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The outlines of the usa current strategy towards central asia

Abstract. The results of the presidential elections in the USA provoked a very active reaction within political and expert circles, the mass media and public opinion. A question concerning future US policy under president D. Trump toward Central Asia is extremely important. The US (as well as the European Union) has no primary interests in Central Asia; but they have goals related to China, Iran and Russia. All this taken together leads to the conclusion that, on the political agenda of the West, more importance is attached in Washington and Brussels to Central Asia’s neighbors than Central Asia itself. Thus, American strategy under the Trump administration will be formed according to the course of the US’s current interests and priorities on the world stage, including financing limitations for the Pentagon and aid for foreign countries, rivaling the other international problems of the United States.

The results of the presidential elections in the US have provoked quite an active reaction in many countries in terms of politics, experts, the media and public opinion.

A separate, extremely important question remaining for us is which policy will Washington choose under the Donald Trump administration regarding Central Asia?

The US (as well as the European Union) has no primary interests in Central Asia; but they have goals related to China, Iran and Russia. All this taken together leads to the conclusion that, on the political agenda of the West, more importance is attached in Washington and Brussels to Central Asia’s neighbors than Central Asia itself.

General geopolitical framework

By the middle of the 2010s, Central Asia faced a choice between three projects: a Russian- Kazakh project (as a regional development center); an American project (connecting to non-Russian transport corridors); and a Chinese one (turning the region into a secure land transit zone for China in the direction of Europe and the Middle East).

According to the head of the Stratfor research fund, one of the most important strategic goals of the United States is to prevent the emergence of a superpower in Eurasia capable of uniting the population and resources of the continent. The appearance of such a heavyweight could radically change the global balance of power, undermining American leadership. In this regard, the ultimate imperative of the dominant power of the United States is to prevent the emergence of an opponent in Eurasia. To do this, the fragmentation of Eurasia has to be supported, with the existence of as many hostile powers as possible there. This long-term strategy is designed to oppose a revival of Russia. Russia and China are equally interested in ensuring that regional affairs are resolved without outside players, regardless of their origin.

Beijing stopped being caught in the middle between Moscow and Washington many decades ago. Now Beijing sees itself as the center of power, which is not yet equal to Washington, but is on the road to equality with it; and in the long term may take a higher position in the international system than the one currently occupied by the US. Russia is an important factor for China, although its role in Beijing is not overestimated. Russia is, above all, a reliable protector of the rear, which is very important for China. Russia opposes any third force - with the United States in mind - taking part in any kind of dispute between Moscow and Beijing or another country in the region.

The USA is a tangible presence in the immediate vicinity of the borders and important sites belonging to Russia and China. This partly makes the United States a regional superpower; and therefore they can force regional players to strive for their containment. At the same time, the United States, like Europe, does not bear the risks and costs associated with being directly within the problem region.

It is therefore assumed that there has been a marked decrease in the attention paid to Central Asia by the leading centers of power globally. Because of the Afghanistan mission, the growth of internal problems and the promotion of mega-projects by TPP and TTIP, the United States and the countries of the EU are becoming less interested in Central Asia. Because of the internal situation in the region, the geopolitical environment and the limited nature of American interests and resources, it is likely to remain outside the practical scope of American "reformative."

Washington faces an increasing number of problems in the process of implementing its foreign policy in many regions of the world against the background of an obvious shortage of resources. To continue the previous argument regarding the global significance of the Central-Asian factor in world politics, there is a certain intellectual inertia: there are stable and quite influential political, expert and lobby groups operating within the framework of the "Big Game" paradigm.

As far as the preservation of exaggerated notions about the importance of Central Asia in the geopolitical picture of the world is concerned, regional elites are also interested in this, since all their foreign policy in the last quarter of a century of sovereign existence rests on the foundation of a multi-vector approach - playing on the contradictions of the external centers of world power and extracting from this process various material (investments, loans, assistance) and intangible (political support) dividends.

The political baggage of American presence in Central Asia

The Donald Trump administration will have a solid-enough inheritance in the form of the possibility of exerting political influence through various means. The administrations of Clinton, George W. Bush Jr. and Barack Obama purposefully, although not always consistently, implanted different "soft -power" institutions in the region to create an environment in which Washington could exert its influence on the political processes in each of the republics.

At the same time, American strategists have proceeded from the assumption that Central Asia has a high - maybe even underestimated - strategic value for the United States, due to its characteristics. Central Asia is located practicalle in the geographical center of the Eurasian continent. The processes occurring here affect the interests of the main international competitors of the United States and many major regional powers. The impact on the region's pressure-points opens up a wide variety of opportunities to influence the situation in neighboring countries. Hence, it is highly probable that Central Asia, if temporarily out of the focus of US foreign policy, will inevitably return to it again and again in the future, and Washington (although it is officially denied) will play the role of an opponent to the continental powers here, similar to that previously played by the British Empire.

After the collapse of the USSR, America initiated large-scale programs to eliminate Soviet WMD. The United States supported the extension of the NPT norms to the Central Asian states but raised objections to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone. In Central Asia, the United States made a breakthrough as a global military force after the opening of the "Afghan Front" in 2001. The Afghan campaign set the direction of US military cooperation with Central Asia for the subsequent fifteen and more years.

