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The dynamics of nato presence in central asia: a genealogical analysis

Abstract. This article presents an analysis of the NATO presence in Central Asia from 1990 until now which is based on Foucault’s genealogical method and the Regional Security Complex Theory of B. Buzan and O. Waever. The article describes four shifts in this presence. The first one is related to the formation of CSCE in Europe, which Central Asian Countries have joined primarily for ideological reasons in order to be in the forefront of the democratization and liberalization of the post-Soviet area. NATO activity in CSCE-Europe resulted in Central Asian countries joining NATO projects. Therefore, the initial phase of cooperation between NATO and Central Asia was defined not by the logics of NATO growth but by the structure of CSCE. The second shift is defined by the lack of success in forming CSCE. It became apparent in the second half of 1990 that the securitization and desecuritization processes typical of Central Asia, Russia and the European countries are too far apart to speak about the establishment of a unified security complex in Europe. The second shift has clearly demonstrated the periphery (but not the indifference) of Central Asia to EU-Europe and key organizations (EU and NATO). The third shift that took place in the beginning of 2000 consisted of the military operation “Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, during which the military contingents of NATO member states were located in a number of Central Asian countries. These contingents were designed to implement extra-regional tasks, which again showed the peripheral nature of Central Asia in relation to NATO. This is confirmed by the fourth shift which took place in mid-2000, when Central Asian countries decreased significantly the level of cooperation with NATO under the influence of the threat of “color revolutions”. This did not result in any response. The cooperation of NATO and Central Asia is therefore defined neither by any structure and logic as far as NATO development is concerned; nor the structure and place of Central Asia in the present-day international relations system. This cooperation inherently has a random and non-systematic nature.


The analysis of security dynamics in Central Asia and the areas surrounding it is a peripheral problem of international security studies. The literature dedicated to such problems is primarily descriptive. It results in the fact that many conclusions about the situation inside and around Central Asia are of a publicistic and ideology-driven nature. Simultaneously, there have been effective analysis-tools developed as part of structuralism, post-structuralism and constructivism (for example, genealogy; level analysis; the concepts of securitization and desecuritization; and security sectors) that facilitate the study of acts and structures which result in actors and security dynamics. The use of the methodology allows one to avoid taking a priori positions or using paradigms, since it focuses the researcher’s attention on the process of construction. This methodology, particularly genealogy, will be used in the article to analyze the NATO presence in Central Asia. Though the bilateral relations of the Central Asian states with NATO member states (primarily USA, France, Germany and Turkey) are crucial for understanding the problems in question, they will not be examined separately. Attention will be particularly paid to the cooperation of Central Asian states with NATO as an independent actor in international relations.

Methodology. The methodological base of the research is genealogy. Genealogy developed through at least three phases. The first one is linked to I.W. Goethe, who developed genealogy as a method of examination of phenomena in terms of “how”, not “why”. The second phase consists in the invention of a genre of genealogy in its “consistency” as defined by F. Nietzsche. Finally, the third phase presenting the genre of genealogy as a method is related to the works of M. Foucault, dated 19701. Genealogical analysis in the article is an attempt to describe how the present dynamics of NATO in Central Asia have come about: what are the reasons for their emergence and for the way they have changed? Simultaneously, genealogy, like analysis of origin, ignores continuous succession and sustainable forms and demonstrates a variety of cases which are beyond historical analysis. It is aimed at the detection of randomness and deviations that give rise to circumstances that still exist and are of importance today. The phenomena of randomness therefore becomes a fundamental mechanism of the historical process, but does not act as a gap in the chain of cause and effect that breaks the logical continuity of history.

Regional Security Complex Theory [3; 4; 5] is the theory under which this research is conducted. It is considered as the matrix for regional researches and provides an opportunity to link the study of conditions within the countries of the region; the relations among the countries of the region; and the relations among 1 See application of genealogy to international relations analysis the region and neighboring regions, taking due account of the role of world powers. The key concept of the theory is the concept of the “regional security complex”, which means a set of actors within international relations and the securitization and desecuritization processes that are so interlinked that security problems cannot be reasonably analyzed or resolved separately [5, p. 491].

