US strategy for Central Asia – to be or not to be for geopolitical competition

US strategy for Central Asia – to be or not to be for geopolitical competition

In 2020, the United States will unveil new strategy for Central Asia – a region whose name is increasingly heard in expert discussions on geopolitical competition between the superpowers – Russia, China and the USA.

Trump’s new Central Asian strategy should seek major power cooperation, and not conflict, according to Xiao Bin, a associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His article on this topic was posted recently by the Chinese tabloid Global Times.

Since the Central Asian countries gained independence, the White house has changed five presidents. In the last two decades after the tragic events of 9/11, based on a combination of national interests with international political realities in the region, the United States has transformed the political course for the creation of Greater Central Asia into the concept of “New Silk Road”, which involves the formation of a single transport and trade infrastructure in a large region of Central Asia, which should include not only five traditional “camps”, but a number of South Asian countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India.

At first, after Donald Trump took office, Central Asian policy did not change much. “However, since 2018, what Trump has done in the region has sent a strong signal of adjustment”, said the Chinese expert.

The US President appointed new ambassadors to Central Asian countries, strengthened the “strategic partnership” with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and expanded the agenda of the C5+1 dialogue format.

According to Bin, analyzing Trump’s new Central Asia strategy should take into consideration specific major power relations. Two years ago, the US National Security Strategy defined China and Russia as strategic competitors, he recalled.

And now both Beijing and Moscow are likely to regard the Trump administration’s new Central Asia strategy as a challenge and a policy intended to check China and Russia.

Despite the fact that the system of “checks and balances” has always remained a significant element of American diplomacy and the White House sees China and Russia as the main competitors, compared with Europe and East Asia, it doesn’t believe Central Asia possesses China and Russia threats, argues Xiao Bin.

According to his forecasts, Washington will not form any provocative alliances for Beijing and Moscow in the region. Instead it would cooperate with the latter to promote the Afghanistan peace process.

In addition, according to the Chinese expert, Trump’s new political line in Central Asia will not affect the region’s existing strong trade and economic ties with China and the interaction of some Central Asian countries with Russia in the security sphere.

“Trump’s new Central Asian policy will aim to seek greater US interests amid evolving regional international politics. This will create greater major-power regional competition, but there is still room for China, Russia and the US to maintain Central Asia prosperity and stability. Countries within the region would rather see sound interaction among major powers rather than being forced to choose sides,” Xiao Bin sums up.

According to some media reports, Trump’s Central Asian strategy, which will be adopted for the first time, will be presented by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo during a trip to the capital of Kazakhstan next year. The exact dates of the visit have not yet disclosed.

Elvira Kadyrova