The Sheriff, the Banker, and Power Transition in Central Asia
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the former Soviet Central Asian states, a de facto division of labor has emerged between Russia and China in this region. Under this arrangement, Russia has focused on security – acting as a de facto “sheriff” – while China has been the “banker”, focusing on economic and infrastructure development. But the factors which incentivized this “compartmentalized cooperation” are vanishing fast. American involvement in the region, which both Moscow and Beijing resisted, has declined precipitously. At the global level and in Central Asia, a power transition is underway, with Russian military and economic power eroding, accelerated by the war in Ukraine, as China’s power rises. Can Moscow and Beijing manage this power transition and continue to cooperate in Central Asia, or is the region destined to become a zone of geopolitical competition once again?
Colonel (Retired) Robert E. Hamilton, Ph.D., is the Head of Research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program and an Associate Professor of Eurasian Studies at the U.S. Army War College. In a 30-year career in the U.S. Army, spent primarily as an Eurasian Foreign Area Officer, he served overseas in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Germany, Belarus, Qatar, Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Pakistan and Kuwait. He is the author of numerous articles and monographs on conflict and security issues, focusing principally on the former Soviet Union and the Balkans. He is a graduate of the German Armed Forces Staff College and the U.S. Army War College and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy, a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Russian Studies and a Ph.D. in Political Science, both from the University of Virginia.
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