Central Asia: Geostrategic Survey
Internal terrains of Asia were always perceived as a remote periphery and, at the same time, as a place of concentration of steppe hordes capable of sweeping over the main centres of human civilization. Geopolitically, Central Asia is an area that separates vital centres of two nuclear powers – the Russian Federation (RF) and China - and the place of intersection of major geopolitical massifs – the Eurasian, Islamic, Chinese, and Indian. The fate of Asia at large depends on whether any new, synthesizing Asian model of order will eventually take shape here. The equilibrium of propensities and balances of the regional countries is incomplete, hence one can expect potential clashes of global interests of great powers for domination in the region.
Central Asia has no access to the great oceans, and its communications with world markets relate to inland transport and energy routes. This makes countries of the region dependent upon stability of their relationship with adjacent states as well as on security of communications. Due to unfavourable conditions the economy of the region is not self-sufficient, and its development to a great extent depends on the ability of local states to integrate into the global economic system. All that determines the main features of the regional countries’ behaviour as regards RF, the West, China, Islamic countries, which has to be flexible, deliberate, built on compromise and balancing between different interests.
After the collapse of the soviet system the Central Asian region (CAR) has turned into a new scene of action of various geopolitical forces that have began the great game for domination here. The region is attractive with its available resources and geostrategic position in the very centre of the Eurasian continent on the intersection of critical transport routes. In general, one can speak of the renewed phenomenon of the Central Asian geopolitics, which seemed to have seized to exist after this area was invaded by the Bolshevik troops in 1920s. The Afghan scenario proper was to finally solve the issue of Moscow’s domination in this region, however local forces entered the geopolitical scene and succeeded in preventing the realization of interests of soviet military superpower.
Geopolitical situation in the Central Asian region seems somewhat more optimistic compared, say, to the Balkans and the Caucasus where the newly formed states were involved into lasting internal and external conflicts. There have been no considerable interethnic or interstate clashes in CAR except the conflict in Tadjikistan. Countries of the region have managed to manifest the required flexibility in interstate relations as well as to achieve a certain level of internal stabilization. External forces here have not been strong enough to present a threat to regional stability. Moscow, that had traditionally exercised its control over Central Asia, in early 1990s did not manifest sufficient interest in developments in the region while the interest of other countries was here rather symbolic. One way or another, political elites of the regional states obtained certain time to strengthen their power and get established on the world arena.
Characteristics of internal development. Like in many other parts of the post-soviet area, the national and state identity of the Central Asia societies have not taken its final shape yet. Since the disintegration of the former USSR in 1991 the Central Asia has been witnessing the processes of transformation of the socio-political, ideological and economic order. This relates to gradual breaking with the rigid vertical, i.e. the orientation at the former Centre, and searching for new development and security opportunities in relations with other countries of the world, strengthening horizontal interstate ties within or beyond CIS. Gradual processes of consolidation and integration of regional countries are underway, though there are also internal confrontations between the new states, struggle for regional leadership, movement in centrifugal sectors of foreign policy, etc.
The population’s opposition to complicated processes of social modernization and the renewal of traditional forms of culture promoted enhanced national and religious feelings which, if directed under appropriate slogans, can lead to great upheavals. The most essential regional threats are of local origin: complex processes of national and state consolidation and legitimization of power, difficulties with developing national legislation, getting rid of residual effects of the colonial past, transformations of the socio-economic system, settlement of ethnic problems, barring border controversies, etc.
A transitional form of socio-political order is taking shape to address these issues in conditions of Central Asia. I.Karimov, President of Uzbekistan, calls it an “oriental democracy”, and it is based on authoritarianism and the dominating role of the state in social development. The community of interest of the ruling elites and the level of their consolidation which had developed in the soviet times (on the basis of centralization of power, implementation of single ideology, suppress of the rudimentary forms of democracy) contributed to establishing a relative political stability in the Central Asian republics and enabled them to resist the dangerous manifestations of religious and ethnic-separatist aggressiveness.
