Abstract: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the former Soviet territory of Independent States once peripheral Central Asian region has been transformed to the region which occupies a key position in the system of coordinates of the Eurasian geopolitical space. Central Asia has always been and currently is the object of crossing the geopolitical interests which are closely linked with the need to address the recent security concerns in Central Asia Republics.
The forthcoming withdrawal of the Western coalition in Afghanistan in 2014 according to Washington statements and the probable location of arms, and, perhaps, the U.S. forward operating bases in some Central Asian countries create absolutely new situation in the region where CARs can not only buffer the negative processes in the neighboring Afghanistan or Middle Eastern countries, but also have the ability to generate threats and challenges, which are becoming apparently even now.
The paper discusses contemporary risks to security in CARs from a perspective of pre and post 2014 when the Western coalition forces would have to leave Afganistan. An initial purpose of the researcher is to analyze and understad the concept of current threats and challenges in Central Asia and demonstrate an analysis of the future implications in the region through a prism of security and stability issues.
Key Words: Central Asia, Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan, Security.
Central Asia or the Greater Central Asia Region (Chen, 2011), being in the heart of the Eurasian continent is not only the focal point of the connection of the Eurasian continent and the Middle East, but also the inevitable by moving from west to east, from north to south across the globe. And today, on the threshold of XXI century, strategic importance of the CARs not only changed the political map of the region but resurfaced geopolitical and strategic importance of the region. CARs, according to some researchers (Heathershaw, 2011), are one of the most conflict-prone regions in the former Soviet Union where potential sources of conflict – not only within the region but also around it.
Practically possible to make an endless list of potential or actual risk and security threats, as well as problems that need a special attention. But the main objective will be to identify the root of risks and challenges that require urgent solutions. In this regard, the main threats to security in CARs can be accounted but not limited to as: the problem of water resources, environmental degradation, international conflicts, drug trafficking, organized crime, international terrorism, religious extremism and population growth.
Threats that undermine the stability of today can threaten the security of CARs tomorrow and be “maturing” as a result of the current situation in the region being on the periphery of the global policies of the great powers. Yet todayand retrospecting tomorrow, growing plights are especially related to possible intraregional problems that could cause a confrontation between the Central Asian statesand a growing Afgan challenge after 2014.
Speaking specifically, Central Asia may face three major challenges in the field of security. First, a withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan by 2014 and as a consequence its possible implications in the region. Second, in Central Asian societies, there is a growing expectations of freedom and modernization where political gridlock increases anxiety among people which may theoretically lead to similar phenomenon of “Arab Uprisings“. Third, the present state of relations between CARs and other countries where the set of problems can be divided into two groups. On the one hand, those derived from the international situation in the region and geopolitical risks from the diplomatic and strategic activities of external actors – the great powers (the United States, China, Russia) and regional powers (Turkey, Iran, Pakistan). On the other, the growing threats, risks and challenges with intraregional level.
Practical Implications in Estimating Current Risks in Central Asia
The issues addressed in this part are grouped into six parts and represent a logical frame for discussing current risks in Central Asia.
1. Political Extremism in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
The worrying growth of political extremism in Kyrgyzstan relates to the unpredictability of the socioeconomic and political development of the country. However, neither the neighbors in the region, neither Russia nor the interested external actors like China, USA or EU or even international organizations are not in a hurry to take responsibility for what is happening. The current situation in Tajikistan has started to resemble the one that exists in Kyrgyzstan. Known expert on the region, Professor I. Zvyagelskaya analyzing the connection to time – the traditional and the modern reality series, she says that the political culture of Central Asia remained rigid ideas about the hierarchy of society. In this struggle for the redistribution of power in a traditional society has a good chance to develop into civil war, and the rise to power of new groups does not change the underlying social mechanisms that under certain conditions, can “cause riots, coups cyclical.” As a result, the expert emphasizes internal factors are emerging as major potential security challenges in Central Asia (Zvyagelskaya, 2010).
