Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Russia and China: The pivot of Central Asia

Central Asian direction - one of the key activities of the Russian Federation and China in the international arena. Today, the two powers are defending their interests in the spheres of politics, security and economy. I must say differently. Will this geopolitical space of a field of contention and cooperation between Moscow and Beijing on the Eurasian continent, depends on several factors.
….growing Chinese and the recovering Russian economy in the future will be even more desperate need for resources, primarily in the energy and non-ferrous metals, which is particularly rich Central Asia. In this regard, we can not exclude the possibility of rivalry between Moscow and Beijing for influence in this geopolitical space. The result could be jeopardized regional stability, which in turn will also negatively affect the security of both Russia and China.....

There was no joy of love ...

Politika post-Soviet Russia in Central Asia did not differ stable, varying from virtually total disregard for the region (as was observed in 90 of the last century) to active cooperation with them, mainly in oil and gas sector (which is today). Until now, however, has not formed a kind of single strategy, which are clearly marked place and role of the region in the national interests of Russia.
In the early and mid-90's Central Asia was virtually excluded from the scope of Russian priorities. Moscow has also distanced itself from the then "the Afghan problem, feeding the illusory hopes of becoming" an integral part of the West. Then, as you know, the Kremlin has happened rethinking of Russian foreign policy in general, including the Central Asian direction.
With the election in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his team evidence of the desire to absorb the region into the orbit of Moscow's influence (including the institutional plane, and the economic sphere), primarily for the radical strengthening the international positions of Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev's presidency is related to another stable trend. Steadily declining Russian influence in Central Asia. At the same time, Moscow is trying to conduct a strategic dialogue with Washington on Central Asian issues. Most likely, this approach will lead to the fact that Russia and the region as a whole will be forced to follow in the footsteps of the West, who has his eye on the development prospects of Eurasia.
What do current events? Unfortunately, Moscow has failed to form a complete understanding of the importance of the Central Asian region. Meanwhile, strengthening our position in this geopolitical space increases the potential of Russia is needed, including for the success of "strategic" dialogue with the United States and its allies. In addition, success in Central Asia is able to accelerate the effective and integrated economic development of Russia itself, strengthen its national security in the long term. It is no exaggeration to say that the state of the economy, stability in the heart of the Eurasian continent depends largely on the situation in the Central Asian direction.
Further conservation of economic relations between Russia and Central Asia at the present very low level will inevitably lead to what is located here the state eventually will have more focus not on strengthening ties with the Russian Federation, and to establish them with other world economic centers. Rich mineral resources in the region sooner or later will be subject to even more acute than it is today, competition stronger powers and economic blocs. And not the fact that Russia can win this competition.
Today it is clear that increasing Russia's political activity in the region should be supported by an adequate development of cooperation with Central Asian economies. Otherwise, you can not count on the success of rapprochement between Moscow and the Central Asian capitals, and the formation on its basis a genuine alliance. While inter-state alliances of the EurAsEC and the CSTO de facto does not match their names (first and not become a full-fledged economic community, and the second - a complete security management structure). The Customs Union has also not lived up its expectations and is not an attractive integration project for a number of countries in the region.
Russia has clearly underestimated the strategic importance of Central Asia. This is largely due to the weakness of intelligence and expertise, as well as rooted in the Russian views on the Central Asian region as a certain "economic burden", to take that "on balance" is inappropriate.While ignoring the fundamentally important point: "unprofitable" and "endowment" of the Central Asian republics, even in the Soviet period were fake. This was a consequence of inefficient economic policies and a system of organizing the national economy of the USSR disintegrated.
Nevertheless, in the thinking of the ruling elite and even academic circles of the Russian Federation, as well as in Russian society still prevails false promise "of economic irrelevance of Central Asia." Although the region could be highly profitable destination for Russian business, taking into account the availability of all kinds of industrial raw materials, and most importantly - better than in Russia, the conditions of production organization: cheap labor, lower financial costs of capital construction, commissioning of production capacities, transport and energy infrastructure.
Future relations between Russia and Central Asia depends largely on Moscow. Within the former Soviet Union, only Russia, given the scale of its economic and geopolitical potential, capable of taking on the role of locomotive of an integrated economic development and guaranteeing the security of Central Asian countries (as well as other post-Soviet states).Securing the Russian Federation on the territory and long-term stability of the region are possible, provided that in the XXI century, Russia will play a key role in this round, including scientific and technical progress, that is the role she has played since the second half of the XIX century until the death of the Soviet Union.
To do this, Russia needs above all to renounce the false stereotypes of Central Asia as a "loss-making in the region" and realize that with proper economic policy, namely it can be the most effective place for the application of the Russian capital. It seems that as awareness of this could be talking about a fundamentally new phase of Russian foreign policy in general and in Central Asia in particular.

