Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has encouraged Central Asian states to strengthen their multi-vector orientation of foreign policies. Looking to take advantage of this new reality, the EU and European states have now increased their engagement within the region and beyond. Despite the efforts, it is clear that the new environment will not be recalibrated and stabilised overnight.
Many observers in the international media expressed great surprise regarding Central Asia’s emphasis on its neutrality following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The region also firmly opposed Moscow’s fierce rhetoric. Despite being labelled as “Russia’s old allies” or, even less diplomatically, “Russia’s former-Soviet backyard”, none of the five countries of Central Asia either recognised the self-proclaimed republics in Eastern Ukraine or praised the subsequent steps Russia has taken so far. However, this standing should not be that surprising. Regardless of the specifics of the respective regimes’ foreign policies, all of them are, at their core, pursuing the same approach as they have been in recent years. The Russian war against Ukraine hastened these existing trends and placed them directly in the spotlight. In the same spotlight now is the window of opportunity for European and EU-led re-engagement with the region.
This article was supported by the project of NATO Public Diplomacy Division.