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NATO Ambitions in Central Asia

30.05.2008 11:39

А.Novik

The former Central Asian republics of the USSR start actively drifting closer to the United States and North Atlantic Alliance. In turn, the USA and NATO expressly ignore any contacts with the CIS and CSTO, and establish ties with the member-states of these organizations on the bilateral basis.

Active rapprochement of the Central Asian states with NATO was demonstrated at the April NATO Summit in Bucharest attended by President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov and President of Turkmenistan Gurbankuly Berdymuhamedov, as well as Defense Minister of Kazakhstan Danial Akhmetov and Foreign Minister of Tajikistan Hamrokhonom Zarifi. Only Kirgizia did not send its delegation to the Summit. It is well-known that the contacts of the Alliance with Bishkek are rather substantive even without this visit because NATO has its AF base in Manas, Kirgizia, used for logistic support of the Alliance troops in Afghanistan.

It is noteworthy that in spite of the tough Summit agenda US President George Bush had a personal meeting with President of Turkmenistan Gurbankuly Berdymuhamedov. At the meeting the parties coordinated their approaches to implementation of mutually beneficial cooperation in the most promising spheres, first of all, in the energy sector. In particular, they discussed prospects of construction of new gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India. At the Bucharest Summit Ashkhabad proposed to the Alliance its “peacekeeping services”. They include deployment of NATO peacekeeper training camps and NATO logistic depots and rear bases in the territory of Turkmenistan.

Evidently, Turkmenistan starts pursuing the policy of open doors for the Alliance that hardly meets the interests of Russia and needs of collective security in Central Asia. The NATO presence in Turkmenistan will significantly strengthen the positions of the Alliance and USA in the zone of active production of hydrocarbons. Washington via NATO will actually reach the border of Iran, which may become the next target of the US aggression. Having consolidated its positions in Turkmenistan the United States will have an access to the Caspian Sea that is a rather disturbing signal too, and goes counter to the interests of Russia. It is noteworthy that none of the Caspian states but for Turkmenistan has offered its territory for the NATO base yet.

Kazakhstan is also actively reproaching the Alliance. Just before the NATO Summit in Bucharest Kazakhstan conducted a week of NATO-Kazakhstan cooperation in Astana, during which the Kazakh leadership expressed its interest in NATO assistance to the military reform in the country, including building the Kazakh Navy in the Caspian Sea. As quoted to NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons, “we were successful in implementation of many activities in Kazakhstan. The first phase of the NATO-Kazakhstan cooperation, an Individual Partnership Programme, was good. Next in turn is equipment of one of the Kazakhstan brigades with NATO arms for military compatibility with the Alliance member-states, as well as construction of a railway to Afghanistan and provision of NATO cargo transit”.

Uzbekistan is frankly fishing for friendship with the Alliance. In his speech at the NATO Summit in Bucharest President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov proposed to the Alliance a corridor to deliver cargoes to Afghanistan through Border Crossing Point Termez-Hairaton. Karimov also promised to sign the respective agreement. The President said: “As a basis of future agreement we may take an agreement signed by Uzbekistan and Germany on March 4, 2008, on railway transit of Bundeswehr cargoes via the territory of Uzbekistan”.

Thus by the consent of the Central Asian states the USA and NATO start actively penetrating the southern CIS region, which was traditionally under a strong influence of Russia. In so doing, expressly ignoring any contacts with the CIS and CSTO the USA and NATO develop cooperation with the member-states of these organizations on the bilateral basis.

It seems that it is not just trial of strength but a policy elaborated in detail. Washington even does not hide it. Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said at the hearings in the US Congress: “The Bush’s Administration stands for integration of former Soviet Central Asian republics with the states located southwards but against strengthening and development of their relations with their traditional partners”. Moreover, the Americans expressly claim that it is necessary to keep the Central Asian states from having friendly relations with Russia and developing cooperation with it first of all in the energy sector.

In general we are witnessing a disturbing process – on the one side the USA and NATO are enhancing their influence in the southern region of the Community of Independent States, on the other side Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Tajikistan are more expressly demonstrating their striving for closer cooperation with America and North Atlantic Alliance.

The historical experience shows that failures and defeats of parties in the geopolitical conflict (and this conflict is evident today between Russia and USA) depend to a great extent on correct assessment of threats to their security. In this connection it is obvious that invigilance and mistakes in assessment of potential threats to the security of Russia from the southern flank, as well as their underassessment may cost too much.