Volume V. Central Asia in XXI Century.
Central Asia within Foreign Political Science and World Geopolitics.
Volume V. Central Asia in XXI Century.
The Volume V includes the issues concentrating over Central Asia, its relationship with the great and regional powers. The first part regards the numerous aspects of influence on the region from geopolitical centers – USA, Europe, Russia and China. The second part is dedicated to participation of regional powers in the Great Game around Central Asia. They are India, Japan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. And the third part investigates exclusively the local relationship and domestic policies in Central Asian countries.
The nations of Central Asia, surrounded by Russia, China, and South Asia, comprise the geopolitical centerpiece of the Eurasian continent. Their location makes them both a buffer and a passageway between East and West. Central Asia is a major energy producer. The region is capable of reducing the world’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. Central Asia is thus subject to crosscurrents of political, economic, and military interests and pressures. It is also at the crossroad of narcoterrorist traffic that originates in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The current security and geopolitical situation in Central Asia is strongly determined by some different factors. The Western impact is now the one of most important. This impact is realized by two major players which are the US and EU, and through some political and military instruments. So, a stability of the region is depended on whole general framework which includes RussianWestern relations, Sino-American contradictions, European ambitions, Caspian economics etc. It is possible to conclude that the future security of Central Asia will be managed by the West and its agents, but it should be a kind of smart and flexible management which should take into consideration the interests of Central Asian states, also the real vital interests of other powers, first of all, that is Russia. Only this condition is demanded to secure the stability in the region and to prevent new real ‘Great Game’ in a sense of 19th Century’s power rivalry and uncontrolled expansion. The unengaged expertise proves this epoch is over. And mostly, the current Western presence in Central Asia in this own form confirms this final thesis.
It is obvious that security of Central Asia is strongly impacted by the West. But what is the ‘West’ in this regard? We focus on four major actors presenting the West, they are the US, the European Union, the NATO, and partly – Turkey. All those geopolitical players are closed connected each one with the other and they influence on security of Central Asia in different ways. Actually, having carried out the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 years and having placed the bases in Central Asian countries, the USA have undertaken a role of the main military arbitrator in the center of Eurasia; a role which all other conducting powers of region have refused. It is became obvious that only American military power could eliminate Taliban regime and remove the direct threat to Central Asia.
These great world powers and the centres of geopolitical force involved in Central Asia are Russia, the USA, China and the European Union. It is argued that the geopolitical configuration in the Central Asian region, as well as the balance of power between these large actors have changed. The influence of the West, first of all the United States which have carried out the unprecedented for the modern epoch military operation in Afghanistan and have created military infrastructure not only on the territory of this country, but also in the number of Central Asian states, has greatly increased. The policy of such largest neighbours of Central Asia as Russia and China has also undergone some changes. Moscow and Beijing, who were among the first countries rendered the support to American efforts in the struggle against international terrorism in 2001, faced qualitatively new situation in the region, touching their national interests, in the beginning of 2002.
Being the largest economic power the European Union aspires to be also one of military-political and geopolitical centers in the world. The EU actively develops its common foreign and defensive policy, tries to act as one actor on the world scene though not always successfully. Nevertheless, the existence of an objective trend is obvious: the EU prepares in future if not to compete with USA but certainly to promote independent policy and to occupy its own geopolitical place on international scene. This touchs on Central Asia since the EU tries to include into its sphere of geopolitical interests not only the countries of Eastern Europe, but also a significant part of the Central Eurasia, that is the CIS, including Caucasus, Caspian Sea and the Central Asian region. “The expansion” of EU is frequently treated as economic, technological and cultural domination.
The NATO creates a good opportunity to connect the Western, European and Eurasian security in general. The Partnership for Peace (PfP) program is clear evidence, as well as Russian policy toward NATO. In the future the development of following scenario should not be excluded, when the development of events will go in such a manner that the certain consensus on the division of
geopolitical roles between Europe, America and Eurasia will be found. It is also possible, that instead of the notion “Atlantic Europe” dominating for the last half-centuries, the notion “the Eurasian Europe” will emerge.
