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 YIL: 9

SAYI: 110

ŞUBAT   2007

 

 

önceki

yazdır

 

 

  Yrd.Doç.Dr. Bülend Aydın ERTEKİN

Özet

Soğuk Savaş sonrası meydana gelen değişim rüzgârları, bir anlamda Orta-Asya ülkelerini de etkileyerek yeni bir yapılaşma ile onların dünyaya açılımını başlatmıştır. Ancak bu açılımı yapan Orta-Asya ülkelerinin bir taraftan iç dinamiklerinde demokratikleşme ile belli sorunlar yaşanırken, diğer taraftan da Rusya’nın en önemli ve birincil aktör olarak Orta-Asya güç dengesi içinde etkinliğini sürdürmesi devam etmektedir. Orta-Asya ülkeleri Rusya için stratejik önemini koruduğu gibi, Orta-Asya ülkelerinin mevcut siyaset yapıcıları ve karar mekanizmasını oluşturan elitleri için de,  Rusya kendi konumlarının da devamlılığını sağlayan güvenilir bir ortak ve koruyucu müttefik olma özelliğini sürdürmektedir. Her ne kadar, Orta-Asya ülkeleri bölgesel önemleri ve kaynakları nedeni diğer ülkelerinde ilgi odağı olsa da, günümüz reel politika açısından bakıldığında,  Rusya’nın bölgede diğer güçlere oranla tartışılmaz bir üstünlüğü söz konusudur.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Rusya, Güç dengesi, Orta-Asya, uluslararası sistem, uluslararası ilişkiler

 

Abstract

After the end of the Cold War, the new aspects influenced the Central Asia countries and oriented them to open their gates to the World with a new structure. However, on one side, while the Central Asia countries still face the democratization problems in the internal dynamics, on the other side, Russia continues to be an important and principal actor in the balance of power of the Central Asia. As the Central Asia countries conserve their strategic importance for Russia, Russia maintains to be a   reliable partner and protecting ally for the actual policy-makers and decision-takers elites of the Central Asia countries. However, although the other countries have focused on the Central Asia countries because their regional opportunities and resources, according to the concept of the real politic, Russia has still an important average in the region in comparison to the other forces.

Keywords: Russia, Balance of power, Central Asia, international system, international relations

 

 

 

I.        Introduction

Among the most important geopolitical regions, the Central Asia constitutes strategically privileges not only because of its consideration pronounced in the past, as an important part of Eurasia, called “the heartland of the World Island” by Mackinder[i], but also because of the real political challenges of the 21st century in the international system.

At the same time, the significant potentials and capacities of the Central Asia are increasing because of the following concrete effects. First, the existence of the great powerful bordering countries such as Russia and China and including India (located very close) historically are surrounding the region and acting omni-presently. Second, the improving competition after 1991 among the world powers, using their international technical, industrial, financial, economical assistance and exchange and trade advantage as USA and the most important EU members (Germany, England, France and Italy), aiming to penetrate and deploy into this region; and also the third point is to accept the reality of the existence of two countries such as Turkey and Iran (presenting the status of middle power countries), which try in their capacities to create some economic and trade relations by profiting from their historical or cultural ties in order to improve the bilateral relations with the Central Asian countries,  although the intensive challenges or obstacles avoid them to compete sufficiently. In this competition, while Turkey is geographically located as a peripheral country, Iran is considered closer to the Central Asia, even if its importance is technologically ranged as a semi-peripheral country.

However, although the attraction of the great interests focused on this region, and the efforts of the other actors to take a certain part in the economical and political structures and functions of the Central Asia, there are big challenges about the balance of power of the international actors from the greatness ones as USA and China to the middle powers including E.U members and Turkey and Iran as peripheral or semi-peripheral countries.

Certainly, it is to admit that in the international relations, it is possible to set up the bridges between the countries, but, it is not also to forget that the relations can be only established according to the powers that one aims to detain, otherwise, it is very difficult to insert into the structures and functions of the target country with which one intends to improve the relations.  However, this will not be easy; unless the country such as Russia involved in the Central Asia ceases to play the principal and strong actor role. For that reason, the actors rounding or classifying around the circle of the Central Asia will not have still enough chance or power to drilling this circle and demolishing the actual statue-quos.

