The former Soviet republics of Central Asia offer an increasingly attractive prospect for foreign investment as their economies grow. Russia and China are among the major international players eyeing the benefits of increased trade with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, whose combined population totals 65 million.
In early 2013, Russia reemphasized its strategy of stepped-up economic ties to the region, with some government figures advocating the creation of a Russian state-headed corporation to foster economic growth there. At present, Russian engagement with this new market represents not even 4 percent of the nation’s total volume in foreign trade.
Although American investment in Central Asia has lessened since the global economic downturn of 2007, experts predict that as Western economies regain their footing, they will rediscover the advantages of building such economic connections. This could put Russia at a competitive disadvantage, as may the growing influence of China in the area. China has invested heavily in Central Asian infrastructure development over the past few years. All of these factors may signal a renewal of the geopolitical “Great Game” that took place more than a century ago, when Russia and the British Empire competed against one another for influence in Central Asia.