Eurasia, Lecture 1: R. James Ferguson © 2003

INTR13-304 & INTR71/72-304, The Department of International Relations, SHSS, Bond University, Queensland, Australia

Lecture 1:

Eurasia: Super-region or Zone of Conflict?

 Topics: -

1) Introduction: Beyond East Meets West

2) The New Nexus: Contemporary Asian-European Relations

3) A Reborn Eurasian Power? The Russian Legacy

4) The New States of Central Asia and the Caspian Region

5) Greater Central Asia and Eastern 'Frontiers'

6) Prospects for Eurasian Cooperation

7) Conclusion: The Global Importance of Eurasian Affairs

8) Bibliography and Further Resources


1. Introduction: Beyond East Meets West

One of the problems for the study of international relations is how to study change. Looking at one country limits the ability to understand international developments. Furthermore, the way you break up parts of the world will greatly affect your interpretation of history and contemporary events. One 'super-region' that is not often studied as a unit is Eurasia, geographically comprising the interaction of Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East.

We can speak of Eurasia in widest sense of the interaction of this entire zone, ranging from Europe to Japan, and also of two other regions, Central Asia (including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan, and the Caucasus region which links the Caspian and Black Sea areas, including Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, as well as influencing parts of Iran, Turkey and South Russia (see map below). A new term has begun to emerge in the literature: Greater Central Asia, suggesting the Central Asian states have a strong interaction with adjacent areas in Mongolia, Tibet, Western China and Pakistan (see further below).



For maps of Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, go to the PCL Map Library at


The result has been that there still remain certain tendencies to ignore key new supra-regional and transregional developments that are creating new linkages at the end of the 20th century. These new linkages will be fundamental for the 21st century. These include: -

A) The spread of European economic, political and strategic concerns eastward, and even via diplomatic institutions such as the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to begin to take in issues affecting the Caucasus and Central Asia. Thus from 1997 both the European Union and NATO (North Atlantic treaty Organisation) have expanded to include selected countries in Eastern Europe (1) and have begun deeper economic and diplomatic interaction with the Black Sea, Caucasus and Central Asian Region. More generally, the OSCE has also begun to take an interest in Eurasia's stability as a whole.

B) With the break-up of the Soviet Union, 15 newly independent states emerged including Russia. Five of these comprise quite large states in Central Asia. Though still partly dependent on Russian trade, they are keen to develop new trading partners, including China, South Korea and Japan. This is to be particularly noted in the area of investment and technical assistance (Belokrenitsky 1994). They have also begun some level of involvement in regional organisations as the Black Sea Economic Cooperative Community (formed June 1992) and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO). The ECO links Central Asia to Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan in a cooperative arrangement which seeks to improve trade, investment, travel and communication links (Yasmeen 1995, p9). The strength of these regional forums is yet to be fully developed: the ECO in particular does not have strong economic complementarities, is plagued by competition between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan for influence in Central Asia, and has found the recent turmoil in Tajikistan and Afghanistan particularly disturbing (Yasmeen 1995). Yet such organisations are beginning to develop common banks, shipping companies, airlines, simplified visa and trade arrangements, and agreements to reduce drug traffic (Yasmeen 1995, p9) and promote tourist along the 'old Silk Road'. Likewise, a recent dialogue group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (the SCO, see Misra 2001) has begun to develop diplomatic and security ties among Russia, China and Central Asia states (to be discussed later in the subject).

C) The prospect of some kind of wider Eurasian Cooperative process incorporating Central Asian States, Russia, some European nations, and perhaps in the future, some Asia Nations. This would potentially be one of he largest international organisations, and also offer a mechanism for reducing numerous regional tensions as well as helping promote some areas of needed development. The idea had been strongly supported by Kazakhstan and Russia, but has been critically viewed by other nations. The impact of such an organisation for security and economic issues in NATO and to Northeast Asia needs careful exploration. This idea of a broader Eurasian Union faded through 1996, but with the new peace accords reducing tensions in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, some form of Eurasian economic cooperation may emerge again. At present, any kind of Eurasian Union is unlikely, but the need for serious cooperation has been highlighted by a host of economic, health, environment and security problems that have delayed progress in the entire region. Some would argue that the OSCE should take a stronger role in ensuring a stable Eurasian region, while Zbigniew Brzezinski has argued that a standing committee of the US and major Eurasian powers could be the core of a new framework for peace (Brzezinski 1997). Current conflict in Chechnya (within the Russian Federation), ongoing turmoil within Afghanistan, slow economic development, and possible tensions over new US strategic initiatives suggest that current status quo, in any case, is not stable.

D) The potential for economic trade flows to develop a 'Greater Central Asia' zone, linking much of central Asia, as well as Xinjiang (a province of China), Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia into booming economies of north-east Asia. This development is underestimated by those who are stuck on a 'Russian' perspective. In fact these trends could overtake other regional developments. Already, in Eurasia the fastest growth in trade until 1998 had been between Russia and China, with China already deeply involved in power and technology development in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (for the complicated pattern of trade between Kazakhstan and China, which faltered in 1994-1995, see Melet 1998, pp239-pp242). At present, China is making a concerted effort to influence the politics of Central Asia as well as gain future leverage on its energy resources (see Spector 2001).

