Central Asian governments have been walking a diplomatic tightrope in trying to stay neutral since Russia started its military campaign in Ukraine on February 24.
Russia is a major trading partner for all the Central Asian states and generally the guarantor of security for the region, where there are still concerns about militant groups in northern Afghanistan, not to mention the Taliban.
But there are many in Central Asia who see their fate as being tied with Ukraine’s and that a Russian conquest in Ukraine could embolden the Kremlin to try to reclaim Central Asia, an area that was once part of the Soviet Union and the Tsarist Russian Empire before that.
Donors in Kazakhstan assembled a load of humanitarian aid for Ukraine and there have been pro-Ukrainian demonstrations outside the Russian embassies in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Even in Uzbekistan, some people laid flowers outside the Ukrainian Embassy.
Russia’s attacks on Ukraine are having a strong effect on Central Asia and while officially the governments are trying to avoid becoming involved in that conflict, there seems to be no way they can do so for long.
On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL media-relations manager Muhammad Tahir moderates a discussion on the cautious public comments of Central Asian officials and the actions of Central Asian citizens related to Russia’s attacks in Ukraine.
This week’s guests are: from Massachusetts but originally from Kazakhstan, Nargis Kassenova, a Central Asian researcher and senior fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; from Washington, William Courtney, a former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia who is currently an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and executive director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum; from Moscow, Temur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center; and Central Asia analyst Bruce Pannier.
Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.