Central Asia: Freedom of Foreign Policy Choice

By Mikhail Agadzhanyan

Russia can’t be neutral towards the trend of “by-pass strategy” of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, their foreign policy interests and Eurasian plans 


In a month after the last visit of Vladimir Putin to Uzbekistan (June 4th this year) messages appeared that Turkmenistan invited the Head of Russia to visit Ashkhabad any time convenient to him.


The following schedule of foreign visits of the Russian President to Central Asia was traditionally framed with prior attention on the republics-members of the CSTO and EurAsEc. The Head of Russia first visited Kazakhstan, than Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At the end of priority agenda of meetings with Central Asian leaders Putin welcomed the President of Kazakhstan in Moscow. Meanwhile, the date of the visit of Vladimir Putin to Turkmen capital hasn’t yet been announced, which can be related to indefiniteness of the agenda of the top level meeting...


But previous experience of the meetings of the state leaders within the CIS territory suggests the concurrence of the dates of the visit of the President of Russia to Turkmenistan with his participation in the oncoming session of the CIS Member-States Council planned on November 2nd 2012 to be held in Ashkhabad within the frameworks of chairmanship of the Republic in the Commonwealth in 2012.



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Russia and Turkmenistan don’t have military bases, big economic projects of bi- or multilateral accomplishment, Turkmen people prefer for example Turkish labor market to Russian one. Gas cooperation has always been a priority of the two pre-Caspian states, but also in this sphere lately there has been deficit of breakthrough relations.


After Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power in Turkmenistan definite regional deadlock of the republic has been overcome, and Turkmens have gained new stimulus to develop partnership with old neighbors.


Thus, following the results of the visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Ashkhabad on October 1st – 2nd the commentators had a common view about rise in their relations. They sounded the evaluations that now, among Central Asian republics, Turkmenistan has established the closest relations with Uzbekistan. Two Central Asian capitals as, in the essence, and all other their “brethrens” in the region, develop pragmatic foreign political course on complementary basis of contacts promotion with all foreign forces. But many of those lately observed in actions and claims of Uzbek and Turkmen leaders, to which projects Tashkent and Ashkhabad were attracted or are planned to be attracted, confuses Moscow.


Russia can’t be neutral towards the trend of “by-pass strategy” of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, their foreign policy interests and Eurasian plans.


The heads of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan agreed in Ashkhabad on that the accomplishment of big hydro-projects in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with the participation of Russian equity is not good for them. The President of Uzbekistan harshly criticized the intention of Tajikistan to build Rogun HPP in the region with seismic activity of 9-10 scores.


By the way, a few days after these statements of Ashkhabad, it became known that Russia and Tajikistan achieved no progress in the issue of Russian investments into finalization of Rogun HPP at the river Vakhsh.


Uzbeks and Turkmens are solidary towards appearance of the new HPPs along trans-border rivers of Central Asia, which, according to their argumentation, can lead to reduction of water supply for the states, locating along the lower reaches of the rivers.


Karimov and Berdymukhamedov welcomed accomplishment of railway project of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, which shall connect east Turkish provinces with Azerbaijani coast of the Caspian Sea. Moreover, the President of the both Central Asian Republics expressed intention to prolong the railway route “Kars – Akhalkalaki – Tbilisi – Baku” further into their region including into the main railway of Uzbek Nomoy and Turkmen Turkmenbashi.


Transport project of southern direction with the participation of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, an agreement on which they signed on April 25th 2011 in Ashkhabad (transport-transit corridor between Central Asia and the Gulf of Persia “Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Iran – Oman – Qatar”) also develop the line of preferences of two republics “in benefit” of Russia.


Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are also involved into joint with Kazakhstan and China project of supply of Turkmen gas to Chinese market. It seemed that the supplies of Turkmen gas to foreign markets could have established a solid foundation for close cooperation between Moscow and Ashkhabad. But also here something has gone wrong recently. Turkmen started to talk more about alternative to Russian ways of “blue fuel” supplies, the need to develop “clear” rules for gas transportation, by this making it in course of significant interstate forums of post-Soviet area.


Anyway, today it is evident that hypothetic alliance of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on some anti-Russia basis eventually is  politically unpromising and economically insolvent. Together with that a new format of relations between Tashkent and Ashkhabad can include a component into Eurasian integration course, alternative to Russian one, which in general already helps to form the region of foreign policy choice freedom..


Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from politcom.ru