Likewise, considerable Japanese investment, aid and trade are developing in Mongolia and Central Asia (see Hutchings 1999). As of 1995, Japan had pledged some US$6 billion in 'bilateral assistance' to the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the region, partly linked to promoting regional stability and movement towards market-based democratic political systems. Japan has also pledged aid to help dismantle nuclear weapons, is developing a Japan-centre in Kyrgyzstan, as well as trade-development loans (Yamamoto 1995). By 1999, Japan began to see the prospect of a 'super-continent' emerging in the Eurasia of the future, and promoted 'diplomacy with Russia, China and South Korea and Central Asian and Caucasian countries that compose the Eurasian continent.' (Masahiko 1999; Hickok 2000).

South Korea has been involved in selective investment and industrial development within Central Asia (as well as Eastern Europe, e.g. in the Czech Republic). It is this 'greater' Asia integration, as well as the creation of new NETs (Natural Economic Territories) which suggests that in the long term the rapid development of the coastal economies of Northeast Asia may be paralleled by substantial (but slower) inland development. Emerging NETS are to be found linking Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and inland Chinese provinces such as Xinjiang. One of the most important shifts in Central Asia has been Kazakhstan's improved relationship with China, with the trade between these two nations being the largest for Kazakhstan outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (Rashid 1994, p121). There has also been a joint project between Xinjiang province and Kazakhstan to develop a large electrical power plant in Western China. In fact, a vigorous border trade has flourished based on visa-free short visit regulations for Xinjiang (D'Antoine 1992, p37). From the late 1990s over 56% of Kazakhstan's foreign trade was from China, while there are at least 300,000 ethnic Chinese within Kazakhstan. China in particular has made major investments in Kazakhstan's energy sector, preparing for a time in the future when Central Asian gas and oil could be piped into western China (see Melmet 1998; Spector 2001).

Another transnational development has been suggested linking Russian, China and North Korea to create a huge industrial complex in the Tumen Valley Project. This project, supported by a considerable injections of UN funds, seemed to slow down through the mid-1990s, but remains ones of the biggest areas of potential growth in North-East Asia (see Cotton 1996). This is part of a wider but problematic effort at multilateral cooperation in Northeast Asia (see Chung 2000).

Talks between Russia, China, and several Central Asian states during 1994-1996 greatly facilitated trade in the region, and resulted in greatly de-militarised borders between Russia and China. Through 1998-2000 China and Russia deepened their strategic partnership, to some degree trying to counterbalance the global power of the U.S. and American-led coalitions such as NATO. Likewise, new rail and oil lines have linked Iran into Central Asia, providing a possible southern access for Central Asian trade, with hopes for new gas and oil pipelines in the near future. (2) One important transport project planned is the Europe-Caucasus-Central Asia Transport Corridor project which aims 'to upgrade highway, rail and maritime transport routes across 13 countries in the Caucasus, Black Sea and Central Asian regions and complements existing east-west links through Russia and Iran' (Jones 1999). A proposed U.S-Russian initiative to build a sea tunnel under the Bering Strait, linking Siberia with Alaska, has been put on hold, perhaps for another decade or two, due to Russian financial limits. (3) Cost of such a project would be in the order of US$15 billion (McLaughlin 1999).

E) These trends also correlate with a desire by the leadership of the China (PRC - People's Republic of China) to begin greater inland and western development and investment in order to slow down the overheated coastal economies (and the associated problems of 'cultural pollution', drugs, 'gangsterism' etc.). China has in fact been playing a master game of diplomacy in Eurasia, drawing closer both to Russia and the states of Central Asia, while retaining an iron grip on Tibet. In the long run, considerable amounts of Central Asian resources might find themselves diverted eastwards, as Japanese, Korean and Chinese economic influence becomes stronger (contra Jaffe & Manning 1998). China has reached considerable accord with Russia on these issues, and has begun to extend considerable influence on countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (see Eurasia Insight 2001a & 2001b). This trends, however, were somewhat limited the strategic move of the U.S. and its allies into Central Asia, particularly into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan through late 2001 and 2002 in support of operations in Afghanistan (see below).

F) Some writers have suggested that these trends have resulted in the formation of a 'new Silk Road', in some ways following the ancient trade routes that linked China with Central Asia and Europe. Just as then, then opening of trade has also allowed peoples, ideas, religions and cultures to flow across Eurasia. Any new 'Silk Road', however, is only now being developed, is greatly deficit in all forms of infrastructure, and also brings with it real social and security problems (discussed from different angles in later lectures).

