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Turkmenistan: strategic choice in favor of strengthening and developing cooperation with Russia

photo: kremlin.ru
15 June 2022

Landmark visit

Russia was the first foreign country, to which Serdar Berdimuhamedow, the President of Turkmenistan, paid his first official visit after coming into office. By the rules of diplomacy, such visit is very symbolic. It means that the first country visited by a new political leader is given the status of priority ally. In the current very complicated international context, this decision of the President of Turkmenistan seems to be a conscious strategic choice in favor of strengthening and developing the relations with Russia despite the immediate political situation.

Besides, the practice of international relations uses the first visit of a new head of state to demonstrate the foreign policy emphasis. The observers noted that despite a very tight agenda of official talks, Serdar Berdimuhamedow laid a wreath to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall and visited the Tretyakov Gallery. This is an obvious sign of respect on behalf of the President of Turkmenistan to the two most meaningful spiritual bonds of Russia the memory of those perished during the Great Patriotic War, and to the great Russian culture. In the context of «Cancel Russia» policy build-up in the West, such attitude towards traditional Russian values could not slip under the radar in Moscow.

From its end, Russia demonstrated the heartfelt red-carpet treatment of the newly elected Turkmenistan leader. He was received in Moscow in a solemn ceremony and with great respect. According to the State Information Agency of Turkmenistan, «In Moscow international airport Vnukovo-2, where the state flags of Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation were raised on the flagpoles and a guard of honor was lined up, high-level Russian officials met President Serdar Berdimuhamedow». [1]

During his visit, S. Berdimuhamedow moved around Moscow on a Russian-manufactured white armored Aurus Senat Limousine the one with the highest level of ballistic protection in the world and believed to be the safest vehicle for official leaders. This car was especially procured for the President of Turkmenistan. The President of the Russian Federation uses exactly the same Aurus, but in black.

Vladimir Putin received his Turkmenistan colleague in a special venue the green state drawing room of the Big Kremlin Palace. This exceptional protocol ceremony is also very symbolic: firstly, the interior of the negotiations venue immediately resembled the national flag of Turkmenistan, ad, secondly, this Kremlin palace is often called the couch room it is traditionally used for especially meaningful one-on-one meetings. Indeed, the negotiations of these two leaders took place in different trust-based formats during their friendly tea-table conversation and one-on-one. [2]

«It is very pleasant for us, that your first official visit you are making to our country. This once again emphasizes a special character of our relations», Vladimir Putin said in the open part of the meeting. On his part, Serdar Berdimuhamedow confirmed the strength of strategic partnership between the two countries. After negotiations, the Presidents held a joint press conference, and right before this press conference Vladimir Putin awarded an Order of Friendship to Serdar Berdimuhamedow. Let us remind you, that on May 18, the RF President signed the respective Decree about this award with the following wording: «for significant contribution into strengthening the strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan». [3]

New stage of strategic partnership

In addition to the impeccable protocol ceremony, big preparatory efforts were undertaken before the official visit of President Berdimuhamedow. Analysts emphasize special merits of the Vice Prime Minister and the Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Raşit Meredow an influential, experienced and esteemed diplomat in CIS and in the international arena, having done a lot to strengthen the ties between Moscow and Ashkhabad. It was R. Meredow, who signed the Road Map for Turkmenistan Russia interaction in the sphere of regional safety in February 2022, which was based on the outcomes of the visit of Turkmenistan Foreign Ministry delegation to Moscow. The efforts of the Turkmenistan Embassy to the Russian Federation headed by Batyr Niyazliev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, should be highlighted.

By the way, Serdar Berdimuhamedow himself previously spent a lot of time on improving the bilateral relations. For example, he participated in Intergovernmental Russian-Turkmen Commission for Economic Cooperation. All the time, he is posted up on our common problems and firmly keeps his finger on the pulse. During his first official visit to the RF in the capacity of the President (and the observers paid special attention to that) S. Berdimuhamedow looked very dignified, stayed cool and clear, spoke using straightforward wording. Eventually, the new Head of Turkmenistan favorably impressed Russian leadership.

Following the results of the official visit of President Serdar Berdimuhamedow, a solid package of 15 documents was signed regulating the development of bilateral cooperation at this stage of deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries. [4] This package includes Declaration of Strategic Partnership Extension, as well as other documents on interaction in trade, transport, construction, science and education, sports and other areas. [5]

Here is one important quote from this Declaration defining the sublime style of bilateral political interaction: «The parties are pleased to note that Russian-Turkmen relations are based on deep political confidence and strategic leadership of the two heads of states». This landmark phrase is key to understanding the essence of the current relations between Ashkhabad and Moscow. Experts emphasize that Turkmenistan holds a special place in the system of regional relations actively promoting a positive neutrality concept. Interaction with Russia is based on exclusively bilateral agreements: this allows for prompt resolution of various complicated issues.

