Experts: U.S. does not intend to give up its interests in Central Asia

Azerbaijan, Baku, September 14 /Trend, V.Zhavoronkova/

Despite Washington's intention to coordinate its actions in Central Asia with Moscow, the U.S. does not intend to give up its influence in the region, experts say.
Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said in an interview with Kommersant newspaper that the U.S. very much appreciates the support for the center in Manas expressed by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian government. He also noted the importance of the transit center for conducting the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan.

According to observers, such a statement by Blake can say that the U.S. is resigned to the fact that Russia has "privileged interests" in former Soviet area, particularly in Central Asia.
However, according to experts, the United States is not in hurry to give up its influence in the region.

American expert on Central Asia Dex Torricke-Barton thinks that strengthening relations with Russia remains one of the top foreign policy priorities for the Obama administration, and engaging in a dialogue over Manas is part of a strategy to reassure Moscow.

"But it is unlikely that the U.S. will give up its core strategic interests here, or cede leadership in the region, Torricke-Barton told Trend in an e-mail. The US is trying to reach an accommodation with Russia, allowing them both to have a presence in the country without stepping on each other's toes."

In addition, the expert believes Washington tries to defuse the issue of military bases as a source of continuous tension in their relationship.

According to another American expert Bruce Pannier while the US would like to "open up" Central Asia to non-traditional, new foreign partners there has always been a recognition that Russia has played and will for the foreseeable future continue to play a strong role in Central Asia.

And that ultimately the region is simply far from the US (and close to Russia) geographically, said Pannier.

However, according to German expert on Central Asia Michael Laubsch, Washington is not only interested to be involved in Central Asia too because to give an answer to the Kremlin, but it is obvious that Washington also is interested in the region.

"The US is aware that if they would not be present in the region, they would lose the "game of interest" to Russia and China," Laubsch, head of German NGO Eurasian Transition Group, wrote in an e-mail to Trend.

Therefore, the US has to convince Kyrgyzstan and maybe in the future other Central Asian states to increase the cooperation, said Laubsch.

According to expert, the U.S. definitely will try to increase their influence in the whole Central Asian region, and their efforts will also include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan in the future.

Blake's statement to coordinate U.S. actions with Russia can say that the U.S. is not willing to help Central Asian countries in solving their internal problems, said Pannier.

"If the Central Asians cannot manage their own affairs and problems break out, like southern Kyrgyzstan in June, the US may just decide to pull out. And that leaves the Central Asians with accepting help, should they need it, from the former colonial master Russia or taking a big chance and appealing to their giant neighbor China for help," Pannier, expert of Radio Liberty, wrote in an e-mail to Trend.

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