Body. In the context of the bipolar system of international relations, the impact of NATO on Central Asia has been defined by the latter being a part of the Soviet Union; and the global stand-off of the East and West. Basically, the strict determination of the NATO area of responsibility – the “Euro-Atlantic Region” – over the period does not allow mention of the direct penetration of NATO dynamics into Central Asia. The situation has changed in terms of a transformation of the bipolar system of international relations, which determines in turn the possibility of establishing independent regional security complexes in Europe and the Post-Soviet area; and consequent changes in the dynamics of the relationship between NATO and Central Asia. Currently, four shifts can be highlighted.

The first shift (or quasi-regionalization as an effort to create a super region) can be dated to the early 1990s and is defined, first of all, by a systematic change of the entire structure of international relations related to the end of the Cold War. There is a transformation of the positions of Russia and the Global West. The most fundamental shift in the Russian position is a shift from the ideology-driven globalism of a super power to a policy based on two narrow, primarily regional, national interests [6]. This shift develops alongside the idea of the creation of the European security system under the umbrella of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in [1; 2]

(since 1995, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)), NATO and European Union (EU), all complementing one another. The leading role was assigned to CSCE. CSCE’s effectiveness in overcoming an ideology-driven confrontation under the bipolar system (for example, adoption of the “Final Act” in Helsinki in 1975) enabled the structure to be considered as central to the transformation of Europe after the Cold War. CSCE began to appear in the early 1990s, including within it all states based on an adherence to a set of broad principles and values (adherence to pluralistic democracy, the supremacy of law and respect for human rights, private property, market economy and social justice) [5, p. 343-344]. It was assumed that in the CSCE “the principle of security is no longer a balance of mutual threats, its prerequisite is mutual trust through openness and transparency” [7, p. 26]. However, since ideology-driven principles and values were fundamental to the CSCE and, later, OSCE, Central Asian states joining the structure after the breakup of the Soviet Union did not raise any serious questions. However it resulted in the CSCE area and its successor OSCE moving beyond Europe. Inclusion of Central Asia into CSCE was therefore determined by endeavors to establish control over the democratization processes of the entire Post-Soviet area.

At the same time, from a pragmatic point of view, there was no complete inclusion of Central Asia into CSCE. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, essential for security in CSCE area and signed in 1990, therefore did not address the situation in Central Asia. Thus, in the first half of the 1990s, the cooperation of European organizations with Central Asia was determined by an endeavor to keep or create a controlled buffer zone between European and Asian states (regional security complexes). The buffer zone had to fulfil two contrary functions:

  • connection, which came through the idea of restoring the “Great Silk Route”;
  • separation. under which Central Asia should have been a natural barrier to the influence of the pre-modernist and modernist worlds on post-Modernist Europe.[19]

From a pragmatic point of view, two more factors affected the inclusion of Central Asia within CSCE:

  • non-proliferation and arms-control issues. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian countries had a large quantity of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction (including nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan);
  • concern about the emergence of conflicts in Central Asia or around it that could affect European security – the idea of a new "Great Game" involving interregional actors (Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Russia).

The establishment of CSCE has had an effect on methods of adaptation of NATO policy and strategy to the situation after the Cold War. After the Cold War ended, the NATO states' defense-policy focus has changed from deterrence and defense to mutual security. According to the strategic concept of NATO adopted in Rome in 1991, the main objectives of the alliance were to keep peace and manage crisis, to expand dialogue with non-NATO European countries, and resolve emerging security problems through cooperation. Meanwhile, the European area was regarded in an extensive way like the CSCE area and, therefore, included Central Asia.

In the context of CSCE, the development of NATO partnerships with "non-NATO European countries" has undergone several stages, beginning with the London Declaration of 1990 which contained, inter alia, proposals for cooperation between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) countries for a wide range of political and military aspects of security. Institutionalization of these relationships began in 1991 with the establishment of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), a multilateral consultative body that agreed upon cooperation programmes between NATO and former members of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a need to extend the partnership to the countries that were formed in the postsoviet area and were a part of the CSCE. Within the context of NACC, a proposal was made to all the countries formerly within the territory of the USSR that they should become members of the partnership.

