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After disintegration of the Soviet system which provided security of huge territory by means of the rigid administrative - power control, the Central Asian region became one of the main sources of challenges both for the other parts of the post-Soviet space, and far outside its limits. The heavy socio-economic crisis in combination to shortage of natural resources caused development of uncontrollable processes (impoverishment of the population, illegal migration, ecological crisis etc.), while organization and effectiveness of regional and transregional illegal structures (drug-traffickers and other smugglers, extremist groupings) in many cases surpass organization and effectiveness of the counteracting state or interstate structures. At the same time the region has become the sphere of crossing geopolitical and geoeconomic interests approximately of ten global and regional centers of power, some of which have nuclear weapon. For the present time the interaction of these interests contributes mainly to contradictions and tension, while constructive tendencies are not stable yet.

It is no wonder, that the problem of regional security already after a rather short time after disintegration USSR has become the subject of serious theoretical research. The framework of this study is explained by the fact that outside the region the most significant by both quantitative and qualitative parameters activity in the field of Central Asian studies is revealed by Russian and American researchers. In some extent the events of September 11, have given global character to the problems of Central Asia security. It increases both the demand for appropriate researches and the public resonance caused by them. In these conditions the responsibility of a researcher whose recommendations influence the decision-making process and public opinion increases as well.

Unfortunately, the quantity of distortions, simplifications, misinterpretations of one or another situation which are made within such estimations and recommendations is great enough. It impedes achievement of adequate results and in practice causes acceptance of incorrect decisions, formation of distorted notions in public opinion.

It should be noted that the examined and other stereotypes should not be considered as something obviously negative, deviating of a correct result. Any researcher, including the author of this article, has to operate simplified, schematic, standardized, habitual and even emotionally colored notions about the investigated subject. When the subject is a dynamically changing political situation, it often causes disregard for some factors even if they have the great importance for adequate estimation. It is no wonder, therefore, that the works, which are especially devoted to analysis of stereotypes in Central Asian studies, are also subjected to very serious criticism (1).

Analyzing widespread stereotypes concerning the issues of regional security, the author does not claim, therefore, for certain infallibility of his judgments or (taking into account the huge file of the literature on the regarded topic) for high level of representativeness of the analysis. For illustration I use some works of Russian and American authors the significant part of which represents extreme, but at the same time, very influential points of view that and at least partly reflecting in the majority of the other works. The main purpose of this work is in attracting attention to the problem, the constructive discussions on which could promote more adequate understanding of current situation, reduction of politized estimations and recommendations.

Systematizing stereotypes concerning security issues of Central Asian region, the author concentrates on four issues including subjective factors influencing essentially the attitudes of researchers, their estimations of the geopolitical importance of Central Asia, of the influences exerting by the key actors of international relations in the region and recommendations related to regional security.

Subjective Factors

While considering the factors influencing essentially on formation of the stereotypes under study it should be stressed upon the information, used by a researcher, his/her erudition, methodological principles, the outlook formed on the basis of personal positive or negative experience, "social localization" (meaning national and corporative identity) etc. and also the interests of state, commercial and other structures, which interests are represented by the analyst.

After twelve years since the disintegration of USSR, the circle of the experts making their research on Central Asian region has extended essentially. It has included a great number of experts previously engaged in the problems of Middle East and other regions of the Muslim world, sovietologists, specialists in geopolitics, ethnologists etc. As a matter of fact, mainly the representatives of these categories make the key contribution to Central Asian studies. The dynamically changing events often create serious methodological difficulties for the representatives of "classical humanitarian sciences" - historians, for a part of ethnographers etc., who should familiarize themselves with unwonted methods of sociology and political science, to increase flexibility and sometimes multialternativeness of their conclusions that is caused by the specificity of the corresponding fields and subjects.

While number of the research centers directly specializing in Central Asia has hardly grown noticeably, the number of institutions in which these problems are studied has been increased undoubtedly and their geographical frameworks have been extended. It can de explained first of all by that the significant number of countries has important interests in Central Asia. Some part of the centers and analysts is involved to the decision-making process of power structures; some researchers cooperate also with non-governmental organizations. It is no wonder, that sometimes under the far-fetched proofs of importance of some factors (military, oil etc.) the interests of a military-industrial complex, transnational corporations (especially specializing in extraction of raw materials), some Central Asian countries (2) and sometimes even of research collectives interested in additional finding of their research can be followed.

In the current conditions the active inter-exchange between academic field and mass-media takes place: many scholars contact actively and in on the contrary qualified experts-journalists more and more often appear as scholars. Meanwhile the information providing by media (in the initial or processed form) is perhaps the main source for the majority on which the researches are based. It is quite explainable as any other channel does not provide so much various information: indeed, sociological surveys and field researches are expensive, and their realization quite often is supervised by authoritarian regimes while official statistics and other documentary information are frequently rather tendentious.

Basing on the information of the media, the researchers however risk to fall under influence of stereotypes caused by insufficient educational level of journalists as well as by purposeful tendentiousness (stressing some details of quotation out of a context, the allocation of some facts while hushing up or belittling the importance of other ones etc.) which is seemed to be characteristic for the vast majority of leading media when the matter concerns the interests of the corresponding countries or business circles controlling the source of news.

The representativeness of information has also the great importance for objectivity of research. For the above-mentioned reasons the materials of mass-media are not best sources on the basis of which it is possible to make impartial conclusions. Unfortunately some conceptions acquiring practical significance are based rather on the author's outlook than on erudition in regional problems or on the analysis of a wide circle of materials allowing to consider a problem from the different sides (3). On the contrary, such recommendations which have some popularity in military circles and partially in political establishment in some cases are elaborated on the basis of well-known and besides partially out-of-dated facts, stereotyped notions etc.

In some cases the character of conclusions and recommendations is influenced consciousnessly or unconsciousnessly by the personal motives of a researcher. It concerns, for example, the rigid attitude to the certain states of some analysts who have emigrated from the countries of Central Asia (first of all from Kazakhstan) to Russian Federation, and on the other hand about migrants (or their descendants) from the former USSR or the states of East Europe to Western countries. Some influence for formation of symphaties or antipathies to any actor or phenomenon is exerted by national loyality and political views of an expert as well as by "emotional-informational environment" in which such expert is situated. It would be not correctly, however, to discourse on the strict interdependence between belonging of the researcher between some of the above-mentioned groups and his or her conclusions.