In 2005, several political events and processes have changed the situation in the region rapidly. First, there were the color revolution in Kyrgyzstan and fall of Askar Akaev in March. This event raised the question about further geopolitical orientation of Kyrgyzstan that is currently uncertain. Secondly, the revolt in Uzbek city Andijan in May what provoked the serious deterioration of relationship between Tashkent and the West, and consequently, reduced US military presence in the region significantly. Thirdly, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has realized in the July 2005 Summit a strong anti-American demarche concerning the perspectives of US presence. Actually, it was a new step to formation of a new regional military-political organization under the Chinese-Russian dominance. And fourthly, the presidential elections in Kazakhstan in December 2005 and its previous intrigue lead to the silent consensus among the bigger powers relating to keep stability in Kazakhstan notwithstanding with their different political goals and ideological motives.
U.S. relations with countries in Central Asia were fundamentally affected by the attacks launched on the United States on September 11, 2001. To support U.S. operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. military negotiated significant accessoverflight and air base arrangements – with Central Asian governments that initially produced a sense of common purpose and goodwill, generating concern in Russia and China. Geopolitics and geo-strategy of the United States of America is really global in character and touches upon practically all the regions and any country of the planet. The region of Central Asia is no exception. As a whole the American policy in Central Asia is a part of a more general Eurasian strategy of US covering, besides our region, the Caspian and Caucasus regions, Russia, Afghanistan, Middle East, South Asia and China.
Since 2005-06 the American policy in the region has entered a new stage, which can be characterized as a formation of “Greater Central Asia”. A key point of this project is a connection between Central Asia and Afghanistan.
What factors affect Central Asian security? They have not changed much: Afghanistan and the military-political situation in it; Iran and its nuclear program; the relations between Russia and China; the activity of the West, etc. In the security sphere NATO is developing into an important factor in Central Asia. The Bucharest NATO Summit clearly demonstrated that the North Atlantic Alliance has never let Eurasia out of its sight despite the temporary setback experienced by Georgia and Ukraine. The Summit of April 2008 in Bucharest convincingly demonstrated that security in the Atlantic Alliance and in Eurasia is interconnected. Even though Georgia and Ukraine were not invited to join the
line it became abundantly clear that NATO affects, to the strongest extent, the security system in Central Eurasia. In view of the Afghan factor this role looks even more important, especially in Central Asia. Sooner or later the consistent penetration of the Western security structures into the continent’s interior will raise the question of cooperation between the Alliance and two regional structures (the CSTO and SCO).
Western strategists have not yet sorted the SCO out: it remains to be seen whether it is an economic alliance, a military-political bloc, or something else. The extent to which its aims are realizable is still unclear. The West is even more concerned about whether the SCO (or, rather, the Russia-China tandem) threatens the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian states. Translated into clear terms this reads: To what extent do the Central Asian countries make independent decisions within the SCO? Afghanistan remains one of the key factors of Central Asia’s military-political security. The Central Asian republics want the territory of the former Northern Alliance turned into a security belt to which they and Russia should particularly extend their assistance. A large-scale U.S. military operation will not be limited to Afghanistan – it will spread to Pakistan and tip the military-strategic balance in Southern and Central Asia. These developments will inevitably affect the interests of India, China, and Russia.
The European Union has radically revised its Central Asian policy and the way it cooperates with the regional structures (including the SCO). A recent document – The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership for the Years 2007-2013 – dated 31 May, 2007 identified the following aims (1) stability and security of the regional countries; (2) lower poverty level and higher standard of living within the Millennium Development Goals; and (3) stronger regional cooperation among the local states and between them and the EU, especially in the energy, transportation, higher education, and environmental protection spheres. The document points out that Central Asia, which serves as the link that keeps Europe and Asia together, belongs to the OSCE (that is, to the European political expanse). The European Union and the Central Asian countries have the common aims – maintaining stability and enjoying prosperity.
During the years 2003-04 the tendency to strengthen the position of Russia in Central Asia had already started. Moscow diversified its methods and spheres of its mutual interaction with the countries of the region by alternating the instruments of economics, politics and integration. Return of Russia to this region took place in three directions: 1) setting up of bases directly (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan); 2) activization of efforts within the structures of integration and multilateral organizations (CSTO, SCO, EEC, CES); 3) development of bilateral ties (with all the countries of the region). The strategy of Russia with regard to Central Asia in the near future will be directed to achieve the
following goals: creation of a united defence space of Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Tajikistan; creation of Collective Rapid Action Forces (CRAF) under the aegis of Russia; continuation of the process of further integration of economic and defence structures of the participating countries of CSTO; formation of an integration nucleus (at the level of CA) of Russia and Kazakhstan.