Due to noticeable aggravation of military and political situation in Central Asia, in particular, with respect to Afghanistan, Ashkhabad demonstrates its commitment to raise the relations with Moscow to a new level, including the relations in the military sphere. [6] It is obvious, that in case of need Russia is ready to resolve the issues of military and technical cooperation by way of supplying the necessary weapons and military equipment to Turkmenistan, as well as to assist Ashkhabad with top officers training including in the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The need for joint assessment of different Afghani scenarios and organizing the respective interaction in this sphere is evident, just like the need for regular consultations on the regional security issues.

Russia, in its turn, is facing a number of challenges in neutralizing political and sanctions-related pressure by the West, so it needs a drastic turn to the East. The key priority for the Kremlin is to strengthen its positions and enhance its influence in the post-Soviet area. With that in mind, Moscow needs tangible and guaranteed results: not lengthy discussions about customs and economic associations, not promises of support «sometime in future», but new energy and transport projects, specific agreements on military cooperation and border control. And finally, it is time to move from talks to actions in humanitarian sphere.

In this particular sphere Moscow and Ashkhabad can find complete mutual understanding and solid foundation for long-term mutually beneficial cooperation. The signed Declaration of strategic partnership extension of Russia and Turkmenistan opens new opportunities for that. It establishes the priorities for collaboration in political, trade and investment, cultural and humanitarian fields, as well as in the field of security including biological and information security. Now it is the critical time, when both countries are ready for practical implementation of comprehensive interaction in more competitive formats, linking their geopolitical, military and energy sector related interests with their long-term national interests. It appears to be the main point of the first official visit to Moscow by President Serdar Berdimuhamedow.

Cooperative responses to common challenges

Today, the modern world is facing a whole set of problems simultaneously in such spheres, as security, energy and food supplies; and these problems are interlinked. The outstanding issues of the European security system give rise to regional conflicts immediately reflected in an unprecedented surge in energy and grain prices. Worst of all is that all the attempts to resolve the impending problems «off-the-cuff» are hasty and even hysterical, when the long-term consequences of such ill-considered choices are not taken into account. For example, the embargo on import of Russian energy sources introduced by the European Union and the ban on marine shipments from Russian ports may instigate further deepening of the energy crisis in Europe and even food riots in the Middle East as soon as this coming winter.

In such complicated environment, the strategic partnership of Moscow and Ashkhabad may provide a positive example of handling matters with account of national interests and to mutual benefit. Today the Russian Federation is the main economic partner of Turkmenistan. For example, Russia exports machines, equipment and transportation vehicles to Turkmenistan, along with food and agricultural raw materials, chemical industry items, metals and articles made therefrom. Russian import from Turkmenistan constitutes textiles and footwear, food, chemical industry items and rubbers. In the course of negotiations, President Vladimir Putin emphasized the significant growth of sales turnover between the two countries. Thus, in the first quarter of the current year it grew by 45.1% amounting up to USD 171.1 mln, export grew by 49.3% up to USD 124 mln, and import by 35%, up to USD 47.1 mln. [7]

It is known that Turkmenistan interests in foreign trade pertain mainly to the oil-and-gas sector. Moscow and Ashkhabad have a long-lasting story of successful cooperation in energy sphere. It is not accidentally that during negotiations with Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Vladimir Putin emphasized that the energy sector traditionally is one of the key areas of cooperation between the two countries and has a special focus in the visits agenda. Russian President confirmed that both countries were interested in supporting the cooperation between the respective organizations and the initiatives of business groups targeted at implementation of mutually beneficial projects.

In addition to the traditional partner Gazprom (collaborating with Türkmengaz concern in organizing the export of Turkmen gas under the long-term contract stipulating for purchasing gas by Russia), Lukoil is also interested in cooperation with Turkmenistan. Currently, this company is part of negotiations on the terms and conditions of its participation as an operator for the project of developing Dostluk, the oil, gas and condensate field in the Caspian Sea. Tatneft company also is successfully operating in Turkmenistan providing oilfield and wells workover services.

Other major Russian energy and industrial companies (Inter RAO, Power Machines) also display their interest in implementing projects in Turkmenistan. «We are talking here about retrofit of the existing and building new power plants, including the ones using the alternative energy sources, building high-voltage power transmission lines, transit and export of electricity», the RF President emphasized.

The recent changes in the European energy markets can raise the demand for additional import of Turkmen gas. Experts believe that subject to mutual agreement of the parties the Russian gas transmission system (in particular, the Turkish Stream pipeline) may be used for pumping gas from Turkmenistan.

It is important to emphasize: resuming the comprehensive cooperation with Turkmenistan in the gas sector may become a powerful factor for strengthening Russias geo-economic positions in the Caspian region. For example, Moscow is interested in participation in building a new gas pipeline TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India). [8] In particular, some Russian companies are ready to supply pipes, compressors and other equipment items for this project. Let us note, that this project has a rather long history, because the security and safety at the Afghani section of the pipeline constitutes certain risk. However, before Serdar Berdimuhamedows visit to Moscow, some reports appeared saying that practical phase of the TAPI project shall start after a six-month period. [9] In any case, close cooperation between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan in energy and security spheres open new horizons for different projects including this one.

