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Although the Nazi-Soviet Pact of briefly gave Germany potential access to oil in the Caucuses, once Hitler and Stalin were at war, the Eurasian Heartland became a key objective for German attacks. The tenacity of the U. Each realised that the injection of American power into Eurasia would preclude his ambitions regarding global domination. Nevertheless, CA is the linchpin between Asia and Europe.

Thus, keeping CA autonomous is vital to preventing any one power gaining dominance in Eurasia. Kazakhstan has 30 billion barrels of oil reserves. This is, clearly, enough to create a sizable, annual annuity for each Kazakh. It is a dilemma: movements that seek to establish Islamist governments. In addition, Tajikistan had what amounted to a civil war in the early and mids. Also, because CA borders on Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is no question that instability could stem from inside CA leading out or the reverse.

The biggest uncertainty facing Central Asia is: what will happen when Western forces leave Afghanistan? The major powers U. At present, the object of all these states is influence and to avoid any single other power gaining a dominant position. Before turning to the roles of the outside powers, we will provide more background on the trends inside the CA states.

As noted above, Islamist and separatist groups have become increasingly able to challenge established governments in CA. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov ascended directly to power from their positions as Soviet party leaders and have brooked no opposition since. President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan represents a similar form of secular, authoritarian leader. Ironically, only in Turkmenistan, which is the most isolated of the CA states, has there been a peaceful transition of power since ; there when President Saparmurat Niyazov died in , Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov emerged from, still private, maneuvering to claim the presidency.

Berdymukhamedov has not been openly challenged since. Thus, in four of the five states of Central Asia we have a general pattern: authoritarian, secular leaders run societies that are overwhelmingly Muslim. This creates an inherent tension between values of the public and the leadership. In those cases where there is radical Islamic organisational ability that the governments cannot completely suppress, periodic uprisings occur.

Hence, it is reasonable to surmise that Central Asia has more political instability ahead. Presidents Nazarbayev and Karimov are in their 70s, so future aspirants to power will be positioning themselves; and, throughout the region, the rise of militant Islam will challenge secular governments.


At various times in the past two decades both Iran and Turkey have made efforts to expand contacts and influence in CA. The regional power with the most intent and capability to affect CA is India. The problem is that no company will build the TAPI line without a secure peace in Afghanistan and improved relations between Pakistan and India. However, even if the TAPI pipeline is not built, India would still like to have good relations with CA so that it is not facing united, northern Islamic antagonism. This has not yet yielded close ties in CA, but its minimum objective has been achieved as India does not find itself excluded from the region.

As mentioned, the long-term involvement means that there are close personal contacts with most of the current leadership in CA, ease of communication in Russian, and, in many cases, common approaches to issues. After the demise of the Soviet Union, President Yeltsin took little interest in CA and many of the leaders there felt abandoned.

Moscow has also pressed the CA states to cooperate in national security arrangements or in aligning with Russian positions on controversies that many in CA found unacceptable. The United States faces serious intervention fatigue after its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the start of these wars, few foreign affairs specialists and even fewer of the American public would have anticipated that U. Thus, the public sentiment in the U.

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For example, this experience is surely inhibiting President Obama from making any large-scale commitments to intervene in Syria. Nevertheless, the question remains: what role will the U. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are both states that see their neighbours as problematic and may want an outside friend, if not ally. Also, there may be purely pragmatic regimes that see financial benefits from allowing American use of their roads, rails, or airports. Moreover, even though Turkmenistan has been strictly neutral and isolationist, it has chosen to let China be a major developer of its gas reserves.

This has been a source of irritation to Russia but an indication that policy-makers in Ashgabat see merit in diversifying their potential supporters. The effort to counter-vale the influence of Russia with China might even bring Turkmenistan to seeing the benefit of ties with the United States. That means that policy-makers in Washington may end up focusing on narrower goals, such as countering Islamic militant groups and maintaining sufficiently good relations with some CA states so that US forces can gain access in critical situations.

Yet, the more ambitious objectives of promoting democracy and transparent government which characterised American policy in the s seem unattainable and a relic of the past. Clearly, the most enigmatic outside power today in Central Asia is China. Although official Chinese policy emphasises the importance of CA, Beijing is actually keeping a very limited profile. Thus, it is understandable that Beijing wants to pursue a low-keyed approach to energy acquisition that keeps China out of the limelight.

The question of how to deal with Islamic fundamentalism poses a more complex challenge. At present, China is content to have the United States take the lead in dealing with Muslim terrorists. Also, China has worked diligently to keep good relations with both Sunnis and Shias in the Muslim world.

Beijing needs Iranian oil, so has been unwilling to take a stance against the Assad regime in Syria which is aligned with Tehran. Moreover, ties with Shia states gives China acceptable relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Gaza as well.

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Although Beijing and New Delhi have cordial relations for public consumption, leaders in both states know that each represents the main regional rival to the other. All of these moves will give Beijing options in the future but China cannot please all of these states indefinitely. If there is greater turmoil in Central and South Asia when NATO forces leave Afghanistan, China will need to decide whether it is willing to intervene to play a stabilising role.

Otherwise, China will need to cede the role of aspiring outside powers to Iran, India, Pakistan, and Russia, each of which has shown interest in greater influence in Central Asia. He has a B. Economic and Security Policy in the Pacific Basin. I References 1. Lawrence, Susan V. Pye, L. Norton, Darden, K. Cooley, A. Oliker, O. Schlapak, U.

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