G) The U.S. lead intervention in Afghanistan has changed the geopolitics of the entire region. It has begun to force new relationships linking the U.S. with Russian and Uzbekistan, while placing new pressures on Pakistan and China. The prospect of rebuilding Afghanistan as a viable and stable state is one of the most challenging and promising prospects for all of Eurasia, but this has not be an easy task. Afghanistan, in spite of some slows moves towards stability, has suffered from attempted political assassinations, e.g. the foiled attempt against government ministers in July 2002 (BBC 2002), efforts by the Taliban to re-establish themselves, local warlordism and smuggling, a slow building up of infrastructure with only small amounts of aid actually having arrived in the ravaged country, problems of competition for influence by neighbouring countries (Rashid 2003b; Rashid 2003a), the slow progress in building up a truly unified, non-partisan army, and concerns that a true democracy will not readily emerge (discussed further in lecture 10). Different influences from Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are beginning to emerge, even though on 22 December 2002 'dignitaries from China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan signed the Kabul Declaration, pledging to never again meddle in the affairs of the ravaged country' (Rashid 2003b). Likewise, the changing balance of power in Central Asia, with increased U.S. and European influence in the region, has sparked concerns both within Russia and China about their future place within Eurasia (Torbakov 2002).

In this subject we will start from the Russian focus (simply because this provides the easiest way educationally), then move east through Central Asia, look at Siberia, Mongolia and Tibet, China-Russian relations, and then focus on regional interactions and on Asia-Europe relationships (see Timetable in Subject Introduction). This 'eastern nexus' will be explored further below and in later lectures. No prior knowledge is expected in the subject, and core information will be provided in handouts. This information will be gone over in lectures, seminars, class exercises, and video-presentations, gradually adding to your familiarity with the region over the length of the subject.

An overview of the lectures as found in the Subject Introduction: -

Week 1: Theme - Europe, Asia and Eurasia

Lecture: Eurasia - Super-Region or Zone of Conflict?

Week 2: Theme - Russian and Soviet Influence

Lecture: From Russian Empire to Eurasian Power

Week 3: Theme - Oil, Development and Nation-building in Central Asia

Lecture: Kazakhstan - From Exploitation to Nationhood in Central Asia

Week 4: Theme - Nationalism and Conflict

Lecture: An Arc of Instability? - Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Chechnya

Week 5: Theme - New Roles for Ancient Kingdom: Mongolia and Tibet

Lecture: Tibet - From Buddhist State to Invasion and Diaspora

Week 6: Theme - Russian-Chinese Relations (Guest lecturer)

Lecture: Russia-China Relations: The Bear and the Dragon

Week 7: Theme - Siberia, Japanese-Russian, Korean-Russian Relations

Lecture: Siberia, The Russian Far-East, and the 'Future Land'

Week 8: Theme - Great Religious Cultures Between Asia & Europe

Lecture: Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road

Week 9: Theme - Regional Influences and Opportunities

Lecture: Turkey, Iran, and Avoiding a New 'Great Game'

Week 10: Theme - Reconstructing the Eurasian Heartland

Lecture: From War to Democracy - the Test Case of Afghanistan

Week 11: Theme - Globalisation and Trade

Lecture: Emerging Global Relationships - Europe and East Asia

Week 12: Prospects for Eurasia

Lecture: Avenues Out of Crisis: Global Imperatives for a Stable Eurasia


2. The New Nexus: Contemporary Asian-European Relations

In the remote past Europe and the 'Far East' traded and influenced each other for some four thousand years along the long path of the Silk Road (Franck & Brownstone 1986), via a separate route along the steppes of southern Russia (especially during the domination of the Mongol Hoards after the 13th century), and then via extended naval routes. From the 16th century onwards growing European naval power brought Portuguese, Spanish, French, and British colonialism to much of Asia. Here the meeting of East and West was conditioned within the context of exploitation. Though Westerners were fascinated by Eastern culture and religions, this was often in the context of a belief in their own superiority. Many Eastern nations, on the other hand, were able to slowly acquire Western technology and science, most notably Japan, but it was a painful process, often involving struggle and warfare before the colonial burden was thrown off.

This colonial age had an enormous global impact including: -

* The creation of a global industrial age

* The creation of an emerging global economic system (replacing earlier major trade systems such as the Indo-Pacific and Silk-Road system which were almost a complete Eurasian network by the 13th century, and well developed between the 15 and 18th centuries, see Lieberman 1993 & Chaudhuri 1990).

* The promotion of the nation-state form of political organisation (verses kingdoms, tribal states, tribute systems, mandala systems etc.)

* The rapid growth of capitalism

* Some reduction of 'global cultural diversity' as cites around the world became modernised (Amin 1992)

This past has conditioned a profound break between East Asian and the Western conception of a just world order. Traditional trade and culture routes were further fractured by the superpower contest between the U.S. and the USSR (1946-1987. A restructuring of these relations began when Soviet reforms from 1987-1992 ended the Cold War. Today new forces of trade, international financial flows, divergent views on international justice, and different cultural and political systems seem a major source of conflict alongside the older rivalry of nation states. This has totally transformed international relations in Eurasia and Central Asia. Some see this as a new "Great Game' or power contest in the heart of Eurasia, others a genuine opening up of the region to reform and development.

