Central Asia is crumbling. The speed and extent of this leans in
part on political and economic shifts in Russia, China,
Afghanistan, and more. Geography is the main reason outside
forces are shaping the growth of Central Asia.
Always trapped between major powers such as Russia and China, Central Asia is at risk
Central Asian Geography
The region goes from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Tien Shan
Mountains in the south and the Altay Mountains in the east.
The ranges split the region from Afghanistan in the south
and China in the east. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
and Turkmenistan are mostly flat. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are
In the north lies the vast Kazakh Steppe. Kazakhstan shares a
flat, 3,000-mile border with Russia. And like we wrote about in “Russia’s
Strategy,” a border the country can’t defend.
Yet even Central Asian countries distant from Russia and cut off from China by mountains are weak.
Since the late 600s, native Turkic forces, powers that held
Persia (like Arabs and Turks), and the Chinese have all at some
point run parts of the region.
Years of war and foreign rule led to the
growth of weak states with deep inner soft spots in Central Asia.
The region’s modern borders are due to Soviet planners drawing
them in the 1920s and 1930s.
So, they are not innate. They do not quite show ethnic or
national divides. For example, about 23% of Kazakhstan are ethnic
Russians. Ethnic Uzbeks make up about 14% of Kyrgyzstan and over
13% of Tajikistan. Central Asia is a region of great ethnic and
regional stress. They risk the unity of modern states.
They risk the unity of modern states.
Scare Resources Lead to Wars
Geography and Soviet infrastructure planning
lend to ongoing stress with the five Central Asian states. The
main stress is…