Balancing interests and perceptions

Foreign policy in Central Asia

Authored by: Roger Kangas

Routledge Handbook of Politics in Asia

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138639041
eBook ISBN: 9781315627670
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Since gaining independence in 1991, the states of Central Asia (defined as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have had to create and manage foreign policy strategies that (1) effectively address their national interests and (2) factor in the realities of the region itself. The landlocked states are surrounded by nuclear (or nuclear-aspirant) powers and conflict zones, and have themselves been the “objects of interest” by outside powers, specifically Russia; China; and, to a lesser extent, the United States and the European Union (EU) countries. The Central Asian countries have maneuvered through these tricky waters of foreign and security policy, and have forged their own foreign policy identities and strategies, respectively. For example, Kazakhstan’s “multi-vectored security policy” gives it a balancing role in the region and offers access to a wider set of relations. On the other hand, Turkmenistan’s “positive neutrality” and Uzbekistan’s autarkic economic and security approaches set conditions for these states to selectively engage and maintain ties with problematic neighbors. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan exemplify the limitations of being small powers surrounded by larger states, especially when it comes to developing coherent foreign policy agendas. Over time, each of the five states has tried to assert its own national interests and has experienced mixed results.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.