Recipient, activist, protector: three modes of Tajikistan’s foreign policy

In international relations, Tajikistan has several hats at its disposal. Each is reserved for certain foreign partners. Muslimbek Buriev’s policy brief for Crossroads elaborates on these.


Tajikistan’s independence, and thus, the early years of its international interactions, was inaugurated by a scorching internal conflict known as the Tajik Civil War. The post-civil war government faced a long list of problems related to poverty, security and development. These issues have, in turn, determined the evolution of Tajikistan’s relations with its key international partners.

The civil war period featured growing international attention to this part of Central Asia. In particular, Russia, China, the US and the EU emerged as major international partners of Tajikistan. However, the nature and intensity of Dushanbe’s engagement with each have varied. More specifically, Tajikistan’s foreign policy reflected three driving forces: economic needs, security threats and the need for consolidated political power. These factors led to the development of three different approaches, or three “modes” of Tajikistan’s engagement with its international partners. These are the modes of “silent recipient”, “noble activist” and “vigilant protector”. A proper understanding of these will allow looking into the future of this peculiar triple-styled diplomacy of a small Central Asian state, which seeks to promote its own agenda while accommodating the interests of its partners.

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Muslimbek Buriev is affiliated with CABAR.Asia, a Central Asian analytical platform launched by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. His writing focuses on political and social issues in Tajikistan. Muslimbek’s research interests encompass public and foreign policy, security and ethnic issues. He has an MA in Politics and Security from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek.

The policy paper is produced as part of a project “Debating International Relations in Central Asia: Regional Developments and Extra-Regional Actors”. The project is led by Shairbek Dzhuraev and Eric McGlinchey with support of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Crossroads Central Asia and/or the Hollings Center for International Dialogue.

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