Central Asia has traditionally been regarded by Washington as “Russia’s soft underbelly”, since it’s a common belief within American think tanks that by establishing control over this region the US will be capable of subjecting the whole of Eurasia to its will, which means that American hegemony should remain uncontested. Even back in the Soviet days, when Moscow launched a military operation in Afghanistan, Washington chose to align itself with terrorist formations to apply pressure on the Soviet Union via proxy forces. It was in the mid-80s that it has also began exporting various radical teachings to Central Asian states in hopes that it could draw even more people in the anti-Russian struggle.
However, it was not until the 9/11 attacks that Washington found itself capable of establishing strong military presence across the Central Asia, while unleashing a wide array of intelligence operations aimed at undermining the positions of the Russian Federation and China.
In 2005, the project of Greater Central Asia was launched, that was envisioned by the founder and chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, S. Frederick Starr that is believed to be pretty fluent in Russian. The aim of this project was to push Central Asia in establishing closer ties with South Asia, while severing all of its links of cooperation with Russia and China.
This was followed but yet another initiative that the White House unveiled in 2015, this time it was a geopolitical framework that became known as C5 + 1, which established a tradition of meeting between foreign ministers of the five countries of Central Asia and the US Secretary of State. It is very curious that the body created for the sustaining of this framework is housed by the US State Department, with all management related decisions being made by the American side unilaterally.
The Washington inspired C5 + 1 is in fact aimed at reformatting the existing legal and business arrangements across the Central Asia in accordance with Washington’s vision. And it goes without saying that in this there’s no place for peaceful and fruitful cooperation between Central Asia and such states as Russia and China, even though the latter two have been a pillar of regional stability for decades, making all sorts of commitments to ensure strong ties with local players, such commitments as the CIS, the Eurasian Union, the CSTO and the SCO. Now, the C5 + 1 effectively torpedoes all of the existing integration initiatives, which will inevitably create a divide between Russia, China and the Central Asian states.
While Washington describes its interests in Central Asia as “vital”, there’s no arguing that the absolute majority of local states are closely integrated into the political, strategic and economic framework of the CIS, which means that there’s no way that Washington couldn’t have a stake comparable to the ones that Russia and China have in the regional game. And no matter how much words are going to be wasted by Western elites that the White House is somewhat concerned for the state of democracy and civil liberties in some far away places across at the other side of the world, it is the state of Central Asia integration into regional associations that keeps Western policymakers awake at night. It’s no coincidence that in the latest revision of the American National Security Strategy both Russia and China are described as revanchist states that are trying to undermine Washington’s bid for uncontested global hegemony. What lies behind this war of words is rather simple – it’s hinted that Russia and China must make room for the US in the region or even abandon it completely, as Washington is going to establish total control over what it describes as the Greater Central Asia.
As stated in a number of policy papers drafted by American think tanks, the US aspires to stimulate the economic integration of Central and South Asia in order to promote prosperity and intensify economic ties between regional states. However, what was really meant by those fancy notions was revealed in one of the interviews of the retired United States Deputy Secretary of State, Antony John Blinken that acknowledged that Washington has been trying to establish a southern energy corridor to transport Caspian oil and gas to Europe, while bypassing Russia.
The same notion has recently been expressed was tried to develop the other day by the Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who stated that Europe should be vocally supporting the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline from Azerbaijan and across Central Asia to Italy. According to this elected representative, this pipeline is the only recipe for reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, notes the Washington Examiner.
It’s curious that these days Washington that has single-handedly transformed Afghanistan into the world’s largest opium producer announces its readiness to lead the fight against drug trafficking across Central Asia. There’s hardly any doubt that the sole goal of its efforts to establish control over the investigations of local enforcement agencies is to ensure that the the flow of drugs along the “northern corridor” that supplies drugs to Russia’s and European black markets will not be interrupted. The problem of drug trafficking is closely linked to terrorism, which the United States is also vocally opposing. However, what makes this whole situation rather peculiar is that Washington has been the sole creator and sponsor of international terrorist groups. By redeploying ISIS militants from Syria to Afghanistan, American policymakers are dreaming about the possibility to use the territory of Central Asia as a forward operating base for terrorist detachments that are going to be tasked with the goal of infiltrating Russia,
According to Washington’s designs, should the framework of the Greater Central Asia be successfully negotiated, it will be the swan song of China’s OBOR global initiative. According to the director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics, Ariel Cohen the growing ties between Russia and China, the strengthening of the SCO and the rapid implementation of the One Belt – One Way initiative are absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of Washington.
What this means is that the US is going to highjack Central Asia while Russia remains weakened by the sanctions that Washington introduces against it. To achieve this goal, the US is going to put emphasis on a list of regional economic, political and security threats that America itself created. This strategy can be exemplified by the treatment that Kazakhstan is getting this days. As The Wall Street Journal notes, good relations between the US and Kazakhstan will not be sustainable once president Nazarbayev leaves his post (sic). Are we about to witness yet another color revolution that is going to take down the Kazakh government?
There’s yet another regional trend that is equally disturbing and that is the attempts of NATO and the Pentagon to establish control over the training of local military units in opposition to the CSTO. The US invests massive funds into training highly mobile armed units of the countries of the region, along while also providing financial support to local special forces and bodyguard agencies. As follows from the data released by the US government, in the past two years Washington has significantly increased the pace of training of elite military units of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. There’s no logical explanation of this extreme naiveté of the Central Asian political elites that shut all doors to American nuclear scientists and bankers, military and intelligence officers, while allowing the creation of American biological laboratories and NGOs on their respective territories.
Judging by Washington’s track record, those countries are setting themselves up to all sorts of coups, color revolutions, civil wars, that, if fruitless, are going to be followed by the growth of terrorist threats and economic collapse. The whole history of American foreign policy consists of similar examples.
In this connection, as the Turkish Yeni Safak notes, a clear example of what kind of a response can be shown to the aggressive American stance has been shown in Eurasia, where a total of five Caspian states signed the Constitution of the Caspian Sea. According to this treaty, armed forces of other countries, whose coasts are not washed by the Caspian Sea, can not be deployed in the region. The goal of this treaty is to discourage Washington’s military policies along with its trade and economic diktats.
Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”