To say I am not optimistic about the future of Central Asia is an understatement of oceanic proportions. The entire region is unstable, with ethnic disputes and conflicts over borders, water, oil, and pipelines disrupting every political discussion. It is debatable whether these countries are in fact countries. Turkemenistan, for example, was shoved together by Stalin out of a vast stretch of desert, incorporating five nomadic tribes. There is no logic at all to Kazakhstan. And Uzbekistan as an identifiable country does not exist. Ethnic and tribal distinctions will drive the region’s politics for the foreseeable future. Their current “leaders” are opportunists who seized the moment as communism fell but who have little support. Groups in all the Stans will start to agitate to establish their independence, just as happened in Eastern Europe with the former Yugoslavia and has been occurring regularly over the years in Africa.
The Soviet Union has already broken into fifteen states. People speak eighteen different languages in the five Central Asian republics. There are more than a hundred linguistic, ethnic, religious, and national groups in the region, none of which joined the Soviet Union willingly. …
Sooner or later, all these “countries” will be bankrupt. The currencies of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are declining in value rapidly, and both economies are moribund. … Big trouble is in the offing: violent strikes, assassination attempts, bombs exploding, and the eventual outbreak of more than one civil war.
What does this mean for the United States? Very little, probably, for these people will be paying little attention to us and blowing one another up for a very long time to come. Their nuclear weapons have, in large part, been stripped and cannibalized. Those weapons that are intact have not been maintained. Unless U.S. politicians, in their mindless posturing, make the mistake of replaying the “Great Game” all over again, and dragging us into this mess, as their European counterparts did in the nineteenth century, we in the United States should be largely unaffected. Or so it seemed a few years ago. Now the United States, rattling sabers over Iraq, has established bases in Central Asia, making additional enemies in the region. It constantly grieves me to see our politicians dragging us into terrible situations about which no one has done the homework, in places where no one understands the situation on the ground.
– Jim Rogers, Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip