The head of the American diplomacy spoke with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the Kazakh capital Astana, during this tour which comes a few days after the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine .
His visit was intended to strengthen the footprint of the United States in this region caught between the powerful Russian neighbor, a former tutelary power now concentrated on Ukraine, and the growing influence of China, in particular through its project investments of the new silk roads .
Main announcement made during his visit, Mr. Blinken indicated that 25 million additional dollars will be released, after a first equivalent tranche announced in September, to help Central Asian countries in particular to diversify their trade routes and create jobs.
– Sovereignty –
The American Secretary of State also recalled during a press conference the attachment of the United States to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the five Central Asian nations.
I reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for Kazakhstan , which shares some 7,500 kilometers of border with Russia, and for all nations to freely determine their future, as Russia launched an invasion a year ago. scale of Ukraine ,” Blinken said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns among some of its other neighbors. If Moscow and Astana continue to maintain close relations, tensions have arisen in recent months.
Kazakhstan, a country as large as five times the size of France, seems particularly concerned with sparing its large Russian-speaking minority, not unaware that Russian President Vladimir Putin has notably used the pretext of alleged abuses against Russian-speakers in Ukraine to justify his invasion.
Antony Blinken assured Tuesday that the United States was determined to strengthen its relations with Kazakhstan, which has nevertheless been able to forge alliances with various partners despite the overwhelming influence of Moscow.
Asked about this American visit, the spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, pretended not to be moved by it, stressing that Russia had its own bilateral relations with these countries, which are for some part of economic alliances and soldiers headed by Moscow.
– New impetus –
Mr. Blinken, who will fly to neighboring Uzbekistan in the evening, also met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who welcomed a particularly important visit to give new impetus to the construction of strategic cooperation between the two country.
Mr. Tokayev, re-elected with more than 81% of the votes in November during a presidential election without competition, thanked the United States for their constant and strong support and assured of wanting to deepen and strengthen the partnership between Astana and Washington.
If Washington has no illusions about the possibility that the countries of Central Asia will let go of their historical Russian partner, nor about the influence of their other powerful neighbor, China, the United States plays, as elsewhere in Africa or in America Latin, the card of the reliable partner .
In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the leaders of these Central Asian countries are on a tightrope due to formal defense agreements with Moscow and the economic and security weight of Russia. They thus adopted a position of balance in the conflict.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia have not supported any of the United Nations resolutions condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the unusual flow of European and British exports to Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — which are part of a customs union with Russia — can be explained by the desire to circumvent the massive Western sanctions against Russia.
But at the same time, Washington is seeking to spare Central Asia from the measures taken against Russia, for example by granting an exemption from sanctions to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which transports Kazakh oil to European markets via Russia.