Technically, the Americans are already able, from their bases in Afghanistan, to conduct secret operations using UAVs on the territory of Central Asian countries without the agreement of the latter’s leadership. Moreover, the list of possibilities for drones is quite extensive and includes exploration, analysis of the radiation, biological and chemical situation, bombing of ground targets, including the elimination of undesirable leaders. The United States formed a well-developed intelligence network in Kyrgyzstan and its external surveillance service, overseeing politicians as well as carrying out counter-monitoring of the CIA. [1]

According to several Russian experts, the efforts of the American side in Central Asia are concentrated in several directions. They include: military penetration in the Caspian region, where corporations from the United States are developing oil fields; The creation of professional units in Central Asia which follow NATO standards, capable of participating in joint operations with the Alliance abroad; encouraging the reform of local armed forces on a Western model; and the introduction of US military equipment in line with the doctrine that facilitates the setting-up of highly mobile parts of an operational response. Washington pays special attention to the Caspian area, motivated by the need to protect oilfields from terrorism. Kazakhstan's position on the "Caspian Guard" program is that its implementation is possible but this requires the consent of Russia. This delayed the prospect of launching a large-scale

Pentagon project in the Caspian Sea region.

In terms of Kyrgyzstan, researchers note that long-term work with the personnel of the Armed Forces and law-enforcement agencies allowed the Americans to fully disclose their structure and organize the collection of information on the state of affairs in the republic. Favorable conditions were created for the study and recruitment by the US special services of the representatives of the Kyrgyz security agencies. The atmosphere of full loyalty to Washington, which has developed among many higher officers, made it possible to nominate people oriented to US interests for leadership positions. Another consequence of the Americans' actions was the demoralization of law enforcement and special bodies. As a result, during the "color revolution" the militia moved to the side of the insurgents; and the army and the national guard declared neutrality.

The United States put forward an approach to the drug problem in the Central Asian region. Strangely enough, the efforts were actually focused on, on the one hand, further removing the barriers between Afghanistan and the neighboring countries of Central Asia, while, on the other, establishing patronage over the anti-drug structures created here. At the core of Washington's position, it seems that there were motives of the global confrontation with Russia and the desire to weaken its influence.

At the stage of rapprochement after September 11, 2001, the relations between Tashkent and Washington were not absolutely cloudless and were overshadowed by the desire of the White House to reform the regime in the republic by interfering in internal affairs through a network of NGOs, the media and contacts with secular and religious opposition. To support loyal politicians in Uzbekistan, resource centers have been established that provide various kinds of technical assistance. The Uzbek leadership was absolutely sure that the attack on Andijan was prepared with international assistance, including the American-sponsored NGOs. Experts note that today it is still not completely clear what caused the crude inconsistency in the US policy towards Uzbekistan, which earlier demonstrated the greatest willingness in Central Asia to cooperate with America.

From outside, the situation in many respects appeared as if the desire of a part of the American elite to interfere in the internal affairs of the republic prevailed over the interests of the joint struggle against terrorism, leaving an imprint on the final official position of the White House. An important conclusion emerged from the Andijan conflict regarding the American strategy in Central Asia. It lies in the fact that to achieve their goals in the region, the United States considers it acceptable to use the Islamist factor here, interpreting it to suit its own interests and depending on the specific circumstances.

With the acquisition of independence by the Central Asian countries, the question of the channels for transporting hydrocarbons to foreign markets turned out to be beyond the commercial interests of American business and began to be considered in the United States as an instrument of geopolitical struggle. As a result, US foreign policy was oriented toward the creation of the so-called Southern-Energy Corridor, which in the future was supposed to allow the export of Caspian oil and gas in such a way as to bypass the territory of Russia and Iran by following the route Central Asia/ Caspian Sea/Caucasus/Turkey. Such a scheme, in the event of its successful implementation, opened the way for Washington to solve several problems at once.

Thus, the instruments of influence on the CA countries, which are at the disposal of the United States, are very diverse. For the post-Soviet republics, the consequences of the imposed reforms in many cases have proved to be more than problematic. International financial institutions have found that the greatest weight in the process of making economic decisions among the states of Central Asia has lain with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. [2]

With regard to Kyrgyzstan, it is known that after the accession in 2005 of the new Kyrgyz government, headed by Kurmanbek Bakiev, on a platform of democracy and with the direct support of the United States, the deterioration of the country's economic system was not only stopped, but the economy recovered to exceptionally high levels. The expected result of this policy was the undermining of Russia's economic interests, including the freezing of investment projects in the field of hydropower and military-technical cooperation. Using administrative resources and illegal raider schemes, commercial organizations affiliated with the President’s son, Maxim Bakiyev, took control of the majority of the most profitable assets, instigating the withdrawal of money from the country and their legalization in foreign accounts. The most important role in these processes was played by people from Maxim Bakiyev’s closest associates - financiers and lawyers from the United States and Europe.

On a more limited scale, the United States has applied traditional sanctions as well. This is illustrated by the example of the Central- Asian cotton market. Uzbekistan is sixth in the world in the production of cotton and third in terms of its export. The export of raw materials is monopolized by the state. The US authorities (and this country itself belongs to the world's largest producers of cotton and textiles) are systematically urged to restrict the entry of Uzbek raw materials into Western markets, accusing Tashkent at the diplomatic level of using child labour in the fields.

The key vector of the US economic strategy in Central Asia has been the fight against the Russian integration project. The White House failed to prevent the creation of the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in December 2012. Given the limited level of trade ties, Washington's intrusive desire to interfere in the processes of regional economic integration in Central Asia can be explained only by the desire to exercise geopolitical restraint over Russia.