The authoritarian form of power proved to be acceptable for local ruling circles since it allowed to take control of the pro-Islamic traditionalism that is really capable of competing with the existing political elite formed in the soviet times. In conditions of Central Asia the authoritarian regime makes it possible to ensure social and political stability and to carry out the policy aimed at transformation of economic systems. On the other hand, the bitter experience of the Tadjik or Afghan conflicts has proved that attempts of boosting the democratization processes in conditions of an immature society result in quite an opposite effect of destabilization and self-destruction of the social organization followed by intervention of external forces.
Regional integration. According to experts, the Central Asian region is perceived by many as a separate system that has common and sometimes corporate interests. It is as well proved by the fact that those countries devote much attention namely to regional cooperation development. On the one hand, it is explained by the need of reacting to essential pressure exerted by RF which is trying to preserve the dominating position in the region while on the other hand – by the similarity of political and economic interests. Two years after gaining their independence the Central Asian states began to deviate from the initial course aimed at preserving close ties with CIS. They have much in common, but the question is whether a firm regional (EU- or ASEAN-like) system of interstate contacts can be established here or the confrontational type of relationship (like in South Asia and Middle East) is going to prevail?
As early as in 1990, the leaders of five states discussed joint plans of integration at their meeting in Alma-Ata. Following the signing of the Belovezh agreements in December 1991 Turkmenistan proposed the idea of establishing the Confederation of the Central Asian states but eventually the countries of the region acceded to CIS. The Head of States and Governments meeting in Tashkent in January 1993 revealed the intention of regional integration of countries of Central Asia in view of community of their interests: security issues, the Aral Sea problems, the crisis in Tadjikistan, establishing the common information space, etc.
The integration processes initiated on the basis of expanding regional economic cooperation and carrying out a number of foreign political initiatives are becoming increasingly essential. The Economic Union of Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrghyzstan took shape in January 1994 when, in order to implement the joint programme of deepening the economic integration within CIS, the Treaty Establishing Common Economic Area was signed between Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, which envisaged free movement of goods, services, capital, manpower and coordinated credit and payment, budgetary, taxation, price, tariff, and monetary policies.
An important factor of development of regional cooperation is establishing the Trans-Asian transport network system based on renewed traditional communications structures. What is meant is a great Eurasian transport corridor that includes combined use of railways, shipping routes, aviation, pipelines communications construction. The Turkmen gas (11 billion cubic metres) enters the European markets via Russia and Ukraine, while there is an intensive search for other ways to supply it world markets.
Foreign policy orientations of political elites in countries of the region are still at the stage of shaping. On the whole, they are formed on the basis of realization of a country’s national and regional interests and are developed as a synthetic configuration of major schemes of orientations of the CAR countries in the world – Euro-Atlantic, Eurasian, Turko-Islamic, Chinese, etc. to the extent of their adjustment to local conditions and interests.
Geopolitical uncertainty of the region seems to provide certain opportunities for such countries as Iran or China, but there is also a risk for them to suffer essential losses in this struggle for domination that will have a ricochet effect on themselves. Each of the adjacent countries – China, RF, Iran, Pakistan, and India – looks for its own way to maintain stability in the region and expand its regional influence. The West has mostly economic rather than political interests in the region. However, the latter do exist. They consist in counteracting the enhancement of integration tendencies in relations between the Central Asian countries and Russia in order to allow no renewal of the latter’s control. USA has considerable influence in the region, that is expressed in support of the orientation at the “new world order” and benevolent attitude to NATO.
The Russian Federation remains and will for a long time continue to remain the most influential power as regards the newly independent Central Asian states. Due to historic circumstances the Eurasian or Russian-soviet pattern of thinking continues to be the most influential. According to that pattern all countries of the post-soviet area should predominantly be oriented at Moscow. Russia is a major trading partner for the new states of CAR, especially Kazakstan and Kyrghyzstan. Rather essential is military and political cooperation. On 25 May 1992, Kazakstan and RF concluded the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, in which they pledged to extend military assistance to one another in case of aggression in regard to either party.
