Asia and Eurasia
Prospects for Cooperation Between Russia and Central Asia Amid the New World Order

Today, the countries of Central Asia are developing equal relations with all subjects of international relations on the basis of national interests. At the same time, the region, which has taken advantage of the formation of a new world order, will try to play a more important role in the modern system of international relations. Central Asia strives to become a new driver of the growing multipolarity of the modern world order, writes Valdai Club expert Rustam Khaydarov.

The Central Asia region, due to its geographical location, has always been involved in geopolitical and geo-economic processes in Eurasia. With the beginning of Russia’s Special Military Operation and the collapse of the unipolar world, the importance of Central Asia for world politics and economics has increased many-fold.

Now in Eurasia and, in particular, in Central Eurasia, new geopolitical and geo-economic processes, directly related to the formation of a multipolar world, are emerging.

In Central Asia today, three poles of world politics and economics come into contact. These poles are centred on Russia, China and the United States. The collective West and its leader, the US, initiated or at least supports the policy of confrontation with Russia and China, which ultimately provoked today’s multi-level political, economic and financial crisis around the globe.

The year 2022 changed the geopolitical landscape of the world, dismantled the unipolar world, devalued the foundations of international law, and drove relations between the collective West and the collective Non-West towards a new Cold War. The military conflict in Eastern Europe has turned into a proxy war of the collective West against the Russian Federation. Moreover, the degree of confrontation in Eastern Europe is rising.

The collective West today is persistently trying to involve Central Asia in the process of confrontation between the West and Russia. It is demanding that the countries of the region make a choice between the opposing sides. The United States has already begun to speak with the countries of Central Asia in the language of threats and ultimatums. American emissaries visited the countries of our region in April 2023 with a whole package of warnings and threats. At the same time, representatives of the US State Department were accompanied by US financial intelligence officers and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Therefore, today Central Asian media are discussing the economic and political sanctions, which the collective West intends to impose against the countries of our region if we do not break all ties with Russia.

At present, we see that the ruling elites of the collective West are not going to acknowledge the loss of their dominant position in the world economy or in world politics. Therefore, they will try to destabilise other regions of the world. Now the collective West holds the South Caucasus and Central Asia at gunpoint. Our region and our allies, Russia and China, must be prepared for various military-political scenarios.

I would like to note that the United States and the European Union have not yet changed their biased, stereotypical attitude towards the countries of Central Eurasia and have interpreted our region as a “jungle of the modern world.” Meanwhile, the global East and South are already tired of the Western interpretation of world history and the American-centric assessment of modern processes.

For the United States and its allies, our region is only important, in our opinion, as a springboard for confrontation with Russia and China, as they firmly follow the precepts of their ideological and geopolitical guidelines. In their writings, the architects of US foreign policy, such as Brzezinski, have always considered the post-Soviet space as a source of enrichment for the West, as American lebensraum, as a goal for the cultural expansion of the West. For example, according to Brzezinski’s conclusions, the United States cannot feel safe until it establishes full control over the central part of Eurasia, that is, over Central Asia.

Therefore, in 2022 the United States provoked global disorder in the modern world. This is also due to the fact that, according to Henry Kissinger, the United States believes in its exclusivity. In his book On China, he writes that American exceptionalism is missionary in nature. It is believed that the United States is motivated by the duty to spread its values to all parts of the planet. As modern history shows, the dissemination of these values occurs in a violent way. Unlike the United States, Russia and Central Asia talk about the unity and friendship of the peoples of Eurasia, about respect for the original cultures of the peoples of Eurasia, about collective responsibility for the fate of our continent, and about the right of sovereign states to their own, national way of life. The countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America are in solidarity with Russia and Central Asia on this issue, since they do not want a repetition of the fate of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. The Muslim countries and Orthodox Christians of Eurasia will never agree to a gender-neutral interpretation of the scriptures and will never accept the American gender-neutral interpretation of the image of God as a new value in American society.
The peoples of Central Asia also do not want our region to be used by the United States to satisfy the geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-cultural ambitions of the collective West, as is happening now in Eastern Europe.

The countries of Central Asia, as full-fledged subjects of international relations, will develop relations with those states that will contribute to economic prosperity and strengthening the foundations of the political stability of the region.

