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Archive for the ‘Eurasia’ Category

Country Analysis Brief: Turkey

April 23, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Turkey
Source: Energy Information Administration

Over the past three years, Turkey has experienced some of the fastest growth in energy demand of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Unlike a number of other OECD countries in Europe, Turkey’s economy has avoided the prolonged stagnation that has characterized much of the continent for the past few years. The country’s energy use is still relatively low, although it is increasing at a fast pace. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy use will continue to grow at an annual growth rate of around 4.5% from 2015 to 2030, approximately doubling over the next decade. The IEA expects electricity demand growth to increase at an even faster pace.

Meeting this level of growth will require significant investment in the energy sector, much of which will come from the private sector. Although Turkey is planning large investments in natural gas and electricity infrastructure, the government seeks to reduce the country’s dependence on imported natural gas by diversifying its energy mix.

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Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution

The Arctic is changing and increasingly drawing the world’s interest, with the potential for vast reserves of offshore oil and gas constituting arguably the most attractive, yet challenging prospect in the region.

As the U.S. prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this policy brief is designed to inform the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government of the current state of oil and gas governance in the Arctic, and to address the following questions:

  • How can the U.S. elevate the Arctic region as a priority national interest?
  • How can the U.S. lead in strengthening offshore oil and gas governance in the Arctic?

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

CRS — Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a national strategy document for the Arctic region. On January 30, 2014, the Obama Administration released an implementation plan for this strategy.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.

CRS — Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, its increased economic and military self-reliance since the Cold War allows Turkey relatively greater opportunity for an assertive role in foreign policy. Greater Turkish independence of action and continuing political transformation appear to have been mutually reinforcing—with both led for more than a decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, it remains unclear how Turkey might reconcile majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with secular governance and protection of individual freedoms and minority rights, including with regard to Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.

Does Secular Education Impact Religiosity, Electoral Participation and the Propensity to Vote for Islamic Parties? Evidence from an Education Reform in a Muslim Country

April 6, 2014 Comments off

Does Secular Education Impact Religiosity, Electoral Participation and the Propensity to Vote for Islamic Parties? Evidence from an Education Reform in a Muslim Country (PDF)
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

Using a unique survey of adults in Turkey, we find that an increase in educational attainment, due to an exogenous secular education reform, decreases women’s propensity to identify themselves as religious, lowers their tendency to wear a religious head cover (head scarf, turban or burka) and increases the tendency for modernity. Education reduces women’s propensity to vote for Islamic parties. There is no statistically significant impact of education on men’s religiosity or their tendency to vote for Islamic parties and education does not influence the propensity to cast a vote in national elections for men or women. The impact of education on religiosity and voting preference is not working through migration, residential location or labor force participation.

CRS — Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, its increased economic and military self-reliance since the Cold War allows Turkey relatively greater opportunity for an assertive role in foreign policy. Greater Turkish independence of action and continuing political transformation appear to have been mutually reinforcing—with both led for more than a decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, it remains unclear how Turkey might reconcile majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with secular governance and protection of individual freedoms and minority rights, including with regard to Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (updated)

March 12, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.

Backgrounder: Ukraine in Crisis

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: >Ukraine in Crisis
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Ukraine’s most prolonged and deadly crisis since its post-Soviet independence began as a protest against the government dropping plans to forge closer trade ties with the European Union and has since spurred a global standoff between Russia and Western powers. The crisis stems from more than twenty years of weak governance, a lopsided economy dominated by oligarchs, heavy reliance on Russia, and sharp differences between Ukraine’s linguistically, religiously, and ethnically distinct eastern and western halves. After the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in Feburary 2014, Russian moves to take control of the Crimean Peninsula signaled Moscow’s intent to retain its sphere of influence and raised serious questions about the ability of the state’s new leaders to provide stability and a path to meaningful reforms.

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

March 7, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.\

CRS — Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

March 3, 2014 Comments off

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states’ ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. Successive Administrations have supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan’s energy sector as a means of increasing the diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of U.S. global counter-terrorism efforts, the U.S. military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia’s military and security forces. Troops from all three regional states have participated in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The regional states also have granted transit privileges for U.S. military personnel and equipment bound to and from Afghanistan.

Global gas markets: The North American factor

February 28, 2014 Comments off

Global gas markets: The North American factor
Source: McKinsey & Companies

Cost curves, which array blocks of supply according to their expense, can clarify the dynamics of supply in commodity industries. They are particularly useful when multiple new sources compete to serve a finite market. Such a situation exists today for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Exporters from North America—now among the world’s low-cost gas producers, given recent advances in recovering shale gas—aim to export LNG in competition mostly with projects in Africa, Australia, and Russia.

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games
Source: U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team

Whether traveling to Sochi, Russia for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, or viewing the games from locations abroad, there are several cyber-related risks to consider. As with many international level media events, hacktivists may attempt to take advantage of the large audience to spread their own message. Additionally, cyber criminals may use the games as a lure in spam, phishing or drive-by-download campaigns to gain personally identifiable information or harvest credentials for financial gain. Lastly, those physically attending the games should be cognizant that their communications will likely be monitored.

CRS — The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues

February 10, 2014 Comments off

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on July 4, 2007, that Sochi, Russia, had been selected as the host city for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics. The Olympic Games, which will be held February 7-23, 2014, are the first to be hosted by Russia as a successor state to the former Soviet Union. Reportedly, some 230 U.S. athletes out of approximately 2,900 from some 88 countries, and about 10,000 U.S. visitors, are expected in Sochi. Olympic events will take place at two main locations: a coastal cluster along the Black Sea and a mountain cluster in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.

Since the 2007 selection of Sochi as the site of Olympic Games, many observers, including some in Congress, have raised concerns about security and human rights conditions in Sochi and elsewhere in Russia. Sochi is in Russia’s North Caucasus area, which has experienced ongoing terrorist incidents, including several bombings in recent weeks. Through hearings, legislation, oversight, and other action, some Members of Congress have expressed concerns over Russia’s hosting of the Sochi Olympic Games and Paralympics, particularly the risks that terrorism and human rights violations might pose to U.S. athletes and visitors. Other broader congressional concerns have included whether the United States should participate in the Games in the face of increasing tensions in U.S.-Russia relations and the Russian government’s growing restrictions on the civil and human rights of its citizens. Some Members of Congress have called for boycotting the Games. Others have cautioned that U.S. citizens should carefully weigh the security risks of attending, and have urged greater U.S.-Russia counter-terrorism cooperation to ameliorate threats to the Games. In the period during and after the Games, Congress may continue to exercise oversight and otherwise raise concerns about the safety and human rights treatment of U.S. athletes and visitors and the impact of the Games and other developments in Russia on the future of U.S.-Russia relations.

The XXII Olympic Winter Games, 2014 in Sochi — Official Spectator Guide

February 7, 2014 Comments off

The XXII Olympic Winter Games, 2014 in Sochi — Official Spectator Guide (PDF)
Source: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee
Includes events calendar, maps, spectator tips, transit info, etc.

Alcohol and mortality in Russia: prospective observational study of 151 000 adults

February 5, 2014 Comments off

Alcohol and mortality in Russia: prospective observational study of 151 000 adults
Source: The Lancet

Background
Russian adults have extraordinarily high rates of premature death. Retrospective enquiries to the families of about 50 000 deceased Russians had found excess vodka use among those dying from external causes (accident, suicide, violence) and eight particular disease groupings. We now seek prospective evidence of these associations.

Methods
In three Russian cities (Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk), we interviewed 200 000 adults during 1999—2008 (with 12 000 re-interviewed some years later) and followed them until 2010 for cause-specific mortality. In 151 000 with no previous disease and some follow-up at ages 35—74 years, Poisson regression (adjusted for age at risk, amount smoked, education, and city) was used to calculate the relative risks associating vodka consumption with mortality. We have combined these relative risks with age-specific death rates to get 20-year absolute risks.

