ON THE PRIORITIES OF RUSSIAN POLICY IN POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA

Oleg BORONIN


Oleg Boronin, Ph.D. (Hist.), senior lecturer, Oriental Studies Department, Altai State University, academic secretary of the Altai Center for Oriental Studies (Barnaul, Russian Federation)


Central Asia plays a special role in several regional vectors of Russian foreign policy in the post-Soviet space. This is due in particular to such factors as the significant size of the Russian-speaking population in the states of this region (more than 10 million people, including 6.5 million Russians); the political and socioeconomic problems, which are causing instability on Russia’s southern borders; the prospects for using Central Asia as a transportation corridor; and the challenges to security posed by transnational criminal structures. What is more, Asia’s geographic center is located in Russia, in the Republic of Tyva (i.e. Russia’s Southern Siberia, which is part of Central Asia), and so belongs to the Central Asian subsystem of international relations. But Moscow still does not have an integrated foreign policy conception with respect to the newly independent states of this region that correlates to our country’s national-state interests. Such a conception would not only protect Russia from any “fiascos” in Central Asian policy, but would also ensure its security, reinforce the authority and role of the Russian Federation as a great nation on the international arena, and promote socioeconomic revival and a post-industrial breakthrough.

The most important priorities must be defined when shaping Russian foreign policy in this area. A.D. Bogaturov, a leading Russian expert in international affairs, thinks that the future of Russian-Kazakhstan relations deserves primary attention. We believe he is right when he claims that, “Kazakhstan holds an incomparably higher place in Russia’s eyes than any of the other new Asian states in the post-Soviet zone. So it would be worth looking at the prospects for forming a Russian-Kazakhstan alliance on a bilateral basis.”1 And these prospects are immense, since the overwhelming majority of the two sides’ interests coincide and security problems can only be resolved by means of joint efforts.

For example, it is highly likely that at some time in the future both Russia and Kazakhstan may have to deal with a threat posed by China, which is claiming the role of second superpower of the 21st century. We agree with Mr. Bogaturov’s conclusion that the PRC is primarily and largely Russia’s rival.2 In so doing, it is important to realize that without reliable allies, Russia will sooner or later find itself one on one with the Chinese menace. Today many western experts are openly discussing the possibility of demographic pressure from China on the “underpopulated” Russian territories of Siberia and the Far East.3 In so doing, the models for China’s domestic political development are far from unequivocal4; there is no guarantee that it will refrain in the future from resolving its domestic problems by means of foreign expansion.

As for Kazakhstan, with respect to potential Chinese expansion, it is an underarmed country with large expanses for settlement. As with Russia’s Siberian and Far Eastern territories,5 Beijing considers (at the everyday and academic level) a significant part of Kazakhstani territory to be historically Chinese, but temporarily lost.6 At a meeting in Bishkek (1999), China and Kazakhstan officially declared that they had no mutual border and territorial problems. But some Kazakhstani officials, for example, governor of the Almaty Region Z. Nurkadilov, former ambassador to China M. Auezov, and ambassador to Italy O. Suleimenov, expressed serious concern about the Chinese population’s active migration into the republic.7

A similar picture is also seen in Russia’s Far East. In so doing, Moscow and Astana should be aware that Beijing strategists believe one of the goals of any war China might participate in to be seizing and retaining its enemy’s territory for Chinese colonization of the annexed area.8 According to the doctrine of strategic borders and vital space adopted by the PRC, the country is not only in need of “peaceful neighbors around it, but also of territory that ensures its security and vital activity.” However, V.V. Stefashin, a Russian military scientist, claims that the main principles of China’s military doctrine pose a certain threat to neighboring countries, including to the contiguous CIS republics.9 Of course, several treaties and declarations, primarily the Shanghai Agreement entered into on 26 April, 1996, are aimed primarily at building trust in the military sphere with respect to the border between China and the Commonwealth countries.10

But this should not prevent Russia and Kazakhstan from entering into a treaty on joint defense. What is more, the current Collective Security Treaty on (CST), which several CIS states are party to, including Russia and Kazakhstan, cannot, in our view, serve as a real basis for joint security, since it does not envisage specific obligations for the member states in the event of external aggression against any of the signatories to this document.11 We do not think there is any need to prove that Kazakhstan could not repel an attack from China on its own (should this occur of course). The republic’s armed forces constitute approximately 70,000 servicemen, and there are plans to bring this number up to 150,000 in the future. The army still has serious personnel problems with respect to its air forces, air defense forces, and naval forces, its troops are experiencing immense difficulties with material and technical provision, full-fledged maneuvers are conducted very rarely, and there are also shortcomings in routine combat training. For example, due to fuel shortages, only the Air Force Commander can give permission for a combat or training airplane to take off.