Moscow is turning its face to the East manifesting its wish to at least tie the CAR countries to the Russian policy aimed at protecting the Russian interests if bringing them back to the bosom of the empire turns out to be a failure. Russia’s goal is to counteract the penetration of other global powers into the region and to contain the processes of regional integration. Russia directs its efforts at protecting the ethnic Russians and “Russian speaking” persons residing in the region and regards the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia as a threat to itself.
The Treaty on Collective Security (the Tashkent Pact) signed between RF, Armenia and major Central Asian countries (Kazakstan, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan) in May 1992 was to become a considerable key factor of influence in the region. Later, some other CIS countries acceded to the Treaty though in general it preserved its Central Asian nature. The point is that at that time the leaders of the newly independent states of the region had certain concerns pertaining to real possibility of expansion of the conflict zone from Afghanistan and Tadjikistan farther northwards. That threat was associated with the so-called “Islamic factor”, i.e. expansion of the processes of rebirth of Islam and its politicization among the traditionally Islamic population of the Central Asian countries. In reality, the strengthening of Islam could undermine mass support of the authorities in those countries and more resolutely change their foreign policy orientations.
The Treaty gave an opportunity to preserve the Russian political and military presence in the region and borders thereof, and, on the other hand, it was aimed at assisting the newly independent states in developing their own armed forces and frontier troops. Namely the Russian troops in the capacity of the peacekeeping force promoted the non-Islamic government coming to power in Tadjikistan. In reality, their peace-making mission was aimed at the preservation of Russian military and political dominance in the region pursuant to the strategy of “advanced line” protection of the Russian national interests.
However, eventually the Tashkent Treaty failed to establish favourable conditions for a large-scale assistance in developing national armed forces whereas the “common defense space” in fact meant preserving the military infrastructure formed in the times of the USSR, inherited by RF and fully controlled by Moscow. Against the background of the progressing degradation of all CIS structures its military organization in the form of the Tashkent Pact underwent a no less or even greater breakdown. The economic crisis in RF in 1998 also aggravated the contradictions between the great-power ambitions of the Russian ruling elite and real possibilities of their material ensuring. At the same time, there is progressing disillusionment among RF partners in the Treaty concerning the necessity of the Tashkent Pact. Being a party to the Treaty, a participating country, in addition to certain infringement of its national sovereignty, used to feel a somewhat restrained attitude to itself on the part of the international community, that impeded the development of effective and firm contacts with more useful partners. In early 1999, in view of the end of the 5-year term of the Tashkent Treaty, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan withdrew from the Treaty. In fact, it means the failure of the Central Asian and Caucasian policy of RF based on the military and political schemes of “advanced lines”.
In the recent years, Moscow has tried to substantiate the course of “soft integration of the post-soviet area countries after the “Belarussian option”. What is meant is the reintegration of Russia’s geopolitical influence under formal preservation of national sovereignty of newly independent states. In general, as to its final goal, such policy differs little from the “tough” course but it envisages more flexible mechanisms, mostly economic and diplomatic ones. Advocates of this position proceed also from the provision concerning the danger of developing post-soviet vacuum in Central Asia which allegedly faces an increased threat of internal conflicts and risks of external intervention.
Hoping to establish equal and mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation the governments of the newly independent states of Central Asia, as well as the government of Ukraine, are concerned with the increased disposition to restoring the USSR among the influential political forces of Russia. In view of the activated Russian policy in the East which is carried out to counterbalance the NATO enlargement in Europe, one can expect the increased pressure on the CAR countries aimed at attaching them more closely to the Russian interests.
In spite of their statements on strategic partnership with Russia, the Central Asian countries uphold their internationally recognized status of independent states and are unlikely to agree with the concept that regards the CIS countries exclusively as the sphere of RF vital interests. With increased external pressure on the part of RF, countries of Central Asia can be expected to activate their search for an appropriate counterbalance and by doing so they will find understanding on the part of Ukraine.