Central Asia is on the periphery of US economic interests. Limited trade and investment relations with the region are maintained, concentrated mainly around oil production in Kazakhstan. The main tools of American economic policy are infrastructural (primarily pipeline) planning; MFI programs; grants for liberal reforms; and sanctions. The main conclusion is that the strategy of the United States is focused not so much on expanding its own economic ties as on the ensuring the geopolitical containment of Russia and China. The White House promotes transit corridors and integration plans which are alternatives to the proposals of Moscow and Beijing and designed to reduce their impact on the economy of Central Asia.

Under forced expansion, the apparatus of US foreign policy is built and algorithms for planting one's will be worked out. Among the "secret operations" are propaganda, economic warfare, sabotage, anti-sabotage, sabotage and evacuation, subversive activities and assistance to clandestine movements, etc. Once in the orbit of US foreign-policy interests, Central Asia has also been forced to experience this unpleasant specificity of the American foreign- policy doctrine.

Within Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan continues to be the republic where American political strategists have a wide variety of tools for manipulating social and political processes, including branched institutions of "soft power". Administrators of grant funds, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and two institutions affiliated with it, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which are officially non-governmental but tightly linked to the US government and cofinanced from the state budget, established their offices. The above associations, to put it figuratively, made up the top floor of the "soft power" infrastructure, from where financial resources and project assignments descend to the lower levels.

The second echelon of the system is formed by transnational Western NGOs. They are based on network principles. At this level, most of the funds allocated for "democratization" programs end up, and work is carried out to find, attract and cooperate with local civil activists. As a rule, each of them adheres to a certain specialization. At the bottom of the mechanism as described are local nonprofit organizations, which are established by citizens of CA states and are engaged in the execution of projects "on the ground". This is the most numerous layer, although the funds reach it only partially.

Countries differ in the degree of influence of western umbrella patterns from the first and second echelons to national NPOs. If the representations of the most odious foreign organizations were squeezed out of Uzbekistan after the Andijan events of 2005; and in Kazakhstan the programs of the state social order and the single state operator for financing NPOs constituted competition to foreign grants, then the "third sector" in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is almost completely focused on receiving Western financing from the moment of its appearance. Determining the extent of Washington's financial infusions into the "soft power" infrastructure in the region can only be approximate, since it absorbs funds from several sources at once. The Pentagon, the CIA and other paramilitary and special services of the US do not publicly make display of the details of their budgets, but they also traditionally sponsor the non-profit sector. Finally, American efforts are complemented and duplicated by various initiatives of the EU countries and interstate organizations.

In general, the system built over more than two decades covers the most diverse spheres of public and state life in Central Asia. Human rights associations are an element of protection of opposition figures and constant pressure on national governments. The United States has managed to create strong positions in the Central Asian information field. In addition, the US finances, and consequently influences, the editorial policy of many local "independent" media outlets. Another vector is education. Since the 1990s, a network of higher educational establishments providing educational services in accordance with Western standards has been deployed in Central Asia.

In Central Asia, there are 13 centers that have such an official status (most of all in Kazakhstan). In total, tens of thousands of citizens of Central Asia have passed through educational projects run by the United States. As a more detailed acquaintance with them shows, it is often here that primary ideological processing takes place, ultra-liberal ideals are inculcated and the foundation of a negative- critical attitude to one's own power, tradition and history is laid. Here, the future foreign policy clients of the United States are being raised, like Mikhail Saakashvili.

Thus, a number of researchers conclude, the American establishment does not hide its goal - the global domination of the United States. To achieve it, it considers it permissible to interfere in the internal affairs of other states, up to the forced replacement of national governments. Among the tools for strengthening American domination, there appears "soft power", which in theory is described as cultural expansion, but in practice it is used as a well-functioning mechanism for manipulating the mass public consciousness of foreign countries.

Its system proved its ability in the course of the "tulip revolution" in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, but gradually its capabilities are weakened under the pressure of a number of objective factors. These include the shift of international priorities to other parts of the world and the related cuts in grants to Central Asia; remoteness of the region from the European allies of the United States and concurrently co-investors in civil society; increased distrust towards the White House from the Central- Asian regimes and their measures to control the "third sector"; and, finally, strengthening the positions of Russia and China on the sociopolitical scene of the region, including the adaptation of American experience to them.

In addition, Americans take little account of the traditions and characteristics of the mentality of foreign peoples, considering their ideology universal. But, despite this, it is premature to write off the whole social class that arose with the support of America and unites tens of thousands of citizens of Central Asia. It will still have the opportunity to show itself at moments of political turbulence, which will almost inevitably arise during the forthcoming transit of power in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In addition, it is not known how Donald Trump’s administration will behave.

Finally, acting in a traditional style for themselves, the American side covered the region with an extensive network of NGOs, media, educational institutions and Internet groups involved in the manipulation of sociopolitical processes.

In general, watching the "campaign" of the United States in Central Asia, it is noticeable that their achievements were defeated by the inability to hold onto gains; and successful moves were replaced by blatant failures, a vivid example of which was the Uzbek Andijan.

At such critical moments, the strengths and weaknesses of American foreign policy are clearly discernible. Its unconditional advantages remain a clear priority of its own national interests: the ability to mobilize allies to solve their problems; adaptation to the diplomatic work of modern social, communication and digital technologies; and, of course, a clear ideological message attractive to many foreign citizens, despite the striking divergence of liberal rhetoric with the real deeds that it masks.

