Neo-Imperial Policy of Russia and Central Asia

Neo-Imperial Policy of Russia and Central Asia

By Sergey Antonov

Today one of the most urgent problems of Central Asia is the sphere of efficient consumption of hydro resources. Russia, having its own geopolitical, economic and other interests, should delicately participate in all big hydro-energy projects grounding primarily on the interests of all water-consumers. It means, on the principle of consensus, agreed and cooperative decisions, mutual trust and respect of each others interests.

Chaotic, imbalanced approaches to these issues are not beneficial especially for Russia that is able to behave as a deliberate, predictable, “player” respecting its partners. However, unfortunately, current policy of the Kremlin doesn’t show the behavior deserving respect of partners.

On the contrary, rapid decisions, spontaneous foreign policy steps provoke Central Asian partners to suspect the country to lead an unfair geopolitical game. At first Russia expressed an interest to the project of Rogun HPP in Tajikistan, then in Uzbekistan Medvedev refused of bilateral approaches in the given sphere in favor of collegial approach. And right after Russia joined the construction of Kambaratin HPPs in Kirgizia without agreement with neighboring countries.

The idea of construction of the kind of objects on international rivers outflows, affecting vital interests of all peoples and states of the region is an extremely delicate issue. And naturally so acute changes of positions on these projects evoke anxiety.

So what is going on in the Kremlin? What is the reason for such moves?.. The answers lead to even graver conclusions not only in Russia and Central Asia, but also in many other countries cooperating with Moscow.

Panic and anxiety still present and deepen within different statements of Russian authorities and “experts” in foreign policy. Media and electronic resources of receive huge amount of messages, specifying that hydro-energy disagreement between Central Asia states is so grave that they are not able to compromise that is why they need the “assistance” of the Third Party. Some political analysts claim that non-interference of Moscow into these processes “will inevitably lead to aggravation of contradictions up to interstate conflicts. But the reality is much simpler than this incorrect conclusion grounded on shallow approach to Central Asian problems. The case is that the states situating within the downstream of Syr Darya and Amu Darya have the same right to consume this water as the states of the upstream have the right to construct hydro-technical objects within their territory. Another thing is that these objects shouldn’t violate the rights of consumers of all countries of the region as here it’s not about internal rivers of Kirgizia and Tajikistan, but about international watercourses and all the state of the region possess the same rights on their exploitation. This is a standard of international law.

Discussions of some two confronting “blocks” (water-consuming and water-forming), of the necessity of the “third Party interference” and implementation of new “power of influence” as Collective Rapid Response Forces of CSTO to stabilize the region are the links of one chain. Neo-Imperial Russia intends to tie Central Asia with this chain. This engaged political line reveals those who organize information war, those who desire to play the role of ultimate arbitrator within the region and in the process of a self-made controllable conflict regulation.

However, there are forces that would like to observe Russia as a “political patron” of bordering countries, and they don’t realize that their intention is contra-productive and rather harms than favors the interests of Russian state. Provided they could assess the situation rationally, they would realize that within current reality such an intention contrasts with their possibilities and thus turns into phantom illusion.

Each year we witness new examples of the results of Neo-Imperial policy of Russia regarding near-abroad countries. It’s not a surprise that in Russia the more we are talking about “areas of influence” the fewer friends we have within our surrounding. Baltic States joined the European Union long ago and inevitably, and now the EU establishes its CIS-2 on the ruins of collapsing CIS. Recent Summit of 33 states in Prague for the first time brought together 27 countries with such CIS states as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to present European program “Eastern Partnership”. In Prague, Tbilisi, Kishinev, Yerevan, Baku, Kiev and even Minsk promised to have friendly relations with Brussels on special conditions within the framework of “Eastern Partnership”.

Considering the character of regimes in Tbilisi and Kiev one can understand why Georgia and Ukraine strive to join Europe so much. But why the rest of CIS countries want the same so much except for Central Asian Republics? As they are partners and allies of Russia not only within CIS, but also within EurAsEC and CSTO? The EU doesn’t grant them billion credits as Russia.  Brussels gave only 600 million Euro for “Eastern Partnership” accomplishment and only for four years, meanwhile Moscow credits Belarus with 2 billion of dollars, grants 7,5 billion to the EurAsEC anticrisis fund, and everything in the same year!

These are all of course rhetoric questions. As usually the answers lay on the surface.  It’s obvious that the behavior of Russia only intimidates and pushes away its neighbors, forcing to search for more balanced partners without imperial and militaristic manners. European program has an objective to enhance economic, but not military cooperation, its official objective is the modernization of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine and Belarus. “Eastern Partnership” let these CIS states feel to be equal with the EU, i.e. to feel themselves within a real commonwealth of independent, but not within a so-called area of “Commonwealth of Independent States”, that would underline the status of Russia a core of an unshaped system – prospective or former.

As a matter of fact, in comparison with some other states of “near abroad”, during the Summit in Prague Central Asian states didn’t sign the declaration to support “Nabucco” project, against which Russia leads its struggle with all acceptable means. But we shouldn’t delude, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan made this decision independently and not due to, but contrary to the current Kremlin policy, that demonstrated its irresponsible actions and snobbery towards its partners.

In reality, Central Asian countries strive to limit the influence of Russia on home and foreign policy and they don’t hide this fact. Astana, for example, attempts to enhance its cooperation with the USA and to establish in Kazakhstan International Bank of Nuclear Fuel, potential competitor of Russian strategic project on the Uranium Enrichment Center in Angarsk. In addition, Kazakhstan promotes its partnership with the Peoples Republic of China that is proved by the received credit of 10 billion dollars and the signing of respective agreement with Beijing. As for Turkmenistan, Moscow has pushed this country to intensify energy cooperation with West with its casual dialogue with Ashkhabad. Uzbekistan persistently extends the circle of its partner relations, also by developing of cooperation with Asian states which is proved by the visit of South Korea President to this Republic.

Tajikistan enhances military cooperation with the USA. On April the 27th 2009, Tajikistani Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of American Embassy in Dushanbe held maneuvers on terracts response with more than 300 representatives of law enforcement agencies, marines, security specialists.

All these facts demonstrate firmly that Russia gradually loses its influence in regional processes and this tendency will only promote by this kind of approach in future. To improve the situation Moscow should become not only a full-right partner of Central Asian states (but not a “big brother”, as it was in the USSR), but also an external force, undertaking real actions to assure stability and persistent development of the region. Otherwise, its policy will face another absurd failure – striving to fragment the region basing on the principle “divide et impera”, Russia can simply lose it once and for all.
Translated from


Bookmark/Search this post with