Independence, Foreign Policy, and Regional Security

With breathtaking speed, the republics of the former Soviet Union have been transformed into independent states expected to perform their own foreign policy functions. Yet many of these republics have little experience in foreign relations, and their appearance on the international stage may upset power balances in regions that are already unstable.

The new Central Asian states in particular are becoming of increasing interest to the West, because of their enormous resource base, especially oil and gas; their large, mostly Muslim, population; and their relative proximity to the volatile Middle East. But there is a dearth of informed analysis on this much misunderstood region.

This timely volume helps fill that gap by closely examining the developing foreign policies of the Central Asia republics—especially Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. It describes in detail how they handled their transitions to statehood and draws important conclusions about the implications for regional and international peace and security.

Related Publications

Processes of Reintegrating Central Asian Returnees from Syria and Iraq

Processes of Reintegrating Central Asian Returnees from Syria and Iraq

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

By: William B. Farrell; Rustam Burnashev; Rustam Azizi; Bakhtiyar Babadjanov

In the wake of the loss of the Islamic State’s territorial holdings, the return of foreign fighters and their families to their home countries is a top international concern. Among the short list of governments that have initiated repatriation programs, the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan stand out. This report examines the different approaches the three countries have taken and draws important lessons for other nations considering their own repatriation and reintegration programs.

Type: Special Report

Violent Extremism

Understanding Organized Crime and Violence in Central Asia

Understanding Organized Crime and Violence in Central Asia

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

By: Lawrence P. Markowitz; Mariya Y. Omelicheva

The influence of organized crime on governance and the rule of law in Central Asia has long been recognized, but its role in violence is less broadly understood. Looking at conflicts in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, this report examines the ways that organized criminal actors exploit popular mobilization (such as protests) and weaken state controls in episodes of violence. Recommendations for governments, international agencies, and civil society groups draw from expert interviews and research to address the range of organized criminal motives and circumstances.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Looking for Trouble: Sources of Violent Conflict in Central Asia

Looking for Trouble: Sources of Violent Conflict in Central Asia

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

This report offers a road map for understanding the most likely sources of violent conflict in the post-Soviet nations of Central Asia—ethno-nationalism and nativism, Islam and secularism, water resources and climate change, and labor migration and economic conflict. The analysis draws from emerging trends in the region and identifies the ways in which Central Asia’s geography and cultural place in the world interact with those trends. It suggests that the policy goals of the United States, Russia, and China in the region may be more compatible than is often assumed.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Friday, April 3, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

“Do you know how nomads prevent conflict?” a Kazakh friend once asked me. “I turn this way; you turn the other way. We start walking.” In ordinary times in Central Asia, this traditional “social distancing” may be enough to avert friction. But in a time of pandemic, it isn’t. Like elsewhere, the novel coronavirus is challenging Central Asian states and societies in new ways and revealing a great deal about the character of peoples and their governments. Here’s a look across the region at how the crisis has affected its states and how leaders have responded.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Global Health

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