Another key factor emerging in the last decade has also been a shift towards greater economic, cultural and political ties between Asia and Europe. In the 1980s the world witnessed with surprise the emergence of strong Japanese and Taiwanese economies, followed by other tigers including South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In the 1990s Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have also experienced strong economic growth, though with some slowing due to currency crises through 1997-1998. Over all, this was translated into a broader East Asian prosperity partly based on huge cross-Pacific trade. Asia-Pacific still remains an important economic region. This economic potential was one of the forces promoting European interest in renewing links with Asian nations through 1998-2002.

Trade between Europe and Asia had continued to grow till 1997 (see Jones 1995; Barnard 1993; Miall 1993), while recently a range of Asian nations have demonstrated a concern to diversify their trading partners and sources of technology. Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia have consciously engaged in this multi-dependency strategy. India's major trading partners include Russia, Britain and the EU. Likewise, China has over the last eight years has sent major delegations to the EU. In September 1998, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin visited China to sign agreements on financial protocols, plans for information technology cooperation, the signing of an agreement intellectual copyright, and cooperation in agriculture (Chen 1998a). The fruits of this are still to fully develop, but already Daimler-Benz has made a commitment to major investments in China, partly at the expense of a terminated Chrysler bid. This extensions of concern has been formalised in a series of Conferences between Asia and Europe (the ASEM meetings) from 1996-2002 onwards (these issues will be dealt with in later lectures). At present, the ASEM meetings seem most concerned to ensure continued growth in the world economy and promote a state financial environment, though also hoping to promote improved relations in Northeast Asia.

Other regional problems remain outstanding, e.g., the only slow improvement of Japanese-Russian tensions over the Northern Territories (Kuril Islands) dispute. Even apologies over World War II issues by Yeltsin have not seriously reduced tensions over the islands occupied by Russian forces (see Goodby 1995; Mack & O'Hare 1989). In early November 1997 leaders of both Japan and Russian promised to resolve this dispute, with a peace treaty to be signed by the year 2000 (Jones 1997), but this has not yet emerged. Further meetings in 1998 also increased cooperation, but did not really resolve this dispute. Diplomacy between President Putin and Japanese leaders during 2000-2001 failed to chart a practical path forward on this issue. A solution of the problem would make it easier for Japan to invest in Siberia, and for regional economic cooperation in Siberia, Manchuria and Mongolia to continue.

In the long run, we may see the emergence of a new balance among three regions, with a wider Europe, East Asia and America leading major global trends. This is can be viewed as a new, regional trilateralism (discussed in lecture 11). One key area of linkage, however, will be the stability of Central Asia, which at present is far from certain.

3. A Reborn Eurasian Power? The Russian Legacy

Russia gained control of Siberia, Caucasus and Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, for a short time the Russian leader Lenin attempted to reconcile Central Asian nationalities through promoting local leaders, but after 1928 Stalin enforced a strict control of the economy, crash industrialisation, farm collectivization and economic specialisation in Central Asia which lead to massive destruction of local economies (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p12). Similar policies were followed in Russia, Ukraine and a little more slowly in the Transcaucasian region, including Georgia and Armenia (Suny 1994).

During the Cold War period, the Soviet Union retained effective control of this region as its strategic borders against Turkey (a member of NATO), Iraq, Iran, via Afghanistan against Pakistan, and the very long border with China (some of these issues will be explored in more detail in lecture 2). With the collapse of the Soviet Union by the start 1992, and the limited effectiveness of the following loose grouping of states called CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), Russia seemed for a time to have shrunk back to earlier borders which excluded most of her buffer states in the west, south and southeast. Note that Russia remains a Federal State, but now with a smaller territory than the old USSR and surrounded by a group of new states with varying policies towards Russia (this is followed up in lectures 2 and 3).

By the mid-1990s Russia seemed to be developing a somewhat more assertive strategy to ensure her future. This included the development of a special 'Near Abroad' policy, arguing that Russia needed to maintain stability in the former Soviet States, and to have joint forces guarding external borders (i.e. the borders of what was the old Soviet Union). The latter was a controversial issue, but in the Caucasus and Central Asia many states bowed to Russian pressure on this point (Lepingwell 1994). Perhaps as a result, Russia remained deeply suspicious of efforts to expand NATO membership into Eastern Europe (Mikoyan 1998), but this was moderated through a deepened understanding with NATO through 2002, with the NATO group engaging in regular dialogue with Russia. Recent changes have softened Russia's special policy towards nearby states, but has left open the aspiration of Russia towards a special role in the Eurasian region. Here Russia had to take a gamble in supporting the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in late 2001 (Antonenko 2001), but still needed to keep strong influence on the politics of the region (in part through moderated support for the 'Northern Alliance' in that country). Most recently, Russia has been a major conduit for operations in Afghanistan, has been involved in the arming and training of the new army of Afghanistan (with special influence on Tajik elements), and may be seeking greater regional influence in 2003 (Rashid 2003a; Rashid 2003b).

