Academic journal article Civilacademy Journal of Social Sciences

The Struggle for Power in the Changing Geopolitics of Central Asia/ Orta Asya'nin Degisen Jeopolitik Kosullarinda Guc Mucadelesi

Academic journal article Civilacademy Journal of Social Sciences

The Struggle for Power in the Changing Geopolitics of Central Asia/ Orta Asya'nin Degisen Jeopolitik Kosullarinda Guc Mucadelesi

Article excerpt


Eurasia, primarily Central Asia has been the scene of the great powers' struggles throughout history. As a result of these struggles, the geography of Central Asia nowadays has become complicated and inconsistent to a great extent. The factors which caused this in Central Asia have become tools to be used against rivaling forces that are competing to become the dominant power in the region. Turkic Republics that gained their independence with the dissolution of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), have encountered economical and security problems after 1990, related to the politics applied by USSR historically, in order to maintain dominance over the region.

Whether for geopolitical or geo-strategic reasons, Central Asia is seen as an important geography in world politics. This is especially true after the disintegration of USSR. And the power struggle continues today in the region. With the disintegration of USSR, new independent states emerged in the region. As a result of this, an unexpected rapid change has been experienced in the geopolitical structure of Central Asia's geography. In this new geopolitical constitution, many power gaps have emerged. Undoubtedly, a merciless rivalry has started between the powers which aim to gain dominance over the region by filling these power gaps. This rivalry in the region is nothing new. From the beginning of the second half of 19th century, the new colonialism has enlivened the rivalry among the great powers. It is well understood that in the 19th century, especially in Central Asia, English and Russian rivalry was a matter of primary importance. (M. Edwards (2003), "The New Great Game and the new great gamers: Disciples of Kipling and Mackinder", Central Asian Survey, 22(1):84) English- Russian struggle in Central Asia was known as the "Great Game". The term "Great Game" was first used in 1830's by Arthur Conol (1807-1842). (P. Hopkirk, 1994; K. Meyer and S. Brysac, 2001). But the "Great Game" term was not a well known and used expression until Rudyard Kipling wrote his novel "Kim", in the first year of 20th century. (Rudyard Kipling's novel (2006): Kim read online October 28th, 2006).

The nature of the Great Game is a fight to gain dominance over the land in Central Asia and the population living there. The Great Game has been realized in four phases in four different ways. First it started in 18th and 19th centuries with the spread of Russian Empire to Caucasia and Central Asia. This situation became a threat for Eastern Indian Company, which was de facto dominant force in India and thus the "Great Game" started. The English-Russian rivalry continued mercilessly until 1907. The first phase of the Great Game ended with the signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention in 1907.

The policy Drang nach Osten (Head toward East) of Wilhelm's Germany created the second phase of the Great Game. The methods used in this policy generally were to hold the public under pressure and manipulate them by placing secret agents among the local tribes and local folk in order to gain dominance in the region as in the Russian-English fight. (M. Edwards; 2003:2).

The third phase of the Great Game started with the Bolshevik Revolution under Lenin's leadership in 1917. In this revolution, which Lenin implemented with an armed rebellion, "saving Asia from the imperialists' dominance" was announced as the primary goal. Of course, USSR founded by Lenin was included the area that the Russia of Tsardom had sovereignty over and even more.

The fourth phase of the Great Game is named "The New Great Game". The New Great Game is being played among the forces which maneuver to gain influence, power and benefit in Central Asia and Trans-Caucasia. This New Game developed between the years 1990-2000 by the opportunities created by the power gaps emerging with the dissolution of USSR. But things really heat up after 2000. Caspian Oil has become a point of focus in the world policy, provoking the rival powers in their imperial desire to share the potential wealth. For Caspian Oil, rivalry is a multi aspect, security geopolitics and economic game. This great game begins to take important place in the policies of USA formed in 2000 and thereafter.