Geopolitical importance of the region

In the most of cases the analysts regarding the questions of regional security safety and offering recommendations for their decision begin with the problem of the geopolitical importance of the region. In this light the territory of Central Asia is often considered as the complex economic, political, cultural and ideological vacuum and the object of so-called "the new great game" (4) in which the states of the region play passive roles and (as well as internal regional social and economic conjuncture) does not take into account sufficiently. It is no wonder that the conclusions and recommendations based on the geopolitical approach often prove to be superficial, underestimating influence of essential factors, which correcting seriously the realization of offered "prescriptions".

The security issues of the southern post-Soviet space as a rule are considered in the territorial limits of the "post-Soviet Central Asia" (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) and Central Eurasia (in the most of cases it is defined as a territory including post-Soviet Central Asia, Transcaucasia, Northern Caucasus and Volga-Ural region). First of all these territorial limits are justified by the reasons of geopolitics and security especially by that this space is often considered as an arisen vacuum of influence, which earlier or later should be filled and therefore this space will change the cultural-political characteristics (towards democracy, Islamic radicalism or another model favorable for any external actor) while its resources will be controlled by the winning power center. This kind of ideas can be clearly illustrated by the concept of Zbiegnew Brzezinski who regarded post-Soviet Central Asia and Azerbaijan as a single geopolitical entity defining the mentioned Transcaucasian country as cork of the vessel containing the riches of the Caspian basin and Central Asia (5).

According to Russian specialists in geopolitical studies who advocate radical nationalist point of view the role of internal regional actors is even more passive. For examples, Vadim Tsymburski defines Central Asia as a part of the Great Limitroph (6) separating Russia from Arab-Iranian Middle East, India and China (7) while Alexander Dugin has even included Central Asian territory in "Russian South", proving it by "vital necessity" of Russian presence in the southern borderlands of former USSR for the defense from expansion of "atlantism" (8).

As it was mentioned above, the consideration of the region as a passive object of geopolitical influence is fraught with the disregarding of political resources of the new independent states, and also of social and other processes going on in these countries The same concerns some alarmist construction based on the idea of the "dominoes effect" (which was especially popular from the second half 1990-s till 2001 because of the potential threat from the Afghan Taliban movement), according to which Islamic radicalism after succeeding within the limits of one state or even of a local area, should inevitably spread throughout on all territory of Central Asia which in this case is represented actually as almost homogeneous socio-cultural space.

The most of existing classifications of sub-regions within Central Asia are also based rather on cultural-historical or geopolitical when on socio-economic, ecological or other criteria. It seems that such classifications are suitable for solving concrete analytical tasks while absolutization of such schemes can cause inadequate estimations of social and political processes. For example, Russian ethnologist G. Sitnyansky has criticized well-known American researcher M. Olcott for considering the post-Soviet Central Asia as a cultural-historical and geopolitical entity that seem to be partly justified. But his alternative point of view dividing this territory into Eurasian Kazakh-Kirghiz and Middle Asian settled zones (9) is at least hardly more successful as according to the author's logic the traditionally nomadic territories of Turkmenistan, Mountain Badakhshan and Uzbekistan should be considered as a part of "settled Middle Asian zone". Far more doubtful is however the classification of Alexander Dugin within which the following sub-regions are included: 1. Russian East (Northern Kazakhstan); 2. Central Kazakhstan (southwards from the 50-th parallel); 2. Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; 3. Tadjikistan that is evidently gravitates towards Iranian-Muslim cultural space of "far abroad" (10). It is evident that the second group includes the countries which in political, economical and cultural respects are sharply contrasting with each other. Meanwhile, that the author advocates the extreme practical importance of his classification which implies rather obliging and very expensive policy based on such an abstract scheme. The adequateness of conclusions concerning geopolitical importance of the region can be increased by means of interdisciplinary multifactoral analysis requiring taking into account the active role of Central Asian countries and social environment, specificity of sub-regions that can be classified by political, physic-geographical, cultural-historical and economic criteria depending on the research purposes.


In this case the topic includes the key issues of regional security requiring pressingly to "respond" them. As it was mentioned before, disorganization of Soviet security system made Central Asia a source of various problems which importance goes far from the regional territorial limits. The terrorist actions of September 11 and following American operation in Afghanistan (with use of Central Asian military infrastructure) have globalized the importance of some of these problems such as terrorism and drug-trafficking.

The "list" of current regional and trans-regional challenges is not subject for heated discussions. Far more disputable is the question about the hierarchical importance of these problems and hence about the priorities in their solution.

Sometimes interstate conflicts with participation of not only internal actors by also external forces (especially of Russia and China which potentially can be involved in any regional conflict (11) ) are pointed out among the most serious challenges for regional security. In 1990-s a part of Western analysts considered Russia as the main source of military danger for the new states (12) but now such points of view are already far less topical reasons because Russian priorities in the regions in many respects have been reappraised (this problem will be considered below) while the challenges of extremism and terrorism, aggravation of ethno-political conflicts have been brought to the forefront.

The significant part of analysts regard the escalation of border conflict between Uzbekistan and its neighbors as the main challenge (or one of the main challenges) for regional military security. It seems to be strange that the membership of the majority of Uzbekistan's neighbors (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) in the Collective Security Treaty is often not taken into account despite it can become a cause for Russian interference in a conflict on the part of the victim side. Therefore the potential scale of Uzbekistanian or Chinese military pressure seems to be limited. On the whole, the traditional challenges to regional security themselves are currently not so urgent as non-traditional ones. In the most of cases the role of military-strategic factors is considered in a combination to other aspects of rivalry for geopolitical influence. These aspects will be examined during the analysis of the role which the most influential external actors have in the regional system of international relations.