It can thus be argued that the inclusion of Central Asian countries within the NACC was defined not by the structure and logics of NATO development, but by the structure of CSCE - that is, from the point of view of NATO, was of random nature. Moreover, since all the successor states to the Soviet Union had become full members of the NACC, it had, contrary to its original purpose, become a consultative body comprising of countries whose fundamental security interests were beyond Europe. It was also random from the point of view of Central Asian countries, which, in the first half of the 1990s, considered themselves as Asian States (which is confirmed both by these states being the part of Asian multilateral structures and by their international initiatives, for example, on establishment of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia). As Coppieters notes, at first the Central Asian governments even had difficulty in understanding why NATO countries expected them to attend NACC meetings [11]. The following factors were likely to influence the policy of Central Asian countries:

  • The "psychological" or "internationalrecognition effect": in the development of the Central Asian states, their ruling elites actively used the reference to international recognition of the country where they are in charge to justify their policies;
  • "realistic" (the world is examined through categories of alliances, threats, balance): Central Asian states have sought to play a "balancing" role between Russia and the West and to obtain additional security assurances from cooperation with NATO.

A similar conclusion can be drawn with regard to the participation of Central Asian countries in the NATO Partnership for Peace (PFP) programme, adopted in 1994 following a discussion on the expansion of NATO eastwards and addressed to all participants of the CSCE. All "able and willing" members of CSCE were invited to cooperate to ensure transparency of national military planning and defense budgets and the democratic control of the armed forces; to maintain the capacity and readiness to interact with the NATO forces in conducting peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the UN and CSCE; and to undertake joint planning, training and the conducting of exercises. It is indicative that Central Asia was barely mentioned in the first phase of the PFP discussions (late 1993 – early 1994).

As part of the first shift, the NATO strand of policy in Central Asia was no different from the ones developed for Central and Eastern European countries, but was carried out to much smaller extent and in less systematic way. These strands of policy include: [12]

  • establishment of direct military contacts (visits, exchange of listeners and missions, information, scientific conferences and political- military consultations);
  • promotion of democratic transformation in the military sphere (civil and military relations, civilian control, defense management and accounting);
  • cooperation expansion (exercises, doctrines, equipment);
  • support for security objectives (nonproliferation and arms control);
  • cooperation in the non-military sphere (natural disasters, environmental protection).

However, experts voiced and still voice strong doubts about the effectiveness of such activities. The scheme of direct military contacts is subject to criticism, as it often takes the form of "military tourism". Attempts to bring about democratic changes in the military sphere (particularly, the establishment of civilian control over power structures) have not yielded significant results. Cooperation expansion is less frequently questioned, particularly the conduct of joint exercises. There is no obvious justification for assisting in the upgrading of equipment and arming the military forces of the Central Asian countries, which are confined by the high cost of upgrading and corruption, and to the fact that upgrade programmes are often a source of internal competition among the NATO member states, where each tries to help its own defense industry.

The second shift (the establishment of interregional communications) is determined by the failure to form CSCE, which becomes apparent in connection with the change in Russia's foreign policy. The latter policy was aimed at making Russia a great power,[20] [21] one of the influential centers of the multipolar world. There were differences between Russia and the Western countries in their assessment of the events in Chechnya; and the first wave of NATO expansion and the military operation of NATO in Yugoslavia in 1999, which was fairly well recorded at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. It has become evident that the securitization and desecuritization processes that characterize Russia and the Western countries are too far apart to make it worthwhile to speak of the possibilities for establishing a single security complex in Europe. This has led to formation of at least two separate regional security complexes: EU-Europe and the complex constructed in connection with Russia.

The European Union and NATO become the leading actors in the EU-Europe regional security complex. Within NATO, the gap was marked by adoption of a new strategic concept in 1999 - the transition from a defensive to an offensive principle. In addition, there has been the expansion of the political functions of NATO – an ideological line and a common-values line. Thus, NATO, as a political organization, begins to displace and replace OSCE.

In Central Asia, this shift has been demonstrated, for example, by the debate on the expansion of NATO to the East or the Civil War in Tajikistan. For example, European governments have demonstrated comparative indifference towards the civil war in Tajikistan. The danger of fragmentation was not considered by the overwhelming majority of CSCE members (later OSCE) as a threat to European security, which resulted in refusal to significantly involve CSCE (and later OSCE) in the conflict. In turn, Central Asian governments were largely indifferent to the discussions on the expansion of NATO which were a matter of priority for the EU-Europe countries. None of these governments showed a disposition to support Russia's attempt to create a "contra block" as opposed to NATO. In fact, the change in military balance in Europe during the late 1990s did not affect the securitization and desecuritization processes in Central Asia. Moreover, in the second half of 1990s, Central Asian states realized that NATO was not and could not be a guarantor of their security.

