Kyrgyzstan's chances of external conflict are low. It has relatively stable relations with all of neighbours, with the exception of Uzbekistan where relations are often strained. When Kyrgyzstan left the Soviet Union it gained various exclaves of ethnic Kyrgyz and enclaves of Tajiks and Uzbeks. The country borders across the region experience sporadic clashes. It is these clashes combined with political turmoil that have the potential to escalate regional tension. Although these incidents of violence can happen at any time, so far it has been localised and has not developed into regional fighting.


Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan relation are strained by numerous factors. Firstly, the history of ethnic violence against Uzbeks, and the continued tension that exists. Political deadlock or a scandal could cause a repeat of the inter-ethnic violence Kyrgyzstan has suffered in 2010. Uzbeks form a significant minority in the southern provinces of Jalal-Abad, Osh and Batken which were the provinces most affected by the violence. If such events were to occur many Uzbeks would flee across the border, increasing tension

Kyrgyzstan's energy dependency has been another constant bone of contention with Uzbekistan, as Uzbekistan is Kyrgyzstan main gas supplier, and has used its position to gain political advantage. 

However with the Casa-100 project and the government’s current plans for energy self-sufficiency in motion, such disputes will become less important. Despite all the economic disagreements conflict is unlikely. This is due to geopolitics of the region and the disagreements being economic rather than political. It is important to note that the now deceased Uzbek leader President Karimov never made a claim to support Kyrgyzstan's ethnic Uzbeks, despite the violence. Also it is worth noting that the border areas in Batken province are mined, as a result care should be taken in these regions.


Tajikistan is another country which Kyrgyzstan has border disputes. These incidents are random and localised and usually occur as a result of local tensions and smuggling. In 2014 gunfire broke out near the Vorukh enclave killing a Tajik civilian, and again in August 2015 near the villages of Kok-Tash and Chorkuh. 

The source behind these longstanding disputes is a combination of disagreement over the placement of the border, a common problem for the Central Asian nations since independence, and ethnic and local enmity.

The catalyst for such arguments are often over access to resources, particularly water. Although these incidents have occurred, Kyrgyz-Tajik relations are still agreeable. Also with the large scale infrastructure projects being implemented across the region, regional cooperation will likely increase as tensions diminish.


Kazakhstan also has good relations with Kyrgyzstan, and the change of any form of direct conflict is highly unlikely. Although disputes have occurred along the border, this is due to local tensions and are infrequent. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have a good working relationship and are both members of various economic and security organisations.


China has a good relationship with Kyrgyzstan, particularly due to the increasingly large sums invested by China in the region. Despite infrastructure between Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours being relatively poor and unreliable they are being improved, mostly as a result of China’s New Silk Road Project. 

As infrastructure improves so will coordination and cooperation. Areas of contention such as power and water supply are improving through regional investment and cooperation. As a result external disputes with China are unlikely. This being said Kyrgyz nationalists disagreed with the Kyrgyz government’s decision to relinquish disputed territory to China in 2002.

In addition the Kyrgyz governments’ lack of support for the Uyghur movement in Xinjiang has caused further resentment, although there is no widespread movement or open opposition to these moves.  

However the Kyzylsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture located in the west of Xinjiang province bordering Kyrgyzstan remains a potential future cause of instability. This region is home to an estimated 300,000 ethnic Kyrgyz, who at the moment appear to have few tensions with Beijing. However if the situation changes, particularly if security measures like those imposed on the Uyghur are implemented it may cause a rift between China and Kyrgyzstan.

The European Economic Union

Kyrgyzstan has recently joined the Eurasian Economic Union as such it is now economically tied to its neighbours and Russia. Although Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are not members yet, Tajikistan is likely to enter into the agreement at some point. While Uzbekistan is an ally of Russia which makes conflict highly unlikely. This is further compounded by Kyrgyzstan being a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation which makes the likelihood of regional conflict even less likely.

Designed by Oliver McGough
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