Russia and Hegemony in Central Asia

What, exactly, were the motivations behind Kyrgyzstan’s decision to kick the Americans out of Manas air base, a strategic military installation for the war in Afghanistan? In the days since the announcement, speculation has ranged from Russian geopolitical posturing to U.S. hubris. In the background is the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a seven-member Central Asian NATO which in recent days announced its own military mobilization: a rapid reaction force that ‘in Central Asia, could be even more powerful than NATO forces,’ according to one analyst.

While Russia’s exact mandate for the force remains unclear, the best guesses have to do not with combating terrorism or drug trafficking (two of the Kremlin’s explanations) but with protecting Central Asian resources from U.S. and European meddling. Together, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan have 4 percent of the world’s gas reserves–much of this unexplored–and Europe’s plan to access some of it through the proposed Nabucco pipeline have prompted Russian countermeasures, such as Dmitry Medvedev’s recent trip to Uzbekistan, where he discussed protecting water and gas rights with the country’s neighbors. And don’t forget, the U.S. once had big plans to build a  gas pipe line from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan and down to Pakistan, where it could be shipped to foreign markets.