Policy Memos

Russia's Counterrevolutionary Offensive in Central Asia

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Counterterrorism has never been a convincing Russian strategy for Central Asia. At the start of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, attempts to impress upon the leaders of the five Central Asian states that only Russia could provide security in the face of this rising threat were undermined by a clear inability to offer any assistance in repelling incursions into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The threat to deliver air strikes against the Taliban forces in Afghanistan rang quite hollow. In autumn 2001, when Putin, rejecting the opinion of his closest aides, raised no objections against the deployment of U.S. forces in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, his readiness to join the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition was still in doubt. Indeed, Russia has never so much as hinted at the possibility of contributing something meaningful to the international efforts at rebuilding Afghanistan, preferring to criticize the shortcomings in North Atlantic Treaty Organization operations. In 2002-2004, attempts to counterbalance the U.S. military presence invariably fell short of the target, since the composite squadron at the new Russian air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan was a poor match to NATO’s air assets, while the large-scale military exercises in the Caspian Sea in mid- 2002 have not been replayed. [...]

About the author

Research Professor
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)