Russia has made clear that it will not stand idly by while Western countries try to build relations with Central Asia.
The region is traditionally considered Moscow’s sphere of influence. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kazakhstan in what is considered an attempt to maintain Russia’s influence in the region. The visit comes about a week after French President Emmanuel Macron also visited the resource-rich country.
During Putin’s visit, he met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The Kremlin said that their discussions will focus on strengthening Russian-Kazakhstan relations, exploring future cooperation within the Eurasia region, and addressing current regional and international issues.
Russia is seeking to maintain its foothold in Central Asia amid growing economic competition from China and growing geopolitical interest from the West.
The Russian President pointed out that some countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States and some powers are taking steps against the Russians. The group of countries consists of member states of the former Soviet Union, but in a decreasing number, as several countries seek to build a strong relationship with the West.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently criticized Western efforts to court Central Asian countries following several high-level meetings between Central Asian leaders and their American and European counterparts.
Lavrov accused the West of trying to lure its neighbors, friends and allies away from Russia.
Max Hess of the Foreign Policy Research Institute believes that Russia is confident of its position in Central Asia. According to him, the undemocratic nature of all regimes in the region makes it easy for Russia to find points of influence. Central Asian countries are trying not to alienate or antagonize Russia, while also striving to develop their own independent international trade policy.
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