United States opens new 'Big Game' season in Central Asia
The visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Central Asia ended yesterday. Turkmenistan was the last stop on his tour of the region. Washington makes adjustments to its Central Asian policy and sends signals to Moscow and Beijing that the United States has not been leaving and is not going to leave Central Asia. "The United States understands that stability and security in Central Asia are very important. You are directly at the crossroads of the most important decisions on foreign and security policy. But the interest of America in Central Asia goes beyond the issues of security," Kerry stressed, speaking at the Nazarbayev University in Astana.
A new dialogue of cooperation ‘C5 + 1’ was proposed for all the countries in the region in Samarkand, meaning the countries plus the United States. This format is based on a strategy previously developed by Washington ‘New Silk Road’, and has the same tasks as the Chinese initiative – ‘The economic belt of the new Silk Road', which appeared in 2014. The essence of the US strategy, according to John Kerry, is to help the region to integrate into the world economy through the development of infrastructure, increasing economic competitiveness, attracting investments and implementing new programs, in particular on climate change and Smart Waters (smart water).
John Kerry said that the countries of the region need to have a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with each other: "For our part, we want to broaden and deepen our bilateral relations with the region. We must clearly understand that there is no friendship with one country, at least, it must not limit the possibilities of friendship with another country. This is not a game. The Central Asian republics should be free from external pressure and intimidation.’’ Under external pressure, experts say, Kerry meant Russia. Therefore, the main task of the States is to prevent the expansion of the Eurasian Economic Union, of which the Kyrgyz Republic has recently become a member.
However, Washington does not believe that the US has lost Kyrgyzstan. It was in Bishkek that John Kerry began his tour, where a new building of the American Embassy and the campus of the American University of Central Asia have opened. At a meeting with President Almazbek Atambayev, Kerry offered to sign a new military agreement. There are no details about what stage the development of the document is at, but he made it clear that the United States has never had plans to establish a military base in Kyrgyzstan on a regular basis.
"The United States has its own plans regarding Kyrgyzstan,‘’ Doctor of Historical Sciences, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Shohrat Kadyrov, told Vestnik Kavkaza. ‘’Washington is not going to lose Kyrgyzstan, despite the fact that it is in the direct political influence of Russia. And it is fine that there is a pro-Russian president in Kyrgyzstan, thanks to the set up and the help of the US democratic model of mandatory turnover of the first person, there will be a new figure in a year. The opening of the new building of the American Embassy and the active development of American education, and participation in the CASA 1000 project in transportation of electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan were accomplished with the help of Atambaev."
According to experts, It is more difficult for Washington to receive guarantees in Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbayev leads his game, building balanced relations with the great powers. Astana has become a key point in the Central Asian tour of John Kerry. At the talks with Nazarbayev, Kerry supported Kazakhstan's aspiration to play a mediating role between Moscow and Kiev and participate in resolving the Middle East crisis, and welcomed Kazakhstan's leadership in supporting the security and development of Afghanistan, and in the promotion of regional economic integration in Central Asia. Kazakhstan is interested in the active participation of American companies in the program of the industrial-innovative development of the country.
No less attention was paid to Uzbekistan, which distances itself from participation in any regional alliance with Russia, stressing its own role in the region. The head of the department of European integration and the SCO CIS Institute, Vladimir Yevseyev, in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza said that John Kerry has shown that, despite the good relations of the US with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan is the central military and political partner. This explains the choice of Samarkand as the venue for the meeting of the foreign affairs ministers of the countries of the region in the framework of the new dialogue ‘C5 + 1’. In fact, this new format is a challenge to Russia. According to the forecasts of the expert centers in the US, in at least two states of Central Asia, or even in three, there will be a change of power. "In these circumstances, the authorities of these countries should be more sensitive to any message from the US, according to the current leadership of the country. "
In Tajikistan, Kerry promised to support border security and a solution to power shortage in the country. In Ashgabat at the meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, according to the Guardian newspaper, the issues of ‘economic cooperation, human rights, security and stability’ were discussed. Experts do not exclude that the military airfield ‘Mary-2l' could receive the status of the logistics center to support the US Air Force in the spring of 2016.
"The Central Asian region today recalls a mat on which wrestlers are fighting in different weight categories. The very struggle attracts the attention of many," the director of the Risk Assessment Group (Kazakhstan), Dosim Satpayev, told Vestnik Kavkaza. Recently the region has been visited by the Prime Minister of India and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Given the fact that Japan is concerned about China's activity in the Central Asian region in all sectors, the recent visit of the Japanese prime minister is a reaction to it – Tokyo does not want to lose the region, having some economic interests there. Regarding the visit of Kerry, this is the US response to the activation of not only China, but also Russia. Because in addition to economic cooperation, China makes no secret of its desire to establish close military and political ties with Central Asia." "At least, this is the process," Satpayev said.
Shohrat Kadyrov, in turn, noted that the fifteen-year Afghan phase in creating a Greater Central Asia is ending, giving way to the ten-year Central Asia that is officially called ‘C5 + 1’. By this it should be understood that the United States is stepping up efforts to enter and stay in the region, so they will seek secure multi-vector-minded politicians in Central Asia. "It is clear that, by the end of this stage, we will see none of the current presidents on the podium in Central Asia and in Russia," Kadyrov believes.