Ne­glected No Longer: Wash­ing­ton Re­turns to Cen­tral Asia

Global Asia - - CONTENTS - By Stephen Blank

the Us un­der Don­ald trump is tak­ing re­newed in­ter­est and seek­ing to boost its re­gional in­flu­ence along with al­lies such as Ja­pan and In­dia.

Cen­tral Asia has long been the do­main of first Soviet and then Rus­sian in­flu­ence. While China, es­pe­cially through its Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, has be­gun to con­test that, the US has long ne­glected the re­gion, see­ing lit­tle in the way of vi­tal Amer­i­can in­ter­ests there.

But that is rapidly chang­ing un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in con­cert with al­lies such as Ja­pan and In­dia, writes Stephen Blank.

Cen­tral asia is not, and has never been, a United states for­eign-pol­icy pri­or­ity. nei­ther will it dis­place the im­por­tance of other re­gions to Wash­ing­ton any­time soon. more­over, nu­mer­ous an­a­lysts dis­count it as a promis­ing area for ex­panded at­ten­tion. In­deed, they ex­pect Us and euro­pean pres­ence and in­flu­ence there to de­cline as Chi­nese and asian in­flu­ence grow.1 But the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Us Pres­i­dent Don­ald trump has dif­fer­ent ideas and clearly seeks to boost Us and al­lied in­flu­ence in Cen­tral asia. there­fore, it is in­creas­ingly sig­nal­ing in both word and deed that Cen­tral asia fig­ures more promi­nently than be­fore in amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy cal­cu­la­tions. this is to be wel­comed, es­pe­cially if the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­jects the view of the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion prior to 2015 that Cen­tral asia’s im­por­tance lie only in its prox­im­ity to rus­sia, China and afghanistan. Only in 2015 did Us sec­re­tary of state John Kerry in­sti­tute a reg­u­lar­ized 5+1 process among Cen­tral asian for­eign min­is­ters and the sec­re­tary of state. While that is con­struc­tive, it hardly de­notes a real pol­icy or se­ri­ous think­ing. nei­ther does it reckon with the ma­jor changes oc­cur­ring in Cen­tral asia that merit at­ten­tion.

Five spe­cific re­cent de­vel­op­ments could be har­bin­gers of im­pend­ing change in Us pol­icy. First, the re­cent sus­pen­sion of military aid to Pak­istan for fail­ing to re­strain ter­ror­ists whom it has or­ga­nized and sup­ported. this trig­gered warn­ings that Pak­istan might re­tal­i­ate by strik­ing at or ban­ning the use of its ter­ri­tory as the lo­gis­ti­cal tail for Us forces in afghanistan. If Is­lam­abad does so, then it will be­come nec­es­sary to re­con-

sider the pre­vi­ous route of the north­ern Dis­tri­bu­tion net­work (ndn) through the Cau­ca­sus and Cen­tral asia (ob­vi­ously, rus­sia will not play the same role here that it did in 2009-10). that re­con­sid­er­a­tion in­evitably raises the is­sue of sus­tained Us eco­nomic as­sis­tance and de­vel­op­ment projects with lo­cal gov­ern­ments and po­ten­tially the ques­tion of di­rect military as­sis­tance, as hap­pened while the ndn func­tioned. newly en­hanced military and eco­nomic ties could lead pol­icy-makers to see the re­gion as self-stand­ing in its own right, not as an ap­pendage de­fined by its prox­im­ity to some other ma­jor is­sue.

Of course, that per­spec­tive does not mean ig­nor­ing rus­sian and Chi­nese in­volve­ment in Cen­tral asia. But here, too, there are signs, at least rhetor­i­cally, of en­hanced Us in­ter­est in Cen­tral asia. If any­thing — and this is the sec­ond po­ten­tial harbinger of change — the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has clearly in­di­cated to In­dia, Ja­pan and China its op­po­si­tion to China’s Belt and road Ini­tia­tive (BRI). It has just pro­claimed its vi­sion of a free and open Indo-pa­cific that im­plic­itly en­com­passes and will at­tempt to in­te­grate with Cen­tral asia, given the grow­ing in­ti­macy be­tween In­dia and Wash­ing­ton. this vi­sion in­volves large-scale pri­vate and public in­vest­ments to en­hance con­nec­tiv­ity and foster a more lib­eral in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic or­der — not the closed bloc that China’s BRI en­vis­ages.2

