The presence of the USA and the allies in the Central Asiatic countries has been several times discussed by the Russian mass media, PRAVDA.Ru including. But the problem is still urgent, as the presence of the USA in the region has created a new geopolitical situation. Besides, the war in Afghanistan seems to be over, but Americans are not going to leave the region.
The Russian authorities and the community do not know so far, how to react to the US’s presence in former Soviet republics. A very important problem here, is to retain the influence on the economic and political processes in the region. As it is known, Moscow was ready to stand the USA’s presence in Central Asia only for the period of the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan. Russia’s reaction to a longer stay of the US army in Central Asia has not been published yet.
President Putin offered to create a Eurasian gas alliance with participation of Russia and Central Asiatic countries. But the idea is still under discussion. Besides, considerable financing is necessary for its realization. The project requires interest of the leaders of the Central Asiatic countries to be great, that may also be problematic in this case. President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov supported the idea at first, but on his return to Ashkhabad he seems to have forgotten about it. But the USA did not sit on its hands. First, American servicemen and diplomats threatened the Asiatic partners that the USA would not stay in Central Asia. But at the beginning of February it has been announced, three states in Central Asia – Uzbekistan, Kirghizia and Turkmenia – may get US’s military aid at the rate of $8,75 million, $4 million and $700,000 respectively. The sums seem to be rather insignificant, but they are to be increased in the future. Last year Uzbekistan got only $207,000. It is not clear, how Turkmenia managed to get on the list, because it has been always speaking about the neutrality in the situation. This demonstrates, the USA is not going to leave the region.
But does it mean bad for Russia, at least for a short-term period? Let us take up such a situation: the war in Afghanistan is over, the US army leaves the area, and Russia is to settle the problem of the unstable region all alone. It is an open secret that the ruling regimes in the Central Asiatic republics are weak, especially in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The poor economic situation and awful poverty of most people are a rather favorable situation for spreading of Islamic fundamentalism. And the problem has arisen long ago. And increasing drug traffic poses a great threat not to the USA, but to Russia. So, America is to be ready to risk the lives of its soldiers to stay in Central Asia for a long period.
The main objective for Moscow now is to determine the key lines of the activity in the region. It is very important to keep the share in the mining projects. The USA is likely to welcome co-operation with Russia. Despite its strength, Washington needs this co-operation. Besides, effective co-operation in Central Asia may help in settlement of other problems of bipartite co-operation, restriction of offensive strategic armaments, for example. Indeed, it is better to seek a compromise than to confront.
It means, Russia may benefit from the US’s presence in Central Asia; at least, until it is very strong economically. The further development of the situation will depend upon the strategy assumed in Moscow – whether to confront or to seek new spheres, where Russia’s participation could be maximally effective and profitable.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/07/36742.html