2. Ethnic Conflicts
Today, latent ethnic conflicts in Central Asia escalate into open hostility. Fergana Valley is a bright example of such potential hostility. A serious concern has taken place on the case of the recent conflict on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border with some killed and wounded. The border clash is a reminder of the ethnic violence that shook southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 when hundreds were killed in fighting between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz (Saralayeva, 2013).
3. Change of the Political Elite
The forthcoming change of the political elite and the uncertainty of political development in the region based on the mechanism of power transfer (from the president’s actions to their successors) creates in particular unpredictable political consequences. According to regional experts, “Intensification of the local political battle will be seen in Central Asia in the nearest decade. An irrevocable change of political elites will occur in this period and the approach of the regime change will escalate the local political tensions and antagonism between different groups. The local instability in Central Asia will then cause weakening of national and regional security” (Tengrinews, 2011). Updating of elites have passed in Turkmenistan (2007), and Kyrgyzstan (2011). It went smoothly – no crisis nor a civil war. In other republics such as “mild” scenario as the transfer of power has not yet seen.
4. Rise of Political Islam in Central Asia
There is a significant rise of political Islam in almost all Central Asian countries despite the official ban. A number of organizations continue to operate and promoting the ideas of political Islam not only in rural areas but also in large cities.The failure of Central Asian states to engage political Islam within a religious and political framework perpetuates the threat of Islamic extremism. Religious pluralism may offer the antidote (Fairobserver, 2012).
5. Afghanistan as a Potential Threat
Final factor that has both external and internal components is Afghanistan which became a source of constant instability largely due to ill-considered actions of global actors. The capability of the government of Hamid Karzai is questionable. With the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO countries, the region of CAR will need to search for answers to the full range of related problems as the prospect of a new wave of Islamic radicalism and activity of Islamists. Afghanistan may become a staging point for terrorist activity in Central Asia once international forces pull out, a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) report warns (Xinhuanet, 2012).
6. Hypothetical Risk after 2014
Such uncertainty as now in their future security of Central Asia was not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Regardless of whether or not the Western troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014, a worsening confrontation in the region is expected. Less expected that the Afghan problem will trigger on creation of a single security project. It is hypothetically possible that one of the future scenarios in the region will be an expansion of the Taliban to the north – in the area of responsibility of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, while maintaining control of the center of Eurasia.
The problems of internal security, stability and development in Central Asia as far unsolvable. With the economic division of the region on the leaders and outsiders of the large number of potential challenges and threats of the religious, social, economic and political scenarios of “Arab springs” extremely dangerous and unpredictable for the whole region. Given the religious and ethnic specificity, the “revolutions” inevitably revive radical Islamic fundamentalism which will be strengthened by the Taliban resource. This is especially true for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. However, the further preservation of frozen ruling elites and authoritarian secular systems will increase the internal pressure in the CAR. Either way, the ruling elites will have to make a smooth political modernization and find the individual republics compromise with moderate Islam.
The paper attempted to gain a deeper understanding of the concept of security after 2014 and its possible implication in the region of Central Asia. The researcher tried to develop a frame of potential base by characterizing risks of socioeconomic, political and geopolitical impacts on Central Asian security where nowadays Central Asian region indeed represents a set of internal problems and the activities of external actors that confirms the complexity, inconsistency and explosiveness of the situation prevailing in the region. A sharp increase by one or another player is automatically generates worsening rivalry and hidden confrontation. Existing regional political and security organizations like Organization of the Collective Security Treaty and Shanghai Cooperation Organization on one hand and alternative security system as NATO on the other, de facto enhance overall instability and mistrust in the region where the political or international legal combination of these systems is not possible yet.
It seems wrong for all to focus on finding a single answer or a single truth. It would be better to recognize that the countries of the region face many challenges, and they will change and evolve during the process attempts to solve them, the timely and effective solutions which depend on the stability and security in the region.
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 Here and after CAR