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CRS — NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (July 31, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

NATO has strongly condemned Russian actions in Ukraine and has taken steps aimed both at reassuring allies and partners in Central and Eastern Europe and at deterring further Russian aggression. These include demonstrations of support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity; actions to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to defending Central and Eastern European allies; and measures aimed at rebuking Russia. NATO members have said they will continue to conduct previously planned military exercises in Ukraine and elsewhere in the region.

The United States has been a key driver of the NATO response and has taken additional military measures intended to reassure its allies and partners in Central and Eastern Europe. These include the deployment of U.S. fighter jets and 600 paratroopers to Poland and the Baltic states, and U.S. naval vessels to the Black and Baltic Seas. In June, the Obama Administration requested congressional approval for $925 million in the Department of Defense’s FY2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget to fund a proposed European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Among other things, the ERI would enable augmented U.S. troop rotations and military infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe. The United States has supplied the Ukrainian government with some nonlethal military assistance, but has thus far ruled out providing lethal military aid.

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CRS — Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (August 1, 2014)

August 14, 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.

Possible Missile Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – CRS Insights

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Possible Missile Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), a Boeing 777 bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine.

MH17’s position was shown on live aircraft tracking websites using the airliner’s automated dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) signal. Its final reported position was near the Russia-Ukraine border at an altitude of 33,000 feet.

Initial reports from the crash scene indicated that the resulting debris field covered a large area. This is characteristic when an aircraft breaks up at high altitude (as opposed to diving into the ground or incidents on landing or takeoff, where the debris field is tightly confined around the point of impact). Inflight breakup can occur for a number of reasons, including metal fatigue (as in the case of two DeHavilland Comet jetliners in the 1950s); onboard explosions, whether caused by bombs or accidental combustion (such as TWA flight 800 in 1996); or external events like a missile attack (as was the case with Korean Air Lines 007 in 1983 and Iran Air 655 in 1988).

Because spontaneous inflight breakup of an airliner is a rare event, the crash’s proximity to an active conflict zone where military aircraft had recently been shot down led to speculation that MH17’s breakup may have been the result of a surface-to-air missile. This was reinforced when, almost immediately, pictures appeared in social media purporting to show Russian-built Buk anti-aircraft missile launchers near the crash site.

U.S. – Russia Economic Relations – CRS Insights

August 6, 2014 Comments off

U.S. – Russia Economic Relations – CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

U.S. sanctions on Russian individuals and entities have been a key part of the U.S. policy response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine and Russia’s alleged ongoing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine (see CRS Insight IN10048, U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine, coordinated by Dianne E. Rennack). Following the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine on July 17 that killed 298 passengers and crew, some policymakers and experts have called for additional sanctions on Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry has stated there is an “enormous amount of evidence” that Russia was involved in supplying the separatists in Ukraine with the weapons used to shoot down the plane and training the separatists on how to use the weapons.

In the policy debates over U.S. sanctions on Russia, two key questions, among many others, include:
+ How much economic leverage does the United States have over Russia?
+ How would U.S. sanctions on Russia impact U.S. economic interests?

Examining the U.S.-Russia economic relationship can provide insight into these questions.

Russia Sanctions: Options – CRS Insights

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Russia Sanctions: Options – CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Centers)

On March 16, 2014, President Barack Obama declared that the “actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine—including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine—undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” The President ordered the Treasury Department to block access to assets under U.S. jurisdiction of, and prohibit transactions with, seven Russians considered to be President Putin’s close advisors. Treasury, in consultation with the State Department, has continued to add to this list of specially designated nationals; today 64 Russian individuals and entities are identified under the sanctions regime triggered by events in Ukraine.

On March 20, 2014, the President expanded the sanctions’ reach, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to identify individuals and entities in Russia’s “financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering, and defense and related materials” sectors.

On July 16, 2014, the United States initiated unilateral restrictions targeting powerful interests in Russia’s financial, energy, and military technology sectors—including Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank (VEB), Novatek, and Rosneft. Treasury also blocked assets of four senior Russian government officials in an effort to “tighten the noose,” as one policy observer put it.

Congress supported the President’s initial steps by enacting the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-95; April 3, 2014). The act requires the President to block assets and deny visas to those destabilizing Ukraine (§8), and encourages him to take similar actions against those responsible for “acts of significant corruption” in Russia (§9).

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan

August 4, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Azerbaijan, one of the oldest oil producing countries in the world, is an important oil and natural gas supplier in the Caspian Sea region, particularly for European markets. Although traditionally it has been a prolific oil producer, Azerbaijan’s importance as a natural gas supplier will grow in the future as field development and export infrastructure expand. The conflicting claims over the maritime and seabed boundaries of the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Iran continue to cause uncertainty, with Iran challenging Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon exploration in offshore areas claimed by both sides.

Natural gas accounted for about 67% of Azerbaijan’s total domestic energy consumption in 2012. Oil accounted for 30% of total energy use, and hydropower contributed a marginal amount. Overall, Azerbaijan is a net energy exporter. The country swaps small volumes of natural gas with Iran—the Nakhchivan exclave receives all of its natural gas from Iran, because it is not connected to Azerbaijan’s pipeline network.

Oil and gas production and exports are central to Azerbaijan’s economy. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on its energy exports, with more than 90% of total exports accounted for by oil and gas exports, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.

