Russian president Vladimir Putin is on his first foreign trip since the invasion of Ukraine. He will visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and attend a summit of countries located on the Caspian Sea. Everyone is looking at Russia. Russia’s soft power in Central Asian countries is under pressure.
The summit will largely focus on fossil fuels in and around the Caspian Sea region, but it is more broadly about Putin’s relationship with all countries in that region.
For example, the two former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan did not recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The president of Kazakhstan even publicly explained the decision last week at the St. Petersburg Economic forum. St. Petersburg and called the people’s Republics “quasi-states”. The country also never recognized the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The leaders of these countries feel strong enough for that at the moment.
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and also Turkmenistan, i.e. countries in the classic sphere of influence of Moscow, are looking at whether they can replace Russia as a supplier of, for example, gas to Europe. They want to do it outside of Russia. They need Russia’s approval. So, you see, everyone is scanning Russia.
When it comes to hard power, Russia is very present in the former Soviet Union, there are military bases everywhere or there is a military presence, but that soft power, that cooperation, that is under pressure in some countries.