Across the five post-Soviet countries, state decision-making is walled inside presidential palaces. While the heads of state range from outright dictators (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan) to façade democrats (Kyrgyzstan), institutional mechanisms for sharing and transferring power are non-existent. The strongest organized bidders for influence are rogue actors like drug cartels, provincial strongmen and scheming business elites. Environmental degradation, the propensity for natural disaster and bitter politics expose much of the population to energy and food shortages. The extraction industries dominating Central Asian economies encourage wealth concentration and exasperate nepotism and cronyism. Ethnic hostilities, Islamic insurgencies, nationalist rivalries, intraregional grievances, and spillover from the war in Afghanistan threaten to reintroduce civil conflict and the possibility of forced regime change from below.