Geopolitics of Central Asia: Between the Russian Bear and the Chinese Dragon

  The state and prospects of geopolitical cooperation between Russia and Central Asia will be discussed from the point of view of Greater Central Asia. The Central Asian project can be described as a broad strategic matrix that the United States uses for proper managing the systematic, political, and economic situation in Central Asia, the Caspian region, and Afghanistan.

  The Central Asian region is another active participant in world politics. The political position of Central Asia between the West and the East has a special transit potential and will continue growing. But the main thing is the presence of natural resources in the region, and not only oil and gas (but also more than a third of the world's uranium reserves are mined here, as well as gold, copper, manganese, zinc, nickel, aluminum, etc.), which makes it incredibly attractive for the great powers of the world.

  Russia, together with other developed world powers, defended its geopolitical interests in Central Asia since the 17th century, and it was the 21st century that created a new geopolitical landscape [11].

  In the 19th century, Afghanistan served as a strategic buffer state between the Russian Empire and the British Empire. In 1917, Afghanistan's relations with Moscow became warmer. Soviet Russia was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Afghanistan in 1919, after the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The 1921 and 1926 treaties provided ample opportunities for solving the problems of both countries.

  When Emir Khabibullah came to power in 1929, relations (ties) between the two countries has practically been broken. The emir's support for the Basmachi movement angered the USSR. In September 1929, Nadir Shah was proclaimed the ruler of Afghanistan. The USSR did not try to influence events in the neighboring country, and Afghanistan's neutrality in World War II was satisfactory.

  Beginning from 1954, when his relative (uncle's son), General M. Dovud, became the prime minister, he embarked on reforms based on the principle of "economic orientation". The strengthening of ties between Afghanistan and the USSR became evident.

  During the implementation of the first five-year plan (1956-1961) and the second (1962-1967), enterprises and economic infrastructure facilities, which form the basis of the country's economy, were built in Afghanistan. Have emerged Industries such as auto repair, mining, chemicals, cement manufacturing, and residential construction.

  By 1978, 73 objects of the national economy have been built and 63 objects have been planned. Hydroelectric and thermal power plants built with the support of the USSR generated about 60 percent of the country's electricity. With the help of Soviet specialists, gas production wells and geological exploration were carried out, as well as agricultural enterprises were built in Jalalabad, a polytechnic Institute in Kabul, and a mechanical repair plant in Jangalag.

  National economy specialists were trained by Soviet teachers both in the USSR and directly in Afghanistan. Military ties played a big role. In search of a model for military development, Afghanistan turned to the United States in the 1950s, but was refused. The leadership of the USSR agreed to a meeting, and the military specialists of the USSR drew up a program for the renovation of the tsarist armed forces. Since 1960, Afghan officers have been trained in the USSR.

  The construction of semicircular roads along the Soviet border in the Kushka region through Kandahar and Kabul and north of the Salang Pass, where an important tunnel was built on the road to Mazar-i-Sharif to the Soviet border, contributed to the development of Afghanistan. The road contributed to the economic and political decentralization of the country.

  International organizations, in particular the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, provided assistance to Afghanistan. Funds for the construction of facilities (project financing) were provided by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran - $ 10 million each, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, China, Great Britain and others. The financial support by the most powerful states (powers) of the world – USSR was 1100, and 500 million dollars – by the United States [9, p. 4-5].

  Regarding geopolitical situation, the absence of anti-Soviet foreign military facilities on Afghan soil was alarming and restless for the tranquility of the border situation, and the financial contribution of the USSR to the restoration (reconstruction) of Afghanistan was insignificant.

  In the early 70s. Solzhenitsyn called Central Asia "the belly of Russia." The phrase is borrowed from English political science. Churchill first called the Balkans "the belly of Europe" (the soft belly of the esophagus) in 1942. "Soft" because it made it easier for the Allies to destroy Hitler. [16]. The definition of the potential leader of the Russian nationalists is very vague. But there is nowhere to go "the word is not a sparrow, it will fly out, you will not catch it."

  The reforms in the Islamic world of the 1970s disrupted the system of socio-political relations between two countries and led to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. The rejection of secular reform was the cause of the Islamic revolution in Iran.

  But let's get back to Afghanistan again. In the early 1970s, the monarchy became more tolerant of the middle class, bourgeoisie, merchants and entrepreneurs. He was considered incapable of change. As a result, on July 17, 1973, the Shah was overthrown.

