Both countries are trying to take advantage of Russia’s waning influence.
As Russia’s footprint in Central Asia recedes, China and Turkey are trying to fill the void. They approach the region from different directions, using different tools with different degrees of capabilities, and both have their own advantages and constraints. But unless the United States dramatically ups its involvement there, China and Turkey will, to varying degrees, inevitably shape the post-Russian landscape in Central Asia.
And it is very much in their respective interests to do so. For Beijing, the longer the Russians remain mired in a conflict with the West, the more space it creates for them to push into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. This is why Chinese President Xi Jinping is posturing as a peacemaker in the Ukraine war, even as he is slated to host the leaders of all five Central Asian nations next month in what Beijing has described as the “first China-Central Asia summit.”
Turkey is behaving similarly, playing mediator in Ukraine while hoping to capitalize on Russia’s waning influence in the Black and Caspian seas. Ankara is in a far better position than Beijing to influence Russian behavior vis-a-vis Ukraine, as evidenced by Ankara’s diplomatic efforts to broker a deal between Moscow and Kyiv to ensure that the war does not disrupt grain shipments. Still, Ankara knows that the more Moscow is hurt by the war and sanctions the more geopolitical space it creates for Turkey.
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