Central Asia, as a source of transit energy resources, occupied a subordinate position in the European vector of Russia’s geostrategy. But in recent years, Gazprom’s activity in the region and Moscow’s aggressive energy cooperation strategy have begun to turn Central Asia into a special target of Russia’s energy, economic, and geopolitical expansion. Gazprom’s actions (with the support of the Kremlin) looked different in Central Asia, which is a potential resource base for Moscow’s energy strategy.
It is evident that between the years 1992-2000 China in this region has behaved like a winning side. Geo-strategic and military-political successes of China in Central Asia include the following: disappearance of USSR as geopolitical competitor; gradual departure of Russia from this region and objective economic weakness of the Newly Independent States of Central Asia; direct territorial acquisitions; direct economic advantage from trade with the countries of this region, in particular with Kazakhstan; economic rise of Xingjian thanks to improvement in geopolitical situation and intensification of economic ties with Central Asia and through it with other markets; getting control of trans-border rivers and their exploitation in its favour; creation of the geopolitical organization SCO with the clear dominance of PRC; expansion of geopolitical ambitions of China right up to the Caspian Sea.
Creation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization opened for China a strategic path to Central Asia and became a breakthrough in its diplomacy in the region. Now SCO is for China a mechanism for ensuring security, a channel for participation in the affairs of the countries of Central Asia and forms the basis for their multilateral ties. Chinese strategists consider that in case the United States establishes its control over Central Asia, then it will be able to economically keep in its hands the developed Europe and East Asia and, possibly, other regions of the world too. Comparing the successful military penetration of US in Central Asia with the expansion of NATO to the East, the Chinese experts have come to the conclusion that in reality the actions of NATO have gone far beyond the aims and objectives of this alliance. Strategically, this means that in future there is possibility of not only exerting pressure on Russia, they may even ignore the supremacy of Russia and China in this region.
Thus, the main interests of China in Central Asia are: fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism; maintenance of stability in the region; encouragement
of economic well-being of Central Asia; ensuring friendly relations of the Republics of Central Asia with China; creation of a situation so that these countries do not fall into control of one of the Super powers; avoid creation of military blocs in the region against Beijing; ensure access of China to the energy resources of CA.
Long-terms perspectives of China are (after the year 2020): to occupy leading economic and political positions in Asia (and Pacific), to annihilate fully the geopolitical presence of US in the region; to annex Taiwan; to ensure total independence of energy requirements of China; to become one of the economic leaders of the planet and eventually become number one economy; to become World Power and achieve military-strategic and geopolitical parity with USA. In the first half of the 21st century China is expected to strengthen its position in the global political arena and unconditionally dominate a number of regions. Regarding Central Asia, China can definitely become a significant geopolitical force like the U.S., the EU and Russia, in the very near future.
One of the most perspective and effective regional organizations seems to bethe Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). But the SCO has its geographical and political peculiarities. It combines two major world powers and four smaller Central Asian countries, which are unequal in terms of their political, economic, military, demographic, and social potential, thus composing a 2+4 organism. Beijing believes that all international forces in Central Asia may equally cooperate with the SCO. 16 Each side of this triangle has its own interest in the resources of the region. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has diversified its activity; however, Beijing insists that its main objective is the fight against terrorism. It is believed that the SCO is a provisional structure for China while it is developing into a central world power. When this happens, China is very much likely to treat other countries, and primarily its neighbors, harshly. In the medium-term, China will try, perhaps, to become a leader in such organizations as the SCO and ASEAN and to form the Economic Cooperation Organization in Northeast Asia (with Japan and South Korea) where it will also play a leading role. It will also try to strengthen its economic and demographic influence on the Far East, Mongolia, Siberia and Central Asia.
It is certainly the case that China is isolated within the SCO, confronted by a block of post-Soviet states that share a common past and confronted with the same problems, which facilitates understanding among them. Moreover, Russia has a specific, tried-and-tested approach to each of them. For Russia, the SCO is above all a framework for cooperation with China. The scale of cooperation between Moscow and Beijing reached unprecedented levels in 2005. Russia and China held a series of joint large-scale military exercises, made a joint declaration on world order in the 21st century, and have used the SCO to counter US military
presence in Central Asia. The Russian military community views the promotion of cooperation with China within the framework of the SCO as indispensable, but remain divided over the extent of such strategic military cooperation in light of possible rivalry between the two.
Through the SCO, Kazakhstan remains at the mercy of the evolution of the Sino-Russian relations: on the one hand, excessive strategic rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow threatens to establish a double dictate of these powers in Central Asia (including within the framework of the SCO); conversely, however, there is also the danger of a flare-up in Chinese-Russian rivalry in the region, which cannot be ruled out in the future.
Historically India has always been closely connected with Central Asia. In the recent past Delhi was a close and faithful ally of USSR. Presently those relations between India and Russia are being restored. Moreover, India’s policy cannot leave untouched the interests of China, US and the West as a whole in this region and, on the other hand, the situation in Afghanistan and Iran also cannot remain uninfluenced by the policies of India. Thus, directly or indirectly, India, nonetheless, must be considered a geopolitical force in Central Asia. Sudden splash of geopolitical activeness on the part of India in Central Asia goes back to the years 2002-2003 after the anti-terrorists operations in Afghanistan and change in the entire geopolitical situation in the region. India’s interests can be divided into two groups: purely geopolitical which include rivalry with China and Pakistan, and partnership with Russia, and economic which include in the first place energy interests as also trade and economic interests.
Strategic goal of India in many respects is similar to the US policy in Central Asia. In other words, activities of Delhi are directed not only towards stabilization of situation in Central Asia, but also towards creation of such conditions which will help India to play an important role in the region. India is gradually getting involved in the “Great Game” in Central Asia. There is no doubt that this power has its geopolitical interests in the region which are determined by a number of factors. These factors include the following: partnership with Russia; Chinese presence in Central Asia; India’s coming closer with West and US; rivalry with Pakistan; threat of spreading of militant Islamism; transport and energy and trade and economic interests of Delhi in Central Asia and in the neighbouring regions.
In this way India’s potential does exist for expansion of its economic, military-strategic and geopolitical presence in Central Asia. The realization of this potential will depend upon, firstly, on the state of Indo-Russian relations, implementation of a number of big communication and energy projects, and also on objective geopolitical and geographic factors. In spite of the apparent geographical proximity of the Indian sub-continent to Central Asia direct
transport-communication connection between the two regions is very difficult. Besides this, with the growth of economic and geopolitical strength of India, as it is now happening with China, expansion of its influence and ambitions will inevitably affect Central Asia in one or the other form. It is important for Delhi to remember that Central Asia will always maintain its traditional relations with Russia, will remain a part of “Eurasia” as a geopolitical phenomenon, and also a part of European (OSCE – Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe) political space.
The situation in Afghanistan should also be considered in light of international factors. Afghanistan is a country under occupation, with limited national sovereignty. Its security, internal stability and further economic development depend on the U.S., NATO and global economic aid. The U.S. remains the most influential military and political power in Afghanistan.
Islamic Radicalism has become a serious problem in Central Asia. In
Central Asia, the focus of Islamic revival and of radical groups has been the Ferghana valley, a densely populated and ethnically mainly Uzbek territory divided politically between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The valley has traditionally been a center of Islamic fervor, and was the area where foreign radicals first established a presence. As we will see, though, there are other factors besides tradition at work here. . Radical Islamic groups active in the region and include groups across a political spectrum ranging from self-proclaimed peaceful groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HB) and Tabligh Jemaat, to militant and terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
For more than 15 years already, the term “multi-vectored foreign policy” has been the official doctrine of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy. In one form or another, this doctrine has been put into service by the foreign policy departments of other Central Asian states, with the exception, perhaps, of Turkmenistan, which has proclaimed its neutrality, but nevertheless also means multi-vectoredness—that is, interaction in various directions in the international arena.
Uzbekistan’s foreign policy, even more than Kazakhstan’s early foreign policy, was not multi-vectored, but dualistic. This dualism by Tashkent was determined by the problems of security and the strategic choice to be made between Moscow and Washington. Karimov quarreled with Turkey, regarded the Islamic countries with suspicion, and for a long time distanced himself from China (although he put its model of state capitalism into use). Thus, Tashkent’s choice was between America and Russia. The period from spring 2002 until spring 2004 was the time of the greatest cooling in Uzbekistan’s relations with Russia. Tashkent’s expectations of major financial advantages from its support of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan fell far short of being fully realized. In the course of the events in Andijan in May 2005, Karimov’s regime demonstrated
to the West (with the full political support of Moscow and moral support from Astana) that it was capable of decisively putting a stop to any attempts to destabilize the country, and Tashkent also unequivocally unfolded itself from the West and moved in the direction of Russia. In the current period (2005-2008), bilateral relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the United States are at their lowest level since Uzbekistan’s independence.
