Putin is losing influence in the post-Soviet space

The war in Ukraine prompted the republics of the former USSR in Central Asia and the Caucasus to look for ways to reduce their dependence on the Kremlin.

Bloomberg wrote about this concerning the comments of government officials in the governments of these countries.

The publication noted that against this background, the influence on the regions strengthens Turkey, the European Union, and several others. Moscow is aware and reacts nervously, even harshly, as current and former Russian officials admit

For decades, Russia acted as a “veto player, a gatekeeper in northern Eurasia, where nothing special could happen if the Kremlin didn’t like it,” explains political scientist Kateryna Shulman. Now, according to her, Russia is unlikely to be able to come out of the war “stronger”, which means that “it will be at least difficult to dictate one’s will to the neighbors”.

Annette Bohr, a Central Asia analyst at Britain’s Chatham House Center, agrees that several countries in the region, especially Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, are doing their best to diversify relations while the Kremlin is preoccupied with war, but you can’t “change the geography” — there are deep ties and long borders. Therefore, Central Asia will not be able to completely get rid of dependence – “at least for several years.”

Bloomberg cites several examples of how the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus moved away from Russia.

Kazakhstan. The head of state, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, openly opposed Vladimir Putin’s justification of the war and even welcomed hundreds of thousands of Russians who fled the mobilization into the country. The Kremlin, considering everything, responded by blocking the export of Kazakh oil to the EU through the terminal in Novorossiysk. Tokayev later ordered an increase to 20 million tons of oil supplies bypassing Russia through ports on the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, and also agreed to expand defense ties with Turkey.

Uzbekistan tried to become less dependent on trade relations with Russia even before the war, Bloomberg reminds. In the summer, he signed an agreement on an expanded partnership with the EU, the discussion of which lasted for several years. And in December, following the results of the second Strategic Partnership Dialogue, the United States expressed support for Uzbekistan in establishing new trade routes and diversifying import and export markets.

Armenia, after the CSTO refused to help in the armed conflict with Azerbaijan last year (positional battles on the border in September), canceled the organization’s exercises in the country. Ankara benefited the most from Moscow’s hesitation, the agency notes. In October, the first official meeting of the leaders of Armenia and Turkey in 13 years was held on the possibility of achieving normalization of relations and opening of borders.

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