Russia seems to be veering towards a specifically Eurasian policy which has global implications. There have been several phases of Russian policy in relation to Europe and Asia. From the time of Tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) through the 19th century, there was a tension between those who looked to Europe for the development and future of Russia, i.e. 'Westernisers', verses the 'Slavophiles' who sought a more unique Russian destiny as a religious state almost able to take on the role of a new Rome, i.e. a moral and religious leadership in Eurasia (Riasanovsky 1993, pp362-363). In contrast to the Westernisers, other Russians also argued that their 'manifest destiny' lay in the east (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p28), with a conquering Russia creating a huge, Eurasian power linking the best of east and west. So-called 'pan-Slavic' viewpoints also helped justify Tsarist aggression against Turkey (1870s), power politics in the Balkans (which helped set the scene for World War I), as well as forming an aggressive posture in the Far East which led to a 'humiliating military defeat at the hands of Japan in 1904-1905' (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p31. Japan-Russian relations will be discussed later in the course). Russia's crushing of the independence of Chechnya my also in part be driven by en effort to keep influence along its southern frontiers and in Central Asia. Other motives include a desire to keep the Russian Federation intact, and perhaps to give the then new Russian President, Vladimir Putin, added legitimacy.

During the 1980s and 1990s, one group of foreign policy advisers also promoted a Eurasian policy for Russia, arguing against excessive compliance to the West and dependence on the U.S. This could only be done by balancing interests in the 'European home' with Central Asia and East Asian sources of power (see MacFarlane 1993). James Burke has interpreted this so far as to suggest that the Soviet leader Gorbachev prior to 1992 hoped to develop a 'Eurasian Rimland policy', switching the Soviet Union over to economic and technological power while developing a Russia-India-China alignment of interests that could break the emerging US-China concordat and challenge Western dominance (Burke 1993). This alignment may be re-emerging, this time on the basis of Chinese efforts to improve their relationship with Russian through their current 'strategic partnership' (established through 1994-1998), and via their influence on Central Asia as a whole through the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation (see Misra 2001).

Russia seems to be trying to assert herself as a great power and a major shaper of her region. In general terms, since the debacle of the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1987, Russia has managed to re-establish strong influence throughout Central Asia, though now often working through diplomatic, economic and regional means as well as using power politics (see Barylski 1994). Russia's ongoing major problem is its war to suppress Chechen independence, but this revolt with its Islamic undertones, has not spread in a major way into Trans-Caucasia or Central Asia (Cornell 1997). Even though Russia seems to have won the conflict in Chechnya militarily, through 2001 the way this was handled has led to a serious reappraisal of Russia, especially in Europe, with especially strong concerns about human rights, possible Russian 'chauvinism' in relation to minorities, and the ability of Russia to sustain a peaceful Eurasia. Russia has tried to present this as part of its own 'war-against terrorism', but this has not been entirely convincing. Likewise, Chechen rebels have been able to engage in small strikes against the Russian military, and as well as hostage-taking episodes in 2002 that deeply dented any sense of Russian victory.

Historically, Russia has used the more assertive approach of allowing Russian military units, formally or informally, to fight alongside regional independence movements in order to make other states concerned more pliable: this occurred in the Russian sector of Moldavia (on the northern border of Rumania), and in the Abkhazia region of Georgia. Likewise, the card of protecting Russian minorities in other states such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan has sometimes entered negotiations with these countries. Some 25 million ethnic Russians live in ex-Soviet states outside the Soviet Union, though through the 1990s many began to reutrn (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p15; Shevtsova 1992, p13). In the early 1990s some hundred thousand Russians left Central Asia each year (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p84), stretching the already damaged Russian economy which had to deal with returning military personnel and their families from Eastern Europe. We can sense their lack of genuine integration into regional Central Asian communities by their language skills: less than 1% of Russians in Kazakhstan learnt the local language, while the highest figure for learning a local language was 4.6% of Russians in Uzbekistan (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p83).