Rivaling forces in "The New Great Game" can be summarized as follows: "Six new republics which have mostly a Muslim population have been grouped around the Caspian Sea. Being owners of undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves, these new republics appear to rival resources the resources in Iran Gulf. Pipe lines, tanker routes, oil consortiums and agreements are the prizes of this new game. India and China, both with increasing demands for energy, together with Federation of Russia, Europe and USA are in competition to reach these resources. Turkey, Iran and Pakistan have political, economical and cultural benefits in the independent states of the former Soviet Republics. (K. Meyer and S. Brysac, 2001:24).

In addition, Central Asia is considered to be one of the factors that lead to rivalry among the global forces which aim to dominate the world. The Great Game, considered in four phases, has generated new geopolitical theories. In his article named "The Geographical Pivot of the History", which was published in 1904, Mackinder put forth the "Heartland Theory": (H. J Mackinder (1904)."The Geographical Pivot of History," The Geographical Journal, 23(1): 421-437) describes Heartland as a region between East Siberia and Volga Basin extending to Ural mountain. In his theory he states "Ruler of East Europe rules Heartland (Kalpgah), ruler of Heartland rules the Earth Island, ruler of the Earth Island rules the Earth". (Ilhan, 2003, Jeopolitik Duyarlilik, Istanbul: Otuken Publisher: 46, Comert, 2000, Jeopolitik, Jeostrateji ve Strateji , Istanbul: 78) Both Caucasia and Central Asia lie within the borders of Heartland. (Erhan, "Jeopolitik Kuramlar", Turk Dis Politikasi V.1: 1919-1980, Istanbul, Iletisim Press, 2005; Birsel, Eski Dunyanin Karanlik Yuzu Orta Asya Jeopolitigi, Istanbul: IQ Kultur Sanat Yayincilik, 2006: 178).

German geopolitician Karl Haushofer by exchanging the name "Heartland Theory" with the theory "Vital Space" considered the Turkistan geopolitics basin as a primary region to be captured by Germany. With this theory, Haushofer influenced war strategies formed by Hitler. (Mutercimler, 21.yy ve Turkiye , Istanbul: Guncel Yayincilik, 2000:105).

As USSR had gained control of Heartland after World War II, new geopolitics theories were put forward in order to balance or remove risks arising from being unable to control the Central Region. Against Mackinder's "Heartland Theory", Spykman put forward "Rimland Theory". According to Spykman: By claiming that the real potential dominating power is within the Rimland line formed by West Europe-Turkey-Iraq-Pakistan-Afghanistan-China-Korea and East Siberia, he put forward the theory that the power controlling this line will control the earth.

According to this theory; "Dominator of the Rimland dominates Eurasia. Dominator of Eurasia dominates Earth." As it can be seen, Russia's occupation of Heartland has led USA's strategy experts to look for alternative geopolitics studies. According to Spykman, USA with all its force must focus to reestablish power balance in Europe and Asia, and for this to happen it is commonly accepted that it is vital for USA to support border regions of the continent Eurasia. (Sonmezoglu, Uluslararasi Politika ve Dis Politika Analizi , Istanbul: Filiz Kitabevi, 2003:512; Comert, 2000:82) Marshall aids, foundation of NATO, Balkan and Baghdad pacts and SEATO are planned and applied to surround USSR.(Birsel, 2006:178).

Invasion of Afghanistan by USSR in 1979 was a serious blow to the Border Band (Rimland). For this reason, the "Green Band Project" (Uzgel, "1980-1990 ABD'yle Iliskiler", Turk Dis Politikasi Kurtulus Savasindan Gunumuze Olgular, Belgeler, Yorumlar, Vol 11, Istanbul, Iletisim, 2005:36-37). put into practice by USA called for strengthening Thaliban, with the aim of keeping the power balance in the region in the background.

