The United States has struggled in the post-Soviet era to define a durable framework for its relations with Central Asian states. Initially, securing the Soviet Union’s nuclear legacy was the main focus of US policy. Then, after 9/11, policy was shaped by Washington’s need for Central Asian support for US military operations in Afghanistan. But as Washington redefines its global priorities, what should guide its policy toward Central Asia?
It is perhaps easier to determine what should not be a guiding factor: not the region’s energy reserves at a time of falling oil prices; not visions of democracy that are not shared by Central Asian governments; not Afghanistan, as Washington tries to disengage from 15 years of war there.
The only thing that is clear is the United States needs to adjust its relations with Central Asian states to a new set of realities.
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Richard Sokolsky and Paul Stronski are senior associates in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.