Whereas in China, the Langchou Military District alone, which borders directly on Kazakhstan, comprises of 12 motorized rifle divisions combined into two combined-arms armies of 200,000 servicemen.12 And in the event of an armed attack by China on Kazakhstan, the onslaught would most probably be launched in two directions at the same time. The first would be via Khorgos through the Iliisk Valley with access to Almaty Region. The second would come through the Djungar Gates to Aiaguz and the northern tip of Lake Balkhash. And if successful, the only lateral railroad, Turksib, would be cut off. In this way, the Taldy-Kurgan Region, which abuts on Balkhash, would find itself encircled on all sides. Auxiliary strikes could be made on Altai, in the region of Zaisan Lake, in the direct proximity of the Russian border, as a result of which China could annex the Kazakhstani territory it considers “indigenously Chinese.” Consequently, when welcoming and developing partnership and mutually advantageous relations with the PRC, the Russian and Kazakhstani leadership should not ignore the possible confrontational model of development in relations between the two countries and China. In this respect, Moscow and Astana should take specific preventive steps toward each other.

The threat of Islamic extremism and radicalism coming from their southern frontiers is another strategic interest that Russia and Kazakhstan have in common. It is very important for Russia that Kazakhstan is the least Islamicized country in post-Soviet Central Asia and that most of the Kazakhstani political elite is oriented toward building a secular state. At the same time, like the Russian leadership with respect to the processes going on in areas densely populated by Russian Muslims, Astana is concerned about the rapid radicalization of Islam in the republic’s southern regions. Covering the religious situation evolving there, Kazakhstani journalist E. Nurshin writes, “A powerful, all-encompassing, and active campaign has unfolded recently in the mosques and around them that promulgates the foundations of Wahhabism. In so doing, an ‘agitation team’ led by preachers from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan has formed and is active at almost every mosque.”13 The number of religiously oriented universities that have arisen in 2000 alone show the rapid Islamization of the republic’s south: the Kazakh-Kuwait University, the Abd Ar-Rakhmada Saud Al Babtina Al-Kuwaiti Institute for Oriental Studies, the International Kazakh-Arabian University (all in Shymkent), the Kazakh Institute of Islamic Studies, and the Islamic University (both in Almaty).14 This cannot help but concern the Russian and Kazakhstani leadership and should prompt them to establish close cooperation in order to combat Islamic and other religious extremist organizations acting against our states.

An extremely dangerous factor is active expansion of the international drug business. The “Silk Road of Death” runs through our countries to Europe, and a significant amount of Afghan heroin is shipped to both states. For example, in 2000 alone, more than 10 tons of drugs were confiscated in Kazakhstan, including 260.7 kg of high-purity heroin. According to the most modest estimates of Kazakhstani specialists, at least 2.6 tons of this kind of heroin passes in transit through the republic to Russia and on to the West every year.15 According to the estimates of U.N. experts, the volume of drug transit could reach 100 tons annually.

What is more, we will note that despite the fact Kazakhstan has diversified its foreign economic policy, its economy is largely focused on Russia. At present, 1/3 of Astana’s foreign trade turnover is oriented toward this country.16 The complementarity and interdependence among many enterprises and branches in these countries is immense. And the level of integration in border regions is particularly high. For example, Kazakhstan’s share in the foreign trade turnover of the Altai Territory amounts to 54%, including approximately 64% of the territory’s export.17 And 61% of the entire import of the East Kazakhstan Region comes from Russia, including up to 25% from the Altai Territory. This also creates an objective connection between the two countries and mutual interest in political stability of the region.

But the interrelationship between our countries is not all smooth sailing. First, the current Kazakhstan leadership is conducting a policy aimed at building a monoethnic state (its “Kazakhization”) under conditions where more than 40% of the country’s population is made up of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens. There is no doubt that a certain amount of discrimination against Russians occurs, and today the Russian question in the republic is extremely urgent.18 It seems to us that in the 1990s, discrimination of Russians by the titular nation was largely related to reshaping political power and redistributing property during privatization. The current Kazakhstan leadership sees the political activation and consolidation of Russians in the republic as a threat to its territorial integrity and state security. Of course, the impatience of Russians living in Kazakhstan with Moscow’s passivity in defending the interests of its fellow countrymen in the CIS and the concerns of the Kazakhstan political elite can also be understood.

