by S. Frederick Starr
In recent months Turkmenistan has emerged from its self-imposed shell. Under its new president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, it has launched a very active, though still cautious, foreign policy. While reaffirming its neutral status, which the UN recognized in 1995, it has intensified its relations with all the global powers and, significantly, with its neighbors as well. Both the U.S. and EU have applauded these initiatives and the new president’s strategic concept that underlies them. However, events unfold, Turkmenistan has decisively lifted its head, and will henceforth be a significant factor in regional and continental affairs and not simply a perplexing outlier.
By Shairbek Dzhuraev
August 30, 2022
Ever since 1991, Kyrgyzstan's international relations have focused on balancing its relation with Russia with developing new international partnerships. In the past decades, the task has become increasingly difficult, as exposed by the war in Ukraine. In the meantime, China has become a critical actor holding the keys to multiple economic issues in the region. Cooperation remains the narrative of Kyrgyzstan's relations with its Central Asian neighbors, although developments on the ground feature a fair share of unresolved conflicts. The paper reviews key developments in Kyrgyzstan's international relations and concludes by highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the country's foreign policy approach.
By Brenda Shaffer
August 17, 2022
Much of the analysis on Iranian foreign policy focuses on both Iran’s positonality in relation to the Middle East, and its claim to the mantle of Shia Islamic leadership. However, a more detailed examination shows that Iran’s foreign policy is also focused toward its neighbors to the north in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Tehran’s policies toward these states reveals the realpolitik core of Iranian foreign policy, especially in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Iran’s foreign policy toward the Caucasus and Central Asia is intertwined with its domestic security, as several of Iran’s major ethnic groups share ties with co-ethnics in these states. Iran and its neighbors in Central Asia and the Caucasus use a high degree of policy compartmentalization in order to simultaneously derive benefit and prevent open conflict.
By Johan Engvall
March 14, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s economic response to it has put Central Asia in a precarious position. As part of what Moscow perceives as its sphere of interest, the repercussions of Putin’s war are bound to affect the Central Asian countries particularly hard. While anything but static, the nature of the Russia-Central Asia relationship still enables Moscow to retain a strong influence in the region. Russia remains the dominant security actor in Central Asia, even more so following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their economies remain closely interlinked with Russia, and at the political level, a distinct type of post-Soviet authoritarian leadership model with roots in the Soviet system facilitates political dialogue. Western disengagement from the region has left them more vulnerable, but the unpredictable consequences of Russia’s military adventurism might force them to realign their external relations.
By Farkhod Tolipov
February 10, 2022, the CACI Analyst
Two events in December 2021 signified the growing cleavage between the U.S. and Russia: U.S. President Biden initiated the Summit for Democracy while the Kremlin proposed a treaty between the Russian Federation and the U.S. on security guarantees, purportedly to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and NATO member states. Both initiatives pose challenges to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia in terms of their independence as well as their long-term perspective of political development. These events test Central Asian countries’ ability to withstand neo-imperial pressure, as well as their stated commitment to democratic choice.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.