Alex Kliment is Creative Director at GZERO Media and a Senior Editor of GZERO Daily. He also writes and directs Puppet Regime, GZERO's political satire puppet series. Alex first joined Eurasia Group in 2006 as a Russia analyst, after which he co-founded the firm's first Emerging Markets practice and later led a research team serving the firm's corporate clients. He's also worked previously as a journalist for the Financial Times in Washington, DC, and São Paulo, Brazil. Alex holds degrees from Columbia University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Alex speaks a few languages and is the only person you will ever meet who has impersonated a New York City phone booth, killed Alexander Hamilton in a suburban commuter parking lot, and done a better Trump voice than Alec Baldwin (bring it on, Alec.)
OK, you may only recently have learned what “Nagorno-Karabakh” is (and if you didn’t, you can go here.) But when it rains it pours, especially in the Caucasus. So now it’s time to learn about a small exclave that could trigger the region’s next big conflict. Today, we are meeting “Nakhchivan.”
What’s Nakhchivan? Home to about half a million Azerbaijanis, Nakhchivan (pronounced NOCK-chee-vonn) is a part of Azerbaijan that is separated from the rest of the country by a thin sliver of Southern Armenia (see map above). Until 1991, those borders didn’t mean much, as both Armenia and Azerbaijan were glommed together as part of the larger Soviet Union.
But when the USSR collapsed and Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, Armenia cut Azerbaijan’s overland ties to Nakhchivan. That forced Azerbaijan to create new routes through neighboring Iran, and to rely more on Turkey, which has a small border with Nakhchivan as well.
Now, Azerbaijan has Nakhchivan in its sights again, perhaps literally. The reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh means Azeri forces now control all of Azerbaijan’s territory again, right up to the Armenian border region of Syunik, which is all that separates Azerbaijan from the Nakhchivan exclave. It is a distance of barely 20 miles as the Azeri “qarğa” flies.
An emboldened Azerbaijan is now renewing longstanding calls to create an Azeri-controlled “corridor” that would slash across southern Armenia. Turkey — which has always strongly supported its ethnolinguistic cousins, the Azeris — also likes the idea. After all, linking Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan, and Turkey would create a pan-Turkic entity spanning from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Just days after retaking Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan in Nakhchivan to push for a new corridor.
The Armenians, not surprisingly, don’t like this at all. But if Azerbaijan moved to create facts on the ground, would anyone come to Armenia’s defense? The outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh war leaves little reason to think so. Azerbaijan, with Turkish help, is now in a commanding position to dictate what the map of the South Caucasus looks like.Now that you know what Nakhchivan is … keep an ear out for more news on it in the coming weeks.
In recent days, supporters of Guatemala’s President-elect Bernardo Arévalo have been blocking roads across the country to protest ongoing efforts by federal prosecutors to block him from taking office.
The background: In August, Arévalo, a former diplomat who ran on an anti-corruption platform, pulled off an upset, defeating former first lady Sandra Torres. Her supporters, including the current ruling party, alleged fraud, but those claims were disputed by international observers and dismissed by Guatemalan courts. Government prosecutors have since sought to outlaw Arévalo’s political party on a registration technicality.
The protests, led by indigenous groups and Arévalo’s supporters, began after federal agents last weekend attempted to seize voting records from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Arévalo’s supporters say these claims are an attempt by the establishment to prevent their upstart candidate from taking office.
The US and the Organization of American States — the region’s foremost multilateral body — have supported Arévalo, who on Tuesday met with senior officials in Washington. The protesters say they won’t back down until the attorney general resigns. Arévalo, who has called the attacks on the electoral authorities a “coup,” is due to be inaugurated in January.
Hard Numbers: Hunter Biden in court, deadly Niger ambush, post-terror raids in Turkey, India questions journalists, cyber attacks target Kenya
3: President Joe Biden’s son Hunter President Joe Biden's son pleaded not guilty to three firearms charges in a Delaware federal court on Tuesday. The younger Biden was indicted last month on three counts related to possession of a firearm while using illegal drugs.
29: In one of the deadliest raids in Niger since soldiers staged a coup in July, a group of soldiers conducting operations against militants were ambushed by more than 100 insurgents. At least 29 soldiers were killed.
13,400: Following a terrorist attack in Ankara last week, Turkish authorities have dispatched some 13,400 security officers to carry out raids in 64 Turkish provinces to find suspects with ties to Kurdish militant groups and those who possess illegal weapons. Hundreds of people have been arrested.
30: Indian authorities are carrying out raids too. On Tuesday, police in Delhi raided the homes of several well-known journalists and authors at 30 separate locations as part of an investigation of news website NewsClick. Opposition critics say NewsClick is guilty only of criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government. Authorities say they suspect the website is funded by China.860 million: Kenya’s communications regulator says the country has experienced a record 860 million cyber attacks in the past year, and that “the frequency, sophistication and scale of cyber-threats” targeted at Kenya’s critical information infrastructure is surging. Makes you wonder how many daily attacks are directed at, say, the United States, China, Russia, or Ukraine.
Things are getting hot again between Serbia and Kosovo. The US and NATO have both sounded the alarm after a recent gun battle between Kosovo police and Serb nationalists in Northern Kosovo left several people dead, prompting what the White House called an “unprecedented” buildup of Serbian troops along the Kosovo border.
The background, briefly: In 2008, after nearly 20 years of conflict, majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, with US backing. But many ethnic Serbs who still live in Northern Kosovo reject the legitimacy of the Kosovar government, which Serbia itself has never recognized. The outlines of a Serbia-Kosovo agreement call for Kosovo to grant autonomy to ethnic Serb areas. Clashes have periodically erupted over local elections and even license plates.
