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One year on: Kyrgyzstan’s balancing act between Russia and the West

Article by Dr. Aijan Sharshenova

February 24, 2023

One year on: Kyrgyzstan’s balancing act between Russia and the West

Since February 2022, the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine has rippled across the foreign policies of many countries.


Central Asian countries have had to quickly adjust their foreign policy narratives and strategies, on various bilateral and multilateral cooperation platforms, to navigate between their long-term strategic partners – Russia and their Western counterparts.


Kyrgyz foreign policy found itself in a particularly uncomfortable situation as it had to take into account the large population of Kyrgyz labour migrants in Russia alongside their reliance on development aid, a large part of which comes from North American and European countries.


Russia’s influence on Kyrgyzstan can hardly be underestimated. It is deeply rooted in the shared past and current economic and political ties. Russia trains a significant number of Kyrgyz security service professionals at the FSB Academy. Meanwhile the majority of Kyrgyz labour migrants find employment in Russia, as it is cheaper and easier to travel there. These, and many more factors, certainly shape public and policy-makers’ opinions. 


However, it would be wrong to say that Russia has Kyrgyzstan’s full support in its war against Ukraine. Kyrgyzstan is one of the most free and dynamic countries in Central Asia. As such, the society is diverse and has so far shown different opinions on the war. Some support Russia, others Ukraine, but the majority are likely busy facing the immediate day-to-day struggles against the backdrop of the post-pandemic and war-time global order. 

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