While the military-strategic parameters of a situation are defined clearly enough, the analysis of social and internal political (for the countries of the region) challenges appears often to be rather superficial. The commonplaces in the corresponding studies are in stressing on the complexity of demographic and ecological situation, low living standards, authoritarianism and corruptibility of Central Asian regimes. It is not sufficient, however, to estimate the influence these factors upon regional security confining oneself by ascertaining their presence (as similar social problems can be found in the majority of the other countries and the post-Soviet states are far from to be worst in this respect) or (as some American authors do) to put the existing flaws (authoritarianism, violation of human rights, corruption) down to the temporary "birth defects" from the old Soviet system, from which these defects were ostensibly inherited (13).

At the same time no some serious attention pays to the role of social institutes and processes which are of stabilizing or, on the contrary, destabilizing significance. Among such factors are the balance of interests between and within power and informal elites (taking into account tribal; ethnic, economic and other aspects), self-regulating importance of traditional social structures (mahallya etc.), basic directions of socio-economic activity (including an opportunity to get the incomes not taken into account), existing and potential channels for labor migration etc. Unfortunately, this kind of thorough researches based on empirical material (14) now can be found very seldom, though the knowledge of "deep" social phenomena and processes seem to be necessary for adequate estimation of both stabilizing and destabilizing tendencies within the region, of that "safety margin", which social and internal political situation has.

The above-mentioned considerations concerns fully the estimations related to the danger of distributing radical Islamic methods and order by extreme methods. After events of September 11 such forces are regarded as a global adversary of "civilized word". It has been resulted in serious geopolitical change in the region (operation in Afghanistan, changes in the political priorities of key actors participating in the regional security system), and (that seems to be natural) of conjuncture in the American studies on security issues in Central Asia.

As for Russia, the even more noticeable increase of attention to these issues revealed themselves in middle of 1990-s. This increase in particular was caused by military success of Taliban which provoked gloomy forecasts about the possible "chain reaction" throughout the entire Central Asia and following spreading of radical islamism to Russian territory (so-called "dominoes effect"). By this challenge the necessity of large-scale Russian presence in Tajikistan has been justified: until the American operation in Afghanistan the idea that exactly in the mountains of Pamir the expansion of Islamic radicalism towards Russia was very popular and influential.

Though destabilization of a situation and aggravation of social, tribal and ethnic conflicts which can be caused by attempts to embody violently the extreme religious ideas, the Central Asian space hardly can be regard as vacuum which in short time (as well as in the foreseeable future) can be filled with such ideas and corresponding forces. There is even a very small number of historical examples of successful export of radical ideology to the neighbor states without military superiority taking additionally into account that the populations of such states would differ by their ethnic structures. The example of Tajikistan, which was a country having very strong Islamic traditions, has demonstrated that the victory of radical Islam yet is hardly possible even within the limits of one state: the more influential forces (and social mechanisms) which (undoubtedly, with very strong support from abroad) can oppose this kind of development can be found everywhere throughout the region. Moreover, the Islamic groupings themselves are far from being monolithic differing as ideologically as by other interests (distribution of power and other spheres of influence, control over shadow economic operations etc.) which are of quite pragmatic character.

The extent of danger which Islamic extremism has as a destabilizing factor for the region is difficult enough. The events in Batken district of Kyrgyzstan which took place in 1999 and 2000 have demonstrated that the power and organization of radical militant groupings is not to be underestimated. In any case Islamic extremism is dangerous not in itself but as the catalyst of social-economic, interethnic and social-political contradictions (between power and society, different elites competing for redistribution of resources); moreover, in conditions of rigid authoritarian system it becomes perhaps the sole channel for the expression of protesting moods. The decision of these problems that seems to be far more important that the struggle against outward manifestations will allow to achieve reduction of influence enjoying by such groupings or their ideological transformation towards more moderate and constructive direction. Another part of a problem that is in contacts between Central Asian radicals with outside groupings has in its essence rather criminal than military character.

On the contrary, the problem of drug-trafficking seems to be often underestimating. Meanwhile it outstrips other threatening activities both by financial resources and by the number of involved people and (far more) of victims. The estimated cost of the opium obtained in 1999 (about 4600 ton) was about $ 130-140 billions, that was thrice more than the gross output of all Central Asian states brought together and twice more than commodity circulation of Russia with all countries of CIS. According to some Russian experts, with the existing tendencies each fifth Russian could be dependent on drugs already after 10 years (15), the wave of narcotics also threatens to flow over European countries. Therefore narcotraffic is possibly the more dangerous threat to regional security than some territorial conflicts and even than internal instability. In the financial respect drug-trafficking (first of all from Afghanistan through Central Asian countries) is used as a means for support of both corrupt officials and Islamic opposition. The attention given to the problem at analytical and even practical levels is not quite adequate to the existing danger.

While the list of threats and challenges is well-defined, the estimations concerning hierarchy of their importance and the tendencies of development are more often superficial and subjected to the influence of conjunctural factors (in particular to the influence of opinion dominant in mass-media). The quality of such analysis can be increased by means of interdisciplinary researches or, at least, by familiarizing with the works of experts in various fields, not just political scientists and publicists examining situation "from the altitude of geopolitical flight".


During the examination of the problems of regional security the most significant attention is however paid not for threats and challenges but for the most influential power centers within the regional system of international relations. Thus the main security issue is regarded in the geopolitical rivalry for filling of complex vacuum of influence whereas the challenges mentioned before are frequently considered as minor or even derivative. Though such approach has some ground, it ignores unconsciously or, on the contrary, quite consciously that the "non-system" threats and challenges (extremism, drug-trafficking etc.) are potentially much more dangerous than system ones arising as a result of the mentioned geopolitical rivalry, which on the whole is but kept in the frameworks by the system of formal and informal norms and principles acceptable for maintaining the sufficient level of security.

Within the paradigm of geopolitical rivalry the external forces have the prevailing importance while the states of Central Asia are rather passive objects than active subjects. In the foreseeable prospect these objects, as it is sometimes seems, should make an unequivocal choice in favor of just one "center of power" (the fact that the political manoeuvering without precise definition of position in many cases better responds the national interests of weak states is not taken into account).

According to the significant majority of estimations, Russia is still the most influential external actor in Central Asia retaining prevailing though decreasing political, military and partly economic role. Russia has such powerful means of pressure as military force, industrial ties (in the case of Kazakhstan) and regulating of transport communication as the most important routes pass through Russian territory.

