The Long Goodbye: Waning Russian Influence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia

Briefing Paper

Chatham House briefing Published 1 June 2012 Updated 18 May 2023
  • Russian influence in the independent states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia is weakening. The drift is inexorable but Russia employs multiple instruments to counter this.
  • Economic pressure, energy dependence, multilateral groupings, diasporas and the reapplication of a Russian cultural education are all used to sustain the old but recently revived fantasy of a Eurasian Union.
  • In the South Caucasus, Armenia has already succumbed to Russia economically, with ramifications for its sovereignty. But Azerbaijan and Georgia, via different paths, have moved away from Russia’s embrace.
  • In Central Asia, the overall picture is more complex, especially with the relatively new Chinese presence. But Kazakhstan is leading and the other Central Asian states are following in their pursuit of new partners and real autonomy.
  • The West’s inconsistent and confused engagement with both regions contributes to Russian gains in these areas.
  • The South Caucasus and Central Asian states’ increasing confidence to act unilaterally and Russian heavy-handedness mean that, for Russia, the battle is already lost.