   The king's uncle, General M. Dovud was at the head of the coup (behind the coup). The officers - members of the People's Democratic Party were also took part at the coup. Afghanistan was proclaimed a Republic, and M. Dovud was declared president. It soon became clear that the king, who, according to the convictions of the reformers, impeded reforms, (in fact) was a factor contributing to the strengthening of the reformed society.

  Already in June 1975, Islamists - supporters of G. Hekmatyar with the help of the Pakistani authorities in Parwan (Panjshir since 2004) and a number of other provinces raised an uprising (raised a rebellion/ revolted).

  President M. Dovud, nicknamed the "Red Prince" by the Islamists, tried to maintain order during the reforms. After the next instigating to a rebellion, he removed the left (opposition) from his advisers until 1976. In foreign policy, Dovud took the same steps: weakened Afghanistan's relations with the USSR and expanded and strengthened ties with the United States, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

  Therefore, preparations for a magnificent celebration began in Saudi Arabia as a result of this policy. Upon his return to Afghanistan, M. Dovud began to suppress the democratic movement and persecute leftist forces in the army.

In response, the military, members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, overthrew M. Dovud. Since his coming to power in the USSR, more than 3000 Afghan officers have been trained [9, p.7-8].

With the coming of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan to power in April 1978, which was ideologically close to the Soviet Union, cooperation (relations, ties) between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan strengthened and expanded. Already on December 5, 1978, the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborly Cooperation between the USSR and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was signed in Moscow [10].

Subsequent events led to a struggle in the ranks, and then the defeat of the PDPA, and the escalation of the civil war. As a result, at the end of December 1979, a limited contingent of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan. The events took place in Afghanistan from December 25, 1979 to February 15, 1989. The entry of the USSR into Afghanistan raised worldwide discontent (created a worldwide movement). The Sovietization of Afghanistan was a threat to China. The hypothetical "breakthrough" of the USSR through the Persian Gulf was preferable (gave an advantage) in relations with China. However, China has supported the Afghan opposition. Pakistan, which had a disputed border with Afghanistan in the area of Pashtun tribes, did not take advantage of its neighbor's internal instability.

For the Muslim world, the actions of the atheistic USSR were aggression against a Muslim country located on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia is rich in oil and has been associated with the holiness of Islam. The "Marxist regime" took root in South Yemen. In Abyssinia, the "communists" came to power. A similar situation was in Riyadh and other Muslim capitals. As a result, financial and military assistance to the Mujahideen began.

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops, everyone expected the fall of the Kabul regime. However, in the second half of the 1980s, the anti-government forces of Afghanistan, exhausted (weary) by the war, were able to successfully fight.

The collapse of the Soviet Union changed the situation in Central Asia. The former Soviet republics, faced with the fact of its collapse, became part of the CIS. However, the Russian leadership, represented by B. Yeltsin, also abandoned the following constituent parts of a federal state: (the presence of a) single monetary unit - the CIS ruble, and (the presence of) the ministries of foreign affairs and defense.

On January 1, 1992, was announced the end of military assistance to Afghanistan. For the first time during 70 years, Russia has turned back on its southern neighbor, and its government has jeopardized the geopolitical interests of its country and the Central Asian states that have joined the CIS.

In 1994, Pakistani intelligence services, funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the consent and support of the United States, formed the Taliban movement. In June 1996, the Taliban invaded Kabul.

Since the 1990s, the newly formed states have been cooperating, guided by the following principles:

- with the Muslim world within the framework of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (since 2011, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, i.e. OIC) and the Organization of Turkic States (OTS). Saudi Arabia uses the OIC to advance its interests, including in Central Asia. [4] The OTS was formed by the Turkish leadership after the collapse of the USSR. The goal is to include the Turkic-speaking countries that were part of the Soviet Union [5];

- with the United States, but American policy in Central Asia was characterized by uneven dynamics, which led to dramatic consequences. After the events of September 11, 2001, America's presence in the region has grown significantly. Cooperation with Washington allowed the Central Asian countries to complete the transformation of the region under the influence of the international system. However, Washington, "closed" to Iraq, has shown its willingness to invest in the economies of Central Asian countries [13, p. 74];

