Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Politics and Geopolitics / The future of Russia and the world: estimates and projections / Articles
Modern Central Asia and its prospects
Material posted: Publication date: 16-11-2012

The modern world is characterized by instability, changing balances and changing system of international relations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia was the center of attention of various external forces. The region was at the intersection of interests of both regional and global players.

In the modern political understanding Central Asia Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, which, however, has recently sought to distinguish themselves from the region, expressing its Eurasian position. There are other definitions, in particular, by UNESCO definition, the region includes Mongolia, Western China, Punjab, Northern India and Northern Pakistan, northeastern Iran, Afghanistan, districts of Asiatic Russia South of the taiga zone and five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. In the future we'll stick to the first interpretation.

The Central Asian region is such in virtue of its natural-geographical, geopolitical and cultural-historical identity. CA has long been on the periphery of global politics because of a large number of natural obstacles – the Kara-Kum desert and the Caspian sea in the West, grasslands, salt marshes, the Kazakh desert in the North, in the West of the Chinese desert, and the southern mountains of Afghanistan, the Pamirs, the deserts Bactrians lowlands. But the modern development of technology and transportation allow to reverse the trend. In the 20th century, Central Asia is connected with Russia by railway and motor transport, gas - and - oil pipelines. In 90th of Turkmenistan held a railway line in Iran (Mashhad) and in the two thousand oil and gas pipelines linked the region with China. Central Asian countries can control all shortest transcontinental route, besides their borders open to the rear, the least secure and developed region of the major Asian States – China and Russia.

The area of the Central Asia – 3 million 916 thousand sq. km Population: about 60 million. In the future demographic potential of the region will only increase, leading to pressure on the labour market, as these countries and Russia with Kazakhstan, as the largest flow of migrants coming into these countries. The region is rich in resources, Central Asia has 3 % of world oil reserves, 7 % of gas reserves, 25 % of the world's uranium reserves are in Kazakhstan. Besides, Uzbekistan has the 4 highest number of explored reserves of gold. And this resource potential makes the Central Asia as the place of strategic cooperation and confrontation between great powers that in the name of securing potential supplies and interests can go on military intervention, as evidenced by the deployment of American, Russian, and even French and German bases.

In present borders none of the States of Central Asia did not exist until 1991. These boundaries were defined in 20ые years, during national-state demarcation of Turkestan ASSR. After independence, these States have created their own political system, currency, gold reserves, and most importantly – his place in the world. Shortage of time and funds against the General disintegration of the Federal economy has severely affected the countries of the region. The consequences are still visible: the permanent political passions in Kyrgyzstan.

A major regional issue, in our opinion, are:

  • territorial disputes;
  • the distribution of water resources;
  • the existence of national enclaves in neighbouring States;
  • the lack of sustained growth in the manufacturing sector;
  • drug trafficking and the drug mafia collusion with the bureaucratic apparatus;
  • irregular migration;
  • the inferiority of the domestic market;
  • the tendency to archaism and the Islamization of the region;
  • the possibility of Afghanization of the region.


Internal situation

Kazakhstan is the most stable country in the region. But the stability rests on the President and his clan, as well as resource exports. 80.5% of exports and 39% of Kazakhstan's GDP – minerals, oil and gas.[1] Now many children of Kazakh elite study and live in Western countries, and in the Kazakhstan open European elite educational institutions. So in 10-20 years will come to power people are not associated with Russia, in their attitudes and values are more European than the Kazakhs. "More than 3,000 scholarships "Bolashak" are appointed each year to study in such universities as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Sorbonne, Moscow state University.[2] for the Purpose of economic development of Kazakhstan is integration in the world economy. Therefore, there were carried out some reforms to liberalize the economy, the development of the banking system.

The consequence of this was the fact that Kazakhstan suffered from economic crisis more than other countries in the region. The crisis of banking liquidity has affected the real sector, has significantly affected small and medium business. However, at this stage GDP growth is 5.5-6 % per year.[3] In foreign policy of Kazakhstan is focused rather on Russia. Included in the SCO, CSTO, EurAsEC. But however, that Kazakhstan is seeking to expand its international links and recognition of the special role of the country. Nazarbayev as an ideological basis of its policy took Eurasianism, highlighting the role of Kazakhstan as a bridge between Europe and Asia. [4]

The objectives of the growing influence of Kazakhstan on the world arena are: the presidency of Kazakhstan in OSCE in 2010, in the international forum called the conference on interaction measures and confidence building in Asia (CICA), in SCO, and in 2011 and in the Council of foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic conference. Kazakhstan is actively working on its accession to the world trade organization (held in 2013), membership of which is regarded by Astana as an important tool of modernization of economy of the Republic, increase its competitiveness.