Bilateral relations also come up against border and territorial problems, which tend to be kept under wraps but hinder demarcation of the state border. For example, it is still not clear to whom the Korostelev steppes belong, which are located on the border between the Altai Territory and the East Kazakhstan Region.19 And there are even more serious disputes relating to the fact that a significant part of Kazakhstan is much wider than the historically developed territory on which the Kazakhs live and gravitates toward Russia. However the coincidence of strategic interests clearly eclipses the significance of possible territorial disputes. There is no doubt that Russia can essentially regain the lost territories relatively easily (we will note that these losses are for the most part legally enforced) both by stimulating and supporting Russian “autonomists” and “separatists” in Kazakhstan, and by direct military action. As a potential model, the prospect of Russian-Chinese division of the republic can be hypothetically reviewed (the Kazakhs will retain their historically ethnic territory). But in this event, we will get a weak, instable, and hostile Kazakhstan, which will be totally oriented toward anti-Russian forces. Whereas we want the country to be economically strong, friendly, and cooperative in the military-political respect, a regional nation integrated with Russia with a pro-Russian titular nation and a powerful, socioeconomically active Russian-speaking component.

The way to resolve the Russian and territorial questions that Moscow and Astana should be interested in again lies in a strong alliance, including military-political. Forming a single economic, financial, customs, and legal space, as well as establishing open borders for the free movement of people, technology, capital, and merchandise, will be enough to resolve the territorial problems. At the same time, Moscow, while upholding a policy aimed at strong alliance relations with Astana, should encourage its fellow countrymen in Kazakhstan to become actively involved in the political life of their country of residence. This does not mean subordinating themselves to the Kazakhs, but ensuring reliable protection of the interests of Russia and the Russian-speaking citizens of Kazakhstan based on consolidation by means of constitutional methods, and perhaps by creating a Russian party (along the lines of the Russian-speaking residents of Israel). But this party should in no way act under slogans of autonomy and separatism; its key slogan should be a strong alliance between Astana and Moscow. We need the whole of Kazakhstan as an ally and friendly state. In both countries the economic redivision has essentially come to an end, so in this respect, what you see is what we have. Big Russian business should step up its investment policy in Kazakhstan, which should be aimed primarily at using the potential of its economically active Russian and Russian-speaking population. This will also help to resolve the Russian question in the republic, but only if Russia conducts a targeted policy toward establishing alliance relations with it.

Thus there are essentially no insurmountable obstacles to establishing bilateral alliance relations. What is more, there are many reasons pointing toward the inevitability of an alliance between our countries, including in the military-political respect. And Moscow should not put off the drawing up and signing of an alliance treaty with Astana “until tomorrow,” otherwise Kazakhstan may be drawn into the orbit of influence of other large states, whose regional interests far from always coincide with Russia’s. At the same time, Moscow should let Astana know that it intends to build relations with it on an exclusively equal basis, will render it absolute support in achieving its interests on the world arena (providing of course this does not contradict the norms of international law), and will not hinder Kazakhstan in developing its comprehensive relations with other countries, if these relations do not contradict mutually agreed upon obligations. What is more, Kazakhstan must be guaranteed that a bilateral treaty will exclude any new confrontation with NATO, as long as this military-political alliance does not pose a threat to the interests and security of our states.

In our view, the military-political component of the proposed alliance treaty should be furnished with several specific components. The first is automatic entry into war by one of the parties to the treaty in the event of external aggression against the other party, whereby this not only applies to aggression by a state or coalition of states, but also by terrorist organizations. The treaty should set forth in detail the specific quantitative and qualitative participation of each party in any military action. The second component is creating a united military command (along the lines of NATO) based on interaction between the Siberian and Volga-Ural Military Districts of the Russian Federation and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The third component is forming a joint anti-defense system under the united command and equipping the air defense forces with the latest models of Russian weapons (fighter aviation, enemy detection systems, and anti-aircraft missile systems). It would be expedient to envisage mutual responsibility for the safety of the skies, that is, combat duty should be introduced by the Kazakhstan air defense contingent for protecting Russia’s air space and by three Russian contingents for protecting Kazakhstan’s air space. The fourth component is Moscow’s efficient assistance in helping Astana to modernize its air forces, including the delivery of contemporary aircraft, and personnel and military-technical support.

What is more, Russia should help Kazakhstan to form its own rapid deployment airborne division, develop the republic’s naval forces in the Caspian Sea, and also create a joint command of the Russian Federation Caspian flotilla and the Kazakhstan Naval Forces. If the Kazakhstani side is expressing the desire to become a real naval power, in order to achieve this goal, Astana must be allowed to use one of the Russian naval bases in the Pacific Ocean, thus transferring several contemporary diesel-powered submarines and surface ships under the Kazakhstani flag. Subsequently, the Russian and Kazakhstani Armed Forces General Staff must draw up plans for joint operations to repel aggression from a potential enemy in the Central Asian theater of military operations, create a joint zone of responsibility on Kazakhstan’s external borders, form united border troops for full-fledged protection of the borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and transfer responsibility for Russian-Kazakhstani border patrol to the Russian and Kazakhstan Interior Ministry, as well as to the customs services. (Of course, this responsibility can only be transferred if real measures are taken to create a single economic space.) And finally, guarantees must be envisaged of mutual noninterference in each other’s internal affairs and the non-implementation of force against each other under any circumstances, as well as the exclusively defense nature of this alliance.