The Russia-USA rivalry, which became fierce after the World War II, took on a new dimension aat the end of Cold War. In this region, the power fight formerly expressed as the "Great Game" was replaced in 1990 by the "New Great Game". In the view of "Near Abroad" doctrine, RF again wants to dominate the Turkic Republics which gained their independence. In this aspect, this study documented in "Rivaling Powers in the Changing Geopolitics of the Central Asia" analyses the factors that change the geopolitics of Central Asia and the rivaling powers influenced by these factors. Though many regional and global powers have benefits and interests in Central Asia, policies of The Russian Federation (RF), USA and to some extent EU which has main influence on the regional ongoing issues and progresses, are examined in this study. This study is targeted to provide assistance to decision makers and investigators interested in the geopolitics of Central Asia. The understanding of the behaviors and policies of the rivaling powers in Central Asia will help to reveal the ongoing regional issues and at the same time, the solutions.

The Russian Federation and Central Asia

Among the key global players, Russia undoubtedly possesses a number of important advantages in post-Soviet Eurasia. As a direct successor of the Romanov and Soviet empires that ruled over these lands in the 19th and 20th century, Russia appears to have a clear edge over the other international players--the fact that arguably makes it the main actor in the region. (Schlapentokh, (2005), "Russia's Foreign Policy and Eurasianism,", September 02, 2005; Trenin, (2006), "The Post-Imperial Project, originally published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 15, 2006).

Firstly, Moscow knows the region and regional countries (especially their weak points) much better than its global competitors. Secondly, as a former imperial metropole, it still largely controls the infrastructure that ties the entire post-Soviet space together and which was not totally disrupted by the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Thirdly, it has the leverage of the Russian Diaspora residing in all the ex-Soviet republics. Under certain circumstances, Russia can choose to use this leverage in order to achieve its strategic goals. Furthermore, Moscow still retains the main elements of the Soviet "hard power" (especially military) capabilities--security pacts, arms sales capacity, most of the former Soviet military bases as well as military presence, in the region. (Rahr, "New Focus on Old Priorities," Transition, The Year in Review 1994:9-11; Edwards, "The New Great Game and the New Great Garners: Disciplines of Kipling and Mackinder (2003),"Central Asian Survey, 22(1): 83102). By using this hard power capacity to manipulate the existing political, ethnic and religious conflicts in a number of the ex-Soviet republics, Russia is still able to easily destabilize the region. In addition, it is important to note that Russia can enhance its influence in the region not only through direct intervention but also through peacekeeping and mediation activities.

Geography of Turkestan (Turkistan) was exposed to a planned assimilation policy from 16th century until the end of 20th century with the dissolution of USSR. When the policies put forth by the Russian pedagog Ilminsky and applied to Turkestan are considered, it exposes that he used three effective methods: (Birsel, 2006: 18-21;43-44).

1. Change the alphabet being used in Turkestan and use the Russian alphabet instead.

2. Implementation of Russian language instead of national Chagatai (Jagatai).

3. Interruption of the relation between the Turks of Turkestan and Turks of Ottoman.

Stalin has extended the policy of Ilminsky mentioned above. According to this: (Birsel, 2006: 18-21;40-46).

* To add different characteristics to Turkish Nation in the aspect of language, culture and history by artificial differences.

* To draw the borders while making separation in such a way that the components have conflict.

* To make differences in the aspect of alphabet and language so that there is no communication either with each other or with Anatolia.

Thus, South Turkestan having borders with USSR was gradually divided geographically and ethnically between the years 1924-1936 as a part of the policies mentioned above. In this stage, while drawing the borders of union republics of USSR, the central authority in Moscow ignored the local ethnic identities. (Aydin, "Avrasya'nin Degisen Jeopolitigi ve Guvenlik 1989-2003", Yakin Donem Guc Mucadeleleri isiginda Orta Asya Gercegi, Istanbul: Gundogan publisher, 2004:144). In December 1936, with the constitution of USSR, Turkestan was divided into five republics Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan (Kyrgyzstan), Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, all parts of USSR. After the division, German, Russian, Ukrainian Soviet citizens were settled to these republics. (Adler (1962), "Turkistan in Transition", The Geographical Journal, 107 (5/6):230).

With the division of Turkestan and application of the other policies, artificial issues have been created in these five republics. For these reasons, economic and security problems have been the primary problems of the Turkic Republics that declared their independencies after the disintegration of USSR.