Among the weaknesses of the American approach, experts refer to inter-party and interagency competition in the US, which affects international relations; wasteful handling of material resources, which, even for the world's first economy, are not boundless; ignoring sometimes very well-known Asian cultural and political traditions, although many American experts know that, for example, projects promoting homosexual relationships are poorly perceived in the patriarchal Eastern societies. But perhaps the most obvious vulnerability to which the American establishment is inclined is the predominant sense of superiority and exclusivity that not only breeds the desire for world hegemony but also dulls the perception of reality.

The United States has steadily reduced its visible presence in the countries of Central Asia due to a combination of several factors. Among them is the strategic departure from the region (the transit center in Manas was closed in 2014 at the request of Bishkek), the limited activity of American companies (which today has been further reduced due to a decrease in the demand for Caspian oil and gas and the continued deferral of the development of the oil and gas field in Kashagan) and lack of large investments. This is especially obvious in comparison with the large-scale Chinese program entitled ‘One Belt: One Road’.

To the above, we should add in the factor of fatigue on both sides: the activity of US civil society in the region is declining; and the community of supporters for the continuation of this activity seems to have lost hope for political changes in this region. At the same time, local authorities and public opinion in these countries are increasingly critical or even hostile to American plans for the implantation of democracy and the protection of minority rights in the countries of Central Asia. More and more often, various theories are under discussion, according to which the US sometimes aspire to destabilize the Eurasian (like the Middle Eastern) countries. These theories are beginning to determine public opinion in Central Asia.

Interests and contradictions between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China and the United States in Central Asia

The gap in the influence on Central Asia between Russia and the US continues to widen to the disadvantage of America. Washington is losing its status in this region and is actually being pushed into the second tier of countries in terms of its influence in Central Asia. The "big game" in the region today is between Russia and China, and these countries seem to have found the right balance of influence as far as Central Asia is concerned. Local regimes doubt the US’s commitment to the interests of the region, given that Washington has to work vigorously in other theaters of world politics; and they feel that the Americans have given up leadership in this region to Moscow and Beijing. [3]

Despite the 5 + 1 format created by Secretary of State John Kerry, the role of the United States in the region is slowly and steadily declining. Relations between Russia and the United States in Central Asia are determined precisely by this growing inequality of their status. Moscow closely follows any US actions in the region, but does not feel as uncomfortable as it is in the countries of the South Caucasus or in the buffer countries that separate Russia and Europe. Washington is also unable properly to take into account the influence of Russia's soft power.Nevertheless, Moscow and Washington may have much more common interests in the region than officially recognized. Looking at them in order of importance and priority, then both countries express concern about the following factors:

- Moscow and Washington tend to overestimate the role of Central Asian citizens who left to fight in Syria in terms of the potential impact of the propaganda of the "Islamic state" on Central Asian Muslims. For Russia this is a more pressing problem than for the United States, given how many residents of the North Caucasus and other citizens of Russia today are fighting in Syria.

- Both geopolitical players are worried about the risk of political destabilization in Central Asia, despite a completely different attitude towards local regimes. The smooth transfer of power in Uzbekistan after the death of Islam Karimov seems to give Moscow more reason to believe in the ability of local governments to maintain stability in their countries. This attitude of Moscow is very different from the view of the United States on the nature and ability of local regimes.

  • Both powers hope for the successful conclusion of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. They believe that it will be possible to avoid a new round of military confrontation, since a military conflict may spread over time to neighboring countries. But Russia is not particularly concerned about the political nature of the next Afghan government, while Washington is more sensitive to the preservation of the institutions it has planted since 2001.
  • Both countries would like to see a more effective fight against drug trafficking in the region, but they differ in their attitude to the problem of corruption of state authorities.

Perhaps relations between the US and Russia in Central Asia are doomed to remain unbalanced for a long time, since it is difficult to imagine a more active participation of the US in the affairs of this region, which could intensify confrontation. However, the Central Asian countries themselves may be the initiators of the changes, or the changes may be the result of Moscow's more active participation in the affairs of the region, which will again open a window of opportunity for the United States. If this does not happen, Central Asia will remain on the periphery of relations between the United States and Russia, which are formed in many other theaters of world politics, where there is a more acute confrontation between the two countries.

In the context of the development of the political situation in Central Asia, American analysts pay special attention to the growth of China's influence in the region and the prospects for changing this influence in the future, after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. It should be noted that American experts in general are quite unanimous in assessing Chinese policy in the region, describing it as much more successful than a similar policy of Western countries. The main reason for this success experts see in its practicality.

US experts believe that the US is trying to balance China's activity in the region and find there are reliable politicians who are inclined to multi-vector policy. Nevertheless, by 2015, in the US, both at the expert and political levels, they finally came to the conclusion that, on the whole, they would support the policy of the PRC in this region. Thus, US politicians and experts assess the PRC as a more "convenient" rival in the Central Asian region, which looks rather remarkable due to its external illogicality. It would seem that, given many objective criteria, China now seems much more realistic than Russia, a candidate to challenge the US domination both on the world stage in general and in Central Asia in particular in the historically close future. [4]

In general, both Russia and China are geopolitical rivals of America. In the foreseeable medium term, it is more likely that the US will perceive Russia as its main rival, while the US attitude toward China is mixed. China's development of infrastructure in Central Asia favors greater multipolarity in the geopolitics of the region, which in turn serves the purposes of the United States. At the same time, America is also concerned about the fact that Central Asia passes into the hands of China. America welcomes (or does not oppose) China's policy in Central Asia with the decisive condition that this policy will not call into question the strategic balance in the region. [5]

In this regard, we should mention the format of "C5 + 1", which is based on Washington’s previously developed strategy of "The New Silk Road" and has the same objectives as the Chinese initiative, "The Economic Belt of the New Silk Road", which appeared in 2014. The essence of the American strategy, as D. Kerry said then, was to help the region integrate into the world economy through infrastructure development, increasing the competitiveness of economies, attracting investments and implementing new programs, in particular, on climate change and Smart Waters ("Smart Water»).