USA and Western states do not have a sufficiently developed and consistent policy as regards countries of the region. To a large extent this is explained by the fact that they were traditionally unable to have such a policy under dominating Russian-soviet influence in the region. Certain penetration of the British Empire into the region was most likely related to protection of its interests in India. New opportunities for the West emerged in connection with the USSR’s failure to win in its war with Afghanistan and the very collapse of the soviet system of global domination. Since approximately 1994, USA has begun to regard Central Asia as a region strategically important for the U.S. in view of its resources and location. Strengthening and development of its influence upon countries of the region is critical for the U.S. policy in view of the existing and potential controversies with RF, China, the Islamic world. Still, USA has no sufficiently critical, vital interests in the region to assume full responsibility for its security and to fill the geostrategic vacuum there.
The U.S. primary interest is to prevent the growing of the existing problems into crisis situations that could expand to other regions of Asia. This could be achieved, first of all, through development of democracy and market-oriented economies in countries of the region that would put obstacles in the way of development of ethnic, religious and political extremism. Strong economy is a main preventer of political instability. At a certain stage USA agrees with aspects of the Russian policy in CAR aimed at supporting stability of the region. Protection of ethic minorities’ rights, opposition to Islamism, democratic and economic reforms – all that is in the interests of both USA and RF.
In January 1994, NATO invited all newly independent states to large-scale cooperation in the framework of Partnership for Peace (PfP). Within a year, all countries of the region except Tadjikistan signed the framework agreements with NATO. PfP involves a number of measures promoting military planning and activities of newly independent states. The 1997 joint exercise of armed forces of the Central Asian countries and NATO could be considered the most extensive of them. The second peacekeeping exercise “Centrasbat-98” was held in the territory of Uzbekistan in September 1998, with participation of Uzbekistan, RF, Kyrghyzstan, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, USA, and Turkey.
The Central Asian states are looking for assistance of Western states to modernize their economies, but it is the petroleum interests of the West that are the key factor of shaping the strategic situation in the region.
Turkey, to a certain extent, can be regarded as a conductor of Western interests in the region. It is trying to compete with RF and Iran for the influence upon the post-soviet Turkic-speaking countries of Central Asia. The Turkish trump cards in this game are its ethnic kinship with the Turkic-speaking peoples of the region, confessional identity (Sunnite Moslems in contrast to Iranian Shiites), its status of an economically developed and military and politically strong Turkic Moslem country, its special relationship with USA.
However, strengthening of Islamic attitudes in Turkey, its attempts of rapprochement with other Islamic countries can lead to a certain change of its traditionally pro-Western policy in the coming years. In addition, RF is trying its best to counteract the enhancement of Turkish influence in Central Asia as well as in the Caucasus and the Balkans. The idea of panturkism is attractive for countries of the region rather because of its economic foundation. Turkey enthusiastically supported the independent countries by granting them preferential treatment in trade and extending credits. The anti-Russian factor contributed here as well, i.e. the search for certain counterbalance in the person of Turkey. In the course of panturkist ideas the Central Asian countries are introducing the Latin alphabet and developing intensive cultural contacts as well as those between political elites.
Iran, which due to efforts exerted by the U.S. diplomacy has found itself in foreign political isolation, at least as regards the Western countries, holds a separate position in the region. Iran perceives itself and its strategic interests in three aspects: as a saviour of Islamic values, as an important third world member in the struggle against neocolonialism and as an actor in the petroleum and gas game. The Islamic revolution in Iran is an example of self-repulsion from the Western modernization, as well as an attempt to get the society adjusted to change without breaking its cultural integrity. The USSR disintegration put the issue of Iran’s critical location as a bridge between the in-land Central Asian region and the outer world in the centre of clashes of global interests. The region is separated from the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean by only one country – Iran.
There is a popular opinion in the West that Iran develops the nuclear weapons production infrastructure with the help of China. However, the Central Asian experts do not regard Iran as a threat to regional security. The main purpose of increasing national military potential by Iran is developing a centre of strength in the Persian Gulf area whereas development of relations with countries of Central Asia is primarily of economic significance for Iran.
Iran carries out the independent foreign political game opposing itself to the Western nations, competing with Turkey and Pakistan and trying not to aggravate its relations with Russia. It develops economic and political cooperation with its northern neighbour – Turkmenistan, has considerable influence on ethnically and culturally related Tadjikistan, supports the Shiite-Tadjik-Uzbek anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan.