In addition to Russia Kazakhstan also focuses on Western Europe, the USA and China. The latter is not only a consumer of Kazakh resources, but also the donor economy. Astana fully support the American operation in Iraq "enduring freedom" and also provided two of the airfield for emergency landings of planes flying from Afghanistan. Membership in the CSTO did not prevent Kazakhstan to tie a strong contacts with NATO, and the Alliance considers Kazakhstan as one of its most important partners in the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan buys U.S. military hardware, builds the army in accordance with NATO standards.

Uzbekistan has a powerful demographic, military[5] and economic potential. The political system of Uzbekistan is based on the combination of interests of regional clans (the largest Tashkent, Fergana, Samarkand), however, in recent years there is a trend towards national consolidation. In Uzbekistan, the state chose to retain the highest possible degree of control over the economy and society. Due to this increased level of manageability of the whole system, including the solution of social problems, problems of security and defense. Therefore, the Uzbek leadership to focus resources and efforts on achieving their specific objectives.

The main priority was the modernization of the economy, for example, through the establishment of large industries like automotive joint venture "UzDaewooAuto". In Uzbekistan serious problem is radical Islam, which is widespread in the Ferghana valley. Steps are being taken to ensure security. Due to the fact that the Ferghana valley is divided between three States, with the consequence that many gangs illegally cross the borders, thus leaving the jurisdiction of the Uzbek authorities. Because mine the border, increase their protection.

Uzbekistan aspires to regional leadership, Partly the ambitions of its political leadership explain the constant fluctuations of foreign policy and strategic maneuvering of the Republic between Russia and the West. With regard to relations with other States of the region – Kazakhstan – rival for leadership in the region, and Turkmenistan in the water conflict and weak Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan a direct threat to the national economy (due to the same issue), as well as the Uzbek market of electricity.

The exit of Uzbekistan from the EurAsEC, the CSTO, the refusal to join the Collective rapid response forces (CRRF) was the result of the negative attitude of the ruling leadership of the Uzbekistan to the CIS, to the problem of deepening military-political integration in Central Asia under the auspices of Russia. There are reasons for this. First, his own leadership ambitions of Uzbekistan. Secondly, the CSTO and CRRF strengthen opponents of the Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Thirdly, Tashkent is expanding its cooperation with Western countries (EU, USA). Perhaps the local leadership believes that the NATO forces to better protect the Republic, will be able to protect her from internal destabilization and challenges coming from Afghanistan. On 27 October 2009 the EU lifted the remaining sanctions imposed in 2005 "After the refusal of the Uzbek government to begin an international investigation of the Andijan events. In Tashkent does not spread embargo on conventional weapons."[6]

Tashkent is now regularly attended by senior representatives of the U.S. state Department and the Pentagon, employees of various American foundations and structures close to the White house. In short, the US has reactivated the interaction with its old strategic partner in Central Asia. Uzbekistan had the opportunity to participate in various American projects. The Republic supplies in the Afghanistan electricity, build a railway. Thus, came close to fulfilling its long-standing plan to create transferencia corridor to exit through Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat and Kandahar to the international seaports of Iran and Pakistan.

And one more thing. In Northern Afghanistan is home to a large group of ethnic Uzbeks ( Uzbek even one of the official languages of Afghanistan). This ethnic group partly influenced negatively (the spread of Islam, drugs, undermining secular government in Uzbekistan), on the other hand you can influence the internal policy of Afghanistan. Summarizing we can say that most of the political moves being made by the Uzbek foreign policy the essence of the results of the huge ambitions of the elite to transform the country into a regional leader. These ambitions actively fuelled by the Americans, unlike Russia, whose policy always was to maintain a certain balance in the region.

In Turkmenistan there is a political stability. There is no opposition. In fact, the established monarchy. Even the new leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov for a long time circulated the rumor that he is the illegitimate son of Niyazov. Closed universities, hospitals, libraries. All Turkmen population infringed on the rights. When you enter UNIVERSITY, you must prove your pure Turkmen origin. [7] to Criticize the state, especially in print – is dangerous. The state is everywhere, it requires almost every citizen to work for themselves, but also gives citizens a lot in the form of cheap electricity, gas, petrol. In 2003, Turkmenistan declared its neutral status, isolating people from outside influences. In addition, it gives the opportunity to move away from Russian influence. (in particular security).

