Mishustin’s visit to Ashgabat and the Russia-Turkmenistan Business Forum confirm Moscow’s strategy in Central Asia
The recent Russia-Turkmenistan business forum attended by the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin confirmed Kremlin’s strategy in Central Asia and Moscow’s desire to deepen economic and diplomatic cooperation with Ashgabat to avoid any further external interference by the European Union, China, or the United States.
In a phone call, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon discussed bilateral relations with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov and the delimitation of the common border necessary to resolve Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan territorial disputes which in the past have erupted in border clashes.
Recent counterterrorism military drills in Tajikistan highlighted Dushanbe’s necessity to upgrade its readiness and expertise in facing terrorist threats inside the country and jihadist activities from neighbouring areas of Afghanistan.
In 2023, foreign actors’ interests, terrorism, authoritarianism, and economic slowdown might threaten Central Asia and AfPak’s security and stability and increase regional geopolitical risk.
Zhaparov’s official visit to Abu Dhabi confirms Kyrgyzstan’s interest in developing an economic partnership with the United Arab Emirates and the Emirati desire to enhance its presence and influence in the Central Asian republic.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s recent visit to the United Arab Emirates confirms Turkmenistan’s interest in expanding ties with the Gulf monarchies and Abu Dhabi’s desire to increase its presence in Central Asia.
In the context of the Ukraine conflict and the Brussels- Moscow confrontation, the European Union attempts to expand its activity and presence in Central Asia by improving connectivity projects and cooperation.
The recent meeting between Zhaparov and the U.S.-Kyrgyzstan Business Council stressed Bishkek’s desire to strengthen economic relations with the United States and attract U.S. investors in its country. Balancing among these international players could be one of the main challenges that Kyrgyzstan should address, as well as the necessity to maintain control over the population and avoid possible socioeconomic problems.
Since August 2022, Tajikistan has started a deflationary process in the consumer sector to reduce the prices of goods and tariffs and stimulate the national economy.
The first “Central Asia-Russia” summit in Astana confirmed the Russian importance in the region and the Kremlin’s strategy to increase economic cooperation with Central Asian republics.
While the CSTO military exercises were taking place in Tajikistan, Dushanbe received U.S. representatives who confirmed Washington’s interest and strategy in strengthening the security and defence of the Tajik-Afghan borders.
Tokayev’s suggestion to create an organisation in the framework of the CIS to promote the Russian language might be interpreted as Kazakhstan’s attempt to normalise relations with Russia, which were downgraded due to the Ukraine conflict and the Western sanctions.
Recent propaganda on Telegram spread by a ‘foreign agent’ who promoted separatism in Kazakhstan highlighted possible future problems that the Central Asian republic might face since different ethnic minorities live in the country.
Russia and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) signed the most significant deal since the Taliban movement came to power last year, confirming Kremlin’s interests in the country and Moscow’s will to become a key regional actor.
Due to the borders drawn by the former Soviet Union with no regard for ethnic, political, economic, and cultural factors, the Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have faced each other for 31 years, and the recent military escalation highlighted regional instability and geopolitical strategies promoted by Dushanbe and Bishkek.
Over the years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has consolidated its relations with the countries of Central Asia, exploiting either the Persian common ethnic-cultural element or proposing itself as a logistic hub for the energy sector and trade corridors.
Tajikistan and China discussed economic, political and regional security cooperation, confirming Beijing’s rising role in Tajik local dynamics and Central Asia at the expense of Moscow’s regional strategy.
The establishment of Tehrik-e Taliban Tajikistan (TTT) alarmed Dushanbe Government. It highlighted how the security situation in Central Asia linked with Afghanistan has deteriorated since the Taliban took power in Kabul in August 2021.
Central Asian republics between socio-economic projects, popular protests, terrorist threats and the Afghan dilemma
Central Asian republics want to establish solid regional cooperation to promote socio-economic projects to stabilise the area and contrast rising problems such as widespread disappointment and protests, terrorist threats and security issues related to the current situation in Afghanistan.
In a world of growing polarity, Kazakhstan has been attempting to portray itself as a bridge connecting the East and the West. However, the so-called Russian “special operation” in Ukraine has forced the Central Asian nation to distance itself gradually from Moscow.
In Tajikistan, local security forces and authorities emphasised the rising threat of terrorism and extremism in the country in the last six months, confirming that terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State have been able to exploit local disappointment and the unresolved issues that in Gorno-Badakhshan.
Protests in the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan against proposed amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan raised the question of Karakalpak’s complete independence from the Uzbek central government.
The constitutional referendum in Kazakhstan marked a historical event aimed at consolidating the final transition from a super-presidential form of government to a presidential republic with an influential parliament and an accountable government.
Iran and Tajikistan marked a significant step in their bilateral relations after the meeting of the Iranian and Tajik presidents and the signing of 16 cooperation agreements which stressed Tehran’s cultural diplomacy in Central Asia and Dushanbe’s attempt to diversify its foreign partners.
Italy recently discussed further cooperation with Uzbekistan, showing Rome’s attempt to play a more influential role in Central Asia by being engaged in a strategic market where Italian companies might export their know-how and products while the Italian authorities might diversify trade and energy imports.
As part of the SpecialEurasia project “Geopolitika Evrazija”, we attended a round table at the Kazakh embassy in Rome to get acquainted with the constitutional reforms and the upcoming referendum that will be held in Kazakhstan on June 5th, 2022.
Recent clashes in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, border security problems with Afghanistan and the last Islamic State terrorist attack have underlined the problematic situation that Tajikistan needs to manage to guarantee national stability and security.