China remains the leading country of the Asian-Pacific region (APR), which has a strong tendency to increasing its influence on global processes and essentially stipulates the development in countries of Central Asia. Contributors to that are China’s sustainable economic development, successful modernization of the country and reformation of its economy, as well as active foreign policy of Beijing aimed at developing favourable external environment and ensuring China’s regional and global interests.
The Chinese military and political presence in Central East Asia could be traced almost since emergence of first Khan empires until the present day. And according to China’s might, Eastern Turkestan used either to fall into the Chinese dependence or get emancipated from it. In view of the weakened positions of RF as well as economic and political weakness of regional states, under general Trans-Asian intensification of commodity exchange and construction of relevant transport routes, the strategic and transit significance of Central Asia for China will increase.
In summer 1995, Li Peng, Premier of the State Council of China, visited countries of Central Asia and Kazakstan. In the course of the visit the Chinese party declared the official stand of Beijing as regards development of relations with its Asian neighbours. This stand is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and does not differ in principle from other foreign political declarations of the Chinese leadership. However, in practice China pays great attention to the two important factors in the region: disintegration processes and trends in the territory of the former USSR and influence of Moslem fundamentalism on socio-political circumstance inside China.
It should be noted that China has addressed the tasks of foreign political backing of its interests quite successfully. On 26 April 1996, the leaders of five states – Kazakstan, Kyrghyzstan, China, Russia, and Tadjikistan – signed in Shanghai the Agreement on Confidence Building in the Military Field in the Border Area. The following year – in April 1997 – the leaders of the above-mentioned countries at their meeting in Moscow signed the Agreement on Mutual Reduction of their Armed Forces in the Border Area, that fixed a limit for troops and armaments in the 100-kilometre border zone. For the first time in Asia those agreements established a new structure of multilateral security building measures in the region.
On the other hand, the domestic policy component of China’s relations with countries of the region remains a permanent destabilizing factor. The area eastwards of Pamir – Eastern Turkestan or Uiguria – is a traditional zone of Chinese domination even though the local population belongs to the Moslem cultural areal. The Chinese authorities carry out the deliberate and consistent policy of Chinaization of China’s western provinces predominantly populated by ethnic Chinese, and for the near future we can predict only further realization of the corresponding tendencies.
In view of the rapid rates of China’s economic development and considering the fact that the Chinese ruling circles have traditionally understood China’s role as regards its neighbours as that of domination, the governments of Kazakstan and Uzbekistan have grounds to be concerned with the Chinese hegemonism. This promotes a search for alternative orientations by countries of the region – towards RF (so far loyal to the West), Turkey and Iran.
The Indian vision of the regional problems is conditioned by concerns that under the present situation there are changes in the direction of greater dynamism. There is a new strategic threat to India being shaped from the region of Central Asia, which breaks the established strategic balance when the USSR used to act as a geopolitical counterpoise against forces antagonistic to India. Local conflicts and ethnic tensions (nationalism and fundamentalism) have substituted the soviet threat (Afghanistan). The created vacuum implies the emergence of new outside-the-region powers with different ideological and political interests. Openness of the region to the outer world threatens, among other things, the Indian economic domination in the area.
Therefore, on the whole, political transformations and ultimate orientations of the new states cannot but change the strategic milieu of India. To support stability in Central Asia India concentrates its attention on strengthening bilateral cooperation with adjacent countries providing technical assistance and initiating economic programmmes aimed at enhancement of established contacts. In ensuring regional stability India relies primarily on extra-Islamic factors (RF and China).
On the whole, India and the entire South Asia have an increasing propensity for the Asian pacific region. It should be noted, however, that Pakistan still stands essentially aside of this movement since geopolitically it is more closely linked to Middle East and Central Asia. Traditionally, India is a strategic partner of Russia and, regardless of certain fluctuations in the recent years, the bilateral relations are progressing in general. India implements the large-scale programme of modernization of its armed forces intended for the period until the year 2010. One of the most important aspects of that programme is the national navy build-up, as well as development of the national military-industrial complex. Attempts of reorienting to military and technological cooperation with the West prove to be fruitless due to traditionally developed priorities of cooperation with the USSR.
