by S. Frederick Starr
In recent months Turkmenistan has emerged from its self-imposed shell. Under its new president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, it has launched a very active, though still cautious, foreign policy. While reaffirming its neutral status, which the UN recognized in 1995, it has intensified its relations with all the global powers and, significantly, with its neighbors as well. Both the U.S. and EU have applauded these initiatives and the new president’s strategic concept that underlies them. However, events unfold, Turkmenistan has decisively lifted its head, and will henceforth be a significant factor in regional and continental affairs and not simply a perplexing outlier.
By S. Frederick Starr
September 6, 2022
Speaking on Uzbekistan’s independence day, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev addressed a somber memorial ceremony dedicated to the “victims of political repression” during the Soviet era. He focused on the Uzbek reformers known as Jadids that were killed or suppressed in the early Soviet period. He also addressed at length Moscow’s singling out of Uzbekistan during the “cotton crisis” of the 1980s. This speech was remarkable because it effectively shifted the blame for Uzbekistan’s historical woes from Stalin or Communism to Russian imperialism. The same day, Mirziyoyev pledged to expand the power of the country’s armed forces, indicating the seriousness with which Uzbekistan’s leaders view developments in recent months, chief among them Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
By Sudha Ramachandran
August 31, 2022
Since April this year, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghan affiliate of the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has carried out rocket attacks in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan from its bases in northern Afghanistan. The attacks are significant. This is the first time that the jihadist group is targeting countries in Central Asia. They signal the ISKP’s expanding geographic presence inside Afghanistan as well as its growing ambitions in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Western countries that are concerned about terrorism emanating from Afghanistan should take note of the implications of the recent attacks.
By Farkhod Tolipov
May 31, 2022
Russia’s war in Ukraine has become an existential geopolitical challenge for all former Soviet republics. Uzbekistan’s formulation and expression of a position on the war has been difficult in an ethical and political sense. Positioning on this matter is also a serious test for the strategic partnership and unity of Central Asian states. At the UNGA, Uzbekistan did not vote on the resolution blaming Russia for aggression against Ukraine. However, it voted against the exclusion of Russia from the UN Human Rights Committee. Uzbekistan’s MFA later brought some clarity to Tashkent’s position, which could potentially irritate Moscow. The curse of positioning reflects the enduring and perplexing geopolitical status-quo in Central Asia.
By Johan Engvall
March 14, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s economic response to it has put Central Asia in a precarious position. As part of what Moscow perceives as its sphere of interest, the repercussions of Putin’s war are bound to affect the Central Asian countries particularly hard. While anything but static, the nature of the Russia-Central Asia relationship still enables Moscow to retain a strong influence in the region. Russia remains the dominant security actor in Central Asia, even more so following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their economies remain closely interlinked with Russia, and at the political level, a distinct type of post-Soviet authoritarian leadership model with roots in the Soviet system facilitates political dialogue. Western disengagement from the region has left them more vulnerable, but the unpredictable consequences of Russia’s military adventurism might force them to realign their external relations.
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.