Russia Expands Presence in Central Asia

Russia is planning to increase its military presence in Kyrgyzstan, much to the chagrin of neighboring Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said the troop deployment “may lead to the strengthening of militarization and provoke varios kinds of nationalist struggles.  It could also cause the appearance of radical extemist forces, which could lead to serious destabilization across this vast region.”

The foreign ministry’s analysis is insightful, even if it is self-serving in terms of promoting Uzbekistan’s national interest in limiting Russia’s military presence near its border.  Citizens and officials in newly independent Former Soviet Union (FSU) states are sensitive about their national sovereignty and they view the Russian military as a threat to their independence.  In response to this perceived threat, those countries may increase the size of their armies and purchase more weapons abroad, which in turn could create new perceptions of threat among Central Asian nations and incease militarization in the region.

Russian expansion into Muslim countries could also foment Islamic extremism and terrorism.  This process has occured in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian province where the Russian military has used heavy-handed tactics to suppress insurgents and pro-independence forces, which some Chechyns have responded to with terrorist bombings in Russia.  Russia also sustained heavy casualties during its decade-long war in Afghanistan, another Musliam nation in Central Asia, in the 1980s.  If Russia radicalizes militant forces in the region it would be detrimental to the US, which established military bases in the area to support military operations in Afghanistan following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Russia’s latest move follows a recent pattern of attempts to expand its influence in nearby countries.  Last year, Russia invaded Georgia to assist a pro-Russian separatist movement, and during the past decade it has periodically disrupted natural gas supplies to Ukraine for political purposes.  It also threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic if they allowed the US to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems on their soil.  Russia is also developing large energy projects in Central Asia, which would give it more economic and political influence there.  The Russian government recently tried to create a rapid-reaction force similar to NATO with other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Russia would naturally dominate, but the effort failed as a result of resistance from other member states.

Russia will continue to try to carve out a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  How successful their efforts will be depends on the response of targeted countries, the reaction of the international community, and political and economic conditions inside Russia.


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: