Russian security strategy in Central Asia

Authored by: Graeme Gill , Yelena Nikolayevna Zabortseva

Routledge Handbook of Russian Security

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815396710
eBook ISBN: 9781351181242
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351181242-31

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Abstract

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 transformed Central Asia (CA) into a zone of increased uncertainty in the eyes of Russian policymakers. Historically, this region had been economically and politically tied to Russia, with foreign powers largely excluded. With the Soviet collapse and the independence of the five constituent states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – and with the large energy resources in the region, it became a zone of geopolitical and geoeconomic competition in a way it had not been before (e.g. Rumer et al., 2017). Domestic regional problems also became more salient. Despite the ‘relative peace’ that the region had been said to experience since 1991 (Robinson, 2012), it has seen Civil War in Tajikistan, a colour revolution in Kyrgyzstan, civil violence in Uzbekistan, and military conflict or unrest on its borders in Afghanistan and Sinjiang. It is a region of highly authoritarian states with significant levels of corruption, generally weak domestic governance and poor human rights records (Hallgren & Ghiasy, 2017, 8). It is a principal component of the land-based corridors between China, Europe and the Middle East, and is a region of vast differences, underdeveloped infrastructure and significant security issues (Hauff, 2015). It is an area of significant challenge to Russia (e.g. SIPRI, 2015) and one with which it has had strong historic ties. Thus, while Russia’s interest in the region has been described as nationalist and chauvinist (MacHaffie, 2010, 374), Russia was bound to seek to protect its interests in the region in the face of these new challenges.

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