As a rule, the estimations of Russian role in Central Asia are strongly determined politically and ideologically. Even recently the majority of American political scientists considered this role as rather more negative than positive factor. According to the widespread scheme of arguments this policy in its essence is neo-imperialism aiming retention of Central Asian states in dependent position, hindering achievement of "true independence" and political democratization and in the long term possibly planning the restoration of "Soviet empire" in which anti-Western forces will be dominant. Because of it the influence of Russia in region should be at least essentially weakened and deliverance of Central Asian states from Russian diktat could not only contribute to improvement of economic and political situation in region, but also help to "protect Russia's fragile democracy from the potentially fatal temptation of expansionism" (16).

Though this point of view has its right for existence and seems to be based on partially grounded arguments its estimational component is based on poorly substantiated and tendentious characteristics in the "good-bad" format. For example, Russian policy is described as "neo-imperialism" that is estimated as undoubtedly negative phenomenon (that is disputable) opposed to democracy and attributed just to Russia though with the same success it can be applied to the policy of USA (the Monroe doctrine" in relation to Latin America, economic ground of the war against Iraq in 2003) or such European states, as Great Britain and France. The "liberation of Central Asian states from economic dependence" implies actually the model presupposes repudiation to restore industrial links of the Soviet period and orientation to export of raw resources. In its turn it means strict control over national economics by transnational corporations, very strong dependence on the conjuncture of the world raw markets and on the situation at the routes of transportation of oil and gas.

As it concerns the field of politics, the works of experts advocating the idea to replace Russia from the region contain no some detailed scenarios of future development. Meanwhile the absence of restraining force makes the probability of destabilization of a situation (in sight of quite predictable redistributing the spheres of influence between the other actors) very serious. Besides it is not at clear why the same authors offering to not hasten with democratization of Central Asian states and de facto regarding the authoritarian (in Turkmenian case - totaliritarian) regimes as the guarantors of stability in the region (17), use to operate absolutely other categories in respect to Russia carrying out the same function.

The opposite point of view is advocated by Russian researchers and publicists of extreme nationalist (and anti-American) orientation, some elements of such an attitude are shared also by many analysts holding moderate point of view. According this viewpoint, Russian predominance in Central Asian space is absolutely justified by historical reasons, by the contribution that it has made to development of these territories in the imperial and Soviet periods, and also by current geopolitical reasons. The retention of Russian influence in the region is explained by defensive reasons, especially by the necessity to resist the expansion of radical Islamism (it is especially stressed by the analysts holding moderate political viewpoint) or expansion of American (Western) influence which is considering as an attempt to use the "southern underbelly" of Russia for subversive activity directed against it. Correspondingly the main tasks suggested are in hindering expansion of American (as well as Turkish) influence and preventing the breakthrough of the "geopolitical border" (the term used, in particular, by Dugin), especially of Tajik-Afghan border protected by the Russian servicemen.

While abstaining from the political estimation of similar viewpoints in principle, it should be noted that such arguments poorly supported by economic reasons which make one of the most vulnerable points in the concepts of "national-patriotical" geopolitical scientists and publicists: of Alexander Dugin, Natalia Narochnitskaya, Alexei Panarin, Vadim Tsymbursky and others, as well as of the majority of other Russian political scientists justifying the "offensive-defensive" policy in Central Asia (it seems to be strange logic according to which the defense of the state is impossible without military and political control over five states are distant on many hundreds kilometers from Russian borders). It is obvious enough, that the strengthening of Russian presence will require very significant expenses which can prove to be the excessive burden for Russian economy taking into account its current condition. It is meant, that the prevalence of Russia and the minimization of Western influence would be the good for Central Asian states but some serious reasons are not given in favor of that that the one-sided economic orientation towards Russia can be profitable for these states.

Irrespectively of political orientation and citizenship of analysts the estimations of American influence in Central Asia by many parameters appear to be contrary in relation to similar estimations concerning Russia. In this light the semantic oppositions such as "true independence - subjection", "expansion - defense", "stimulation/hindering (economic and social-political development)" etc. are undermined.

The actual or (that can be found more often) potential function of the USA in the Central Asian space is regarded as the arbitrator which should play a key role in regulating the regional system of the international relations based on certain new (though as a rule imagined rather vaguely) balance of powers. Another part of this function is considered in the mission of helping to achieve "true independence", introduce Western democratic institutes and values; at the same time also to combat the international terrorism.

The idea that USA has some vital interests in the region now has much less popularity than in 1990-s that was because of hullabaloo concerning the supplies of Caspian oil (18) and ambitious projects intended for transportation of Central Asian resources avoiding Russia. Today the recognition of that the United States have no vital interests in Central Asia is the commonplace in analytical works (19). At the same time the idea that USA should not allow domination of some power center in the region is often stressed. This idea was laconically formulated already by Brzezinski who asserted the main interest of America was to help to ensure such situation at which no any power would not supervise this geopolitical space while the international community would have free financial and economic access to it (20).

As it was already mentioned above, the notion of that the foreign policy of the democratic state (USA) is democratic in its essence, though accepting as an axiom, will not stand up to any criticism. As well as Russia and the majority of other countries, the United States have chosen the pragmatic policy having actually closed their eyes to authoritarian character of Central Asian regimes and mass violation of human rights.

The role of arbitrator supporting the balance of forces in many cases is assuming prevention of Russian or Chinese primacy or spreading of radical Islam. Though this kind of "re-balansing" creates some serious risks and requires great political and financial responsibility, such ideas are based mainly on as optimistic as vague prognoses rather on the careful economic and social-political analysis of scenarios, especially negative ones.

The opposite estimation of American (in a broader sense - of Western) policy in the region is made by a part of the Russian researchers holding radical and partly nationalist viewpoint. This estimation is based on the idea that such a policy is intended for damaging Russia starting with detriment of its positions in Central Asia and finishing even with its fragmentation as a result of thoroughly planned "anti-Russian conspiracy". It is meant, that the confrontation between Russia and USA is something of primordial nature and not dependent from one or another variant of Russian political strategy. In this light Central Asia has the significance of the "soft underbelly" strategically vulnerable taking into account weak defenceness and complex ethnic structure of Russian-Kazakhstani border.

