The model of partnership between Turkmenistan and Russia can broadly be called a model of ‘composite partnership.’
It is both static and dynamic in nature, and huge in scope.
- Many from the top leadership of Turkmenistan have studied in Russia at one time or the other
- About 18000 Turkmen students are currently studying in Russia
- Some component republics of the Russian Federation, such as Tatarstan, have the direct trade and economic partnership with Turkmenistan that surpasses in volume with that of many countries
- The Russian machinery is widely used and universally trusted in many sectors of Turkmenistan including transportation, construction, and agriculture
- Some ethnic Turkmens are in important positions in Russia, including the heads of some hospitals, police heads of some districts, etc; the coach of the football team of Tatarstan is a Turkmen
- Some Turkmen communities in Russia such as the one in Stavrapol are politically powerful and actively participate in the process of decision-making at the provincial level
The beauty of this particular model of Turkmen-Russian partnership is that the vast arrays of elements in the interaction mechanism can individually be put at pause, dialed back slightly, or moved forward at desired speed, all without affecting the overall quality of friendship.
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The current phase of the Turkmen-Russian partnership started in August 2018, when President Berdymuhamedov met President Putin in Sochi.
TDH, the official news agency of Turkmenistan published a lengthy commentary after the visit.
Here are the relevant parts of the TDH commentary:
Strategy of intensification of Turkmen – Russian partnership is conformed
Working visit of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to Sochi, the Russian Federation on August 15, where he had an informal meeting with President Vladimir Putin, has confirmed the commitment of two countries to traditional relations of friendship and good neighbourliness, mutual intent to continue consolidating constructive interstate dialog that meets the goals of common wealth.
Relying on the years of experience in cooperation, Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation demonstrate the willingness to further improvement of peace-making basis of bilateral relations in the context of global sustainable development goals declared by the United Nations, the intent to give new stimuli for beneficial partnership, which has strategic character.
[ . . . ]
Considerable legal and regulatory framework of bilateral relations, which consists of more than 100 interstate and intergovernmental and more than 70 interdepartmental agreements, visually indicates the commitment of Turkmenistan and Russia to the course toward long-term cooperation.
Last year, it was supplemented by big package of important documents signed by the outcomes of the talks in Ashgabat under the official visit of President Vladimir Putin to our country, which were to support the improvement of beneficial relations in all directions.
Presidents Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Vladimir Putin confirmed the inviolability of Turkmen – Russian strategic partnership, having noted the importance of relevant Agreement signed by Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation.
Such documents as the Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in industry, agriculture, maritime transport, sports and tourism, the Programme of cooperation in 2018 -2020 between the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Agreement between the Ministry of Health Protection and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Health Protection of the Russian Federation on cooperation in health protection sphere, the Memorandum of Understanding in cooperation in standardization and metrology between the General State Service «Türkmenstandartlary» (Turkmenistan) and the Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and Metrology (the Russian Federation), Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the Ministry of Finances and Economy of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Finances of the Russian Federation, which were signed under participation of the heads of the states, indicate the multidimensionality of bilateral cooperation.
Regarding the trade and economic partnership, it was mentioned that there are great opportunities for diversification and intensification of productive contacts, increment of the trade turnover volumes and expansion of the variety of goods and stimulation of business and investment activity.
In this case, considerable role is given to the activity of Intergovernmental Commission, Turkmen – Russian and Russian – Turkmen business councils as well as to joint business forums. At the same time, steadfast dynamics, which is inherent to direct cooperation between Turkmenistan and largest regions and constituencies of the Russian federation including the Republic of Tatarstan, Astrakhan and Sverdlovsk regions, Saint Petersburg and other, has been stated
The Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Administration Krasnodar region of the Russian federation on trade and economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation, the Agreement between the Hyakimlik of Mary (Turkmenistan) and the Administration of the Municipal Division of Orel city (Russian Federation) on establishment of fraternal relation between the cities of Mary and Orel indicates the expansion of such direct relations.
Relevant Intergovernmental Programme for 2017 – 2019 – some sort of the roadmap for three years period, which practically covers all directions of Turkmen – Russian partnership in this sphere including trade, industry, energy, agriculture, transport, high technologies, service sphere, etc. is also aimed at optimum realization of the potential of economic cooperation.
