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Russian Foreign Policy In Central Asia Since 2001: Assessing The Successes And Failures

7007 words - 29 pages

Russian Foreign Policy in Central Asia since 2013: Assessing the successes and failures
Generally it is assumed that Russian foreign policy in Central Asia has been characterized by “neo-imperialism”. Yet this is statement is only partially true considering the fact that Moscow’s policies within its “sphere of influence” have not be static, and have been characterized by sweeping modifications. Since the breakup of Soviet Union, Russian policy in Central Asia has gone through drastic transformations and its influence in the region has varied over time. At present, Russian authority in Central Asia is weakening, yet the Kremlin continues to utilize number of political, institutional and ...view middle of the document...

Russia’s revived determination to pursue “post-imperial” objectives is still evident in the region, even though the “game” is at this point being played with more caution. The Kremlin’s position in the region continues to be imply that operates according to this logic, and is represented through various soft power instruments employed in Central Asia. This essay considers economic, political, institutional and cultural projects that Russia implements in the region, and assesses its successes and failures accordingly.

CENTRAL ASIA: overview of the region

Central Asia is comprised of five moderately similar states. They are ruled by totalitarian leaders, although the degree of autocracy differs from one another. All of them struggle with severe corruption, lack of democracy, drug-trafficking and politically weak society. It is also important to mention that all five states have distinct foreign policies which are reflected in their actions. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to some extent pursue isolationist policies, while Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan embrace multilateral and diversified foreign outlooks. Although the West has revealed its interest in the region on several occasions, none of the five states have displayed especially Western positioning, possibly due to erratic Western involvement, as well as Western states’ criticisms of the anti-democratic policies employed by the various Central Asian governments. In this context, China is seen as a better choice for partnership since it places minimal emphasis on the kinds of regimes established in the states. On the other hand, anti-Western sympathies in the region characterize both Chinese and Russian interests in Central Asia. This common ground has facilitated the establishment of various multilateral institutions where both leading players have worked diplomatically. Nevertheless, this has resulted in Moscow’s declining influence in the region.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russian position in Central Asia varied from total lack of interest to relative rhetorical involvement. As a result of Moscow’s absence during this critical period, faith in Moscow’s support was lost among the states, as was its influence. The terrorist attacks of 2001 in the USA have since revived US interest in the region. After “9/11”, the United States has sought military bases in the region, and this was mostly approved by the Central Asian states, as well as by Russia. For the US, dealing with the perceived Taliban threat became a priority for national security, and the Central Asian states, which are geographically situated “in the backyard” of the regions in which the Taliban were most active, were seen as necessary partners in combating such threats. The US therefore successfully gained access to the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, and to an air base in Uzbekistan that was in close proximity to the Afghan border. Fearing that America would replace Russia as the sole major power in the region, Moscow then...

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