Unfortunately, the collective West, in our opinion, today considers the countries of Central Asia exclusively along two lines:

1. As a potential partner in the sanctions war of the collective West against Russia;
2. As an opportunity to open a new or second front against Russia, to wage a new proxy war against this country.

There are fears that certain forces of the collective West, in the event that their attempts to isolate Russia by separating Central Asia from it fail, may use such terrorist groups as the “Vilayat Khorasan-Islamic State” to bring about the military and political destabilisation of the region. This terrorist group is now in Afghanistan.

It should be noted that the US and the EU are absolutely new players in our region. Despite the fact that over the past 30 years they have spent hundreds of millions of US dollars to transform the traditional societies of the countries of Central Asia, the collective West has not been able to impose its pseudo-values on Central Asia and change the vectors of our value orientations. The collective West is alien to us both in terms of culture and worldview. There is not a single phenomenon or event, or element of modern culture, which could serve as the basis for a relationship and rapprochement between the US and European Union on the one hand and Central Asia on the other. Americans and Europeans have no idea about the culture and mentality or traditions of the peoples of Central Asia, so they could not and will not be able to interact with us. Central Asia does not view economic prosperity in conjunction with the liberal democracy of the West, which is essentially an alien concept to the countries of the region. The United States cannot provide our region with an alternative to the Russian CSTO or the EAEU, and there is no American alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, etc.

Unlike them, the Russian people and the peoples of Central Asia have much in common, both in terms of culture and in worldview. We are connected by a common history and interdependent markets. The security of Russia and the countries of our region are also inextricably linked. The Russian Federation is developing multilateral and mutually beneficial cooperation with all the countries of Central Asia. For example, today it has already actively begun to implement its new Eastern foreign policy in Tajikistan. Since the end of 2022, delegations from both Russian federal departments and the leadership of Russian regions have been arriving in Tajikistan from Russia on a monthly basis to establish cooperation in all spheres of life — the economy, agriculture, healthcare, education, science, tourism, etc.

Undoubtedly, a renewed Russia is interested today in maintaining stability and ensuring the security of Eurasia. An important tool for achieving this goal is the CSTO, which, given the emergence of new threats and the aggravation of the military-political situation in our region, should be constantly improved and have new options for a quick response to any attempts to destabilise Central Asia.
Asia and Eurasia
Russia, Central Asia and the CSTO
Erdenetsogt Dorjpalam
Geographically, Central Asia is the core and heart of Eurasia, a bridge between Europe and Asia once home to a stretch of the Silk Road. Moreover, it has served as a springboard for geostrategic competition between large countries. This competition can lead to a conflict between the ethnic, religious, military-political and economic interests of the parties, writes Erdenetsogt Dorjpalam, an expert at the Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia, for the Third Central Asian Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club.

To support socio-economic development in our region, Russia has the EAEU, an important instrument which needs to be optimised and introduce new options to work amid the conditions of the sanctions war of the collective West against Russia and its allies. In our opinion, it is very important that Russia not only maintains its presence and influence in the region, but strengthens it, taking into account the new geopolitical and geo-economic situation in the world.

Our region in the geopolitical and geo-economic dimension is important primarily for Russia and China, as they are our neighbours and have a long history of relations, as well as for Turkey and Iran, with which the countries of the region have common ethnic and cultural roots. Therefore, these powers are interested in ensuring security, maintaining political stability in our region, in developing and strengthening the economies of the region, as well as in strengthening their positions and realizing geopolitical interests in Central Asia.

The consequences of the future sanctions war of the collective West against the countries of Central Asia will be minimized by the emerging strategic alliance between Russia and China in Eurasia, as they are striving to build a new world order based on international law. As the desire of Russia and China to create new international cooperation platforms increases in the region, Russia and China will determine the main vectors of the foreign policy of the countries of Central Asia.

Despite the dramatic nature of the situation in world geopolitics, the countries of Central Asia nevertheless intend to build long-term relations with both the United States and the European Union, but only on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s interests. Central Asia is a peaceful region and our countries do not pose a threat to regional security. However, if the collective West continues to speak with the countries of Central Asia in the language of threats and sanctions, then the countries of the region will look for alternative options for cooperation.

