Anti-Russian sanctions: Central Asian countries face difficult choice
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  19 May 2023 - 12:46

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Some Central Asian countries may join the anti-Russian sanctions under pressure from the Western community, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said during the Central Asian conference of the Valdai Discussion Club.

    According to him, some of the countries in the region "do not want to take on the corresponding risks, they make it clear that they are ready to follow Western restrictive measures." At the same time, the diplomat believes that, in general, the policy of unilateral sanctions is rejected in the region as well as in Russia.

    Galuzin added that Russia does not consider itself entitled to impose any particular political course on other countries if their policy “does not run counter to mutual obligations, including those under the CSTO, the EAEU and the CIS.”

    He believes that following the course of sanctions for the countries of Central Asia could potentially bring them much more costs and economic problems than real gains.

    So, how ready will the Central Asian countries really be to agree to the call of Western partners to impose sanctions against the Russian Federation, while promising to cover the very costs and economic problems that Galuzin talks about? Do they have enough strength, political will and desire for this? Maybe this question looks different for each of the five countries of Central Asia.

    Well-known foreign experts answered these questions of Caliber.Az.

    Doctor of Sciences, independent Tajik pundit Parviz Mullojanov notes that in fact, so far the call is only about the requirement that the countries of the region and companies do not supply dual-use goods to Russia and do not help the Russian economy bypass international sanctions.

    “In other words, Western countries and the international community have not demanded and are not demanding that the countries of the region impose their own sanctions against Russia or limit trade and economic ties with it. The position of the West is that the countries of the region should not supply Russia with sanctioned goods that could be used by the Russians to continue the war in Ukraine. Otherwise, local Russian partners will themselves fall under secondary sanctions - this was unequivocally stated during recent trips to the region by a number of high-ranking officials from the US and the UK," he recalled.

    As for the countries of the region (as well as a number of local commercial companies), in recent years they have received quite significant profits from the supply of dual-use goods to Russia - for example, household appliances, electronic parts of which can be used by the Russian military-industrial complex, Mullojanov added.

    “Moscow is also actively promoting plans to use the territory of the region for the transit of its oil and gas resources to China, and in the future to the South, which is in full accordance with the economic interests of local elites. In addition, the region's states do not want to spoil relations with Moscow, which still retains certain levers of influence on local public opinion, the economy and the social sphere. For example, Moscow can use several million labour migrants as leverage, whose families' well-being directly depends on the opportunity to come and work in Russia.

    Therefore, the response of the Central Asian countries will most likely be as follows: they will reduce the supply of dual-use goods to Russia to a minimum so as not to fall under secondary sanctions and not spoil relations with the West and the international community as a whole. Of course, something will still take place, but not in the same volumes as before. On the other hand, the states of the region will not completely spoil relations with Moscow, impose sanctions against Russia or publicly condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine,” the Tajik expert believes.

    As Kazakh political scientist, econometrics professor, brand ambassador of the Open World Foundation, member of the New York Academy of Sciences Nurlan Munbaev said in turn, the countries that are members of the EAEU and the CSTO are unlikely to join the anti-Russian sanctions.

    “But Western sanctions will still become a red line for the Central Asian countries and Kazakhstan, and this line cannot be crossed. It can just boomerang for Russia's help in circumventing sanctions. Moreover, in the 30 years after the collapse of the USSR, huge foreign investments were made in the economy of Kazakhstan and the Central Asian countries,” he says.

    Economic and political factors will play a key role for the leaders of the states of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, Munbaev believes.

    “There is a Gordian knot here. There is no swing of politics and economics here, which can be swayed as it is beneficial to anyone. It's tough here - if you are on the side of Western sanctions, then your economy will live and develop in exchange for an influx of investment and liberal international trade; otherwise, you can become a new country, which will be given a yellow penalty card [sanctions – ed.].

    In case Russia ceases its invasion of Ukraine, its sanctions will be lifted - if it begins to restore Ukrainian cities that Russian troops have damaged. Plus pay indemnities. And we can expect the leadership of Russia to be called to the Hague Court for a crime against humanity - this is a standard predictable tool of the Western European judicial system. Milošević was an example - no one needs to explain what happened to him after the war in Yugoslavia,” the professor concluded.


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