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

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

Central Asia Leads the Way on Islamic State Returnees

Central Asia Leads the Way on Islamic State Returnees

Friday, September 13, 2019

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

Beginning in January of this year, Kazakhstan began repatriating its citizens from Syria on dedicated mass flights in what it calls “Operation Zhusan.” Zhusan literally means sagebrush, but significantly, it evokes the unique scent of the Kazakh steppe—something along the lines of “the green, green grass of home.” Within months, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan followed suit, and Kyrgyzstan is expected to soon begin facilitating the exodus of its citizens who were involved with the Islamic State.

Type: Blog

Fragility & Resilience; Reconciliation; Violent Extremism

The Ukraine-Russia Conflict

The Ukraine-Russia Conflict

Monday, March 23, 2015

By: Lauren Van Metre; Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.; Viola Gienger

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military operations in Eastern Ukraine have overturned the post–Cold War norms that had provided stability and development for the former Soviet countries bordering Russia. As neighboring countries assess their own security situation based on Russia’s aggressive practices in Ukraine and the West’s response, they are actively testing the new contours of Russian and Western engagement, regional alliances and relationships, and regional conflict dynamics.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Justice, Security & Rule of Law; Global Policy

Ukraine-Russia Conflict Colors View of Civic Roles in Central Asia

Ukraine-Russia Conflict Colors View of Civic Roles in Central Asia

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

By: Hanne Bursch

Ukraine and the countries of Central Asia wouldn’t seem to have much in common other than their former Soviet past. But post-Soviet Russian ambitions may be linking them in unexpected ways. The outcome of Ukraine’s current effort to consolidate its democracy, against Russia’s resistance, has ramifications for whether the Central Asian countries view civil society and democracy as a driver of instability or a force for reform.  

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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