Policy Paper No. 3 – Political and security relations – Mapping strategies of Russia, USA and China towards Central Asia

The paper describes the political and security relations between the Central Asian countries on the one hand and the world powers, here defined as China, Russia and the USA on the other. In general, the logic of the political relations of the world powers towards the Central Asian countries reflect their interest in keeping the region stable and secure.

Russia outlines Central Asia as an area of strategic interest and priority for their foreign policy in their national security strategy. All Central Asian countries have predominantly positive relations with Russia, even though they are also cautious of Russia’s dominance in the region and in regional and international initiatives. Russia has a great number of bases and military objects and infrastructure in Central Asia. The Russian military cooperation with the Central Asian countries is extensive and part of the strategy to tackle the common security challenges in the region.

In their National Security Paper the United States of America do not address Central Asia separately but together with South Asia. The C5+1 Initiative provides the Central Asian countries and the USA a platform for dialogue for development and regional security concerns. The instability in Afghanistan has been a major factor/concern in the US foreign policy towards Central Asia. In the past 17 years the USA had two military bases in the region and the Central Asian countries (especially Uzbekistan) served as relatively secure route to supply and support the (military) operations in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the USA has reduced its military and policy aid to the region, but supposedly pans to prioritize the assistance to the region again to tackle terrorism and drug trafficking. The States have criticized the Central Asian countries for human rights violations and poor political reforms in the past and classified Turkmenistan as a country of particular concern.

For China the Central Asian countries are crucial in safeguarding the country’s western borders and to ensure the stability of the region. The Central Asian countries are also featured in the “Belt and Road” Initiative of the Chinese government. All Central Asian countries have signed a good-neighbourliness treaty and strategic partnership agreements. Relations with Kazakhstan and Tajikistan were furthered deepened through a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement. The migration of violent extremists is of special concern for China. According to rumors China is therefore considering a military basis in Afghanistan to tackle this problem. China’s logic for its foreign policy for Central Asia is still unclear, apart from its promotion of the “Belt and Road” Initiative.

Nevertheless, it can be concluded that all world powers identify radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism as well as drug trafficking and the instability in Afghanistan as major security challenges in the Central Asian region.

Read the full paper here.