Geopolitics of Contemporary Kirgyzstan between Russia, China, and Turkey

Kyrgyzstan map
The map of the regions of Kyrgyzstan (Credits: User:Peterfitzgerald, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 37 Issue 4
OSINT Team

Kyrgyzstan’s economic landscape is deeply intertwined with Russia, reflecting substantial joint ventures and investments. The recent shift in language policy, diminishing the use of the Russian language, signals a departure in cultural ties. Simultaneously, Kyrgyzstan is strategically engaging with China in energy and infrastructure projects, while Turkish influence extends through education, culture, and military cooperation.

Key Findings

  1. Russia-Kyrgyzstan’s Economic Dependence and Security Collaboration. Substantial joint ventures and investments exemplify the robust economic dependence and security, as well as integrating Kyrgyzstan into a unified air defence system, showing a heightened level of security cooperation.
  2. Geopolitical Shift Towards China. Beijing’s growing influence in Kyrgyzstan is apparent through strategic investments in energy projects and transit infrastructure, such as the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, which shortens the route from China to the Middle East. The energy sector cooperation between China and Kyrgyzstan is demonstrated through the existence of agreements on hydroelectric power stations and a solar power plant.
  3. Turkish Cultural and Military Influence. Turkey’s influence in Kyrgyzstan extends beyond cultural and humanitarian spheres to include military dimensions. Turkish military universities have graduated a significant number of Kyrgyz students, indicating a deepening military-technical cooperation. There is a growing momentum in trade, economic, and investment cooperation in infrastructure and transport.

Background Information

Kyrgyzstan, a key ally of the Kremlin in Central Asia, experienced a substantial 40% increase in trade with the Russian Federation, reaching $3.2 billion by the close of 2022. Western scrutiny over potential anti-Russian sanctions violations led to secondary sanctions on specific Kyrgyz companies.

Despite the unlikelihood of full-scale sanctions, Kyrgyzstan responded with strengthened export controls, navigating challenges within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Although significant economic interdependence and joint ventures with Russia, there has been a noticeable decline in cultural and humanitarian cooperation, especially regarding the Russian language.

As Kyrgyzstan navigates this complex dynamic, heightened security collaboration with Russia and increasing Chinese and Turkish influences add complexity to its developing geopolitical landscape.

Geopolitical Analysis

The economic ties between Kyrgyzstan and Russia are robust, underpinned by shared ventures and investments, particularly in critical sectors. The security collaboration, demonstrated by the integration into a unified air defence system, suggests a strengthening of strategic ties with Russia. However, the linguistic regression poses a challenge to cultural cohesion, as evident in the decline of Russian language study even though recently Moscow inaugurated new schools in Bishkek.

China’s increasing influence, exemplified by transit and energy projects, indicates a geopolitical recalibration, challenging Russia’s historic dominance. Turkish multifaceted influence, encompassing culture, education, and military ties, adds further complexity to Kyrgyzstan’s regional engagements.

The geopolitical landscape of Central Asia, particularly Kyrgyzstan, remains intricately intertwined with Moscow’s strategic interests, epitomized by the concept of blizhnee zarubezhe (near abroad). Russia views the region as its lebensraum (vital space), actively working to extend both its military presence and political influence. Moscow employs multifaceted tools such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to assert dominance.

While ostensibly presenting a united front with Beijing in Central Asia, the reality reveals a nuanced relationship, characterised by competition rather than seamless collaboration. The launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 further intensified this competition, with Beijing aggressively investing in and financing local infrastructural projects.

Against this backdrop, Turkey has emerged as a consequential regional actor, employing the Organisation of Turkic States and Ankara’s pan-Turkism as instruments of influence. From an analytical standpoint, Turkey’s strategic manoeuvring in recent years underscores its commitment to shaping the geopolitical dynamics of Central Asia. The Organisation of Turkic States serves as a platform for Ankara to strengthen ties and exert influence, offering an alternative narrative to the Moscow-Beijing dominance.

Risk Assessment

Kyrgyzstan faces a multifaceted risk landscape characterised by both internal and regional dynamics. Domestically, the country is susceptible to strained relations with Russia, primarily stemming from Western sanctions and evolving cultural dynamics.

Regionally, the risk profile expands with the escalating competition and influence exerted by China and Turkey. The growing involvement of these regional actors poses a significant challenge to Russia’s traditional dominance in Central Asia.

Scenarios Analysis

  1. Sustained Russian Influence. If Kyrgyzstan manages to balance economic dependence with Russia alongside evolving ties with China and Turkey, maintaining security collaboration, Russia’s influence may persist, and potential Western pressures could be mitigated.
  2. Increased Chinese Influence. Alternatively, a scenario could emerge where Kyrgyzstan’s deepening ties with China outpace its relations with Russia. This shift could lead to a diminished Russian influence, altering the regional power dynamic.
  3. Multilateral Balancing Act. Kyrgyzstan may pursue a strategy of balancing multiple partnerships, ensuring economic stability with Russia, while strategically engaging with China and Turkey. This scenario would require delicate diplomacy to prevent any single power from dominating Kyrgyzstan’s geopolitical landscape.

Conclusion/Suggestion

The strategic imperatives for intelligence efforts in the context of Kyrgyzstan demand a comprehensive focus on the evolving geopolitical relationships with both Russia and the West. Monitoring these relationships is crucial, given the potential for shifts resulting from geopolitical events, economic factors, and diplomatic considerations.

Simultaneously, a discerning analysis should be directed towards the strategic manoeuvres of China and Turkey in the region. As both nations exert influence through economic investments, infrastructure projects, and diplomatic engagements, it becomes imperative to scrutinise the long-term implications on Kyrgyzstan’s political and economic landscape.


For those with an interest in acquiring comprehensive insights into the dynamics of the Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asia, we encourage you to reach out to our team by sending an email to info@specialeurasia.com. We are poised to facilitate an assessment of the opportunity for you to obtain a meticulously crafted and specialised report tailored to your intelligence needs.

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