Central Asia: Russia’s Restive “Bulk” of Allies

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

In another bid to prove his president’s claim to the global public that you can’t isolate Russia, Russian foreign minister Lavrov wrote in a signed article for Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Russia could see its trade with Central Asia growing dynamically despite “the turbulent geopolitical situation”, and that “the bulk” of Central Asian countries were Russia’s allies.

There’s probably a need to emphasize that, although the Russian government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta may not be an ideal communication channel to the Central Asian public.

QSL card from Radio Tashkent, December 1985

That was long ago: a QSL card
from Radio Tashkent, December 1985

But then, security issues aren’t only Russia’s issue. Its allied “bulk” is worried about Moscow’s miltary rampage in Ukraine, and China’s relations with Central Asia may become affected, too.

“Due to its size and geography, China’s role [in Central Asia] will grow [following the war], but the SCO won’t have many success stories to point to”,

RFA/RL quotes Temur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

“Beijing is also now seen as a supporter of Russia and as a country that isn’t doing much to restrain Moscow when many [SCO members] are seeing it as a potential threat.”

Pengpai News (“The Paper”, Shanghai), by no means a natural critic of Russia, suggested in an article on April 25 that

Since Russia started its “special military operation” againly been upped further, and their immediate and long-term political and economic effects are slowly emerging. In the five Central Asian countries that once belonged to the Soviet region, the Russian-Ukrainian state of affairs has given rise to worries, with their approach becoming more and more subtle.

在刚刚经历过“一月政变”的哈萨克斯坦,从总统托卡耶夫到外交部长和国防部长都在公开表态中与莫斯科保持了一定的距离。哈官方承诺不会成为帮助俄罗斯规避西方制裁的工具,并接待了专程到访的美国副国务卿,两国还宣布拟扩大高水平战略伙伴关系。

Kazakhstan’s regime, despite Russian military dispatches to quell demonstrations against the Tokayev regime only weeks earlier,

officially promised not to become a tool that would help Russia in evading the West’s sanctions, and received a US deputy secretary of state’s special visit. The two countries announced that they would broaden their high-level strategic partnership.

哈官方承诺不会成为帮助俄罗斯规避西方制裁的工具,并接待了专程到访的美国副国务卿,两国还宣布拟扩大高水平战略伙伴关系。

Timur Suleimenov, first deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s Executive Office, is quoted by Pengpai News as saying that his country, while a member of the Eurasian Economic Union,

we are also a member of the international community. We do not want America and the European Union to impose secondary sanctions on Kazakhstan, therefore we have to prove to our European partners that Kazakhstan will not become a tool for Russia to evade America’s and the EU’s sanctions. We will abide by the sanctions.”

“虽然我们和俄罗斯、白俄罗斯一样,是欧亚经济联盟成员,但我们也是国际社会的一员,我们不希望美国和欧盟对哈萨克斯坦实施二级制裁,因此我们必须向欧洲的伙伴证明,哈萨克斯坦不会成为俄罗斯规避美国和欧盟制裁的工具。我们将遵守制裁。”

Kazakhstan’s president, having just been protected from his own people by Russian troops,

presented, in his State of the Nation address on March 16, an entire set of reform plans, and acknowledged frankly that the Russian-Ukrainian state of affairs had made the importance of national independence obvious. He promised to carry out comprehensive political reform.

托卡耶夫在最近一次于3月16日所作的国情咨文中拿出了一整套改革方案,他坦言眼前的俄乌局势凸显了国家独立重要性,并承诺进行全面政治改革。

Uzbekistan is quoted as even telling Russia to stop its “aggressive” behavior (停止“侵略”行为). To find a peaceful solution, Uzbekistan’s foreign minister Abdulaziz Kamilov is quoted,

“We support the search for a peaceful solution to this state of affairs, and a solution to this conflict by political and diplomatic means”. For this, “(Russia) must first end military activity and its invasion.”

“我们支持寻求和平解决这一局势,并通过政治和外交手段解决这一冲突”。为此,“(俄罗斯)首先必须结束军事活动和侵略”。

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan who are more dependent on Russia, and who have Russian military bases within their borders, kept “prudently silent” after the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To offset the return of many of its migrant workers from Russia, however, Kyrgyzstan negotiated with South Korea and Turkey, apparently to find work for its citizens there, and asked Turkey to ease visa restrictions on migrant workers.

The fallout, according to Pengpai News, is there: Both Kazakhtan and Uzbekistan are drawing closer to America. Even Russians flee to Uzbekistan, the Pengpai article says, to avoid military service in Russia. And Uzbek nationals have been warned by their government that they could face five years in prison if they serve in Russia’s military.

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