By starting from this point of view, in this paper, we will begin by focusing on the role and place of Russia over the Central Asia countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). Briefly, this paper aims to interrogate the real political situation in the Central Asia and focuses on how the international actors must concretely face the existence and the geo-strategy of Russia in the real economic and politic challenges. Otherwise, on the one side, while we will try to determine the preponderance of the pragmatic and real politic stratagems in the Central Asia, presented by the data, and on the other side, we will put an accent on concretizing the real and probable undermining obstacles that the other actors expose with their challenger: Russia. In the constitution of this article, we used the data and different analysis done in the field of international relations and also the international trade data.

 

II.       The Importance or the Dilemma of the Economic Growth and Democracy in the Central Asia Countries

Before focusing on the actors playing or willing to play a role in the Central Asia, it is very important to underline that, following 1991, a vast amount of problems of economic development and establishment of the democracy exerted on the Central Asia countries.

After the Soviet Union ideological collapse, these young countries (historically rooted, but today considered as new establishments) of the Central Asia, took diplomatically a place in the international system, each of them as a sovereign country, but classified economically as a developing country with so many social, economic, political and cultural problems to be solved. Naturally, as they share the common destiny of all developing countries,   their aim is to resolve the common problems of the globalizing World same as the other developing countries do by struggling against the North/South conflict but being involved inside. 

In the other words, today’s Central Asia countries presenting an area of the interests for the great or middle power international actors have been still obliged to overpass the social, politic and economic difficulties.

In reality, even in the international relations, it is not fundamentally so important that the structures and functions of a state-nation to be based on the democracy or not,  as the mutual interests come first, the trustiness on the economic stability of a state-nation constitutes a more significant point for the foreign investors. Otherwise, the number and capacities of the investments show us how a state is evaluated as a potential market or not through the foreign investors’ point of view. 

By this concept, we know very well that for the less developed and developing countries of the Central Asia, the foreign investments constitute an opportunity for creating some trends of development.  

According to Kortunov, “Economic development is not keeping pace despite opportunities. Lack of developed industrial infrastructures, coupled with faltering agricultural production in most areas, have resulted in the emergence of huge "surplus" populations that are unable to provide for themselves economically.”(Kortunov, 1998:3)

In other words, the development of the Central Asia depends on the foreign supports. However, this positive intention is almost abused –a case identical with the examples in the history, representative of the West / East division in the past and the North / South division of today.  At the meantime, the Central Asia countries, -that need these kinds of large economic expansions-, will be limited of expanding and increasing their rate of growth, if they cannot manage to attract an enough number of investments or cannot be able to create a profitable balance in their exchanges.

At the same time, the Central Asia countries aiming to attract the foreign investments and trades are usually in the situation of making concession by easing all kinds of facilities in order to increase the volume of trading or exchanging these potentials for their economic growth.

In so doing, these countries would be exposed to the influences or effects of the external dynamics more than controlling their selves as a sovereign country, and they would depend on more financial debts for arranging their budgets or be considered as a strategic partner of the great or middle powers (in reality seen as a patrol state or stepping stone) of which the main objective will be a fortiori to serve them in order to increase their interests.

Otherwise, the Central Asia countries that are not able to set up or apply the democracy will be under the control or pressure of the external forces as they have been deprived of positioning their internal dynamics to play a powerful role in the auto-control process and help to create the national structures and functions to protect their national interests or to be able more selective versus or against all economic penetrations of the great powers that enlarge their influences over these developing countries which are eagerly seeking ways to have themselves classified as developing countries according to all international norms. 

It is to admit, on the other side, that the factors, such as the “coup d'état”, social and economic agitations, and also very importantly the lack of the multi political parties and the fair elections, will occasionally thwart the establishment of the democracy which will block in the same time the rate of the growth of the country, unless the country in question is considered as a great power in the international system that plays a role of balance. 

However, even the developing countries in the Central Asia have some geopolitics or strategic importance, they become almost a center of interests of the external factors ( an arrival point, in other words) instead of making a center of their own interests versus the external forces (put differently, not creating a departure point). Otherwise, the economic growths of the Central Asia developing countries constitute simply a dilemma between the protectionist and selective developments and a realistic application of the complete development to do according to the cruel or intolerable rules of the globalization of the New World Order. In front of this reality, it is also to interrogate on how the Central Asia countries would be able to protect their interests and, simultaneously, realize their development acting the role of sovereign countries. 