According to Alexander Dugin the United States and their allies carry out the "strategy of anaconda" which is intended for encirclement of Russia by outposts controlled by "atlantists"; this circle is gradually compressed (21). It should be noted that these constructions are based on the geopolitical ideas created between XIX and first half of XX centuries. These ideas are founded on the partially obsolete (though quite equitable for that time) notion of unconditional primacy of the spatial-territorial factor in comparison to economic, informational, technological and other aspects (22). The scientific character of the proofs is substituted by the attempts to attach religious justification and irrational sacral sanction to such ideas. Evidently it is meant that the the corresponded works (as well as authority of their author) should be regarded as something beyond rational criticism.

In this respect the considerations of Natalya Narochnitskaya (who is a doctor of historical sciences) are not less characteristic. In her work "Russia, CIS and the West" (where the role of Orthodoxy as ideological ground of Russian policy is emphasized in every way possible) not only essential factual mistakes can be found (23). The author finds possible to make very obliging conclusions based on "proofs" not acceptable among professional historians because both of argumentation and evident violation of formal correctness. In particular, she refers to the maps are made between the end of XIX and beginning of XX centuries by "Prussish or English Masons"; in these maps a confederation of Slavs or even a desert is situated in the place of Russia. This map is extrapolated to the current realities including the rivalry for the influence over Central Asian New Independent States (24).

By the afore-mentioned circle of authors the present and potential contradictions of Russian and American interests are considered as something going without saying while some scenarios implying the change in the correlation of coinciding interests and contradictions practically are not examined at all. The opportunity to adjust the character Russian-American relations by means of correcting political or economic strategy is also not taken into account; meanwhile, as the example of China shows, such adjustment can correct seriously the appropriate policy of country's "geopolitical rivals". Symptomatically, this circle of authors has an evident bias towards abstract geopolitical arguments while the attempts of some deep analysis of a situation from the economic or sociological points of view are practically absent.

The events of 11 September have become an evident lesson for the followers of "the new great game" concept when the contradicting interests of Russia and USA were accentuated: the hypothetical "revival of the Soviet empire" or "intrusion in the "soft underbelly" of Russia" has been proved to be less dangerous than quite concrete and essential threat of destabilization in the region (or, at least, in its southern part) by international Islamic militant organizations.

It seems to be revealing that the corresponding viewpoints of some analysts, who previously had insisted on the necessity of ousting geopolitical rivals out of the region, were changed essentially. For example, A. Cohen before September 11 was a sharp critic of Russian policy in respect to Central Asia and Caucasus, actually was estimating this policy as the main challenge for regional security and was considering the counteraction to Russian "geopolitical diktat" as a priority task of USA in Central Eurasia (25). Moreover, he de facto considered Chechnya as an independent state, in 2000 was being indignant by that Russian militarians "unceremoniously" invading its territory . On 30 September 2001, in his interview for Russian TV program "Vremena" the same researcher, meaning Russian-American relations in the light of struggle against international terrorism declared, that "everyone should realize that … we are in the same boat, … we are belonging to the certain community and we should defend ourselves" (26). This example is a not the unique illustration of the cardinal change in the viewpoints both of American, and Russian experts with regard to the geopolitical role of alternative "centers of power" in the south of the post-Soviet space.

Among the estimations concerning the importance which other actors have, the opinions about the roles of Turkey and Iran perhaps are the most stereotypezed. It can be explained by common belonging of these states and Central Asian countries to the Muslim world (as it is considered, it gives to these states additional advantages in the rivalry for influence), associating their policy to the aggressive ideologies of Pan-Turkism and Islamism correspondingly.

Turkey is considered as a centre of power which is potentially capable to include Turkic states of the region into its sphere of influence. It is assumed to use cultural-linguistic closeness (the idea of Turkic solidarity) and support of West interesting in Ankara as a conductor of its influence and secular democratic values. In the most of cases Turkey is represented as a geopolitical antagonist to Russia as well as of the countries associated with radical Islamic ideology. It is no wonder that the significant part of Russian researchers sees in the Turkish policy a threat to Russian security, the aspiration to tear away from it the Turkic peoples not only of Central Asia but also of Russian Federation itself.

In this case the perception of the situation through a "black-and-white prism" would be, however, over-simplification deforming an estimation of the corresponding situation. The idea of close integration on the cultural linguistic basis is far from to be new: for example, Russia also has its historical experience in this field (the ideas of Pan-Slavism). Surprisingly, the positive estimation of this idea often combines with representation of similar Turkish policy as certain "evil" or intrigues directed against Russia. The history, however, shows, that attempts to create unions or associations similar to the project of "Great Turan" (in Latin America, Arab world etc.) are practically impracticable even in much more favorable conditions. Apart from this, already by the middle of 1990-s it has turned out that Turkey has no sufficient economic resources for confirmation of its special role in Central Asia. Therefore now it is even far from being always included in the circle of the main contestants for primary influence upon this space (28).

The representation of Turkey as a "secular democratic model" is also far from to be indisputable. The political model of Turkey is preserving strong elements of authoritarianism (hardly being less authoritarian than Russian one), while its secularity is called in question periodically by political successes of islamists. It can be illustrated by convincing victory of Justice and Development Party in the parliamentary elections in the end of 2002.

Taking into account these consideration it seems to be highly probable that uncontrollable Russian-Turkish rivalry can cause strengthening of extreme forces holding to radical Islamic or ethno-nationalist orientation (such as "Grey Wolves") which is extremely dangerous to Turkey itself. On the other hand Russia and Turkey have serious points of contact both in political and (especially) in economic field. Even despite of contradictions concerning the transportation of Caspian petroleum the economic relations with all Central Asian and Transcaucasian countries even taken together will hardly ever have for Turkey the importance comparable with the benefits from the foreign trade contacts with Russia. Therefore there are rather serious preconditions for that within not improbable scenarios (including intensification of economic cooperation, development of tourism, increase of the interest for the joint decision of security problems) the present geopolitical contradictions can be put on the back burner with regard to common interests.

