and the New Central Asia
By: Mohammad-Reza Djalili and Thierry Kellner
Mohammad-Reza Djalili is professor at the Institute of International Higher Studies of Geneva University. Thierry Kellner is completing a PHD thesis at the same Institute. They are publishing together a book titled Geopolitics and new Central Asias at "Presses univertaires de France" (date of publication foreseen for Summer 2001)
The first preoccupation of Russia in regard to the five States of Central Asia Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan), which were territories of USSR until 1991, seems to be, before all else, a concern of security order. In effect, given the particular geographical position that this region occupies with relation to the Russian Federation's territory, Moscow intends, first, to protect its own security. From a strategic point of view, the Russian frontiers bordering on the Central Asian Republics outline, in a sense, what it could be named: "The soft underbelly of Russia". Moscow's vulnerability on its south flank, makes it keen to avoid, by another power, strategic penetrations, inside this region. The potential growth of influence from Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and especially from the United States, including NATO and Western Europe, have constituted just as many threats to which Russia is paying special attention(1). In the "National Security Concept" adoptedIn January 2000 by the Russian Federation, Moscow mentioned a threat Weighing on its national security in the international sphere, the attempts exert by other foreign powers, "to oppose the strengthening of Russia as one of the influential centers of a multipolar world, to obstruct the exercise of its national interests and to press its influence in Europe, the Middle East, the Transcaucasus, Central and Pacific Region Asia"(2). Central Asia, as a geographical region, is therefore situated at the heart of the strategic preoccupations of Moscow who is concerned about the activities of other foreign powers willing to weaken its positions there. The actions taken by the United States and by NATO, via the concept of "Partnership for Peace" in this zone, seems principally to exasperate Russia. Other than this fundamental fear of Russia to see another power to infiltrate Central Asia, Moscow perceives the propagation of radical Islam in the region as an essential threat against its security, taken in its traditional sense, that is to say, from a military point of view(3). Russian analysts are worried about possible consequences that the Afghan conflict and Tajik conflict could have in the region. They fear, in effect, that these conflicts overflow onto the other republics of this region, before reaching Russian Federation territory where are settled wide Muslim minorities in Tatarstan, in the North of Caucasus and in Bashkortostan(4). At Moscow, the conceptualists in strategy have developed a Russian version of the dominos theory in case of the contagion of radical Islam would win over Federation territory after having infected the whole Central Asia. This fear of radical Islam, although quite real for some, is, however used as a reason of manipulation to cover Moscow neo-imperialism extension in the region(5). In the military affairs, Russia intervention in Tajikistan within the framework of the civil war that had been going on over since. Moscow will officially continue to guarantee the defense of the border zone between this country and Afghanistan, in order to avoid the radical Islam contagion baptized "Wahhabism" in the region(6). Its military presence in Tajikistan permits equally to Moscow to remain physically present in Central Asia and to improved its influence on the territory.
From the point of view of numerous Russian analysts, the defense of the external frontiers of the ICE constitutes the first line of defense of Russia. Central Asia is therefore considered as an important link in the perimeter of Russian security(7). this is why Moscow has emphasized the pursuit of military relations with the new central Asian republics. Its success in this domain is qualified. If Moscow ensures a military presence in Kazakhstan, in Kirghizstan and in Tajikistan, then Uzbekistan, which is also seeking to establish its own regional power in Central Asia, has for its part refused the installation of Russian military forces to be based on its territory, whereas Turkmenistan has Russian frontier guards serving although as advisers.
In a matter of security taken in its military dimension, Russia is particularly concern about its relations with Kazakhstan. In the strategic logic of Moscow, Kazakh ground plays a essential role in defending Russian territory. The country constitutes in effect a barrier zone, a sort of strategic shield destined to protect Russian territory in case of destabilization in Central Asia, but also to be able to counteract China (8) in the eventuality of a degradation of diplomatic relations over the region with Peking in relation to the defense of Russian territory, Moscow's military presence in Kazakhstan answers Russia's needs to maintain its access to certain strategic structures (e.g. The Baikonour Cosmodrome, the Balkhash primary alert system, and the Sary Saghan missile test center) considerate as essential for surveillance of eventual missile launches coming from the South or from China(9). Numerous Russian observers think equally that the settlement of a new line of defense along the Kazakh(10) frontier is unrealizable because of its length and the costs that such a program would involve for an already unstable Russian financial system. This situation therefore implies the maintenance of narrow military co-operation with Astana(11). It is for these reasons, that Russia has concluded with Kazakhstan a treaty of friendship, of co-operation and of mutual assistance, in which, the Article Three foresees that the two States co-operate for developing common defense. This treaty had been completed by a bilateral agreement concerning military co-operation in March 1994. This under the will of Russia, however, it was counteracted by Astana, which does not want to fall under the control of Moscow(12). The putting into practice of these agreements has, in effect, barely progressed .
