Russia loses to China: Putin's credibility in Central Asia shaken – Reuters

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Russia loses China: Putin's authority in Central Asia is shaken, — Reuters

The publication states that the former Soviet republics are increasingly opposed to Moscow, knowing that Russia is now very interested in them. Meanwhile, China is taking on the role of regional leader.

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Some of Russia's closest allies in Central Asia have felt that Russia has been weakened by the war against Ukraine, and are now increasingly opposed to Moscow, Reuters writes.

The publication notes that five former Soviet republics have realized their strength, as Russia is eyeing to their markets and trade routes in an attempt to circumvent Western sanctions.

“We want respect”

The changed situation was vividly demonstrated by the recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon at the CIS summit in Kazakhstan. Rahmon, who heads one of the smallest and poorest countries in the region, spent seven minutes reprimanding his Russian colleague that Moscow's attitude had not improved since the Soviet era, it still regards Tajikistan as its backyard.

“We want respect. Nothing else. Respect,” Emomali Rahmon said, making Putin nervous. Rahmon made it clear that he was disappointed that in September Moscow sent only a deputy minister to an investment conference in Dushanbe, demonstrating its attitude towards this country.

The Russian dictator at the summit urged his partners to build new supply chains, as Western sanctions have hit Russia's trade hard.

Statistics show that the countries of Central Asia have already dramatically increased their foreign trade turnover, probably due to the re-export of goods to the Russian Federation. However, they do not want to go further than this, at least if Russia does not offer them serious investments.

“The Central Asian states, noting Russia’s growing interest in the region and the emergence of a certain dependence on it, took advantage of the situation to express their grievances and establish more equal relations, in which Russia at least partially ceded its role as a “big brother,” said Kazakh political scientist Rustam Burnashev .

The role of a policeman is becoming increasingly difficult for Moscow

The publication notes that previously Moscow has traditionally acted as a policeman in post-Soviet conflicts. However, it is now increasingly difficult for Russia to fulfill this function due to problems on the Ukrainian fronts.

During the summit, Vladimir Putin held a trilateral meeting with Rahmon and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov to discuss the border dispute, which in September almost led to to a full-scale war between the two countries. Although Putin hoped to resolve the conflict, he did not succeed: Rakhmon and Japarov never shook hands.

Moreover, this conflict prompted Zhaparov to miss an informal meeting of ex-Soviet leaders in Moscow, timed to coincide with Putin's October 7 birthday. Kyrgyzstan also postponed planned military exercises of the Russian-led CSTO military bloc on its territory and refused to participate in similar exercises in Tajikistan.

China instead of Russia

Russia's relations with Kazakhstan are not going well, whose president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, did not hold a bilateral meeting with Putin during the summit in Astana. At the same time, he met one-on-one with the leaders of Turkey, Qatar, Azerbaijan.

Tokayev also complained about personal attacks on national leaders who “poison the atmosphere of cooperation” in the post-Soviet space, probably referring to the frequent criticism of Kazakhstani leadership in the Russian media. Now even state television in Kazakhstan is showing stories that the war in Ukraine casts doubt on the existence of post-Soviet unity.

Nevertheless, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the largest countries in Central Asia, try not to openly antagonize Moscow. According to Alisher Ilkhamov, a British expert on Central Asia, they still believe they may need Russian help in the event of a crisis. However, in the long term, if the Russian Federation continues to suffer military setbacks in Ukraine, China will take the place of the “big brother”. The vacuum will be filled by China step by step,” Ilkhamov is sure.