As for Iran, the existing stereotypes are connected basically to accentuating the significance of the ideological factor: the alarmists (both in USA and in Russia) stress on Iranian support for radical Islam assuming that Tehran intends to export northwards its ideology of Islamic revolution. At the same time, the certain part of the Russian authors (including Alexander Dugin) represent of Iran as original cultural-ideological center of resistance to Western expansion and consequently as a natural ally of Russia including its Central Asian policy.

In the beginning of 1990-s some American experts (e.g. the former advisor of the State Department on Soviet nationalities Paul Goble) supposed that post-Soviet Central Asian republics will inevitably follow the Iranian model even despite of distinctions between Shiites and Sunnis (29). But already by the middle of 1990-s the overwhelming majority of analysts agreed that the cultural barriers between Iran and Central Asia are too great; that Iran, similarly to Turkey, has no sufficient economic potential for supporting its geopolitical claims and at least that the Iranian interests are mainly of pragmatic character (including partition of Caspian resources, development of transport communications etc.) (30). The present adherents of the alarmist point of view in respect to Iranian northern policy accuse Tehran of supporting terrorism. By these rather vague charges the necessity to undertake resolute measures in order to defend American interests in Caspian region is justified (31). However, no proofs of that Iran supports terrorist activity in Caspian region (instead of the Palestinian territories) are not adduced.

Meanwhile Alexander Dugin and some other Russian authors advocating anti-Western viewpoint regard Iranian radical Islam as a consolidating force, on the basis of which uniting some of Central Asian territories for counteraction to Western expansion is possible (32). Probable destructive consequences of attempt to create such a coalition (within which … huge nuclear Kazakhstan is included) are not taken into account absolutely.

Thus, the most widespread stereotypes related to the actors of the regional system of international relations are seemed to be firstly in underestimation of the roles of Central Asian states in comparison to the external "centers of power" and secondly in representation of external actors (of their policies, aims and results of their influence in the region) in black-and-white colors. The complex character of these actors' influence, multialternativeness of possible developments and various scenarious of geopolitical changes in the region with alteration of the hierarchical importance of the security factors: unfortunately, all of that remains a weak place of the majority of analytical works devoted to regional security issues.


The question of how to improve the situation in the field of regional security is the most complicated for the corresponding studies. The significant majority of the experts agrees that with the existent tendencies the situation most likely will be worsen: demographic crisis in a combination to shortage of natural resources threaten to express itself in aggravation of the social contradictions, interethnic conflicts and, as a result in exacerbation of interstate collisions. Taking into account the absence of real political opposition to authoritarian regimes the inevitable substitution of present generation of leaders and other serious changes concerning political elites can lead to very serious crises.

For solving these and other problems the measures of mainly economic and political character are offered. As a rule, the experts in the corresponding field recommend their states or international organization some kind of common directions of policy rather than detailed plans. Nevertheless, the recommendations of this kind often can be also subjected to very serious criticism first of all even not for their excessive abstractness but also for tendentiousness caused by the previously mentioned reasons. It is no wonder that such projects not rarely are been proved to be too ambitious, requiring huge expenses when the economic or political feedback from them seem far from to be indisputable.

Concerning the economic sphere the approaches of Russian and American experts differ essentially. The majority of Russian analysts offer to count on re-integration, restoration of industrial and other economic links destroyed in the post-Soviet period, expecting that the economic cooperation will lead to closer interaction in other spheres. This interaction assumes the pronounced leadership of Russia caused objectively by enormous difference in economic, military and other potentials. It is predictable enough that the success of such re-integration will depend, first of all, on the development of economic situation in Russia and from success in finding some new model of economic cooperation with the states, having obviously far less potential and with the partial exception of Kazakhstan were being unprofitable for the Soviet budget. For the present the political factor of such cooperation (including the problems of hard and soft security) prevails over economic one that is demonstrated by doubtful efficiency of the activity of Euro-Asian Economic Community.

The recommendations in economic field offered by the American experts are based mainly on increase of extraction of raw resources, finding alternative routes of their delivery to the global markets and on use of Central Asian territory for transcontinental transit from East Asia to Europe. Apart from the project of TRACECA far more courageous ideas are put forward. For instance, a well-known expert in Central Asian studies S. Frederick Starr in 2002 offered to create in the region a zone of free trade, the key condition for that would be a network of roads from India and Pakistan through Afghanistan. In the opinion of American scholar this idea would allow to solve at once several problems: to stimulate economic development of the region, to create conditions for reducing the level of conflictness in interethnic and interstate relations, to overcome unilateral dependence of the Central Asian states on Russia and to "reduce that country's ability to control their overall destinies" though providing for Russia serious economic interests for participation in the project. Of course, the main role of this project's organizer and arbitrator regulating the balance of power in the region is placed to United States. (33)

Generally, the weak points of such projects are in their doubtful profitability and the high degree of political risks. It is not evident that the huge investments which are necessary for this kind of transport projects will be reimbursed by the incomes from intensive transit communication, therefore only very careful calculations can partially estimate as far the probability of that such projects can turn to sad monuments to geopolitical ambitions is great. Besides the risk of political destabilization in the areas of planned transport communications is great enough and the maintenance of stability in such areas will require addition serious efforts including financial expenses.

Taking into account these considerations, the idea of F. Starr hardly could survive some serious criticism. It is not clear, how the expenses for construction and maintaining the security of the road network can be covered owing to poor countries making, generally, the production of the same kind, and regions it is possible to pay back. It is also quite predictable that the economic weakness of the countries participating in the project would impel them to undertake periodically protectionist measures, while political contradictions could prompt to use a regime of transnational communication for pressure on neighbor countries. In its aggregate all of it most likely would very quickly bury the idea of the free trade zone. It seems that this kind of ideas should arise first of all from below, instead of being in their essence a move in a geopolitical game.

Among the measures intended to improve internal political situation within Central Asian states the majority of the American experts assign the key role to democratization of political systems. The special stress is made on that the absence of real channels for expression of oppositional sentiments plays into the hands of extreme Islamic groupings which in such conditions gain mass support of the people dissatisfied by their authorities.

