Lavrov in Central Asia

by Nathan Hamm on 10/21/2005 · 2 comments

Russia’s Foreign Minister followed up Secretary Rice’s Central Asia trip with one of his own, hitting the two countries Rice left off her agenda. Jamestown’s report on the trip mentions that Moscow analysts are viewing Sergei Lavrov’s trip as an asymmetrical response to Rice’s trip. Jamestown’s story goes on to note some perhaps unexpected views on US-Russia competition amongst Russian experts.

True, Moscow would not like to see the strengthening of U.S. positions in the region where it traditionally dominates; but it should also be clear, they add, that Russia is not prepared and in fact does not want to bear the full responsibility for securing political stability and economic development in Central Asia. Thus, the argument goes, in reality the Kremlin is interested both in preserving a “certain level” of American presence in Russia’s strategically sensitive “southern underbelly” and in maintaining some sort of partnership with the United States. One policy paper that is to appear in the next issue of the journal Rossiya v globalnoi politike even argues that in the majority of the Central Asian states Moscow should try to either share responsibility for regional stability with an outside “third force” – be it China, the United States, or the European Union – or shun this burden altogether.

Similar views were aired at the October 18 conference in Moscow that brought together foreign policy practitioners and theorists. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko told the audience that the United States had “completely normal” energy interests in Central Asia and that there would be “normal, honest competition.” For his part, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow William Burns also chose to sound a conciliatory note. His country, Burns said, needed “humility” in its relations with Russia. He also emphasized that “whatever differences the United States and Russia may have … there is a great deal of strategic common ground that gets overlooked.”

All of which is all a pretty healthy way for both the US and Russia to be looking at each other in the region. It would be nice if such talk didn’t tend to get drowned amidst overblown zero-sum game rhetoric.

For more on Lavrov’s trip, see uzbekistan.neweurasia.net and turkmenistan.neweurasia.net. Also see Kommersant’s coverage.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 2 comments }

brian October 21, 2005 at 11:38 pm

Sometimes when I read these analyses, which are really just speculation after all, I sometimes wonder if the people writing them are smarter than those they are writing about. Do those people making policy in the Russian government really have this much foresight?

I they’re smarter than the average columnist, but then again there was a ton of stuff written about the Bush government’s state of mind going into Iraq, and in retrospect if seems that the thought process was a lot simpler in that case than many believed.

Chris Meserole October 22, 2005 at 5:44 pm

Nathan, thanks for the great pointer to the Jamestown article.

Like Brian, I’d share some concerns about the legitimacy of reading into policy makers’ intentions, but ultimately both Torbakov and yourself are convincing.

Thanks for the original thought.

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