By Paul Goble
Over the last year, Russian officials have spoken ever more frequently about what they see as the likelihood that the Islamic State will try to establish a khalifate in what was Soviet Central Asia and suggested that only the injection of Russian military power can prevent this, Amir Ayvaz says.
The founder of the TuranToday portal argues that Russian “hawks” believe that Moscow faces an imminent threat from the Islamic State and that the Russian government must respond by finding ways to introduce more Russian military personnel into Central Asian countries (turantoday.com/2018/09/syrian-scenario-of-moscow-for-central-asia.html).
But in seeking to justify “a Syrian scenario for Turkestan,” he says, the Kremlin is concerned less about Islamist radicalism than about countering what it sees as threats to its position there: Chinese efforts to end run Russia in its trade with Europe, Central Asian efforts to cooperate and diversity their economies, and Western cooperation with the region.
Put in starkest terms, Ayvaz says, “Moscow has hardly any other levers to influence this undesirable situation besides a scenario of chaos which would transform the region into the next place des armes ‘for training Russian military personnel’” and thus preventing China, the West, and Central Asia itself from proceeding in a different direction.
Some may argue that Russia’s “information war is not as horrific as the direct introduction of forces, occupation and annexation,” he continues. But they are “seriously mistaken.” The information war Moscow is conducting now about a threat from the Islamic State is intended to set the stage for all the other outcomes.
As such, it is something that should attract the attention of all concerned rather than be dismissed as the hobbyhorse of a few old warriors in Moscow. Many ignored Moscow’s repeated warnings before Georgia and Ukraine; they must not pass over in silence this latest effort to frame a justification for military intervention.