nCa News and Commentary
Ashgabat, 11 May 2011 (nCa) — Ambassador Igor Blatov of Russia made farewell call Tuesday on President Berdymuhamedov. He has completed his tenure in Turkmenistan.
He was appointed in January 2006 as ambassador of the Russian Federation to Turkmenistan.
Blatov, who is 65, would most likely go on retirement on his return to Moscow.
nCa Commentary: It doesn’t take a lot for the tenure of an ambassador to be described as successful. In fact, just the fulfillment of routine obligations, the presence of mind to say and do the right thing at the right time, and the ability to prevent any deterioration in bilateral relations are the basic elements for an ambassadorial tenure to be called ‘successful.’
Blatov, sadly, swam below this humble benchmark right from the start.
He was appointed by the then-President Putin in January 2006 to serve as Russian ambassador to Turkmenistan; he arrived in Ashgabat some time in March 2006; and, he presented credentials on 11 April 2006.
Probably because of the fact that he had to wait for more than a month before getting the opportunity to present the credentials to the Turkmen president, when he was finally called for the occasion, he showed up . . . let’s say . . . under influence.
It was a bad start and it didn’t get better.
It is difficult to see the rationale why Ashgabat made Blatov wait for more than a month before accepting his credentials officially. The apparent reason could be Blatov himself. He had an undistinguished career before being shipped to Ashgabat. His last appointment, where he spent more than six years, was as deputy director of the general secretariat of the Russian foreign office, a job that is considered backburner for diplomats who are senior-enough to be sent as ambassador to foreign countries but not eminently suited for the job.
The choice of a man of Bltov’s caliber – small bore – to serve as Kremlin envoy to Ashgabat was indicative of the things to come.
It was during his tenure that a pipeline blast, caused by Gazprom desperation and irresponsibility, put huge strains on Turkmen-Russian relations. Blatov’s embassy was prominent by silence on the whole issue.
TAPI got back on track and Blatov’s team failed to secure any meaningful role for Gazprom in this project. In fact, the visit of President Medvedev and his energy czar Igor Sechin to Turkmenistan last year – and remarks of Sechin on TAPI and other issues – caused irritation in Ashgabat. The inadequate briefing by Blatov team to their government can be blamed for this avoidable spat.
The mobile provider MTS was booted out of Turkmenistan because of its greed. It was not a sudden decision. The window of opportunity closed slowly over a period of about three months. The Blatov mission could not make any use of the various lifelines offered by Turkmenistan.
In fact, there is a long list of missed opportunities and deplorable inaction but it would be pointless to mention them all. Following a somewhat prejudiced line of argument, one can even say that Blatov went about systematically dismantling the strategic partnership between Turkmenistan and Russia.
The man who actually helped bring the relations between Kremlin and Ashgabat to the level of strategic partnership was late Ambassador Andrey Molochkov, who left Ashgabat in July 2004 when he was suddenly diagnosed with advanced cancer. He died nine months later in a hospital in Moscow.
He was succeeded by his deputy, Andrey Krutko, who served as charge d’affaires until the appointment of Blatov.
Turkmenistan and Russia are still strategic partners but not a milligram of credit goes to His Excellency Igot Blatov.