Kazakhstan has in fact sought to expand its military co-operation to other countries or organizations such as NATO, in order to counterbalance Russian pressure. In security matters, Astana puts the accent on a multilateral diplomacy, in order to avoid remaining on a one-to-one basis with Moscow.
The erosion of the Russian position in Central Asia in the economic domain
should without a doubt continue. In effect, as was shown by the financial crisis
of summer 1998, the Central Asian republics remain sensitive to the Russian
economic situation. The lessons they have drawn from this crisis invite them to
increase their efforts for reducing the share of Moscow in their exchanges in
order to escape from the potential turbulence that could affect the Russian
In a general manner, Moscow doesn't have the means to compete in the economic domain with Western countries or Japan. Performance statistics are enough to remind of the crushing superiority of which the latter dispose in this domain: in 1998, Russian GNP represented 5% of the American GNP(15), difficult to compete in these conditions. In the investment field, Russia cannot offer any alternative to Western capital. Moreover, Moscow lacks as much as modern technology that the Central Asian republics need for the production of current consumption goods or for the extraction of their hydrocarbons. In Russia's eyes, Kazakhstan remains nevertheless an important provider for certain Russian companies dependent on its mineral production (chrome, zinc, manganese, titanium, lead, uranium, bauxite, ...).
|Evolution of Russia's part in the exportation of Central Asian Republics : 1992 - 1998|
|Evolution of Russia's part in the importation of Central Asian Republics : 1992 - 1998|
However, this dependence must not be too exaggerated. In the terrestrial communications field, Kazakhstan's independence too disturbs Moscow. In effect, the main routes joining European Russia to the eastern regions of the country pass through Kazakhstan territory. The main Trans-Siberia line also runs through about 100 km of Kazakhstan, whereas the two other lines of this railway between European Russia and Siberia, situated further south, go across respectively 700 km and 1200 km of Kazakh territory. In the sum of traffic between western and eastern parts of Russia depend on Kazakhstan. The same observation is equally valid for the transmission of electricity between those two parts of Russian territory. it is therefore more Kazakhstan, rather than Central Asia in its totality, that interests Moscow in terms of economic security(16).
If the Russian economy really doesn't depend on Central Asia in terms of security, one can all the same observe that the perspectives of exploitation of the Caspian basin reserves - which means those of Kazakhstan, of Azerbaijan and of Turkmenistan, could nevertheless affect it. In effect, Caspian production could become the ground of competition for Russia, on the international energy market(17). This perspective give some concern to Moscow, of which 40 to 50 % currency receipts come from its petrol and gas exportation. Although it might be quite a long wait before this situation becomes concrete, Russia cannot at this time disinterest itself from the problem. That's why it has brought all its weight since the middle of the 1990s, to ensure itself that Caspian production shall be transported across its territory, and in turn, shall permit it not only to control them and thereby to ensure maintaining of its influence on the region, but also to derive from their, important revenues in the form of transit duty. This Russian choice consists in insisting that the opening of Caspian production pipeline goes through its territory and the concomitant pressure exercised by Russia to attain this objective has involved hostile reaction from regional states, which have attempted, with support from Washington and Ankara, to find solutions - with, for the time give mitigated results - to try to escape from Moscow's influence. As far is concerned the subject of the value of the Caspian's resources, Russia's policy oscillated between the underlining of its strategic interests and the wish of its petroleum companies to participate in hydrocarbon development projects. The choices of Russian Foreign Affairs ministry, was mainly guided by a traditional strategic analysis, whose motivation was to conserve a sphere of influence in the region and to protect it against other power - mainly the Unites States and Turkey - whereas the Russian energy ministry, bound to the petroleum and gas companies of the Federation (they being sustained by the leaders of the Russian provinces bordering on the coveted Caspian Sea) has rather favored Russia's participation in the development of the economic potential of the Caspian(18). The contradictory options of these two interests of coalitions at the heart of Russian power have opposed each other at various times(19). This bursting of interests in the bosom of the different Russian ministries explain the erratic character of Moscow's policy concerning the zone. As one author underlined it, contrary to his European or American counterparts, the Russian ministry of foreign affairs has never completely supported its petrol companies in the Caspian region(20). It is in part for this reason that the American and British companies are today the principal actors in this area, the Russian companies remain in third place. Thus, in Azerbaijan, Russian companies are only in on 6 of the 19 contracts signed by Socar between 1994 and 1999 to develop the offshore sectors of the country(21). As for the question of the means for opening up production on the Caspian, this is still not conclusively regulated as we shall see.
