Bush May Pressure Central Asian States Says RFE/RL

by Laurence on 11/4/2004

From an interview with UNC professor Steven Sabol by RFE/RL:

RFE/RL: President George W. Bush has won the U.S. election. What foreign policy is Mr. Bush going to pursue in Central Asia? Will he maintain his current policy line or will he try to accomplish more things in the next four years that he didn’t manage during his first term in office?

Steven Sabol: Much of it depends on, obviously, what plays out in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. The signs for Afghanistan are I think positive, although very fragile in terms of the election process, the possibility for the growth and expansion of democracy. I don’t think we’ll see any major shift in U.S. policy towards Central Asia as long as [the situation in] Afghanistan stays moderately stable. I believe Iran and the situation there, however, is going to be a very complex and serious issue during the next Bush administration. It will be interesting to see if the administration is able to convince Russia in particular to put greater pressure on Iran with regard to their nuclear power program. I think then, again depending on what transpires in those three states, we may see the [Bush] administration begin to exert greater pressure on the Central Asian republics to loosen their grip on political power to allow for freer and fairer elections, particularly in Kazakhstan, but also in Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan is problematic, of course, and a lot will depend on [President Saparmurat] Niyazov’s health, how long he decides to stay as president. If, for whatever reason, he needs to leave office, or he’s forced out of office in the next four years, that will dictate to some extent the U.S. administration policy in its relations with Turkmenistan.

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