The main partners of Kyrgyzstan, upon which its security, economic development, and domestic stability depend, are its immediate neighbors – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China – and also such powers as Russia and the United States. In such conditions, the main foreign policy task of Askar Akaev always was balancing among them. One constant in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy is Bishkek’s support for stable, good-neighborly relations with Kazakhstan, as well as its participation in all processes of integration in the framework of the Central Asian region and the CIS.
The strategic and international position of Tajikistan is determined by its proximity to Afghanistan, by its total (until recently) dependence on Russia, by its cultural-historical bent toward Iran, by its position in the system of drug trafficking, by the Islamist threat, and by the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan’s foreign policy can be characterized not so much as multi-vectored, but as “anti-vectored.” Since the beginning of the 1990s, the regime of Saparmurat Niyazov has insisted on its “neutrality.” Turkmenistan holds a special place in Central Asia and attracts interest thanks to two factors: first, its enormous supply of hydrocarbons, above all its gas resources, and secondly, the odious regime of Niyazov’s personal power. Turkmenistan is the largest producer of natural gas in Central Asia. After the death of Niazov in December 2006, the Turkmenistan foreign policy started to change slowly.
All sorts of geo-economic projects, related mostly to the transportation routes of energy resources, figured prominently in the geopolitical maneuvering around Central Asia. The Caspian pipeline project is stalling mainly because there is another pipeline project on the table, the so-called Trans-Caspian pipeline, going across the Caspian via the South Caucasian states to Turkey and Europe. Ashghabad is using it for haggling over gas prices for Russia and lower transportation tariffs across its potential partners for itself. Today it has become abundantly clear that the importance of hydrocarbon fuel will rise and Kazakhstan can profit from this.
Moscow has abandoned its efforts to reintegrate the post-Soviet expanse on the basis of universal principles as having no future. While cementing bilateral relations Russia tried to pool corrective efforts in order to address the most urgent of tasks. Such are the CIS Antiterrorist Center and the Collective Rapid Deployment Forces, as well as triple cooperation among Russia, Kazakhstan,
and Azerbaijan on the Caspian issue. In Central Asia Russia has concentrated its efforts on Kazakhstan, which was fully confirmed by the fact that Dmitry Medvedev, as the newly elected president, paid his first visit to Astana. It seems that under the pressure of domestic and foreign political factors Russia will shift the weight of its geopolitical efforts to the West (the European part of the CIS and Europe) for the simple reason that it has close economic contacts with it and its security and modernization depend on it to a great extent. Subjectively, this bias might be promoted by the personality of the new Russian president. We should expect, therefore, that Moscow will pay relatively less geopolitical attention to its eastern policies (which include China, the APR, the SCO, Southern and Central Asia).
The response from the other key geopolitical player is easy to predict: Beijing will move in to fill the gaps left by Moscow, however the process will not be smooth. China has its own problems which will not remain long on the back burner. So far experts have identified several stumbling blocks in trade and economic relations between China and Central Asia: (1) from the very beginning they have been far from equal, with China’s obvious predomination; (2) the border points and their role in promoting trans-border trade are a main problem; and (3) Chinese investments in the regional economy are a cause for worry. Beijing is steadily building up its economic presence in Central Asia by carrying out all sorts of projects (pipeline, transport and communication, trade, economic, construction, and investment) with each of the Central Asian states. Its involvement is clashing, to an increasing extent, with the interests of Russia and the United States in the context of rivalry over resources and the main pipelines.
What is going on inside the region? The accumulating changes will gradually cause qualitative shifts. Kazakhstan will remain the leader even though the current financial storms make this harder. Uzbekistan is openly (and other republics latently) opposed to Astana’s efforts to resume regional integration (cooperation) processes.