This desire for regional power seems to be part of creating a sphere of influence, however, rather than a return to a direct Soviet 'empire' (Goltz 1993). There has also been some return to a Eurasian policy, arguing that Russian has special rights in the wider region (Kerr 1995). Other features of this policy include: -

* The establishment of conditions favourable to Russia's economic growth;

* The creation of a belt of friendly states along Russia's perimeter;

* The comprehensive protection of the rights and interests of Russian citizens and co-nationals abroad;

* The promotion and support of Russian language and culture in foreign countries. (Torbakov 2000)

Through 1994-2003 some features of the Eurasian policy have re-emerged. Former Russian President Yeltsin and his advisers had tried to develop closer relations with Japan, sought entry into APEC as a Pacific Power (which was successful by late 1997), and were keen on developing an axis of 'southern influence' from Kazakhstan down to the Indian Ocean. At the same time, the strong pro-West lobby (extremists on this side even envisaging entering NATO and the EU) is itself creating a certain anti-Western backlash. In a general sense, the 'Eurasian policy' has a certain nationalistic caste and a goal of reinforcing a unique Russian identity, aiming at a strong independent Russia (Bilenkin 1995; Ferdinand 1992). It must be stressed, however, that both the Westernisers and the Eurasianists generally favoured reforms towards a democratic and capitalist system. It is not correct to brand all 'Eurasianists' as 'the champions of anti-Western policies based on nationalism and coercion' (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p31). Likewise, President Putin seems to be facing Russia in both directions. While trying to develop strong trade and diplomatic relations with Europe and the U.S., he has also promoted the image of Russia as a strong state willing to pursue its legitimate interests in Eurasia and Central Asia.

4. The New States of Central Asia and the Caspian Region

Since the break up of the USSR, several new states have emerged in the corridor linking Europe and Asia. In Central Asia we have Kazakhstan (the largest and resource rich), Uzbekistan (the most populous and strategically central), Turkmenistan (with huge gas reserves), Tajikistan (a troubled border state), and Kyrgyzstan (which has managed to remain relatively stable). In the Caucasus (the area between the Black and Caspian Seas) we have the ancient states of Georgia and Armenia, and oil-rich Azerbaijan.

These 'Newly Independent States' (NIS) are of great international significance for the following reasons: -

* Source of strategic resources, including coal, gas and oil. The area around the Caspian Sea has 16% of known global oil reserves, and 53% of gas reserves (Tarock 1997, p193; for a different view of accessible reserves see Jaffe & Manning 1998). These will become even more important in the future, e.g. the EU currently imports 50% of its primary energy requirements, but this should rise to approx. 75% by 2020 (see Ogutcu 1995). Likewise, even China, which has large energy reserves, imported oil through 1996-2002, and will become a net importer of petroleum as it industrialises further. As a result, China has entered into a $4.4 billion memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan 'to build pipelines to China and Iran in exchange for oil and gas concessions and a 51% stake in Kazakhstan's state-controlled oil-production company (Jaffe & Manning 1998, p124). This is an extension of China's intensive development of oil in its far western province of Xinjiang (Melet 1998). China has a concerted energy policy to use more natural gas, a factor which has already had a strong influence on her western provinces and their development (see Ferguson 2001).

* They form a strategic zone of communication and interaction, i.e. between Russian, China, Turkey, India, Iraq, and Iran. Hence, this region can have a spill over effect onto adjacent regions in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. For example, the war in Afghanistan through late 2001 led to a refugee crisis along the border with Pakistan, placed increased tensions on the stability of the government of Pakistan, and triggered strong concerns in India about the regional role of Pakistan.

* This region contains advanced nuclear technology, capable of building nuclear power stations as well as, potentially, developing nuclear weapons. Both Ukraine and Kazakhstan had stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons, though tactical weapons have been withdrawn and other weapons are being dismantled under treaty arrangements made with the US and Russia. It has been feared that these regions could be a disaster for the proliferation of nuclear weapons, technology and or fissile material, i.e. enriched uranium or plutonium (e.g. see Hopf 1992). Ironically the only likely cases of plutonium smuggling originated in Russia. (4) Russia continues to be one of the major arms exporters in the world, especially to India and China, in order to bolster its access to foreign currencies, though through 1996-2002 it has cooperated with the U.S. in trying to reduce plutonium smuggling. This is one area, along with other weapons of mass destruction including biological and chemicals weapons, that needs continued attention (see Cohen 2001).

* The region is part of an underdeveloped corridor stretching from Africa through the Middle East into Central Asia and the border regions of East Asia. Unless stabilised, this zone could cause conflicts to spill over into richer adjacent regions in Europe and East Asia (see Hanna 1993). Strong poverty in rural regions continues in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and in parts of Russia.

* The region forms a major test case for the interaction of modern society and culturally nuanceded form of Islam (to be studied further in Lecture 8). At present, the defeat of the Taliban and the erosion of Al Quaeda suggests that there are strong opportunities for more moderate forms of Islam, already present in Central Asia, to take further hold in Afghanistan. However, even through 2002, trends suggest some further polarisation of marginalised groups in Pakistan, suggesting a continued need for dialogue between the West and Islam culturally.