In the eyes of "new" Central Asia, beyond the threats related to the traditional concept of security that we have evoked, Moscow is equally confronted with new risks of which certain ones are only potential risks, whereas, others are present(23). Without entering detail, one can cite at random the potential repercussions of a conflict between Russian and Kazakh populations in Kazakhstan where the flux of refugees is a factor of destabilization . As far as are concerned the risks already actualized, one can cite the rapid intensification in drug traffic coming from Afghanistan across Central Asia, and in the organized crime that accompanies it along with environmental degradation and cross-frontier repercussion, notably around the Caspian Sea.
In addition to these problems mentioned related to security, it retains from the geographical contiguity, the presence of an important Russian Diaspora in Central Asia - especially in Kazakhstan and in Kirghizstan -and along with its imperial heritage are just as many factors which invite Russia not to disinterest itself from this zone. Paradoxically, at the time of the collapse of the USSR, Moscow has scarcely provided any considerable attention in its central Asian periphery. The first regrouping project between former USSR States in fact was only directed toward of the Slav republics, thus showing the preference of the new Russian governors for a union with those they were considering as historically and ethnically close.
The Russian governors who were orienting in priority the exterior policy of the Russian federation in the direction of the West at the time, were in fact considering Central Asia as a burden that could brake Russian's economy trying to straighten out and its European anchoring. They were equally mistrusting the region's conservative elite centers who were capable of collaborating with USSR nostalgic in Russia . The first moments of the Federation's exterior policy were therefore marked by the disinterest and neglect regarding space that the Russians used to consider moreover as essentially backward and culturally strange. The "Perestroïka" period had barely contributed to transform the negative image that was attached to the region. On the contrary, the scandals that broke onto Central Asia at this time had further reinforced existing prejudice(24). It is therefore scarcely astonishing that for a start, Russian governors had been tempted to set their distance with relation to a zone considered assemi-feudal, conservative and corrupt. Contrary to Moscow, at the time of the USSR collapse, the Central Asian republics, quite distraught, are going to privilege the maintaining of links with the former metropolis. The Republics' dependence in the economic field pushes them in this direction. Conscious of the problem that is constituted by the strong Russian minority present on the territory of the news Kazakh republic, President Nazarbaev evolves as the most ardent defender of the maintaining of the Union then of an integration in the Community of Independent States(25). Whereas during the period, that follows the region independence's, the Russian government was wandering in search of a policy in Central Asia, voices rose rapidly in Russia to request a re-evaluation of foreign policy in regards to the former periphery in general. The debates between "Westernizer" and "Eurasianist", remind of the controversy of nineteenth Century Russia between "Slavophiles" and "Westernizer", started to develop in the months of March and April 1992. If one follows the S. Gretsky point of view, the distinction often operated in Western analysis between these two currents are probably not exaggerated. The two camps consider Russia as a Eurasian State and share what the author names an "imperial mentality" in regards to the new States born from the USSR collapse(26). The two camps manage, besides it all, to rapidly reached a consensus and to implement a more interventionist approach. On 15th May 1992, the Tashkent Treaty furnished a frame for organizing Russian-Central-Asian co-operation in matters of defense. However, Turkmenistan refuses to rally to this. This Treaty symbolizes Russian military interest in preserving a relatively stable common defense space for coping with its strategic worries. Russian ambitions in the field of common defense will collide, we already have examples of this when Central Asian, and its leaders fear to see Russia dominate the common armed forces of the ICE then that Uzbekistan has ambitions to create its own military forces before any integration with the other States. In 1994 an author noted however, that the Central Asian States, principally Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, remained the best support for the reinforcement of the ICE but based on a more equitable footing(27). If the Central Asia elite pose as lawyer for the assembly of a sort of commonwealth during the first year of independence, they did not however intend abandoning their political sovereignty in order to favor a reintegration(28). What was interesting them as a priority, was Moscow's maintaining of economic and military support(29). The problem for the Central Asian leaders was to know how to use Russian power for their own profit, while all the time avoiding to fall under Russian hegemony. The effort towards such a balance explains without a doubt the fluctuations in relations between Moscow and the new republics. In the years, that followed independence, the phases of "rapprochement" or "bringing together" but also of distancing amongst Central Asian States and their former metropolis. have, in effect been present. For certain analysts, Russian foreign policy in regards to former USSR States has for its part oscillated between a latent isolationist temptation and a neo-imperial attitude aiming to re-establish its domination in the zone(30).