All actors of world policy neutral Turkmenistan at the same time sends signals about its willingness to expand cooperation on a number of interesting developments in the world economy and politics. In seeking to diversify transport routes for export of its resources, Turkmenistan uses traditional Russian market and simultaneously attracts Western investors, China and other Asian countries that are in dire need in Gaza. In General, Turkemenistan not yet made a decisive step to meet with the West. Thus, despite long held the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Turkmenistan, the country receives from Russia, the construction of the Navy and the training of seafarers. Russia also supplies most of the weapons for the army of Turkmenistan.

"Up in the air holding the authorities of the Republic and lobbyists of the European project Nabucco: they are not directly denied, but the inclusion of Turkmenistan in the project until it happens."[8]. However, the Republic of Korea improves its relations with China. Built a pipeline from Turkmenistan to China.

Raw materials – a key factor for the stability of the Turkmen state. The plurality of vectors diplomacy has turned Turkmenistan into relatively independent regional player.

After the Tulip revolution of 2005 in Kyrgyzstan's ongoing political crisis. The Kyrgyz government does not fully control the situation in the Republic. The recent elections showed the lack of unity in the country.

During the revolution of 2005, the armies of all the neighboring States put forward army units to the border in order to prevent the escalation of conflict that can blow up inside Central Asia. Of particular interest in stabilizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan shows China with the Central Asian Republic a border of over 800 km and considering Kyrgyzstan as a bridge connecting China with Central Asia and Eurasia. The level of bilateral Chinese-Kyrgyz trade reached $ 10 billion. USA – the sum, enormous for a poor country like Kyrgyzstan with its 5 million people. Beijing has not openly interfered in the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, but moved the border service in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region in the regime of high alert.

Bet on the ”multiple choice” failed to prevent the ruling regimentation Kyrgyzstan from collapse. There is no reason yet to hope that the new Kyrgyz authorities will be able to mute the synchronous instability based on different external forces. The country became weaker, and those who have come to replace the Bakiyev “clan” will require enormous efforts to prevent the transformation of Kyrgyzstan into an “failed state”, the internal chaos which favours the intervention.

In modern Tajikistan political pluralism fizzles. However, the biggest problem of the Republic is not so much the infringement of the rights of individual politicians and parties, not the threat of Islamic expansion, as the internal problems: the severe economic and socio - political situation, exacerbated by high levels of corruption and imminent social explosions, massive unemployment, energy and food collapse, the threat of becoming a “normal” economy to a drug economy. Tajikistan remains dependent on the Moscow government in Central Asia. Actually, on Russian subsidies he lives. Relations with other countries strained, particularly with Uzbekistan. The issue of water and electricity is the main.

Like other CAG Tajikistan is trying to pursue multi-vector policy in order to overcome the crisis. So, Iran has a strong interest in the country, based on cultural and linguistic kinship. But if other more economically successful Asian countries had succeeded in this strategy to bargain for certain preferences in exchange for access to its natural resources, for Tajikistan, this policy can hardly be justified – because of greater dependence on Russia and because of the low prospects of the country in economic terms.

A feature of all political regimes in Central Asia is the authoritarianism, the personification of power, cronyism. On the other hand there is the desire for economic modernization. As noted by a contemporary student of political processes in the region Zvyagelskaya I. D., the CAG faced with the problem of national sovereignty. They purchased it when other developed countries began to talk about the death of sovereignty and even the theoretical inadequacy of the term.[9]


The interests and policies of the major players in the Central Asian region


In the early ' 90s Moscow withdrew from Central Asia. Foreign Minister Kozyrev has declared a course towards European integration. As for the former countries of the Union, the greatest attention was paid to the Ukraine, despite its anti-Russian bias. Many promising proposals from the CAG were ignored by Moscow. But in 2000 Russia seriously returned to the region, and began to pursue a more pragmatic policy. Russia made it clear that she's not second-rate raw material appendage, and the active subject of international politics. Central Asia is one of the most important places in Russian foreign policy.

The factors that make Central Asia a priority in foreign policy:

  • the securing of a dominant influence of Russia in Central Asia it is necessary to restore strategic influence in the world.
  • in CA there is a significant Russian-speaking Diaspora, which forced Russia to not only provide the necessary humanitarian and financial assistance, but also to defend the interests of the community before the authorities of the States of the region.
  • the presence of deposits of mineral resources and strategic importance (uranium, rare earth elements)
  • CA is the biggest market for Russian goods.

