The New Great Game Round-Up: August 10, 2014

Xinjiang Investigates U.S. Links to Recent Violence, Anti-Russian Campaign Gives Birth to Eurasian Alliance & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

A few days ago, Russia responded to the ridiculous Western sanctions and announced retaliatory measures, which will hurt first and foremost the European Union. The Kremlin had given European governments ample opportunity to distance themselves from the reckless U.S. campaign against Russia and was clearly disappointed, when the EU agreed to impose broad economic sanctions on Russia on July 29. During the Ukraine crisis, European leaders have repeatedly acted against European interests by doing Washington's bidding and the EU will now have to pay the price for this. According some estimates, the trade bloc might end up losing about 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) if the economic war escalates. With Russia banning food and agricultural products from the U.S., the EU, Norway, Canada and Australia for one year, some EU countries are already getting a foretaste of what is to come, while Russia is starting talks with more friendly countries to replace the banned products: 

Putin in Trade Talks With Belarusian, Kazakh Presidents in Wake of Food Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev the coordination of trade and economy after Russia imposed food import embargo against a number of Western countries, the Kremlin’s press center said on Thursday.

Russia is going to rely on its economic partners outside the European Union for agricultural imports. At present, it is seeking to replace essential EU deliveries by products from blocs that Russia is a member of, including the fledgling Eurasian Economic Union (EAU) and the BRICS group of emerging economies.

Anti-Russian Campaign Gives Birth to Eurasian Alliance

Many countries are lining up to replace the banned imports. Especially Central Asia and Belarus stand to gain from the trade ban. The same applies to Turkey, which has been asked to boost its fruit and vegetable supplies to Russia in order to replace imports from Poland and Moldova. Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci could barely contain his joy about the dispute between Russia and the West. Turkey considers strengthening its ties with Russia anyway and even offered to switch to national currencies in mutual payments. Washington is confronted with a dangerous trend as more and more U.S. allies agree to "de-dollarize" their trade with Russia, the latest example being India. The new Indian government has made it perfectly clear that it will maintain the good relations with Russia, no matter what the U.S. says. Washington should think twice before pressuring New Delhi to choose sides in the new Cold War because this will end with an unpleasant surprise:

Delhi gears to join China-Russia club

India is preparing to join the influential Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) strategic grouping, currently led by China and Russia, just days ahead of the Prime Minister’s September visit to the US where his bonhomie with Moscow has already triggered unease.  

The SCO has informed New Delhi that it plans to approve documents making India a full member at a September 11-12 summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, senior officials have told The Telegraph.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to travel to Dushanbe for the September meeting where India’s membership will likely receive a formal stamp of approval.

Following the election of Narendra Modi, there has been a rapprochement between India and China causing Beijing to rethink India's admission to the SCO. After making substantial progress at the recent meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Tajikistan, the SCO is expected to adopt the documents, which will give the green light for admitting the four observer-states, India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia to the organization, at the upcoming SCO summit in Dushanbe next month. Serious talks about the accession of new member states are set to begin after the documents are approved with India and Pakistan being the first candidates for membership, while Iran will reportedly have to wait until the sanctions are lifted. The SCO could obviously change its stance on Iran's admission given that Russia is now facing similar sanctions, which have only recently helped Moscow and Tehran to overcome their differences in negotiating an oil-for-goods deal:

Vladimir Putin signs historic $20bn oil deal with Iran to bypass Western sanctions

Vladimir Putin has agreed a $20bn (£11.8bn) trade deal with Iran that will see Russia sidestep Western sanctions on its energy sector.

Under the terms of a five-year accord, Russia will help Iran organise oil sales as well as “cooperate in the oil-gas industry, construction of power plants, grids, supply of machinery, consumer goods and agriculture products”, according to a statement by the Energy Ministry in Moscow.

Washington tried to torpedo the deal by threatening both Russian and Iranian companies with sanctions, to no avail. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak emphasized that the deal does not violate the UN Security Council's resolutions restricting cooperation with Tehran. Obama's triple containment of Russia, China and Iran did not work out as planned but it succeeded in establishing closer Eurasian integration led by the symbiotic China-Russia strategic alliance. Further Western sanctions are only going to strengthen this alliance. Up until now, Russian aerospace and military industries used to buy their electronic components in the West but due to sanctions, Russia is now looking to purchase components worth several billion dollars from China. At the latest when the payments for these components are not made in dollars anymore, Americans should start to get worried. Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov mentioned during his China trip last month that it will take some time to switch to payments in rubles and yuan. Over 75 percent of payments in Russia-China trade settlements are still made in dollars but this will change sooner rather than later:

Russia, China agree more trade currency swaps to bypass dollar

The Russian and Chinese central banks have agreed on a draft currency swap agreement, which will allow them to increase trade in domestic currencies and cut the dependence on the US dollar in bilateral payments.