Is a wider war coming? Kosovo says Serbia is poised to invade Kosovo in what would be an eerie echo of Azerbaijan’s shock move against Nagorno-Karabakh last week — i.e., a long-running ethnic dispute in which the stronger party makes a move while the EU and US are distracted by Ukraine. And yet, over the weekend, Belgrade drew down its forces along the border after getting an earful from both Brussels and Washington.
That’s because Serbia has another interest at stake too. It still wants to see progress on its decade-old EU accession bid when the Union meets to discuss enlargement this winter. Although Serbian views on membership are split, and Belgrade’s cozy Russia ties are a further complication, President Alexander Vučić knows that invading Kosovo would be suicidal for any EU hopes.
But there’s a catch there too: Neither Serbia nor Kosovo — which has also applied to join — has any hope of getting into the EU until they resolve their own conflict first, a prospect that does not look promising at the moment.
Hard Numbers: Yeltsin’s defense/undermining of “democracy,” Gaetz's ouster bid, Pandas’ exodus from the US, Bangladesh’s dengue crisis, UK’s minimum wage boost
2: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a hardline Republican, launched a bid late Monday to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The two men have been at odds for months, and Gaetz vowed to move against the Speaker after he passed a stopgap spending bill over the weekend, with help from Democrats, to avoid a government shutdown. The House has two days to vote on the measure.
0: For the first time in half a century, there will soon be zero panda bears in the United States. In 1972, as part of Beijing’s “Panda Diplomacy,” Mao Zedong gifted two of the famously frolicsome bears to the US as part of President Richard Nixon’s historic opening to China. (A coup of zoological diplomacy: The US sent two “musk oxen” in return.) Ever since, US zoos have periodically renewed contracts with Beijing to keep pandas, which are native to China. Now all remaining agreements will lapse by the end of next year.
11: The UK will raise the national minimum wage to £11 per hour (up from £10.42), beginning next April. The move is meant to combat a cost of living crisis brought on by the combination of Brexit, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. The government says about 2 million people will enjoy the higher pay. The minimum wage was last bumped up in April 2023.
1,000: More than 1,000 people in Bangladesh have died of dengue fever this year in the southeast Asian nation’s worst outbreak on record. Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral illness found in many tropical and subtropical regions. The WHO warned earlier this year that global reported cases could hit record highs, driven in part by global warming — which prolongs breeding seasons for mosquitos — as well as recurrent weather patterns like El Niño.
On Saturday, Slovaks hit the polls in an election that has Brussels and Washington on edge. The wily left-wing, populist former PM Robert Fico, who wants to end support for neighboring Ukraine and block the country’s accession to NATO and the EU, is running neck-and-neck with the liberal Progressive Slovakia party.
Fico (that’s “FEE-tso” if you want to say it like a Slovak) has served two prior stints as PM. He was ousted in 2018 amid allegations that his associates had murdered an investigative journalist for reporting on corruption. Since then, Slovaks have suffered a succession of weak and unstable caretaker governments.
Fico has surged in the polls in part by playing on Slovaks’ historic pan-Slavic affinity for Russia, which some say has been boosted by recent Russian influence campaigns. He has also pledged to crack down on migration.
Critics and supporters alike think Fico could try to become an “illiberal” European leader in the mold of Hungary’s PM Viktor Orbán. Given the EU’s unanimity requirements for major policy initiatives, a Fico-led government could complicate the union’s future EU expansion initiatives or sanctions against Russia – particularly in a partnership with Budapest.
That said, no matter who wins on Saturday, a fragmented vote means it will be hard to form an ideologically coherent government. That could limit any radical changes under Fico – but could also undermine a liberal government. Still, Fico’s strong showing is already a potential bellwether of cracks in the EU’s Ukraine policy, even among Kyiv’s closest European neighbors.
For more on this: How did Slovakia become an independent country without bloodshed? Read our look back at the unusual “Velvet Divorce” here.
Hard Numbers: A river runs through US-Canada talks, Indian hackers hit CAF, Swedes supercharge Quebec investment, Unifor sets sights on GM, Canada emits mixed picture on climate progress
40: The US and Canada are in an eddy of difficult negotiations about water use from the shared Columbia River, whose dams provide half of British Columbia’s electricity and 40% of all US hydropower. Time is running out — the 1964 treaty that governs the two countries’ use of the river expires next September.
2: Canada’s bad blood with India is now spilling into the cyber realm. The website of the Canadian Armed Forces was knocked offline for two hours on Wednesday in an operation carried out by a pro-Indian hacking group called Indian Cyber Force. The group had threatened to attack Canada just days after PM Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of involvement in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia.
7 billion: Sweden’s Northvolt, a major battery supplier to Volkswagen and BMW, has chosen a site in Quebec for a new $7 billion factory that will manufacture EV batteries. The company had been scouting locations on both sides of the US-Canada border. The deal will be the largest-ever private investment in Quebec and is the latest in a slew of EV battery production deals reached with US and Asian manufacturers.
3: After reaching a last-minute strike-averting deal with Ford, Canada’s Unifor, a trade union, is now targeting the Motor City giant’s crosstown rivals at GM. Unifor wants a 3-year contract based on the one they inked with Ford, which increased worker’s wages and pensions, while also providing more support for labor during transitions to EV production. Across the border, the UAW’s unprecedented strike against all three major US automakers continues.2.1: Canada’s emissions rose 2.1% in 2022 compared to the year before, according to data released on Thursday. While that seems like a red flag for the country’s aim of cutting 2005 emissions in half by the end of this decade, the larger picture is greener. Emissions are down more than 6% since 2005, driven largely by the power sector, where the shuttering of coal plants has halved emissions. Still, oil and gas sector emissions are up more than 20% since then, driven largely by the boom in oil sands production over the past two decades.