US Prefers China to Russia in Central Asia

us state dept large“Although his June 2 remarks at the Washington International Business Council focused primarily on India’s regional leadership, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard E. Hoagland had a number of things to say about Central Asia that are worth examining. While he certainly read from the Department of State’s standard book of lines in reference to the region, Hoagland notably omitted any reference to the Eurasian Economic Union, and had some kind works for China.

While Hoagland commented that “Central Asia is not a monolithic region – it’s a diverse group of states with diverse sets of national interests” his remarks nonetheless focused on the region as a whole. He said that the United States is “very focused on a regional strategy of greater connectivity, among the Central Asian states themselves, but also with their neighbors in South Asia, Europe, and East Asia.”

Noticeably absent from Hoagland’s remarks is any mention of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and most recently Kyrgyzstan. Certainly the Washington International Business Council–which is an “information and advisory service for American-based corporations”–would benefit from hearing how the EEU will impact American business interests across the region.

The closest Hoagland comes is noting the link between the economies of Central Asia and Russia: “They’re dealing with the impacts of Russia’s economic downturn right now, especially when it comes to falling remittances.” He still says that there’s “some real momentum” in the region–though recent World Bank economic outlooks for Kazakhstan and Tajikistan seem to disagree.

While the region’s relationship with Russia is cast only in a negative light, China’s increased interest in and engagement with Central Asia is viewed favorably by Washington. Hoagland said in his latest speech that Washington thinks “some of China’s efforts in Central Asia can be quite complementary to our own.” While China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea is viewed with a skeptical eye, its energy and economics push into Central Asia is seen in a rosier light.”(The Diplomat)

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