Ukraine War: China's Central Asia Outreach May Shake But Not Break Russia's Hold

Finally, Central Asia, except Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, is also militarily bound to Russia, the net security provider in the region, through their membership of the CSTO. While the CSTO offers them a collective defence architecture, it also makes sure to keep other states, like China and the US, militarily away from the region. Russia maintains military bases in at least three of the states: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia.

It has helped forge a unified response to the threats emanating from Afghanistan, with Uzbekistan also participating in joint military exercises with Russia along the border with Afghanistan in 2021 as the Taliban seized Kabul. With a maze of subsidies and grants, Russia also remains the largest weapons provider in the region. Even a powerful state like Kazakhstan felt the need to call on the CSTO’s help when it was wracked by large-scale domestic violence at the beginning of 2022.

Certainly, the war in Ukraine is extracting heavy costs but even a diminished Russian role does ensure that the destinies of Central Asia and Russia remain deeply intertwined with each other, and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.

(Aditi Bhaduri is a journalist and political analyst. She tweets @aditijan. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)