nCa News and Commentary
Ashgabat, 2 November 2016 (nCa) — “As we agreed, this would be [a meeting] in narrow format, face to face,” said President Putin of Russia at the start of his talks with President Berdymuhamedov on Tuesday in Sochi.
It was a neat and substantive summit meeting, unencumbered by formalities – no heavyweight delegations, no formal agenda, no speeches or presentations, and certainly no fanfare.
And, there were no media statements after the meeting because the Sochi event was not an end in itself: it was the prelude to a new era of relations between two strategic partners. The processes set in motion by this meeting will take their own time to hatch and we should hear quite a bit about the outcome developments throughout the next year.
Putin said in his opening statement that despite the well-known economic difficulties the bilateral trade volume had gone down in terms of dollars but the ruble part of the trade had doubled in 2015. He said that while rejoicing at this good development we must note that a lot more can be done to bolster the mutual trade volumes.
Since this report is based on a small part of conversation that was open to the media, the conclusions drawn here cannot be definitive in scope.
Putin congratulated his Turkmen counterpart on the 25th anniversary of independence and said that next year there would be the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkmenistan.
Berdymuhamedov said that there certainly was great potential for enhanced partnership between the two countries.
Berdymuhamedov recalled his proposal to establish a Caspian economic forum and logistics centre that he voiced at the Caspian summit in Astrakhan in September 2014. The Turkmen leader reiterated the proposition, framing it in the context of the growing regional and global attention on transport and connectivity.
“You attach great importance to the development of transport and transit corridors,” he said.
He invited Putin for the global transport conference that will be held in Turkmenistan at the end of this month. The Turkmen president said that participation of Russia in the conference “will give an effective boost to the development of transport corridors, not only in Central Asia but on a continental scale.”
Berdymuhamedov added that “Russia has been and will remain a strategic partner of Turkmenistan.”
Looking at the publicly available part of the conversation, Turkmenistan and Russia are possibly pondering new formats of partnership in a number of areas:
- Agriculture is an area where the success of Turkmenistan in attaining food security and becoming a net exporter of wheat and overall rise in the agricultural output creates new areas for cooperation
- The pooling of reserve capacities in raw materials and production can be a good platform for export-based joint economic ventures
- Science and technology, particularly where they can directly contribute to the economic development will be an area of mutual interest; Turkmenistan proposed a Science and Technology Forum in Ashgabat next year
- In the trade-economic sphere, the diversification of activities will be the key to the increase in the mutual turnover
- Turkmenistan will offer investment opportunities to the Russian companies
- Development of direct partnership with major regions of Russia will remain a priority area for Turkmenistan
- In the fuel and energy sector, the countries may seek the opportunities for cooperation in the downstream industries
- Education and professional training will remain an important area as some 17000 students from Turkmenistan are already studying in Russia and this number will grow in the coming years
- In sports management and tourism the countries have a lot to share with each other
As we said in another commentary very recently, the real or perceived national interests cannot be of universal value i.e. each situation and each combination of partnerships demands fresh interpretation of national interests. — The fast-changing global situation has reshuffled the deck for everyone, Turkmenistan and Russia being no exception.
In order to envisage the nature, speed and direction of some of the processes that could spring from this meeting, we must keep in view a wide range of complex factors. Here are some of them:
- Between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, the world is going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place for the next four, quite possibly eight years.
- Brexit could potentially be the undoing of the European Union as we know it today.
- Oil is expected to remain stable at around USD 51 a barrel, which could give some relief to the countries with hydrocarbons as an important source of revenue, giving them the opportunity to plan ahead.
- Tremendous volumes of cargo are moving in and out of China and South Asia every day. The route this cargo follows will surely be the route of sustainable prosperity. The partners in the emerging transport and transit networks will be a winning team.
- The ability to produce and export food and food products will be decisive in a world that is looking at the looming hunger crisis.
- Uzbekistan, under the new leadership is already emitting signals that Russia would be its preferred partner.
- Turkey and Iran, two countries with very active presence in Central Asia, are leaning toward Russia.
- Partly the reason of the unpredictable but persistent waves of the global financial crisis is the deceit and greed of the American banks and their US Dollar. Euro has failed to replace dollar. The world will breathe a sigh of relief if an alternative world currency appears in the market. China and Russia can play an important role to make it happen.
- Russia has lately switched to a pragmatic approach in dealing with the Afghan conundrum.
These are just a few of the factors that form the backdrop of the Sochi meeting. It makes perfect sense that now Turkmenistan and Russia sit down together and rewrite the extent of their partnership, enriching it with the vast new possibilities.
Turkmenistan, because of its active neutrality and its huge and impressive network of transport and transit infrastructure, is an ideal partner for everyone in the greater region including Russia.
Russia, after having endured sharp and unrelenting hostility from the west at every step, has perhaps finally understood that its future belongs with the East, the regions comprising Greater Central Asia, China and South Asia. — Putin said in his concluding remarks, “We will work through all this.” Responding to the ideas of Berdymuhamedov, Putin said “I believe that the implementation of these ideas will only benefit our relations. These areas are important not only for Turkmenistan but also for Russia.”
This is just the prelude to a new start.