During these conflicts of interests or pragmatic situations in the Central Asia, on the one side,  we see the Central Asia countries’ struggling to rebuild their nations and countries  by arranging new cooperation with the developed and developing countries including the bordering countries. And on the other side, the competition between the competitor actors (because of the new pragmatic situations in the world we can call it: not “rivalry”) in the Central Asia is continuously and gradually spreading in order to focus on their influences because they define this region sometimes with the different qualifications such as a gate or the heart of the Asia, according to their evaluations of world-wide geopolitics, no longer the Central Asia geopolitical locations. As a result, the Central Asia countries are at high risk to be seen such as an area to be controlled longtime as soon as possible (forever) or as a place of strategic profits to be derived from in the optimum degrees according to the expansionist power of the international actors.

In fact, as each country in the world aims to maximize its interests, it is normal to understand that many countries and actors in the Central Asia will have been in great and rough competition by trying to improve their relations in targeted areas with target countries. 

Otherwise, the strategy of a state that will simply reach its maximum level in the whole relations can be considered as a conflict of interest in the Central Asia as a prerequisite of the real game in the international system. According to this game, there is only one way to establish a good partner status with target countries or between them –a way that requires interdependence of the bilateral relations-, as long as the partners agree with the idea of being successful in maximizing or at least optimizing their mutual profits and interests.

As a consequence, it must be accepted or known that all actors aiming to play a specific role in creation and evolution of the bilateral relations with the Central Asia countries must have strong features and additional aspects influencing the balance of power in their favors to be considered as a privileged or competitor partner in the region.   

Otherwise, it will be hard -if not almost impossible- to identify the relations between the Central Asia countries other than reestablishing simple and symbolic values designed in a diplomatic and cultural way. This act would just be like investing virtually in a real game that has been played with real values.

Normally, the relations between the countries in the world are made by the more profitable exchanges which create the interdependence even the exchangers do not make equally profits as the countries in the position of more developed countries earn more than developing countries.  

 In the contrary, today’s expectations request more than simple relations; instead, it requires to be an actor, having its power, capacity and potential out of the values such as investing, providing, supplying, supporting, developing, contributing, and exchanging as a donor or strategic partner. Briefly, it means that a country which tries or will try to have a place in the heart of the Central Asia must or should  be less dependent of the international system by having more capacities and potentials of moving its steps according to pragmatic opportunities.

However, it is very clear that in the international arena, each state is an actor according to its volume and dimensions, and tries to play this role as a nation-state registered to the  United Nations Organization as a member-state, but  the reality is to be one of the leading actors of the international system. In fact, this proves us who the winner in the bilateral or multilateral relations in the Central Asia is. 

These concepts and rules include the same application and tactics while have been analyzed the Central Asian countries in the frame of their cooperation characteristics with their partners. First, cooperating countries request more power and potential; second, operating countries offer more power, capacities and potentials in their bilateral relations to the countries aiming to be cooperated.  

In this point, the analysis of Cummings becomes important for better understanding of the flow of the democracy in the Central Asia. Otherwise, the establishment of the democracy in the Central Asia countries can be interpreted as an accepted or voluntary act because of the condition of being a sovereign country or as an obligation which has been imposed because of the obligation of the international system.

According to Cummings,   “Many predicted that the collapse of the Soviet Union would be followed by the democratization of the successor states. This notion has turned out to be at best premature, at worst misguided. Nowhere is this more so than in Central Asia, where the first decade of independence has been marked by strong authoritarian presidentialism. These contributions examine how the presidents of the Central Asian republics came into office and how they have managed to stay in office in the face of enormous transitional challenges…”(Cummings, 2001:1)

Also, Cummings, putting an accent on the concept of the “Authoritarian presidentialism”,(Cummings, 2001:1) he refers that “As is frequently asserted, these five states had not desired independence(Cummings, 2001:1)...The greatest irony of independence in Central Asia [was that it came] as had Soviet-style colonialism several decades before – it was imposed by Moscow(Gleason, 1997:15)...In fact, in Central Asia, communist elites resisted Gorbachev’s democratization and liberalization reforms and independence came by default only when the Soviet centre collapsed in 1991.” (Cummings, 2001:1)

Even this reaction to the democratization happened in 1991, “Authoritarian presidentialism has emerged in all five states with important geopolitical and economic differences…”(Cummings, 2001:1) since that time, according to the capacities, structures and functions of each country.

In fact, the increase of an economic growth is a success of the economic politics leaded by the politic leaders, but we can only talk about their success or have an opportunity to criticize, if only there is the democracy is in force, otherwise under the authoritarian presidentialism, it is very difficult to expect these attitudes to be allowed inside of their sovereignty. 

