Pompeo tours Central Asia . . .
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the most important partners for the U.S. in Central Asia. On Monday, he participated in the C5+1, a foreign ministerial forum between five Central Asian states and the United States. Pompeo’s visit is geared toward convincing Central Asian leaders to take cautious steps against Chinese and Russian involvement in their countries and to assure them of continued U.S. support for their sovereignty and independence. Interestingly, in Kazakhstan, Pompeo met Uyghur asylum seekers and family members of those detained in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and urged Central Asian states to offer asylum to ethnic minorities avoiding persecution in China.
U.S. strategy evolves . . .
The C5+1 was created in 2016 when the U.S. adopted a new strategy for Central Asia emphasizing increased multilateral collaboration to fight terrorism, increased trade and investment, and the promotion of regional co-operation. While the initial strategy was driven mostly by security imperatives, including the repatriation of fighters from Syria and Iraq, the U.S. administration has since shifted objectives to focus on containing China and Russia. China has invested heavily in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia has stepped up its security presence in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
China, Russia are major partners . . .
It is unlikely that Central Asian states will side with the U.S. against their powerful neighbours. Each Central Asian country enthusiastically supports Chinese BRI investments that provide much-needed finance to infrastructure improvement and natural resource extraction. At the same time, they maintain close ties with Russia, which has been advancing regional economic and military co-operation through the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). China and Russia are also using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a regional platform to oppose U.S. influence in the region. Secretary of State Pompeo’s overtures seem likely to have only limited potential for curbing the influence of China and Russia in Central Asia.
- Deutsche Welle: US challenges China in Pompeo’s Central Asia Tour
- The Diplomat: Pompeo, in Kazakhstan, Warns of China’s Growing Reach
- South China Morning Post: Pompeo, on Central Asia tour, warns of China and Russia’s influence