After making a political decision aimed at building alliance relations with Astana, Moscow will not only be able to defend its national-state interests, but also reinforce Russia’s shaky foothold in Central Asia and help to strengthen peace and stability in this region. In our opinion, the statement by Kazakhstan’s foreign minister on the republic’s intention to join NATO20 does not mean there can be no Russian-Kazakhstan military-political alliance, since this statement was made in keeping with similar statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russia’s possible (in the future) membership in NATO. But suffice it to say that Kazakhstan and Russia’s joining NATO as full-fledged members appears unlikely even in the long term.

The prospect of creating a Russian-Kazakhstan military-political alliance will naturally raise the question of Russia’s military involvement in the affairs of other Central Asian states, in particular Tajikistan. But this gives rise to another question: what force could become the armed guarantor of security and stability of the region? At the end of the 1990s, great hopes were placed on large-scale projects (under the patronage of the U.S. and NATO) regarding the development of its joint armed forces, in particular a joint battalion of the countries of the Central Asian Economic Union, the so-called “Tsentrazbat” (Central Asian Battalion). A peacekeeping Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan battalion was formed, but it did not live up to the expectations placed on it, becoming a semi-bandit anarchic group rather than a combat-ready armed formation. At the beginning of 1999, it came to light that Vadim Us, the commander of this “elite” subdivision, was a common thief. A financial audit revealed instances of embezzlement of large amounts of funds allotted to maintain the battalion, and instances were also exposed of the systematic use of its soldiers for purposes (mercantile) other than those for which they were intended. Unauthorized relations flourished in the contingents, which were even cultivated by the officer instructors themselves.21 The low combat-readiness of “Tsentrazbat” is shown by the fact that the leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan decided not to make use of it during the Batken events in 1999-2000, which demonstrated the overall military weakness of the states of post-Soviet Central Asia.22

Another regional organization called upon to ensure security in the region is the Collective Security Treaty of the CIS countries, to which (as already noted) Russia and Kazakhstan are party, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan from among the other Central Asian states. In the wake of the Batken events, the member states of the CST created a CIS Antiterrorist Center in December 2000, which is located in Bishkek, and in 2001, the Rapid Deployment Collective Forces of the CST republics went into operation, the headquarters of which is also based in the Kyrgyzstan capital. But we should agree with the opinion of several experts that the Treaty did not become a tool for successfully developing regional cooperation in ensuring security.23 This, it seems, is because in many respects the CST is exclusively declarative in nature.

In our opinion, resolving security issues in Central Asia within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) does not have any serious prospects either.24 First, the configurations of Beijing’s potential policy in the region are not entirely clear, and there is always the lurking threat that relations between the PRC and the other participants in this organization could develop along confrontational lines. In so doing, China’s foreign policy principles deny the possibility of it joining any military-political blocs. Second, formation of the SCO envisaged a latent anti-American element. Today however, taking into account the U.S. military presence in the region, it is impossible to ignore the American component in Central Asian policy. In our opinion, we should agree with A.D. Bogaturov’s viewpoint, expressed during the international seminar on “Security in ‘Contact Zones’ of Asian Russia and Central Asia: Experience and Practice of Regulating Ethnopolitical Tension” (Barnaul, February 2002), as well as at the international conference on “Russia’s Western Siberia-Central Asia: New Regional Identity, Economics, and Security” (Belokurikha, May 2002). He noted that Washington is currently viewing the formation of military coalitions in Central Asia without U.S. participation and without heeding American interests as anti-American activity. The United States will of course hinder the emergence of this type of coalition. However, with respect to a potential Russian-Kazakhstan alliance, taking into account that it would in no way espouse any blatant anti-American moods and pro-Russian sentiments clearly predominate among the population of Kazakhstan, the United States is unlikely to insist on hindering the formation of this kind of military-political organization. However, the U.S.’s participation in a military coalition under the SCO is problematic since Washington is unlikely to condone any kind of military-political alliance with the PRC. Third, Uzbekistan will, in our opinion, object to the formation of real institutions for ensuring regional security within the SCO, since in many respects its regional strivings contradict the interests of other members of the SCO.25 What is more, it appears that participation in the SCO for Tashkent is not important for developing real cooperation, but for reinforcing Uzbekistan’s regional status.