Naturally, at the beginning of this new formation in the Central Asia, even the geo-politic and strategic implications were not predicted (Jonson & Allison, 2001:1) the reality is that “…..The natural inclination of the rulers of the new states which joined the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was to maintain close alignments with and continue to depend on the former metropolitan centre, now represented by the new Russian state.”(Jonson & Allison, 2001:1)

In this frame, the analysis of Kortunov resumes in other words the situation in 1990’s as well as 2000’s.

 “The experience of Central Asian countries in nation-building remains limited. To the ruling elites, predominantly composed of the members of traditional Soviet "nomenklatura," retaining Soviet-style institutions in substance, while making only cosmetic changes to the facade, seemed at the outset as the most "logical" and comfortable way of initiating post-independence reforms. In many instances, the post-Communist elite could gain ascendancy over their opponents only by usurping political power. As the result, no orderly transition to greater openness, much less democracy could be registered in Central Asia.” (Kortunov, 1998:2-3)

 Because of the lack of the democracy in the Central Asia, (which doesn’t mean that it won’t be developed in the future), the problems and issues seen in the nature of the anti-democratic political systems harm the structures and functions of these new states. According to Jonson & Allison; “…….In some states, e.g. Uzbekistan, practically no alternatives to ubiquitous central authority is allowed. Political violence, suppression of dissident views, violations of human rights and liberties are encountered almost everywhere in the region, adding to social instability…..”(Jonson & Allison, 2001:1)

In fact, even the Central Asia countries (CAC) are independent countries, their independence, economic growth and concepts of the democratization depend more on the bilateral or multi relations according to the “Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)” (Jonson & Allison, 2001:1) and inside the limits that CIS offers under the authoritarian presidentialism democracy applications.

In the other words, Russia or the other actors aiming to pursue their roles in the Central Asia are obliged to deal with the countries of which the economies and democracies are in transition. However, this comment should not be considered in a negative or pejorative way, because all members of CIS -as well as CAC- are in the process of the development in all levels.

 

III.      The Principal Actor of the Central Asia:  Russia

The new period of the Central Asia countries began with the reality that “Russia had the capacity and was sooner or later to establish a hegemonic security policy role in Central Asia, or might be capable of developing the CIS into an integrated economic and military union of at least Russia and the Central Asian CIS member states, either on a voluntary basis or as the result of various forms of subtle coercion.” (Jonson & Allison, 2001:2) on the one side, and the new strategic concepts developed by New World Order after 1991 and also 2001, on the other -although Russia remains highly influential in the region and acts as a very important actor because of the common interests (Jonson & Allison, 2001:3), Russia is not able unilaterally to lead the Central Asia countries (Jonson & Allison, 2001:3) as it had been in the past.

Especially the economic and financial weakness of Russia forced them to seek “to diversify their security policy relations and form new partnerships outside the context of the CIS or bilateral agreements with Russia. Through reducing their former dependence on Russia it became easier for the Central Asian leaders to assert distinct foreign policies and national security priorities.”(Jonson & Allison, 2001:3)

In spite of this analysis, nobody can refuse or deny Russian influence in the region. The reason is very clear: First, today’s leaders’ staffs of the Central Asia were the heirs of the Russia centered Soviet Union ideologies in the past, and it will be so in the future as well. Also, it must not be forgotten that the official and common language of the Central Asia countries is Russian and the Russian people, settled in the region according to USSR politics, are still alive and constitute the important and active key elements in socio-economic and political life of these countries.(Kortunov, 1998:4)

It is not to be underestimated that the Central Asia countries continue to exist under the ex-territories of USSR, even Russia has reduced “by jure” its territories by allowing all CIS countries to set up their state-nations and reclaim their sovereignty and independence, “de facto”, it is to admit that Russia has played the important roles in the real political aspects over its ex-republics in the Central Asia.  This connection may be a result of the “authoritarian presidentialism”, as the other ex-republics such as Georgia and Ukraine try to measure the limits of Russian foreign policies.

 In reality, perhaps, today “Russia is no longer able unilaterally to define the nature and extent of purported common interests with the Central Asian states….”(Jonson & Allison, 2001:3), but it is still able multilaterally to create, form or support the regional activities according to its major interests such as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 by six countries, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (MFAPR). At the same time, it is not to forget that SCO concepts are made wider with the initiatives of Russia and China. As a result, SCO became more than to strengthen only confidence-building and disarmament in the border regions.

