase sharply. Vadim Trukhachev for RIAC.
10The first lady of Azerbaijan, ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva is a very dynamic person with great talents and open-mindedness, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri said in an interview with Trend news agency.“She has always been an advocate of dialogue and positive interaction between cultures,” he said.The ISESCO director general went on to add that Mehriban Aliyeva’s support to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue is a strong factor of its success in achieving its noble objectives.
FOCUS magazine: This is how war becomes U.S. business
Former President Calvin Coolidge’s sentence has been applicable for centuries: “After all, the main business of the American people is business.”
The United States supports Ukraine like no other country in the world. But this help is not entirely disinterested. Because even Joe Biden has nothing to give away, notes Gabor Steingart, one of the most famous German journalists in his article at FOCUS magazine.
The President of the United States is betting on “armament on credit.” Germany, on the other hand, can only hope that the war will soon end not far from its front door. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has provided more than $50 billion in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Much more than in any other country.
In May 2022, the Senate passed a law allowing the US government to quickly and without bureaucratic delays provide military equipment to Ukraine – the Lend-Lease Act for the Defense of Democracy in Ukraine of 2022. Approximately US$23 billion in military support has not been wasted. It states that “any defense loan or lease to the Government of Ukraine is subject to return, reimbursement and repayment.”
Arms on credit, which is what it is, was invented during World War II when Winston Churchill found he could not defend Britain alone. The government has now remembered the procedure for selling weapons against bills. The fact is that the United States is strict in these matters. Britain delayed its Lend-Lease contributions until 2006, when the World War was already 61 years old.
An analysis by Foreign Policy magazine found that the United States nearly doubled the number of approved arms sales to NATO allies in 2022 compared to 2021, from $15.5 billion to $28 billion. This is how war becomes business.
Economic sanctions—trade restrictions, asset freezes, payment system bans, or oil export bans—have isolated Russia. This will irrevocably disrupt the old German-Russian trade for a very long time. American energy companies offer themselves as helpers in an emergency.
LNG imports from America doubled in 2022. U.S. oil is also suddenly in demand, with about 500 U.S. oil tankers heading to Europe since February 2022, according to data provider ‘OilX’, and helped push U.S. crude oil exports to a record high last year. Between December 2021 and December 2022, US exports increased by 52 percent.
In the medium term, the concentration of uncertainty in Europe will also benefit the US capital market, which is perceived by investors as a safe haven. The outflow of capital from Europe in the first months of the war was significant.
BASF reported a loss of billions of dollars, which was mainly caused by the write-down of the Russian business, which has since ceased.
The Europeans, and Germany in particular, have a primary strategic interest in ending the conflict as soon as possible, or at least freezing it, and in no case in the direction of the Western European metropolises.
The stronger and more intense the war rages in Europe, the more pessimistic are investment conditions both in the real economy and in the capital markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt.
Conclusion: Trading partner Russia is de facto exchanged for trading partner America. Thus, the Americans are also strengthening their negotiating position for negotiations on future free trade agreements and a strategy for China.
If there were a planning headquarters in the Ministry of Defense, then it would write down the following paradox for the minister in the summary: Russia is at war with Ukraine – and America is winning.
Zelensky regime’ war against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The American Conservative’ published a very detailed story about what kind of war the president Zelensky unleashed to destroy the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It’s very important to mention that the information was signed by a person from Kyiv, who is aware of all the events, but he can’t reveal his name and chose a pseudonym Yevhen Herman – Yevhen Herman is the pseudonym of a journalist in Kyiv, – notes ‘The American Conservative’. The story is very accurate and detailed:
“The religious situation in modern Ukraine is complicated.
The country has been considered Orthodox since 988, when the bishops of Constantinople baptized this land, which was then ruled by the Kievan Rus. The Russian Orthodox Church originates from Kyiv. The first metropolitans of this church had their sees there, and only centuries later were they transferred to Moscow.
The emergence of independent Ukraine in 1991 and the activation of Ukrainian nationalism plunged the Orthodox environment into turmoil. Filaret, the ruling bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), broke away from the church, with the help of the new Ukrainian authorities, and founded a new church structure, which he called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Several other priests founded another structure, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).
So the split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine was provoked and took place…
The rest of world Orthodoxy never recognized these structures. The fact is that there are very strict rules called canons in the Orthodox Church. For ecclesiastical crimes, Filaret was in 1992 deprived of his episcopal dignity and of divine power in the performance of church sacraments.
However, bishops, like all people, live in the modern world and are affected by outside influences. This is what happened with the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew. In 2018, the multimillionaire and then president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko went to Istanbul to Patriarch Bartholomew and requested a legalization document (tomos) for the unrecognized Ukrainian churches, the UOC-KP and the UAOC. At the same time, pressure was put on the UOC so that it would join these breakaway structures.
