reply to post by Hopechest
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 once again created a situation of political vacuum in Central Asia. The resultant authoritarian but weak
former Soviet satellite republics were still considered part of Russia's sphere of influence, but now Russia was only one among many competitors for
influence in the new Central Asian states. By 1996, Mongolia would also assert its independence from Russia's influence. Further, the North Caucasus
Russian republic Chechnya would claim independence, leading to the First and Second Chechen Wars with Russia winning the latter.
Geostrategist and former United States National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski analyzed Central Asia in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard,
terming the post-Soviet region the "Black Hole" and post-Soviet Central Asia (the Caucasus, former SSRs, and Afghanistan) in particular the
"Eurasian Balkans." The area is an ethnic cauldron, prone to instability and conflicts, without a sense of national identity, but rather a mess of
historical cultural influences, tribal and clan loyalties, and religious fervor. Projecting influence into the area is no longer just Russia, but also
Turkey, Iran, China, Pakistan, India and the United States:
Russia continues to dominate political decision-making throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia, and former SSRs in general. As some of these countries
shed their post-Soviet authoritarian systems and integrate with Western organizations such as the EU and NATO, Russia's influence has decreased in
those nations. Yet, Russia continues to be the primary power in both the Caucasus and Central Asia, especially in light of the Russian victory over
Georgia - and by proxy Western powers - in August 2008, and the many hydrocarbon deals signed between Moscow and the Central Asian states.
Turkey has some influence because of the ethnic and linguistic ties with the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, as well as serving as the
Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline route to the Mediterranean and a route for natural gas pipelines (South Caucasus Pipeline; Nabucco Pipeline).
Iran, the seat of historical empires which controlled parts of Central Asia, has historical and cultural links to the region, as is vying to construct
an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.
China, projects significant power in the region through its border with Central Asia in Xinjiang, especially in energy/oil politics.
Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons, and employing its security forces, among the largest in the world, has massive influence in and around Kashmir
and Afghanistan. Kashmir is hotly contested for with India, while Afghanistan has been used by the Pakistan army as part of its 'strategic depth' in
case of war and is now a new proxy war between India and Pakistan.
India, as a nuclear-armed and strong rising power, exercises much influence in the region, especially in Tibet with which it has cultural affinities.
India is also perceived as challenging a potential counterweight to China's regional power. The Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan gives the Indian
military the required depth and range in seeking a larger role in South Asia and is a tangible manifestation of India’s move to project its power in
Central Asia, a policy goal formally enunciated in 2003–2004.
The United States with its military involvement in the region is also significantly involved in the region's politics but on a lower level than
either China or Russia whose relations with the Central Asian states are more comprehensive, and lack the democratization factor which Washington