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Daily News Analysis

Central Asia emerging as geopolitical hotspot

Crescent International

Last month Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) experienced mass protests against the autocratic rule of Emomali Rahmonov.

The regime resorted to its customary brutality by cracking down harshly.

Fast forward to July 2.

Uzbekistan experienced a similar situation in its semi-autonomous region of Karakalpakstan.

It also led to a brutal crackdown by the autocratic Uzbek regime.

Looked at in isolation, the two events may not seem significant, and they are unlikely to cause serious damage to the regimes in either Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

However, when broader global geopolitical events are considered, the latest events in Central Asia are beginning to confirm the conclusion arrived at in an analysis in Crescent International in 2020.

It predicted that Central Asia will turn into a global hotspot.

In case it is assumed that this is some far-fetched theory, it needs pointing that as far back as 2019, the US think tank, RAND Corporation, which specializes in offering research and analysis to the US military, discussed in its study titled “Extending Russia” on how to reduce Russian influence in Central Asia.

The logic behind this policy is understandable as geopolitically this region is essential for Russia.

While the above cited study and another one also by RAND corporation admits that reducing Russian influence in Central Asia will be difficult, if Washington and its surrogates attempt to replace Russia by increasing their influence through intrusion, the region will turn into a global hotspot as per the conclusion referred to above.

However, US policy is often rooted in the concept of strategic denial.

Thus, their goal may not be about increasing their own influence, but simply creating destabilization hot spots on Russia’s borders.

Any eruption of conflict in Central Asia means that due to its proximity, Russia will bear the brunt of any destabilization that may occur.

China will also suffer.

There are some signs that Central Asian dictators, kept in power primarily due to Russian backing, understand that due to the war in Ukraine they can now extract concessions and personal benefits from both NATO regimes and Russia.

Both parties need them and will be willing to pay a hefty political and economic price to keep them on their side.

At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stated that his government will not recognize the self-proclaimed independence of pro-Russian regions in Ukraine.

The fact that Tokayev dared to state this right in front of Russian President Vladmir Putin at a public forum is an indication that Central Asian autocrats are looking for a bargain.

Without Putin’s military intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022, the Tokayev regime would have collapsed.

Nevertheless, Tokayev’s statement, and the latest events in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan should in no way be read as Russia’s imminent loss of influence in the region.

What many western experts do not realize is that if the regimes in Central Asia collapse, whether engineered by Moscow or western destabilization attempts, the socio-political forces that are likely to emerge will not necessarily be anti-Russian.

Moscow’s somewhat pragmatic approach in Chechnya and Tajikistan in the 1990s, combined with its in-depth knowledge of the region’s culture and strong economic ties, provides Russia with significant room to be able to deal with whatever new socio-political realities emerge in Central Asia.

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