Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
This year is marked by the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the countries of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. A rich program of events is being implemented on the occasion of the anniversary. These include cultural days, exhibitions, theater tours, concerts, film screenings, round tables and scientific and practical conferences.
We have come a long way over the years. In our joint work, we have always relied on the historical ties of friendship that unite our peoples, rich traditions of mutual support, trust and respect.
Like any responsible member of the international community, Russia is interested in a benevolent external environment, maintaining good neighborliness and constructive interaction with all, but, above all, neighboring countries. In this regard, we rejoice that we have strategic partnership relations with all the countries of Central Asia, and alliance relations with most of them.
Our cooperation is all-encompassing. A rich dialogue has been established at the highest level, through ministries and departments aimed at achieving practical results. A solid regulatory and legal framework has been formed, numbering more than 900 bilateral agreements and intergovernmental agreements.
The joining efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to even greater cohesion of our countries and peoples. Russia not only responded to the requests of Central Asian friends for the supply of vaccines, but also shared technologies, ensuring the possibility of their production in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Trade and economic ties are developing dynamically, regardless of fluctuations in the geopolitical conjuncture. Trade turnover with almost all countries of the region is growing. In addition to raw materials, its range is formed by industrial goods, agricultural products, chemical products, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, automotive and mechanical engineering.
In the period 2010-2021 alone, the volume of accumulated Russian investments reached about US $30.5 billion. There are more than 10,000 Russian and joint ventures operating in Central Asian countries, creating 900,000 jobs.
Major joint projects are being successfully implemented. In particular, work is underway on the implementation of the agreements of the Presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Central Asia. The flagship of the Russian-Tajik economic cooperation is the Sangtuda HPP-1. It provides about 12.5% of the total electricity generation in this country. In 2021, the contract of KAMAZ for the supply of about 2000 units of machinery to Turkmenistan was realized. In January last year, the Presidents of Russia and Kyrgyzstan launched the Talas Gold Mining Plant. Joint production of mineral fertilizers has been established in the Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan. And this is only a small part of our common endeavors.
Regional cooperation plays a special role in maintaining an atmosphere of good neighborliness. Interregional cooperation summits with the participation of heads of State make a great contribution to its further development. At first, this practice was introduced with Kazakhstan, and then with Uzbekistan.
We proceed from the fact that the processes of Eurasian integration, which are gaining momentum, are also designed to promote the expansion of practical cooperation. Currently, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the EAEU. Since 2020, Uzbekistan has been participating in the work of the Union as an observer. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are showing interest in the activities of the organization. The attractiveness of the Union is conditioned by tangible benefits for its members, including the growth of mutual trade, the removal of barriers to the movement of goods, capital, services, and labor resources. Within the framework of the Union, a coordinated and unified policy is being implemented in key sectors of the economy, and work is underway to create a common market for electricity, oil and gas.
Russia’s relations with the Central Asian states are featured by rich and diverse cultural and humanitarian interaction. Russian centers of science and culture operate in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A representative of Rossotrudnichestvo works in Turkmenistan at the Russian Embassy.
Representative offices and branches of leading Russian universities operate in the region. They include Lomonosov Moscow State University, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas. In May 2019, the branch of Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Foreign Ministry opened in Uzbekistan. It is the first branch in CIS space. In February of this year, a Russian-Kazakh intergovernmental agreement was signed regulating the activities of branches of universities of the two countries on each other’s territory. The Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University and the Russian-Tajik (Slavic) University are successfully operating in Bishkek and Dushanbe. The issue of opening a joint university in Kazakhstan is being worked out.
The Joint Russian-Turkmen Secondary School named after A.S.Pushkin enjoys great popularity in Turkmenistan. Construction of five schools in Tajikistan with teaching in Russian continues. We expect that they will open their from 1 September this year.
It is important that studying in Russian-speaking schools gives citizens of Central Asian countries the opportunity to enroll in Russian universities on equal terms. About 160,000 citizens of Central Asian states study in Russia annually and 60,000 of them study at the expense of the federal budget.
It is no secret that citizens of Central Asian states show a high interest in the Russian labor market. This is due to the visa-free regime with the vast majority of countries in the region and the absence of a “language barrier”. Our countries are developing close cooperation in the field of migration regulation, improving the relevant contractual and legal framework. In 2017, an intergovernmental agreement was signed on the organized recruitment of Uzbek citizens to work in the Russian Federation. A similar agreement signed in 2019 with Tajikistan has entered into force. The relevant intergovernmental document is being developed with Kyrgyzstan.
Security cooperation is being strengthened. Consultations on countering international terrorism are held on a regular basis, relevant bilateral projects are being implemented, and assistance is being provided in the training of professional personnel.
Military and military-technical cooperation is actively developing. Medium- and long-term programs are being implemented to provide military-technical assistance aimed at modernizing the armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The presence of the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan and the Russian aviation group in Kyrgyzstan (Kant) remains a key factor in ensuring a unified system of collective security in the region and neutralizing terrorist threats.
I would particularly like to note the joint work of the anti-terrorist and anti-drug agencies of the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO. The effective actions of the CSTO peacekeeping forces in January this year to assist Kazakhstan in stabilizing the internal political situation after outside-sponsored mass riots became a clear evidence of the maturity and high reliability of this Organization. In many ways, this made it possible to stop threats to the security of the entire Central Asian region.
Our states traditionally hold identical or very similar positions on most of the key issues of our time, and cooperate fruitfully on various multilateral planforms, including the UN.
Unlike some Western countries, Russia does not consider the Central Asian region as an arena for geopolitical confrontation in the spirit of the colonial concept of the “big game”. In this regard, we only welcome the growing intra-regional integration, regular consultative meetings of the heads of Central Asian States.
We attach great importance to cooperation in the dialogue mechanism “Central Asia + Russia” at the level of foreign ministers. It has proved itself as a useful platform for exchanging views on topical issues on the regional and international agendas. Its relevance is evidenced by the fact that the format is acquiring new dimensions, including the parliamentary one. On the initiative of Turkmenistan, an Interparliamentary Forum of Central Asian and Russian countries, as well as a meeting of the Dialogue of Women of Central Asia and Russia will be held in Ashgabat in May this year.
Our harmonious, equal, mutually beneficial relations are a vivid example of how interstate cooperation should be built in the XXI century. There is a mutual commitment to expand and deepen the mutually enriching partnership. We see great potential for further development of cooperation in trade, economic, energy, scientific and technical spheres, and the realization of each other’s transit opportunities. All the necessary prerequisites for bringing our relations to new milestones are available. The main one is the bonds of friendship and trust that unite our peoples. /// nCa, 9 May 2022 [Originally published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 5 May 2022]