By the mid-1990s, the strategic and pragmatic factors that had affected the inclusion of Central Asia into CSCE had declined. Nuclear weapons had been withdrawn from Kazakhstan and transferred to Russia by 1994. The anticipated conflict potential of Central Asia has not become transnational. Expectations of a new "Great Game" were not satisfied. Central Asia has not become its arena since the interregional actors have shown an unexpectedly low interest in Central Asia: risks associated with their participation in Central Asian security dynamics have been significantly higher than the potential benefits.

Thus, the second shift has clearly demonstrated the peripheral nature (but not the indifference) of Central Asian countries for EU-Europe and its key organizations (EU and NATO).4 The EU and NATO maintain their presence in Central Asia because of, to a degree, so-called "institutional inertia"; but primarily because of the desire to maintain the existing degree of cooperation in the area of security. This was especially so when "new dimensions of international security"4 come on line in the second half of the 1990s, in which Central Asia begins to be regarded as either a buffer or a source, as well as because of the desire to exert influence on Russia's emerging regional security complex.

NATO sought to promote stable (within the meaning of the West) structures (regimes) in Central Asia. However, despite the NATO strands of policy identified in the first half of the 1990s remaining the same, the emphasis has gradually begun to shift into the following areas:

  • intelligence collection on security policies of the Central Asian countries;
  • informing Central Asian countries of NATO strategy;
  • implementation of peace-keeping principles in regions where Western governments are not [22] interested in sending their own troops;
  • programmes for environmental protection, ecology and the development of science.

The third shift (or global linkages) is associated with a new change in the relationships between Russia and the West, as well as difference in positions of Western countries (EU and USA). The shift in attention to non-state actors within international relations and the securitization of "new dimensions of international security" was equally important.

At a time when the United States and Europe are no longer tied up with the logic of the Cold War, the world outlook has come to the fore of their relationships. The EU states are guided by international law; deny the validity of military violence in resolving inter-state conflicts; and consider negotiations, compromises and cooperation as separate values ("Perpetual Peace" by Kant). The US proceeds from the premise that the world lives by laws of Hobbes' anarchy and is full of deadly threats. National security is guaranteed by force, especially military force, and readiness to use it [15]. The US continues to perceive itself as a super-power that spreads its values throughout the world. The EU countries gradually forsake national interests in favor of pan-European identity; and voluntarily restrict their sovereignty in terms of foreign policy and security. It is revealing that the EU-Europe does not have a clear concept on participation or involvement in anti-terrorist campaign; and the measures taken by the countries tend to be of an internal than a foreign-policy nature. These differences lead to NATO losing its central importance for security policy for the US. Moreover, during operation "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan, the United States demonstrated that it was able to prepare and carry out a successful military operation in a very short time (to accomplish the tasks) in area where their armed forces were not present.

The position of Russia changed in the 2000s when it became a regional power without pronounced global ambitions and was primarily concerned with what was happening in the vicinity of its borders. With the new international situation that emerged after 11 September 2001, Putin's administration has begun to change the paradigm and Russia's foreign policy to fundamentally change its security strategy [6]. Only immediate and direct threats - terrorism and separatism, unprotected borders, armed conflicts - remain securitized. More abstract problems related to relations with the West have begun to desecuritize. Russia's place in the world and in international security system is being reframed: refusal to form a security complex around itself, emphasis not to the role of Russia as an autonomous center of power, but to its integration into the world community, where the West as a whole and, above all, the United States lead. The sphere of influence begins to be regarded as a tactical resource, and coalition with the West is regarded as a strategic objective (moving from a spatial to a functional definition of national interest). Interest is not linked to the power of the country projected externally, but to the economic well-being of the nation and effectiveness of governance [16, p. 63]. By changing the projected external image of Russia, an attempt is being made to link Russia to the West and to leave the rhetoric of "multipolar world" (official Russian foreign policy ideology of 1998-2000): the desired image is not the center of power in the multipolar world, but a European country, a full-fledged member of the Western international community.

The attitude of Western countries towards Russia changes. So, under J. Bush (Jr.) administration the US interest in Russian 6 See statistics in [17].

