US tries to get foothold in Central Asia
Oil, trade, security and Afghanistan are topics that were discussed during the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as at the C5 + 1 ministerial meeting in Tashkent. The meeting ended with the adoption of a joint statement reflecting the priority issues of the regional agenda. Experts believe that the United States is strengthening its position in Central Asia against the background of strengthening in the region the positions of China and Russia in economic and military-political terms.
Uzbekistan is the last country on a Eurasian tour by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Here, not only a meeting of the C5 + 1 ministerial group (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan plus the USA) took place, but also negotiations were held at the highest level.
In Nur-Sultan, Pompeo met with President Kasym-Zhomart Tokaev and Elbasy (the leader of the nation), the head of the Security Council Nursultan Nazarbayev. Apparently, Pompeo was interested in the specifics of the transit of power in Kazakhstan, where both leaders are de facto at the helm.
At each of the meetings, Pompeo conveyed greetings from US President Donadld Trump and did not skimp on compliments. Tokaev, after taking up the presidency, visited Moscow and Beijing, but has not yet been noted in the United States. Tokayev said that he was ready to meet with Trump anywhere in the world, but it is preferable that this be Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan for the USA has traditionally been the main partner in terms of investing US investments, mainly in the energy sector. As Nursultan Nazarbayev noted, 410 joint ventures operate in the country. US investment exceeds $ 45 billion. Therefore, according to Pompeo, Kazakhstan should continue to develop partnerships with American companies.
Nur-Sultan was interested in the question of how to avoid the influence of American sanctions imposed on Russia and Iran on the economy of the republic. "We discussed the economic growth of Kazakhstan in the context of the US sanctions policy. According to him, the state department continues to support the Kazakh side in order to avoid the imposition of sanctions on our legal entities and individuals," Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi said at a press conference in Nur Sultan . He stressed that attracting the United States to the implementation of projects in Central Asia will positively affect investment in the region.
This topic was continued at a meeting of the C5 + 1 ministerial group in Tashkent, where Tleuberdi proposed using the site of the Astana International Financial Center as a partner of the American agency for attracting investments in the region.
In general, the meeting of the C5 + 1 ministerial group was held in working order, without a breakthrough. The presentation of the announced new US strategy for Central Asia did not take place. The United States reaffirmed its continued support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the countries of the region, as well as a firm commitment to expand multifaceted regional cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.
The ministers adopted a joint statement reflecting the priorities of the region, such as strengthening mutual trust, interaction and constructive cooperation; encouraging “coordinated regional projects” aimed at promoting trade, transport, logistics and infrastructure ties, promoting entrepreneurship, as well as expanding business and investment contacts between business circles of the states of the region and the USA; development of interaction between the countries of the region in the energy field, including the sphere of renewable energy sources, and in support of national plans for adaptation to climate change and others. The issues of border security, the joint fight against terrorism and cooperation on Afghanistan were also discussed.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan proposed to strengthen regional cooperation in this format with an emphasis on trade and economic cooperation, both between the countries of Central Asia and in their relations with the United States. He also discussed with the US Secretary of State the reasons why the United States included Kyrgyzstan in the list of countries whose citizens are subject to restrictions on obtaining immigrant visas and green cards in the United States. According to the director of the Risk Assessment Group Dosym Satpayev, formally this is due to Washington's discontent over the lack of biometric passports among Kyrgyz citizens, which reduces the degree of protection of documents. At the same time, some experts attribute the US decision to the fact that among the perpetrators of the attacks in different countries of the world were citizens of Kyrgyzstan. Although, according to this logic, the same Uzbekistan or other Central Asian countries, whose citizens also committed terrorist acts outside their own countries, should have got into this American black list. But that did not happen.
“Kyrgyzstan was also not helped by the fact that in the Index of Democracy of The Economist Intelligence Unit the republic was classified as a“ hybrid ”regime, where democratic processes are combined with individual manifestations of authoritarianism, while all other countries of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, were included into a group of authoritarian states. It turns out that for the Donald Trump administration, the formula "security above democracy", as well as the point-based "struggle for justice", remains relevant, and, therefore, all this can calm the authoritarian regimes of those countries that consider themselves partners of the United States, "the Caucasian Herald told "Dosym Satpayev.
Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov informed the head of US diplomacy "about the promotion of TAPI gas pipeline projects from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, the power transmission line and fiber-optic lines along the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route, and the railways from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.
More productive were the meetings of US Secretary of State Mike Pomeo with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Tashkent has always been the focus of US attention in Central Asia, despite the fact that the republic does not have such oil fields as America, for example, that are of interest to America and its companies.
According to the director of the Center for Research Initiatives "Ma’no" Bakhtiyer Ergashev, Uzbekistan is interesting as a "key state", bordering all countries of the region. So wrote in his book "The Great Chessboard" Zbigniew Brzezinski. The key geostrategic position of Uzbekistan has always attracted the United States. But they began to show special interest in the republic after the start of the campaign in Afghanistan. Gradually, Uzbekistan, along with Pakistan, became two key countries through which logistics and support for coalition forces in Afghanistan went, and after 2011, when the withdrawal of coalition troops began, Uzbekistan became one of the main corridors through the northern supply chain, along which American troops and their equipment and equipment came out of there.
In addition, the United States sees Tashkent as a serious partner in the Afghan settlement. Uzbekistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, associated with the development of transport communications, and, accordingly, the development of economic ties. Therefore, Tashkent is interested in resolving the situation in Afghanistan. The interests of the United States and Uzbekistan in the Afghan direction coincide. This is one of the most important issues that were discussed, and will be discussed between the leaders of the countries. Recall that the issue of the peaceful settlement of Afghanistan was discussed in May 2018 during the official visit of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Washington.
In addition to security issues, economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and the United States is developing. As Pompeo noted, trade between the two countries doubled, and promising projects in various sectors of the economy of Uzbekistan are being implemented with the participation of leading American companies. The total volume of US investment exceeded $ 1 billion. He noted that today in the republic there are ample opportunities for business initiatives that will allow tens of times to increase the scale of trade and economic cooperation and promised full assistance in accelerating the process of Uzbekistan's entry into the World Trade Organization.