Decoding Central Asia: What’s Next for the U.S. Administration?
Central Asia, though off the radar for general Western audiences, is today an integral part of the globalized world. There are considerable economic opportunities as well as great security perils in the region. The 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union have proven that the local regimes learned well how to capitalize on the former, but not how to effectively tackle the latter. Key external stakeholders in Central Asia — Russia, China, and the United States — all aim to impact the region’s political, military, and economic realities. With Donald Trump at the helm of the new U.S. administration, questions regarding the U.S. policy in Central Asia arise.
It would be premature to speculate about Washington’s regional game plan, in particular given that the Central Asian blueprint is to a certain extent a function of the relations the United States has with Russia and China. However, an attempt could be made to examine the history of U.S.-Central Asia ties and draw relevant insights and review recommendations for the host of the White House.
The United States cannot ignore and be ignored by Central Asia. This could be the quintessence of the relationship between Washington and the region. Although the United States lacks the geographical access to Central Asia, it is still an important partner and an attractive alternative for the landlocked countries of the region.
In the wake of the dissolution of the USSR, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were reborn to the outside world. Washington expressed a limited interest vis-à-vis the region in the 1990s, primarily focusing on the issue of non-proliferation. By 1995, due to U.S. efforts and the cooperation of Moscow, Kazakhstan become a nuclear-free country.