May 1, 2021
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Soft power and border conflicts in Central Asia

On April 28, an armed conflict broke out on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In the area of ​​the water distribution point “Golovnoy” in the village of Kok-Tash, Batken district of Kyrgyzstan, a skirmish took place between residents of border villages, which grew into a skirmish. Then arson and shooting began. As reported by Radio Azattyk, all 17 houses in the village of Kok-Terek burned down, the villages of Kyzyl-Bel, Dostuk, Kok-Tash, Uch-Dobo and Ak-Sai of the Batken region suffered. 17 gas stations were burned, shops were looted. The villages of Borborduk, Arka, Internationale, Zhashtyk and Maksat of the Leilek region were affected. Over 13 thousand residents were evacuated from the conflict zone.

According to the Kyrgyz side, the Golovnoy water distribution center in the upper reaches of the Isfara River is “a strategic object of the Kyrgyz Republic and is located on the territory of Kyrgyzstan”. Dushanbe claims that, according to the maps of 1924-1927 and 1989, Golovnaya “wholly belongs to the Republic of Tajikistan.”

On the border of the two republics (the 980-kilometer border itself is a historically recent creation, not even 30 years old), they constantly and fiercely argue. It is not easy to share what was in the memory of the living as one country: blood is shed.

Since 2014, 10 serious clashes have occurred in the Kyrgyz-Tajik zone. Five cross-border incidents occurred in 2014. Clashes resumed in 2019; after another conflict with human casualties, the presidents of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Rahmon and Jeenbekov, tried to come to an agreement, met, but the meeting did not yield anything.

The Strategic Culture Foundation wrote about the internal aspects of the strange war that resumed on April 28 between the two former Soviet republics. Let’s touch on external factors, the main of which is the effective projection of Western “soft power”. The bearers of power are the US embassies and a network of Western-funded NGOs.

The general framework for the process of expanding Western influence in Central Asia was set out in 2006 in a report Central Asia: a strategic framework for peacebuildingprepared by the organization International notification… The preparation of the report was financed by the official London and the Agency for Development and Cooperation (Switzerland).

This report is a kind of instruction for NGOs: how to take root, how to neutralize the influence of Russians and Chinese, what is the “culture of conflict”. Examples of “successful initiatives” in instilling a “culture of conflict” are given: the British-funded project “Third Party Arbitration in Land Disputes” in Tajikistan; project “Legal support for the rural population” in Kyrgyzstan (funded by USAID *** and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation).

Note that the 2006 British report identified three target countries that have border disputes and are called “target countries” (three target countries): Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan. These republics have established local “dispute resolution” centers and training courses with the involvement of “national officials, civil society representatives and academics”. In fact, this is a ready-made agent network that has been created and is working.

Report recommendations Central Asia: a strategic framework for peacebuilding were taken into account in the 2019 held by the Academy German wave competition for journalists from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan “for the best material on border issues.” The topics of the materials that were proposed to be submitted to the competition are curious: the use of natural resources in the border areas; conditions, features, problems of border crossing; cross-border trade and economic ties; life in border areas. The best Tajik and Kyrgyz journalists collecting this intelligence were awarded a laptop and two smartphones.

American training for journalists from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

Particular attention is paid to the creation of a network of controlled media. The report of the American-funded organization “Internews Kyrgyzstan” refers to “consultations and trainings” of employees, about the organization of visits of journalists to the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan. “Internews Kyrgyzstan” shares its previous achievements in Moldova “on fighting fakes and trolls”; the experience gained at one end of the former USSR is carried over to the other end.

The 2014 report of the British Embassy in Kyrgyzstan states that from 2012 to 2015, work was carried out to “Expanding the capacity of civil society to investigate potential conflicts”, noted “Lobbying for the rights of marginalized and vulnerable communities” (meaning enclaves inhabited by Tajiks on the territory of Kyrgyzstan). 148,500 British pounds was spent by Internews Kyrgyzstan “building the capacity of local institutions to resolve ongoing conflicts over pasture resources in the Leilek River Basin in southern Kyrgyzstan” (read: training local authorities to resist government decisions to resolve conflicts).

Constant monitoring of the situation in the disputed regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is carried out by the NGO “Vorukh Support Center” located in the area of ​​the British intelligence MI-6; part of the work of this Center is public opinion polls in the Batken region. In line with the recommendations of the report Central Asia: a strategic framework for peacebuilding, local authorities are invited “To create favorable conditions for acquiring new opportunities for self-expression in decision-making processes”. Now there Tajiks and Kyrgyz are just “expressing themselves”

In a number of enclaves, including in the Isfara region, where the Vorukh enclave is located, and in the Batken region, youth centers have been created with the financial support of the World Bank. One third of the population of the Isfara region is young people from 14 to 30 years old.

It is possible, without being mistaken, to assume that with such a density of population of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with centers of Western soft power and in the absence of an adequately opposing force of peace, there will be no peace in the tousled Tajik-Kyrgyz borderland.

Cover photo: Russian Planet

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