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#35 - JRL 2007-8 - JRL Home
Excerpt
Unclassified Statement for the Record
Annual Threat Assessment
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte
11 January 2007

Eurasia in Flux

Fifteen years after the dissolution of the USSR, post-Soviet Eurasia remains in a state of flux--more so than even a year ago--but increasingly subject to Russian assertiveness.

Russia

As Russia moves toward a presidential election in March 2008, succession maneuvering has intensified and increasingly dominates Russian domestic and foreign policy. Against that backdrop, the last year has seen expanded Kremlin efforts to stifle political opposition and widen state control over strategic sectors of the economy. Those trends are likely to deepen as the succession draws closer.

Meanwhile, high energy prices and abundant oil and gas reserves continue to fan Kremlin aspirations for Russia to become an energy super-power. A flush economy and perceived policy successes at home and abroad have bolstered Russian confidence, enabled increased defense spending, and emboldened the Kremlin to pursue foreign policy goals that are not always consistent with those of Western institutions. Indeed, Russia is attempting to exploit the leverage that high energy prices has afforded it, increasingly using strong-arm tactics against neighboring countries.

Russian assertiveness will continue to inject elements of rivalry and antagonism into US dealings with Moscow, particularly our interactions in the former Soviet Union, and will dampen our ability to cooperate with Russia on issues ranging from counterterrorism and nonproliferation to energy and democracy promotion in the Middle East. As the recent Litvinenko murder demonstrates, the steady accumulation of problems and irritants threatens to harm Russias relations with the West more broadly.

Other Eurasian States and Balkans

Ukraine's political situation is also unsettled. The power struggle between President Yushchenko and recently re-installed Prime Minister Yanukovych continues to buffet Ukrainian politics and national policy.

Ukraines Orange Revolution brought lasting changes, including greater media freedom and a strengthened role for civil society. Improvements to the political process resulted in free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2006. However, Yanukovych's re-emergence after his party won that election increased cynicism in the region about the promise of "colored" revolutions, bolstered Russia's position in the region and leaves Georgia isolated as virtually the only former Soviet republic fully-committed to Euro-Atlantic integration.

The future development of the Caucasus is likely to be intertwined with what may happen outside the region in Kosovo. If Kosovo gains independence this year--as seems likely--Russia has signaled that it might respond by recognizing breakaway regions in Georgia, a risky step. American interests in Central Asia also face increasing challenges. Of the five countries in the region, three--Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and especially Uzbekistan--are authoritarian; another, Kyrgyzstan, is semi-authoritarian and increasingly fearful of losing control; and the last, Turkmenistan, is a dictatorship in the midst of a power struggle. All view our democratization agenda with suspicion. The repression, leadership stasis, and corruption that tend to characterize these regimes provide fertile soil for the development of radical Islamic sentiment and movements, and raise questions about the Central Asian states reliability as energy and counterterrorism partners.

There is no guarantee that elite and societal turmoil across Central Asia will stay within the confines of existing autocratic systems. In the worst, but not implausible case, central authority in one or more of these states could evaporate as rival political factions, clans, or regions vie for power--opening the door to a dramatic expansion of terrorist and criminal activity along the lines of a failed state.