Putin’s recent trip to Central Asia showed that he is willing to pay Russia’s partners in the region for their geopolitical loyalty—even if some republics have refrained from joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Declining hydrocarbon prices and a gas dispute with Russia have kept Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from bringing back the luster and prosperity of Turkmenistan’s golden age. The next few years promise to be even harder for Turkmenistan’s economy, which is why parliament decided to extend Berdymukhamedov’s term in office from five to seven years.
Media reports about a rapprochement between Russia and the Taliban are not even close to reality. Moscow, however, has opened communication channels with the Afghan group, with an eye on protecting its own interests in the country.
If none of the Kazakh president’s current associates will agree to accept the right of another to become the country’s second national leader, it’s inevitable that Kazakhstan will be ruled by some kind of collective leadership after Nazarbayev. However, nothing in the president’s special address suggested any mechanism for the transfer of power.
It will be difficult for Uzbekistan’s new president to bring about foundational change without moving toward some kind of glasnost. Though Uzbekistan’s tightly controlled political system has its limits, Mirziyoyev will have to loosen the reins in one way or another.
Tajikistan, plagued by frequent widespread blackouts, has begun construction of an ambitious dam project that could significantly ease the country’s perennial energy shortages. However, in a region notorious for water disputes, neighboring Uzbekistan is staunchly opposed to the dam. A long-term solution is essential to maintaining peace in the region.
The Kremlin has tried to use billionaires to do its bidding in post-Soviet states before—with mixed success. When it comes to Alisher Usmanov, the hurdles to a successful partnership are particularly high.
It’s not surprising that the members of the EAEU are struggling to adopt a Customs Code. In many ways, the problem stems from Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the EAEU, which mostly benefits Chinese exporters to Russia, who now have less red tape to deal with and more contraband routes available. The Russian budget, which may miss out on about $340 million a year, is the biggest loser.
Carnegie Moscow Center organized a conference on contemporary issues in Central Asia.
Although we shouldn’t expect anything drastic, Uzbekistan’s next president will likely change some of Islam Karimov’s policies, especially in the economic sphere. Because the country needs financial support and access to new technologies from the West, Uzbekistan may liberalize slightly, demonstrating greater respect for democracy and human rights.