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The Fight for Influence

The Fight for Influence: Russia in Central Asia

ALEXEY MALASHENKO
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 284
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wpj5q
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  • Book Info
    The Fight for Influence
    Book Description:

    Russian influence in Central Asia is waning. Since attaining independence, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have forged their own paths -building relationships with outside powers and throwing off the last vestiges of Soviet domination. But in many ways, Moscow still sees Central Asia through the lens of the Soviet Union, and it struggles to redefine Russian relations with the region.

    InThe Fight for Influence, Alexey Malashenko offers a comprehensive analysis of Russian policies and prospects in Central Asia. It is clear that Russian policy in the formerly Soviet-controlled region is entering uncharted territory. But does Moscow understand the fundamental shifts under way? Malashenko argues that it is time for Russia to rethink its approach to Central Asia.

    Contents 1. Wasted Opportunities 2. Regional Instruments of Influence 3. Russia and Islam in Central Asia: Problems of Migration 4. Kazakhstan and Its Neighborhood 5. Kyrgyzstan -The Exception 6. Tajikistan: Authoritarian, Fragile, and Facing Difficult Challenges 7. Turkmenistan: No Longer Exotic, But Still Authoritarian 8. Uzbekistan: Is There a Potential for Change? Conclusion Who Challenges Russia in Central Asia?

    eISBN: 978-0-87003-413-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Dmitri Trenin

    Russia has lost much of the power and influence that the Soviet Union once enjoyed. Moscow’s efforts to position itself as a leader among its neighboring states and to hold on to the remnants of the post-Soviet space have largely failed. Central Asia, once firmly in the Soviet Union’s sphere, is increasingly out of the Kremlin’s reach, and the United States and China have filled the void as Russian influence has faded.

    Yet, Central Asia remains integral to Russia’s national interests, and Moscow wants to strengthen its position there. For the Kremlin, the region is the last best hope for...

  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    Central Asia can hardly be called one of Russia’s greater foreign policy priorities, all the more so with Russian influence in the region on the decline. Russia still faces its old strategic dilemma of choosing between West and East, but if what constitutes the “West” is clear enough, “East” seems a rather vague concept. “East” could perhaps better be defined in Russian strategic terms as “non-West”, a notion that at once embraces China, the Asia-Pacific region and India, and even to some extent the entire BRIC group.¹ This sort of choice between two global political, economic, and cultural directions is...

  5. CHAPTER 1 WASTED OPPORTUNITIES
    (pp. 9-42)

    The main priority for Russia’s policies in Central Asia has been to preserve and strengthen the Russian presence and influence in the region. The same is true for its policies toward certain other parts of the former Soviet Union—Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and perhaps Armenia, although the remaining former Soviet republics have gone their own way so irreversibly that even the most ardent would-be restorers of the Soviet Union realize that there is little they would be able to do now. These ideas of “presence” and “influence” should be considered as being distinct from each other. “Presence” reflects Russia’s desire...

  6. CHAPTER 2 REGIONAL INSTRUMENTS OF INFLUENCE
    (pp. 43-74)

    For all the importance that Russia attaches to its bilateral relations with the Central Asian countries, it has nonetheless made concerted efforts to develop regional relations as well, by creating and using international organizations to bolster its own influence and authority in the region. Official Russian documents systematically refer to the importance of “making use of the potential” of the CIS, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).¹ The SCO lies outside this paradigm in that the initiative to set it up came not from Russia, but from China, although its stated strategic...

  7. CHAPTER 3 RUSSIA AND ISLAM IN CENTRAL ASIA: PROBLEMS OF MIGRATION
    (pp. 75-102)

    Russia’s relations with the Central Asian countries are defined by several factors: political, economic, cultural, and others. Each of these is highly important, and it would be difficult to establish any kind of hierarchy among them. This chapter will focus on the Islamic factor. Although it might not seem obvious, Islam is becoming increasingly important in relations between Russia and Central Asia.