By a significant number of American analysts the main reason of that democracy has not taken its roots in Central Asia first of all is seen in the personal factor, i.e. in unwillingness of the Central Asian leaders to promote democratization in their states (34). Some authors advocate also the idea that democratization in Central Asia its essence would signify overcoming of the Soviet totalitarian heritage and that familiarizing with Western democratic values actually would mean therefore deviation from pro-Russian orientation (35).

In the opinion of Martha Olcott and some other American researchers the concrete tasks of the United States and other Western countries are in support of the programs of legal education and the groups specializing in the protection of human rights. The special attention is proposed to be paid for assistance in expanding the economically active stratum (in particular of small and average business), for education of businessmen, managers, lawyers (36).

Such ideas are seemed to be based on oversimplified notions about problems of development of democracy in traditional societies. The author has no objection about the statement of M. Olcott that Central Asian peoples peoples themselves are not less than others capable to adoption of democratic values. Hovewer, the explanation of difficulties of political democratization mainly by the personal factor in this case cannot be considered seriously: within the framework of existing system of a traditional society (meaning its tribal structure and other features) and traditional political culture the replacement of some political figures by others (namely "authoritarian leaders" by "democrats") would hardly lead to essential change of the character of political system. It can be well illustrated by the events of the period of perestroika, during which the supporters of "democratic transformation" were appointed or even selected to high posts in Central Asian republics. Now these "supporters of democratization" are authoritarian leaders of independent states including Saparmurat Niyazov who in the times of Mikhail Gorbachiov was revealed himself as a modest person introducing concistently the ideas of pluralism in the political life of Soviet Turkmenistan.

True (but not superficial and ostentatious) democratization of Central Asian states is a very long process which should be based on radical socio-economic and socio-cultural transformation (breaking up the traditional tribal system, cardinal changes in economic system, mentality and political culture) preconditions for which are definitely not sufficient now. This transitional process is insecure as the struggle for power and redistribution of other resources between tribal or territorial groupings with infringement of existing balance between elites within unstable political system is fraught with the serious conflicts up to civil wars according the Tajikistan's scenario. The history shows that such conflicts are typical for transitional periods.

The idea that the progress in democratization depends on reduction of Russian influence is not supported by some serious arguments. On the contrary there is a regularity according to which the democratic values are rooted more deeply in the countries and regions where Russian cultural influence is strongly; in particular, it concerns Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (37). As a matter of fact, intensification of economic, political and cultural contacts between Central Asian states and Russia on could become serious positive contribution to "evolutionary" democratization of political life in the region while regarding the problem in the light of geopolitical rivalry and forcing the export of democracy from the outside could scarcely bring effective long-term results.

The recommendations devoted to building of more secure regional system of international relations are focused basically on re-integration of the post-Soviet space, on finding the new balance of powers or on structural reorganization of Central Asian space. In the significant majority of cases the contents of offered "recipes" are depended on the political viewpoints of their authors.

The defects of first two "models" were already mentioned before. The notion that re-integration of the post-Soviet space with Russian leadership will solve the principal problems of Central Asian region is poorly supported by the economic point of view, though such a scenario evidently would mean the enormous expenses for Russian budget. The idea to establish the model of regional security within which no one of the power centers could dominate, that would been ensured due to American arbitration, is too abstract. There is a serious risk of that such a construction would appear fragile and short-lived (while its destruction would be fraught with serious negative consequences); besides it is obvious enough, that not all interested parties would trust in impartiality of such arbitrator, which hardly will miss a chance to use its advantages for rendering pressure on the "disloyal" participants of the regional system of international relations. According to any common sence one of the key players of a game cannot be its referee as well as a party in a lawsuit cannot be a judge in it (that is, by the way, among the key principles of democratic systems, including American one).

The most frequently discussed variant of territorial-structural reorganization of Central Asian space (the unity of which is called in question) is in the idea of integration of Kazakhstan and (probably) Kyrgyzstan into Eurasian (including also European countries of CIS) or even into the common European economic space. The other countries of post-Soviet Central Asia would be left outside such a space. Though this idea seems to be attractive for Russian security, its realization would be rather problematic because of financial reasons (including the necessity to pay off the huge debts of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to the third countries, to make large investments in Kazakhstanian and Kyrgyzstanian economies, in arrangement of common southern border, in struggle against drug-trafficking and other criminal transboundary activities; etc.) and the presence of influential opponents for such an idea both in Central Asia and outside it.

As it was considered before, some other variants of changing the territorial-structural configuration of Central Asian space (such as establishing the free trade zone in the frameworks of "the greater Central Asia", its inclusion into an exclusive sphere of influence of only one country or, especially its "geopolitical partition" (e.g. between Russian and Iranian zones of influence) in present conditions are seemed to be unreal yet either by economic or by social-political reasons.

* * *

The essential imperfections are characteristic for a significant part of estimations concerning regional security issues and corresponding recommendations improvement are, on the one hand, in the absence of complex, interdisciplinary approach and, on the other hand, in "geopolitical tendentiousness" when the task of ousting geopolitical rivals from their spheres of influence prevail over possibilities for cooperation. It is no wonder that many of such recipes are based not on deep complex analysis of a situation, but on aspiration to prove political ideas by selection of facts testifying in favor of such a point of view. Meanwhile, in the presence of existing unfavorable economic, social and political tendencies the situation in the sphere of security can essentially worsen already in a foreseeable future (meaning exacerbation of such problems as demographic crisis, ethnic conflicts, extremism, drug trafficking). In these conditions the cooperation of the same "geopolitical rivals" can become one of the most urgent necessity.