In USSR, founded after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the system was set so that no republic could be sufficient by itself. (Birsel, 2006: 27-29). As a result of this, Turkic Republics were kept dependent on each other and at the same time to other republics in USSR. Even though Baykonar Space Base and nuclear power plant has been constructed in Kazakhstan, in general this truth has not changed. In Turkestan, the economic plans were made intentionally not to make the region self-sufficient, but according to the needs of USSR in order to create a dependent relationship to RF (the recent name).

As another example, railroads are built so that one can travel by train from one city of Kazakhstan to another only by passing through Russian land.

No Turkic Republic has an exit to the sea. They can reach Baltic Sea or Black Sea, only through RF. After 1990, RF has kept si lent about many conflicts that occurred, in order to make the Turkic Republics supporters feel that they are benefitting from the regional aspects of their military and economic situations. By taking no notice of the ethnic conflicts and the increased activities of radical religious groups originating from the security issues in the region; it was assumed that Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan and Tajikistan would come closer to RF and that has succeeded.

After 1990 RF primarily established The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (Russian: CoApyxs:ecTSo HesaBHCHMbix FocyAapcTS (CmF) with Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan (1991). Besides in 1992, within the same structure, Common Security Treaty was signed. The remarked treaty was turned to "Collective Security Organization" in 2003. * Yet, RF began to apply "Near Abroad Policy" which was approved by Yeltsin and went into effect in 1993. (Erhan (2006), "ABD'nin Orta Asya Politikasi ve 11 Eylul Sonrasi Yeni A9111mlari", Stradigma, (9):4. vizyon sayi_10.pdf, 2 November 2006).

As USA has begun to increase its influence over Caucasia and Central Asia, RF headed towards cooperation with China and in 1996 with China being the host, Shanghai Five ** was established among RF, China, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. (Comak (2005). "21. Yuzyilda Sangay Isbirligi Teskilati'nm Yeni Yonelimleri ve Turkiye He Yeni Isbirligi Yaklasinilan", Stratejik Ongorii, 5 (1): 19-25).

The strategic significance of Central Asia (called the heart of Eurasia geography) was the scene for dominancy fights throughout history and became even more important after the attacks of September 11th. With the attack of September 11'", it is clearly understood that the security concept is not a single dimensionalconcept and the regional security cannot be considered independently from global security.

Nowadays, Central Asia commands the interest of whole world with its subterranean and above ground wealth. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, having coasts near Caspian Sea with their oil and earth gas reserves, plus Uzbekistan, with its gold and earth gas reserves have and important place. Caspian Basin with Azerbaijan being the owner of oil and gas reserves, have become the second most important basin in respect world oil reserves after Persian Gulf.

USA and Central Asia

The USA is the relative latecomer in Central Asia. America's direct involvement in the region was mainly prompted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The US administration, guided by the neo-conservative outlook, launched its military campaign in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. It gained a foothold in Central Asian countries while pursuing a war against the Thaliban regime. Having set up air bases and deployed its troops in Central Asia, the USA became a regional actor--the development that in fact sparked off the "New Great Game" debate and brought Russia and China closer together in their effort to take the USA out of Central Asia and keep the region under their exclusive control. The uncertainty concerning the goals and timetable of the US military presence in Central Asia couldn't fail to arouse Russia and China's grave suspicions regarding Washington's true geopolitical designs. ("US Ponders Counteracting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," competitors/2006/0616usponders.htm, June 16, 2006). Along with explicitly stated aims--such as containing and countering terrorism, using the Central Asian states' territory for the US troop deployment and air bases to support the war effort in Afghanistan and bringing more democracy and prosperity to the region--the USA has also some implicit strategic objectives ranging from the containment of China to ensuring America's access to regional energy resources. (The importance of energy issues in US foreign-policy calculations was highlighted in the country's National Security Strategy (2002, 2006) as one of the key priorities). ("The National Security Strategy of the United States of America",, 2002; "The National

Security Strategy of the United States of America,", 2006).