Thus, the main interests of Russia in this region: ensuring political and economic stability of States, the creation, support and development of the system of collective security in the CSTO, common economic space, the retention of States in the framework of the Russian economic system, the prevention of loss of control over the region, to prevent the creation of many transport and energy corridors bypassing Russia. In practical terms, with regard to the policy adopted in the Foreign Ministry, Russia should support the Russian business in the region (LUKOIL is implementing large projects in gas sector of Uzbekistan)[10], strengthening the role of regional organizations as agents of Russian interests.


The main US interests in the region are:

  • ensuring U.S. military presence in the region, which contributes to the strengthening of political and economic positions of the USA in the world, exerts pressure on neighboring States
  • strengthening opposition of other actors in the region, namely China, Iran and Russia.
  • the establishment of stable, strong Pro-American regime in Afghanistan with the aim of creating a lasting geopolitical bridgehead.
  • expanding access to energy, creation of transport routes bypassing Russia to reduce its impact.

The overall goal of all U.S. policy is the following: to tie into a strategic and geopolitical whole of Central Asia, the middle East, AfPak, to eliminate the influence in the region. However, American experts do not always adequately assess the political situation in Central Asia, because they lack experience, knowledge and understanding of the mentality of its people.


For China Central Asia is of great importance in ensuring internal and external security. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region will continue to be a problem for Chinese leaders.

No less important is the energy factor for a fast-growing, even in times of crisis in the Chinese economy. The region is close to China, which reduces the cost of transporting resources. More than 40 billion $ invested by China in the region. Today, Chinese companies control more than 40% of the entire oil and gas industry of Kazakhstan. In addition to the oil and gas sector attracts China nuclear power, hydroelectric power, transport and telecommunications, construction and nonferrous metallurgy, chemical and light industry. Sensation in 2009 was the application of China on lease from Kazakhstan, 1 million hectares of land for growing of soybean, canola and corn.

Eastern tiger builds highways, which reliably attracts the region to it. China, claiming to be the world power must assert themselves and show the strength of their influence in various regions of the world. One of which is the CA region. The important thing for China now is to prevent the growth of US influence in the region. With Russia cooperation has been established within the SCO, established General universities, training programs. SCO really is functioning and has enough powers to decide on important practice issues for the region, but it remains poorly capable structure.

Theoretically, the weight of the SCO in international Affairs is great. However, he actually turns out to be minor, judging from the practical results of the organization. Membership in this organization also gave each of the countries participating in the prospects, which they expected. Security issues for which the SCO is created is left unresolved.



Today, the CAR countries offer several options for development. The first is to turn into a vicious self-sufficient region. But this is unlikely, because the influence of the world powers, too large TNCs and the local economy will not cope with the main task of maintaining development without outside assistance.

The second option under the auspices of Russia to build a new model of Eurasian integration organization based on the structures of CIS – Evraza, Customs Union, CSTO. This is the most promising option for Russia. Judging by the abundance of publications on the topic of Eurasianism in various journals, including the International Life there is a chance that we will be able to carry out these ideas from a magazine "Life" in real.

The third option – CA is attached to the Mongolian region, where the leadership will belong to China, and then the States of the region will become consumers of Chinese goods at the expense of own raw materials.

Another option is American. CARS will become part of the greater Middle East, which will be a conglomerate different from each other and nominally preserving the sovereignty of States, which may undergo fragmentation into smaller pieces, to facilitate management of the collective West.

These options can get an end only in remote prospect. In our days the Central Asian States are multi-vector policy with more or less success.

Further attention to the region will only grow. The countries of the Central Asia, Russia is no longer enough. They want to get involved in world politics, not as the backyard (backyard), and as a full, equal players.

PS. There is a theory Giovanni Arrighi (quite controversial), which is that global financial centers are moving to the West. From Venice to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to London, from London to new York, from new York to California. Now they move to the other side of the Pacific – to Japan, China. Perhaps in the future, according to this theory, and Central Asia will become the center.


Kochedykov I.


[2] Aitken J. Kazakhstan. Surprises and stereotypes.


[4] Nazarbayev N. The Way of Kazakhstan; the Eurasian Union: ideas, practice, perspectives. 1994-1997

[5] it Should be noted that the military budget of Uzbekistan in numerical terms more than in Kazakhstan, despite the fact that GDP is lower.

[6] Central Asia. Geopolitics and the economy of the region. M. 2010

[7] D. B. Malysheva Central Asian knot of world politics. – M.: IMEMO

RAS, 2010.

[8] [8] Malyshev D. B. the Central Asian knot of world politics. – M.: IMEMO

[9] I. D. zviagelskaia the Formation of the Central Asian States. M., 2009.


RELATED MATERIALS: Politics and Geopolitics
Возрастное ограничение