Findings
Among 57 361 male smokers with no previous disease, the estimated 20-year risks of death at ages 35—54 years were 16% (95% CI 15—17) for those who reported consuming less than a bottle of vodka per week at baseline, 20% (18—22) for those consuming 1—2·9 bottles per week, and 35% (31—39) for those consuming three or more bottles per week; trend p<0·0001. The corresponding risks of death at ages 55—74 years were 50% (48—52) for those who reported consuming less than a bottle of vodka per week at baseline, 54% (51—57) for those consuming 1—2·9 bottles per week, and 64% (59—69) for those consuming three or more bottles per week; trend p<0·0001. In both age ranges most of the excess mortality in heavier drinkers was from external causes or the eight disease groupings strongly associated with alcohol in the retrospective enquiries. Self-reported drinking fluctuated; of the men who reported drinking three or more bottles of vodka per week who were reinterviewed a few years later, about half (185 of 321) then reported drinking less than one bottle per week. Such fluctuations must have substantially attenuated the apparent hazards of heavy drinking in this study, yet self-reported vodka use at baseline still strongly predicted risk. Among male non-smokers and among females, self-reported heavy drinking was uncommon, but seemed to involve similar absolute excess risks.

Interpretation
This large prospective study strongly reinforces other evidence that vodka is a major cause of the high risk of premature death in Russian adults.

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CDC Traveler’s Health: Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

February 4, 2014 Comments off

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC wants you and your travel team to enjoy the Winter Games and bring home a suitcase full of gold, silver, and bronze memories. Plan ahead for safe and healthy travel!

  • Get vaccinated. Make sure you are up to date on your routine vaccines, including measles. You may also need hepatitis vaccines.
  • Pack Smart. Be sure to pack a travel health kit and plenty of warm and waterproof clothing and shoes.
  • Check your insurance. Travelers need proof of medical insurance that is valid in the Russian Federation to get a visa. Most domestic insurance plans won’t cover you if you need medical care overseas, so check with your provider to see if you have coverage outside the United States.
  • Stay Safe. When at crowded events, plan where to meet your group if you get separated. Always scout out emergency exits when at large indoor events.
  • Healthy Habits. Always wear seatbelts. Wash your hands well and often. Drink alcohol in moderation and use latex condoms if you have sex.

See also: Russian Federation Travel Alert (U.S. Department of State)

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

January 24, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.

CRS — Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The FY2013 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310, Section 1037) indicates that it is the sense of Congress that “the United States should pursue negotiations with the Russian Federation aimed at the reduction of Russian deployed and nondeployed nonstrategic nuclear forces.” The United States and Russia have not included limits on these weapons in past arms control agreements. Nevertheless, some analysts and Members of Congress have argued that disparities in the numbers of nonstrategic nuclear weapons may become more important as the United States and Russia reduce their numbers of deployed long-range, strategic nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union both deployed nonstrategic nuclear weapons for use in the field during a conflict. While there are several ways to distinguish between strategic and nonstrategic nuclear weapons, most analysts consider nonstrategic weapons to be shorter-range delivery systems with lower yield warheads that might be used to attack troops or facilities on the battlefield. They have included nuclear mines; artillery; short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missiles; cruise missiles; and gravity bombs. In contrast with the longer-range “strategic” nuclear weapons, these weapons had a lower profile in policy debates and arms control negotiations, possibly because they did not pose a direct threat to the continental United States. At the end of the 1980s, each nation still had thousands of these weapons deployed with their troops in the field, aboard naval vessels, and on aircraft.

In 1991, the United States and Soviet Union both withdrew from deployment most and eliminated from their arsenals many of their nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The United States now has approximately 760 nonstrategic nuclear weapons, with around 200 deployed with aircraft in Europe and the remaining stored in the United States. Estimates vary, but experts believe Russia still has between 1,000 and 6,000 warheads for nonstrategic nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Bush Administration quietly redeployed and removed some of the nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. Russia, however seems to have increased its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security concept. Some analysts argue that Russia has backed away from its commitments from 1991 and may develop and deploy new types of nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

See also: Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control with Russia: Issues for Congress (PDF)

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