The five post-Soviet Central Asian republics—Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—share common political, cultural, and historical roots, but they are far from homogeneous, and continuing domestic and regional tensions could lead to violent conflict.
As the war in Afghanistan begins to enter a new phase, it is important to reexamine some of the premises of U.S. policy in the Central Asian region and to consider whether the conditions in the region have changed in the last decade.
The Carnegie Endowment, working with Central Asia’s Eco-Energy Alliance, launched the pilot regional project in Tajikistan to demonstrate how linking renewable energy to Internet access can be a tool for alleviating social problems.
While the U.S.-led NATO operations in Afghanistan have resulted in somewhat enhanced security capacity for Central Asian countries, their long-term security challenges seem to be increasing, given the current situation in Afghanistan and the growing instability of Pakistan.
The development and diversification of Central Asia’s energy sector will provide more power for citizens and businesses, contribute to the region’s economic security, and give the region a firm footing in a growth industry of global importance.
Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Sarbaev stressed that many of the problems plaguing Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, such as security and drug trafficking, are in fact regional problems, and that multilateral negotiations and mutual concessions can help find solutions to these problems.
The economic crisis has had a clear impact on the already impoverished countries of Central Asia, but few Americans and Europeans have noticed. China and Russia have stepped in to provide aid, and their investments threaten institutional reform in the region.
Strengthening regional cooperation in Central Asia is one of the most powerful ways to foster development and would enable the states of the region to better meet the daunting individual and collective challenges they face.
The United States must recognize that former Soviet states are and will continue to be an important focus of Russia’s foreign policy, and should take a broader regional view to its relationships with countries in Russia's sphere of influence.
The Obama administration needs a new approach to the Caspian region that provides opportunities for local leaders to engage with the United States in economic and political development.