From Hegemony to New Geopolitical Competition Assessing Russia’s Strategic Footprint in Central Asia

Author (Person)
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Series Details No.22, October 2008
Publication Date 06/10/2008
ISBN 978-951-769-211-3
ISSN 1795-8059
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Russia’s conduct in the post-Soviet space in general and its policies toward Central Asia in particular should be seen within the context of Russia’s post-imperial readjustment. The notion of the sphere of 'privileged interests' currently advanced by the Kremlin is a clear indication that Russia’s search for a new modus operandi with its ex-Soviet neighbours is a painful and, essentially, an open-ended process.

Moscow views Central Asia as an area of great strategic importance as it presents both considerable opportunities (due to the region’s rich energy resources) and serious threats (stemming from the region’s inherent instability and its proximity to volatile Afghanistan).

Russia’s key interests in Central Asia appear to be preservation of the region’s stability, strengthening
control over the region’s energy resources, and balancing other major actors that are increasing their
presence in the region – the United States and China.

Russia’s goal of maintaining strategic pre-eminence in Central Asia underpinned by Moscow’s significantly increased economic and political clout may ultimately not be realized. The odds are that, given the rise of China, Russia may prove to be a weaker competitor.

The European Union’s strategic interests increasingly compel the bloc to engage the Central Asian nations, particularly in the spheres of energy and security. Eventually, Russia’s wariness of China’s growing economic and political clout might prompt Moscow to seek deeper cooperation with Brussels in Central Asia.

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