“The draft document between the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China on national currency swaps has been agreed by the parties,” and is at the stage of formal approval procedures, ITAR-TASS quotes the Russian regulator’s office on Thursday.

The Russian Central Bank is not giving precise details on the size of the currency swaps, nor when it will be launched. It says this will depend on demand.

Xinjiang Investigates U.S. Links to Recent Violence

While U.S. President Obama tries to assure the public that tensions between the U.S. and China are "manageable", Kremlin advisor Sergey Glazyev is convinced that the conflict in Ukraine and other regional wars organized by the Americans center "on the U.S. securing control over all of north Eurasia to bolster its position against China." Washington's East Turkestan project plays a pivotal role in this regard and the authorities in China's Xinjiang province are currently looking for evidence linking the U.S.-based, NED-funded Uyghur Amercian Association (UAA) to the recent clashes in Xinjiang:

Is Uyghur American Association involved in recent wave of terrorism in Xinjiang? 

“We are working to find out who was behind this recent wave of terrorism. This new wave is different than previous sporadic incidents. It looks an organized attempt with the support from outside China to spread violence in other parts of Xinjiang province. United States is habitual to sponsor groups that are against Chinese government to destabilize exceptional growth of China. UAA is one of such groups. There are strong links between Turkestan Islamic Movement and Saudi Arabia and United States. But diplomacy forbids China to raise such issues officially. This time China is gathering maximum information how this wave of terrorism is organized and sponsored. Links of UAA with terrorists working in region are clear but China does not want to place information in media unless it unearths whole networking spreading from China to Pakistan, central Asia and linked with Saudi Arabia and United States. ”, claimed a terrorism expert working closely with Xinjiang authorities.

Washington's favorite Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, claimed this week that "at least 2000 Uyghurs have been killed by Chinese security forces" citing "evidence" from the ground. Predictably, Kadeer failed to mention the killed Han Chinese civilians as well as the eyewitness accounts and video footage, which contradict her claims. Residents of Xinjiang, who helped the police to get the situation under control, were handsomely rewarded with local authorities handing out more than 300 million yuan ($49 million) to "those who helped hunt suspected terrorists." The support of the population is crucial to ensure the stability of Xinjiang. Last month, the U.S.-backed insurgents did their best to plunge the autonomous region into chaos and violence:

Uyghur Judicial Official, Five Han Chinese Traders Murdered in Xinjiang

A Uyghur judicial official and five Han Chinese businessmen have been murdered in separate incidents in China’s troubled western Xinjiang region, local officials said this week, blaming a group of ethnic minority Muslim Uyghur suspects for the brutal slayings.

Nurmemet Rozi, 37, the director of a township level justice department, was killed on July 18 when he was tracking down the identities of Uyghurs who had attended special prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at a village mosque in Aktokay township in Uchturpan (in Chinese, Wushi) county in Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture, the officials said.

The five Han Chinese businessmen were stabbed to death after the suspects waylaid their car in Aksu city on July 12, they said.

Chinese state media has not reported the two incidents so far, possibly to prevent the suspects from fleeing the prefecture or to avoid undue publicity that could deter Han Chinese from taking up jobs in Xinjiang, the homeland of the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, local residents said.

The Chinese authorities respond to the recent increase in violence by perfecting their police state. When China's Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun stated that the terrorism crackdown "should reach every single village and household" he could have mentioned "every smarthphone" as well. Lately, China told South Korea that it had blocked "some foreign messaging applications through which terrorism-related information" was circulating. Since mobile messaging apps and video websites are used to plot attacks, China decided to block some services altogether. The latest anti-terror measures in Xinjiang are even more excessive: 

China bans beards, veils from Xinjiang city's buses in security bid

A city in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses, as the government battles unrest with a policy that critics said discriminates against Muslims.

Authorities will prohibit five types of passengers - those who wear veils, head scarves, a loose-fitting garment called a jilbab, clothing with the crescent moon and star, and those with long beards - from boarding buses in the northwestern city of Karamay, state media said.

The crescent moon and star symbol of Islam features on many national flags, besides being used by groups
China says want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan.