Since SCO creation, we remark also that the trade relations between Russia and China have been still increasing.  Russia became a very important oil supplier of China. In 2002, Russia invested US$2 billion to the construction of the Russia-China oil pipeline in order to supply 20 million to 30 million tons of oil to China every year.(Blagov,2002) In fact, “Russia, China's largest non-OPEC supplier, is studying a proposal to build a pipeline to feed Siberian oil to China and plans to raise the rail shipments 50 percent next year”.(International Herald Tribune)

In other words, Russia competes with OPEC over China’s oil needs that are described by Gal Luft[ii] as “…the elephant in the room and by far the fastest-growing energy consumer…" (International Herald Tribune)

Through these relations and interdependence between Russia and China which needs Russia to expand its market over the Russia and the Central Asia countries, SCO has been formed by cumulating the other Central Asia countries around Russia and China that try to set up a  front anyhow not against but versus USA world leadership.

In this purpose, “In June 2002, the heads of SCO member states met in St. Petersburg and signed the SCO Charter, which clearly expounded the SCO purposes and principles, organizational structure, form of operation, cooperation orientation and external relations, marking the actual establishment of this new organization in the sense of international law.”(MFAPR)

 Following the collapse of USSR, Russia’s new image has been changing gradually. Today, Russia is a full member of G-8 since January 2006, and as one of the seven major non-OPEC members, it is the second oil exporter country after Saudi Arabia by 4,910,000 barrels per day with 15.2 % in the total World oil export.(Nationmaster.com, 2005/a) 

Russia is also the world's no.1 natural gas producer by 580,800,000,000 cubic feet per year.(Nationmaster.com, 2005/b) Even Russia does not share its experiences in energy fields in the Central Asia. One of the biggest –if not the no.1- natural gas companies of the world, “Gazprom of Russia……plans to help Venezuela develop its natural gas resources, which are the eighth-largest in the world, according to the Venezuelans.” (World Energy Bulletin, 2006)

On the other hand, in spite of its power and importance, and its cooperation with China (that applies the strategies to maximize its interests in the region), Russia struggles to face the new challengers, trying to take part in the Central Asia. As a result, except the Russian hegemony in the region, there are “growing engagement in Central Asia of other regional powers—Turkey, Iran and China—as well as the United States and other Western states. The prospects of exploiting in the Caspian region have attracted not only Western but also Asian investors and governments.”(Jonson & Allison, 2001:3) 

A similar analysis is also made by Kortunov, articulating the regional reality: “Not surprisingly, Russia appears to be the main outside player in regional affairs. However, neighboring Turkey, Iran, China, as well as many other Asian and European powers and the US are trying to promote their interests in Central Asia, considered by many to be destined to emerge as a more important new geopolitical region of the world in the next century.”(Kortunov, 1998:6)

 Although it is thought that Russia will gradually decrease the oppression over the Central Asia governments, it is still dominant and will continue to present same power in the future as a major actor. Kortunov underlines the main reasons as follows;

First, “…….stability in Central Asia essentially means the absence of major regional conflicts that may pose threats to the Russian hinterland, its borders and interests.” (Kortunov, 1998:5)

 Secondly, Russia gives importance to the economic stability and knows the importance of the meaning of the economic power very well from the historical experiences it had in the past. Through these experiences, it should not fall second time in the same mistakes. For that reason, “…stability in the region is looked upon through the socio-economic prism and is gauged against the relative effectiveness of local economies and the ability of Central Asian regimes to resolve complicated social issues confronting their nations. Socio-economic stability of Central Asia, preferably accompanied by successful market reforms, is a sine qua non on of close cooperation between them and the Russian Federation.” (Kortunov, 1998:5)

Thirdly, as Russian minorities live in the Central Asia countries (Kortunov, 1998:6), the Central Asian stability and the Russian relations with these countries gain importance. For Russia, the Central Asia countries are at the same time rimland, hinterland and heartland of its field of influence and interests according to its pragmatic point of views.

Fourthly, for protecting the regional stability and its interests, Russia wants to play a key role in resolving many problems such as “….production and trafficking of narcotic substances; illegal trade in arms; disruption of communication infrastructures, violation of human rights, spread of corruption and criminality; and political or ethnic violence.”(Kortunov, 1998:6)

In other words, Moscow is obliged to make a choice between external activism in its ex-territories and isolationism in its heartland. (Kortunov, 1998:6) In fact, both complicate the situation, but till the “authoritarian presidentialism” is authoritative in the Central Asia, it will be easy for Russian foreign politics to apply an activism that can be called as external activism or internal activism without any difference between two terminologies through the lens of the actual status quo of the region.