Kazakhstan, as one of the driving forces behind the integration processes across the post-Soviet expanse and because of its geostrategic importance, is Russia’s key strategic partner in Central Asia. Its energy, transport, transit, and military potential, as well as potential in other spheres, has not yet been fully tapped in the interests of both countries. It should be borne in mind that in the present geopolitical situation in Central Asia Russia will have to work harder than before to maintain and develop its allied and partner relations with Kazakhstan.
The relations between Kazakhstan and Russia are different from Russia’s relations with the other Central Asian and CIS countries. On the one hand,
Kazakhstan is one of the most loyal and reliable Russia’s partners in the postSoviet expanse; it is involved in all the integration processes. On the other hand, Astana’s policies demonstrate that it has its own national interests, its own ideas about the international developments, and its own foreign policy priorities.
In recent years Uzbekistan’s political and economic situation has changed radically even though Islam Karimov remains its president. The country’s leaders have started the very much needed financial and economic reforms; the national currency has reached the convertibility stage; and market mechanisms are operating in the countryside. Industry and agriculture have rid themselves of the extremes, and the government has moved further away from interfering in economic processes. At home President Karimov has finally reduced the pressure of the clans and regional and departmental groups on central power. The main elite groups have reached a consensus and achieved a balance, albeit shaky. Social unrest was partly quenched and the threat of destabilization removed, while the Islamist movement was driven underground.
Likewise, the republic’s international situation has changed to a great extent: Tashkent abandoned its one-sided orientation toward the West to move back to post-Soviet integration. This improved relations with Russia: today Tashkent depends much more on Moscow and Beijing. Its foreign policy revision took Tashkent farther than intended: its relations with the West are worse than at any other period, while the country has found itself in what can be described as international semi-isolation. At the same time the rapport between Russia and Uzbekistan that goes back to 2004 cannot be described as completely reliable: Uzbek foreign policy is known for its instability. In the context of bad, or very bad, relations with the West Tashkent is actively developing multi-sided (mainly economic) cooperation with China. The republic, in fact, is developing into China’s key Central Asian trade, economic, and political partner.
Since 2004 Tashkent has been developing its relations with the Soviet successorstates in line with its orientation toward Russia. The importance of its contacts with China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and especially Turkmenistan (from which gas will be moved across Uzbekistan) cannot be overestimated; on top of this Uzbekistan is campaigning to become the transit state for the main railways and highways that will connect China and the Middle East. The Andijan riot, which Tashkent accused Bishkek of indirectly instigating, caused a lot of strain in the relations between the two countries; later, in 2006, many of the former contradictions were removed. This is the context in which Uzbekistan’s post-Western foreign policy is taking shape determined, first and foremost, by the shortage of domestic resources and limited maneuverability on the international scene. Kazakhstan, in turn, wants domestic stability in Uzbekistan more than anything else; much depends on whether the regime change in Uzbekistan will be smooth.
Kyrgyzstan is present in practically all the Central Asian integration projects – CSTO, EurAsEC, CAEC, and SCO. In recent years its leaders, who in the past few years have been preserving strategic cooperation and partnership with Russia, China, and the U.S. as their priorities, have been concentrating on strengthening relations within the SCO and CSTO. Relations with the United States, the third strategic partner, are clouded by the clash of financial advantages with respect to the continued presence of American troops in the republic and Washington’s mounting desire to export democracy and support the opposition. In recent years Bishkek has displayed an interest in all sorts of transportation and communication projects designed to connect Central Asia with the outside world; Kyrgyzstan wants to be included in all of them as a transit country. It would also like to see Central Asia as a single economic expanse.
The dramatic events triggered by the sudden death of Saparmurad Niyazov and G.Berdymukhammedov’s advent to power stirred up intrigues around Ashghabad: the West is luring Turkmenistan into alternative gas projects while Russia is fighting for its continued monopoly on the transportation of Turkmen gas to the foreign markets. The new leaders of Turkmenistan with their ideas about the country’s foreign policies boldly moved onto the international arena. President Berdymukhammedov has accepted the rules of the game and feels at home on the geopolitical scene, especially where the Caspian issue is concerned: so far he has been successfully balancing among Russia, the West, China, and Iran. He is lavishing promises right and left and seems to be ready to join any of the gas pipeline projects even though this is very much at variance with the republic’s gas reserves. Meanwhile Turkmenistan is steadily opening up to the world.
