Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program
control. Suddenly the western part o the country,where the national oil wealth is concentrated andincome inequality is signicant, became the symbol o the country’s evils. Tis presents a stark contrast romthe traditional vilication o the Uzbek south or theRussian north.Tese two political shocks came on top o a series o actors that have weakened Central Asian govern-ments. Notable examples o this are: the 2008economic crisis, the increasing number o allegedly Islamist incursions into the ajik Rasht Valley in 2009and 2010, the transition o power in Kyrgyzstan andsubsequent interethnic riots in Osh in 2010, the ArabSpring o 2011 and the reappraisal o the Central Asiansituation they implied, and o course the prepara-tions or the post-2014 situation in Aghanistan. Inthis context, the role o Russia in the region has beenquestioned.Contrary to popular belie in Western countries, theCentral Asian regimes are not worried that Russia willexert renewed power over the region. Nobody believesin the likelihood o alling back into the exclusiveclutches o Moscow, which is deemed ar too weak or such an eventuality. Instead, the threat is seen tocome rom the risk o more chaotic, more uncertain,and more inecient Russian policy, such that the gapbetween the projection o power and real capability iseven greater today.Even the Uzbek and urkmen regimes — both radi-cally anti-Russian — have every interest in Russianpolicy having clearly identied its main stakes anddrivers, such as maintaining its presence on theurkmen gas market and growing gas cooperationbetween ashkent and Moscow. Te Kremlin’s desireto have a right to oversee the post-2014 strategic devel-opment o Uzbekistan urther complicates the issue. Inact, Central Asian regimes have been able to managethe pressures placed on them by external actors withrelative ease and to play these actors of against eachother. Over the last two decades, they have built theiroreign policy autonomy on this balancing game. It is,by contrast, much more dicult or them to ensuretheir own security i they are unaware o which stakesRussia sees as crucial in the region, where Moscow’slimits are, and o whether or not they have to buildnew networks and lobbying strategies within theKremlin.For all o the Central Asian regimes, regardless o theirstrategic positioning towards Moscow, the “risk” o Russia’s democratization, whether rom the top downor the bottom up, would have an immediate impact ontheir own political security. It would imply a multipli-cation o sites or decision-making in Moscow, a weak-ening o the role o the security services, and morecontradictory policies due to the diversity o actors —in short, disturbing actors or their own stability.Ashgabat would eel obliged to orient itsel moredirectly toward China, which is already in the processo becoming its main ally, thus reinorcing the discretebut marked Chinese ooting in the country. ashkentwould view it as implying a greater political risk or its
The threat is seen to come fromthe risk of more chaotic, moreuncertain, and more inefcientRussian policy, such that the gapbetween the projection of powerand real capability is even greatertoday.For all of the Central Asianregimes, the “risk” of Russia’sdemocratization would have anindirect immediate impact on theirown regime security.