А. Паизова, Г. Р. Дадабаева, Д. В. Парк

Russian interests in the region

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Russian interests in the region
Moscow’s interests in Central Asia alongside with economic benefits, has primarily directed to combat Islamic terrorism and radicalism and foster stability along its southern side. Security related drivers, which explain Russian presence in Central Asia can be seen in coordinated states’ efforts in the fight against terrorism. For example, the Russian leadership initiated the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center (ATC), which was established in Moscow in 2000, a structural subdivision of which was opened in Kyrgyzstan. The intensified military and security cooperation of Russia with the former Soviet Union republics was institutionalized in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which permanent military base was established in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, in 2002. The base hosts part of the Collective Rapid Deployment force (CRDF) designed to support “collective security” of the region. Another CRDF division is staged at the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan. This is Russia’s largest military facility abroad with the estimated 7,500 military personnel in 2016 (Laruelle, 2008). In the same time, President Putin invested considerable time and effort to reenergize another security grouping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has directed to fight against “three evils” of terrorism, Islamism, and separatism and whose members became Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In addition, the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) was established in Tashkent in 2004. Conjoint antiterrorist operations, military exercises, and security drills held under the auspices of the SCO and CSTO have become a regular feature of Russia-Central Asia security cooperation. (Omelicheva, 2011).
On the other hand, According to Omelicheva (2018) and Lo (2015), Russia has ignored the Central Asian states’ internal dynamics conducive to political instability, terrorism, and organized crime. The Kremlin-led regional security projects have had a negligible impact on the root causes of security problems that continue taking place in these states. This picture even might lead us to the thoughts that she does not want to stabilize the situation in the region, but wants to maintain a "controllable instability" in the region. One proof of this argument is that Russia avoided intervention Kyrgyzstan-Uzbek clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan during clashes June 2010 (although the interim Kyrgyz government at the time had requested such intervention) (Górecki, 2014). Furthermore, a number of ad hoc events in the region showed little results to creating a more favorable regional environment. Even CSTO does not become the security provider in the region. Consequently, Moscow’s initial security related drives comes to inconsistence with the fact that, it turned out that Russian has transformed from a transit territory into a main point of supply for Afghan heroin (see http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/755981). Today, according to moderate estimates, the number of drug users in Russia is 1.7 million, and there has been a dramatically increase in drug-related diseases such as AIDS / HIV (Nechepurenko, 2013). Moreover, another argument in favor of this claim is the fact that the Kremlin was the main initiator of the communique adopted in the 2005 SCO Summit in Astana, calling for the closure of US bases in Central Asia. This reversal showed that the balance between security and geopolitics is due not only to regional circumstances, but also to the state of relations between Russia and the United States in a broader international context. For instance, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the “artificial deadlines” (premature) for the withdrawal of NATO forces. (see http://en.afghanistan.ru/doc/353.html) At the same time, Moscow accused the US and NATO of "abusing hospitality" in Central Asia and forced Kyrgyzstan to terminate the lease agreement by the Americans for the base / transit center in Manas. (see http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130508/181039938-print/Putin-Criticizes-ISAF-for-Afghan- Drug-Threat-Inaction.html). In addition, he accused Washington of sharply increasing production of Afghan opium and heroin and increasing the flow of drugs to Russia, but blocked US proposals for developing a network of drug control centers in the Central Asian republics. Therefore, despite the loud statements against the threat of “triple evil” (terrorism, separatism and extremism), the penetration of Western liberal ideas in reality causes Moscow more concern, as evidenced by Russia's attempts at the meeting of the SCO leaders to stimulate “international information security” (SCO Summit Declaration).
Accordingly, it can be stated that Russia’s engagement in Central Asia has been driven by geopolitical motives superseding its immediate concerns with the regional security threats. Russia has sought regional domination under the banner of counterterrorist policy for countering the US hegemony and NATO’s expansionism. In the 1990s, Russia’s own economic, political, and military problems stymied the realization of Moscow’s ambitions. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the global economic situation was favorable to the realization of Russia’s geopolitical objectives. Russia’s economic upturn coincided with Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. The restoration of Russia’s influence in international affairs was declared the chief priority for the Putin administration. Therefore, Central Asian region as a major Russian sphere of influence cannot be understood outside of the context of Russia-US relations.
The tasks of Russian politics in Central Asia are primarily related to the factors of importance of the region. They also reflect the challenges and requirements that Moscow faces in realizing its agenda. In practice, this means that Moscow has no serious intention to revive the Soviet Union. Despite the public expression of regret over the collapse of the USSR, V. Putin is pragmatic enough to realize the impracticability of the project for its restoration. Instead, Moscow is striving for leading influence, for the type of relationship similar between the Chinese empire and dependent states on its periphery. Russia seeks to ensure that the adoption of political decisions by Central Asian states were carried out within certain parameters and in accordance with certain “Rules”, which follow interests of Russia, especially in the field of foreign and security policy. This consequently means that the Central Asian republics cannot be equal to foreign powers or alliances - primarily the United States and NATO, but also the European Union, China, Iran and Turkey. Ideally, Moscow wants them to join various Russian-led projects, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In this manner, Moscow seeks to prevent the participation of external forces in regional affairs or, at least, control them. Understanding the impossibility of eliminating completely such interactions, the Kremlin believes that it has at least the ability and the right to influence them. In practice, this is expressed in two forms: firstly, stimulating foreign partners to cooperate more in the economy than in the security sphere, and secondly, the preference of China and other non-Western countries to European and American. Russia's favor with China is explained by the fact that the Chinese avoid strategic ambitions, limit their participation in security projects in Central Asia and support Russia's role as a regional leader (Lo, 2015).

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