Wary of Ukraine, Central Asia slowly distancing from Russia – Asia Times

Wary of Ukraine, Central Asia slowly distancing from Russia - Asia Times

The terrorist attack in March 2024 that killed 140 people at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall has sparked a assault on Central Asian workers who reside in Russia and put the connection between the area and Russia under growing tension.

Tajikistan, a core Asian country that once included the Soviet Union, is home to the four suspected militants under arrest. Following the Crocus City strike, Russian authorities started rounding up and deporting staff who are actually from Tajikistan, as well as from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The strike, which Russia has blamed on Ukraine, furthermore sparked huge police attacks, report investigations of workers as well as abuse towards Central Asian immigrants.

According to the Soviet interior ministry, there are an estimated 10 million workers migrants from Central Asia residing in Russia. Central Asian migrants have seen an opportunity to find employment given Russia’s current labour shortages, which are the result of the recruitment and the Ukraine battle.

What does shift?

Vladimir Putin’s interest was abroad because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which also provided these republics with the opportunity to choose a more independent social path. Due to the interconnected economies and physical closeness, a complete separation from Russia is unlikely. However, there are indications that some Central Asian countries are interested in making their own political choices without having to consult with Russia regularly.

One was the rejection of Kazakhstan’s leader, Kassym- Jomart Tokayev, in June 2022 to identify Russia’s invasion of the largely dominated Russian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk into the Russian Federation. Additionally, Tokayev added that Kazakhstan had no intention of supporting Russia in avoiding American monetary restrictions.

Russia’s war of Georgia in 2008 was not supported by the place. However, Central Asian nations took a more natural position in 2014 when they were more anxious to criticize the annexation of Crimea. The place has been looking for ways to strengthen its associations with other countries without troubling Russia since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Additionally, Northern Asian republican officials have made more outward-kept statements about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Most of them, except Turkmenistan, opened their edges to take hundreds of Russian residents looking for protection and to avoid recruitment. This did not go unnoticed in Moscow, where steps to change immigration were introduced.

However, at home, these local leaders find fewer people who speak Russian and are interested in Russian society. Polls indicate that many people in central Asia ( 49 % in Kyrgyzstan, 43 % in Kazakhstan ) blame their current economic problems on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Kazakhstan, there have been anti-war demonstrations, and some leisure venues are refusing to house Russian actors. In Russia, Central Asian media sources have been censored for their attempts to cover the conflict in Ukraine.

But, at the United Nations General Assembly, these says either abstain from voting to criticize Russia’s war in Ukraine or ballot with Russia on proposals, including one on violations of human rights in Crimea.

Moscow has historically viewed its role in the region as a security guarantee and a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization ( CSTO ), which aims to bring stability and peace to the area.

After Tokayev requested help from the CSTO with the demonstrations that broke out in January 2022, Soviet troops arrived in Kazakhstan. The unprecedented turmoil, known as Bloody January, started happily but immediately turned aggressive.

Individuals took to the streets to protest a sharp rise in gasoline prices, clashed with police, looted house, and attacked government property.

The Kazakh people was upset by such obvious involvement in the region’s internal affairs despite the apparent needed to restore order. When Russian troops left, there was a standard air of comfort.

Ultimately, Central Asia must choose between preserving the regional balance of power and pursuing greater freedom from Russia.

A conference between local leaders in 2023, including US President Joe Biden in New York and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, showed signs of change.

It appears that while core Asian nations were not ready to talk about local protection, they were interested in discussing natural strength, climate change, and stabilizing Afghanistan.

What the West wants

Given the region’s strategic importance and abundance of natural resources, the West will consider this an opportunity to form alliances and counteract Russian influence. Western nations can potentially secure energy supplies and promote stability in a region that has historically been ruled by Russia by fostering these relationships.

In return, central Asian republics might seek economic investment and technological development, and potentially support to strengthen their political independence.

There are likely more opportunities for Central Asia to forge a new relationship with the West as Russia prepares for a protracted war, but any change is anticipated to be gradual.

Anastassiya Mahon is Associate Lecturer in Security Studies, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University

This article was republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.