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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Central Asians No Longer Willing to Tolerate Being Treated like Russia’s ‘Younger Brothers,’ Polovinko Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 16 – Central Asian elites are no longer willing to tolerate Russia’s treating them like “younger brothers” who have to do whatever their “elder brother” wants because of his past contributions, especially since Moscow no longer offers anything to tie them together with Russia other than money and an image of an enemy, Vyacheslav Polovinko says.

            None of these elites are ready to deny that relations with Moscow must be cooperative, the Alma Ata journalist says, but they are now demanding that these be respectful, a demand Moscow finds especially unwelcome given its invasion of Ukraine, an action that also has reduced its ability to provide funds to Central Asia (

            According to Polovinko, the countries in the region “have begun to reflect upon just how important Russia is in their lives … They now see that they have a wide choice of geopolitical partners, including Turkey, China, the US and the EU,” whose representatives to them speak politely in their national languages and don’t “bark” at them as Moscow does.

            Moscow’s approach to Central Asia has become especially unacceptable to the leaders of the region over the last 12 to 18 months, with the war in Ukraine and Russia having become a conveyor of threats rather than a defender of their interests. They will continue to smile at Putin in his presence, but the signs are clear that they are moving away from Russia ever more quickly.

            Russia is likely to respond in ways that will only add to its difficulties. Many in Moscow are pressing for a visa regime for Central Asians. But that will only strengthen the view in capitals there that Russia is going its own way and that they must go their ways increasingly separate from their former rulers.

            “Having rushed headlong into Ukraine, Moscow has driven itself into an extremely uncomfortable position, one close to a dead end,” Polovinko says. “Its neighbors are demanding equal treatment, respect, guarantees of peaceful coexistence and money, but Moscow doesn’t want to do this or can afford to.

            Moscow thus faces the difficult and unwelcome task of having to admit to itself that it “is no longer the primary player in the region,” the journalist says; and that is likely to prove something far more unbearable than any war could ever be.

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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