"near abroad" is not determined by the desire to limit, as was the case with B. Clinton, when neo-imperialist ambitions were attributed to Moscow, but to obtain a bridgehead to confront "new dimensions of the international security". It is revealing that the US National Security Strategy 2002, unlike Strategy 2000, refers to post-soviet area only due to a need for prosperous and stable environment for Russia as a catalyst for its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

In practice, the third shift consisted of military operation “Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan conducted by the Anti-Terrorist Coalition headed by the USA. In the course of preparation and implementation, the military contingents of NATO member states were deployed in a number of Central Asian countries which operated both within the framework of the operation "Enduring Freedom" and international Security Assistance (ISAF) established pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 (2001). At the same time, it is important to note that these changes do not indicate a direct increase in interaction of NATO and Central Asia, because this is not a military operation of NATO, as was the case in Yugoslavia in 1999:

  • both operation "Enduring Freedom" and ISAF go beyond the scope of NATO, including armed forces not only of NATO member states;
  • NATO was represented in Central Asia not as a single structure, but rather by its member states.

Contingents of NATO member states were deployed in Central Asia to carry out extra- regional tasks (global and interregional), as both Afghanistan and Central Asia are isolators. This is confirmed by the fact that during operation "Enduring Freedom" armed forces of NATO member countries have been present not only in Central Asia, but in all regions between Afghanistan and Central Asia on a much larger scale.5 Thus, it can be argued that, as part of the third shift, the EU-Europe countries fulfill the purpose of keeping Central Asia's role of controlled isolating or buffer zone.

The fourth shift (the breaking of global bonds and the assignment of Central Asia to the periphery) takes place in mid-2000. Under the influence of a number of successful and unsuccessful attempts to change political regimes in certain Post-Soviet countries under so-called “color revolutions”, cooperation with the USA in Central Asia became risky. To a large extent, this is because “color revolutions” are considered as events conducted with the direct or indirect participation of the USA. The attitude towards the USA partially shifts to NATO. It results in closure of the US military base in Uzbekistan and the transformation of the military presence of the USA in Kyrgyzstan.

However, there is no complete distancing of Central Asian countries from NATO. In 2008, during the NATO/ EAPC Summit held in Budapest, the president of Uzbekistan I. Karimov announced an initiative to establish a Contact Team “6+3” as a format for looking for a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict [18]. It is revealing that it has been proposed that NATO should be included as the main actor in the Anti-Terrorist operation in Afghanistan in a group along with the neighboring states to Afghanistan: Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia and the USA.

At the beginning of 2010, the cooperation of Central Asia and NATO became active. It is linked the to discussion of the format and consequences of NATO leaving Afghanistan scheduled for 2014, and the matter of the formation of the so-called “northern corridor”, which was supposed to support NATO in Afghanistan by means of the Central Asian countries. In fact, however, NATO has not left Afghanistan, but rather severely transformed its presence in the country; the level of cooperation of this organization with Central Asia has not undergone dramatic change.

The fourth shift was also determined by another change in Russia’s position, the pinnacle of which was the speech of the President of Russia, V. Putin, in Munich in 2007 [19], where he mentioned how unacceptable it would be for Russia and for the whole modern world to have a unipolar world model based around the USA and the expansion of NATO, resulting in them approaching closer to the Russian borders. In many respects, the problem of the activization of NATO in the Post-Soviet area became the cause of the Georgia-Russia crisis in 2008, the situation in Ukraine and the Crimea in 2014 and so on. Nevertheless, as in the first shift, the Central Asian countries appeared to be at the periphery of these crises – they changed neither the level of their relationships with NATO, nor the level of their relationships with Russia. The current, fourth, shift has thus not brought anything new to NATO’s presence in Central Asia; and this again highlights the periphery of the region.

Conclusions. The analysis allows it to be claimed that the cooperation of NATO and Central Asia is defined neither by the structure and logic of NATO development, nor the structure and place of Central Asia in the present-day international relations system. The cooperation, in fact, is therefore of a random and non-systematic nature. At the same time, fully in accordance with the idea of genealogy, these casual events result in serious change in security configuration in Central Asia and of the construction of its perception in the international community. However the dynamics of NATO in Central Asia are largely affected by shifts and transformations occurring in the Western Europe and Russia, and in NATO itself, rather than processes occurring in the Central Asian countries, which confirms the conclusion that Central Asia as a whole is a mini-complex or these states are objects rather than subjects of an unstructured security region exercising the the present-day international relations; and function of an isolator.



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