One of the alternatives for ensuring security in Central Asia appears to be the U.S. presence in the region due to the military operation in Afghanistan and taking into account that the Americans seem to be here “for the long haul.” This essentially corresponds to the ideology of American foreign policy in the post-Soviet space.26 The United States has already chosen a strategic regional partner and ally. The lot fell on Uzbekistan.27 And by undermining the Taliban’s forces and possibilities in Afghanistan, the Americans objectively resolved an important security problem for Russia and temporarily mitigated the threat of Islamic extremism, but in no way removed the problem of the Afghan drug business from the agenda. What is more, according to some sources, at present the drug business in Afghanistan has perceptibly burgeoned. Washington’s main efforts in Central Asia are aimed primarily at achieving global, systemic goals, i.e. implementing a “leveling-off strategy” (within the international system of “pluralistic monopolarity”) and reinforcing the Brussels-Washington world order (A.D. Bogaturov’s terminology). In this respect, the U.S.’s strategic tasks will apparently boil down to economic, military, and cultural-ideological enforcement of its principles in this region under slogans of complementarity, “mutual need,” and the dissemination of “democratic values,” as well as under the pretext of fighting international terrorism, the remnants of “Russian colonialism,” and backwardness.28

But it seems the U.S. cannot, will not, and does not want to assume absolute control over the international and ethnopolitical situation within the regional Central Asian subsystem. Washington is unlikely to exert any serious efforts to intercept drug transit to Russia and on to the West, to fight Islamic extremism in the region, or to guarantee its states protection from possible domestic political cataclysms, which could threaten Russia’s security. For this would contradict America’s “leveling-off strategy” aimed at inducing centrifugal trends in Russia and the post-Soviet space.29 Reality shows that the U.S. has its own tasks in Central Asia. If the interests of Washington and Moscow coincide, America may help it to overcome certain regional problems, but it will not resolve Russia’s security problems for it if there are no direct benefits in this for the White House. These are problems Russia must deal with on its own, along with its real Central Asian allies.

Some experts in international affairs think that a significant share of responsibility for security in Central Asia, particularly for the situation in Tajikistan, should be delegated to Uzbekistan.30 After all, its relatively high defensibility is explained by the fact that after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R., Tashkent inherited a large amount of contemporary weapons from the Red Banner Turkestan Military District and several military academies, and its national armed forces were replenished by the best representatives of the Soviet Army’s officer corps. The strength of Uzbekistan’s armed forces currently comprises approximately 80,000 servicemen. But delegating Tashkent some of the responsibility for security in Central Asia would be an extremely unpropitious solution to the problem, since it appears that Uzbekistan today, along with Afghanistan, is playing more of a destabilizing role in the regional subsystem of international relations. Within Central Asia, it is placing particular emphasis on the conception of restoring “Greater Turkestan,” implementation of which is called upon to ensure Uzbekistan’s dominance in the region. The republic’s leadership is putting up tough resistance against any infringement on its role as Central Asian leader, which in many respects is complicating relations with neighboring states.

In order to “neutralize the Iranian-speaking factor,” Uzbekistan is conducting an active policy with respect to Tajikistan.31 First, by isolating it under the pretext of fighting drug transit and illegal migration, which is expressed in an actual transportation blockade of Dushanbe, the toughening up of border control, which is often taken to the extreme, and the unilateral speeding up of state border delimitation and demarcation accompanied by the erection of special engineering structures along it and the detonation of mine fields.32 Ordinary Tajik citizens are mainly suffering from this action, most of whom who have nothing to do with the drug business, smuggling, or illegal migration. As for illegal migration, it is precisely Uzbekistan’s policy in this area that most often prompts the residents of Tajikistan to illegally cross the border. Second, Tashkent, counter to the wishes of official Dushanbe and the Tajik people, is striving to have an impact on the domestic Tajik situation. In particular, it (at least indirectly) supported Colonel M. Khudoiberdyev (an ethnic Uzbek) during the antigovernment uprising, which the latter organized in September 1997. What is more, the repressive policy of official Tashkent against the Uzbek opposition is also having an impact on the situation in Tajikistan. After leaving their own country, many Uzbek Islamists have moved into the mountainous regions of the neighboring republic, where they are not subordinate to the leader of the United Tajik Opposition Said Abdullo Nuri and are destabilizing the domestic political situation and the national reconciliation process.

