Flotsam and JetsamEven though I’ve

by Nathan Hamm on 12/20/2003

Flotsam and JetsamEven though I’ve seen a lot of interesting
news, I’ve been too busy thinking that it’s a crime that Andy Serkis
will probably not be nominated for Best Supporting Actor because Gollum
is digital. Anyway, here’s the news:
Kazakstan has school violence problems.
In the Southern part of the country, teachers are being punished for
not instilling an anti-crime message in classes. Maybe it’s because the
little Kazak gangster boys can’t get the death penalty
anymore.
I never had much hope for the much heralded independent printing house
in Kyrgyzstan. It was sponsored by the State Department and Freedom House to break the state monopoly on printing. Of course, less than two months after opening, controversy has hit.
A member of their board of directors has gone back to the state-owned
press, accusing Freedom House staff of poor management and low-quality
printing at prices much higher than the state charges.
As Afghanistan debates its constitution, Eurasianet takes a look at the
debate over whether the government should be presidential or parliamentary.
Both sides have good points, but it should be mentioned that past
parliamentary systems in Afghanistan have never worked too well.
Meanwhile, former mujahedin leaders have been given significant clout,
having been appointed to lead half of the ten working groups set to
debate the constitution in great detail. Finally, female delegates are demanding equal rights be written into the constitution.

Georgia’s revolution won’t translate easily
to neighboring states because none have as developed an NGO network as
does Georgia. I’d agree with this and tack two points on to it. First
is that I think Ukraine is the only likely prospect
for a similar revolution anytime soon. Second, the importance of NGOs
to Georgia’s revolution speaks volumes to the importance of protecting
them as part of any serious democracy promotion program in
authoritarian states friendly to the US.
I think President Burjanadze might be blowing smoke, but she says that
Georgia is opposed to US bases in Georgia.
She is demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops and does not want US
troops to replace them. If she genuinely does not want US troops to be
based in Georgia, I would have to guess it’s to calm Russia, which is
slowly becoming surrounded by American soldiers.
The Base RaceSpeaking of bases, the Asia Times Online proves
that it can occasionally put out an informative story devoid of
anti-American rhetoric in this piece on the base race
in Central Asia. Read it, it’s good, Stephen Blank is sharp. He even
covers Indian and Chinese ambitions for bases in Central Asia. I’ll
avoid quoting too much from it as it ties together the Great Game
stories I mention on here from time to time. Blank mentions that the
base race is destabilizing, and he’s probably right. I’m admittedly
biased, but I think this is mostly the fault of Russia and its
inability to drop its Cold War mindset towards the positioning of US
troops and its painfully pathetic attempts to make its conventional
forces look effective and important. Blank points out that Russia’s
refusal to vacate bases in Georgia and Moldova, as it is required to
under the terms of its OSCE participation, makes one question what its
trying to achieve with foreign bases when it honestly can’t support
expeditionary forces anywhere. The same logic applies to the Caucasus
and Central Asia. Our interest in basing troops should be a windfall to
a Russia that’s badly in need of military reform (maybe get a
professional, volunteer army or something?). Russian pride, of course,
demands a different course of action, one of assertiveness and
aggression, as was seen in parliamentary races
recently. [I didn’t pay much attention to these elections, but if
anyone out there did and wants to tell me if my thesis from a few years
ago is as right as I think it is or if I’m way off the mark, email me]
US presence in the southern marches of the former Soviet empire
significantly improve Russian security, but that too, is an insult to
Russia.
Look at the way China reacts to US bases in Central Asia.

“…………………………………………………………………….”

Done?
Good. China’s silence stands in stark contrast to the aneurysms Russian
diplomats have been having lately. I’m sure China’s not thrilled to
have US troops on its western borders, but it’s still getting military
cooperation out of its Central Asian neighbors, so the US presence
isn’t an enormous problem. Russia needs to start looking at it the same
way.
And really, I have no idea why any sane country would want Russian
troops. In Land Beyond the River,
Monica Whitlock details how Russian troops would rent their tanks to
the highest bidder during the Tajik civil war. Of course, the tanks
switched sides as prices went ever higher. Anyway, read the Stephen
Blank article, it’s a good summary of the base race and where it’s
heading.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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