CES News Round Up: Kazakh Peacekeepers, the Safarov Affair and Mongolia’s New Government

After recent encouragement, we’ve decided to make the news round up a regular feature at CES, with the goal of rounding up news for our readers at least twice during the business week and once on weekends, while still bringing you regular analysis of interesting stories from the region.

Kazakhstan Reportedly Eyeing African UN Peacekeeping – Josh Kucera at The Bug Pit: Kucera points out that thus far only Mongolia (out of the countries covered by CES) has soldiers in UN peacekeeping missions, so if Kazakhstan were to become involved, it would make them ‘somewhat of a pioneer in the region’. It’s been pointed out before that UN peacekeeping missions are a great way to not only extend influence abroad but it provides training for the army and enmeshes countries more firmly in multilateral institutions.

Deep Dive: Filling In The Gaps — Reading The Ramil Safarov Case In Azerbaijan – Katy Pearce: This article got a lot of Twitter buzz recently, so I’d be remiss not to include it. It is a very in-depth read on the Safarov case, which is causing extreme tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia. For those less familiar with the region and what’s going on with the case, our last news round up contained a good basic explanatory article – once you’ve read that, I highly recommend reading this to further your understanding of the dynamics playing out within this story.

(Note: For further cultural understanding on the role of rumor in Central Asia, I recommend readers follow the author’s advice, and read Sarah Kendzior’s article on rumors in Uzbekistan, though I found her article on the Atlantic to be a more clear introductory piece) 

To follow up on this, here’s a Reuter’s FACTBOX on military capabilities of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Figures are very exact, so take them with a grain of salt.

A New Mongolian Government Is Finally Formed – Jamestown Foundation: Jamestown is a fantastic resource, but their articles can be dense reading to the novice CA watcher. A quick summary: Mongolia is often called a ‘fledgling democracy’ and as with most young democracies, they’re still working to smooth out domestic politics. Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag has struggled to form a functional coalition government which shares power with other minority parties since parliamentary elections on June 28. Jamestown warns that the new cabinet, headed up by the Democratic Party, features a strong bias towards business interests: 16 of the 19 members are entrepreneurs. This bias apparently also extends through the rest of the parliament as well. This may put a strain on the relationship between people and the government, as large international companies may be seen as operating freely in Mongolia at the expense of the people living there. It is likely there will be a ‘rise of domestic business group interests and political populism’ that may complicate domestic politics.

On a human interest note out of Mongolia:

The Durango Herald (in Southern Colorado) is running a short article that I think anyone will enjoy reading, but particularly those readers who are new Central Asia watchers. It’s written by a (presumably) recently graduated high schooler who is spending a year in Mongolia as part of a Fulbright program. It’s his impressions of Mongolia and has some lovely short descriptions of life, food and culture without editorializing.

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