That being said, Washington pursues several goals at the same time. The first is the economy and how economically it is possible to connect

Central Asia with a wider region and with the USA; the second is the environment and the solution of the problem of climate change; and the third is security, with a special focus on the threat of terrorism and stability issues in Afghanistan. [6]

The United States, understandably and even justifiably, does not have a clear strategy for Central Asia, unlike China and even Russia. The Chinese have long tried the most pragmatic style - expansion into the region through bilateral agreements. However, gradually leaving Afghanistan, Americans cannot afford the luxury of completely forgetting about Central Asia, which was their backbone and main political toolkit during Operation Enduring Freedom.

For the United States, the presence in the region is caused by a desire to balance the activation of China, which fills the niche of the main player in the economic sphere and most likely in the future in the field of security. Sooner or later, Beijing will come to this, because investing in the region, they will have to protect their investments. This might even be within the framework of close military cooperation with the countries of Central Asia. This explains the US attempts to intensify in the region and, as far as possible, counteract the strategy of Beijing.

The US - unlike China - cannot offer anything concrete to the countries of Central Asia; certainly not from the point of view of direct investments, except for those that are made to the Kazakhstani energy sector; nor from the point of view of security. It is obvious that the direct presence of Americans in the region in the military and political sphere will greatly irritate both Moscow and Beijing in a way that the region cannot cope with. The US bid will end up on multilateral relations, trying to find pressure points in each of the countries and determining its priorities in relations with each of them.

USA and country specificity of the region

For Washington, each of the countries of Central Asia has its own specifics. From the economic point of view, Kazakhstan is the key partner for the United States. The interests of large oil and gas companies in the United States are concentrated here. In the sphere of regional security for Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan is a priority. Taking into account the Afghan factor and the common border, separate attention is paid to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. However, Washington, speaking of the fact that there is a single format for dialogue with the countries of Central Asia, as a pragmatic player understands that the region is not a single whole. Americans know that there are serious tensions between the countries of Central Asia. Therefore, it is not advisable to say that Washington has developed a unified strategy in relation to them. The format of "C5 + 1" is more like a PR project, to demonstrate that the US has not lost interest in the region. Multi-vector foreign policy is exactly what Washington is expecting from its partners in Central Asia.

Neighborhood with Afghanistan determines US interest in Central Asia. According to observers, Washington's activity in the region has always been situational and short-term. The United States reduced its presence in Central Asia immediately after reaching its goals. Now this goal is stabilization in Afghanistan. For this, Washington needs coordination with all regional forces, for which the C5 + 1 dialogue format was created. " In August 2016, in support of this format, five projects were developed, for which the US is ready to spend only $ 15 million.

In all projects - "Greater Central Asia", "New Silk Road", "Greater Middle East" - the US involved Central Asian countries, but they were created mainly to improve the situation in Afghanistan. At the same time, through these projects, the US competed with Russia and China for leadership in the region. As predicted, after the US military contingent is completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, Washington's interest in the region will again decline.

American experts on CA express confidence that the new president will continue to work closely with the Central Asian countries in the C5 + 1 format, "but the prospects for the project will depend on the states of the region themselves who should independently form the agenda of the C5 + 1 meetings. Thus, the long-term nature of the C5 + 1 project will depend not so much on the US as on the ability of the states of the region to solve the accumulated problems in their relations with each other. Experts emphasize the energy and border contradictions between the Central Asian republics.

Naturally, the White House has to take into account the specifics of each state in the region. [7]

It is Kazakhstan that is at the center of attention not only of the US State Department, but of analytical structures in general. This is evident in the numerous reports of various American think tanks dealing specifically with Kazakhstan. Most importantly, what interests them is the issue of preserving the same foreign- policy direction after Nursultan Nazarbayev's departure: what is called in Kazakhstan a multi-vector foreign policy. Of all the Central Asian countries, it is with Kazakhstan that the United States has established partnership relations, even in spite of Astana's participation in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAP) or the republic's participation in the CSTO. Naturally, the White House is extremely interested in Astana following an unchanging course with the likely change of power.

Analytical circles in the United States openly state that in the current situation Kazakhstan is the best candidate for cooperation in the region. This country has a concept of development, resources and institutional capacity necessary for the more active role of leader and to facilitate the transition of Central Asia into a positive direction. Kazakhstan has serious achievements in foreign and domestic policy, and, unlike other countries in the region, it sets itself major tasks for the future. Its leaders carry out a skillful, complex diplomatic strategy that allows for effective use of ties with China, Russia and the United States. Support and stimulation from the US can help Kazakhstan move towards a more modern, open and diversified economy. Over time, it may be more like Dubai and Singapore – and it is the case that such a goal is posed by Kazakhstan's leadership, rather than Russia. [8, 9]

Washington takes into account the fact that Kyrgyzstan expresses a certain disappointment with membership in the EAEU, a decline in Russian investment activity. Americans have caught this change and are preparing for a new relationship with this country. In 2017, presidential elections should be held in Kyrgyzstan. Washington expects that a change of leadership in Kyrgyzstan will lead to a change in Bishkek's foreign policy. [10]

Kyrgyzstan, if it manages to stabilize its political situation, could become a useful partner of the United States, but because of its small size and meager resources, it is unlikely to be the backbone of America's interaction with the region. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, in Washington's opinion, are problem countries; The United States does not have the resources or serious interests to try to change the path of their development, and relations with them should be built accordingly.