Despite this analysis concerning the role of Russia in the Central Asia countries, it is not to forget that the actual importance of Russia is more politic, historic and strategic over energy policies. Otherwise, when the economic indicators of Russia are analyzed, as seen in the import-export data, Russia looks more interested in the energy investments or agreements in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but at the same time, the most important import-export relations of Russia are established with other countries than CIS’.

Eventually, if the part of the five Central Asian countries in CIS is taken into consideration, it is seen very obviously that, in fact, the import-export volume values with the Central Asia countries (CAC) remain not so important (Export Russia Import, 2006) except that Russia import’s from Kazakhstan is around 4 % in 2003 (Copetti, 2005:4), which has relatively same value since.   However, these five countries’ import-export percentages from Russia are very considerable. It means that these five countries: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan need Russia to export to and import from. In the bilateral economic relations with Russia, only Kazakhstan which constitutes approximately a 4 % part in the Russian import percentage, but if it is evaluated in total according to the country import-export volume, it is seen that Russia has been listed among the top 5 countries in the field of the main destinations of export and the main origins of import of the CAC including Kazakhstan.[iii]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: CAC’s Export to Russia (in %)  (Among the Top Five Countries)

Source: the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Reports : Country Report, Kazakhstan, July 2006; Kyrgyz Republic, August 2006; Country Report, Tajikistan, July 2006;Country Report, Turkmenistan, July 2006; Country Report, Uzbekistan, September 2006 (The figure 1 is drawn through the data obtained in EUI Country Report for each country).

 

As seen in the Figure 1, among the 5 top countries to which Central Asia countries (CAC) have exported, Russia has still a considerable part for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Turkmenistan exports. Only, according to 2004 data, Russia is not listed among the 5 countries in the Tajikistan export, but as Figure 2 shows that Russia takes an important part with 33 % in the total Kyrgyz import.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: CAC’s Import from Russia (in %) (Among the Top Five Countries)

Source: EUI Country Reports : Country Report, Kazakhstan, July 2006; Kyrgyz Republic, August 2006; Country Report, Tajikistan, July 2006;Country Report, Turkmenistan, July 2006; Country Report, Uzbekistan, September 2006 (The figure 2 is drawn through the data obtained in EUI Country Report for each country).

 

As seen in Figure 2, all CA countries import from Russia, it means that economic dependence to Russia is not inevitable, and also fateful until CAC will have completed their development at the unknown future.

Furthermore, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of Russia, as seen in the Figure 3, shows us that Russia still invests in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Among the 48.5 % of the FDI of Russia, Uzbekistan with 4.3 % had been ranked as the fifth country while Kazakhstan with 3.9 % had been ranked as the sixth one among the top 10 FDI destinations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: The Top 10 Destinations of FDI Projects from Russia, 2002-2003 (%)

Source: UNCTAD, FDI/TNC database in “World Investment Report 2004, The Shift Towards Services, United nations Conference on Trade and Development, p.74, http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/wir2004_en.pdf

 

In fact, Sahgal’s following analysis supports and comments the economic values shown in the Figures above in a different way.  The real politic pushes Russia to take the measures versus the new situations and evaluations. Naturally, Russia does not want to lose or reduce its importance in the region, because of the growing American and Chinese interests and influences.(Sahgal,2004) 

“Concerned with the growing American and Chinese influence, and given its strategic interests in the region, Russia has been incrementally enhancing its engagement with the intention of expanding, consolidating and further strengthening its relations with C.A.R.”(Sahgal, 2004) 

For these reasons, each CAC has a vital and important value for Russia.  It is sometimes economic and strategic according to Sahgal, “Safeguarding Russian economic interests is one of the most important objectives of Moscow's C.A.R. policy. In order to protect these interests, Russia has kept a tight rein on the states it considers most critical, such as Kazakhstan…….”(Sahgal, 2004)

Especially, among the five Central Asia countries, Kazakhstan is considered as “pivot country” for economical and political Russian interests. First of all, by 798,200 thousand barrels per day, it is the 18th oil producer in the world (Nationmaster.com, 2005/c) and the 2nd in CIS, and Kazakhstan is the 23rd natural gas producer by 10,080,000,000 cubic feet.(Nationmaster.com, 2005/d) In this purpose, “The activities of Russian oil and gas companies in Central Asia are growing in Kazakhstan, where the struggle for control of oil exports has already started….”(Nationmaster.com, 2005/d)

