Central Asia’s place in the constellation of Russia’s foreign policy interests is determined by its geopolitics, features of the international political architecture and Russia’s wide-ranging and multifaceted ties with the main states in the region. Central Asia is unlike other large parts of the former Soviet Union, such as its European part or South Caucasus. There is not a single Central Asian country for which confl ict with Russia could become a central element of their national foreign policy. Furthermore, political relations with all Central Asian states are traditionally friendly, which affects the prioritisation of issues and the specifi c steps that are being taken as part of Russia’s policy in this region.
However, we should not turn a blind eye to multiple signs of potential destabilisation 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.
Although, in general, they are in a better position compared to some of Russia’s other neighbours, since external influence on their internal development and foreign policyties is limited by objective geopolitical circumstances.
With the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2022, Russia’s attention to events unfolding in even such a close and important region as Central Asia has understandably waned, and this is arguably one of the important setbacks that could have serious ramifications.
Following the collapse of the regime established by foreign interventionists in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s (banned in Russia) 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 deserved to be in the focus of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. Also, 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. This interest manifested itself back when the global economy was open and cross-border trade and economic ties were flourishing.