Since the USA is one of the world's largest oil importers, it relies on foreign exports and is thus vulnerable to energy market fluctuations, including the shifts in production and in energy prices. Within this context, Eurasia is also important for the USA as a potential energy source.

Central Asia, which is found in the most important geography, pointed out by Mackinder and Spykman to be held under control by all means in order to dominate earth, has become more important after the collapse of bipolar international system. USA remaining as the sole super power with the end of Cold War, wants to use its existing advantage and to fill the power gaps available to dominate the world. Together with September 11th, for the first time in its history, USA gets the opportunity to influence in east from the border of China and South until Persian Gulf. (Erol, "Kuresel Guc Mucadelesinde Avrasya Jeopolitigi ve Avrasyacilik Tartismalari", Rusya Stratejik Arastirmalari-1, Istanbul: TASAM publisher, 2006:120).

According to many American specialists including Zbigniew Brzezinski (Brzezinski, The Grand Chess Board,USA,1998), in order to be the primary actor in this region "owning energy reserves leaving behind the ones found in Kuwait, Gulf of Mexico and North Sea by bare difference " USA has to evaluate all the open opportunities and finally must settle in this region. (Erhan; 2006:6).

First of all, Central Asia Battalion of Peace Power "CENTRASBAT" was established in 1995 with the approval of Central Asian Turkic Republics, supported by USA and NATO and reinforced by military powers of Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan as RF again tried to influence Central Asia to inhibit increasing radical religious activities in the region.

In 1997, with military maneuvers in Kazakhstan, USA brought military units to the land of Central Asia. Maneuvers of CEN TRASBAT continued in the years 1998-1999 and 2000. (Birsel; 2006: 125-126).

Secondarily, in October 1997, one year after the formation of Shanghai five, USA supported the establishment of GUAM constituted by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldavia. Establishment of GUAM over the Caspian Energy basin of RF dealt an immense blow to the hegemony of RF under the construction of CIS countries. Later in 1999 Uzbekistan also participated in GUAM. As a result of increased attacks of radical religious activities, Uzbekistan being unable to overcome its security problems by itself, participated in Shanghai five with the influence of RF in 2001. Because of this Uzbekistan left GUAM in 2005. (Birsel; 2006: 125-126).

Main lines of USA policies towards Turkestan and Caucasia were formed with the "Silk Road Strategy Law" which was accepted in the USA congress in the beginning of 2000. As we known, the historical Silk Road passed through Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. According to the Silk Road Strategy Law, establishment of the old economic relationships via mutual cooperation and dependence of the Silk Road nations to each other, was important not only for securing their sovereignty, but also for the success of democratic and market reforms. Strengthening the political, economic and security relations among the countries of Central Asia and South Caucasia at the same time, would also serve to maintain stabilization of the region. Very valuable energy resources were found in the region that would save USA from being dependent to troublesome Basra Gulf. (Erhan; 2006:7). For this reason, strengthening the political and economic relations of the countries, having a widespread free market economy, allowing the USA's favored government to come into power and breaking off the regional countries from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, were targeted. (Birsel; 2006: 127).

USA's interest to Central Asia had increased more with Afghanistan operations towards El-Kaide and Thaliban, dated 7 October 2001 after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Because of the Afghanistan operations, US soldiers at first settled in Temriz and Hanabad in Uzbekistan, later in Manas in Kirghizstan and the regions of Kalyab, Kirgan-Tyube and Hokand in Tajikistan. USA has the opportunity to keep soldiers in some Central Asian countries owing to the Afghanistan operation so the New Great Game in Central Asia doesn't come to an end. Velvet revolutions in Kirghizstan, Ukraine and Georgia were accomplished in because those countries were found on energy pathways and energy basins of Eurasia. The fact that these were supported by Soros Foundation as aspects of USA's Silk Road and National Security Strategies, was met by anxiety by the government of Uzbekistan. For this reason Uzbekistan government stopped the activities of open society organizations linked to Soros Foundation after the events overthrowing Akayev's government in Kirghizstan.

