By Svante E. Cornell and S. Frederick Starr
October 3, 2023
Central Asia is often portrayed through metaphors such as a “Grand Chessboard” or a “Great Game,” which suggest that the players in the game are the great powers, and the Central Asian states are merely pawns in this game. This might have been a plausible argument thirty years ago. But today, thirty years into independence, it is abundantly clear that Central Asian states have agency at the regional and even global level.
Svante E. Cornell
October 24, 2023
Almost four years have passed since President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev embarked upon an agenda to bring thorough reforms to Kazakhstan’s politics and society. This article looks at the process of implementation of these reforms in a highly precarious geopolitical environment, where Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to increasing threats to Kazakhstan’s integrity by leading Russian figures. This analysis shows that Kazakhstan has proceeded on institutional reform, including modest but meaningful steps in sensitive areas such as separation of powers and electoral systems.
Svante E. Cornell and Brenda Shaffer
October 17, 2023
Major recent shifts, starting with the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and Russia’s war in Ukraine have led to a resurgence of the Trans-Caspian transportation corridor. This corridor, envisioned in the 1990s, has been slow to come to fruition, but has now suddenly found much- needed support. The obstacles to a rapid expansion of the corridor’s capacity are nevertheless considerable, given the underinvestment in its capacity over many years.
By Vali Kaleji
October 13, 2023
Various reports indicate that the water level of the Caspian Sea has decreased by one meter in recent years and could drop by 9 to 18 meters (30 to 59 feet) by the end of the 21st century. Although climate change contributes to this process, Russia’s construction of dams on the Volga River has played an important role in reducing the amount of water entering the Caspian Sea. This will have significant and serious implications, including a decline of the sea water level, a considerable retreat of the sea and increase of the land and coastal area especially in upstream countries (Russia and Kazakhstan), challenges to the operation of ports and shipping, as well as environmental consequences, particularly the drying of protected areas and wetlands.
By Vali Kaleji
January 17, 2023
Recent agreements between Tehran and Moscow on an oil-gas swap is another sign of Russia’s turn towards Asian oil and gas markets and closer relations between the two countries in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine. If these agreements are finalized, Iran will import 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from Russia annually. Since Iran and Russia do not have a common land border, gas must be swapped from two routes, namely Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus.
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.