    The potential impact of Islam on this relationship can be seen in three aspects: the re-Islamization of society, the conformance with Islamic norms, and the spread of Islam into Russia.

    Central Asian countries (as well as Russian republics...

  8. CHAPTER 4 KAZAKHSTAN AND ITS NEIGHBORHOOD
    (pp. 103-124)

    Kazakhstan is the country with which Russia has developed the most stable and cordial relations since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The two countries’ mutual interests have been based on the following factors: historical and geographical closeness; the relatively deep penetration of the Russian language and culture into Kazakh society; and mutual economic integration.

    Located in the heart of Eurasia between Russia, China, and the Muslim world, Kazakhstan both differs from all of its neighbors and has features in common with them. Kazakhstan is obviously the only Eurasian state that is equally close to its neighbors and, at the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 KYRGYZSTAN—THE EXCEPTION
    (pp. 125-148)

    Each Central Asian country is unique in its own way. For independent Kyrgyzstan, its uniqueness has been its recent political history. Kyrgyzstan has been an exception in the region for the past decade: the country’s first president, Askar Akayev, was a scientist and intellectual, unlike his counterparts, who were all from the Sovietnomenklatura; and Kyrgyzstan has been socially active, drawn to political pluralism—and passed through two revolutions.

    Kyrgyzstan’s uniqueness does not stop there. It is the only Central Asian country to be made up of clearly distinct southern and northern portions. Relations between the two are complex and...

  10. CHAPTER 6 TAJIKISTAN: AUTHORITARIAN, FRAGILE, AND FACING DIFFICULT CHALLENGES
    (pp. 149-170)

    In terms of internal and external security, Tajikistan has had more problems than most of the other countries of Central Asia. It is the only country in the region to have experienced a protracted civil war (from 1992 to 1997), which, according to various estimates, caused the deaths of between 23,500 and 100,000 people¹ (perhaps more) and devastated the economy. One reason for the mutual brutality associated with this war was the existing friction based not only on political affiliation, but also on regional, clan-based, interpersonal, and Islamic religious confrontation between those seeking to build a secular state and those...

  11. CHAPTER 7 TURKMENISTAN: NO LONGER EXOTIC, BUT STILL AUTHORITARIAN
    (pp. 171-192)

    Turkmenistan has several specific features that distinguish it from the other Central Asian countries. For one thing, Turkmen society is the most traditional. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of urbanization in the country, with 800,000 people of a total population of approximately 5 million living in Ashgabat, and a number of other cities also having populations that exceed 200,000. The Soviet period brought the development of the modern gas, construction, and textile industries, and what until recently had been a modern education system. Still, Turkmenistan remains a tribal-based society, with the corresponding hierarchy and even a kind of tribe-based...

  12. CHAPTER 8 UZBEKISTAN: IS THERE A POTENTIAL FOR CHANGE?
    (pp. 193-216)

    Uzbekistan is one of the two key players in Central Asia. The other is Kazakhstan, which represents not only a slice of Central Asia, but also a significant portion of Eurasia itself. Although Central Asia could theoretically be considered without including Kazakhstan (which lies wedged between Russia and China), no serious study of the region would fail to analyze its dominant state, Uzbekistan, located at the very center of the Central Asian region. Its population of 28 million constitutes half of the total population of the region, including Kazakhstan.

    In a geopolitical context, Uzbekistan sees itself as being a regional...

  13. CONCLUSION WHO CHALLENGES RUSSIA IN CENTRAL ASIA?
    (pp. 217-230)

    Thousands of books and articles have been written about Russian rivalry and cooperation with other states. In the conclusion to this book, I prefer to avoid repeating the insights of my colleagues and—although this will definitely not be easy—will attempt to present some new ones.

    What external challenges does Russia face in Central Asia? For the most part, there are three: China, the United States, and Islam.

    The challenge presented by China has formally been limited to its financial and economic penetration into the region, which has become a true expansion. China has helped to build ramified transportation...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 231-262)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 263-292)
  16. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 293-296)
  17. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 297-298)
  18. CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE
    (pp. 299-300)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)