India has independently developed the nuclear weapon system of its own. The recent underground nuclear tests in Rajasthan desert aroused concern of the nuclear powers, since emergence of another nuclear weapon state can turn all existing conceptions of the world balance of forces upside-down. It is also possible that in this way India is claiming for raising its global and subregional status and becoming one of the major force centres in Asia to fill the vacuum that emerged after the USSR disintegration.
The significance of Pakistan – the traditional opponent of India in the region – has been increasing of late due to development of transport corridors from Central Asia southwards. Pakistan exercises great influence on the Afghan Talibs and has considerable Islamic ambitions. In its desire to obtain a status of the regional leader Pakistan relies on support of USA, Great Britain, Persian Gulf states. At the same time, Pakistan has its own nuclear potentialities and is able to retaliate the Indian nuclear programme. The local arms race between India and Pakistan can prospectively ruin the existing balance of forces in Asia.
In recent years, Pakistan’s defense strategy, built on the confrontation with India and quest for influential patrons on the part of great powers, has as well to take account of the threats relating to the Afghan and Tadjik conflicts. Islamabad has certain expectations that the new states of Central Asia are able to ensure strategic depth of Pakistan’s defense area. Geographic limitations and influence of non-Islamic neighbours in the region (RF and China) contain Pakistan’s aspirations for becoming one of the main players in the region. However, due to bilateral ties and multilateral regional formations like ECO, Pakistan is able to render technical and economic assistance to Central Asian countries to enhance intra-regional stability.
Pakistan’s access to Central Asia is possible in three ways – through Kandahar and Herat as well as through the Karakorum highway built in 1960-1980ss together with China - to Kashgar and farther to Bishkek. There are plans to utilize this route to supply the Kyrghyz electricity to Pakistan. Pakistan is interested in integration projects connecting CAR and South Asia, especially in oil pipelines and transportation of goods and energy to Hindustan.
Pakistan tries to realize its strategic interests through intensive Islamizing the new states of the region, that would legalize Pakistan as an Islamic country since it is not a national-ethic state proper. It is for that reason that border issues emerge being to a certain extent induced. Expansion of Pakistan’s influence in the Central Asian region gives it the required geostrategic depth in its confrontation with India and also allows to strengthen its positions in relationship with the West. After all, Pakistan receives an opportunity to promote development of the all-Islamic common market.
Pakistan’s expectations are not considered to be well-grounded since the process of Islamizing the CAR countries is unlikely to be fast in view of orientations of their political elites and counteraction by Russian, Western and other forces. On the other hand, the notion of India being an anti-Islamic country is rather questionable. India’s contacts with CAR countries have a more profound historical background whereas the Islamic component of the Indian culture is more attractive. One can agree with the opinion of Indian analysts that no regional bloc will be successful without participation of India, Russia or China. Interethnic warfare in Afghanistan and Tadjikistan restricts Pakistan’s opportunities to exert direct influence over the region. After all, it should be taken into consideration that intensified Islamization extended to Sinkiang would bring Pakistan into direct conflict with China.
In the process of restructuring the geopolitical balances in the region Ukraine should detect such configuration that would utmostly promote implementation of its geostrategic interests. It should be taken into account that there are great world powers – USA, RF, China – behind various groupings of states and, consequently, entering the Central Asian space requires diplomatic flexibility, ability to balance in the sphere of confronting interests of the great powers and states which have more opportunities in the region due to historic traditions and economic influence and which will naturally regard others as unwanted rivals. Hence, Ukraine’s penetration into the region should be well considered, gradual and also consecutive.
At the same time, as to their potential, the newly independent states of the region are commensurate with Ukraine, that is conducive to development of equal dialogue with them. For countries of the region Ukraine is like a new state which was in the state of semi-colony itself not long ago. It is devoid of the image of a carrier of the purely “western” interests and, consequently, is more likely to become an equal partner. Ukraine is able to join the processes of development and enhancement of the proper Central Asian scheme of vision of a new structure of order in the region rendering diplomatic, political and moral assistance to the new states in a situation of clashing of their interests with those of world powers.
