Moscow is losing influence in the countries of Central Asia

Moscow is losing influence in the countries of Central Asia

During a meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the Moscow Kremlin on May 16, 2022.

Neither support nor condemnation: this is the position taken by the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) against the former Russian ruler and his war in Ukraine. At the end of May, the security services of Kyrgyzstan (GKNB) filed a complaint against a Kyrgyz citizen fighting in the ranks of Ukrainian forces. Last month, the same services warned their citizens to refrain from showing the letter Z, the symbol of the Russian offensive, under penalty of trial.

No head of state from five Central Asian countries appeared alongside Vladimir Putin this year during a May 9 parade on Red Square celebrating victory over Nazism. Kazakhstan has gone so far as to cancel a domestic military parade for the first time since gaining independence in 1991.

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Instead of a traditional pilgrimage to Moscow, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev went to Turkey to sign military cooperation agreements (including the construction of an ANKA attack drone factory in Kazakhstan) and the construction of logistics corridors (goods and hydrocarbons) bypassing Russian territory. The gesture has taken hold in Russia and has inspired a number of aggressive statements, such as the call “denazize Kazakhstan” comes from a member of the Moscow parliament.

Apart from the symbols, all the Central Asian Chancelleries refused to follow Moscow in its recognition of the independence of the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk at the expense of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

“Central Asian countries have good relations with Ukraine. They are saddened by what is happening “, notes Michaël Levystone, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and a specialist in the region. The two most authoritative regimes, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, maintain lead bars on the subject.

On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan has stood defiantly towards Moscow, recalling that Ukraine has the right to pursue a foreign policy of its choice, which is an allusion to Russia’s demand for “neutrality” for Ukraine. “This is a point that needs to be emphasized given the country’s dependencies on Moscow.”the expert continues.

Moscow Meadow Square

Central Asia, made up of recent states created from the former Soviet republics that gained independence in 1991, is considered Moscow’s backyard, especially in terms of security. Russia seeks to maintain its status as sole protector against the Islamist risk coming from Afghanistan through military exercises, the establishment of military bases (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) and its role as leader of the Security Treaty Organization (OTSC), NATO’s eastern counterpart to which the three countries join. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, in addition to Belarus and Armenia). The very rapid deployment of a contingent of 2,000 CSTO troops during the January uprising in Kazakhstan in support of the President strengthened Moscow’s reputation as a guarantor of security in the region.

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