Azerbaijan's Aliyev Postpones Recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh

Coincidentally, the government of "East Turkestan" was already set up in Washington ten years ago. The U.S. promotes the right to self-determination when it suits its own interests. Therefore, it is legitimate to call for the independence of East Turkestan but not to call for the independence of the Federal State of Novorossiya or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. If NATO proxy Azerbaijan tries to restore control over Nagorno-Karabakh by force, the U.S. and its allies will have Azerbaijan's back. After clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops escalated last week, Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev tried to show that he is serious about recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh but his statements during this week's morale-raising visit to the front line suggest that the recent fighting was provoked in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict: 

Azerbaijan's Aliyev, On Karabakh Front Line, Rallies Troops

On Wednesday, Aliyev visited troops near the Aghdam region (which overeager Azerbaijani media had
reported that its forces had already won back) and, in a military uniform, delivered a stemwinder of a speech, which he the next day summarized on twitter.

He also seemed to support the theory that the uptick in fighting was intended to sharpen international attention on the conflict. "Azerbaijani citizens are not pleased with the activity of mediators because the main mission of mediators is to settle the conflict, not to keep it in a frozen state and conduct confidence building measures," he said. "The Azerbaijani army is showing its strength, which is having an impact on the talks... If the Azerbaijani army starts an offensive, the enemy will find itself in a very difficult situation. This is known to us, the enemy and the mediators. Therefore, I believe that the developments of recent days will prompt mediators to take some action."

The summary of Aliyev's speech on Twitter was interpreted as a declaration of war and Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry went as far as threatening the destruction of Armenia's capital Yerevan. Despite all that, the Armenian authorities did not buy into Baku's bellicose rhetoric and dismissed concerns about a large-scale war between the two countries from the very beginning. Meanwhile, fighting has died down and the Kremlin managed to organize a trilateral meeting in Sochi, although Aliyev reportedly did not want to talk with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, whom he had called a "fascist" just a few days earlier:

Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia agree: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved peacefully

Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed that the renewed violence in Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the South Caucasus should be settled “in a peaceful way.” Leaders of the three states held a joint meeting as tensions worsened in the disputed area.

“I am glad to state that the President of Azerbaijan drew attention to the necessity of resolving the problem peacefully, and you [the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan] has agreed. This is, in fact, most important, because there is no greater tragedy than the death of people," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has also showed eagerness to resolve the conflict through negotiations “in the near future.”

It remains to be seen how long the two sides will try to solve the conflict "in a peaceful way" but Aliyev seems to have lost interest in recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh for now. As mentioned last week, the escalation of violence in the embattled enclave has diverted attention from Baku's crackdown on the U.S.-backed Azerbaijani opposition. This week, another Azerbaijani human rights activist was jailed and the bank accounts of several NGOs and civil society activists were frozen [emphasis mine]:

More seven NGO bank accounts frozen

By the decisions of the district courts, bank accounts of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO) were frozen upon the application of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

A pplications of the General Prosecutor’s Office to the court regarding the NGOs are mainly in the same context. According to the applications, the criminal case is investigated with the Criminal Code’s articles #308.1 and #313 on the facts of the violation of law in the activities of Azerbaijan’s some NGOs and branches and representative offices of foreign NGOs. As the representations of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation of the Principality of Liechtenstein in Azerbaijan and the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan transferred large amount of funds to the bank accounts of these NGOs and there are evidences that those funds are subject of crime, it was demanded to arrest these bank accounts within the criminal procedure course to ensure complete, comprehensive and objective investigation, further confiscation of criminally obtained funds and to prevent the alienation. District courts also made judgment on the arrest of these bank accounts within the criminal procedure course.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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  1. Great reporting, Christoph. If not already, sounds like Russia, China and others are wising up on the West’s use of NGOs and terrorist groups to destabilize targeted countries. All of this reminds me that Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1998 The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives is still operating as a strategy and operation Gladio is still being used as a tactic. Question: Since both George Soros and Pierre Omidyar contributed funds to assist the overthrow of Ukraine, what did they get out of this? Thanks, and keep up the excellent reporting.

    • Thank you. I don’t know if George Soros or Pierre Omidyar have struck any particular deal in Ukraine but their desire to fleece the country was certainly one motive for funding the Euromaidan. Usually the Western plutocrats join forces with a few oligarchs in the targeted country to get this done. For example, in 1990s Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Berezovsky & Co. were working alongside people like Jacob Rothschild to fleece Russia and move money out of the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Soros and Omidyar profit in one way or another from the current mess in Ukraine, where investors can now pick up assets for pennies on the dollar.

  2. mariotrevi says:

    I don’t know how appropriate this is, but anyway I thought I’d share that I’ve been listening to “The Voice of Russia” streaming radio (in French), and that, presumably, it’s a good source for “the view from Moscow” on the shifting geopolitics centrered in Central Asia, and Ukraine particularly.

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