In Central Asia, It Is Better to Speak of Confrontation than of War 1

Map Central Asia

On December 28th, 2012, Arielle Thedrel published in the French newspaper Le Figaro an article entitled Une Guerre de l’Eau Menace l’Asie Centrale, alluding to the uneasy situation of water-management in Central Asia, at the several occasions of (past and future) confrontation and at the political acrimony among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. For the purpose of clarity, by Central Asia here is meant as formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There is indeed a lot of talk about “water wars” in Central Asia, about a possible collapse of the region, about the likely unravelling of the stability of the area due to clashes over hydro resources.

To me, what we observe in Central Asia is more a confrontation than a war in perspective, a confrontation kept as such by diplomatic efforts made by the state leaders, by the role of international organisations, by the systemic and prospective danger of Afghanistan spilling over and by the presence of Russia, albeit weaker than in the past. There is acrimony, there is conflict, but there are also attempts to scale down risky behaviours, sharp statements and disruptive actions. While weak and perhaps superficial, these attempts should be considered in a thorough analysis of water problems in Central Asia from a political-diplomatic perspective. What I am suggesting, therefore, is not foolish or naïve optimism, but a more thorough and less emotional assessment of the overall regional balance of interests in the region. A proof of this is that a water war in Central Asia has been claimed for at least ten years if not more, and still these states not only have avoided it, but have been able to reach a legal agreement as that of 2008, then abandoned. The hope for the future, therefore, is not that war will be avoided, but rather that these diplomatic and political stalemates will develop in concrete action to make water management in the region better in the interest of all parts concerned. More…

How useful is it to characterise the presence of foreign states in Central Asia as a new ‘Great Game’? 1

The States of Central Asia

The recent resurgence of the geopolitical and geostrategic importance of Central Asia (hereafter CA) has led to the re-adoption of the Great Game discourse[1], recalling the strategic rivalry which opposed the British Empire and the Russian Empire in the XIX century.


Kazakhstan’s big plans for OSCE. Let’s hope not 4

Dmitry Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana, 2008 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Kazakhstan promises to reform OSCE. Europe still hopes to democratize the entrenched authoritarian Kazakhstan. Who is under the bigger illusion?

Yesterday, Kazakhstan took up the chairmanship of the OSCE for the 2010-2011 mandate. The US manifested all its support to the new OSCE leaders and “stands ready to encourage your efforts to lead by example and reflect in practice the principles and provisions of the organization you now chair.” The Finnish foreign minister, whose country occupied this seat in 2008, explicitly stated his faith in the good intentions of the new team chairing the OSCE and even mentioned a possible reform of the organization concerning the European security. He believes in the Kazakhstan’s projects for the OSCE despite the fact that “none of the Central Asian countries are, I guess, perfect from a Western, democratic, rule-of-law perspective.” He also believes in the diplomatic ability of Kazakh leaders in bringing at the same table all OSCE members in order to reform the European security framework with the help of a recent plan endorsed by the Russian president Medvedev.


Authoritarian regimes thrive in the UN Human Rights Council 10

At the beginning of this month, two very troubling reports on the state of democracy in the world have been released almost simultaneously, and both are concerned with the highest locus of legitimacy and authority when dealing with democracy and human rights, the UN and, most specifically, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the successor of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) since 2006. The first research is Freedom House’s annual report on the activity of UNHRC and the second was released by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). This article will present the conclusions of these two reports, briefly corroborating their results with the most recent Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report (2008) scores on political rights and civil liberties (a scale from 1 to 7, 1 for the highest degree of freedom, and 7 for the lowest level). More…

Mâna lungă a lui Chavez Răspunde

În luna iunie s-au întâmplat câteva lucruri foarte interesante în America Latină, cu implicaţii globale aş zice. Mai intâi in Consiliul pentru Drepturile Omului al ONU, unde Cuba a fost răsfăţata adunării, dacă e să ne luăm după declaraţia oficială trimisă către presă pe 10 iunie. Potrivit acestui document, Cuba „era şi a rămas un bun exemplu al respectării drepturilor omului, incluzând drepturile sociale, culturale şi economice”. Puţin mai departe ne este amintit faptul că un embargo nedrept a pus beţe in roate dezvoltării acestei ţări, care şi-a continuat totuşi eforturile pentru protejarea şi extinderea drepturilor omului. Pakistan, Venezuela, Rusia, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Sri Lanka, China şi un lung şir de organizaţii angajate în numele drepturilor omului deplâng această stare de fapt şi laudă efortul dublu pe care Cuba l-a depus pentru a suporta aceste nedreptăţi şi a întări drepturile politice!, socio-economice, culturale. Spre sfârsitul raportului, poziţia critică a Human Rights Watch si a Centrist Democratic International aproape că pare stingheră. In orice caz, efectul disonant este maxim. More…