- with the Russian Federation through the CSTO. The organization arose on the basis of the Tashkent Collective Security Treaty, signed on May 15, 1992, and on May 14, 2002, a number of countries formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). By 2020, Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are considered to be real members of the CSTO. The participating States undertake to protect each other from a wide range of threats (to provide all possible assistance in matters) (including terrorism, drug trafficking, cybercrime, external aggression, etc.). According to the CSTO charter, an attack on one of the members of the organization is tantamount to an attack on all members of the organization. An ongoing dialogue between the security forces of the participating countries has begun to counter threats. There are a number of collective rapid reaction forces (CRRF) that are subordinate to each other. Particular attention in the structure of the CSTO is paid to Central Asia, and more precisely to Tajikistan and the Tajik-Afghan border security (and strengthening).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union since 2005, the Tajik-Afghan border has been guarded by the joint Russian-Tajik units. Russia's largest military base is located outside its borders in Tajikistan, with about 7,500 military personnel. According to the agreements between Russia and Tajikistan, the period of stay of the Russian military personnel has been extended until 2042. The main task of the armed forces in Tajikistan is to neutralize the threat (and thereby ensure security) from Afghanistan [3];

- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is one of the most influential organizations. The SCO was formed in 2001 from the "Shanghai Five" - an organization uniting Russia, China and the Central Asian’s neighboring states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).

The main goal of the Shanghai Five was to resolve territorial disputes between China and the countries of Central Asia. After Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Five, it became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Within the framework of the SCO, Russia and China coordinate their policies in Central Asia and, thanks to this cooperation, avoid conflicts of interest. The SCO conducts its activities in various areas, including security, fight against drugs, economic and cultural cooperation.

Each participating state has an interest in maintaining stability and economic prosperity in Central Asia. However, there are priority issues for each country. For example, China is interested in expanding its economic presence in Central Asia and in a joint fight against Uyghur separatists (preventing them from strengthening their power in Central Asia and conducting sabotage activities in Xinjiang). Uzbekistan does not want to join certain aforementioned international organizations, in part because it does not want to lose partial independence. According to Tashkent, the presence of Russia and China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a balance between the two centers. This was one of the main reasons for Uzbekistan's entry into the international community. In 2015, India and Pakistan joined the SCO as full members [7].

Washington has set itself the broad and purposeful task of creating an alternative to Russia's integration projects in the region, limiting China's role in Central Asia, and facilitating the creation of a South and Central Asia macro-region in which the United States can control Afghanistan, cooperate with Delhi and Islamabad, and maintain the importance and the prestige of their dominance.

This is evidenced by the fact that at the same time, the State Department's statement emphasizes the importance of protecting the sovereignty and independence of Central Asian countries, as well as their integration with South Asia and strengthening sovereignty as interconnected processes (“more choice” - “more opportunities and, therefore , more independence ").

The concept of writing a US-Central Asian policy could cause a negative reaction in Russia and China, but in fact Washington was not guided by any principles [13, p. 66].

As a result, the Americans opposed the CSTO and the SCO, which could cause serious damage to Central Asia. Unexpectedly, in February 2020, a peace agreement was signed in Qatar between the United States and the Taliban movement, providing for the withdrawal of foreign occupation troops [2, p. 65].

It should be noted that this is not an easy combination. The United States that left Washington can only hope for one NATO member - Turkey, which has strong ties with the peoples of the region. He can resolve the situation diplomatically and, if necessary, have a military presence. But Turkey has its own (personal) interest - closer proximity to Central Asia, which has always been part of the implementation of the Turkish project "Great Turan". In this game, Turkey, of course:

- understands the Central Asian states that do not want to lose their independence.

- will face rivalry from China, which seeks to consolidate the economy of Central Asia.

Most likely, China is currently playing a large (influential) role in Afghanistan, exerting a great influence on Pakistan. Pakistan, in turn, is influencing the Taliban, which is Pakistan's intelligence project. China hopes to move pieces on the chessboard in Central Asia in several ways.

Is there a place for Russia in this game?

Some analysts believe that the Kremlin is strengthening the formation of a confederation with Turkey. [6] However, it is aimed at the disintegration of the CIS, the Russian Federation and the creation of the "Great Turan", and casts doubt on the very existence of the independence of the Central Asian states.

Ultimately, the Russian Federation, which claims political, religious and economic hegemony in the post-Soviet space and in Central Asia, will be able to strengthen its allied status and remain the subject of a geopolitical game, guaranteeing the independence of the Greater Central Asian’s states.

What is so important to all of them? In this scenario, the Republic of India, a member of the SCO, which also does not have hegemony in the region, will become a natural ally for the Russian Federation.

It is no coincidence that we began this article with a deep history of Soviet-Afghan relations. Further policy, not surprisingly, may be a repetition of these methods. Methods that have not been vetoed even in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.




Add comment

Security code