The Biden administration pledged on Tuesday to support the independence of the five Central Asian nations in a not-so-subtle warning to former Soviet states that Russia’s value as a partner has been severely undermined by its war of a year against Ukraine.
In Kazakhstan for a series of meetings with senior diplomats from Central Asia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said no country, especially those traditionally in Moscow’s orbit, could afford to ignoring the threats posed by Russian aggression not only to their territory but also to the rules-based international order and the global economy. In all of his talks, Blinken stressed the importance of respecting “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”
Central Asian states have taken a studied stance of neutrality toward Ukraine, supporting neither the Russian invasion nor American and Western condemnations of the war.
“Since becoming the first nation to recognize Kazakhstan in December 1991, the United States has held steadfastly to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Kazakhstan and the countries of the region,” he said. Blinken said after meeting in Astana with the foreign ministers of the so-called C5+1 group, made up of the United States and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“During our discussions today, I reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Kazakhstan, like all nations, to freely determine its future, especially as we mark one year since the Russia lost its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in a failed attempt to deny its people who have that freedom,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi.
Tileuberdi, as Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said earlier, thanked Blinken for the US commitment to Kazakhstan’s freedom, but signaled his country was unlikely to take a pro-Russian stance. or pro-Western. Tileuberdi said Kazakhstan would continue to act in its own national interest given “the complex international situation”.
“Our country pursues a balanced multilateral foreign policy,” he said.
Tileuberdi said that although Kazakhstan has very close historical ties with Russia and Ukraine, it would not allow its territory to be used for Russian aggression or sanctions busting. He also said that even though Kazakhstan shares the world’s longest land border with Russia, he saw no threat from Moscow.
Blinken’s visit to Astana on Tuesday and Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan on Wednesday, marks his first trip to Central Asia as secretary of state and comes just days after the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. by Moscow, which shook the region.
None of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, traditionally considered part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, publicly supported the attack. Kazakhstan has taken in tens of thousands of Russians fleeing a military call-up last fall. Tokayev has spoken by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy three times since Russian troops arrived in Ukraine last February, calling for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in accordance with the UN charter and international law.
However, the five Central Asian republics, as well as India, which Blinken will visit after Uzbekistan, abstained in a vote condemning the invasion as a violation of basic international principles last week during the United Nations General Assembly on the first anniversary of the war.
“If we allow (these principles) to be violated with impunity, it opens up the prospect that Russia itself will continue to consider further aggression against other countries, if it targets them, or other countries will learn the wrong lesson and -being aggressors in all parts of the world will say “Well, if Russia can get away with it, then so can we,” Blinken said. “It’s a recipe for a world of conflict, a world of instability, a world that I don’t think any of us want to live in.”
“That’s why it’s so important for so many countries to stand up and say no, we don’t accept this,” he said.
The United States has sought for decades – with little success – to wean the region’s former Soviet nations from Moscow’s influence. Some, notably Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, assisted the United States with logistics during its 20-year conflict in Afghanistan, but their ties with Russia remain deep and extend to the economic, military and diplomatic spheres as as members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Source: News 24