Caspian Weekly Roundup
Russia Showcases New ICBM, ASAT Weapon, and ABM System
Last week, Russia conducted a successful test of its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile system. Russian officials boasted that this missile, known as the Satan 2, will be able to reach any target in the world and will render US ballistic missile defense systems useless. Around the same time, Russia also tested a new anti-satellite missile system known as the PL19/Nudol. This ASAT is a direct ascent weapon and has now been successfully tested four times. It adds to Russia’s growing ASAT capability, which also consists of a surface-to-air missile system and an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense system with ASAT capabilities. Finally, in Kazakhstan, Russia successfully tested the newest model of its A-135 ABM system, whose interceptor apparatus is more technologically advanced than Russia’s current ABM systems.
OSCE Publishes Report on Upcoming Azerbaijani Elections
The Election Observation Mission (EOM), housed in the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, has publicized its report on Azerbaijan’s presidential elections, which are set for April 11. According to Azerbaijani law, the composition of the election commissions is decided by the current political makeup of the parliament. EOM officials have noted that this may decrease the impartiality of the commissions. Furthermore, some noticed discrepancies between the published list of registered voters and the number of citizens above voting age, which may indicate some sort of voter fraud. Though very few complaints have been filed, some opposition parties in Azerbaijan have called for a boycott of the elections. The report also states that some EOM officials doubt the integrity of the elections.
Russia Closes Arms Deals with Uzbekistan and Armenia
According to Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov, Russia and Uzbekistan have signed a deal that will have Russia manufacture and deliver at least 10 Mi-35 helicopters to Uzbekistan’s military. The Mi-35 helicopter is a versatile combat helicopter with air-to-surface capabilities that can also serve as a support helicopter for ground missions. A date of delivery was not stated. Drozhzhov also announced that Armenia has been granted a $100 million loan from Russia for the purpose of buying Russian arms. He said that deliveries will start this year and continue until 2022.
Azerbaijan and Turkish Defense Ministers Meet
On March 29, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Defense Zakir Hasanov traveled to Ankara to convene a meeting with Turkey’s Minister of Defense Nurettin Canikli. The parties emphasized the importance of bilateral military cooperation and said that their partnership was carried out in compliance with NATO programs. They also discussed regional security and increasing cooperation in the military, military-technical, and military-educational spheres, particularly through the exchange of expert groups.
43rd Round of Geneva International Discussions
From March 27-28, the 43rd Round of Geneva International Discussions (GID) was held. This forum is the only official means for representatives from Georgia, its two regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Russia to discuss a potential settlement. The GID are also attended by representatives from the OSCE, EU, and UN. At this most recent round, topics discussed included the refusal by South Ossetia to release the body of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili, the non-use of force declaration that Georgia and Russia have accused each other of violating, and supposed human rights violations. Russia said that Georgia needed to recognize that it had no jurisdiction over the breakaway regions and should therefore convene direct talks with officials from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Unsurprisingly, no actionable agreement was reached.
Iranian President Rouhani Signs Agreements with Turkmen President Berdimuhamedov
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani made an official trip to Ashgabat last week to hold talks with President Berdimuhamedov. A main topic of discussion was the delimitation of the Caspian Sea. In this issue, Iran is an outlier—the other four littoral states have concluded agreements about boundaries, but Iran has consistently been reluctant to acknowledge the validity of them or sign any that do not exactly fulfill its desires. Aside from this topic, both men praised the ongoing cooperation in the transportation and transit sectors, particularly with the construction of the Kazkahstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railroad and the Turkmenbashy International Seaport. Once completed, these projects will give Turkmenistan more access and connectivity to markets both north and south. Finally, 13 cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed in the energy, transportation, transit, and economic spheres.
Kazakh National Bank Considers Ban of Crypto Trading, Mining in the Country
The chairman of the National Bank, Daniyar Akishev said that the exchange of digital currencies for national currency without solid regulations might trigger money laundering and tax evasion. Moreover, by banning cryptocurrencies, the government can diminish and prevent the risk through the national currency. Government-supported Astana International Finance Center (AIFC), Kazakhstan’s Blockchain, and Cryptocurrency Association worked on creating their own cryptocurrency, the Cryptotenge to conduct official activities.
International Global Silk Road Forum to Be Held in Capital of Kazakhstan This Summer
On March 27, 2018, the Kazakh Embassy in Beijing held the Kazakhstan and China in the New Epoch of Interaction round table. The director of the International Secretariat G-Global, Serik Nugerbekov, said that “It was decided to hold the forum ‘Global Silk Road’ in Astana on July 3-4, 2018. This forum is dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the initiative ‘One Belt, One Road’ and the twentieth anniversary of the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.” Furthermore, the event will bring together the mayors of cities along the ancient Silk Road to further boost communication and cooperation. A highlight of the coming “Global Silk Road” Forum is celebrated Chinese artist Shu Yong’s masterpiece Golden Bridge on Silk Road.
Afghan Peace Conference Leads to “Afghan-Led” Peace Declaration
Upon the conclusion of the Afghan Peace Conference held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last week, more than 20 countries, including the five members of the UN Security Council, signed a declaration. According to this document, the signatories support the peace process in Afghanistan and specifically are in favor of an Afghan-led one, meaning that the role of foreign powers in the peace process will be minimal. The document also declared the signatories’ desire for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who were not present at the conference. The Taliban has not published a response yet.
Source: The Hill, The Diplomat, Sputnik News, APA, TASS, Azeri News Agency, Civil News, AzerNews, Coin Telegraph, Global Times, TRT World