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Central Asia between National Interest and Supranational Projects

Since 1991 post soviet Central Asia has been successfully engaged in a state building process and in the realization ex novo of national political institutions in order to affirm themselves as independent and sovereign states in the regional scenario.

Even if they have undertaken different paths in this political transition from a soviet model to the consolidation of their political and economic independence, Central Asian republics continue to share a complex of negative issues and problems - mainly linked to the slow adoption of political, economic and social reforms – which negatively affect regional cooperation. The potential implementation of supranational projects – such as the enlargement of the Custom Union and the other “Eurasian project” - appear aimed to overcome the national borders in order to develop a regional cooperation in trade and economic sphere (CIS Custom Union), security (SCO, CSTO), political (the creation of an Eurasian region) in a transnational level.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the different approaches of Central Asian independent nations towards supranational projects and transnational challenges (terrorism, drug traffic, water management, regional energy grid, etc). As a matter of fact we can observe that all projects and framework of cooperation are proposed and achieved by external players (Russia, China, maybe US with the “Modern Silk Road” project based on the development of trade and economic regional cooperation) while Central Asian states seem disinterested because they fear to lose national sovereignty or their involvement is focused on the achievement of national interests downplaying the effects of a fair regional cooperation and collaboration in political and economic fields.

Will there is the risk of dissolution of national boundaries and states – mainly the weakers – benefiting Russian or Chinese expansionism or it is merely an instrumental and potential threat exploited by some political leaderships in order to support formal issue and national interests?

Panel abstract: Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the need to develop different relations between the new states and the “old and traditional ones” has drawn up a regional scenario characterized by a progressive evolution and radical changes in the political, social and economic spheres.

We observe that within this ongoing process of transformation, national factors are not the only elements influencing the development of these societies. As a matter of fact, regional and transnational forces (in terms of state actors and non-state players, such as energy companies, Western NGOs, foreign and regional political lobbies, international terrorist or separatist group) have strengthened their roles and affected the internal development of these states. In this practical application of the “neo-geopolitics” theories, a multifaceted competition has progressively involved the existent different dimensions (national, regional, transnational) within a process of evolution which could lead to different results, from the weakening of the national state concept and political institutions to the affirmation of supranational projects in several fields.

The aim of this panel is to analyze the role that these different dimensions are playing in the social and political development of Russia’s relations with Central Asia and Northeast Asia and with the other two regional powerful geopolitical players China and India. In particular, post soviet Central Asian region represents an interesting case of study. Security issues in Central Asia is a complex matter of studies, considering that it is interlinked with national, regional and transnational factors. Social tensions and popular discontent deriving from the weak state-building process and the slow implementation of political and social reforms are combined with the security threats linked to the Afghanistan's condition of instability. In this scenario, external and transnational forces - such as the Sino-Russian influence and Western interests – play a role aimed to achieve their strategic aims influencing at the same time (directly or indirectly) the political and social development of these states.

In the energy sphere, a special attention is given to Russia's unique role in Northeast Asia. Indeed, Russia is an emerging supplier for Northeast Asia, while in Central Asia Russia has traditionally been an exporter of energy. The application of national/transnational paradigm in the energy field mainly stresses the distortions that the capitalist model could provoke in the redistribution of the energy wealth. The strategic-geopolitical goals linked to the energy sector appear in an open competition with the social need to guarantee an equal access to the wealth deriving from the exploitation of natural resources.

Moreover, the strategic triangular relations involving Russia, China and India exercise a geopolitical influence in the Asian scenario, even if their relevant interests in the region have fueled a cooperation/competition dimension which characterize their relations and consequently affect the internal and external evolution of the Asian and Eurasian nations. 

Which model of development will prevail? Could this competition between national and transnational dimensions create a new Eastern model of development within which supranational factors would prevail over national aspects?

Friday 26 October 14.30-16:30 Panels IX, Panel 22 National and Transnational Dimensions of Russia's Relations in the Asian Region (Hall 7)