By William Tucker
On September 14, border guards from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan exchanged fire in a disputed area of their shared border, leaving nearly 100 people dead and numerous others injured or displaced. The fighting ended quickly, but the border remains disputed in many areas and is poorly marked, suggesting that this controversy is far from settled.
In the Caucasus, fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan has once again become the norm despite a hastily negotiated ceasefire brokered by Russia. Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long-running dispute that has been suppressed by Russian intervention, but with Russian forces bogged down in Ukraine, these two nations are exploiting Moscow’s absence.
Other Nations in Eurasia Are Also Losing Their Influence
And it’s not just Russia that is losing its influence in Eurasia. China, too, seems unable to address economic shortfalls in its international lending practices. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Nearly 60% of China’s overseas loans are now held by countries considered to be in financial distress, compared with 5% in 2010.” Within China, the rolling COVID-related lockdowns and defaults by leading companies have stymied China’s economy.
The chaos in Sri Lanka is another example of instability in the region. However, it’s hardly the only one. Another large nation facing political instability is Iran. Though Iran is not always a trusted – or wanted – partner to many nations in the Middle East, its influence across the region is hard to deny. But with domestic political upheaval spreading to every major city within the nation, Iran’s regime will be hard- pressed to deal with anything else in the near future.
The Power of Russia, China and Iran May Wane Unless Their Domestic Problems Are Solved
Russia, China, and Iran have substantial influence across Eurasia – for better or worse – and there is a real possibility that these nations will see their influence wane as they deal with domestic issues that consume the entirety of their government’s attention. What’s worse is that many of these issues are self-inflicted, but they do not have an easy solution. The loss of this influence, while not always wanted to begin with, will likely lead to widespread instability across Eurasia, the largest landmass on the planet, over the coming years.
What Is a Sphere of Influence?
According to Britannica, a sphere of influence is “a claim by a state to exclusive or predominant, control over a foreign area or territory”. In some cases, these claims are based on shared cultural or linguistic ties between nations, but a claim to a sphere of influence can spawn from defense, economics, or political needs.
The efforts by Russia, China, and Iran fulfill these requirements regarding a sphere of influence, but so do the attempts by the U.S. and many European nations to resist the power wielded by these nations. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a prime example as Russian troops moving closer to NATO territory in eastern Europe is not something NATO wants to happen. To help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion, many nations in Europe and North America have dedicated resources to the Ukrainian government.
Instability in Eurasia May Be Preferable to a Russian Invasion of Europe
For the U.S. and Europe, resisting the burgeoning spheres of influence creates the problem that these large, albeit weak nations help to keep a lid on regional instability in some cases. Further instability will affect Europe and Asia – perhaps unequally – but it is the price to be paid as instability in the Caucasus or Central Asia may be preferable to Russian troops encroaching on Europe.