In­deed, the third fac­tor driv­ing Us pol­icy and the op­po­si­tion to China stems from the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s em­pha­sis on us­ing eco­nomic means to ad­vance amer­i­can pol­icy in­ter­ests abroad. Dur­ing trump’s visit to Ja­pan in novem­ber 2017, he and Ja­panese Prime min­is­ter shinzo abe un­veiled a plan to counter China’s BRI in Cen­tral asia. this state­ment built on blunt cri­tiques of the BRI by Us sec­re­tary of De­fense James mat­tis and then sec­re­tary of state rex tiller­son and was pre­fig­ured in the com­muni- qué of trump’s meet­ings with In­dian Prime min­is­ter naren­dra modi.3 so, clearly this is part of a larger Indo-ja­panese-amer­i­can ef­fort against China. at their meet­ing, modi and trump said that they “…sup­port bol­ster­ing re­gional eco­nomic con­nec­tiv­ity through the trans­par­ent de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture and the use of re­spon­si­ble debt fi­nanc­ing prac­tices, while en­sur­ing re­spect for sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, the rule of law, and the en­vi­ron­ment; and call on other na­tions in the re­gion to ad­here to these prin­ci­ples.”


at their joint press con­fer­ence, abe per­son­ally stated his com­mit­ment. “I am de­ter­mined to see to it, so that both Ja­pan and the Us strongly lead the re­gional and, even­tu­ally, the global eco­nomic growth by our cu­mu­la­tive ef­forts in cre­at­ing fair and ef­fec­tive eco­nomic or­der in this re­gion.” since then, and fol­low­ing his in­ten­tion


to en­hance Ja­pan’s global role while coun­ter­ing China, abe “has been very ac­tive in propos­ing an al­ter­na­tive to China in gen­eral and the Belt and road in par­tic­u­lar.” more­over, Ja­pan’s ac­tiv­i­ties


here, which clearly en­joy Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port, also in­clude In­dia in a grow­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship to de­velop power plants, rail­roads, port fa­cil­i­ties and other in­fra­struc­ture in sri lanka, myan­mar, the In­dian Ocean is­lands and Bangladesh.7 Given the scope of this Indo-ja­panese align­ment, we should also ex­pect to see these two par­ties co-op­er­at­ing against China and with the Us in Cen­tral asia.

a joint Vi­sion

thus, Wash­ing­ton, new Delhi and tokyo have crit­i­cized Chi­nese pol­icy as ob­jec­tion­able and in some sense a threat to Cen­tral asian states. and they have an­nounced con­crete pro­grams to counter the BRI in Cen­tral asia. While Cen­tral asia is an area of grow­ing in­ter­est to Ja­pan and In­dia, this an­nounce­ment marked a de­par­ture

for the Us, which un­der the last two ad­min­is­tra­tions had lit­tle re­gard for Cen­tral asia as a venue for ma­jor in­vest­ment and trade pro­grams, es­pe­cially to­gether with Us al­lies. But this does not ap­pear to have been a rhetor­i­cal one-off for the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In­stead, amer­i­can sup­port is cru­cial to back­stop­ping Ja­panese and In­dian poli­cies for Cen­tral asia. In their joint sum­mit, abe and trump an­nounced pro­grams to im­ple­ment this vi­sion, and the new Indo-pa­cific vi­sion builds on this. the Over­seas Pri­vate In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (OPIC) agreed with Ja­panese part­ners “to of­fer high-qual­ity United states-ja­pan in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment al­ter­na­tives in the Indo-pa­cific re­gion.” OPIC’S own read-out stated that it


and the Ja­panese banks in­volved had a shared “com­mit­ment to tack­ling de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges and bol­ster­ing in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, en­ergy and other crit­i­cal sec­tors through­out asia and the Indo Pa­cific, the mid­dle east, and africa.” Both sides an­nounced a shared


ini­tia­tive to pro­vide uni­ver­sal ac­cess to af­ford­able and re­li­able en­ergy across asia, while the Us trade and De­vel­op­ment agency will work with Ja­pan’s min­istry of econ­omy, trade, and In­dus­try (meti) to sup­port public and best prac­tices in in­fra­struc­ture projects in third coun­tries and emerg­ing mar­kets.10 this clearly chal­lenges not only the BRI, but also the Chi­nese-spon­sored asian In­vest­ment and In­fra­struc­ture Bank (AIIB) that funds its projects in the BRI.

