MOSCOW, December 22. /TASS/. With the start of the special operation in Ukraine the United States and the European Union stepped up their efforts to separate Central Asia from Russia, but they will be unable to implement such a scenario in the medium term, the Valdai Discussion Club says in a report entitled Central Asia and the Ukrainian Crisis, released on December 22.
The authors of the study, based on a series of situational analyzes conducted during 2022, probed into how the events in Ukraine affected the geopolitical situation in the region. According to their estimates, despite all the upheavals, the Central Asian countries as a whole have maintained stability, managed to consolidate their political elites and avoid major negative consequences in the economy. However, significant changes have taken place in the alignment of external forces whose interests overlap in Central Asia.
The report’s authors point to a recent upsurge in attempts by Washington and Brussels to destabilize the region. They are trying to aggravate the confrontation with the largest opponents - Russia and China, which is well seen in the extremely harsh rhetoric of the collective West.
The US Department of State bluntly declares its intention to "separate" the Central Asian region from Russia, while USAID sets the aim of reducing Central Asia’s dependence on the Russian market and export routes.
According to the analysts, since February, the West has begun to exert growing pressure on the states of the region in a bid to finally tilt their position in its favor. The United States and the European Union have been using the Ukrainian conflict to put an end to the balanced multi-vector policy of the authorities of the Central Asian countries, and to force them to turn away from Moscow.
"Today their Western partners demand that they pick a side," the report reads.
Nevertheless, Russia remains the most important factor for stability and a reliable ally for regional players. "Despite the afore-mentioned efforts, the West is unlikely to fulfil its goal of ‘separating’ the region from cooperation with Russia in the medium term. Russia is Central Asia’s largest investment and trade partner and a guarantor of security in the region," the report reads.
Central Asia as Russia’s foreign policy priority
At the same time Russia’s attention to events unfolding in even such a close and important region as Central Asia has understandably waned. "This is arguably one of the important setbacks that could have serious ramifications," the report says.
The experts draw attention to the fact that in the wake of the "Taliban’s return to power, and given the continuing tensions on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border and the acute domestic political crisis that hit Kazakhstan in the first half of January 2022, this region [central Asia] deserved to be in the focus of Russia’s foreign policy priorities."
Still more so, since "Central Asia’s geopolitical location between the leading Eurasian powers makes it an object of considerable interest not only for Russia and China, but their opponents in the international arena as well."
Russia should not be oblivious to the fact that the internal development-related hardships and the pressure from the West could mean that the governments of the countries of the region need to answer rather tough questions already in the medium term, the experts stress.
"The most important questions include maintaining friendly relations and building up trade and economic ties with Russia, as well as the need to maintain relations with the West so that the United States and the United Kingdom are not tempted to foment political instability in the region."
However, we should not turn a blind eye to multiple signs of potential destabilization directed against the Central Asian states and their relations with Russia. There are disquieting internal processes stemming from the difficulties that the countries of the region are experiencing amid the military-political crisis in Ukraine," the report points out.