The Central Asian region has always been distinguished by an extensive amount of attention from various international players paid to it. After the collapse of the Soviet Union this resource-rich and strategically important region began attracting the attention of China, the United States, India, and a number of other influential and wealthy states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and a number of others. Each of these global players have been pursuing their own agenda in this region.
And even if we are to understand the desire of regional players to gain a foothold in Central Asia, America’s desire to occupy a dominant position in this part of the world seems to stand apart. There’s little doubt that this desire has been motivated by a poorly hidden plan to undermine the positions of Russia, China and Iran. After all, one must not forget that the United States intervened in Afghanistan on the pretext that Washington was seeking retribution for the 9/11 attacks, while the actual goal was to deploy military bases in the immediate vicinity of China’s, Russia’s and Iran’s borders.
In a bid to “conquer Central Asia” Washington has employed a wide variety of methods, including attempted “color revolutions” and coup d’etats as well as the abuse of the US sponsored media sources and NGOs to swing the opinion of the local population in favor of Washington. Washington has even embarked on a mission of straightforward bribery, promising various credits in exchange for the sovereign interests of local players.
Among the regional states that are taking advantage of US military aid one can find Uzbekistan, which is now being demanded to abstain from any contacts with Moscow and Beijing, and avoiding the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEC) led by Russia.
If we are to take into consideration the fact that Central Asia has always been connected with Russia, both historically and geographically, we can notice that over the last two decades the United State has done a lot to push certain regional players away from Moscow. We’ve even been witnessing attempts to destabilize and then destroy the whole region from within. Yet, Washington tries to pretend that it plays an important part in the region’s outcome, since it has allegedly been providing a “counterbalance” to the regional aspirations of local players, like China and Russia.
It is therefore not surprising that in early August, Washington has assembled a special meeting in the C5 + 1 format that was introduced by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the region back in 2015. During the meeting which brought together the foreign ministers of five regional players (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) American diplomats put forward five different projects that ranged from the fight against terrorism, to investments in environmental protection and culture. It’s hardly a secret that the sole purpose of this meeting was an attempt to gain a foothold in the region.
Although the US stated time and time again that the C5 + 1 format is not designed to undermine the interests of Russia and China, it completely ignores their existence and the role they play in the region. It is noteworthy that the C5 + 1 format was launched just before the elections in the US, while neocon champion Hillary Clinton, who craves power, has declared long ago that Russia, China and Iran are the main enemies of modern America. Therefore, that Central Asia is being regarded in Washington as a primary tool for the destabilization of its rivals, explains why there’s been continuous attempts to topple sitting governments in Central Asian, with attempts to subsequently replace them with more pro-American regimes.
However, the current governments of Central Asian states are well aware of this and have made this goal as difficult for the US as they possibly can. It is noteworthy that the White House originally planned to launch the “Greater Central Asia” scenario, according to which a series of terrorist attacks and military engagements would be used to send a shock wave across the entire region. However, the failure of the military coup in Turkey forced Washington to take a more cautious approach, using the C5 + 1 format instead. There is every reason to believe that Uzbekistan will be the primary target of the US, since this country has a number of inner contradictions that can spark civil unrest, and the White House is planning to take full advantage of this fact.
What we’ve witnessed in recent years across the globe has been the growing deficit of trust towards the United States, and the countries of Central Asia are no different in this regard. The reason for this deficit can be illustrated by the example of Turkey. Ankara has been a loyal ally of Washington for decades, and now with it having been betrayed, it openly defies its former masters, and Washington can literally do nothing about it, since it has lost access to all levers of military influence.
The deficit of trust towards the United States has been aggravated by a growing list of America’s military failures, since it hasn’t won a single battle over the last decade, while the Pentagon has been unable to suppress “mujahideen movements” for over a decade in Afghanistan. Under these circumstances many countries are beginning to wonder if Washington really is capable of protecting them? The policy of destabilization that has been widely used by the Pentagon across the Middle East and Central Asia and other regions of the world has led to the strengthening of influence enjoyed by China and Russia.
It is also necessary to add that the government of Central Asian countries in recent years have learned to tell the difference between the sincere desire to help, manifested by China and Russia, and the diplomatic maneuvering, which is utilized by Washington. This maneuvering has only persuaded Ukraine out of all the former Soviet states so far, and while watching their sad example, political elites of Central Asian are approaching the United States with extreme caution.
That is why the United States in recent years has lost the right to use military facilities both in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, while American business presence is diminishing rapidly across the region.
Therefore, the C5 + 1 meeting that was held by Washington, is nothing but PR, the same kind of PR as attempts to persuade the people of the world that the US military is playing a decisive role in the settlement of the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya. What we’re witnessing here is the bitter and long awaited collapse of US international prestige.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”