The Future of Driving in Developing Countries

July 17, 2014 Comments off

The Future of Driving in Developing Countries
Source: RAND Corporation

The level of automobility, defined as travel in personal vehicles, is often seen as a function of income: The higher a country’s per capita income, the greater the amount of driving. However, levels of automobility vary quite substantially between countries even at similar levels of economic development. This suggests that countries follow different mobility paths. The research detailed in this report sought to answer three questions: What are the factors besides economic development that affect automobility? What is their influence on automobility? What will happen to automobility in developing countries if they progress along similar paths as developed countries? To answer these questions, the authors developed a methodology to identify these factors, model their impact on developed countries, and forecast automobility (as defined by per capita vehicle-kilometers traveled [VKT]) in four developing countries. This methodology draws on quantitative analysis of historical automobility development in four country case studies (the United States, Australia, Germany, and Japan) that represent very different levels of per capita automobility, in combination with data derived from an expert-based qualitative approach. The authors used the latter to assess how these experiences may affect the future of automobility in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. According to this analysis, automobility levels in the four BRIC countries will fall between those of the United States (which has the highest per capita VKT level of the four case studies) and Japan (which has the lowest). Brazil is forecasted to have the highest per capita VKT and India the lowest.

Turkey: Macroeconomic stability and structural reform key to strong and inclusive growth, OECD says

July 12, 2014 Comments off

Turkey: Macroeconomic stability and structural reform key to strong and inclusive growth, OECD says
Source: OECD

Turkey’s economy will grow stronger in the coming years, but remains overly dependent on domestic consumption funded by foreign finance, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Turkey. Turkey should rebalance growth through monetary and financial policies that keep inflation, exchange rates and credit levels on sustainable paths, the OECD said.

The Survey notes that Turkey’s short-term economic outlook has improved: buoyed by the projected global recovery, growth is set to pick up over the coming two years. Turkey’s longer-term prospects, however, hinge on the authorities’ ability to achieve disinflation and preserve the credibility of public finances, while implementing structural reforms that boost productivity and competitiveness across the economy.

A better overall regulatory framework is essential if the business sector is to remain a driver of strong and inclusive growth. Structural change in the business sector would strengthen competitiveness, exports, employment, income and savings, help rebalance domestic and external demand, and move the economy toward an externally sustainable path.

Turkey should strive to make its product and labour market regulations more growth-friendly while continuing to reduce regulatory obligations related to company size.

Leveraging Private Capital and Political Action in the Fight Against Corruption

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Leveraging Private Capital and Political Action in the Fight Against Corruption
Source: Brookings Institution

The collapse of a corruption-ridden government in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey’s attempts to curb social media drives to expose alleged bribery, and ongoing public sector reform initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe all serve to highlight the salience of the World Forum on Governance (WFG) in today’s geopolitical landscape. In April 2014, anti-corruption experts from around the globe convened for the third WFG in Prague to share experiences and exchange best practices for leveraging private capital and political action in the fight against corruption. Delegates represented a diverse blend of investors, scholars, government officials, civil society actors, private sector representatives, and members of traditional and new media.

The 2014 WFG built upon the Ten Principles established in the Prague Declaration on Governance and Anti-Corruption, revisited policy areas detailed in the 2012 Conference Report, and developed new initiatives to advance integrity in the public and private sectors.

Breakout sessions explored a broad scope of governance issues within three streams—public policy, capital, and media and civil society—and reviewed action items from previous convenings…

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014
Source: Deloitte

The second quarter edition of the Global Economic Outlook offers timely insights from Deloitte Research economists about the Eurozone, China, the United States, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. In addition, this issue’s special topic considers the revival in international trade and the resurgence of bilateralism.

CRS — Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (updated)

May 12, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

After a failed effort to violently disperse pro-European Union protests, the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych collapsed on February 21, 2014. The Ukrainian parliament approved a new pro-reform, pro-Western government on February 27. New presidential elections are scheduled for May 25. Russia has condemned the new government in Kyiv as illegitimate and responded by sending troops to seize Ukraine’s Crimea region. Ignoring international condemnation, Russian annexed Crimea on March 18. In April and May 2014, armed men seized government buildings in several cities in eastern Ukraine, mainly in the Donbas region. U.S. and Ukrainian officials charge that Russian intelligence officers in Ukraine are coordinating the unrest. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Russia’s efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine may be the prelude to an invasion by an estimated 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders.

CRS — NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe

May 1, 2014 Comments off

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia’s recent military incursions into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the security situation in Europe and the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

Russia: Education Sector Report 2014

April 30, 2014 Comments off

Russia: Education Sector Report 2014 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Commercial Service

Over the past several years, the U.S. has clearly underperformed in the Russian market as schools attempt to recruit students to study in the U.S., but we believe there is significant opportunity for growth. Demand for international secondary, university, and English-language educational services is growing in Russia due to a variety of factors, including general economic growth, the rise of a more affluent middle and upper class, interest in establishing educational and professional ties in the U.S. economy, and a general increase in travel between Russia and the U.S. U.S. educational institutions are in a good position to take advantage of this market due to the excellent reputation of U.S. education in Russia, and an established infrastructure for promoting U.S. education. These trends have advantages for secondary schools, colleges and universities, and English-language schools.

The market does pose challenges for U.S. educational institutions, including the high relative cost of a U.S. education compared to European and Australian competitors. A major advantage for UK schools, a leading provider of international education services to Russians, is its relative geographic proximity to Russia. Some parents are reluctant to send their children to study in the U.S., which may be considered very far. A growing number of direct flights between Russian and U.S. cities are helping to alleviate this problem, but it will always be a challenge that needs to be overcome. An additional challenge, but one that has been reduced in significance lately due to educational efforts by the Commercial Service and Consular Section, is the perception among some Russians, especially those living outside Moscow, that the U.S. visa application process is complicated with a very low approval rate.

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.

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.

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