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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: abdulruff
Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
User since: 15/Mar/2008
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Great Game: Central Asia in post-Crimea context

-DR. ABDUL RUFF COLACHAL 

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Russia’s annexation of Crimea has sounded alarm bells throughout Central Asia. Most people of Central Asia worry about Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and what it means for their own country’s relations with Russia.

 

All Central Asian governments have considerable reasons for alarm in the wake of Russia’s Crimea action and the weak Western response to it. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all five Central Asian states could be challenged with the threat of Russian military action should they somehow threaten the dignity and honor of Russians who are citizens in their states. That is if Russia thinks the Russian Diaspora in Central Asia is not happy with governments in Central Asian region, it can invade the region.

 

Russia can easily cook up a provocation based on alleged or even real mistreatment of Russians, and invade any of these CA states at will. And to judge from the passive Western response, nobody will come to their aid. Neither is this first such threat. The Kremlin can justify such intervention by using the ethnic Russians there.  In 2011 Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry blasted Russia’s objections to it participating in a Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, noting that the pipeline was vital to Turkmenistan’s economic interests. The ministry announced that discussions with Europe over this pipeline would continue.

 

Unlike 2008 when China supported Central Asian governments against Russia’s annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in 2014 Beijing has refused to take a stand on Crimea. Therefore all these CA governments publicly, if visibly reluctantly, accepted the outcome of the Russian-initiated referendum in Crimea.

 

A strong insecurity feeling is set in motion across the region that there is nobody to rescue any of the five CA nations like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan from Moscow.  The elites now understand that any show of weakness, division, and dissension among themselves that weakens the state opens the door and creates a pretext for Russian intervention. The Crimean affair will induce Kazakhstan’s rival elites to resolve their differences.

 

The equivocal formal responses of Central Asian states despite their visible distress are therefore quite understandable. Uzbekistan called for respect of UN Charter principles on the territorial integrity and political independence of any state,.

 

Russia is skillfully using its veto status on UN Security Council and its involvement in regional international organizations – such as the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), Eurasian Economic Union , etc to control Central Asian  states. Moscow’s responded swiftly.  On November 15, 2011 Valery Yazev, Vice-Speaker of the Russian Duma and head of the Russian Gas Society, threatened Turkmenistan with the Russian incitement of an “Arab Spring” if it did not renounce its “neutrality” and independent sovereign foreign policy. That only means, Turkmenistan should surrender its neutrality and independent foreign policy and not ship gas to Europe otherwise Moscow will incite a revolution there leading to chaos.

 

Russia  even threatened that if Turkmenistan adheres to the EU’s planned Southern Corridor for energy trans-shipments to Europe that bypass Russia, Moscow would have no choice but to do to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan what it did to Georgia in 2008. Russian strategists opined that NATO’s Libya operation gave Moscow the right to use force in the Caspian Basin. Russia means businesses and is perfectly willing to use force to redraw Eurasian boundaries.

 

Iron method Russia can use against its own people for any dissidence activity is well known.  It is no different from USA in asserting its power externally as well. Russian legislation from 2009 already permits the Russian president to send the Russian military into these and other countries that threaten the “honor and dignity” of Russians residing in their country, without even seeking the Duma’s assent.

 

Kazakh diplomats long ago reported, followed by Turkmenistanis and others in the region, that Russian officials habitually tell them that they must keep to Moscow’s line on various policies because they have a large Russian minority and Russia could make serious trouble for Kazakhstan if it moves away from Moscow’s line.

 

US foreign secretary John Kerry has called Russia’s invasion, occupation and annexation of the Crimean peninsula a game-changer that will have serious ramification fro the central Asian nations where large number of Russians lives

The United States pursues an energy policy for Mideast, still has no adequate Central Asian policy and cannot be counted on in a crisis.

 

Central Asian governments are pondering the vital question: If USA will not do anything robust for Ukraine, with whom it had a major agreement assuring Ukraine’s integrity, what can and will Washington do for Central Asia?  The EU looks even more unreliable.

 

Nobody should labor under the illusion that the Great Game has died or that Central Asia is a mere backwater of world affairs. Indeed, given all the potential threats to its security, one should not be surprised if the next act of the drama that Putin began in Crimea takes place there.

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