all these ini­tia­tives ex­plic­itly tar­get the BRI for its de­fects re­gard­ing trans­parency and mo­nop­o­lis­tic prac­tices to ad­vance Chi­nese in­ter­ests above all oth­ers. In­deed, there are nu­mer­ous signs of mount­ing re­sis­tance in Cen­tral asia and glob­ally to Chi­nese in­vest­ment plans for their lack of trans­parency, China’s high-handed and pres­sur­ing be­hav­ior to­wards re­cip­i­ents and the re­al­iza­tion that these projects will re­main un­der Chi­nese con­trol, not their own.11 We have long known that Cen­tral asians are by no means en­am­ored of China and what they per­ceive as a Chi­nese takeover of their lands and/or economies. so, this is not a wholly un­ex­pected de­vel­op­ment.12 In­deed, signs of re­sis­tance to China con­tinue to ap­pear in Cen­tral asia.13 China’s in­creas­ingly high-handed be­hav­ior, with mount­ing ev­i­dence of eco­nomic co­er­cion, in­ter­fer­ence in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics and en­croach­ing military ag­gran­dize­ment is as dis­cernible there as else­where.14 sig­ni­fy­ing its grow­ing power, and be­ly­ing past state­ments of its pa­cific in­ten­tions to­ward Cen­tral asia, China now seeks a military base in afghanistan and Cen­tral asia.15 Un­doubt­edly, China wants to guar­an­tee its in­vest­ments in Cen­tral asia while also pro­ject­ing power abroad.16 In­deed, China has al­ready en­croached upon and an­nexed Cen­tral asian ter­ri­to­ries, notably from tajik­istan, which could not re­sist.17 and this well-de­served sus­pi­cion of Chi­nese aims clearly opens doors to Wash­ing­ton, tokyo and new Delhi. more­over, cases where ex­ces­sive debt has prompted Chi­nese takeovers of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture — for ex­am­ple, Ham­ban­tota port in sri lanka — have raised a red flag across asia.18

push­ing pri­vate Mar­kets

Wash­ing­ton’s new poli­cies also re­flect the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to pri­vate mar­kets over govern­ment deals. For ex­am­ple, in meet­ing Uzbek Pres­i­dent shavkat mirziy­oyev, trump both noted his in­ter­locu­tor’s re­form ef­forts and also dis­cussed with him op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­hanced bi­lat­eral co-op­er­a­tion with re­gard to afghanistan, stat­ing that re­forms will set the stage for im­proved trade and in­vest­ment.19 since mirziy­oyev is do­ing ev­ery­thing in his govern­ment’s power to in­crease for­eign trade and in­vest­ment be­yond rus­sia and China, it is very likely that these con­ver­sa­tions touched on spe-

cific projects and pro­grams whereby both states could step up their eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion and en­hance the Us pro­file in Uzbek­istan and Cen­tral asia more gen­er­ally. In­deed, those talks gen­er­ated Us$5 bil­lion in over 20 deals and could un­lock many fu­ture deals as well.20

Fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion of the Us ad­min­is­tra­tion em­pha­siz­ing a trade and in­vest­ment ap­proach to Cen­tral asia may be found in the fourth ex­am­ple of its en­hanced in­ter­est. trump’s 2017 na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy ex­plic­itly and quite un­prece­dent­edly re­ferred to Cen­tral asia, al­though most ob­servers over­looked this. not sur­pris­ingly, this sec­tion of the strat­egy ex­plic­itly in­voked the threat of ter­ror­ism. But it also, openly at­tacked the russo-chi­nese ef­fort to limit Cen­tral asian states’ de facto in­de­pen­dence in for­eign pol­icy. thus, it stated, “and we seek Cen­tral asian states that are re­silient against dom­i­na­tion by ri­val pow­ers, are re­sis­tant to be­com­ing ji­hadist safe havens, and prior- itize re­forms.” Clearly the themes of the meet­ing