The contradictory influence of these two tendencies, as well as competition amongst various interest groups and lobbies in Russia, would explain the erratic character of its foreign policy. Nevertheless, influenced by tragic episodes in the Tajikistan war and submitted to pressure by military circles, the Russian government is going to orient itself increasingly in favor of the re-establishment of Russian superiority in Central Asia(31). The Tajik conflict furnishes to an ambitious Moscow, the opportunity to send troops in December 1992, into the former Soviet republic, in order to maintain peace and to keep under surveillance the Afghanistan frontier(32). In the winter of 2001, there were Russian troops active throughout Tajik territory.
The tendency to re-establish a sphere of influence in Central Asia is going to be accelerate by the growing perception inside the elite, that a reduction of Russian presence in Central Asia would profit to other States, to the detriment of Moscow and by growing mistrust at the heart of leading circles in regards to Western intentions. Russian policy becomes more threatening in regards to ex-USSR republics as from the years 1993-1994. Russia is going to claim the right to interfere in the affairs of new republics in the name of protecting Russian minorities. As in November 1993, along with its new military doctrine, Moscow attributes to itself the responsibility of protecting the exterior frontiers of the ICE. A 1994 Article signed by Andranik Migranian, who at the time was a member of B. Yeltsin's presidential council, considered that ex-USSR space called by Moscow the "Near Abroad" (blizhnee zarubezh'e) is vital for Russia(33).
The substitution of the Foreign Affairs Minister A. Kozyrev, by E. Primakov in 1995 symbolizes the more authoritarian attitude of Moscow in regards to the region. Russian policy nevertheless collides into resistance with the Central Asian States. If, in 1991 they were favorable to maintain links with Moscow, at the middle of the 90's the situation changed. The elite in power was no longer willing to be fully under Russia's sway.
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan move toward autonomy, whereas Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan attempt to diversify their exterior relations, transforming Russia into just another actor on the regional scene. The project of Commonwealth of Independent States imagined by Moscow as an instrument destined to favor its influence on the zone has been a failure(34). Also the Customs Union created in 1994 between Russia and Byelorussia, enlarged in 1995 to Kazakhstan, in 1996 to Kirghizstan and in 1998 to Tajikistan has not truly, lead to an increasing integration(35). Because of its loss of control and of influence in the Caspian region, Moscow registers, however, since early year 2000 a renewed interest in Central Asia(36). In Russia, we have in effect, the impression of being deprived of one's traditional influence zones by the West ready, to use whatever means to weaken the interest of Russia and in particular the American political tactics. A group of Russian experts from the Foreign Policy and Defense Council noted at the Carnegie Foundation Study that most of the Russian elite consider "American policy towards the ICE, including in the Caspian Sea region and in the Caucasus, as fundamentally anti-Russian"(37).
In order to respond to this challenge expressed by the orientations of American policy in a geographical space that Moscow considers as vital, Russia has taken a series of measures during the first half of the year 2000. It's thus that the new doctrine guiding Russia's foreign policy under the presidency of V. Poutine has been rendered public on 10th July 2000, by spokesman Igor Ivanov(38). It completes the military(39) and strategic(40) doctrines adopted during the first semester 2000 and replaces the Kozyrev doctrine decreed, on 23rd April 1993. This new doctrine, whose tone reveals an anti-American orientation, has nevertheless been qualified as "pragmatic" by the Russian president. It's objective is to help resolve Russia's internal problems. Commentators have all the same noted the contradiction between the "pragmatic" character of the doctrine put forward by the Russian president In addition, the struggle against the American hegemony that appears in the three documents rendered public during the year 2000(41). The balance between the two objectives shall without doubt be dedicate to institute. In a general manner, the new doctrine engages, Russia in a somehow, geopolitical withdrawal. It should open a period of "contemplation", to repeat the statement applied to French politics after the defeat of 1870, in which the priority should be given to the protection of Russia's interests, not to its fantasized interests, but instead, its concrete interests. This general orientation does not seem to exclude, in the mind of its initiators, the fact that Moscow intends nevertheless conserving an influence zone where it would dispose of real allies. One of the essential objectives defined in the new doctrine is the establishment of a belt of friendly States, a sort of protective glacis around Russia. This "area of vital importance" for Moscow covers in fact, the territory of the ex-Soviet Union(42). The relations between Moscow and the ICE States remains one of the essential priorities of Russia's exterior policy as defined in the document. In the ICE framework, the doctrine reveals however a concept in which political integration no longer seems to be the fixation, defended by the Kremlin. It mentions in effect the idea of an integration "at different speeds and levels" at the heart of ICE. Such a concept opens in theory the path to pragmatism. The new doctrine announces, moreover, that Russia's "practical relations ... with each of these [ICE] States must base themselves on their reciprocal will, to co-operate, of their availability to take into consideration the interests of the Russian Federation, including as far as possible the guarantee of the rights of Russian compatriots". Here, things become more complex, the "Russian interests" could fail to coincide with those of the ICE States. What would then be Moscow's reactions?
