Finding Autonomy Under the Russian Bear: Explaining Central Asia’s Response to the Invasion of Ukraine
Date of Degree
Comparative Politics | International Relations
Central Asia, Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian-Central Asian relations, CSTO, multivector foreign policy, regional security organizations
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was one of the most important geopolitical events of the 21st century, which will have lasting effects on the international community. While the responses of the United States and Europe to Russia’s invasion have been extensively covered, the response of Central Asia has received relatively less attention. Russia’s extensive investments in multilateral regional organizations and Central Asia’s heavy reliance on Moscow for security and economic assistance should predict that Central Asian states would bandwagon with Russia. However, the region has thus far remained officially neutral towards the war and certain states are openly antagonizing Russia by refusing to support Moscow’s political goals in Ukraine. What then explains the different responses of Central Asian states to the war in Ukraine? This thesis investigates this question by drawing on disaggregationalist and institutional approaches to international relations to conduct a case study that examines a range of actions taken by the five Central Asian countries, including votes in United Nations General Assembly resolutions, statements in meetings of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and other political and symbolic actions. The case study finds that Central Asia must balance two conflicting interests: the desire to maintain security ties with Russia, and maintaining the freedom to pursue multivector foreign policies. These conflicting interests explain that the entire region has maintained a policy of official neutrality towards the war. However, Kazakhstan’s response stands out from that of the rest of the region, displaying a defiance of Russia’s geopolitical goals and an open strategy to cultivate ties with Russia’s rivals. Overall, this thesis suggests that Russia’s war in Ukraine disrupted the post-Soviet security framework in Central Asia and presented new opportunities for the states in the region to enhance their strategic autonomy by strengthening ties with a range of external actors.
Hitch, Ryan, "Finding Autonomy Under the Russian Bear: Explaining Central Asia’s Response to the Invasion of Ukraine" (2023). CUNY Academic Works.