A buildup of external pressure, combined with growing internal economic stress, makes Tajikistan a Central Asian state worth keeping an eye on.
There has been an uptick of late in geopolitical jockeying over Tajikistan involving Russia and China. Beijing, in particular, has been making an aggressive push to expand its economic influence in recent years. The Chinese surge went largely unnoticed by the outside world until this January, when the Tajik parliament agreed to cede over 1,000 square kilometers of territory to China.
Unhappy about Beijing’s rising profile in Tajikistan, Russia is forcefully trying to reassert its authority in Dushanbe. Using energy exports as an instrument of coercion, the Kremlin recently raised its fuel export tariff for Tajikistan, pushing the price paid by Dushanbe for a ton of fuel up to $250 from $232. The tariff hike is coming just as Tajik farmers are preparing for the planting season.
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Stephen Blank is a professor at the US Army War College. The views expressed this article do not in any way represent the views of the US Army, Defense Department or the US Government.