Furthermore, these different countries, though never unified in a single nation-state (the Turkestan dreamed of by some pan-Turkic thinkers), do form part of a culturally unified region. As explained by Dawisha and Parrott: -

Although never unified under a single state with borders coterminous with those of Soviet Central Asia, Central Asia once belonged to a common Islamic civilization that encompassed portions of modern-day Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sinkiang, the Caucasus, and the Volga region, and this distinctive cultural heritage is likely to exert a substantial influence on the external relations of the new Central Asian governments. The Caucasus bears a somewhat different stamp, including as it does peoples with ancient ties to Christendom as well as Turkic and non-Turkic Muslims. The resulting historical and cultural mosaic gives the Caucasus certain features in common both with the new states of Central Asia and with the new states situated to the west of Russia (Dawisha & Parrott 1994, p45)

Put another way, the problems of Central Asia remain central to peace and cooperation in the wider Eurasian landscape. As a pivotal region, it cannot be safely ignored in world politics.


5. Greater Central Asia and Eastern 'Frontiers'

Recently, a new term has entered the vocabulary. 'Greater Central Asia' has sometimes been used as a threat perception of Russian attempts to control not just the Newly Independent States (NIS), but also adjacent regions from Mongolia to the borders of India (such views have been rebutted in Belokrenitsky 1994). In fact, we can use this title in a more constructive way. As we have seen, the interaction among inland Chinese provinces, Russia and the NIS have already set the stage for a more open economic system in Central Asia (see Melet 1998). If we add the fact that the Mongolia has been surprisingly effective in its democratic and economic reform, as well as the enormous, largely untapped resources of central and southern Siberia, then we can speak of shared developments in a 'Greater Central Asia'. This region, however, must also deal with the problems in Afghanistan (and to a lesser extent Tajikistan), plus moderate competition among external players Likewise, political instability in the Chinese controlled regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, and ethnic tensions in several of the Eurasian states, are matters of serious concern. The stability of the Russian Federation itself has been called into question with the war in Chechnya, with efforts by Tatarstan to gain more constitutional independence, and economic instability that has undermined the power of Russia to push ahead democratic and political reform. Gradual Russian recovery through 2001-2002 has begun her to be more active in foreign policy areas, as well as a more creditable partner internationally.

It is clear that a new international system is emerging within Eurasia. Russia remains important, but is not nearly as dominant as before. China, Japan, Europe and the US are now strong external influences on Eurasia, while internal demands for economic development, greater political freedom, and local nationalism have placed enormous demands on all the governments of the region.

6. Prospects for a Eurasian Cooperation

Another recent trend has been for the creation of ever more inclusive international organisations, sometimes originally beginning with one purpose but often moving to include new members, and changing their purpose under new conditions. In Europe, both the EU and NATO have begun extending their membership an expanding their roles.

Another prospect which had been developed in the early 1990s was that of a wider organisation called the 'Eurasian Union' (EAU). This union seems to be thought of as much deeper than a loose common market first discussed in 1992. (5) In part, this would be a way of bringing together Russia and the Central Asian states into an organisation which could organise a 'post-Soviet peace', though some states, such as the Baltic republics and Belarus, Moldova, and the Transcaucasian (Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan) states were reluctant to join.

The Eurasian Union's strongest promoter had been Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, who strongly urged the formation of such a union in early 1994 in order to form a common citizenship, and to allow greater freedom of movement and economic development in the region, as well as to provide a forum for security issues (Portnikov 1994; Mursaliyev 1994). There had also been discussion of the region as an economic and fiscal zone based on the ruble (Russian currency). In July 1994 Nazarbayev submitted his Eurasian Union plan to the UN, (6) while in early 1995, there were even hopes that a Eurasian Summit of leaders could be arranged to begin a process towards the formation of this Union. Although there had been some cautious Russian support for the idea, (7) there was criticism from other Russians, who fear that such a Union would only result in Russia having to pay for economic reforms in less developed countries such as Kazakhstan (Shelov-Kovedyaev 1994).

Strong opposition to the idea of a Eurasian Union also developed. The President Karimov of Uzbekistan repeatedly rejected the idea of a Eurasian Union, (8) because it represented too strong an alignment of Russian and Kazakh interests in the region. Instead, Karimov has favoured the very loose organisation of the CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States. (9) Since 1997, the poor economic performance of Russia and the weakness of the ruble have undermined the prospects of a Eurasian Union based around Russian economic leadership. Likewise, political instability in Russia and Afghanistan meant that a cooperative Eurasian agenda, though hard to establish, may be crucial for the future. At present, Russia, China and the Central Asian states through 1994-2001 managed to cooperate in stabilising, demilitarising and opening borders, in some technical and infrastructure development, and in containing nationalist demands that would fragment these states (for crucial agreements including the Sino-Kazakh Agreement of March 1994 and the '4 + 1' negotiations of September 1995, see Melet 1998, pp243-244).

Later proposals (through 2000) were also made for a Eurasian Economic Community, but have not been fully developed. Loose organisations as GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, joined by Uzbekistan in 1997) are more concerned with resisting Russian dominance, but have managed to cooperate in a number of areas. For GUUAM, this included: -

* Political interaction;

* Combating separatism;

* The "peaceful resolution of conflicts;"

* Peacekeeping activities;

* The development of a Eurasian Transcaucasian transport corridor;

* Integration into Euro-Atlantic and European structures of security and co-operation, including "the development of a special partnership and dialogue with NATO." (Lieven 2000)

If genuine peace and instability are forged in Central, it may be possible for some of some broader regional agenda to develop. At present, we have a number of overlapping, relatively weak institutions that support regional development, economic cooperation, and security dialogue.

