/ Russia´s interests in Centra lAsia and China´s Belt and Road Initiative

Russia-China relations are often displayed as a strategic partnership

There are indeed converging interests, for example, balancing against the global influence of the US with Russia´s newly emerging theme of a “Greater Eurasia” which refers to Russia, China, Central Asia as well as Iran, Pakistan, and India. Economic ties between Russia and China are strengthened especially after the Russian annexation of Crimea and related economic sanctions from Western countries. While China invests in Russian oil and gas companies Russia is exporting military equipment to China. 

But in how far does the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative align with Russia´s interest in Central Asia?

Central Asia has a geostrategic position, vast amount of resources and Russia and China have the common interest of holding elites in power to maintain political stability in the region. Other actors such as Iran, Turkey, the EU, the US, India and most of all China are becoming increasingly involved. Russia´s role is declining as Central Asian states are diversifying their foreign policy.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) founded in 2015 is a multilateral forum to foster economic growth in Central Asia however China prefers bilateral agreements with the Central Asian countries thereby bypassing multilateral frameworks and side-lining Russia.

As a summary, China has clearly the leader in the strategic partnership and Russia is slowly losing its grip on the region as a traditional regional hegemon.

Fabian Herzog