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"Two repulsive politicians have decided to take advantage of the storm that surrounds the world and increase their postmodern empires." Murat Sarsenov on what's going on in the eastern countries of the former CIS


The post-Soviet space desperately needs to be picked up off of the floor, shaken up, scrubbed of the traces of withering Russian influence, and annexed to its sphere.

I believe this is what the head of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan think.

These two repulsive politicians decided to take advantage of the geopolitical storm on the world map and increase their postmodern empires. The brightest prospects for them are in Central Asia (fortunately, neither of them calls it Central Asia).

The region, until recently a de facto Russian colony, is now anxiously looking around for protection from its former metropolis.

There is time to find a new wing to hide under - Ukraine is firmly holding its ground, diverting the full attention of the last Emperor of All Russia. However, we must not hesitate either, because the recent events in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have vividly demonstrated what once 'ironclad' peacekeeping guarantees from the suzerain are worth.

Against the backdrop of Russia's collapsed authority, distrust has grown even in the most loyal part of the post-Soviet space.

Uzbekistan has tried to deprive Karakalpakstan of its autonomy as inconspicuously as possible - but it has failed so far. As for Azerbaijan, it has accelerated a military solution to the Karabakh conflict. No one wants to have even a theoretical reason for a Russian invasion in their backyard.

China is quicker than others, finally forcing a railroad project under the Kyrgyz president's signature.

"The New Silk Road" is the name of the project, designed to bypass Russia as part of the China-Europe trade.

It could make as much as $75 billion of turnover a year. Now, the artery - as in the good old days - will run from the Middle Kingdom to Asia Minor via the already mentioned Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Iran and on to Europe.

Incidentally, part of the infrastructure by which China would leave Russia with its nose was built in the 19th century by the Russian Empire.

There is actually a lot of irony here. For example, the fact that the second contender for influence in the region is another "friend" of Putin, Erdogan.

The idea of a new-old Turkic Kaganate has long been beckoning to the sultans from Istanbul. What Enver Pasha failed to do 100 years ago, the new Turkish leader is trying to recreate today.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

The brave Turkish economic janissary is running towards his Chinese counterpart. So far, without much geopolitical collision.

But for now, because the overlapping interests of the region's two would-be hegemons are expected not only in the independent Central Asian republics, but also in the Uyghur issue.

Kazakhstan stands alone here. It stands as a monolithic pillar. Kazakhstan is big, rich in resources and seemingly important. President Tokayev can afford to travel to St Petersburg to personally spit in the Tsar's face a phrase about not recognising his great conquests. The Tsar, mindful of his failures on the fronts, can not really respond.

Although, Kazakhstan only appears so independent and fearless. January’s events showed that Mr. Xi is keeping everything under his strict control here as well. Further, as we already know, if China considers something as its own, it does not give it back.

Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev and Chinese President Xi Jinping

The region, once squeezed from north and south by Britain and the Russian Empire, now finds itself squeezed between the East and the West. It is as if there is no other way but to choose a boss to one's liking and pay political tribute to him. At least, as long as the local emirs' power is fully dependent on external support.

Author: Murat Sarsenov
The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors

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