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Goldman, Minton F.: Rivalry in Eurasia: Russia, the United States and the War on Terror.

Goldman, Minton F. Rivalry in Eurasia: Russia, the United States and the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009, 261 pp.

Rivalry in Eurasia examines and elucidates the delicate state of U.S.-Russia relations in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. From America's war on terror to which Russia became a proactive partner of the United States, this complex bilateral relationship unfolded in Russia's 'backyard' in five Central Asian Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with far reaching consequences.

In Chapter One, Minton Goldman provides a succinct analysis of U.S. policy in the aftermath of 9/11 and how the Bush administration was bent on promoting democratization, production and marketing of oil, as well as in restraining Russia's political, military and economic clout in the ex-Soviet Central Asian Republics. Although these Republics pledged support to US in its broader goals on defeating and dismantling terrorism, on the issue of democratization, the U.S. policy suffered a setback as the Central Asian leaders for the most part were authoritarian. Goldman, however, has not sufficiently explained as to why the drive towards democratization did not take firm roots in the region and whether there were any systemic causes underneath that inhibited the growth of democratization.

Chapter Two deals with the internal dynamics of Kazakhstan and how the country has made a delicate balancing act between Russia and the United States. Kazakhstan has geo-strategic significance as it bordered Russia, China and the Caspian Sea as well as other Central Asian Republics. In addition, Kazakhstan is endowed with enormous energy and other natural resources including gold, silver, zinc, coal, and iron ore. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in power since the 1980-made strategic partnership with Russia by becoming the first non-Slavic republics to seek membership in the entente of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, a brain child of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1991. At the same time, Nazarbayev diversified Kazakhstan's range of choices when he requested and was granted by President Bill Clinton to triple American aid to Kazakhstan from USD$91 million in 1994 to USD$311 million in 1995. In the period following 9/11, Kazakhstan even drew closer to the United States and offered tangible support to US war on terror that included the use of Kazakhstan territory for the refueling of American aircraft going to and from Afghanistan. As part of 'strategic partnership' with US, Kazakhstan expressed support for the U.S. policy in Iraq and the U.S.-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan(BTC) oil pipeline project.

Chapter Three provides an overview of Turkmenistan and its range of foreign policy choices. Whereas Russia's interests in Turkmenistan's were primarily commercial in nature and were deeply rooted in history, geography and culture, US interests were basically strategic. Turkmenistan's policy of 'positive neutrality' suited US policy makers as the latter could count on increasing military relations between US and Turkmenistan in areas such as counter terrorism, drug trafficking and enhanced border security. (p.86)

Chapter Four encompasses Tajikistan's strategic significance for both Russia and the United States. As Tajikistan borders China and more importantly Afghanistan, the US had special regional interest in the region as it pertained to war on terrorism. Tajikistan also courted US financial aid to maximize its political stability as the country has the lowest annual per capita income of about USD$1200 and the poorest of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian Republics. On Afghanistan, U.S and Tajikistan joined hands to bolster Afghanistan's economic development in the post-Taliban phase. The US under Bush administration faced an acute dilemma as it was concerned about the emergence of Islamic extremism in Tajikistan and at the same time was pushing and prodding Rakhmonov to usher in democratization. Russia, on its part, was not in for a push over and needed Turkmenistan's support in its (Russia's) sway over the Georgian affairs.

Chapter Five provides a demographic profile of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan and Russia forged closer relations in 1990, as both countries were wary of Islamic extremism from Iran to Afghanistan and were worried that the assertive Islamic movement might spread its wing to other countries thus undermining the political stability in the region. With US, Karimov signed in July 2002 a bilateral agreement called the Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation between the United Sates and Uzbekistan. Although US was worried about Uzbekistan's lack of commitment towards democratization, the strategic component of relationship got the upper hand when in 2003, the US provided massive economic aid to the tune of USD$ 500 million. This was followed up with Karimov government providing the US government with Khanabad base.

Chapter Six deals with Kyrgyzstan. On its relations with US, while on the one hand, U.S. had a military base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan thus expanding the former's ((US) strategic depth, Bakiyev administration was also under tremendous pressure from both Russia and China to evict the United States from the base. In lieu of granting lease to US for use of Manas base, Kyrgyzstan received USD$18 million annually and in addition, USD$150 million as compensation package. Kyrgyz President Bakiyev had made a caveat Vis-a-Vis the United Sates by making sure that the base was not to be used against Iran and to be used only against Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Overall, the book provides the interesting and yet intricate and complex dynamics of Central Asian Republics and its engagement and balancing act with Russia and the United States. Grounded in realist paradigm with emphasis on national interest, Minto Goldman has made a compelling case as to how the Central Asian Republics have maximized their windows of opportunities and minimized their windows of vulnerabilities. This book will be of profound interest and great value to area study specialists on Central Asia as well as to policy analysts and scholars on international relations.

Mohammed Badrul Alam

Jamia Millia Islamia University

New Delhi, India
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Author:Alam, Mohammed Badrul
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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