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.     

RCA Large

Published in Analytical Articles

By Tomáš Baranec, Giorgi Bilanishvili, Davit Katsarava, Lana Ghvinjilia 

March 1, 2022, the CACI Analyst

On November 19, 2021, the South Ossetian de-facto State Commission for the Border with Georgia published its work, concluding that de facto South Ossetia had lost about 200 square kilometers to Georgia. This statement fueled a political crisis in the separatist region as local opposition sought to impeach de-facto president Anatoly Bibilov. Most experts studying these developments focus on their domestic roots and impacts. However, analysis of the Commission’s territorial claims in the context of the continuous borderization of the Georgian-Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) and the creeping annexation of Georgian territory by Russian forces also indicates another possible dimension of this development: coordination between Tskhinvali and the Kremlin to annex stripes of land with military-strategic importance. 

South Ossetia - Large

Published in Analytical Articles

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.

US Russia chess CACI header 

Published in Analytical Articles

Russian Strategy towards the Caucasus and Central Asia: A Dominant Power on Defense?

By: Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

FT- Cohen 2022

In the thirty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has sought to reassert its regional dominance over its neighbors through both direct confrontation and soft power. Despite the country’s progress with consolidating its sphere of influence, which includes the January 2022 CSTO deployment in Kazakhstan, Moscow’s goal of regional hegemony is far from assured. The rise of China, radical trans-national Islam, the potential spill-over of Taliban ascendancy in Afghanistan, and maturing of post-Soviet nation-states present roadblocks to Russian ambitions. Moscow must carefully manage its interactions with Beijing, keep Turkey, Islamism and Taliban in check, and respect nationhood in the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a tall order.

Since the dissolution of the USSR and the birth of the modern-day Russian Federation, Russia has gone to great lengths to reassert its post-imperial influence in the now independent post-Soviet Republics of Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. The years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet system were defined by ethnic conflicts in Abkhazia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Tajikistan, with Russian leadership seeking to play the role of either suppressor, mediator, or agitator – whichever suited its interests – to become the region’s hegemon, at times in the guise of the guarantor of stability and security.

Published in Feature Articles

By Fuad Shahbazov

January 26, 2022, the CACI Analyst

On October 6, 2021, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Moscow to discuss regional security and economic cooperation, and to address important concerns regarding the crisis in the South Caucasus. During the joint press conference, Lavrov repeatedly highlighted the idea of a “3+3 cooperation format” including the three South Caucasus states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – plus their three large neighbors, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, to focus on unlocking economic and transport communications in the region. The first meeting within the format took place in Moscow on December 2021; however, Georgia refused to take part. Moreover, recent tensions in the region between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Azerbaijan and Iran suggest that the proposed format will not generate visible positive outcomes.

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Published in Analytical Articles

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Staff Publications

Oped S. Frederick Starr, Russia Needs Its Own Charles de Gaulle,  Foreign Policy, July 21, 2022.

2206-StarrSilk Road Paper S. Frederick Starr, Rethinking Greater Central Asia: American and Western Stakes in the Region and How to Advance Them, June 2022 

Oped Svante E. Cornell & Albert Barro, With referendum, Kazakh President pushes for reforms, Euractiv, June 3, 2022.

Oped Svante E. Cornell Russia's Southern Neighbors Take a Stand, The Hill, May 6, 2022.

Silk Road Paper Johan Engvall, Between Bandits and Bureaucrats: 30 Years of Parliamentary Development in Kyrgyzstan, January 2022.  

Oped Svante E. Cornell, No, The War in Ukraine is not about NATO, The Hill, March 9, 2022.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, Kazakhstan’s Crisis Calls for a Central Asia Policy Reboot, The National Interest, January 34, 2022.

StronguniquecoverBook S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell, Strong and Unique: Three Decades of U.S.-Kazakhstan Partnership, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, December 2021.  

Silk Road Paper Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr & Albert Barro, Political and Economic Reforms in Kazakhstan Under President Tokayev, November 2021.

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.

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