21 with Prime min­is­ter abe are here, along with the ob­vi­ous pri­or­ity of ter­ror­ism, pre­vent­ing rus­sian and/or Chi­nese dom­i­na­tion, and en­hanced use of eco­nomic in­stru­ments of power. In­deed, the se­cu­rity strat­egy openly sup­ports Cen­tral asia’s eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion with south asia, not rus­sia or China.22 the strat­egy also states that the Us “pur­sues eco­nomic ties not only for mar­ket ac­cess but also to cre­ate re­la­tion­ships to ad­vance com­mon po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests and di­rectly at­tacks rus­sia’s ef­forts to use en­ergy projects to project its in­flu­ence through europe and Cen­tral asia.” thus,


the Us state Depart­ment has again sup­ported a trans-caspian Gas Pipe­line and the south­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor from the Caspian sea to europe, projects that be­come more con­ceiv­able since the lit­toral pow­ers re­cently signed an agree­ment that now al­lows for the build­ing of a trans-caspian pipe­line.24 as a re­sult there is a prospect for

Signs of re­sis­tance to China con­tinue to ap­pear in Cen­tral Asia. China’s in­creas­ingly high-handed be­hav­ior, with mount­ing ev­i­dence of eco­nomic co­er­cion, in­ter­fer­ence in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics and en­croach­ing military ag­gran­dize­ment is as dis­cernible there as else­where.

es­tab­lish­ing a le­gal regime for de­mar­cat­ing the Caspian sea and build­ing a gas pipe­line across it to azer­bai­jan and europe.25

the EMER­GENCE of a pol­icy

these are hardly co­in­ci­den­tal or ac­ci­den­tal state­ments. rather, they in­di­cate a con­sis­tent ap­proach over sev­eral venues, such as the meet­ings with abe and modi and the con­ver­sa­tions with mirziy­oyev and Kazakh Pres­i­dent nur­sul­tan nazarbayev. the se­cu­rity strat­egy, when speak­ing more gen­er­ally about the de­vel­op­ing world, again em­pha­sizes the eco­nomic as­pect. In dis­cussing africa, asia and latin amer­ica, the doc­u­ment forthrightly as­serts that Us in­vest­ments re­main the “most sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment,” and starkly con­trast with au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ments’ de­vel­op­ment of­fers, i.e. those of rus­sia and China. In this con­text, the se­cu­rity strat­egy also states that Wash­ing­ton will mod­ern­ize in­vest­ment and trade tools for these coun­tries so that it can com­pete with other states that use project fi­nance and in­vest­ment to ad­vance their in­ter­ests.26

Fi­nally, the fifth el­e­ment of the strat­egy con­nects the over­all need for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and en­hanced Us-cen­tral asian ties with what ap­pears to be in­cen­tiviz­ing Cen­tral asian states, notably Kaza­khstan and Uzbek­istan, to pro­mote both en­hanced eco­nomic ties with the Us and so­lu­tions to the war in afghanistan.27 these themes emerge from trump’s con­tacts with the pres­i­dents of Uzbek­istan and Kaza­khstan. Us of­fi­cials as well as trump him­self have hailed Uzbek­istan’s re­forms.28 For­eign an­a­lysts see Wash­ing­ton’s re­newed com­mit­ment to the war in afghanistan as forg­ing stronger ties with Cen­tral asia against China, rus­sia and ter­ror­ism to give afghanistan “strate­gic depth.” and Uzbek­istan is ap­par­ently equally re­cep­tive to pos­si­bil­i­ties for ex­panded Us in­vest­ment through lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for the war and its over­all econ­omy.29

While many US and Western an­a­lysts still dis­miss Cen­tral Asia as an area of lit­tle in­ter­est for the US, clearly the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does not see things that way. More­over, its ac­tiv­i­ties have caught Moscow’s, and per­haps also Bei­jing’s, at­ten­tion.