It was yours, will be our

For over a hundred years, Central Asia, formerly part of the first Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, seen by Beijing only in the context of a common set of the Sino-Russian and Sino-Soviet relations. After the Soviet collapse importance of Central Asia into the Middle Kingdom's foreign policy has steadily increased. Accordingly, the increased presence of China and the region.
Early 90-ies of XX century due to the comprehension of China's new realities in and around Central Asia. Diplomatic relations were established, formed the legal basis. Successfully solved the problems of security, inherited from the Sino-Soviet period. Beijing then took to the formation here of mechanisms and institutions for regional cooperation in all spheres of cooperation. Simultaneously, the economic expansion.
After the events of 11 September 2001 and came to power in China's statesmen "fourth generation" there is an unprecedented surge in China's policies in almost all directions. The goal is clear: as soon as tightly bind Central Asia to itself.
It's safe to say that China's foreign policy determines one goal - to gain status as a leading world power. It is through this prism of Beijing has always considered and still consider CA.
Celestial launched this offensive in the region. To some extent this is connected with the process of updating the ruling elite of China, when at the helm of government of China embarked people much more ambitious, pragmatic and hard to defend the national interests of their country compared with its predecessors. New Chinese leaders to a lesser extent than they tend to "look at Russia" in making certain decisions in respect of the Central Asian countries, and especially "silent watch" for the gain in the region of the United States and its allies. Therefore, after 2001, China began to operate in Central Asia is very actively and proactively, intelligently using the full set of economic, political, military and other instruments, both within the SCO framework and in bilateral formats.
True, politics and the Celestial Empire in Central Asia has certain disadvantages. So, Beijing is inclined to regard the region as a raw material appendage of the Chinese economy. Further strengthening of the economic presence of China in Central Asia will likely continue to walk due to an increase in the supply of finished products, building design and investment operations, primarily in the commodity sectors, for the laying of pipelines and transport projects (for the export of minerals), and as the appropriate financial, political and military-technical support of these efforts. That is why today it is extremely difficult to predict, what will the growth of China's presence in the region.
What is needed to ensure long-term stability in Central Asia and the border areas of the Middle Kingdom, as well as the overall stability of relations between China and Russia, between China and Central Asia? It seems that Beijing is expedient to make the emphasis on building mechanisms for multi-faceted and mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Central Asian states and Russia. At the initial stage, the basis of this interaction could be the full support of the idea of ​​Celestial economic reintegration within the region or even within the EEC, and at later stages - the gradual integration within the SCO. Such steps may be the beginning of a fundamentally new stage in China's policy in Central Asia.

Dogberry in Chinese cakes

Today more than ever, high competition for control over world resources. There is a struggle for influence in the country and the spaces that have not been able to form an effective regional economic block (or join an existing alliance), but in the end - to create an effective system of regional security.
In these circumstances, the EurAsEC and the CSTO is the prospect of becoming a kind of successor to the CIS for the final stage of the "civilized divorce", to attend the funeral of "the integration of the former Soviet Union." In turn, the SCO is likely consolidates its role as one of the tools to advance the economic interests of China in Central Asia and Russia.
Each year, the Chinese factor is becoming more important for Central Asia. Celestial increases its economic presence is largely due to an increase in the supply of finished products and lending profitable projects. In case of further developing the existing system of oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to China's economic scale of China's presence in the region will grow even more.
At the same time, it is difficult to predict where this will lead. Of course, that China is ready to make the engines of economic (including industrial and innovation) of the CA. She herself could successfully fit into the scheme of the Eurasian land transit, become an important link in economic and political cooperation between China and other centers of power and economic blocs.
However, given that there are significant challenges to the development of China itself, China can build a more pragmatic and selfish scheme of relations with Central Asia. In this case, China will certainly try to make the best use of raw materials in the region for economic growth of their domestic territories. Respectively, will develop certain kinds of economic links, including transport and communications in the Chinese direction. Emerging as a regional security system in the SCO framework will be used primarily to Chinese interests.
In the future, this scenario can lead only to Central Asia economic collapse and a major social upheaval. Moreover, these potential threats are dangerous not only for the region, but also for Russia as well as China itself. In the case of the economic collapse of the Central Asian states and as a consequence of the possible destabilization of Russia and China are risking a huge "hot space" on its borders.
Ambiguous answer to another question: how likely is cooperation or, alternatively, the rivalry between China and Russia in Central Asia? Although today there is the political rapprochement between Russia and China, the chances of conflict of interest between the two powers is not so small. It is necessary to take into account the fact that the Russian-Chinese relations are complex and ambiguous historical legacy: the stages of convergence alternated with periods of cool (if not increasing). Moreover, the growing Chinese and the recovering Russian economy in the future will be even more desperate need for resources, primarily in the energy and non-ferrous metals, which is particularly rich Central Asia. In this regard, we can not exclude the possibility of rivalry between Moscow and Beijing for influence in this geopolitical space. The result could be jeopardized regional stability, which in turn will also negatively affect the security of both Russia and China.

New century, new world

Prospects of relations between Russia, China and Central Asia are heavily dependent on exactly the RF, since as soon as it in its historical, geopolitical and economic potential, can radically change the course has already started on the space of Central Eurasia centrifugal tendencies. Economic reintegration of the former Soviet Union under the auspices of the Russian Federation fundamentally important because only with the former Soviet Union will be able to articulate and defend the overall long-term and strategic interests that will inevitably lead them to the formation of allied relations with the PRC. Otherwise, China will have to build a purely selfish scheme of relations with Russia, and Central Asia, guided only by their own interests. This seems quite natural, since China is unlikely to take into account certain "strategic and long-term interests" of Russia and Central Asian republics, if they do not think about them.
I would like to believe that Moscow will have enough political wisdom and will to rethink their former strategic direction and development of a new one. His main line is objectively linked to exploration, development and defense of the inner Eurasia, including the strengthening of its transit role, which is possible only in conditions of construction of the allied relations with Central Asia and China.
In other words - we are talking about restoring the Great Silk Road, but on a new qualitative level. Required not only to strengthen trade and transit functions of the Eurasian "core", but to create in this space in a modern economy, to form an order of magnitude more efficient than in earlier historical times, the system of international relations and security in the center of the continent.
Choice in Russia is actually not, if she really wants to keep within its previous borders, to stay integrity and stability of the state, to find stability and sustained long-term development, including in its relations with the West.
Alex Strokov ,
analysts, the project "Central Asia"


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