|Russia and the CIS News Digest
China-Russia Joint Military Exercises Set for Aug. 18-25
The first-ever joint Chinese-Russian military maneuvers, code-named Peace Mission 2005, will be conducted in Vladivostok, and in China's Shandong Peninsula on the Yellow Sea, Aug. 18-25. Nearly 10,000 troops from the armies, navies, air forces, airborne units, marine corps, and logistics units of the Chinese and Russian militaries, will participate, according to official announcements. Most of the troops will be Chinese. In planning for a year, the exercises will be inaugurated by the respective General Staff chiefs, General of the Army Yuri Baluyevsky and Col. Gen. Liang Guanglie. Defense ministers from the other Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and observers (India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan) are invited observers. A Chinese press release stated that the "exercises neither aim at any third party nor concern the interests of any third country"; officials in Taipei had protested that Taiwan appeared to be a target.
Russian Gen. Col. Vladimir Moltenskoy said Aug. 2 in Moscow, that the exercises would take place in stages: military-political consultations in Russia's Far Eastern Military District, followed by maneuvers on and near Shandong Peninsula. Moltenskoy stressed that the exercises will be held under the aegis of the SCO, and, contrary to some foreign media allegations, have nothing to do with Taiwan. Izvestia reported Aug. 3 that the script for the maneuvers entails a joint peacekeeping operation under UN mandate, in a hypothetical country that has experienced ethnic strife, and appealed to the UN for help.
Izvestia noted that Gen. Baluyevsky has just presided over a large command-staff exercise called Vostok 2005, which also took place in the Far East Military District. The current issue of Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye (Independent Military Review) quoted Baluyevsky about Vostok 2005 as "the first time the imposition of a state of emergency and martial law, and a special operation, were rehearsed extensively within the Far East Military District." A Russian Ministry of Defense announcement said that Vostok 2005, which ended on July 24, "rehearsed a wide range of possible actions to ensure the country's military security, should threats from separatist, radical religious-nationalist movements and international outfits arise." Baluyevsky stressed that Vostok 2005 sought to optimize interaction with Chinese security forces, calling this "a new form of cooperation of our states."
Vostok 5000 involved only 5,000 regular Armed Forces personnel, plus 14,000 people from the Internal Affairs Ministry, FSB security service and Emergencies Ministry. NVO's sources said that an FSB special regional center, like the one President Putin visited last month in Dagestan, in the North Caucasus, will be set up in Khabarovsk and Vladivostok for the Russian Far East. The paper drew out this aspect of the story, claiming that "The Far East Has Been Put on a Par with Chechnya"even as NVO's parent publication, Berezovsky's Nezavisimaya Gazeta, on July 29 featured an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski under the headline, "Brzezinski: Russia Will Lose Its East Some Day."
Uzbekistan Evicts USA from Base
On July 29 the Uzbekistan foreign ministry sent an eviction notice by courier to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, setting a six-month deadline for U.S. aircraft, equipment, and personnel to leave the Karshi-Khanabad (K2) air base. The base has been a major logistical support base for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, and is the only U.S. base in Central Asia that has road access to Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. Relations between the U.S. and Uzbekistan have been going downhill since May, and Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has openly threatened the government in Tashkent with regime change.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government newspaper, wrote Aug. 2 that Karshi-Khanabad could be taken over by Russia. The paper noted that upcoming Russian-Uzbek joint military maneuvers will be the biggest ones since Uzbekistan's independence.
While touching on the widespread analysis that Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov was chiefly angry at U.S. criticism of him for the bloody suppression of an insurrection in Andijon, eastern Uzbekistan, in Maywhich Tashkent called an Islamist coup attemptand at American help in a recent airlift of some of the Andijon perpetrators out of the area (they had fled to Kyrgyzstan and were taken out via Romania), Rossiyskaya Gazeta pointed to other elements of the picture. The U.S. has spent tens of millions of dollars to refurbish the base, wrote the paper, and "experts" believe that its closing will hurt Uzbekistan's economy. "But [those experts] forget to mention that shortly before, Karimov paid a visit to China, where Beijing rendered it quite substantial financial support: a $1.5 billion credit obviously outweighed tens of millions from the U.S.," said the Russian paper, adding that China is interested in importing oil and gas from Uzbekistan.
Azerbaijan Denies It Would Aid U.S. Actions vs. Iran
Novruz Mamedov, international affairs chief for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, on Aug. 4 denied a report put out the previous day by Boris Berezovsky's Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that Azerbaijan was close to agreement with Washington on providing the United States with an air base on its territory, to replace the one in Uzbekistan, from which the USA has been expelled (see above). Mamedov also, according to Interfax, said that rumors of Azerbaijan's getting involved in a U.S. military campaign against Iran were "highly exaggerated."
The resonance of the Nezavisimaya article was amplified by an Aug. 4 AFP wire under the headline "Azerbaijan Close to Deal on Hosting U.S. Forces." NG cited an anonymous source close to the Azerbaijani foreign ministry as saying that the matter was on the agenda during Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's five days of talks in Washington the first week of August, including with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The source is quoted as saying that Aliyev, "in the end will give his agreement to the deployment in the country of an American military contingent." On July 27, Deputy Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky had been in Baku to prepare Mammadyarov's visit and meet with other officials, as well as with Azerbaijani opposition leaders (elections are in November).
The AFP wire on Nezavisimaya's article pumped up the Iran aspect of the story. It reported that the article had cited Azerbaijani security sources as saying that U.S. military instructors were already shopping for base sites in the countryone near Baku and one close to the border with Iran. AFP added, "The former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan could represent a highly strategic location for U.S. forces, in part because it borders Iranone of the countries named by U.S. President George W. Bush in his first term as forming an 'axis of evil.'"
Russia Offers Electric Power to North Korea
Russia could offer electricity supplies and natural gas deliveries to North Korea, as well as reconstruct thermal power plants originally built with Soviet assistance, in exchange for North Korea's termination of its military nuclear programs, Valery Yermolov, the deputy head of the Russian delegation to the six-nation negotiations on the Korean nuclear problem, said on Aug. 1.
Russia Bars ABC News for Basayev Interview
Russia announced on Aug. 2 that ABC News will not be allowed to function inside Russia because of its promotion of Chechen terrorists, in light of the recent ABC broadcast of an interview with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen rebel leader. Earlier, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had called the network an "outlaw."
The interviewer, Andre Babitsky, who works for Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and interviewed Basayev while "on vacation," pointed out that he spent two days with Basayev and six other fighters, one a foreigner he described as an Arab. He said what remains of the Chechen separatist resistance are small groups of sickly men living stealthily in thick forests, fearful of lighting campfires for fear of detection by drones flying overhead.