In line with its own in­ter­ests and re­forms, Uzbek­istan has now be­come more ac­tive over afghanistan. tashkent and Kabul are dis­cussing joint projects such as rail­way and elec­tric­ity lines and have re­stored di­rect flights be­tween the two, while also dis­cussing plans for new con­sulates in Uzbek­istan. the two gov­ern­ments are dis­cussing a joint re­gional se­cu­rity com­mis­sion un­der amer­i­can su­per­vi­sion that has al­ready led to the cre­ation of the C5+1 for­mat be­tween Cen­tral asian states and afghanistan that will be an ef­fec­tive plat­form for dis­cussing re­gional is­sues such as the 5+1 for­mat for talks with the Us.30 In late march, tashkent hosted a con­fer­ence in­volv­ing re­gional pow­ers, rus­sia, China, the Us and oth­ers to try to de­ter­mine how to bring the tal­iban into di­rect peace talks with Kabul. this con­tin­ues the so called Kabul process launched by the afghan govern­ment in op­po­si­tion to russo-chi­nese ini­tia­tives that sup­port tal­iban in­clu­sion in the afghan govern­ment and to­wards which end moscow has been sup­port­ing the tal­iban since around 2013.31

kaza­khstan’s role

re­gard­ing Kaza­khstan, we see sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ments. the Us has al­layed ear­lier Kazakh fears that it will suf­fer from the sanc­tions im­posed on rus­sia and in­di­cated that visa-free travel to the Us is still pos­si­ble.32 Dur­ing Pres­i­dent nazarbayev’s visit to Wash­ing­ton, trump hailed the “tremen­dous” eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship with Kaza­khstan and thanked it for its sup­port for the Us mis­sion in afghanistan. their per­sonal re­la­tion­ship was ap­par­ently highly con­ge­nial, and in a joint state­ment both pres­i­dents reaf­firmed Kaza­khstan’s in­de­pen­dence, sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity as well as Kaza­khstan’s role in pro­mot­ing global peace and pros­per­ity.33 nazarbayev even thanked trump for de­fend­ing Kaza­khstan’s in­de­pen­dence, clearly an anti-rus­sian state­ment given the con­stant pres­ence of voices in rus­sia who would deny Kazakh state­hood.34 He also said Us-cen­tral asia ties ben­e­fited ev­ery­one, not least in the dif­fu­sion of in­vest­ment and tech­nol­ogy.35 Kaza­khstan then also laid out an eco­nomic plan to as­sist afghanistan, openly ad­mit­ting this had been dis­cussed with trump and was in par­al­lel to the military ef­fort of the Us. Con­cur­rently, Kaza­khstan’s am­bas­sador to the Un, who was Chair­man of the se­cu­rity Coun­cil in Jan­uary 2018, is­sued an­other Un state­ment in de­fense of afghanistan, but this time firmly in­sert­ing Cen­tral asia into the pro­cesses of im­prov­ing bor­der man­age­ment, counter-nar­cotics ini­tia­tives, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and other is­sues.36

af­ter this visit to Wash­ing­ton, bi­lat­eral trade and com­mer­cial relations and military ties are also grow­ing.37 even more ag­gra­vat­ing for moscow, nazarbayev flatly re­fused to ac­cede to rus­sia’s de­mand to abol­ish the visa-free regime with Wash­ing­ton and es­tab­lished this regime with­out even no­ti­fy­ing moscow. When moscow protested, say­ing that such a regime would al­low spies to come to Kaza­khstan and then uti­lize the visa-free re­la­tion­ship with rus­sia to en­ter rus­sian ter­ri­tory, nazarbayev’s min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs im­me­di­ately an­nounced that in­tro­duc­ing a visa-free regime for for­eign cit­i­zens was a le­git­i­mate right of any sovereign state, es­sen­tially telling moscow that rus­sia could no longer sim­ply give Kaza­khstan in­struc­tions.38 Fi­nally, in the coup de grace, Kaza­khstan granted the Us ac­cess to the ports of ak­tau and Kuryk to sup­ply afghanistan, by­pass­ing rus­sia. this de­ci­sion co­in­cided with Kaza­khstan’s ef­forts to de­velop ak­tau through a “spe­cial eco­nomic zone” and its be­lief that the Us is the key to the plan’s suc­cess, as well as the ma­te­ri­al­iza­tion of the ear­lier Us silk road plan of 2011, which had largely re­mained only on pa­per.39 While as­tana wor­ries about Us sanc­tions against rus­sia on ura­nium im­ports, the im­pact of this po­ten­tial move is un­clear at present.40