1. See in: Olcott M. Revisiting the 12 Myths on Central Asia. Carnegie Endowment Working Paper, № 23, September 2001; Sitnyansky G. Trinadtsatyi’ mif o Tsentral’noi’ Azii: otvet Marte Brill Olkott (Thirteenth Myth on Central Asia: the Response to Martha Brill Olcott). -
2. According to information which the author has, some Central Asian states are very active in creation of their favorable images including stimulating of positive publications of foreign authors.
3. For example the related to Central Asia ideas of Russian geopolitical publicist Alexander Dugin contain no references to corresponding sources or the works of experts. The similar imperfection is characteristic for the works of other Russian specialists in geopolitical studies who advocate nationalist point of view as well as for the works of well-known American political scientist Zbiegnew Brzezinski.
4. This term means the rivalry between external forces for filling of geopolitical vacuum in Central Asia after disintegration USSR.
5. Brzezinski Z. Velikaya shahmatnaya doska: gospodstvo Ameriki i yego geostrategicheskie imperativy (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives). Moscow, 1998, s. 155.
6. “Limitroph” is a transitional zone at the frontier between civilizations or empires. The population of this zone is ethnically mixed subjecting to the cultural influences of adjacent power centers.
7. Tsymburski V. Rossiya – zemlya za Velikim Limitorfom (Russia – the Land beyond the Great Limitroph). Moscow, 2000, pp. 5-7.
8. Dugin A. Osnovy geopolitiki (the Fundamentals of Geopolitics). Part 6, Chapter 1. -
9. Sitnyansky G. Op. cit.
10. Dugin A. Op. cit.
11. See for example in: Strategic Assessment of Central Eurasia. Wash., 2001, pp. 12-14.
12. See for example in: Starr F. Making Eurasia Stable. - Foreign Affairs, 1996, v. 75, № 1, p. 80-92. In this work Starr called to exclude any ground for foreign intervention and thus to protect “fragile Russian democracy” for expansionism which could prove to be fatal for it.
13. See for example in: Fairbanks, Ch. Ten Years after the Soviet Breakup. Disillusionment in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Journal of Democracy 12.04.2001, pp. 49-56; Starr F. The War against Terrorism and U.S. Bilateral Relations with the Nations of Central Asia. U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, 13 December 2001. - According to S. Frederick Starr, after the Soviet period the population of Central Asia has been left “with a heritage of authoritarianism, corruption, and disrespect for law and human rights that persists to this day”. This as categorical as superficial assertion can be explained by obviously ideological direction of the report or by perfunctory knowledge of pre-Soviet history of the region with its political traditions of that time.
14. Among such studies I can mention the works of Russian ethnologist Sergey Polyakov. See, for example: Polyakov S. Traditsionalizm v sovremennom tsentral’noaziatskom obschestve (Traditionalism within the Modern Central Asian Society). Moscow, 1989.
15. Narkoticheskaya voi’na protiv Rossii. Analiticheskii’ doklad Tsentra strategicheskogo razvitiya (The Narcotic War against Russia. Analytical Report of the Center for Strategic Development). -
16. Starr F. Making Eurasia Stable. - Foreign Affairs, 1996, v. 75, № 1, pp. 80 - 92.
17. See for example in: Starr F. The War against Terrorism… .
18. In 1999 the entire Black Sea and Caspian basins were included in the sphere of responsibility of American forces in the Zone of the Gulf.
19. See, for example, in: Olcott M. Razmyshleniya o politike SShA v Tsentral’noi’ Azii (Thoughts on the U.S. Policy in Central Asia). Pro et Contra, Moscow, 2000, vol. 5, № 3; Strategic Assessment… . P. 95.
20. Brzezinski Z. Op. cit. P. 178.
21. Dugin A. Evrazii’a: bezopasnost’ i granitsy (Eurasia: Security and Borders). – Granitsy bezobasnosti i bezopasnost’ granits. Chelyabinsk, 2001, ss. 188-189.
22. In this respect the analysis of geopolitical ides are brought already in the 1-st part of Dugin’s work “Osnovy geopolitiki” (The Fundamentals of Geopolitics”) seems to be both tendentious and incomplete.
23. For example, Natalya Narochnitskaya erroneously mentions Turkmenistan among the countries signed the Collective Security Treaty in 1992.
24. Narochnitskaya N. Russia, SNG I Zapad. Chast’ 2. Starye geopoliticheskie proyekty v novom oblichye” (Russia, CIS and the West. Old Geopolitical Projects in the new faces”).-
25. См., например: Cohen A. The “New Great Game”. - Eurasian Studies, Ankara, 1996, v. 3, № 1, pp. 11-12.
26. Cohen A. SshA, strany Tsentral’noi Azii i Kavkaza: problemy i perspektivy vzaimootnoshenii’ (USA, Central Asian and Caucasian States: Problems and Prospects of Mutual Relations). - Tsentral’naya Aziya i Kavkaz, Luleo, 2000, №2, pp. 29-45.
27. Chto poluchit Rossiya za prisoedinenie k koalitsii? Interviu veduschemu programmy “Vremena” Vladimiru Pozneru (What will Russia Get for Its joining to the Coalition. The interview to Vladimir Pozner, the Ancorman of “Vremena” Program). – Natsional’naya sluzhba novostei’. - . Curiously enough that in one of his following works («SshA: zadachi v sfere zaschity bezopasnosty kaspii’skih uglevodorodov ot posyagatel’stv Irana (“USA: the tasks in field of protecting Caspian hydroharbons against Iranian infringement”). - Tsentral’naya Aziya i Kavkaz, Luleo, 2002, № 1, pp. 40-49) already Iran but not Russia was called the main threat for peace in Caspian region.
28. For example, the authors of «Strategic Assessment of Central Eurasia» estimate the role of Turkey as limited bringing it mainly to participation in the concrete economic projects such as Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. See in: Strategic Assessment … . Pp. 81-85.
29. Washington Post, 1992, 14 January, p. A7.
30. See e.g. in: Hagayeghi M. Islamic Revival in the Central Asian Republics. - Central Asian Survey, 1994, v. 13, № 2, p. 249 - 266.
31. See, e.g., in: Cohen A. SshA: zadachi v sfere… .
32. Dugin A. Osnovy…. Part 6. Evrazii’skii’ analiz (The Eurasian Analysis). Chapter 6.9. Sever i Yug na Vostoke i Zapade (The North and the South at the East and the West). -
33. Starr F. Afghanistan: Free Trade and Regional Transformation. -
34. Olcott M. Razmyshleniya o politike SShA … .
35. See, for example, in: Starr F. The War against Terrorism … .
36. See, for example, in: Olcott M. Razmyshleniya o politike SShA … .
37. In particular, this regularity was pointed out by Georgy Sitnyansky. See in: Sitnyansky G. Op. cit.

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