Uzbekistan can occupy a more significant place for US diplomacy in the region if the government that will be in power after Karimov's departure is less repressive and more reform-oriented. From the point of view of security and US actions in Afghanistan, this country, perhaps, is of the greatest importance. And while the United States seeks to reduce its participation in Afghan affairs, so long as Washington is interested in ensuring Afghanistan's security, Tashkent will remain its important partner.

US experts are convinced that after Islam Karimov’s departure, Uzbekistan will not have a sharp course fluctuation, at least in the beginning. Acting President S. Mirziyev recently stated that he will continue the policy of his predecessor: Uzbekistan will primarily defend its interests and will not enter any regional blocs. It is likely that for some period of time Uzbekistan will continue the whole Islam Karimov’s line. But with time some minor changes can be expected. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account the factor of external pressure on Uzbekistan. China and Russia are interested in distancing Tashkent from Washington and in drawing Uzbekistan into its sphere of influence.

Expected US policy in Central Asia

In the United States, which forms a common "Western view" of the Central Asian region, there has recently been a marked increase in the "realistic" (more balanced than during Clinton and Bush administrations) approach to assessing the role and significance of the region for the national interests of the United States. Significantly greater weight is gained by assessments in which Central Asia is viewed in Washington as a region of limited interest. Most likely, with Donald Trump in power, this approach will prevail.

American analysts have recently come to the conclusion that significant geopolitical changes and an unstable situation in the Central Asian states create prerequisites for strengthening US rivalry with Russia and China for influence in the region. At the same time, Central Asia is becoming less and less susceptible to American influence and "spreading democracy" programs. Proceeding from this, experts suggest that a future administration should adapt its regional policy to the existing conditions, and coordinate Washington's goals in Central Asia with its resources. It is pointed out that the former approach, with its excessive promises and the setting of ambitious but unrealistic tasks, leads only to mutual irritation and causes further disappointment in the United States in the region.

The grounds for the revision of US policy, according to the analytical calculations of American strategists, are as follows.

As the US military presence in Afghanistan decreases, the importance of Central Asia as a "gateway" to this country in Washington's strategic calculations will also decrease. For the first 25 years of independence, Central Asian states were geo-politically oriented to the West. Today Central Asia is moving in a different direction. In the region there is a major geopolitical shift, which will result in weakening ties with the Euro-Atlantic community and strengthening the influence and significance of China. In the foreseeable future, the main partners of the Central Asian countries in the spheres of politics, economy and security will be Beijing and Moscow: this is due to the prevailing economic influence of China in the region and the residual presence of Russia.

These changes will reduce the presence and influence of America in the region and complicate the task of transforming Central Asian countries into democratic states with a market economy, connected by regional economic integration. Under these new conditions, the implementation of important tasks for Washington will require significant changes in US policy.

Now, as in many other regions of the world, Central Asian countries are wondering what kind of character the new US president’s foreign policy will have. Of course, with Donald Trump the United States will not leave the region completely, but in the medium term, we should expect further fading of interest from the new US president to the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. It is obvious that the new American president will not personally engage in the Central Asian direction, which could be expected from H. Clinton, but completely delegates work with the region to his assistants, and not those of the very first rank.

It is significant that the new president of the United States, apparently, does not completely differentiate the Central Asian republics, although this situation was typical for top officials in Barak Obama administration. To say that the United States has serious economic interests in the region is not true even in the case of Kazakhstan, where American capital is present in the oil and gas industry. Accordingly, the main driving force for US participation in Central Asia will again be politics.

The shaping of the policy of the United States is also affected by the fact that at present they are forced to distribute their attention and resources at once between several important regions, each of which is now more priority for Washington than Central Asia.

As for Donald Trump's statements about the statements for the establishment of relations with Russia, perhaps we will see that his promises will be realized to some extent. At least in the Central Asian direction, there will not be a sharp surge of anti-Russian activity by the US, but there is no need to radically change the situation.

At the same time, the extinction of American influence in the region will be rather slow, because the continuity of American institutions is preserved. The network of diplomatic missions and various non-governmental entities will continue to operate, although its activities will not be so intense. There will also be structures related to the Democratic Party, which, as before, are focused on the globalist agenda and the promotion of so- called democratic values. However, changes can occur with the amount of funding available to promote this.

In the first place, Donald Trump’s coming will hit various social programs and various grantees. This is not an ideological component. Just for their projects, American money will not be enough as before, when the Obama administration in an ultimatum ordered the structures of the State Department and the US embassies in the region to support and develop LGBT movements in the Central Asian states. These processes will not be accompanied by loud statements, just at some point, proWestern NGOs and grantees will feel that the funds allocated by the Americans are beginning to be critically low.

Donald Trump’s coming to power will clearly help to reduce this heat of unfulfilled expectations. Trump's victory also means that all the ambitious American initiatives - Greater Central Asia, CASA-1000, C5 + 1 and TAPI - which have been declared in the region for a dozen years, will be in the semifrozen state. It's no secret that these projects do not have a genuine economic component, but are in fact politically motivated and aimed at destroying old ties and redesigning the region in Washington's favor.

