With more than a year to go before the expiration of Russia’s lease for Azerbaijan’s Gabala radar station, Baku and Moscow are already haggling about a renewal, EurasiaNet.org has learned. Amid Russia’s ongoing tussle with Washington over a European anti-missile defense system, Azerbaijan is expected to try and squeeze Moscow for more cash in order to extend the lease.
As US-led forces gear up to downsize in Afghanistan, Moscow is increasingly worried about the possibility of militants, drugs and instability seeping into Central Asia. This growing concern is pushing the Kremlin to seek a more hands-on role in Central Asian border security.
The unexpected May 29 death of Sergei Bagapsh, the de facto leader of the breakaway region of Abkhazia, is certain to shake up Abkhaz politics, but some Abkhaz observers say that the underlying question is whether or not it will lead to instability in the territory.
In a jab at Moscow, Georgia on May 20 became the first country to recognize as genocide Tsarist Russia’s massive slaughter of ethnic Circassians in the mid-19th century. The decision constitutes part of Tbilisi’s ongoing argument that the Caucasus is a region where Russia comes as an outsider, not as a native with the right to rule.
Russia is upping the ante in the Caspian Sea with talk of bolstering its naval forces. The move reflects Moscow’s frustration over the inability of the five Caspian littoral states to define the sea’s boundaries.
A customs union is still several months away from taking effect, but Russia already seems to be exerting influence over Kazakhstan’s trade. Concerned that its own market will become flooded with smuggled Chinese goods, Moscow is pressuring Astana to tighten controls at the Kazakhstani-Chinese border before July 1, when Russia is due to remove its checkpoints along its frontier with Kazakhstan.
Armenian analysts say Georgia’s recent move to block a transit route for Armenia-bound Russian military supplies did not come as a surprise. But officials in Yerevan still aren’t commenting on how Russia and Armenia will get around the transit corridor’s closure.