The West, in turn, is trying to elbow Russia out of Turkmenistan, potentially the best chance of delivering Europe and pro-Western CIS republics from their dependence on Russian gas. Today, Russia’s policy in relation to Turkmenistan is free from the desire to invite the country into the SCO or any other CIS structures. Moscow wants to remain in control over its gas policies: the agreements of Turkmenbashi’s time should remain in force while Gazprom should retain its monopoly on the export of Turkmenian energy resources. This makes China, which wants Turkmen gas for itself, Russia’s rival, which threatens its gas interests. The expert community is of the opinion that Ashghabad’s chances within Nabucco are preferable. The project expected to move gas from Iran and other Caspian states to Southern, Central, and Western Europe. The new pipeline routes will be determined not only by international competition over the oil and gas resources of Turkmenistan but also by the domestic balance of forces.
The weak economy, which suffered a lot in the civil war, the undeveloped production forces, and the geographic location, which can hardly be described
as favorable, do not prevent Tajikistan from being involved in nearly all the integration structures (CSTO, EurAsEC, CACE and SCO). Recently the country has been seeking new foreign policy partners more actively than before (while strengthening its traditional relations with Russia). The new foreign policy trends were born through a great deal of dissatisfaction with the far from successful experience of cooperation with Russia’s big business. Today, Iran is building up its influence in the republic without much ado and is involved in all sorts of economic projects; India and China are also present. Russia’s much advertised intention to regain control over the Soviet aluminum giants fell through or, at best, was postponed. The situation in the republic where economic and political problems are intertwined is far from simple, however Dushanbe and Tehran have moved closer in many respects. Iran is gradually moving to the fore as one of the key foreign investors and a potential user of local raw materials. In the near future Tajikistan will still need energy, transport, and communication projects; and it will have to curb the large-scale migration of manpower.
Being a sovereign state for 18 years, Kazakhstan enters the foreign affairs system with a developed foreign policy and certain foreign policy principles and concepts. In the early 1990s, the government projected the concept of the Eurasian Bridge, showing that Kazakhstan belongs both to Europe and Asia with respect to geography, culture, history, and civilization. Later on, in the late 1990s, the concept transformed into the so-called principle of multi-vector diplomacy aiming to introduce foreign policy in the directions important to Kazakhstan such as the CIS, Central Asia, East Asia, Europe, the Islamic World, the Pacific Region, industrialized countries, etc. Kazakhstan’s relations with Russia, China, the Central Asian countries, the USA, and the European Union are undoubtedly strategic.
Kazakhstan today is considered to be the most successful economy of the countries of the CIS. The process of economic transformations in Kazakhstan is a graphic example of the difficulties that have to be overcome on the way to a market economy, even for new independent states with the richest of resources. The country’s leaders inherited a situation that gave real grounds for optimism. The economy was diversfied in nature and a reasonably well-developed processing industry and agricultural sector presented potential for a smooth transition to independence, by satisfying the material requests of the population to an extent that would preserve political stability.
In 2010 Astana should use its OSCE chairmanship to add weight to its international and foreign policy standing for the sake of Central Asian security. In its relations with the European Union Kazakhstan should take into account that the EU might lose its position as the main economic center of Eurasia; the EU countries are developing into magnets of migration that brings about deep-
cutting changes in their social makeup and their industrial structure. At the same time the European Union will depend on Eurasian energy resources for a long time to come. Islamist extremism keeps Uzbekistan on the alert: the republic is forced to tighten its border, customs, and migration regimes – measures that badly hit the Ferghana population.
The years 2007-08 was a time of geopolitical changes for the region, some of which remained latent but completely analyzable. The geo-economic factors and the worldwide financial crisis (a crisis of liquidity and defaults as well as instability in the international financial markets), the rising prices for basic commodities such as energy resources and foodstuffs, the economic growth in Russia, China, and India, and the rising importance of the energy security issue, etc. inevitably affected the situation in Central Asia.
In August 2008 the conflict in South Ossetia complicated the situation and greatly affected Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security. The SCO summit that met late in August 2008 unanimously supported Russia and its actions in the Caucasus. We can expect similar statements from Moscow’s CIS friends at the CIS, EurAsEC, and CSTO summits to be held in the fall of 2008. Central Asian security will undoubtedly be affected by the worsening relations between Russia and the West. The geopolitical game around the region has reached a new phase. The year 2009, when America received the new Obama’s administration, would probably dissipate the fog.