Whatever the intricacies, in regards to Central Asia, Moscow has adopted during year 2000 a line of action consisting in offering its military protection in exchange for a geopolitical alliance. This is, in any case, the sense/direction of the new relations that have been woven with Uzbekistan since the start of year 2000. Whereas Tashkent was the most resistant of the States of the region, in regards to Moscow's aspirations in Central Asia, President Islam Karimov has begun a "rapprochement", a "bringing closer", to Russia, as from the month of January 2000. In March, Tashkent, just like Bichkek and Douchanbé, accepted to increase its bilateral co-operation with Moscow in the field of common air defense(43). The visit of the Russian president to Uzbekistan in May of the same year, has brought, even closer those positions. Although we should remain prudent, as far as go the motivations of President Karimov, he apparently, declared recognizing that Russia had interests in Central Asia and that it would continue to have them in the future. Parallel to this declaration, he apparently criticized the attitude of Ankara aiming to take Moscow's place as "elder brother" of Tashkent(44). The ambiguous attitude of Uzbekistan in its relations with Moscow reflects the dilemma with which it is confronted. Against its regional ambitions in Central Asia, it is opposed to the necessity of not thwarting too directly Moscow, to avoid any tension. Tashkent intends equally benefiting from Russian help, in case of a problem not only with an external threat - as it happens, with the Talibans - but also internal, for example political opposition that could trouble I. Karimov's power. These considerations push therefore the Uzbek president to accept, up until a certain point, the revival in interest that Moscow has in the region. Rather than opposing himself against Russian wills, I. Karimov prefers without doubt accompanying them to better control of them.
To ensure the re-establishment of its influence in the region, the Russian leaders play, for their part, on the sentiment of insecurity present in Central Asia, they use the Islamic threat and pose as guards of stability in the region(45). The Afghan situation, as well as incursion by Islamic elements during summer 1999 and again that same season in 2000 in Kirghizstan and in Uzbekistan, have favored this Russian strategy. The Taliban's Afghanistan is presented by Moscow as an international terrorist center and a serious threat for the region. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky has declared, without however providing any proof, that an agreement had been concluded at Mazar-i-Sharif between Talibans, the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, and the internationally wanted terrorist Usama bin Laden and Djuma Namangani (leader of the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement - UIM)(46). This version, denied by the Chechen president, permits to Moscow to remind opportunely in the Central Asian States, especially Uzbekistan, the threat brought by Afghanistan on their security.