Also, even the Cold War is said finished, Russia is continuing to its space researches and projects. In this aim, Kazakhstan serves to Russia (even it is rented for the “bon marché” price) the Baikonur space launch complex and a nuclear weapons testing facility.(Nationmaster.com, 2005/d)

After underlining the importance of Kazakhstan, the place of Uzbekistan should not be forgotten in the bilateral Russian-Uzbek relations. In this frame, an outlook to data between Russia and Uzbekistan helps us to see this reality. In 2002-2003, 4.3 % of Russian FDI aims to Uzbekistan.  Russia's export is around 22 while its import is around 26.8 % in 2004.  Uzbekistan is the 5th cotton producer in the world. We can simply say that this factor increases also the importance of Uzbekistan in the region, but the relations are not always important on the economy, at the same times, the military and security issues are more concerned in the bilateral concepts of these two states.

According to PINR report’s, “Following the U.S. denial of aid to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan due to his government's dismal human rights record, Russia seized the opportunity to formalize economic and military agreements with Uzbekistan that are likely to not only enhance its standing with Uzbekistan but in all of Central Asia.”(Sahgal, 2004)  This is not only a reality; it is a return to real politic strategy of Russia after 1991. In other words, because of some CIS members’ revolts on the “democratic” platforms, Russia lost enough blood and has been wounded by losing or starting to lose its partial authority on some ex-republics such as Georgia, Ukraine. Certainly, Russia would not hope to have same experiences in the Central Asia, because, first of all, “Russia also has vital interests in the oil and gas complexes of Central Asia. The region possesses enormous reserves, making it important for Moscow to pursue economic advantages while simultaneously fulfilling the strategic role of ensuring Russian control in the sphere of oil and gas production and transportation in its near abroad……….. In addition, Russia seeks to avoid economic isolation by building new pipelines across its territory.”(Sahgal, 2004)

As for Turkmenistan, although this country has tried to take a step forward not towards to CIS -that would tighten their relations-, but to develop a strategy to act outside of this organization by reducing its ties as an associate member in August 2005(RFERL), this act cannot be considered as a revolt to Russia. In fact, by limiting its membership, Turkmenistan wanted “…to be at a certain distance from the CIS, where the voices of democratic Ukraine and Georgia are becoming stronger…” (RFERL), but CIS is also considered as an “ineffectual organization” (RFERL) and Turkmenistan acts according to regional security balance being very conscious of its vital reserves and its place at the strategic point in the circle of Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Caspian Sea.  Turkmenistan oil proved reserves’ are about 273 million bbl in 2002, and Turkmen natural gas production’s is 54.6 billion cu m (2004 est.) while 38.6 billion cu m (2004 est.) has been exported.(Central Intelligence Agency, 2006/a)  In other way, in spite of allegations that Turkmenistan leaved CIS because of that Ukraine and Georgia are becoming stronger inside of CIS, according to data in 2001, Turkmenistan bilateral economic relations with Ukraine are more than Russia’s.  In fact, 46 % of Turkmenistan’s export is done with Ukraine while 15 % of Turkmenistan’s import is provided from.(EIU, 2006/a)

 As for the economic relations between Russia and Turkmenistan, they continue, but they are still unbalanced as 21 % of Turkmenistan’s import is done from Russia while Russia exports only 6 %. In other way, Russia relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are at the lower degree.(Sahgal, 2004) But it is to admit that these countries are still not in a way to be act more sovereign outside of Russia, first of all, the authoritarian presidentialism sovereigns in these countries. For example, in 1999, People's Council (the Khalk Maslakhaty) has removed all limits on Saparmurad Niyazov's term of office, making him president for life (EIU,2006/a)[iv], which was an application seen more in Soviet models or anti-democratic systems.

The situation is not different in Uzbekistan. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has retained almost complete control over the country. Even five parties represented in the legislature support Mr. Karimov, he is not still elected as a life-long president. Normally, his term should end in 2007.(EIU, 2006/b) On the other hand, Turkmenistan, ranked as the 22nd country in the world, still faces the social-economic problems with 58 % poverty line.

Furthermore, all these negative points or issues have been suiting Russia’s purposes. They help Russia to be more in the center of the Central Asia countries and more focused over.

