“It is very simple to stir a hive of wasps, especially when you are overseas”

Interview by Maria Sidelnikova. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza

The head of the Socio-Political Studies Center, Vladimir Yevseyev, told Vestnik Kavkaza about prospects of development of the situation in Central Asia.

-    So far most short-term forecasts end with 2014, because this is when the American presence in Afghanistan should be significantly cut. It is planned to leave 25,000 American military personnel and 10,000 allied ones. Germany want to leave 3000, and some more from the UK. So there will be about 35,000 troops for 5 military bases. This is not enough for large-scale operations, only for local ones. That will mean they will be locked within their bases and control over rural areas will be lost. A large part of the territory will not be controlled by Hamid Karzai or the US forces, and the Taliban can take advantage of that, which might create a certain external threat. This will concern two states out of five. I mean Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan has always tried to have good relations with the Taliban, therefore there is so far no risk of destabilization or a military threat. Tajikistan is in the most dangerous situation because is has practically no army.  The 4th military base is stronger than the entire military forces of Tajikistan. If there is any serious threat, I really do not know how President Emomali Rakhmon can possibly oppose an external threat without any assistance. I assume that other states, primarily Russia, will have to intervene. Uzbekistan no longer a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, so Russia has no obligations to it in this framework. There are, however, some bilateral agreements, and here Russia has certain responsibilities. And if some serious problems arise Russia will have to ensure the security of Uzbekistan, should Islam Karimov want it. This is what might happen from the external side. There are also serious internal problems that are mostly concentrated in the Fergan Valley that connects the three states. We can speak here about the destabilization of Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. The internal problems in Central Asia can be very serious, they are reinforced by interstate problems, i.e. in the sphere of water and energy, by inter-ethnic problems, i.e. between Kyrgyz and Uzbek population, that have several times led to real tragedies – the last time this happened was in 2010. Considerable problems are caused by the fact that the citizens of Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan cannot live in their own countries and they leave to earn money in Russia or Kazakhstan. This also partly concerns Uzbekistan, although fewer people emigrate from there. The internal problems are reinforced by the external problems. This could all lead to serious cataclysms. Especially taking into account the problem of power transmission. This problem is particularly acute for Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. And for Emomali Rakhmon. It is quite acute, although it is silenced, for Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan. The problem of drug trafficking is getting worse, particularly in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The combination of the internal and external problems can lead to serious cataclysms and Russia will have to get involved in them because it is a strategically-important region for it. It cannot avoid getting involved, so it has to understand what to prepare for – to protect the border or to solve the internal problems. I believe that there is certain understanding, because the idea of Eurasian integration, voiced by Nursultan Nazarbayev, was actively supported by Vladimir Putin. Many things are being done today to develop the Customs Union.

The American position is not yet clear. Hillary Clinton said: “We will oppose Eurasian integration”. I hope this was an internal declaration, I hope to find out more during my upcoming visit to the US. I would not like to believe that US really intends to hinder Eurasian integration, as this would lead to serious confrontation. Obama managed to avoid destabilization. I don’t want to believe that he has changed his point of view and wants some active conflict with Russia. Central Asia involves not only Russia but also China. Russia and China may unite against the US, and the situation for the US will not be that sweet at all, because the joint Russian and Chinese potential in Central Asia is greater than that of the US. Confrontation is always bad.

-    What is behind these declarations by Clinton? Is it the fear of the USSR coming back?

-    Hillary Clinton is leaving. I am very happy that Susan Rice will not be state secretary, as she has serious problems in the Senate because of the interpretation of the fate of the US ambassador in Benghazi. If she were appointed it would have been even worse than Condoleezza Rice. Now John Kerry is the most plausible candidate. Kerry is in-between – he is neither against Russia nor for it.  It is better to work with him than with Susan Rice. So there is a hope that the last words of Hillary Clinton will not result in any actions.

It is very simple to stir a hive of wasps, especially when you are overseas. But Russia is right next to this hive. So I hope that these declarations will not be implemented in the policy of the new US state secretary.

To be continued