As the new US leadership seems more focused on domestic problems, regions such as Central Asia will be at one of the last places on the list of priorities in Trump's foreign policy. Therefore, the administration of the 45th US president will most likely not invest much money in these projects. No one will close these projects; but work on them will be sluggish, obviously insufficient to fully implement American goals.

In the case of Central Asia, it seems that Afghanistan will continue to play an important role in determining US policy in the region. Trump pointed out that the American troops in Afghanistan should remain "for a while", although he admits that this is rather a forced measure.

Speaking about the prospects of the Central Asian direction of US policy, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the 45th president will be surrounded by advisers and fellows in arms in the Republican party. Many of these people supported not only the campaign in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq, to which public opinion in the United States is even more hostile.

It can be concluded that US policy towards Central Asia in the post-Afghan perspective will be affected by many uncertain factors. Washington has set itself a fairly clear plan of action; but the success of this plan, at least partially, depends on the fulfillment of too many poorly forecast conditions. The basis for further American policy in the region will be the "New Silk Road" project. Obviously, this decision was made long before the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan; and was motivated mainly by the desire to secure American influence in this country and preserve channels for influencing the internal situation. However, it is for this reason that the prospects for US policy in Central Asia are very vulnerable due to its complete dependence on the future developments in Afghanistan.

American infrastructure projects are very risky, if not to say, doomed to failure. In turn, this circumstance threatens the prospects for Washington's policy in Central Asia, since after a while the US may lose any significant agenda in its relations with the republics of the region. Having subordinated its Central Asian policy to solving American problems in Afghanistan (besides Pakistan and India), the United States actually made it hostage to the development of the situation in this very complicated country. Such an approach seems completely illogical, but, most likely, it shows that in the present conditions, Central Asia is marginal for the United States.

At the same time, another seemingly exotic scenario of possible destabilization of the situation in Central Asia is being considered in the United States. Expert advice has been put forward, according to which there is a high (about 40%) probability in the region that an earthquake of catastrophic proportions will occur there in the near future. There is a possibility that in the case of an unfavorable development of events such a catastrophe could provoke major public unrest, for example, if an earthquake affects an overcrowded Ferghana valley. In addition to the natural disaster, Islamic extremists might try to take advantage of this situation.

Recommendations for Washington, which prepared the American analytical community on the eve of Donald Trump’s coming to power, include the following elements:

  • To build a hierarchy of cooperation; i.e. make cooperation with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan a priority.
  • To recognize and accept the contribution and opportunities of other states; i.e. recognize that the United States in the region has some common goals with Russia and China, and find a way to use the actions of Beijing and Moscow to realize American interests.
  • Do not insist on reforms if they are not demanded: i.e. the demands of change must come from the citizens of the Central Asian countries themselves, and the US reform program should be aimed primarily at improving the socio-economic situation, rather than spreading democracy.
  • To find a balance between security and values: i.e. do not make cooperation in the security sphere dependent on the situation with human rights.
  • To avoid militarization of US policy as a response to the exaggerated threat of Islamic extremism. Washington should not exaggerate the US security threat posed by Islamic radicalism in the region, and, accordingly, react to it too painfully.
  • It is more effective to use the available levers of influence, "to get yourself a price" and to undertake more realistic tasks, built in order of importance. [11]

Conclusions and prospects

Thus, the American policy under Donald Trump administration regarding Central Asia will be formed in the context of the current interests and priorities of the United States on the world stage, restrictions on the financing of the Pentagon and assistance to foreign states, in competition with other problems requiring the attention of US authorities. A number of crises that erupted at the same time in other regions are replacing the "Central Asian theme" from the western geopolitical agenda. The campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, the crisis in Ukraine, the civil wars in North Africa, the entry into force of the agreement with Iran, and the confrontation between Russia and China far surpass the events in the region that Washington does not consider as direct threats to US security.

Central Asia is now and in the foresuable future important for Americans not in itself, but only as a means of influencing the continental centers of force competing with the West. In addition, Central Asia is surrounded by large powers, which have much more interests and connections with it. The US has no primary interests in Central Asia, but they have goals related to "containment" of China, Iran and Russia. All this together leads to the fact that on the political agenda of the West, the neighbors of Central Asia are given much more importance than to itself.

The United States does not have such geographical advantages and significant interests in Central Asia, like Russia and China. Given these realities, America seeks to adopt one of the variants of the strategy of "balancing from afar" - to use its tools in politics, economics, and, if necessary, security, to selectively act as a partner of the сA and to compensate for the geopolitical weight of the Russian Federation and the PRC. According to some American analysts, "balancing from afar" is a way to save the US from the burden of direct security, delegating the task of maintaining the balance of power in unstable regions to others.

In general, the forecast for the further development of American strategy and tactics regarding Central Asia and the dynamics of the development of Kazakh-American relations is based on the fact that the policy of the State Department will be determined and formed in relation to the region as a whole and the Republic of Kazakhstan in particular. As a result, Washington will persistently guide the leadership of the states of the region on the idea of the need to distance themselves from Russia and adhere to foreign-policy sovereignty.

There is every reason to believe that Trump will retain the US military presence in Afghanistan, albeit in a very reduced form, but this will not require the creation of new military bases on the territory of the Central Asian states.

Thus, it can be assumed that there will be no drastic change in US policy in Central Asia, but there will be a continuation of a slow decline in American influence in the region.