Ukraine and countries of Central Asia have important economic and geopolitical interests in common. There are real economic and political grounds for deliberate and consistent elaborating the Central Asian vector of the Ukrainian foreign policy. Productivity of its elaboration depends on the realistic conception as regards the political situation and strategic interests of the regional states.
Increased geopolitical significance of the Central Asian region for Ukraine stems not only from the restructuring of political discord in Eurasia and natural resources of the region but also from the transport routes shift in the Old World. Traditional land transportation infrastructure is being restored within Eurasia, a branch of which going via Ukraine is to link Europe with Central Asia and through the latter – with South and East Asia.
The main vector of the Ukrainian foreign policy is to integrate Ukraine into the European structures, whereas countries of Central Asia strengthen their relationship with countries of the Islamic Orient and APR. And though these processes are inversely directed, as it seems, the Central Asian countries and Ukraine naturally belong to common Black and Caspian Sea area with the Trans-Caucasian transport and energy corridor becoming its pivotal structure.
Central Asia is rich with natural resources. It is also a vast market for Ukrainian consumer and industrial goods. The need of CAR countries to modernize and diversify their economies, which used to have colonial characteristics being based on monocultures, increases their activity in searching for equal and beneficial partners.
Despite intensive penetration of foreign capital into the Central Asian countries, Ukraine still has quite promising chances to get strengthened in the Central Asian markets. Countries of the region take Ukraine for rather an equal partner. Ukraine has great intellectual and industrial potential and is able to develop competitive industries in countries of Central Asia as well as to satisfy their needs with required foodstuffs and industrial goods.
The Ukrainian geostrategy as regards its attitude to countries of Central Asia is based on the understanding of significance of that region for realization of national interests of our state and strengthening its security. Principle goals and tasks of the foreign political strategy of our state in that region are as follows:
development of favourable conditions for Ukraine’s intensified entry into the Central Asian geopolitical space; encouragement of the tendency of developing mutual attraction of states within CIS, which could withstand hegemonistic ambitions of great powers; establishing strategic partnership relations with CAR key states;
intensive development of equal trade relations and economic cooperation between CAR countries and Ukraine under modernization of their economic systems; realization of opportunities as regards cooperation in the field of development of intellectual potential and creation of common information space, as well as in the field of military and technical cooperation;
development of cooperation in the field of security in view of the growing uncontrolled migration from Asian countries via Ukraine, increasing organized crime and illegal drug trafficking; cooperation in the field of local conflict resolution, combating international terrorism, interaction in peace-making efforts of international organizations.
The interests of Ukraine and Central Asian countries are not conflicting in any field, and, at the same time, there is quite a broad sphere of mutual interest. This provides grounds for developing a system of long-term promising partnership with states of the region. As regards individual countries of the region, Ukraine’s strategic behaviour should be diversified, varying with regard to peculiarities of a country, the achieved level of relationship, determined priorities and spheres of common interests.
While maintaining and developing mutually beneficial relations with all Central Asian countries it is advisable for Ukraine to expedite the strategic partnership relations with Republic of Uzbekistan which is a key country and a potential leader of the region. Successful development of these relations to a great extent affect the realization of Ukraine’s national interests in CAR and also, in a greater perspective, Ukraine’s involvement into the process of developing a new structure of the Eurasian geopolitical space. The development of relations with Tadjikistan is possible in the field of mutual interests but this relationship will most likely be developed in the light of the Ukrainian-Uzbek relations. The aftermath of the lasting domestic conflict in that country will for a long time determine its foreign political orientations predominantly at Uzbekistan and RF, with its independent policy still being shaped. Relations with Kazakstan and Kyrghyzstan are advisable to be developed on a bilateral basis taking into account peculiar nature of these countries’ relationship with the Russian Federation and, on the other hand, - the growing influence of China on these two countries. And finally, Ukraine’s relations with Turkmenistan are important, first of all, from the standpoint of Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine and also – in view of the transport mains projects via that country.