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Leonid Skakovskiy. American-Turkmen cooperation in 2016: conclusions and prospects

In 2016, American-Turkmen relations were never active and developed not by a mutually agreed and beneficial course, but by inertia. On October 26, 2016 on the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan independence President Obama sent a telegram to President G. Berdimuhamedov, where he noted, that the partnership of the two countries “continues its positive development, reflecting common aspiration to spread global peace and prosperity.” B. Obama emphasized: “We also highly appreciate the commitment to friendship and peace among all countries, and Turkmenistan’s contribution to the structural and humanitarian development of Afghanistan. I’m convinced that our relations will only grow deeper.” [1]

On November 10, 2016 President G. Berdimuhamedov sent a congratulatory message to D.Trump on his election to the presidency. G. Berdimuhamedov expressed the sincere wishes of good health, happiness and prosperity. The Turkmen leader assured D. Trump of respect and desire for further development and strengthening of relations between Turkmenistan and the USA for the interest of the peoples of the countries. [2]

The Freedom House report “Countries if transition in 2016” published in March 2016 became a dissonance against that positive background. As we know, Freedom House gives to countries a rating level of democracy sophistication from one (1), which means full freedom, to seven (7) equal to tyranny, and Turkmenistan got a score of 6,93. Turkmenistan also got a score of 7 for purity of sophistication of civil society, by criteria of independence of media, and for effectiveness, judicial independence and democratic character of the national government; a score of 6,75 in the category of democratic character of local authorities, and for the level of corruption, and a score of 7 for electoral process. [3]

 

Trade and economic cooperation

On September 17, 2016 President G. Berdimuhamedov welcomed E. Stewart the Executive Director of “Turkmenistan-USA” Business council. The parties exchanged opinions on the prospects of further development of trade and economic cooperation and noted a role of the Business council and joint business forums which proved to be effective mechanisms of advancement of trade and economic cooperation and stimulation of investment activity.

Power, transport and communications, industry, agriculture and high technology were among the urgent directions of bilateral interaction. E. Stewart confirmed the interest of the US business communities to strengthening of the positions at the prospective Turkmen market with the favourable investment climate. [4]

On August 20-26, 2016 USAID organized a visit to Dubai, the UAE for the representatives of the State Commodity exchange of Turkmenistan in order to examine the opportunities of warehousing of Turkmen goods in Dubai for ensuring affordability to potential buyers. This visit became a part of programs of technical assistance of USAID in economic diversification and promotion of export [5].

 

Security cooperation

The US traditionally pays particular attention to strengthening the Turkmen Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Structures. It should be reminded in this regard, that back in 2015 the USA reacted positively to a request of the Turkmen leaders for providing military aid to Ashkhabat in the financial year 2016. [6]

On May 23-27, 2016 the US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration held a seminar for heads of divisions on drug control, of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, State migration and State customs services of Turkmenistan, in Ashkhabad. Concluding the seminar, A. Mustard the US Ambassador in Turkmenistan emphasized that “the governments of Turkmenistan and the USA have been effectively cooperating in the war on drugs for more than 10 years.” [7]

On September 30, 2016 the U.S. Embassy held the closing ceremony of the 10th round of the program for training in English for the staff of Turkmen law enforcement agencies of Turkmenistan. 50 law enforcement officers from 9 ministries and departments of Turkmenistan were trained. K. Witmer, the chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Embassy congratulated participants of the program on a successful completion of courses and encouraged to use all opportunities to improve English. [8]

It should be noted that the growing cooperation of Turkmenistan with the USA on safety issues causes a certain irritation in Russia. The Kremlin prefers not to comment on this cooperation, but the articles insinuating that activation of the American-Turkmen dialogue on security is undesirable, have already appeared in the Russian media. [9]

 

Cultural cooperation

The USA actively promotes American culture in Turkmenistan, but at the same time it supports Turkmen education and ancient culture of the Turkmen people:

  • In particular, on February 29 – March, 5, 2016 the American researcher K. Peterson jointly with the US Embassy in Turkmenistan implemented a program on development of youth participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in Ashkhabad. [10]
  • On May 5, 2016 Ambassador A. Mustard presented two American books for children by Laura Ingalls Wilder – “Farmer Boy” and “Little House in the Big Woods”. In such a way the US Embassy promotes the Turkmen language, and at the same time shares the American classics with Turkmen citizens. [11]
  • On August 12, 2016 Ambassador A. Mustard took part in the final ceremony for the project of the Museum of Fine Arts of Turkmenistan, in the framework of the “Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation” (AFCP). The project staff completed the 2nd stage of restoration of a mosaic from the mosque portal of 15 century. [12]
  • On August 29, 2016 the US Embassy allocated a grant of $85600 from the AFCP 2016 program to the National Department for Preservation, Research and Restoration of the Monuments of History and Culture for the purpose of research, conservation and restoration of the Mosque of Muhammad II Khwarezm-Shah. In general, total funding provided by the Fund for preservation of Turkmen culture has surpassed the $1,5 million mark. [13]

SummaryD. Trump’s election to the presidential post is undoubtedly the main event of the past year which will have important consequences for American-Turkmen relations in 2017. D Trump presents himself as a foe of violent indoctrination of western democracy; it means that human rights and democracy promotion will take second place. Thus, the chance of activation of bilateral dialogue on trade and economy cooperation will appear.

 

Links
  1. По случаю 25-летия независимости Туркменистана на имя Президента Гурбангулы Бердымухамедова поступают поздравительные послания от глав государств и правительств //http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/?id=12044.
  2. Президент Туркменистана поздравил Дональда Трампа с избранием на пост Президента США //http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/?id=12174.
  3. Freedom House признала Туркменистан «авторитарной» страной //http://ca-news.org/news:1184370.
  4. Президент Туркменистана встретился с исполнительным директором Делового совета «Туркменистан – США» //http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ru/articles/41988.html.
  5. USAID поддерживает Туркменистан в исследовании экспортных возможностей через ОАЭ //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/prusaid20160830.html.
  6. США согласились оказать военную помощь Туркмении //https://lenta.ru/news/2015/03/30/usaturkmenia.
  7. Посол Аллан Мастард подчеркивает приверженность правительства США к долгосрочному сотрудничеству в области борьбы с наркотиками в Туркменистане //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/highlightinl6062016.html.
  8. Посольство США провело церемонию закрытия очередных курсов по английскому языку //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/pr20161020.html.
  9. Туркменистан слишком увлекся игрой в нейтралитет Статус нейтралитета, который выбрал когда-то Туркменистан, вовсе не гарантирует ему безопасность от внешней агрессии //http://mk-kz.kz/articles/2016/07/13/turkmenistan-slishkom-uvleksya-igroy-v-neytralitet.html.
  10. Посольство США продвигает участие молодёжи Туркменистана в области естественных и технических наук, технологий и математики (STEM) //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/pr20160229.html.
  11. Посольство США продвигает туркменский язык с помощью классики американской литературы //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/booklaunch2017.html.
  12. Церемония завершения проекта в рамках «Фонда посла по сохранению культурного наследия» по восстановлению мозаики мечети в Аннау //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/ccafcp201608.html.
  13. Посольство США содействует сохранению культурного наследия Туркменистана //https://russian.ashgabat.usembassy.gov/pr20160829.html.