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Caucasus

Prudent optimism: Turkish Ambassador. The Defence Viewpoints interview by Nick Watts

Turkey sits at the nexus of a region beset with geopolitical issues. Developments in Syria; the prospects for the Middle East Peace Process; developments in the north and south Caucasus; the continuing tensions with Iran and the situation in Iraq. Reflecting on these matters and on its relationship with the EU Turkey’s Ambassador to London HE Mr Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz characterized his outlook as being based on “prudent optimism.”

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The Caucasus in transition
Part One - Georgia: The elephant in the room
By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Last week, we saw an event which may mark a watershed in the history of the Caucasus. Two female suicide bombers walked into Moscow underground stations, one a matter of yards from FSB headquarters, and detonated devices which together have killed more than thirty people. Within hours, Vladimir Putin had sworn to "destroy" those responsible, believed to be an Islamic terror group which wants to create a Muslim Caliphate out of three Russian states, Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

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The Caucasus in transition
Part Two - The Terrible Triad: religion, ethnicity and nationalism
By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Yesterday, I introduced our three-part "Caucasus in transition" series by examining Georgia and the need for a new approach to it from both Russia and the USA.

The Georgia Factor is a symptom of a larger problem, however. The Caucasus have long been dominated by a complex web of interlinking religious, ethnic and nationalistic grudges between competing power groups. For Russia, this is not an international issue of far-flung terrorist bases, this a domestic one of Islamist militancy right on the doorstep and deeply-held national allegiances.

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The Caucasus in transition
Part Three - The Great Game
by David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Today, in this concluding part of our "Caucasus in transition series", we move on from examining the complex web of religious, ethnic and nationalistic grudges which marks out the Caucasus to considering how Russia and the other great powers could act to mitigate the risk of future conflict. As considered here on Viewpoints during March, Russia is developing a new foreign policy agenda for a rapidly-evolving future. The role of the 'West' in this whole mess is itself complex. We see the competing demands of autonomous national foreign policy coming out of USA and Britain, in addition to NATO policy, EU policy and a web of strategic and economic multilateral relationships.

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By Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General

Extract from speech at Tbilisi University, Georgia 16 September 2008

When I was here last, in October of 2007, less than a year ago, no one could have predicted the dramatic events that have recently unfolded in this country. I have come back to Tbilisi this week, together with the members of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's most senior political body, to demonstrate the Alliance's strong support for Georgia - and for the democratic choices which Georgia has made, and will continue to make.

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By George Friedman

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited some interesting spots over the July 4 weekend. Her itinerary included Poland and Ukraine, both intriguing choices in light of the recent Obama-Medvedev talks in Washington. But she also traveled to a region that has not been on the American radar screen much in the last two years — namely, the Caucasus — visiting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The stop in Poland coincided with the signing of a new agreement on ballistic missile defense and was designed to sustain U.S.-Polish relations in the face of the German-Russian discussions we have discussed. The stop in Ukraine was meant simply to show the flag in a country rapidly moving into the Russian orbit. In both cases, the trip was about the Russians. Regardless of how warm the atmospherics are between the United States and Russia, the fact is that the Russians are continuing to rebuild their regional influence and are taking advantage of European disequilibrium to build new relationships there, too. The United States, still focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, has limited surplus capacity to apply to resisting the Russians. No amount of atmospherics can hide that fact, certainly not from the Poles or the Ukrainians. Therefore, if not a substantial contribution, the secretary of state's visit was a symbolic one. But when there is little of substance, symbols matter.

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By Scott Stewart and Ben West

On April 9, a woman armed with a pistol and with explosives strapped to her body approached a group of police officers in the northern Caucasus village of Ekazhevo, in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia. The police officers were preparing to launch an operation to kill or capture militants in the area. The woman shot and wounded one of the officers, at which point other officers drew their weapons and shot the woman. As she fell to the ground, the suicide vest she was wearing detonated. The woman was killed and the man she wounded, the head of the of the Russian Interior Ministry's local office, was rushed to the hospital where he died from his wounds.

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By Lauren Goodrich

This past week saw another key success in Russia's resurgence in former Soviet territory when pro-Russian forces took control of Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz revolution was quick and intense. Within 24 hours, protests that had been simmering for months spun into countrywide riots as the president fled and a replacement government took control. The manner in which every piece necessary to exchange one government for another fell into place in such a short period discredits arguments that this was a spontaneous uprising of the people in response to unsatisfactory economic conditions. Instead, this revolution appears prearranged.

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By Roshani Palamakumbura

In February, President Medvedev signed into law the much awaited new military doctrine. It has taken 4 years to draft and will define Russian security posture for the next decade. A new military doctrine is very much needed.  Since the 2000 Foreign Policy Concept (FPC) - the last time Russia updated its security posture - new challenges have arisen and some old challenges have continued to fester. Violence has been increasing in Ingushetia and Dagestan, many conflicts in Russia's "near abroad" have been frozen rather than resolved and Russian troops are entrenched in Chechnya and North Ossetia. The hailed victory in the 2008 Georgian conflict was fought entirely with equipment dating from the 1970s and brought to light glaring gaps in capabilities.

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Two Russian policemen were shot dead in Chechnya last week, swinging the spotlight back onto the far southern corner of the Russian Federation, where two bloody civil wars (or anti-terrorist actions, according to taste) have been fought over the last fifteen years.

Despite the continued influence of rebel forces, in 2009 Moscow announced that the situation in Chechnya had improved to such extent that it felt able to end its military operation against the rebels which had been underway since the end of significant combat operations in the second Chechen war in May 2000. On the 16th April 2009 Medvedev issued a decree officially ending the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, marking the end of a ten-year conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives, but which had attracted relatively little outside attention.

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