rhetor­i­cal but also Co­her­ent

thus, we see a co­her­ent Us strat­egy em­pha­siz­ing the war on ter­ror­ism while also giv­ing greater rhetor­i­cal sup­port and ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing mech­a­nisms for us­ing amer­i­can eco­nomic power and pol­icy to­gether with Ja­pan and In­dia. the new pol­icy on a Free and Open Indo-pa­cific may ac­tu­ally im­part the re­sources needed to make these pro­grams work. the signs are all en­cour­ag­ing. the themes of this strat­egy for Cen­tral asia — fight­ing ter­ror­ism, block­ing Chi­nese and/or rus­sian dom­i­na­tion and us­ing eco­nomic in­stru­ments to in­te­grate Cen­tral asia — are linked and ar­tic­u­lated in for­mal speeches, doc­u­ments and gov­ern­men­tal con­sul­ta­tions. It is equally clear that Cen­tral asia is in­creas­ingly be­ing en­vi­sioned as a re­gion in its own right and may ac­tu­ally get some Us pres­i­den­tial or at least sus­tained high­level at­ten­tion, some­thing that has not al­ways been the case over the last 25 years. the emerg­ing di­rec­tion is some­thing that many amer­i­can an­a­lysts in­clud­ing my­self and s. Fred­er­ick starr, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral asia Cau­ca­sus In­sti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, have long been cham­pi­oning. and the new amer­i­can pol­icy also clearly sup­ports gen­uine progress to­wards real re­gional in­te­gra­tion, an­other pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment.41

there­fore, we may be con­fi­dent in pos­tu­lat­ing that a gen­uinely new strat­egy to­ward Cen­tral asia, al­though based on ear­lier themes, is com­ing into fo­cus. While many Us and Western an­a­lysts still dis­miss Cen­tral asia as an area of lit­tle in­ter­est for the Us, clearly the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does not see things that way. more­over, its ac­tiv­i­ties have caught moscow’s, and per­haps also Bei­jing’s, at­ten­tion. rus­sia not only be­rated Kaza­khstan’s poli­cies, rus­sian For­eign min­is­ter sergei lavrov also said that Wash­ing­ton might sim­ply be us­ing the 5+1 for­mat to play pol­i­tics: We hear that the Us is in­clined to abuse this for­mat a bit and to pro­mote the ideas con­nected with what was known un­der pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions as the Greater Cen­tral asia project. as you may re­mem­ber, the project was aimed at fo­cus­ing all the plans in­volv­ing Cen­tral asia to­wards the south, to­wards afghanistan, while keep­ing the rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion out of it. I am sure that if this is re­ally the case and if our amer­i­can col­leagues pro­mote these plans at their meet­ings with our Cen­tral asian friends, they will see the fal­lacy of these at­tempts, which are prompted not by the in­ter­ests of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and the im­prove­ment of the trans­port in­fra­struc­ture, but by sheer geopol­i­tics.42

this po­si­tion is en­shrined in the new con­ven­tion on the Caspian sea that ap­par­ently gives both Iran and rus­sia the right to ex­press their con­cern over Us use of Kazakh ports to trans­fer non-military cargo to its forces in afghanistan.43

nev­er­the­less, for the Us and Cen­tral asia the heavy lift­ing lies ahead, be­cause the real ques­tion with any such strat­egy is the will­ing­ness and abil­ity of its shapers to al­lo­cate the re­sources needed to make sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ations in the face of mul­ti­ple global chal­lenges and emer­gen­cies. If the re­al­ity matches the rhetoric, then the trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will have, in­deed, made a mean­ing­ful ad­vance and con­tri­bu­tion to Us in­ter­ests. more­over, this strat­egy is a promis­ing way to as­sert both amer­i­can in­ter­ests and, more im­por­tantly, en­sure the gen­uine in­de­pen­dence and mu­tual col­lab­o­ra­tion of Cen­tral asian states af­ter years of ne­glect. as the war in afghanistan clearly shows, we pay a high price for that ne­glect. stephen blank is a se­nior fel­low at the amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy Coun­cil. he is the au­thor of nu­mer­ous for­eign pol­icy-re­lated ar­ti­cles, white pa­pers and mono­graphs, specif­i­cally fo­cused on the geopol­i­tics and geostrat­egy of the former soviet union, rus­sia and Eura­sia. he is a former Macarthur fel­low at the us army war Col­lege.

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