chapter  11
Russia and Central Asia: does the tail wag the dog?
WithJEFF SAHADEO
Pages 17

In May 2010, Russian Federation President Medvedev received an urgent plea from Rosa Otunbaeva, Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader. Otunbaeva requested Russian peacekeepers to calm an explosion of ethnic rioting that had already resulted in hundreds of deaths in the Kyrgyz Republic’s restive south. Granting the request appeared as the logical culmination of a decade of increased Russian engagement in Central Asia. Over that period, the Russian Federation had engaged in numerous security treaties and energy agreements with the post-Soviet Central Asian states, with trade volume and labour migration mushrooming. Both Medvedev and past/future President Putin considered Central Asia as key to Russian power and prosperity. Flowing through Russian pipelines, the region’s oil and gas underpins a ‘state-led energy export model’ with vital political and economic implications.1 Russian bases and troops are present in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Joint military and peacekeeping exercises through the Collective Security Treaty Organization, formed in 2002-03, were designed to show other regional and global powers, particularly the United States, that the region remained solidly in Russia’s sphere of influence.