Following this same line, in the spring 2000, Russia threatened to bomb Afghan territory. Parallel to which, it profited from the episode, to reinforced its military presence in Tajikistan. The military victories by the Taliban in the autumn 2000, whereby have increased the sentiment of threat in Central Asia and have also permitted Moscow to put a new accent on military co-operation with the Central Asian republics upon the occasion of the Bichkek summit reunited in October 2000(47). In the eyes of Moscow, the Islamic threat must permit regaining lost ground in Central Asia, by the military co-operation reinforced with the States of the zone(48). Beyond protection against this more imaginary Islamic threat rather than real, Moscow offers more fundamentally its support to the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia in their struggle against "the Islamic threat" present on their territory(49), "Islamic threat" serving in fact as an alibi - as in Uzbekistan - for closing in on the political space and banning all opposition to the regime in place. Faced with increasing criticism by the West in matter of Human Rights and of democratic deficit, Moscow offers in fact to these authoritarian regimes a guarantee of their survival. The decision to establish an anti-terrorist training center at Bichkek, adopted during the Douchanbé summit reuniting the five States of the Shanghai group, could establish a supplementary basis for Russian/Central-Asian collaboration in this field(50). In a general manner, in security matters, it's clear that Moscow has more advantages than Washington. As one American diplomat observed: "Imagine that someone asks Congress to send troops into Central Asia for helping to guarantee security in the Ferghana Valley or the Afghan frontier!"(51). Thanks to its policy, Moscow seems to have gathered a certain number of successes in recent times. However, these efforts collide nevertheless with the more or less displayed reticence of Central Asia leaders. If the latter are in fact desirous of benefiting from Moscow's political and military support, they distrust at the same time the motivations of Russia. Thus, despite requests for Russian military aid, Islam Karimov has rejected several times the idea of the presence of Moscow's troops on the republic's territory(52). Discussions between the Uzbek president and the Talibans in autumn 2000 are equally the proof of his pragmatism but also of his mistrust with regards Russian ambitions. The chief of the Uzbek State would in fact like to find a sort of modus vivendi with Kabul, so that the Talibans limit their support to the Uzbek Islamic opposition, but also for preventing Moscow from reinvesting the zone in the name of the struggle against Islamic radicalism(53). The Uzbek president equally mistrusts the assistance that Moscow and also Tehran would care to provide to Ahmad Shah Massoud - who is of Tajik origin. He fears in effect to see the reinforcement of Tajik nationalism that could contest in Uzbekistan the possession of cities such as Samarcande and Boukhara. Finally, president Karimov does not in any case intend letting Russia occupy the place that is reserved for him in Central Asia. In a general manner, the Central Asia leaders are not ready to mortgage their independence and their liberty of action for the price of Russian support. In a long term perspective, the return of Russia into Central Asia collides also with other elements. The inheritance from the Soviet period, in terms of pollution and of environmental degradation, is for example, a factor that plays in its disfavor. Likewise, its support of authoritarian regimes could involve in the long term the hostility of fringes of the local populations. With such an opening onto the world and the development of modern communications, the inhabitants of Central Asia are increasingly influenced by other models than that being offered by Russia. Given the deep crisis that Russia is going through, one may, besides, ask oneself, the question of knowing whether Moscow offers veritably a model capable of seducing the Central Asian populations. The looks in Central Asia no longer turn solely towards the Russian metropolis. One of the privileged instruments for the perpetuation of Russian influence is in other words the use of the Russian language, which tends, to be effacing slowly, to the advantage of English. The Central Asia elite prefer nowadays to send their children for education in the United States or in England rather than to Russia. One can finally interrogate oneself on the capacity and means of which Moscow disposes for ensuring the perpetuation of its influence in the region. It's clear that in the economic field, its means are limited. Russia has much less to offer than Western countries.
The evolution of the situation in Russia shall, however, in large measure influence the political orientations of the countries of Central Asia. Certainly, if Moscow doesn't dispose of the means to ensure its total annexation of the entire region, it still has, however, trumps of the relative weakness of the States of the region. The security argument upon which Moscow plays in order to justify its imposed influence is not, entirely without foundation. Tajikistan, for example, depends on it to ensure the surveillance of its frontiers with Afghanistan. One can ask oneself the same question concerning Turkmenistan. Likewise, countries such as Kirghizstan or Kazakhstan can be tempted to have recourse to Moscow if the pressure from Peking becomes one day too strong. Besides, Kazakhstan is for its part weaken by the presence of a strong Russian-speaking minority living in the East and in the North of the country. This fragility imposes to Kazakhstan to be prudent, in matter of relations with Moscow. Only Uzbekistan could have the means of counterbalancing Moscow in a certain measure. Zbigniew Brzezinski summarized very justly the situation of Russia about Central Asia. For him in effect, "Russia will be too weak to re-impose its imperial domination but too powerful to be excluded." 54
For reasons of geography, history, culture, ethnicity and strategy, Russia will use whatever means she possesses in order to try to protect her interests in the region.
The low profile adopted by the Central Asian managerial staff since the election of V. Poutine proves that the Russian capacities are perceived in the region as being sufficiently solid. This means that the republics of Central Asia avoid to directly provoke Moscow, on the contrary they try to maintain the best possible relations with the ancient metropolis.
1 See J. BAKSHI, Russian Policy towards Central Asia - Part II, Strategic
Analysis, vol. XXII, n°11, February 1999