[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.