New alliances will be built with other global and regional players. Today, an era of international dialogue has begun. Russia and China show examples of such a dialogue and offer effective mechanisms for economic, political and cultural cooperation not only in Eurasia, but also to the entire world community.
The collective West must come to terms with the fact that they will have to live as only a pole of a multipolar world, with other poles of world politics and economics like China and Russia, but also with independent regional powers such as India and Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brazil etc. The era of the post-Western and post-American world has begun.

Today, the countries of Central Asia are developing equal relations with all subjects of international relations on the basis of national interests. At the same time, our region, which has taken advantage of the formation of a new world order, will try to play a more important role in the modern system of international relations. Central Asia strives to become a new driver of the growing multipolarity of the modern world order.

The countries of Central Asia are reliable partners of Russia and China and are ready to jointly build a new Eurasia. Our region, in cooperation with Russia and China, needs to create new mechanisms and international institutions for cooperation, which should replace pro-American international organisations that have discredited themselves in our region. Eurasia is strong enough in both economic and military-political aspects to choose its own development vectors and decide its own destiny.

Central Asia seeks to play a more important role in world geopolitics and geo-economics. This is understood both in Asia and in Europe, including the USA. Therefore, almost all global and regional players have adopted the “5 + 1” cooperation format in relation to Central Asia. As for the effectiveness of this format of interaction, there are now many disputes and discussions. We are not sure that this format of building relationships with regional and global players suits the countries of Central Asia and takes into account their interests. Central Asia sees itself today as an active subject of the international order. However, regarding the “5 + 1” format of cooperation, our region most likely feels it as an object of policy of the great powers and regional players.

In this context, we propose that Russia initiates the creation of a new interaction format, such as BRICS + Central Asia. No one has yet considered Central Asia as a partner in this perspective. However, in our opinion, it is this format that can minimise the consequences of the long-term sanctions war of the collective West against Russia and those countries that support it. We must all realize that a second Cold War may last several decades and we will need to adapt to these new realities. The “BRICS + Central Asia” format of interaction will allow for the building and implementation of a model of a mutually beneficial strategic link: “Russia + Central Asia + South Asia + Africa + Latin America” in the transport and logistics, energy, trade, manufacturing, investment, technological, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
Central Asia strives for trans-regional cooperation, and Russia, through the activation of the BRICS + Central Asia format, can create conditions for the economic self-realisation of both our region and for the protection of its own geo-economic interests.

Thus, if Russia succeeds in initiating the launch of a new strategic link “Russia + Central Asia + South Asia + Africa + Latin America”, then a crushing strike will be launched against the hegemony of the collective West in the global geo-economy.

The current geopolitical situation predetermines the transformation of Central Asia into the most important zone of interaction between global and regional powers in the 21st century. At the same time, the countries of the region are developing their own foreign policy programmes, each based on a realistic understanding of their national interests.

After many powers were forced to close their borders and restrict trade and economic relations with the countries of the region under the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Central Asia saw a trend towards an increase in intra-regional trade; economic ties began to expand and the mutual investments of the countries of the region also increased. 

Being found in relative economic isolation due to the disruption of global supply chains, the countries of Central Asia were able to support each other, which made it possible to minimise the negative effects of the pandemic on the region’s economy and maintain relative economic stability. Thus, the countries of the region have shown that they have the potential for economic cooperation as an autonomous regional unit in the world economy.

The countries of Central Asia need geo-economic projects or cooperation initiatives that are specific and focused on the needs of the region. The global economic crisis and the pandemic gave Central Asia a clear signal that it is necessary to build up its own trade and economic potential and create its own trans-regional projects that meet the long-term national interests of all countries in the region.

The priority areas of cooperation between Central Asia and other countries of the world will be the following: strengthening regional unity, developing regional trade, cultural cooperation, coordinating the fight against transnational religiously-motivated terrorism, and joint initiatives to preserve the region’s environment.
Asia and Eurasia
Russia and Central Asia: A Great Peaceful Game
Timofei Bordachev
The most important question for the Central Asian Five may be their ability to overcome the trap where they’re at a level of development when the destruction of the state is impossible, but so is reaching a new level in terms of the quality of life of the population. It is unlikely that Russia wants its most important southern neighbours to be in a position where the gap is insurmountable, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.