Russia and Uzbekistan have signed a new and expanded military cooperation pact, once again cementing Russia's role as the ultimate guarantor of stability in Central Asia. Uzbekistan had wanted to break away from its security pacts with Russia and seek pacts with the West, but was forced back into a deal with Moscow by the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism. --Stephen V Cole
December 28; Turkmenistan president Saparmurat Niyazov has made himself (via a vote by parliament, of course) president for life. Niyazov is popular at the moment, for he has promised free gas, water and electricity for all citizens and doubling of the minimum wage. Actually, the economy is a mess and Niyazov is carrying on the same way the former Communist bosses (of which he was one) did. The police are well paid.