THE GREATER CENTRAL ASIA PROJECT: PRESENT STATE AND EVOLUTION
Gulsana Tulepbergenova, Expert, Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Fund of the First RK President (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
The Greater Central Asia (GCA) project initiated in 2005 confirmed that the United States treated the region as a foreign policy and security priority. The project was primarily promoted by the changed balance of forces in favor of Russia and partly China, which called for an adequate strategic and geopolitical response.
At the same time, the Greater Central Asia idea can be viewed as a conceptual and ideological substantiation of what the United States is trying to accomplish in the region. This is a fresh (and logical) approach to America’s entire previous foreign policy theory and practical regional policy.
In a wider sense the project is a strategic matrix the United States is using in Central Asia, the Caspian, and Afghanistan to channel the local geopolitical, military-political, and geo-economic developments in the desired direction. In fact, this is a mechanism for organizing the geopolitical expanse akin to the Greater Middle East. It is no coincidence that theoretically both projects are mutually complementary.
America has run into serious difficulties in Central Asia, which casts doubt on the GCA’s future. In 2008, after concentrating on the Caucasus the United States pushed Central Asia to the backburner. The events in South Ossetia riveted the attention of the U.S. Administration to the Georgian problem and relations with Russia. The Americans had to maintain a far from simple dialog with their European partners, who refused to take any anti-Russian steps. America’s passive Central Asian strategy, however, has preserved some of the key parameters and elements the U.S. will reproduce in the long term in its regional policies. This means that we should take a closer look at the trends and prospects of the Greater Central Asia project.
The GCA Project: America’s Response to the Regional Geopolitical Challenges. Is it Effective?
Contrary to the widely accepted idea about the revolutionary nature of the GCA project for U.S. policy in Central Asia, it was devised merely because the George W. Bush Administration had no alternative. So it was a somewhat forced and logical strategic step, even though the U.S. State Department had discussed the idea a year earlier.
Close scrutiny reveals that the project contains the key ideas of America’s policies of the 1990s (Central Asia should be removed from the sphere of Russia’s and China’s control while the bulk of its energy resources should be redirected via Afghanistan in addition to across the Caspian). In their new wrapping these ideas developed into a new comprehensive and strategic approach to the region that was given the new name of Greater Central Asia after the following circumstances in 2005:
1. Combined Russian and Chinese influence in the region reached dangerous levels at which the local countries might irrevocably turn to cooperation with both of these powers at the bilateral level and within the SCO.
2. The trans-Caspian and trans-Afghanistan pipeline projects had been shelved while China and Russia were moving toward even greater influence in the production and export of……………….