However, against this background, the strategy of the United States will focus not so much on expanding its own economic ties, as on the tasks of geopolitical containment of Russia and China. The White House promotes transit corridors and integration plans, alternative to the proposals of Moscow and Beijing and designed to reduce their impact on the economy of Central Asia. In general, in recent years, the United States of America has been step by step losing ground in the regional integration "race." Apparently, this can only be changed dramatically by bringing loyal governments to power in the oil-and-gas producing and transit countries of Central Asia that will be the vehicles of the economic policy hostile to Russia.

With a certain degree of certainty, we can expect that Washington will retain a common strategic plan for Central Asia. At least, its vector was stable under three consecutive US administrations, alternating each other since the early 1990s. After the first tacit consultations with Central Asian leaders, even before the collapse of the USSR, the actions of all the owners of the White House in one way or another obeyed the logic of containing the US geopolitical competitors. First of all, they were aimed at breaking the region with Russia, and later also at stopping the growing influence of China and isolating Iran.

Historically, the imperatives of the American strategy include ensuring access to raw materials, including the creation of routes for their transportation to the West. These basic principles of US policy will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future, as long as the political class in Washington perceives its country as a superpower with interests in all, even the most remote corners of the world. The rigid, extremely cynical methods of conducting geopolitical struggle in the spirit of a big "dirty" game will remain unchanged, apparently.

The American-Russian "Great Game" will, of course, continue, and the rivalry between Russia and the United States will remain key in its configuration. In the area of regional trade and economic development, the United States is also pursuing the goal of bringing Central Asia out of Russia's orbit of influence. However, due to geographical factors, Washington's capabilities in this are severely limited. With the preservation of normal conditions, the confrontation between the US and Russia will proceed in a "soft" regime. Under normal conditions, the absence of sharp negative changes in the countries of the region is implied. At the same time, the United States will be limited in its foreign policy course by certain factors. First of all, they recognized that it is difficult to conduct a political transformation of the region in conditions of limited diplomatic resources. In addition, the promotion of democratic change is detrimental to the real interests of the White House.

If the US relations with the Central Asian countries reach a deadlock, this will have a very detrimental effect on Washington's interests in the region. In addition, the sustainable development of Afghanistan and the region as a whole depends on cooperation with the Central Asian states, without the economic participation of which the American plan in the region will not be realized. Therefore, in the case of political instability in Central Asia, taking into account the lessons of the past and its real opportunities, the Americans will not be able to take the initiative to change the regime, will respect the status quo and wait for a more favorable environment.

In case of sharp changes in the internal political situation in Central Asia, Washington will be ready to actively intervene in the process. Taking into account the American way of conducting foreign policy, it can be assumed that they will be inclined to apply flexible methods of influence, including economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and impact through the channels of non-governmental organizations. The Central Asian states are far from the West: there is no Europe, no Japan, allies of the United States. The countries of

Central Asia still cannot exist without close ties with Russia and China. When there is no confrontation of the Central Asian states with Russia, the United States in the case of confrontation with Moscow does not stand a chance of success.

It is worth noting that the essence and form of the "Great Game" will significantly change. Having expelled the USA from the strong points of the region, Russia won a complete victory in this issue - military bases will no longer be objects of competition between the two sides. But this does not mean an end to the competition between Moscow and Washington in the military sphere. The US did not give up and did not quit the game: they will continue to develop military cooperation with the countries of Central Asia, working to expand the US military presence.

Energy pipelines are still part of geopolitical and geo-economic rivalry, but the degree of its intensity will gradually decrease. At the same time, strengthening the position of the United States has its own characteristics and a different pattern of behavior. In general, they showed flexibility in relation to Central Asia, strengthened cooperation, not waiting for changes in political regimes to new, more "friendly" ones. In other words, Washington is winning time to continue the struggle with Russia. If Washington's main geopolitical goal is to prevent the emergence of a Russian "empire" in the expanses of the former USSR, Central Asia is one of the most important outposts for deterring Russia. It is Moscow that views Central Asia as its "sphere of influence," while China has no plans to establish control zones. Therefore, in the near future, the US will consider Russia as its main competitor.

If the West, in theory, can take a position that is absolutely indifferent to Central Asia without much detriment to itself, then Russia and China, for obvious military-strategic reasons, cannot afford this.

Based on the discussions of the American scientific community on US interests in Central Asia, it can be concluded that the guarantee of state sovereignty of the countries of the region remains the core of American interests in the region. China does not threaten the sovereignty of the Central Asian republics, so it is not a competitor to America. At the same time, Chinese influence manifests itself in the economic sphere. Thus, China is not able to achieve hegemony in Central Asia. Since Beijing will not pretend to be the dominant role in the region, the US is not inclined to perceive it here as its main competitor.

Unlike criticism of Russia, there was much less criticism from the US side of China's policy in the Central Asian region. The real actors of the "Great Game" in Central Asia are the United States and Russia. Therefore, the true meaning of the "Great Game" is the American-Russian geopolitical confrontation in the region. American-Russian foreign policy maneuvering is holistic and systematic, has its own strategy, goals, course of development and is expressed in concrete actions. In general, if Russia wants to maintain the status quo, then the US, on the contrary, hopes to change it. As a result, Washington prefers a policy of supporting the change of power, while Moscow is determined to maintain regimes in the region. This can be seen in the diplomatic practices of the two countries in Central Asia.

Thus, it is hardly possible to expect a consensus of interests in the triangle "Russia- US-China" in the medium term. Most likely, with a favorable development of events, the status quo achieved in previous years will remain.



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