The developments in the Russia-Ukraine War have had an impact on Central Asian countries as well. The regional states believe that Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unitary structure should be respected. In this context, the countries of the region advocate that war is not a solution and that the conflicts should be resolved diplomatically through peaceful means. Because the prolongation of the war has a detrimental impact on the economies of the region’s countries. In this context, Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Research (ANKASAM) presents the views of political expert Assoc. Dr. Adrian Fauve.
- As you know, Kazakhstan is Russia’s border neighbor. This results in the two countries being geographically dependent on one another. Despite this, the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, announced that Kazakhstan will not recognize the referendums held in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine. How would you assess the Astana administration’s stance?
Mr. Tokayev stated that he did not recognize the referendums in question and drew attention to the fact that despite the alliance between Russia and Kazakhstan, separatist structures are not legal. By doing so, he also drew attention to the issue of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Mr. Tokayev noted that Kazakhstan’s stance in Kosovo, Taiwan, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia also represents the same approach, demonstrating the consistency of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.
It seems that the words of the President of Kazakhstan are also addressed to the Kazakh people, who are disturbed by the provocative statements of the Russian authorities regarding Northern Kazakhstan. Thus, the Kazakh leader’s words might be argued to be intended to assuage national public opinion. At the same time, these statements delivered a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin to help him realize the understanding of multi-vector and multi-dimensional foreign policy, which monitors the balances between the country’s power balances.
- Similarly, Uzbekistan stated that it believes all issues should be settled through peaceful means. However, unlike Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan is not a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Can it be said that this situation softens Tashkent’s stance against Moscow?
Undoubtedly, Uzbekistan is one of the most important states in Central Asian politics. Therefore, the point at which Tashkent stands is quite important. Because Uzbekistan is not a member of any regional organization. Tashkent has no plans for this either. However, the reality of strong economic ties between Russia and Uzbekistan cannot be ignored. First of all, there are a large number of Uzbek workers in Russia. These contribute to the country’s economy. Furthermore, discussions with Russia on the nuclear power plant that Uzbekistan seeks to build in the framework of energy security continue.
However, it should be noted that there is an age-related fragmentation in Uzbekistan’s public opinion. There is a tendency among the relatively older segments to support Russia and criticize the West. These segments see the Ukrainian conflict as part of Russia’s struggle with the West. On the other hand, we can say that there is an anti-Russian approach among the younger and educated groups.
- In comparison to Astana and Tashkent, Bishkek remains unresponsive. Is this due to Kyrgyzstan’s economic dependency on Russia, or are other factors influencing its policy?
Of course, it can be said that economic dependence is decisive. Since Kyrgyzstan is a member of the EAEU, it imports a significant number of goods from Russia. It is also known that approximately half a million Kyrgyz citizens are working as migrant workers abroad, especially in Russia. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan is economically more fragile compared to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. To illustrate this vulnerability, the majority of Kyrgyzstan’s paper is imported from Russia. For this reason, paper costs doubled after the war, and publishing activities were adversely affected. This is also reflected in the education sector.
It should be noted that Russian influence is at an undeniable level in terms of security. The Kyrgyz elite has historically been friendly with Russia. Even among the country’s elite who have become Europeanized, Russian is still spoken.
- What is the political position of Tajikistan?
The impact of worker status can be observed in Tajikistan and Russia. The Dushanbe-Moscow line is economically and politically dependent on one another. Tajikistan is also in a similar situation to Kyrgyzstan.
In terms of security, Tajikistan needs a Russian military presence due to Afghanistan-centered developments. As a result, the 201st Russian Military Base has been formally deployed in the nation. According to the Dushanbe administration, this base is of critical importance for the security of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. As a result, Dushanbe is making an effort to retain tight ties with Moscow.
- Lastly, three of the five countries in the region are CSTO members. Do these states have any fears about being drawn into the war?
These countries do not have the potential to provide military assistance to Russia. Even if they wish to assist the Russians, they can only provide old Soviet weapons from their storage. Yes, the region has a very young population and that’s a demographic advantage. However, the main issue to be considered in wars in the 21st century is not quantity but quality. This war once again demonstrated the superiority of modern military thought and technology to the whole world.
Adrian Fauve is an associate professor at the University of Paris-Saclay. He has international research experience at various institutions. Fauve has taught in the department of Political Science and International Relations at National Chung Hsing University (Taiwan), Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), University of Tartu (Estonia), and Babes-Bolyai University (Romania).