7. Conclusion: The Global Importance of Eurasian Affairs

It must be stressed that when we speak of Eurasian affairs we are not concerned just with Central Asia, nor just with the fate of the ex-Soviet Union. On the contrary, Eurasia includes the dynamic relationship between Asia and Europe, as well an internationalised Central Asia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iran. Key links from this region directly affect both East Asian and South Asia. These are a virtual 'fourth region' (adapting Hanna 1993) which will have a profound effect on other super-regions, especially Europe-Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific regions.

It is indeed possible that culturally, economically, and even politically, we will see some integration of the Eurasian super-region. However, economic integration and improved communication also bring on rapid change, dislocation, and can sometimes cause conflict as well as aid cooperation. In this course we will explore the dynamics of this change, whether peaceful or conflictual. Bearing in mind the fact that Eurasian issues have an impact on the economies and strategic interests of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and of the US, the future development of this superregion will profoundly effect on the global system.


8. Bibliography and Further Resources


Useful Website: Eurasianet has a range of current articles in the Eurasia Insight magazine, plus related pages concerning Eurasia, Russia and Central Asia at

A range of useful international relations material can be found at the Brookings Institution, with Internet access at

Good coverage on Afghanistan and the 'war on terror' will be found at the Foreign Policy journal at Internet Access at

Optional Further Reading

For those of you who would like to follow up these issues, see one or more of the following:

CHUNG, Ok-Nim Solving the Security Puzzle in Northeast Asia: A Multilateral Security Regime, CNAPS Working Paper, Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, September 2000 [Internet Access at]

HANN, C.M. (ed.) Post-Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies and Practices in Eurasia, London, Routledge, 2002

HICKOK, Michael Robert "The Other End of the Silk Road: Japan's Eurasian Initiative", Central Asian Survey, 19 no. 1, March 2000, pp17-41

HUTCHINGS, Raymond Japan's Economic Involvement in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, N.Y., St. Martin's Press, 1999

MISRA, Amalendu "Shanghai 5 and the Emerging Alliance in Central Asia: The Closed Society and its Enemies", Central Asian Survey, 2001, 20 no. 3, 2001, pp305-321 [Internet Access via BU Library databases]

SPECTOR, Regine A. Background Paper: The Caspian Basin and Asian Energy Markets, The Brookings Institution, 24 May 2001 [Internet Access via]

STROEV, Egor S. et al. Russia and Eurasia at the Crossroads: Experience and Problems of Economic Reforms in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Berlin, New York : Springer, 1999

TRENIN, Dmitri et al. The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization, Washington, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002

WEISBRODE, Kenneth Central Eurasia: Prize or Quicksand?: Contending views of Instability in Karabakh, Ferghana and Afghanistan, Adelphi Paper 338, London, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2001


. NATO first moved to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, followed by invitations to join for Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, with accession protocols being ratified and signed for this last group through March 2003-May 2004 (NATO 2002). Landmarks agreements in October 2002 paved the way for addition of 10 new members to the European Union through 2003-2004, including Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. These issues are dealt with in more detail in the European Union subject.

2. For controversies in this area, see "Caspian Oil Development: Multiples Obstacles", Strategic Comments, 5 no. 4, May 1999; Demirmen 1999; Jones 1999; Tarock 1997, pp194-196. These will be discussed in more detail later in the course.

3. "Russian Transport Ministry Dismisses Bering Sea Tunnel Project", Russia Today, 4 January 2001 [Internet Access].

4. This was done by a rather complex and suspect 1995 'sting' operation run by German security forces. For other confirmed Russian examples, see "Nuclear Security After the Moscow Summit", Strategic Comments (IISS), 2 no. 5, June 1996 [Vertical File]

5. "Move to Form a Eurasian Common Market", Izvestia, 18 March 1992; "Call for Eurasian Common Market", Australian Financial Review, 6 March, 1992, p12.

6. "Nazarbayev Submits Eurasian Union Plan to UN", BBC Monitoring Service - USSR, 9 July 1994.

7. "Shumeyko Welcomes Idea of Eurasian Union", BBC Monitoring Service - USSR, 5 April 1994; "Federation Council Speaker Supports Nazarbayev's Idea of a Eurasian Union", BBC Monitoring Service - USSR, 1 April 1994.

8. "Uzbek President Again Rejects the Idea of Eurasian Union", BBC Monitoring Service - USSR, 11 February, 1995.

9. "President Karimov Says No Alternative to CIS, Dismisses Idea of Eurasian Union", BBC Monitoring Service - USSR, 8 December 1994.


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