Thus, decisions were made about the presence of USA in Central Asia in the meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization held in Astana Capital of Kazakhstan on 5 July 2005. The most important one of these decisions was related with the shutting down of USA's military bases within the borders of Shanghai Cooperation Organization. (" Declaration of Heads of Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation", Astana, July 05, 2005., 4 November 2006). Likewise, 24 days after the meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization on 29 July 2005, the government of Uzbekistan, by giving a diplomatic note to USA, announced that the military bases of USA found in the country would be shut and wanted from USA to draw back all the planes, personnel and supplies in the Karshi-Hanabad base in 180 days. (The Voice of America, turkish/archive/2005-07/2005-07-30-voa2.cfm, O1November 2006). In the same year on 21 October 2005, USA military bases in Uzbekistan were shut. ( detay.asp?PID=3 19&haberlD=140743, 01 November 2006).

Status of observer country was given to India, Iran and Pakistan within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the same meeting held in Kazakhstan. ("Declaration of Heads of Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation", Astana, July 05, 2005., 4 November 2006). It is considered that these countries would be members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the near future. Therefore, the New Great Game continues. It is considered that in Central Asia under the construction of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, cooperation of the countries RF-China and Pakistan-India, which had former disagreements, has weakened the influence of USA in Central Asia.

European Union (EU) and Central Asia

With the Ukraine-RF gas disagreement on January 2006, EU moved the subject to the head of its agenda in order to prevent de pendency to RF in energy dependency subject and understood the importance of Central Asia, though was a bit late in this aspect. (EU Commission, Green Paper on energy strategy", 8 March 2006, index en.htm, 10 August 2006; "Call for EU to boost energy security", Financial Times, 20 February 2006).

Transport of Central Asian gas and oil reserves across South Caucasia and Turkey, even though partially, was seen as a solution for the maintenance of European energy sources. According to an Eastern European Diplomat "This subject has been the most important issue of this year. We must not be fully dependent to Russia. This (dependency) is very dangerous for our energy security". (International Crisis Group, "Central Asia: What Role for the European Union? Asia Report 113:3--10 April 2006, asia_what_role_for_the_eu.pdf,17 September 2006).

From this point of view, it is clearly revealed how Central Asia and with it South Caucasia and Turkey became important for EU because of economic and energy security. Increasing energy demand directs EU to alternative resources. Instead of being dependent only to the oil in Middle East, by benefiting also from the energy resources in Caspian region, EU wants to provide security of their energy supply. Nevertheless, EU didn't have a common attitude in this subject until the Ukraine-RF gas disagreement. After this event, EU realized that besides the energy resources, the energy pathways that transport these energy resources are also important. For this reason, EU saw the risk involved in having that the vehicles that transport Caspian oil and natural gas to member countries of EU are solely under the control of RF. Consequently, for the safety of energy supply, revisions are being made about the pipelines that carry the supplied energy to Europe to arrive by alternative pathways and precautions are taken in this subject. The following data put forth how important the energy pathways are, as well as the energy basins in the aspect of EU:

- EU imports nearly half of its energy demand. By 2030 it is guessed as it will import 94% of its oil demand and 84% of its gas demand. (The Annex to the European Commission Green Paper, "A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy", 03 08_gp_working_document_en.pdf.)

- 46% of oil imports to EU are being carried out from RF.

- RF is the only gas supplier to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Finland and the main gas supplier of Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece and Bulgaria. (International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2005; BP, "Statistical Review of World Energy", June 20).

Besides, the activity of Russian energy sector is increasing because they have taken over the production and transportation in frastructure in East Europe and Caucasia, they control the export pathways of Central Asian oil, and they have signed a treaty with Germany about building a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The giant gas firm Gazprom is trying to increase its share in gas reserves of Uzbekistan. Because of the above reasons EU has become dependent on RF to a great extent. In order to reduce this dependency, EU has begun to pay more attention to BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipeline, as never before.

As it is seen, place of EU in the New Great Game that is being played in Central Asia is at present, limited with energy security.


