Great Game Round Up, Who’s Hot Who’s Not

[Another letter from Central Asia from serial guest-blogger Dorzhiev. — YH]

Russia — Uzbekistan continues to snub Russia in a bid to strengthen its regional dominance (see below). After Kyrgyzstan decided to extend the U.S. lease in Manas airbase, Russia responded by pushing for the opening of a second military complex in the Fergana Valley; ostensibly for terrorism related contingencies. Uzbekistan is not buying the pretense and is purportedly building their own base in Khanabad. A military buildup around the Fergana appears to be underway.

On a more symbolic note Tajikistan is toying with the idea of a banning the use of Russian in government affairs in an attempt to both ”strengthen its sovereignty” and destroy its fledgling economy.

U.S. — After Uzbek/U.S. relations chilled in 2005 over human rights issues, the two counties are once again getting cozy.This month General David Petraus paid a visit to Tashkent to discuss strengthening mutual ties. Concerns over Afghanistan, increasing radicalization in Central Asia, and the creeping influence of Moscow have pushed Karimov to once again look West. To the south the U.S. faces an uphill battle in Afghanistan as domestic support for the war continues to erode.

China — China continues its large scale investment in the Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. From construction of roads in Tajikistan to the energy acquisitions in Kazakhstan Chinese plans for its western frontier proceed apace. For background see here.

Turkmenistan — An interesting overview in Foreign Policy about the courtship of strategically located and energy rich Turkmenistan. The establishment of the Nabucco pipeline threatens to free Europe the from the stranglehold of Russian supply. Gazprom is not too happy about the prospect.

Global Jihad — In Afghanistan the Taliban has made inroads into the traditionally stable (ish) northern provinces of Baghlan and Kunduz. With U.S. and British forces stretched in the south and east, it is up to the European lead NATO contingent to stymie them. It will be interesting to see the effect on local Tajik and Uzbek sympathies.

The Beleaguered Masses — The prospects don’t look good.

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5 Responses to Great Game Round Up, Who’s Hot Who’s Not

  1. kurt9 says:

    For the beleaguered masses, it seems that China has the most to offer. They are investing in local industry, especially energy projects and have lots of goods to sell. As anyone who has stepped into a WalMart can tell you, the Chinese made stuff is the cheapest. Often, it is the only stuff available.

    As long as the local governments do not let the Chinese get too much control, I think Chinese investment in the region is good for the general public. The Russians aren’t worth a tinkerer’s damn and America can count on to do whatever is in its own interests, no matter how incompetently its done by our state department.

    One other thing worth noting. When they come, the Chinese often live like the locals and mix with them. They are not like American or European expats who come to a country and live only in the secluded, upscale expat enclaves.

    As I mentioned before (not here), China should act to guarantee Russia’s security. Russia has neither the population nor the financial resources to become a major international player again. Indeed, the Russians have already made a deal with China in order to protect some of their investments in the region. If China acts to guarantee Russia’s security (including a pledge never to take over Siberia), China will be able to buy all of the resources it wants from Russia at good prices. There is no need for China to ever occupy Siberia. In this deal, both China and Russia secure their common borders and can divert more resources to Central Asia while keeping Muslims R Us at bay. Since Russia is the declining power, there is no benefit to China in provoking Russia and much benefit to China in actually acting as its protector. China offers to secure Russia’s borders and Russia, in turn, allows China to operate with a free hand in Central Asia.

  2. Curzon says:

    What about Korea and Japan? Both of those countries have sent in their construction firms to do lots of major building projects, most specifically highways, but I hear that lots of them have been burned.

  3. kurt9 says:

    Is they get burned, they will not want to do more business in the region. If the Koreans and Japanese are having this problem, it is likely that the Chinese and anyone else doing business in the region will have this same problem.

    Nonetheless, I think China acting as Russia’s protector has long-term benefit to China, more so than to Russia itself. Russia has neither the personnel nor the military hardware and industries to be expansionistic. They no longer have an ideology of international appeal as well. So, China has little to fear from Russia, but Russia has lots to fear from China. Russia will be more that willing to allow China a free hand in Central Asia in return for guaranteeing Russia’s security. Both China and Russia have a very strong incentive not to allow Muslims R Us to run amok in the region. I see it as a win-win for the Chinese. They can also work with the Koreans and Japanese on development deals as well. Japan and Korea will inevitably draw closer to China, both economically and politically.

  4. Rommel says:

    Kurt says,
    “When they come, the Chinese often live like the locals and mix with them. They are not like American or European expats who come to a country and live only in the secluded, upscale expat enclaves. ”

    As someone who has not traveled in parts of Asia where Chinese have migrated in large numbers, this interesting to me. I guess the mentality amongst Chinese expats has changed over the last few decades. Having seen firsthand the biggest Chinese enclaves in the Occident – San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver – this was obviously not always the case. How much this had to do with systemic discrimination or persecution in western North America is certainly valid as well the huge numbers in a short time frame, making it easier to stick together and stay apart from the European populations..

    Of course these Chinatowns are in some ways becoming anachronistic, as many of us have plenty of Asian-descended friends and associates who are culturally as Western it gets..

    I’ll add this as well, the Han Chinese are often as brave as they get…moving/working/investing in places many of us consider hellholes (read: Sudan)

  5. kurt9 says:

    Rommel,

    The way I described it is the way the Chinese are moving into Africa. Since they are doing it like that in Africa, I see no reason to think it would be any different in Central Asia.

    In any case, if i have choose between the two, I prefer Chinese domination to Muslims R Us domination. At least the Chinese, like, make things.