Play of Positions in Central Asia

By Mikhail Agadzhanyan

The play of positions gradually deploys between Russia, China and the USA in Central Asia. The rules of this game in general are not defined, they are still at the stage of development. But no matter what shape shall these rule take in future, now it is already clear, that three pointed foreign forces are not prone to limit their actions in this region and make them dependent from policy of counterpartners. Positionality of Central Asian play is determined with several unbiased factors. First of all, it’s necessary to note, that all five Republics of the region differ with specificity of the niches taken in general Central Asian composition of interstate preferences and configurations.

Turkmenistan is different with its neutral status and simultaneously the availability of significant range of problems within the relations with neighboring Azerbaijan. Ashkhabad uses growing attention of the USA in the issue of its involvement into energy projects of European and South Asian direction.

Uzbekistan permanently teeters between foreign policy preferences, which characterizes its foreign course as quite dynamic and hardly predictable for out-of-regional powers. Now it stands at the line of greater loyalty to the development of trust relations with the USA, which is proven by another revision by Uzbekistan of the status of the CSTO member and growing attempts of Washington to connect Tashkent with its Afghan course. Railway from Uzbekistani Khairaton to afghan Mazari-Sharif was constructed in a short term. The US representatives observe railway connection of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in the context of prospect of exit of all the Republics from Central Asia to the sea, to the markets and ports of South Asia.

At the current stage Washington develops the ground to involve Tashkent into more close military-political contacts. It’s hard to say, how accomplishable shall become the idea of foundation within Uzbekistani territory of American base with provisional name Center of Rapid Reaction. But the very exploration of such possibility with parallel intensive rate of visits of top representatives of the USA to Uzbekistan speaks about taking this Central Asia Republic into close regional «processing».

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan keep on standing in a prior field of Russian influence, however, without special assurance that such preferences of Bishkek and Dushanbe shall be long-term ones. Under the results of recent visit of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to Bishkek experts pretty reasonably stated the reached positive moment within the relations of two partners of CSTO, SCO, EurAsEc, however without special enthusiasm regarding the prospects of growth of Russia’s influence in Kyrgyzstan. The positive attitude achieved, almost completely at military-political path of bilateral relations, was given to Moscow within Kirgiz direction in exchange of significant economic concessions, including also as indulgences on earlier granted state credits.

Tajikistan is a special story, around which exactly right now we observe prior attention on competitive ground from Russia and the USA. China, closely following the development of Central Asia competition between Russia and the USA, noticed constant shifting of this competition from one republic to another.

Now in the epicenter of American-Russian competition finds itself Tajikistan. Chinese press writes about revelation of competition of Moscow and Washington around Dushanbe as cross-diplomatic activity of two political capitals of the world. In near future the visit of V. Putin to Tajikistan should take place. It shall be definitely followed by the activity of American diplomacy within Tajikistani direction: the visit of the Secretary of State H. Clinton to Dushanbe to be expected in October.

In all this regional dynamic of interstate preferences, configurations and plans of close cooperation, Kazakhstan performs as a kind of regional constant. Such role of Kazakhstan as a stabilizer of regional processes is of special importance for Russia. Astana not only stabilizes, and it means does more stable the position of Central Asia, but also simultaneously develops integrational contacts primarily with Russia and China. It’s for purpose for Kazakhstan to position itself in claims of Russian officials as «the motor of Eurasian integration».

Play of positions between Russia, China and the USA made topical the following question, the answer on which to be known within the frameworks of expected events in Central Asia.

Is China ready to cooperate closely with Russia for joint solution of the task to localize and later on neutralize the positions of the USA in Central Asia closer to the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in the end of 2014? Yet many things point at leading by Beijing of its independent, not related with close trust with Moscow play in Central Asia. But there are all grounds to forecast gradual drift of China to Moscow at principles restraining Washington in Central Asia. China is pressed in geographically opposite Central Asia zone of its interests in East-Chinese and South-Chinese Seas. In the developing situation Beijing needs geopolitical countermeasures, where its positions objectively are more powerful then American ones and where it can accomplish its regional scenarios of compensating character within approaches joint with Moscow.

Mikhail Agadzhanyan — political observer
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