Throughout history Central Asia has been the scene for the fights of great powers. Central Asia is seen as an important geog raphy in world policy for both geopolitical and geostrategic reasons. Geopolitics and geostrategic significance of Central Asia has increased even more after the dissolution of USSR. Another dimension of power fights that were experienced in history in the region are being experienced at present. With the dissolution of USSR, new independent states have appeared in the region. As a result of this, an unexpected fast change takes place in the geopolitics structure of the geography of Central Asia. Many power gaps appeared in this new geopolitics structure. A fierce rivalry has begun surely among the powers which want to dominate the region by filling these power gaps. Central Asia has become a zone of merciless rivalry, especially because of rich oil and natural gas resources found in Caspian basin and also political aspects due to the reasons mentioned above.

Turkic Republics found in Central Asia have important energy resources. Kazakhstan has the largest oil reserves placing it in the global top ten and as for gas reserves, it is in the top 15. Turkmenistan has undiscovered large gas reserves. Also Uzbekistan is an important gas producer. Turkoman's gas is being exported by the pipelines heading north to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan across RF and under the control of RF through Ukraine. Very little of Turkoman's gas is sent to the south to Iran. Most of Kazakhstan's gas is transported to RF. Gas of Uzbekistan is generally being used in the region, but also an important part of it is exported to RF.

Though the regional countries have the possibilities expressed above, because of military and economic reasons, they have a lot of problems. RF has great influence on the delivery of energy reserves of Central Asia to international market. And this helps the continuation of dependency of the related countries to RF even after the dissolution of USSR. Transportation of oil and natural gas to world markets must be maintained primarily by alternative ways like BTC, so that the dependency of the region to RF can decrease. Democratic regimes establishment should be encouraged for economic and security environments to improve in the region. But care must be paid to let this happen according to own internal dynamics of each country in a timely process.

Central Asia confronts numerous shared problems with few if any regional mechanisms to manage them. Tensions linger over common water supplies, tenuous borders, the minority populations' treatment, obstacles to intraregional trade, narcotrafficing and organized crime, and the export and spread of extremist ideologies.

The challenges facing Central Asian states remain largely unchanged, and governments there have received few new tools to address them.

Central Asia due to its own characteristic properties will always continue to be ground of rivalry for great powers like RF, USA and EU. As Rudyard Kipling said before; "When, everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before." The challenges facing Central Asian states remain largely unchanged, and governments there have received few new tools to address them.

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Giray Saynur BOZKURT *

PhD, Dr Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Sakarya University. Sakarya, Turkey. /

* In the framework of Commonwealth of Independent States the CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST) was signed on May 15, 1992, by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in the city of Tashkent. Azerbaijan likewise signed the treaty on September 24, 1993, Georgia on December 9, 1993 and Belarus on December 31, 1993. The treaty came into effect on April 20, 1994. The treaty reaffirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force. Signatories wouldn't be able to join other military alliances or other groups of states, while an aggression against one signatory would be perceived as an aggression against all. The CST was set to last for a 5-year period unless extended. On April 2, 1999, the Presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, signed a protocol renewing the treaty for another five year period --however Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan refused to sign and withdrew from the treaty instead (at the same time Uzbekistan joined the GUAM group, established in 1997 by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and largely seen as intending to counter Russian influence in the region).

Collective Security Treaty Organization's Current Members:

Armenia (1994) Belarus (1994) Kazakhstan (1994) Kyrgyzstan (1994) Tajikistan (1994) Russia (1994) Uzbekistan (joined 1994, withdrew 1999, rejoined 2006) Former members: Azerbaijan (joined 1994, withdrew 1999) Georgia (joined 1994, withdrew 1999)

** The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental international organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its member states cover an area of over 30 million km2, or about three fifths of Eurasia, with a population of 1.455 billion, about a quarter of the world's total. Its working languages are Chinese and Russian. SCO's predecessor, the Shanghai Five mechanism, originated and grew from the endeavor by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to strengthen confidence-building and disarmament in the border regions. In 1996 and 1997, their heads of state met in Shanghai and Moscow respectively and signed the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions and the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions.

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