Those who have had the pleasure to work with me know that I have a colorful catchphrase about the interconnectedness of all things. I bring this up to make a variety of points about how to write arguments about complex social, political, and economic processes. One of these points is that apparent connections between events still need to be supported with strong evidence or reasoning.
Last week, I observed that the Russian language media was falling all over itself lamenting what it presented as connected signs of a grave strategic setback for Russia in Central Asia. The first was the departure of Uzbekistan from the CSTO. Initially, little was made of this, but worrying over its implications increased when news of Tajikistan’s difficulty over base negotiations with Russia emerged and media reported some cloud talk from a US Congressman visiting Dushanbe about Tajikistan being a good place for a transit center. A narrative based on stereotypes of great power rivalry, the passivity of Central Asian governments in foreign policy making, and the inconsistency and unpredictability of the Uzbeks emerged on the lips of many Russian and several American commentators who argued that Uzbekistan’s move (and maybe Tajikistan’s) had to do with US negotiations for a base in connection with post-2014 plans for Afghanistan.
However, the case that Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from the CSTO has to do with US-Russia competition for influence in Central Asia discounts more immediate causes that have to do with Russia’s renewed push for Eurasian integration. Over at e-IR, I argue that Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from the CSTO tells us more about the prospects for Putin’s goals for Eurasian integration than it does about the future role of the US in Central Asia.
Go check it out and leave a comment.