Integrated reform programmes and large infrastructural projects in Turkmenistan oriented to the industrialization of national economy, fundamental modernization of industrial sector and establishment of scientific based productions open wide opportunities for efficient consolidation of efforts in different spheres, for development of new forms of cooperation meeting modern realities.
All of these, including favourable investment climate, stimulates the interest of foreign including Russian business circles in perspective Turkmen market, where a number of Russian companies efficiently work for many years.
Transport sphere, which is one of basic segments of the world economy, is also priority vector of cooperation. As is known, using its favourable geographic and geopolitical location, Turkmenistan initiates and steadily implements large-scale projects for formation of multimodal transit and transport corridors of regional and continental significance.
Opening of new International Seaport in Turkmenbashy was an important step in this direction. In this aspect, the use of port infrastructure of both countries in Caspian Sea including ferry line between Turkmenbashy and Astrakhan seems to be very perspective.
Speaking of the cooperation between Turkmenistan and Astrakhan region of the Russian Federation, it is worth mentioning the opening of new modern school on May 18 this year, which was built in the village of Funtovo, Privolzhsk area of this region by Turkmenistan according to the initiative of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
This event became another excellent page in the history of development of traditional Turkmen – Russian humanitarian contacts, enrichment of the principles of good neighbourliness, which are invariably inherent to interstate relations.
Energy sphere that has strategic importance for both states, which are the world energy powers and have huge hydrocarbon resources, is among topical directions of bilateral cooperation.
Having outlined integrated modernization, increment of production and processing rates, diversification of the delivery routes of energy carriers to the world markets, creation of high technology petrochemical productions making ready competitive goods, training of highly qualified specialist as the utmost objectives, Turkmenistan is always open for beneficial cooperation with all interested foreign partners.
[ . . . ]
Having given high appraisal to the level and content of Turkmen – Russian dialog, the sides also shared the visions on the number of topical objectives of regional and global agenda, having highlighted the commitment of Turkmenistan and Russia to constructive partnership under the UN and other competent international organizations for the provision of universal peace, security and wealth.
Having focused on the collaboration in Caspian Sea, Presidents Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Vladimir Putin highlighted the importance of the V Summit of the Heads of Caspian States in Aktau on August 12, which resulted in the signing of the Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea, which marked the beginning of new milestone in the history of relations of the coastal states.
The commitment of both countries for close cooperation in Caspian Sea based on the principles of good neighbourliness, equality, respect and interests of all Caspian states has been confirmed. Turkmenistan and Russia welcome and support the signing of multilateral agreements on cooperation in Caspian Sea in trade, economic and transport spheres and in other directions.
In this regard, the necessity of efficient implementation of the provisions of the Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea, for which the creation of five-sided mechanism of political consultations under the aegis of foreign ministers has been stipulated, was mentioned. As is known, on his speech at the Summit, the Head of Turkmenistan suggested to entrust the foreign ministers of the Caspian states to review the issues of practical realization of relative provision in near future.
The signing of other important documents including intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in trade, economic and transport spheres initiated by Turkmen side, which are to give new impulse and content to the cooperation in Caspian Sea, indicated the efficiency of the V Caspian Summit.
The proposals of the Leader of the Nation on the first Caspian economic forum in 2019, which is to be permanent platform for multilateral dialog with the participation of the governments, business and academic circles, representatives of international organizations, as well as on the drafting of the agreements related to scientific studies and search and rescue works in Caspian Sea are aimed at the achievement of these goals.
Having touched upon the subjects of the session of the Council of the heads of the states of the Commonwealth of Independent States in September, which is co-chaired by the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan this year, Turkmen leader highlighted that our country would chair the Commonwealth in 2019 and would continue supporting the development of constructive multi-vector partnership in the CIS, which meets common interests.
Cooperation under the Commonwealth of Independent States has always been and remains one of priority directions of foreign course of Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov highlighted. Being an associated member of the CIS, our neutral country makes real contribution to the development of interstate cooperation that has considerable potential and capabilities in different spheres.
Turkmen side intends to make all necessary the efficiency of activity of the statutory bodies and profile structures of the Commonwealth aimed at specific result for designated period under its coming chairing. For these purposes, Turkmenistan has developed the draft Concept using positive practice of the chairing of the country in 2012.