Thus, at the end of 2018, Bartholomew revoked the act of 1686 transferring the Kyiv Metropolis to the Russian Church. He reinstated Filaret in his priesthood and retroactively recognized all rites performed by the anathematized metropolitan. The two churches were united under the name the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU).
At that time, the UOC was twice as big as the OCU. Millions of Ukrainians call themselves parishioners of the UOC throughout the country. However, this did not bother either Bartholomew or Poroshenko. The latter began to implement a campaign throughout the media where the UOC was called the “Moscow Church” and the OCU the “Ukrainian,” although there are only Ukrainians in both denominations.
If you think that the United States stood aside while this was unfolding, you are mistaken. The State Department and politicians of both parties carried out work to promote the new church. Two months before the creation of the OCU in 2018, Filaret and Epifaniy met in the United States with Joe Biden, who declared his gratitude for their work. State Department Ambassador for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and special representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker declared their support for this project.
For a time, it seemed that the seizure of UOC churches was at an end. However, the Russian Special military operation in Ukraine, alongside the support for that invasion by the leadership of the Russian Church in Moscow, changed everything. Seizures of UOC churches resumed, carried out by the forces of radicals without the participation of the central government. And this was only the calm before the storm.
Zelenskyy and Ukrainian officials brought down repressions on the UOC; in comparison, Poroshenko’s methods seemed like child’s play.
Cathedrals and monasteries were searched by Ukrainian SBU officers (photo), who reported that they allegedly found evidence of collaboration between bishops and priests of the UOC and ‘the enemy’.
These findings were often ridiculous. Security officials exhibited photos of children’s bibles, prayer books, old liturgical books, archival collections of newspapers and magazines featuring the words “Russian,” and Christmas or Easter sermons of the Russian Church patriarch. In cases where there was nothing to find, the special services planted compromising evidence themselves.
Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson assessed the situation accurately: “Zelenskyy’s secret police have raided monasteries across Ukraine, and even a convent full of nuns, and arrested dozens of priests for no justifiable reasons whatsoever and in clear violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, which no longer matters. And in the face of this, the Biden’s administration has said nothing. Not one word. Instead, they continue to push to send Zelenskyy more tax dollars.”
Carlson is absolutely right. The president, in violation of Ukrainian laws, imposed sanctions against Ukrainian bishops and then revoked the Ukrainian citizenship of some other bishops, despite the fact that this clearly contradicts the Constitution.
However, it seems that Zelenskyy is set to completely outlaw and destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On January 20, a bill on the de facto ban of the UOC was submitted to parliament.
It marks a return to a shameful era when a state in the center of Europe intends to crack down on the religion of its own people.
Burkina Faso: Former colony orders French troops to leave
Burkina Faso has demanded the withdrawal of French troops stationed on the territory of the West African nation, local media reported, citing a government decision. Relations between Paris and its former colony have been on a downward spiral for months now, with the local population blaming France for their security problems.
Agence d’Information du Burkina (AIB) reported that the government of Burkina Faso had suspended a 2018 agreement with France, which regulated the deployment of its service members in the country. Paris now has one month to remove its soldiers, the agency said.
France currently has 400 troops in the African country, who are stationed there as part of efforts to combat Islamist terrorist groups in the region.
In November 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron officially announced the end of anti-insurgent ‘Operation Barkhane’ in the Sahel region, which has been largely viewed as a failure. In doing so, France also vowed to “reduce the exposure and visibility of [its] military forces in Africa.”
The Sahel is a region in northern Africa that includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and a number of other neighboring countries.
Paris ended another military mission in neighboring Mali last August after relations went sour, with the government calling France’s military involvement “not satisfactory.”
Hundreds of people protested in the Burkina Faso’ capital Ouagadougou against the French military presence, chanting anti-French slogans.
Mohamed Sinon, one of the main leaders of the collective that called the demonstration, said it was to show support for junta leader Traore and the security forces fighting jihadists. “We are a pan-African movement and we want cooperation between Burkina Faso and Russia, but also the strengthening of friendship and of cooperation with Guinea and Mali,” he added.
Protesters carried huge posters showing the presidents of Mali and Guinea — both of whom also came to power in coups — as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A source close to the government clarified it was “not the severance of relations with France. The notification only concerns military cooperation agreements”.
Sources familiar with the matter told AFP that France’s preferred option would be to redeploy its forces in the south of neighbouring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already stationed.
French troops withdrew from Mali last year after a 2020 coup in the former French colony saw its rulers also inch closer to Russia.
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