THE GREAT GAME IN THE EURASIAN HEARTLAND: A NEW SPIRAL
Rustam Makhmudov, Independent researcher (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
The collapse of the Soviet Union revived active geopolitical processes of regional and global dimensions across Central Asia. This could not but bring to mind the post-imperial past when the region was an arena for the great geopolitical game between Soviet Russia (which replaced the Russian Empire) and the British Empire.
Today, the situation is much more complicated in many respects. In the early 20th century, two main players operated in a region full of weak states (Afghanistan, the Bukhara Emirate, and the like). In the early 21st century, many more outside actors are involved: Russia, the U.S. and the E.U. complete with NATO, their military component, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India.
Within the region, all the local states (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) are actively positioning themselves as geopolitical entities of particular importance. Their elites have already formulated their national interests and are busy with fairly consistent strategies for their defense and promotion. The effects, however, vary depending on the countries geopolitical potential.
Afghanistan is another system-forming factor of regional geopolitics that affects, if not all, at least many of their aspects. This is a unique country that geopolitically belongs to three regions—Central Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia—while remaining, to a certain extent, a sub-region with a development logic of its own.
The fairly vague nature of its geopolitical status is responsible for a great deal of spontaneity in Central Eurasian politics and the balance of forces. It is a unique geopolitical phenomenon: domination of one of the regional actors (for example, Pakistan, which prevailed there in the mid-1990s) tips the balance of forces in the neighboring regions and introduces a great deal of instability. The other regional actors are responding with more active involvement in the “Afghan developments:” Iran, India, and some of the Central Asian countries deemed it necessary to support the Northern Alliance against the Taliban with its Pakistani bias.
On the other hand, the ascent of one of the extra-regional powers over Afghanistan stirs up apprehension among all or at least a large number of the regional and some of the influential external actors. There is always the threat that one of the external actors might use Afghanistan as a springboard for geopolitical expansion. Iran and Pakistan, as well as the United States and China, were very concerned about the Soviet military presence in the country and shared the fears that Moscow might press southward, to the Indian Ocean.
In fact, the regional countries are fully aware of the potential threats to their “living expanses” (partially or completely connected with Afghanistan’s strategic field) created by unilateral domination in Afghanistan of one of…………….