In this context, it is remarkable that in 2012 and 2016, Turkmen cities of Mary and Dashoguz were announced as the cultural capitals of the Common wealth. The events held in these cities under this honourable status were considerable contribution of Turkmenistan in the development of cultural dialog in the CIS, enrichment of traditional humanitarian relations, in protection and popularisation of valuable historical and cultural heritage of the nations of the CIS countries.
Regularly participating in various events under the CIS, our country also hosted important meetings and forums of the CIS inducing the session of the Council of the heads of the Governments and the Council of the heads of the states.
At the same time, Turkmenistan invariably occupies initiative position in the objectives of cooperation, paying great attention to the realization of existing multidimensional potential for successful consolidation of the efforts in such priority directions as trade and economic spheres. Transport and communication sector, energy, humanitarian and cultural filed as well as ecology, sports, tourism, etc. [TDH, 16 August 2018]
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The resumption of the Turkmen gas supplies to Russia took place recently after several rounds of high level talks.
The current volume is very small and more negotiations may take place before a substantial arrangement is put in place. For now, the very small volumes flowing through the Central Asia-Centre pipeline system are basically meant to test the integrity of the pipeline and do the maintenance work where necessary. This is the usual industry practice and it is mostly done when high volume of gas is expected to start flowing after the pause of several years.
The flow of gas, which can be called test flow started on 15 April 2019, with announcement by the Turkmen side and confirmation by the Russian side.
The Turkmen media mentioned that the resumption of gas supplies had taken place under the terms of the Turkmenistan-Russia gas purchase agreement that was signed in 2003 for a period of 25 years.
A press release of Gazprom, issued on 10 April 2003 gives some details of the agreement although it is not clear as to what provisions are still in force.
Here is the text of the Gazprom press release of 10 April 2003:
Gazprom has signed a long-term contract for the purchase of Turkmen gas
April 10, 2003, 15:56
Today in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov signed a long-term agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan on cooperation in the gas industry for 25 years. The authorized organizations for the implementation of the Agreement are defined by Gazprom and the State Oil Company Turkmenneftegaz.
Under the Agreement, Gazexport LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gazprom) and the Turkmenneftegaz State Trade Company entered into a long-term contract for the sale of Turkmen natural gas for the duration of the Agreement.
In accordance with the Agreement, the Turkmen side guarantees the supply of natural gas at the border of Turkmenistan. In turn, the Russian side guarantees the purchase, transportation and payment of Turkmen gas.
According to the contract, in 2004 Gazexport will purchase 5–6 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenneftegaz. In 2005, the volume will increase to 6-7 billion cubic meters, in 2006 – up to 10 billion cubic meters in 2007 – up to 60–70 billion cubic meters, in 2008 – up to 63–73 billion cubic meters of gas. Starting from 2009, the annual volume of Turkmen gas supplies to Russia will be from 70 to 80 billion cubic meters. From January 1, 2004, the purchase price will be $ 44 per 1 thousand cubic meters of gas.
Payment for Turkmen gas supplies in 2004–2006 will be made at the rate of 50% in cash and 50% in supplies of equipment for the development of the gas industry of Turkmenistan. The procedure for payment in subsequent years will be agreed by the parties in addition.
The agreement and contract will come into force on January 1, 2004, and will be valid until December 31, 2028.
“The documents signed today are a huge breakthrough in the gas sphere between Russia and Turkmenistan. Such full-scale agreements in the history of the two states have not yet been seen. For a quarter of a century, they determine the future cooperation of the two leading gas powers, ”said Alexey Miller, head of Gazprom.
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Even though the Gazprom press release quoted above mentions that the price would be USD 44 per thousand cubic meters, in actual fact the price and some other provisions including the volumes came up for discussion at the end of each year throughout the active implementation of this agreement from 2003 to 2016.
For example, the price in 2005 was USD 65 per thousand cubic meters which was raised to USD 100 in 2006, and to USD 150 in 2007.
Also, during the main periods there was a middleman to handle the transportation of gas from the Turkmen border to the buyer, and the banking transactions and other management issues. At the time of the signing of the agreement, a special entity ‘RosUkrEnergo’ registered in Switzerland was created to serve as the middleman.
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In short, the Turkmen-Russian partnership model is robust and versatile. It is also sufficiently flexible to cater for the Russian tendency to bring political hues to economic deals and the Turkmen adherence to keep the business separate from politics. /// nCa, 7 May 2019
To be continued . . .