Kyrgyzstan risks regional water fight, as Russia waits in the wings

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Uzbekistan has long been a difficult and unpredictable player in the region, and its relations with Russia are rocky. Earlier this year, Uzbekistan pulled out of the Collective Security Treaty Organization of which Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are all members.

“It’s a difficult position for Russia to be in, given the water fights between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in particular, and Russia has to be quite careful as to who it’s seen to be backing,” said James Nixey of the Russia and Eurasia program at the London-based think tank Chatham House. “Its ultimate aim, of course, is to secure influence and reintegrate that part of the post-Soviet space into a new entity — not a Soviet Union, but nonetheless into multinational grouping.”

Still, analysts say Russia can increase its leverage in the region if it can position itself as the mediator among the Central Asian states on water security.

Russia wants a stable Central Asia and would like at least cordial relationships between these states,” Mr. Isaacs said. “It will probably take Russia coming in and negotiating a settlement to resolve these disputes, and that’s probably just the kind of thing that Russia wants to be doing.”

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