Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia: Russia, Turkey, and Iran

Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia: Russia, Turkey, and Iran

Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia: Russia, Turkey, and Iran

Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia: Russia, Turkey, and Iran

Synopsis

This text discusses the relationship between Russia, Iran and Turkey since the collapse of the Soviet empire. These nations are the main rivals for influence in the Caucasas and Central Asia, with China a distant factor.

Excerpt

The breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991 came with dramatic suddenness and profoundly changed the geopolitics of the Eurasian land mass. Losing about a quarter of its territory and almost 40 percent of its population, Russia accepted the independence of the other fourteen union republics that, with it, had comprised the USSR. Of these, six predominantly Muslim entities--Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan--had been created by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s as tactical nation-states. As Vernon Aspaturian has argued, their creation was intended "to play a pivotal role not in Soviet diplomacy but in world communism--to generate discontent in European colonial dependencies as a prelude to their communization"; but in the end, because of dysfunctional internal policies and the absence of external opportunities, they played a negligible role both in Moscow's conventional and unconventional diplomacy. However, Stalin had several other tangible, interrelated purposes in mind for these republics: to strengthen the administration of a weak polyglot imperial system; to give form (but not substance) to the Bolshevik espousal of the principle of national self-determination; and to enable Moscow to carry out a policy of divide and rule by separating ethnolinguistic groups across two or more union republics, and in particular by weakening the separatist-minded Uzbeks by building up the Kazakhs, Turkmens, Kyrgyz, and Tajiks.

The USSR's collapse and the emergence of the independent republics along the southern frontier of the Russian Federation also eliminated the common border separating the Russian/Soviet empire from its long-term historical antagonists, the Turks and the Iranians. In fact, the Soviet collapse established a huge buffer zone in Central Asia and Transcaucasia between the Russian Federation on the one hand and Turkey and Iran on the other. However, the demise of the USSR also transformed this . . .

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