Taking part in CIS and SCO, Kyrgyzstan is a strategic fortress to Russian interests. By this purpose, Russia continues to develop very important military and economic ties with Kyrgyzstan by opening a military base near Kant.(Sahgal,2004) Comparison of the export-import data between two countries shows that Kyrgyzstan's import from Russia is higher than it exports. While Kyrgyz export is around 22.7 %, its import volume from Russia is around 33 %. (EIU, 2006/c)

In fact, according to this comparison, it is easily to assume that the difference in question creates a disadvantageous situation against Kyrgyzstan. However, in spite of these unequal export-import values and unbalanced relations between two countries, for Russia, Kyrgyzstan means to be a good and allied partner in the politic and strategic dimensions, and for Kyrgyzstan, Russia is an indispensable power in the region.

Kyrgyzstan is also a member of SCO and plays a role of security between the great actors: Russia and China, and Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its importance is limited nowadays at the level of strategy, but it is economically listed as a poor country with a 40 % poverty line. It is ranked as the 49th country in the World. 

Tajikistan is the worse about poverty line in the World. It comes as the 15th country with 64 %. Being a SOC member, this country is also a very strategic partner of Russia. According to the analysis, there is a close relation between military presence of Russia and Russian investments in Tajikistan. This poor country which had been fallen by civil war needs to be recovered by Russia and China.  In this purpose, “…..In contrast to Moldova and Georgia, the Russian government has sought to maintain stability in Tajikistan. Russian policy has also clearly reflected the geopolitical pull of instability from outside the CIS……..Russia has not intervened coercively in the Tajik conflict, but has acted in support of a government with which it has treaty obligations…….”(Royal Institute of International Affairs,  2000:150)

In other words, Russia has tried to do everything not to lose the control over Tajikistan such as providing essential support to Tajik forces.(Royal Institute of International Affairs,  2000:154) Also, in exchange of military presence, Tajikistan has been recompensed by the Russian investments.

According to Saghal, “A recent bilateral agreement will create the establishment of a Russian military base, border cooperation wherein Russia will assist Tajikistan in development and performance of its border guard structures, as well as a military aid. Furthermore, Russia's Federal Security Service will establish a border operations group to coordinate such partnership and assist Tajikistan in guarding its border. At the signing ceremony in Dushanbe, Putin stressed that a Russian military presence in Tajikistan will guarantee Russian investments and overall stability in the region…..”(Sahgal, 2004)

 

IV.     Conclusion

As Russia has started to lose its control over some of CIS members (e.g. Georgia and Ukraine), it has focused more on controlling the Central Asian countries. To acquire this aim, Russia shall continue to play a role over the Central Asian countries which had resisted to the realization of the policies based on new structures and functions of the Gorbachev period. In fact, being as a loyal republic of Soviet Union in the past, each of them, nowadays, is devoted to follow and apply the Russian Federation policies in the Central Asia in great manners and measures.

However, as long as Russia remains as an economically strong country, the Central Asian countries will continue to gather around its policies. It is not to forget that Russia becomes the 8th full member of G-8 since January 2006. Because of the increase in the oil prices, it became stronger and able to pay its foreign debts.

First of all, there is a reciprocal relationship between two sides: the Central Asia countries are geopolitically important for Russia; however, Russia is also geopolitically important for their future. Thus, even the Central Asian countries try to enrich their partners and cooperative countries with them; they are presently obliged to be supported by Russia.  This support must not be meant as a desire of the nation-state itself, but it is a desire resulting from the status quo of the authoritarian presidentialism. 


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Footnotes

[i] “Although Mackinder changed the heartland boundaries according to the strategic context of the times — he applied his formula in 1904, 1919, and 1943 — its core element always included Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), western Siberia, and the northern portions of Iran and Pakistan…..”, (Seiple, 2004); Even Mackinder formulated the Eurasia as the heartland of the World Island in his famous “The heartland theory”, sometimes, this definition has been either used to refer to the Central Asia by mistake or to underline the importance of the Central Asia according to the new comprehension of today ; Mackinder says “ Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island [Eurasia]. Who rules the World Island commands the World.” (Morgenthau, 1979:62 in Minx & Hawley, 1998: 33); and about this theory, Spykman counters Mackinders by the idea that: “Who rules the rimland rules Eurasia. Who rules the Eurasia rules the world.” (Minx&Hawley,1988:33).

 

[ii] Co-director of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security in Washington. See in “IAGS, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, http://www.iags.org/galluft.htm, access date : Sep.12,2006

 

[iii] Analyze taken from “the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Country Reports 2006 for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, Annual Indicators”.

 

[iv] However, after the death of Niyazov on December 21st, 2006 and the new presidential election held on February 2007 should be a new chance to the installation of the democratic system in Turkmenistan.