A Great Rift in Central Asia?March 5, 2013
Central Asia has long figured prominently in geopolitical theory, dating back at least to Halford Mackinder’s formulation of “Heartland Theory.” Most recently, the regions vast trove of natural resources – in particular fossil fuel reserves – have led to competition for favor among three Great Powers – China, Russia and the US. Each of the three has tried to organize the space to its advantage, summarized in the table below (from this post a few years back).
The US has largely abandoned its efforts, at least in the heart of Central Asia, and is in the process of disengagement east of the Caspian. China and Russia, however, are both aggressively pursuing their interests in the region and, to that end, the SCO and CSTO are drifting apart, with the SCO becoming more and more a Chinese enterprise rather than a joint Sino-Russian effort.
Now, it seems, that Russia is even looking upon the SCO as a true rival to its interests. This is an opportunity for the US – even as we retreat, we can use the reality of increasing Chinese influence in what Russia sees as its rightful sphere of influence as a means of both dividing those powers and of developing strategic cooperation with Russia to help contain Chinese strength. “Containment” is a word that China hates to hear, but the stronger it gets, the more likely it is to be openly embraced by all of her neighbors and rivals.