Sunday, January 04, 2009

Russian Domination

Russia’s economy is based on exploiting hydrocarbons, which requires the participation of Central Asian republics. Since Putin would rather dominate than cooperate with neighbors, he has attempted of late to recreate the USSR by bullying smaller countries, hoping thereby to intimidate other former Soviet republics. (Torbakov) This strategy will be unsuccessful since the gambit exposed the inherent weakness of Russia, rather than communicating strength. (Isachenkov) Further, Central Asia is Muslim with surging populations while Russia is Christian with a collapsing population. (Mamadazimov) These fundamental differences and the exposed weakness of Russia will result in a geopolitical rupture with the Central Asian Republics.

There are two reasons Putin will ultimately prove unsuccessful at bringing the Muslim Central Asian republics back into his sphere. The first is the relatively decrepit nature of his armed forces. Should Putin actually attempt some kind of empire building adventure, Russia would face insurgencies there that the Russian military has shown no ability to counter. Secondly, Russia has tried, largely successfully, to repair its image among Muslims aggrieved by the Chechnya situation to avoid terror attackes directed against its interests. Intervention in Central Asia would destroy those efforts, and bring unwanted terrorist attention.

The rupture is likely to occur in slow motion. The Central Asian republics will forge their own foreign policies, balancing approaches from the US, Iran, Arab States and China as well as Russia. The more freedom of maneuver these countries experience in the international sphere, the better they will be at it and the less likely they will become satellites of any power. I think it is unlikely that the Central Asian members of the CIS would look to the EU, considering how unwelcome Turkey, a full member of NATO, has been in the EU.

Sources cited

Isachenkov, Vladimir. (2008) War reveals Russia's military might and weakness. Associated Press Wire (August 18) accessed 25 December 08.

Mamadazimov, Abdugani. (2004) Tajikistan’s national security: problems and prospects. Central Asia and the Caucus Journal of Political and Social Studies 26: 2 (March) pg 87.

Torbakov, Igor (2003) Parliamentary elections signal growing Russian assertiveness towards CIS neighbors. Eurasia Insight (December 18) accessed 25 December 2008