Balance of Interests in the Most Significant Geopolitical Corridor

By Tevan Pogosyan

The region of Central Asia has turned into the crossing of interests of not only regional leaders, but also leading entities of world policy. Contradictorily developing regional system of affairs is observed here. Interesting is the analysis of dynamics and originality of events and processes in Central Asia.

Already today this region is observed as an arena and an entity of interrelation of Russia, China and the USA. If Russia and the USA are frequently observed as competing players in regional security, than China, still claims for the role of a regional power center gaining force, which is now yet involved in the interests of other ones.

Moscow today strives again to extend the possibilities of its presence in the region. Sometimes together, and sometimes without Beijing.

Bilateral mechanism of cooperation in the region between Russia and China can be found in the Treaty on Good Neighborhood, Friendship and Cooperation of July 16th, 2001. This political and legal basis proclaims strategic partnership. But it’s absolutely evident that it doesn’t at all exclude strategic competition, aggravating struggle of partners.

Russia observes enhancing presence of the USA in the region as an important factor of this game. At the background of growing power of the People’s Republic of China it is the presence of the USA that gives the Russian Federation a possibility to minimize this threat.

Competition of Russia with America, - as Z. Brzezinski writes, - would be useless, and a union with China would mean to become subjected.

For Russia the region is one of the most significant vectors of foreign security of south Russian boarders directly depends on the development of events in Central Asia. Except for that, Russia is tightly connected with the Central Asia region states economically, with intensive migration flows, inertia of common past. Moscow has intended to lead more active policy here for years, trying to involve relatively new multilateral formats of promotion of its influence (CSTO, CU, EEU and the SCO to some extent).
The USA more grounds on bilateral mechanisms of interaction with the states of the region. They are interested in stability as they understand it, and, according to the experts, have three main strategic interests in Central Asia:

*       security, including fighting terrorism and mass destruction weapons nonproliferation;
*       energy issue, concerning transportation of Caspian oil and gas to “west markets”;
*       inner political reformation of states and their development in democratic and market direction.

As known, the establishment of anti-terror coalition headed by the USA has become one of the concepts of strengthening of global presence of America.

This concept is being actively accomplished in the Central Asia region. The USA considers that if anti-terror mission loses its sense, the feeling of common goal, then the global role of the United State shall vanish pretty fast.  That is why the presence of the USA is not a conjunctural business. Withdrawal from the region together with expedition of Afghan corpse, as individual observes think, shouldn’t be expected.

Regional interests of China are the same evident. The Tianxia is interested in CAR (Central Asia Region) from geo-economic (one of the biggest world consumers of oil goods), as well as from geopolitical point of view (great power in the near future).

Many politicians and experts acknowledge that in terms of Central Asia reality dangerous and unacceptable is the gaining by one of the three mentioned political center of total priority. The development should go on with natural way of support of balance between the interests of the USA, Russia and China. Which happens today particularly.

At the moment the models of international regimes of security are represented in the region with the following international institutions:
*       the UNO system;
*      OSCE;
*       CIS and CSTO;
*       SCO;
*       The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council  (EAPC) and the program “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) of NATO;
*       Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICMA).

All these forms represent multi-format and multi-level model of cooperation in the sphere of security. And as many analysts write, the kind “double cake” means only one thing – there is no established system of regional security. There is naturally occurred balance of interests. And establishment of some system in political-legal sense, anticipating adoption of liabilities, is not predicted by the experts in the years to come. On the contrary, disagreements shall only grow.

Many experts foresee aggravation of disagreements mainly due to more focused and rigid line of China.

One and the only global international center of states policy coordination remains to be the UNO system, which has been repeatedly put by the experts on the roadside of history. Its role in the region is understood as well as its limitation is.

Another security mechanism in the region is the OSCE – the only European organization in this sphere, which includes the states of CAR due to historic reasons. Although also the role of this organization doesn’t call enthusiasm of observers, the OSCE remains to be the forum in which the states of the region participate on equal basis with European countries. And this is important and precious for them.

The CIS also has its niche. It assists to maintain some old contacts and restrain centrifugal impulses within the frameworks of post-soviet area. Today the CIS system tries to contribute into the interaction with various integration projects of more advanced type (CSTO, CU, CES).

The SCO is a relatively new body, in which many experts note serious potential. This organization, moving from boarder issues to political and economic ones, can serve an efficient instrument for agreement and coordination of tactic and strategic policy of the People’s Republic of China with the states of Central Asia and Russia. In the frameworks of the SCO they repeatedly expressed suggestions on the need of development of network regional cooperation of various institutions. At the anniversary summit, recently held in Astana, this issue was a significant point of the agenda.

From the point of view of practical steps, directed at minimization and prevention of crises in the region, despite the existence of various international security bodies (UNO, OSCE, CSTO, SCO, NATO), the more actual according to the experts at the moment is the cooperation of the states of the region with the SCO and NATO. At the same time, these two organizations have diverse approaches towards security in the region. Between the SCO and NATO today there are no approved mechanisms of cooperation, agreements and regulatory-legal basis of interaction. And many people consider that these international organizations are political instruments of confrontation and it’s pretty difficult for then to harmonize their interests and competencies.

Interaction in the frames of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and accompanied program “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) of NATO also can be acknowledged as a part of a multilevel regional security of CAR. Today all the states of the region participate in them.

Yet the program is limited with some re-equipment of armed forces of new independent states, training of their staff, information exchange, etc.

The troops, that are located in Afghanistan in the frameworks of NATO, probably shall still preserve in the country on a constant basis, within the new treaty on strategic interaction of the two states. Which is constantly discussed at the moment. And this also shall seriously affect the development of the region. In a decade, as American analysts consider, Afghanistan shall become one of the most important geopolitical corridors in Asian sub-continent, and then the pledge of stable management of transportation of energy carriers and security in the area north to Indian Ocean shall be the NATO troops controlled by the USA.

Individual advising forum on the issues of security in Asia is the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICMA), initiated in November 1992 during the 47th Session of the UNO General Assembly by the President of Kazakhstan. It is a kind of an analogue of the OSCE.

The process of CICMA institutionalization is slow and this is reasoned with various biased and unbiased factors.

The members of the Conference, for example, are India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine. Principle disagreement on key issues complicates the negotiation process of the forum establishment, as a constantly acting international institution. The CICMA in prospect could be greater than Asian analogue of the OSCE in case if the leading states of the sub-continent would be interested in it.

Analysts consider that Kazakhstan as a founder of the CICMA, the Chairman of the OSCE in 2010 may keep on with its role of a peculiar moderator of development of network interaction between various bodies now already being the Chairman in 2011 of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Organization of the Islamic Conference till the last summit). We shouldn’t also forget that in 2012 Astana shall preside in the CSTO where Russia dominates.

As for OIC, this organization has a great peculiarity to be considered. Except for that there are also plenty of delusions. On the contrary to a popular image the OIC doesn’t have religious goals. Most likely the organization represents the interests and intentions of Muslim community, and tries to modernize them now. One of the key currently claimed tasks of the OIC is the adaptation of Islamic world to new threats and challenges.

The main objective of this organization, formulated by politicians and experts is the establishment of a new security paradigm, based on the principles of openness, mutual respect, tolerance and mutual understanding.

The events in North Africa and Near East this year demonstrated that this is a really important task, and not just a nice phrase. And in principle, the role of OIC is vividly expressed here.

On the basis of analysis of published comments, devoted to the last Ministerial Summit of the organization in the context of global transformations of international relations, we can focus our attention on the following evaluations and conclusions of the experts, diplomats and politicians.

Renaming of OIC has not only technical character, but also illustrates objectively forming trend of strengthening of real economic and political cooperation of Islamic world.

Suggestion of renaming of the organization was also included into the so-called 10-years action program, adopted five years ago in Mecca during the extraordinary summit of the organization. However the fact of adoption of new name also means the intention of the leading OIC states to give a new impulse to this institution, and which is the most important, to fill this cooperation with practical, i.e. economic dimension.

If the notion of “conference” suggested mainly the discussion of problem issues, than “cooperation” emphasizes active interaction of the states. This in general illustrates the need of development and promotion of solidary line of Islamic world on decisive matters of the global agenda. Earlier this was rather an ideological issue.

At the moment a practical one to greater extent.

The situation in Afghanistan, announced withdrawal of troops, address to non-military instruments of stabilization in this state opens significant possibilities for real participation of the OIC in this process. Obviously, that coalition which performed military operation in Afghanistan shall have greater interest in it. Indirectly this fact is proved by the request of the USA to gain a status of a partner in the other regional international organization - SCO. Gaining of the status of a partner shall make possible the presence of American representatives during the OIC summits.

The trajectory of development of the organization includes the development of the whole OIC system as an urgent component. Especially those specialized institutions as Islamic Development Bank, ISESCO, World Islamic Academy of Science, system of Islamic universities and so on.

It’s noteworthy that the establishment and enhancement of the architecture of regional security in Central Asia first of all, is the task of the states of the region themselves as this issue of survival and their normal functioning as full-value entities of international relations. Does Central Asia need the system of collective security? If yes, than how shall that be established and if not than are the Central Asian states able to deal with only their own systems of national security? Without answers on these questions, any discussion looks like invalid.

The issue about steady and balanced system of regional security shall have to be solved. At least as CAR states are subjected to the same long-term challenges and threats:
*       war in Afghanistan;
*       the attempts of use of the lands of the region states for organization and actual drugs and weapons trafficking;
*       spreading of the ideology of religious extremism and terrorism;
*       drying of Aral Sea, natural and technogenic problems in the areas of Semipalatinsk and other “ecologic diseases”;
*       greater probability of the growth of illegal migration and uncontrolled refugees flows from the areas of ecologic disaster as well as from conflict zones;
*       attempts of firing inter-national and interstate tension, distrust and conflicts;
*       unsettling of the issues, related to delimitation of interstate boarders, distribution and use of water resources;
*       social-economic situation in the states of the region, demanding joint measures, directed at overcoming of underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment and assurance of steady development;

Except for that it’s hard to notice in CAR where lies the line between national and regional. Exactly on the example of this region we can observe an absolute demand, urgency and validity of the principle of security indivisibility. Total Central Asia is a full-value and independent “security complex”. And the character and ways of security regimes interaction in the region still shall be defined and should be defined by the balance of power, created by Russia, the USA, and the People ’s Republic of China. This list should be added by specific interests of Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, the EU and India that shall be considered to a greater extent.

The significance of currently existing several formats of security in CAR allows maintaining also the internal status quo, domestic balance of power. In particular, they don’t give the possibility to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to exceed each other and grant a leading role. Although many people think that the kind of role gradually flows to Kazakhstan.

Absolutely natural can be named also the approach of all mentioned institutions in the issues of regional security. And here we can expect some transformation in near future. The first step should be the acknowledgement of the necessity of synchronization of agendas. This shall demand great diplomatic and other efforts. In terms of growing interdependence all international institutions are fated for interests intercrossing. And the level of their relations influences the quality and efficiency of the activity within stability assurance.