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New Report for USAID — “Central Asian Involvement in the Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Drivers and Responses”

This spring USAID and MSI International commissioned me to write a long-form policy paper on the Central Asian recruiting to the Syrian conflict. Though it took a couple of months to make sure it was approved for public release, I’m happy to finally be able to share it. This report is the culmination of around [...]

A half-frozen low-intensity conflict in Eastern Ukraine?

Caught in a “no war, no peace” situation, Eastern Ukraine is slowly but relentlessly diving into a low-intensity conflict. From the onset of the crisis, barely two years ago, Ukraine has been at war with Russia over the territorial integrity of Crimea and separatist Donbas – two fronts Kyiv has to deal with simultaneously. Through [...]

Russian Strategy – WTF?

Is Russian Strategy warlike – true or false? Russia’s strategic deployment and bombing campaign in Syria appears to have surprised and shocked many observers, including Russia watchers.  It shouldn’t have. The uproar is all about Russian aggression and expansionism.  Pundits decry Putin’s alleged attempt to re-create the Soviet Union.  The descriptors of Putin and Russia [...]

98 Degrees and Rising? Azerbaijan’s Military Expansion and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

by Suzanne Rothman

The mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh is the epicenter of one of the world’s deadliest ethnic conflicts, one that has been considered “frozen” since the belligerents, Armenia and Azerbaijan, signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. In reality, however, border skirmishes resulting in casualties on both sides are abundant and the mutual hostility remains intense on the [...]

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Understanding Crimea’s Annexation in Light of Separatism in Eastern Ukraine

by Max Hess

Nearly eighteen months after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the motivations and goals of Crimea and Sevastopol’s integration into the Russian Federation remain highly contentious. Foreign policy scholars and regional analysts have issued a bevy of opinions as to what Russia hoped to achieve through the annexation, ranging from arguments that it was based in realist [...]

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US DoS’s recognition of Uzbek rights advocate makes Bishkek so unhappy that…

by Elmurad Kasym

In early March 2011, the U.S. Department of State awarded then-Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva with the International Women of Courage Award. “So what?” an interested reader might ask. “She earned it,” was perhaps the thought in her administration, which included Temir Sariyev—then the deputy premier and finances minister. However, when the U.S. DoS awarded Azimjan [...]

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An Exile in Ukraine Recalls Fleeing his Native Kyrgyzstan

by Matthew Kupfer
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In March 2014, as Russia’s “little green men” were quietly seizing the Crimean peninsula, a well known liberal activist from Kyrgyzstan, Ilya Lukash, left his homeland for Ukraine. He was fleeing harassment and threats of violence after Kyrgyz nationalists publicly pilloried him as a “gay activist” and burnt his portrait during an anti-Western protest. My [...]

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The Islamic Renaissance Party’s downfall and its consequences for Tajikistan’s stability

by Helene Thibault
The IRPT regional office in Khujand, Sughd province in 2011. The building was destroyed in 2014. Photo taken by author.

Tajikistan is the sole Central Asian country to have legalized a faith-based political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). The IRPT is considered to be the main heir of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) that opposed government forces during the civil war (1992-1997). The June 1997 peace agreement devised the allocation of 30% [...]

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The Ukrainian crisis between fluidity and glaciation

by Mathieu BOULEGUE

Over the past few weeks, the war in Donbas between Ukrainian armed forces and DPR-LPR separatists has transformed into a mix of stagnant, almost frozen conflict and fluid hybrid warfare. Under the conditions of a shaky truce and the overall lack of respect of the Minsk 2 agreements, the war goes forth on a level [...]

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The coming crisis in Kyrgyzstan: a mixture of politics and gold

by Max Hess

Kyrgyzstan is due to hold legislative elections in October and, once again, all that everybody can think about is the gold. While Kyrgyzstan fails to crack the top 25 global gold producers, gold nevertheless accounts for roughly 40 per cent of export earnings and the gold industry is responsible for some 20 per cent of [...]

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SCO Electoral Missions and Legitimization of Undemocratic Elections: “I’m gonna guild my own democracy with electoral fraud and fellow dictators”

by Aijan Sharshenova
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[After being kicked out of a theme park] “I’m gonna go build my own theme park, with blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the park!” -Bender, Futurama, 1999, season 1, ep.2 Working on a large piece of research is more of a burden than fun, and that is why any chance to have a laugh [...]

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Ukraine on the eve of a new offensive in Donbass?

by Mathieu BOULEGUE

Amid worrying signs that a new military offensive might be launched by Kremlin-backed separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine, the Foreign Ministers of the “Normandy Format” – namely Russian Sergei Lavrov, German Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Laurent Fabius, and Ukrainian Pavlo Klimkin – met in Berlin on April 13 to discuss the further implementation of the Minsk [...]

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Are Russian Military Exercises a Threat? How to Interpret Russia’s Military Maneuvers in 2015

by Nathan Barrick

In a 12 April interview, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves claimed insufficient NATO forces were located in Estonia to prevent a Russian invasion, which he said would be over in about four hours. A year ago, the press was afire with wild predictions on who Russia’s next target after Crimea would be – this Ukrainian [...]

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