Against this background, relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent are aggravated by the volatile ethnic conflict potential accumulating in the border regions. For example, more than one million Tajiks in the Surkhandaria Region of Uzbekistan are the targets of coercive Turkization, and a large Uzbek diaspora lives in Western Uzbekistan, which suffered during the civil war in this country during the 1990s. Regardless of their political inclinations, the Tajik people objectively will not accept Tashkent’s participation as a mediator in the inter-Tajik reconciliation process and will not consider Uzbekistan as a guarantor of security and stability in their country, at least while Islam Karimov’s regime is in power there. Evidence of this is the tempestuous response of official Dushanbe and the country’s citizens to the bombing of several population settlements in the Djirgatal Region of the republic by Uzbekistan’s air force, as well as Islam Karimov’s statement that his country had every right to unilaterally conduct a military operation in Tajikistan during the Batken events. Of course, it is not difficult to understand Tashkent’s concern about the threat to security from its neighboring republic, but at the same time it must recognize that its unreasoned and brutal policy toward Dushanbe could lead to curtailment of the civil reconciliation process in Tajikistan and bring the entire region to the brink of a bloody conflict.

Relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are not developing smoothly either. The border question has still not been resolved; experts count up to 130 disputable sections on their borders.33 What is more, Tashkent is demanding that Bishkek grant it a twenty-kilometer corridor by way of territorial concession, which connects the main part of the country with the Uzbek Sokh enclave. Uzbekistan has also stated more than once that it will halt shipments of natural gas to this republic.34

Despite the many optimistic statements by Nursultan Nazarbaev and Islam Karimov, as well as the signed declarations and treaties, the serious contradictions in relations between Tashkent and Astana have not been smoothed out. Among them we will note the following: several territorial issues have not been settled, the problem of distributing water resources has not been resolved, which has led on several occasions to ethnic clashes and border guards being killed in the border region, and a permanent “trade war” is still going on between these states. On the whole, it appears that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are more geopolitical rivals than partners. In so doing, since Russia is supposed to be developing a strong alliance with Kazakhstan, it will have to take the republic’s side in this rivalry, and with respect to leadership in Central Asia, it is in Moscow’s interest that Astana assume this role. But this must be accompanied by Russia’s flexible policy toward Uzbekistan and should not interfere in the development of their mutually advantageous economic trade ties.

So in our view Tashkent cannot be a guarantor of peace and stability in the region, particularly in Tajikistan (at least in the mid term). This role can objectively only be played by Russia today. When striving to harmonize its regional interests with Washington’s similar interests to the extent possible, it must avoid (as long as the situation does not directly threaten Russia) a conflict with the U.S. at all costs, while retaining its long-term military-political presence on the far borders of Central Asia. The matter concerns the Russian Border Group and the 201st Russian Division in Tajikistan. We think it would be cheaper and more reliable to reinforce the infrastructure and establish a normal state border protection system in the region of Tajikistan where the Panj (along the River Panj, i.e. along a natural border), Moscow, and Khorugh (the mountain paths through the passes must be securely closed here) border contingents are deployed than close the border with Kazakhstan or even Kazakhstan’s southern border. Today, unfortunately, Tajikistan has become a unique segment of Afghanistan’s drug economy, from which Russia also significantly suffers. But its withdrawal from Tajikistan will not resolve the problem since drug trafficking is their common “headache.” Drugs naturally do not go from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Russia and on to the West without the participation of Russian and western criminal groups. According to some unofficial data, up to 80% of the Afghan poison passes through Tajikistan with the knowledge of the Russian border guards, and a significant portion of it goes through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, bypassing Tajikistan. And it makes essentially no difference where corruption flourishes, on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan or on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. Moscow must wage an irreconcilable war against this kind of negative phenomenon, primarily establishing elementary regulatory, personnel, financial, and so on, order in the armed forces, Interior Ministry, and Federal Border Guard Service. What is more, attention should be paid to the fact that drugs are mainly shipped in large trucks along two main routes, the Khorugh-Osh Highway and the Karakorum Highway, which must be immediately intercepted. We will note that drug transit through Tajikistan is a problem and threat not only for Russia, but also for the countries of Western Europe, for this is where most of the high-purity heroin is sent. In this way, the West should be realistically interested in closing this channel of drug transit (which is also a good possibility for prospective partnership between Russia and NATO). In our opinion, it would be expedient to review, within the NATO-Russia program, the question of forming a European Regiment for jointly patrolling the Tajik-Afghan border, of course, with the consent of Tajikistan.

