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0000331 - The Limits of Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership...

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8 Brian G. Carlson, an M.A. student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Ad- vanced International Studies (SAIS), is a 2006-07 U.S. Fulbright Graduate Fellow based at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty, Kazakhstan ([email protected] hotmail.com). T HE L IMITS OF S INO -R USSIAN S TRATEGIC P ARTNERSHIP IN C ENTRAL A SIA Brian Carlson U.S. foreign policy has recently suffered setbacks in Central Asia, where its role had expanded dramatically following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Recent events appear to indicate growing Sino-Russian cooperation to limit U.S. influence in the region. Although Russia and China have grown closer together in recent years based on convergent strategic views, a number of factors will limit their strategic partnership at the global level. Likewise, their interests in Central Asia mix elements of cooperation with competition, reducing the likeli- hood of a Sino-Russian condominium in the region. Prudent U.S. foreign policy can prevent anti-American, Sino-Russian power balancing in Central Asia. In order to achieve its goal of a stable, independent Central Asia, the United States should seek to promote a regional concert with Russia, China, and the Central Asian states. If this is not fully achievable, the United States should promote maximum cooperation to address shared interests on issues of security and economic development. I NTRODUCTION Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Central Asia has been a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Even before the attacks, the United States was heavily engaged in this region, seeking to establish itself as a major regional power in pursuit of its economic and security interests
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166 Brian Carlson (Blank 2001, 127). After the attacks, the U.S. security role in the region expanded quickly and dramatically, as the United States and its allies se- cured bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan for use in the mili- tary campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. During the past two years, however, U.S. influence in Central Asia has suffered setbacks, while Sino-Russian cooperation in the region has appeared to flourish. This has raised the possibility that a Sino-Russian condominium could displace U.S. influence in Central Asia. However, several factors act to limit the Sino-Russian strategic partnership, including its Central Asian dimensions. U.S. foreign policy can prevent Sino-Russian balancing against the United States in Central Asia while encouraging cooperation among the three major powers in the region. Several recent events have represented setbacks for U.S. policy in Cen- tral Asia. In July 2005, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), consisting of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, issued a declaration calling for U.S.-led forces to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of their military bases from Central Asia (Radio Free Europe 2005; Shanghai Cooperation Organization 2005). Later that month, Uzbekistan evicted the United States from the Karshi-Khanabad air base in southern Uzbekistan. U.S.-Uzbek relations, already tense be-
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