Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Increase in Turkish Influence in Central Asia behind Calls for Russians to Leave, Steshin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Five years ago, no one in Central Asia was calling for Russians to leave or taking actions to promote their departure. But now that has changed, and the primary reason for it is the increase in Turkish influence across much of that region, according to Komsomolskaya pravda commentator Dmitry Steshin.

            At one level, even today, things look fine. Millions of Central Asians are coming to Russia to work, and they are sending billions of dollars back to their homelands. Disrupting that is hardly in their interests, the commentator suggests. And until the last two or three years, the situation was stable (kp.ru/daily/28335.5/4480237/).

            In part of course, local elites use such conflicts to increase their authority, Steshin says. But the main driver is that attacking former hegemons is typical, and “countries who have not simply felt a new center of power but received from this center major promises always act in this way.” Turkey is the new center, and Central Asians are behaving as one would expect.

            What Central Asians have forgotten is that the benefits they obtain by working as migrants in Russia and then sending money home are available only to them on the basis of the good graces of Russia. If they offend Russians enough, those might be withdrawn; and that is something they should think about.

            But at present, many Central Asians assume Moscow won’t do that because Russia needs Central Asian immigrants to boost its workforce at a time of demographic decline. However, if Russians keep hearing about the abuse of their co-ethnics in Central Asia, that could change and change quickly.

            Moscow should respond by putting pressure on Turkey to back away from Central Asia and recognize that that region is part of Russia’s natural sphere of influence, Steshin says. And it should be willing to put more pressure on Central Asian governments to avoid allowing the spread of anti-Russian attitudes.

            If that doesn’t happen, there will be serious problems ahead not only for Central Asia but for Russia as well.

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