One of the major blind spots in how the U.S. national security apparatus responds to and formulates policy for issues that arise across the Eurasian heartland is how the American government has chosen to bureaucratically define the region.
Namely: the continued inclusion of Russia within the diplomatic confines of a larger European bureau has intellectually limited assessments about Russia’s position in the world by framing Russian action primarily through a European lens.
Not only does this undercount Russia’s ability to be a major player in the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia, it has also, in my view, tended to overweight the importance of the Baltic littoral to Russian policy. Poll U.S. experts and at the top of any risk prediction for 2019 will be the threat of a Russian incursion into the Baltic states—and the importance of continued efforts to reinforce NATO’s north-eastern frontier as a result. At the same time, bureaucratic lines drawn both for the State and Defense Departments detach much of Central Asia and assign it, either to be grouped together with India and Pakistan (for State) or with the Arab world and Iran (in the case of the Pentagon). In both cases, much of the Eurasian core is relegated to second-tier status in terms of U.S. attention and priorities.
This is why the report, Global Risks for Eurasia 2019, released by the Astana Club , is an important corrective. Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most critical keystone states , the critical geographic connector between the economies and powers of the Asia-Pacific basin, South Asia and the Middle East, and the Euro-Atlantic worlds. Kazakhstan’s political and economic diplomacy, out of necessity, must erase the lines that Americans draw between Asia and Europe, along with the assumption that China is an “East Asian” power while Russia is a “European” power. Instead, Kazakhstan keeps its portfolio of major partners diversified and engaged—to include not only its two immediate great power neighbors (China and Russia) but also the states of the European Union and the United States, while drawing in Turkey, Japan, India and Iran as stakeholders in Kazakhstan’s independence and stability.