Why does the US want to subjugate the countries of Central Asia?

By Gevorg Mirzayan

"It is possible that during the summit new threats of colour revolutions will be made, with the help of which Washington will try to bend the local elites to its will". This is how political scientists predict the first-ever meeting of the US president with the leaders of Central Asian countries. Why is it important for Russia, and will Washington be able to achieve its goals?
On 19 September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the next meeting of the C5+1 format - representatives of the Central Asian countries and the United States - will take place. And this time it is likely to be at the highest level, with heads of state meeting.

The heart of Eurasia
It seems so, but why? Central Asia has not been high on the official list of US foreign policy priorities. Especially now that the United States has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan. Yet the region has enormous potential.
"Sandwiched between Iran, Afghanistan, China and Russia, the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have a combined population of more than 78 million, a treasure trove of natural resources and are located in the heart of Eurasia," says an article by one of the most influential American research centres, the Atlantic Council.

And most importantly, all the countries that border Central Asia are America's enemies. Enemies that need to be contained - which means that the region can be turned into a useful springboard. With direct anti-Russian implications. "So far, no US president has visited the region, and no future presidential visits are planned. At the same time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are paying close attention to the states there," the Atlantic Council says.
It seems that the region is ready to cooperate with the Americans. The countries of Central Asia have a real need for diversification and multi-vector development. "Under Moscow's hegemony for two centuries, and now wary of China's economic dominance, the region is actively seeking outside friends," says the Forbes article.

"The countries of Central Asia are very dependent on Russia and China. Turkmenistan is totally dependent - all its gas goes to China. Kazakhstan's hydrocarbons also largely go to China.

But dependence does not mean that these countries are prepared to be strangled in the embrace of Moscow and Beijing. They see the US and the EU as possible counterweights to Russia and China. They are trying to pursue a multi-vector policy, realising that the deterioration of their relations with the United States and the EU will lead to a sharp increase in their dependence on the Russian Federation and China," Ivan Lizan, head of the analytical office of the SONAR-2050 project, told the newspaper VZGLYAD.
The problem for the United States, however, is that the Central Asian states do not equate multivectorism with becoming an anti-Russian and/or anti-Chinese springboard. They just want money from both the East and the West, giving American, Russian and Chinese players the right to compete equally for fields, minds and hearts. The West must make Central Asia either an anti-Chinese and anti-Russian space or an area of instability. This means that the West will present the local states with a choice: "you are either with us or against us".

They give little
The only question is how to convince the local states to become a springboard. What carrots and sticks does the United States have at its disposal?

All is sad in Washington with gingerbread. "At the moment, the countries of Central Asia are objectively highly dependent on the economies of Russia and China, since infrastructure and energy projects in the region are mainly carried out by these countries. And these projects, which are carried out by Western companies, amount to nothing more than pumping out resources and foreign currency - in other words, they are generally not very profitable for the recipient.

"Russia and China create jobs in Central Asia, and many of the region's inhabitants go to work in Russia, which accounts for a significant part of the GDP of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan," Nikita Mendkovich, head of the Eurasian Analytical Club, told the newspaper VZGLYAD. The volume of transfers from Russia to these three countries is estimated at billions of dollars, equivalent to all the spending items in the national budgets. This money feeds families and maintains social stability.

The United States does not want to and cannot give equivalent sums to each family individually.

"The West has little money in the midst of the sanctions war against Russia. In addition, the Americans have to spend a lot of money on serious social programmes at home in order to contain internal discontent," Nikita Mendkovich continues.

The majority of American voters are categorically against allocating additional funds to the Kyiv regime - and they are unlikely to enthusiastically support the idea of funding more Central Asian states, which are unlikely to be found on the map. The same US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during his February tour of the region, offered only $25 million in compensation to the Central Asian states. That is the total for all of the states in the region.
America becomes more dangerous
The whips, it seems, are looking more impressive. First of all, there is the threat of secondary sanctions for cooperation with Moscow. "The countries of Central Asia are trying to maintain the ties they have. For example, access to the global financial system, access to the American and European markets," says Ivan Lizan. - Moscow and Beijing will not be able to compensate for the sharp break in their relations with the US and the EU. And they don't want to follow the example of Alexander Lukashenko, whose relations with Russia were much deeper".

The problem is that the power of secondary sanctions is limited - countries in the region are willing to comply as long as their social and economic stability is not threatened.

"Kazakhstan will bend, but not give in. So it is bending - it is following US sanctions in the banking sector, in the supply of banned equipment from the EU for re-export, and it is tightening export control measures. But it is not leaving the Eurasian Union, it is not making any sudden moves," Ivan Lizan continues. To put it simply, the Central Asian countries are ready to bend within the limits of the room for manoeuvre that does not lead to a sharp deterioration in relations with Moscow and Beijing.

The second stick is the threat of colour revolutions. Antony Blinken announced US support for the local opposition in February, and now Biden can say the same. Tell, or even remind. "In four of the five countries in the region there have already been coup attempts initiated by Western countries in recent years - the footprints of Western diplomats and NGO representatives have been found everywhere. It is possible that during the summit new threats of colour revolutions will be made, with the help of which Washington will try to bend the local elites to its will," Nikita Mendkovich is sure.
But even this tool is not entirely effective. "There have already been attempts at intimidation. Washington's emissaries travel to Central Asian countries with a certain regularity, hold negotiations and wag their fingers. This doesn't change anything fundamentally," says Ivan Lizan.

It does not change because Central Asia hopes for military and political guarantees from China and Russia. And he sees the very hint of organising colour revolutions as further proof that dependence on the Americans is far more dangerous than Russian "imperialism" and Chinese "economic domination". At least Moscow and Beijing do not interfere in their internal affairs. Therefore, if Biden really wants to increase US influence in Central Asia, he will have to look for other arguments. And it is not clear that there are any such arguments to be found.
This article was originally published in Russian at vz.ru and was translated and edited by Rhod Mackenzie