February 2014

Washington Leverage Over Dushanbe

In Dushanbe arrived Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Hoagland. OH met with President Emomali Rahmon and discussed issues related to possible U.S. investment in the local economy. According to the press service of the President of Tajikistan, the head of state and guest discussed the situation in Afghanistan and its prospects after the withdrawal of NATO troops and implementation of CASA-1000 project. Experts believe that the U.S. is still regarded by the Central Asian countries as a platform to organize its military facilities.

Three Lessons from Switzerland’s Immigration Referendum

By Timo Lochocki

On February 9, a small majority of Swiss voters approved a proposal by the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to significantly limit migration inflows from other European countries. The Swiss vote garnered attention across Europe because it now requires the renegotiation of certain agreements between the European Union and Switzerland — a non-member — which had thus far been ensured by bilateral treaties. The issues at stake are the free movement of goods, capital, services, and, most importantly, people — the EU’s “Four Freedoms.” Based on the referendum, the number of Germans, French, or Polish citizens allowed to migrate to Switzerland will be contingent on a quota system.

Ukraine’s Uncertain Future

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The venal president of Ukraine is on the run and the bloodshed has stopped, but it is far too early to celebrate or to claim that the West has “won” or that Russia has “lost.” One incontrovertible lesson from the events in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, is that the deeply divided country will have to contend with dangerous problems that could reverberate beyond its borders.

Borders in the Fergana Valley: an inevitable source of conflict?

By Fabio Belafatti

The Fergana Valley, a fertile region at the heart of Central Asia split between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, has long been the focus of research that stresses the multiple security threats originating from and developing within the region. Among them, border issues and the problems of enclaves are constantly regarded as a highly destabilizing factor. Recent clashes at the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have highlighted the issue once more, but one should carefully consider all factors before reaching simplistic conclusions about the valley’s security threats.

Germany in New Role as Transit Country for Russian Gas

By Vladimir Socor

On February 5, Gazprom refloated the option of expanding the Nord Stream pipeline by adding a third and possibly a fourth line to the existing two. A third and a fourth line would reach beyond the Baltic Sea to countries on the North Sea. Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller discussed these options in Moscow with Matthias Warnig, CEO of the Gazprom-controlled Nord Stream consortium. These options have been aired, on and off, for the last two years (Vedomosti, February 6).

In Search of Transatlantic Realism

By Jan Techau

Victoria Nuland did not make me write this blog post, but she clearly helped me. Having spent the past week in Washington, D.C., I have again been struck by how few people in that town give a hoot about Europe. They care about China, naturally; the Middle East, of course; Russia, again; and Iran, as ever. But from an American perspective, Europe plainly has no real role in any of that. High time for a hefty dose of realism in transatlantic relations.

New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia

By George Friedman

The struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world -- a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cellphone conversation, declared her strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly and without the Europeans to piece together a specific opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action.