Washington thinks about weakening Russia in Central Asia
Victoria Panfilova, an observer of Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
The US is reconsidering its policy in Central Asia. Washington will contribute to strengthening (primarily economically) the countries of the region by turning Central Asia into “a crossroads of international trade.” It will lead to an increase in the real level of their sovereignty, on the one hand, and to weakening of Russian positions and containment of China, on the other.
US Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken stated that security in the countries of Central Asia strengthens security in the USA. It is an important constituent in the global struggle against terrorism and extremism. “Stability in the region can be reached when the countries of Central Asia are not only sovereign, but are ready to defend their own borders to the full extent. The countries of the region will be connected with each other and the developing economies of Asia, while the governments are accountable to their citizens,” Antony Blinken showed America's cards.
Shokhrat Kadyrov, a senior scientist of the Institute of Oriental Studies, thinks that Washington has one goal only – to weaken Russia and China and to dominate along the Russian borders without entering into direct conflict with it. “Perhaps there is no special role for the countries of Central Asia themselves, especially for those which tend toward destabilization without foreign interference – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan. Washington doesn’t need to participate in some conflicts in these countries,” Kadyrov told Vestnik Kavkaza.
Andrei Kazantsev, director of the Research Center (University) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pays attention to a statement by the US National Advisor for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Hoagland. He commented on the new strategy of Washington that special attention should be paid to human rights, so that the local authorities and elites would stop fearing democratic reforms and treat them as their “allies”, who would work in their national interests. “The US won’t change its final goals. They are well-known: strengthening of their own positions and reduction of the influence of other world players,” Kazaktsev told Vestnik Kavkaza.
According to the political scientist, only the approach is changing. Washington will pay more attention to a dialogue with the authorities and elites of Central Asia. There could be some special relations with social and political groups which are ready for long-term cooperation with the US. “Relying on such groups and applying such a scheme, Washington will manage to promote its interests better and achieve significant estrangement of Central Asian republics from Russia,” Kazantsev said. The political scientist thinks that by implanting democratic values and standards in the region, Washington will be more careful in its rhetoric. The US has realized that active criticism of the states of Central Asia for non-democratic standards won’t lead to anything good, it only creates additional problems in cooperation with local regimes. So they can turn a blind eye to some aspects in favor of their goal.
Shokhrat Kadyrov pays attention to new aspects caused by mutual interests between Washington and Tehran. Iran is able to provide Europe with gas. If more loyal relations are built between the USA and Russia, gas projects with Russian participation will pale into insignificance. If American-Iranian cooperation begins to develop and Washington is able to attract Tehran with Turkmen oil and gas and make it change its position on construction of Transcaspian pipelines, a lot of things will start to change in the region fundamentally. The main result will be significant enstrangement of Russia not only from traditional Central Asia, but also from Greater Central Asia, which includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even the South Caucasus. The US doesn’t clash with Russia directly, leaving it “talking” to Iran, which is always persistent and logical in defending its national interests.
Another major player, the influence of which the US would like to cut, is China. Interestingly, Washington doesn’t mark the goal in any official document or doctrine. However, according to Kazantsev, the idea is present everywhere. The US has a moderate position on China, and Washington tries to play a complicated combination which can result in building cooperation between two global projects of reconstruction of the Silk Road – the Chinese and American projects. Both of them require infrastructural support to the countries of the region, and this could be a common ground for “interlacing” the projects.
Thus, the Central Asian region will be freed from “excessive influence of China”, it will be balanced by American and Russian influences, as Moscow has such great power in the region that its influence cannot disappear at once, even under the worst scenario.
Kazantsev says that the countries of Central Asia will have an opportunity to choose a broader foreign political vector – traditional pro-Russian and common pro-Chinese ones are complimented by a pro-American one. It is difficult to say whether Moscow and Beijing are ready for such a turn; but the fact that it doesn’t meet their interests is obvious.