It should also be noted that with Russia’s participation the reconciliation process in Tajikistan, as well as gradual establishment of official Dushanbe’s control over the entire republic, is relentlessly going on despite all the immense difficulties. And the withdrawal of Russian border guards and the 201st Division from the region may undermine this still tenuous process. What is more, without final political stabilization there can be no talk of serious foreign investments being made in the republic’s economy, which means there can be no real economic boom in the country, unemployment will begin rising again, which in turn will encourage the local population to engage in the drug business. Whether we like it or not, the Russian military is the real guarantor of peace in Tajikistan today. There is no doubt that consolidated big Russian business will come to the market of this country, primarily to the non-ferrous metal and energy resource market (of course, with the establishment of stable peace and a Russian military presence in the republic), which will also promote an overall strengthening of Russia’s foothold in Central Asia.

The fact that the Tajik people see Russia as their strategic ally and guarantor of internal stability and do not want Moscow to leave the region speaks in favor of retaining and expanding the Russian presence in Tajikistan. It does not appear expedient for Russia to distance itself from a state that wishes to maintain alliance relations with it and is ready to have Russian military bases on its territory. In so doing, Moscow must draw up an integral conception of its policy in Central Asia, the basis of which, in our opinion, should consist of the following components: a policy aimed at forming alliance relations with Kazakhstan and helping it to become the leading country in the region, at regaining its military-political and expanding its economic presence in Tajikistan, turning this state into “ally No. 2” in Central Asia, at coordinating efforts to resolve the main regional security problems (fighting the drug business and religious extremism) with Western countries, and at shifting the accent in border policy to joint protection of the external borders of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and if Bishkek so desires, also of Kyrgyzstan. In addition, relations with all the Central Asian states should be built on an equal basis, completely rejecting an “imperial” policy and developing economic cooperation with them primarily within the framework of Eurasian Economic Union programs.

The most important thing, in our view, is that the Russian leadership must finally recognize two things. First, when implementing its foreign policy in a particular region it must not try and keep a balance between the interests of former union republics, for it is impossible “to divide everything up evenly,” or “give everyone the same amount of love,” in other words, priorities must be determined. Second, Russia should not keep on making concessions on the world arena, including in regional policy. It must learn how, under conditions of tough competition, without coming to loggerheads, to flexibly, but at the same time resolutely, defend its national interests and ensure its national security. Only in this way will Russia be able to gain a strong foothold and occupy a worthy niche in the new configuration of international relations.


