The Geopolitics of Central Asia after the Annexation of Crimea in 2014
Volume 13, Issue 1 (2015), pp. 125–143
Pub. online: 17 November 2015 Type: Article Open Access
17 November 2015
17 November 2015
The annexation of Crimea accomplished by Russia in 2014 is the event that stands out sharply in the context of post-Cold War international relations: it was the first time after the end of WWII in Europe that a part of the territory of a sovereign state was forcefully annexed. This means that the re-drawing of borders and revisionism are back in international relations as the principles and ways of policy making. It would be plausible to assume that the consequences of an event of such scale would be noticeable not only in its direct neighborhood but as well in more distant, though geopolitically sensitive contexts. The article explores the impact that Russia‘s Crimea campaign has had on the geopolitics of Central Asia and what consequences could be deemed plausible in the future. It is assumed that, due to the annexation of Crimea, international relations started polarizing around the two centers of power: the West and Russia. This trend brings the mentality of strategic confrontation back into international relations. The polarization seemingly becomes a geopolitical factor, which influences the power dynamics in Central Asia in its cultural-informational, military and economic aspects. From the cultural-informational perspective, the polarization is incompatible with the provisions of multivector foreign policies, and pursued by the Central Asian states; therefore, they attempt to neutralize the trend by withholding from taking clear-cut positions with regard to the Ukrainian events. Such a stance, however, does not provide for hedging against military threats, which are perceived as rather real in Central Asia because of the Russian modus operandi in Ukraine, as well as due to the seemingly catalyzing impact of current Russian policies on the local separatist forces and radical Islamic groups. Apprehension about a replication of a Crimean scenario as well as the asymmetric character of military threat may push the Central Asian states to seek security guarantees from outside the region. The consequences of such a development would essentially depend not on the Central Asian states themselves, but on the views the great powers would have on the stability in the region. In case of the domination of a cooperative approach, the formation of the relatively stable system of the regional balance in Central Asia is rather plausible. On the contrary, attempts by any of the great powers to tie stability to their own conditions would deteriorate the situation in the region. The alternative to these two scenarios may well be provided by China, whose policy in Central Asia is becoming more assertive and gaining support from the states of the region. Additionally, the resultant regional power trend would be influenced by the dynamics of the economic relations in the region, the withdrawal of the armed forces of Western allies from Afghanistan, policies of Iran and Turkey in the region, and other factors making up the international context of the Central Asia.