Thursday, March 11, 2021

Central Asia Now a Subject of International Politics and Not Just the Object of Others, Borisov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 9 – Outside powers have long viewed Central Asia as “a chess board” on which they move the pieces, treating the countries in that region as the objects of the policies of others rather than as subjects in their own right; but today, Denis Borisov says, the Central Asians must be understood not just as the pawns of others but as players in their own right.

            The specialist on international relations at the Novosibirsk State University of Economics and Management argues in the first of what promises to be a series of articles that this reflects the impact of the broader emergence of a multi-polar world since the end of the cold war (

            Borisov says that there has been “a regionalization of multi-polarity,” something which means that “the main dynamic of inter-state relations has shifted to the regional level,” something that gives particular advantages to powers inside regions that are capable of developing and winning support for projects they lead.

            In some regions, such as North America, one country remains dominant; but in others, like Central Asia, all of the countries within have the ability to play a role in the marketing of regional projects. And as they do so, they and not outside powers as in the past assume an increasingly important role.

             That means in the Central Asian region that one can observe the growing importance of polycentric power relations in which “ever more actors have the chance to influence the dynamics of economic, political, ideological processes” but in which those in the region gain more than those beyond it.

            “These two trends – regional multipolarity and polycentricity,” Borisov continues, “form the strategic and tactical conditions which broaden the diplomatic range of opportunities for multi-vector foreign policies on the part of the countries of Central Asia.” In short, they are acquiring the status of subjects and not just that of objects of political life.

            That marks a fundamental change in what outside powers can do and what the countries within the region are in a position to demand. “If the Great Game of the 19th century was about competition of two empires and could be compared with chess, the manifestation of geopolitical competition in the 21st century in Central Asia finds its analogy with the most popular card game in the world, Magic: The Gathering,” the Novosibirsk scholar says.

            And he concludes this introductory essay with the following words: “In the Central Asian Region a complex system of inclusive and exclusive regional orders is being formed which has an intricate structure involving relations that are at once cooperative and competitive” and in which those in the region are as much players as those larger powers outside.

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