Analysis

ANALYSIS - Russian outreach to Central Asia, Caspian nations reinforces logistic sectors

Russian President Putin’s visit to Tajikistan and attending Caspian region summit hold significance for security and logistic sectors

Zaki Shaikh   | 05.07.2022
ANALYSIS - Russian outreach to Central Asia, Caspian nations reinforces logistic sectors

The writer is a UK-based analyst and has worked with universities in three Central Asian countries.

LONDON

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Central Asia and the Caspian region from June 28-29 reflected his approach to keeping neighboring countries engaged especially at a time when Russia’s outreach in Europe looks stalled.

New vistas of cooperation are being sought in the Caspian region by Russia which would like to play a key role to tap the potential prospects in the region’s transport and logistics sectors. The Caspian is at the cross-section of global logistic routes, and lately, its significance is growing, said Konstantin Markelov, the rector of Astrakhan State University.

“The countries located in this region understand the need to counteract the negative changes that are taking place in the international political and economic spheres. Carving a new range of options puts before us the task of creating a joint task force for a comprehensive study of the problems of the Caspian region,” he said.

Lying east of the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea is bounded by Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan.

Yury Solozobov, a director at the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, said that Russia seeks a Caspian partnership to explore the transit potential of the Caspian region which offers the opportunity to link transport corridors from East to the West and similarly from South to North to form a southern multimodal route extending from Turkmenbashi Port in Turkmenistan linking with Astrakhan port on the Russian side of the Caspian as well as with the Baku port in Azerbaijan.

Solozobov said such linkages would provide outlets that complement rather than compete with each other. He added that such arrangements may also allow countering the constraints imposed by economic sanctions.

“If problems arise along one route, there would be alternate routes to pursue. By forming the Caspian Cooperation Council Moscow seeks a crucial stake to steer such endeavor to its advantage,” he said.

Russian preferences in Afghanistan

Before attending the Caspian region summit, Putin June 28 visited Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe. The visit is said to encourage Tajikistan’s leadership not to disbalance the ethnic equation in their temptation to support the Tajik groups opposing the Pashtun Taliban rule. This could risk flaring up tensions and thus do not overlap with Russian preferences.

According to Alexander Knyazev, a Central Asian expert at St. Petersburg University, Dushanbe’s open support to anti-Taliban groups has the potential to create confrontation between Kabul and Tajikistan. If the situation aggravates along the Tajik-Afghan border then Russia —which has its 201st motorized division deployed in southern Tajikistan —would be compelled to take action.

With Russia being the primary guarantor to protect Tajikistan's external borders, it is believed that rulers in Dushanbe may agree with Moscow for now to regulate the situation.

A crisis is brewing these days in Tajikistan’s mountainous Badakhshan autonomous region bordering Afghanistan where forces from Dushanbe have conducted a campaign against local protesters.

Knyazev is concerned over Dushanbe's attempts to optimize the hold of power in that autonomous region. He fears that the desire to unitarily extend and central control over the entire country would stir anxiety and pave the way to dissent.

“The resultant disturbances may be exploited by not just local but particularly external disruptive elements which if not contained soon would risk getting the localizing conflict spill over the borders,” he believed.

President Putin has advised Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon not to drag on denying recognition to the Taliban since many countries including Russia have already posted their ambassadors in Kabul and have their embassies functioning for months, reported Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta -- a Russian daily newspaper.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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