1 A.D. Bogaturov, N.A. Kosolapov, M.A. Khrustalev, Ocherki teorii i politicheskogo analiza mezhdunardnykh otnoshenii, Moscow, 2002, pp. 263-264.
2 See: A.D. Bogaturov, Velikie derzhavy na Tikhom okeane, Moscow, 1997, p. 286.
3 See: Ibid., p. 283. For the opinion of the author of this article on the long-term prospects for relations between Russia and China, see: O.V. Boronin, “Ten drakona nad Altaiem,” Evraziiskoe prostranstvo v postsovetskii period: etnokul’turnaia spetsifika sotsialnykh i politicheskikh protsessov (Volgograd), No. 1, 2001.
4 For possible scenarios of China’s domestic political development, see: A.D. Voskresenskiy, Rossia i Kitai: teoriia i istoriia mezhgosudarstvennykh otnoshenii, Moscow, 1999, pp. 279-284.
5 For more detail, see: V.S. Miasnikov, Dogovornymi statiami utverdili… Moscow, 1996; V.A. Moiseev, Tsinskaia imperiia i narody Saiano-Altaia v XVIII v., Moscow, 1983; O.V. Boronin, Dvoedannichestvo v Sibiri. XVII—60-e gg. XIX vv., Barnaul, 2002.
6 See: V.A. Grozin, V.N. Khliupin, Respublika Kazakhstan. Geopoliticheskie ocherki, Moscow, 1997; V. Babak, “Astana v treugol’nike Moskva-Vashington-Pekin,” Tsentralnaia Azia i Kavkaz, No. 1 (7), 2000, pp. 170-171.
7 See: V.L. Tsymburskiy, “Geopolitika dlia ‘evraziiskoi Atlantidy,’” Pro et Contra, Vol. 4, No. 4. Problemy globalizatsii, Moscow, 1999, p. 157.
8 See: V.V. Stefashin, “Osnovnye politicheskie aspekty voennoi doktriny Kitaia,” Vostok, No. 6, 1992, pp. 97, 104-105.
9 See: V.V. Stefashin, “Sovremennaia voennaia doktrina Kitaia,” Voennaia mysl, No. 1, 1993, p. 67.
10 See text of the Shanghai Agreement in: Vneshniaia politika i bezopasnost’ sovremennoi Rossii, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1999, pp. 470-477.
11 For the text of this treaty, see: Vneshniaia politika i bezopasnost’ sovremennoi Rossii, Vol. 2, pp. 321-324.
12 See: V.A. Grozin, V.N. Khliupin, Respublika Kazakhstan. Geopoliticheskie ocherki, Moscow, 1997, p. 31.
13 E. Nurshin, “Taliby uzhe v Almate. Oni podniali chetvertoe znamia islama,” XXI vek, 9-18 October, 1998.
14 See: Novoe pokolenie (Almaty), No. 25, 2 June, 2000.
15 See: R. Satova, S. Suraganova, G. Akhmetova, “Svobodnaia torgovlia i pogranichniy kontrol. Mery po predotvrashcheniiu nezakonnoi torgovli narkotikami,” in: Bezopasnost, diplomatiia i mezhdunarodnoe pravo, Astana, 2001.
16 See: Z. Abdildina, R. Sembaeva, “Osnovnye printsipy formirovaniia vneshnetorgovoi politiki Respubliki Kazakhstan, ” in: Bezopasnost, diplomatiia i mezhdunarodnoe pravo.
17 See: N.G. Zagainov, “Altaisky krai— aziatskii rubezh Rossii. Vneshneekonomicheskie aspekty sotrudnichestva s sopredelnymi gosudarstvami,” in: Sibir v structure transaziatskikh sviazei: problemy prigranichoi torgovli i mezhregionalnogo vzaimodeistviia,. Barnaul, 2000, p. 18.
18 See: Genotsid. Russkie v Kazakhstane: tragicheskaia sudba, Moscow, 2001; V.A. Moiseev, “Russkii vopros v Kazakhstane i politika Rossii: vzgliad iz Sibiri,” in: Rossia-Tsentral’naia Azia: problemy migratsii i bezopasnosti, Barnaul, 2002; idem, Rossia-Kazakhstan: sovremennye mify i istoricheskaia real’nost, Barnaul, 2001; A.V. Petrenko, “Kazakhskii opyt postroeniia monoetnicheskogo gosudarstva,” in: Sibir v sisteme mezhdunarodnykh sviazei, Tomsk, 2001.
19 See: Altaiskaia gubernia-Kazakhstan. 1917-125. Istoria administrativno-territorial’nogo razgranicheniia (sbornik dokumentov i materialov), Compiled by N.I. Razgon, V.A. Moiseev, Barnaul, 2001.
20 See: M. Gordeeva, “NATO—byt’ ili ne byt’,” Novoe pokolenie, 26 July, 2002, p. 3.
21 Argumenty i fakty (Kazakhstan), No. 15, April 1999.
22 For more detail on these events, see a series of articles in Tsentralnaia Azia i Kavkaz, No. 1 (7), 2000.
23 See: Roger N. McDermott, “Russia’s Security Agenda in Central Asia,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 2 (14), 2002.
24 For more detail on this organization, see, for example: D. Trofimov, “Shanghai Process: From the ‘Five’ to the Cooperation Organization. Summing Up the 1990s and Looking Ahead,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 2 (14), 2002.
25 See: S.V. Biriukov, “Politika Rossii v otnoshenii novykh nezavisimykh gosudarstv: problema vybora strategii (na primere Uzbekistana),” Vostok, No. 1, 2001.
26 See: Z. Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard. American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Basic Books, New York, 1997, pp. 125-133, 140-150.
27 See: A.S. Dundich, “Uzbekistan-SSHA: osobennosti vzaimodeistviia posle 11 sentiabria 2001,” Vostokovednye issledovaniia na Altae, Issue III, Barnaul, 2002.
28 V.S. Boiko, “Politika SShA v Tsentral’noi Azii i Afganistane posle sobytii 11 sentiabria 2001 (vnutrennee i vneshnee izmereniia),” Rossia, Sibir i Tsentral’naia Azia: vzaimodeistvie narodov i kul’tur, Barnaul, 2001, p. 225.
29 See: A.D. Bogaturov, N.A. Kosolapov, M.A. Khrustalev, op. cit., pp. 364-365.
30 See: Ibid., p. 264.
31 See: S.V. Biriukov, op. cit., p. 90.
32 See: S.V. Golunov, “Faktor novykh granits kak problema bezopasnosti postsovetskikh stran Tsentral’noi Azii,” Rossia-Tsentralnaia Azia: problema migratsii i bezopasnosti, p. 33.
33 See: K. Mambetaliev, “Problemy kyrgyzsko-uzbekskoi granitsy v osveshchenii SMI Kyrgyzstana,” in: Mnogomernye granitsy Tsentral’noi Azii, Moscow, 1999.
34 See: S. Zhumagulov, “‘Gazovaia blokada’ Kyrgyzstana,” Navigator, 20 February, 2001.

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