"Eurasian Balkans" and Russia
Central Asia is an extremely large land-locked region of Asia which consists of Central Asian countries: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
UNESCO definition provides that this region also includes Mongolia, western China (Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, western Szechuan and northern Gansu), Punjab, Kashmir, northern India and northern Pakistan, northeastern Iran, Afghanistan, regions of Asian part of Russia, situated to the south of taiga zone.
In terms of geopolitics the countries of the region are hinterland states as far as they are situated in offshore zone and remote from trade routes. The main wealth of Central Asian countries is natural resources which determine their geopolitical significance. That's why a well-known American "hawk" Zbigniew Brzezinski called this region "The Eurasian Balkans".
Central Asian countries produce oil, natural gas, gold, etc. in bulk. At the same time Central Asia is a market of Russian technics (including military equipment) and manufactured goods and is also a source of several natural resources which Russia lacks for: cotton, vegetables, some of alimentary products, etc.
A traditional partner of counties of the region is Russia which is represented by two organizational structures where it takes a key position. These are EuroAsian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and Collective Security Treaty (CSTO). They are connecting pivots of Russian and Central Asian integration. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Regional antiterrorist structure (RATS SCO) within it plays a big part in increase of Russian influence in the region.
In whole, the policy of Moscow is aimed at an activation of military and political cooperation within CSTO and SCO. It helps to strengthen the dominance of Russian military standards in Central Asia which is not profitable for Western countries (mainly for USA). Central Asian countries are ready for this cooperation. It's evoked by the necessity to stand against real threats: terrorism, extremism, drug industry and transnational crime.
Central Asian region is also of great importance for Russia. Firstly, it plays an important and long-term role in ensuring Russian national security. On the one hand, regional member states of CSTO ensure the security of southern borders of Russia. On the other hand, contradictions, which are used by both national political association and groups and external forces in power struggle, have sharpened.
Secondly, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, supported from without, continues.
Thirdly, territorial and ethnic conflicts between certain countries of the region continue to smoulder. The comparative weakness of these states and the specificity of their geographical situation are favorable for activation of terrorist forces from adjoining territories and creation of transit corridor of drugs from Afghanistan to Russia, and then to Europe.
Fourthly, the territories of the republics, where a number of Russian military strategic facilities are located, play an important role in ensuring military security of Russia. Particularly, Russia uses Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan), the 201st military base (Tajikistan), Kant Air Base (Kyrgyzstan) and several test sites.
Fifthly, in terms of geo-economics, raw material resources of the region are important for both Russian economics and execution of Russia's energy strategy.