The most important topic for Moscow Ashkhabad strategic partnership is developing new routes for cargo transit. Previously, the Caspian Sea region was important solely as the source of oil and gas, but now its transit potential is coming to the fore. Caspian region is a strategic crossing for the East West and North South transit corridors. In particular, for Russian it is extremely important to enhance economic cooperation with Turkmenistan within the international North South transport corridor, especially, its eastern segment. An agreements package signed in the Kremlin will allow for upgrading the logistics route of this eastern segment with participation of RZD (Russian Railways). [10]

The North South corridor has three segments, and two of them are being implemented with participation of our two countries. The Trans-Caspian segment goes via the Caspian Sea ports of Russia, Iran, and with participation of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. This segment features multimodal transport maritime shipments and container traffic, which are noticeably limited by the throughput capacity of the ports, by availability of container ships and by weather conditions. That is why new strategic meaning is now given to the eastern railway segment Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and then India especially, in the context of effective transit blockade on behalf of the «collective West».

Cooperation at the regional level

Collaboration of different regions is a very high-potential area for long-term cooperation between Moscow and Ashkhabad. For example, one of the documents signed in the Kremlin is an agreement between the Astrakhan regional government and administration of Balkan velayat (province) about international and foreign economic connections in such spheres as trade and economy, research and technology, social development and culture, as well as in humanitarian sphere. A new agreement was signed for establishing the sister-city relations between Astrakhan and Turkmenbashi. Other Russian regions also express great interest in economic and humanitarian cooperation with Turkmenistan Orenburg, Altai Territory, Chelyabinsk region and some others.

Tatarstan holds a special position in Russian-Turkmen relations, mainly due to pro-active position of its head Rustam Minnikhanov. Let us remember that on April 24, the President of Tatarstan visited Ashkhabad and had a meeting with the new President Serdar Berdimuhamedow. During the meeting, the two leaders emphasized that Tatarstan was especially active in promoting the friendly relations between Russia and Turkmenistan. According to Minnikhanov, in 2021, the sales turnover between the Tatarstan Republic and Turkmenistan made USD 77.5 mln. Total sales turnover of our two countries in 2021 made USD 865.1 mln, export USD 725.4 mln, and import USD 139.7 mln. [11]

In April, Serdar Berdimuhamedow confirmed his commitment to continue the tradition of close cooperation with Tatarstan, one of the most developed regions of Russia. Thus, many leading Tatarstan companies already have their branches operating in Turkmenistan: PJSC Tatneft, PJSC KAMAZ, IED Holding. KAMAZ supplied 1,982 trucks under the new contract. Kazan helicopter plant supplied Ansat helicopter for provision of emergency medical aid, as well as the medical option of helicopter Mi-17-1V. The Gorky plant from Zelenodolsk supplied two high-speed passenger boats 145. To simplify the contacts, Turkmenistan Airlines launched direct flights from Ashkhabad to Kazan.

Joint educational programs create additional links between the regions of the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan. More than 30.7 thousands of Turkmen citizens are currently studying in Russian universities. Technicians, engineers and medics trained in Russia especially are in demand in Turkmenistan. The most attractive universities for Turkmens are Kazan Federal University, Kazan National Research Engineering University, Adygea State University, U.D. Aliyev Karachayevo-Cherkess State University and Oryol State Economic University.

A special agreement of cooperation between V.N. Tatishchev Astrakhan State University and Magtymguly Turkmen State University was signed within the framework of the visit of Serdar Berdimuhamedow. The RF Ministry of Education and Science with the assistance of the Turkmen side currently is working at establishment of the joined university based on the initiative proposed by Serdar Berdimuhamedow personally. This is clear evidence of Russian-Turkmen humanitarian relations being viewed by both countries as a long-term commitment. [12]

Special format of regular collaboration between the regions of the two countries appears necessary for future development of our strategic partnership. The Forum of the Regions could be such priority format for Russian-Turkmen cooperation. It could be based on the example of the well-reputed Russia-Kazakhstan Cross-Border Cooperation Forum. This annual event is held under the personal patronage of the Presidents of both countries, which allows for quick clearance of various departmental and bureaucratic barriers. As a rule, each year this Forum is dedicated to one major topic industry, transit, trade, education, tourism so every top-level meeting will provide a new strong impetus to the regional cooperation. Such Forum may constitute a very promising platform for extended expert dialogue with the purpose of finding new forms of cooperation and developing recommendations for settlement of the arising contradictions.

International evaluation of the visit outcomes

Most of Russian and foreign media published positive assessments of the official visit to Russia by the new President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow, especially emphasizing the scope and the essence of the executed agreements. Upon returning home, at the government session, the Turkmenistan President provided his high assessment of the outcomes of Turkmen-Russian top-level negotiations in Moscow.

In his congratulatory message for celebrating the Russia Day, the Turkmen leader especially emphasized that traditional friendly relations between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation represent a true example of mutual respect and confidence. «The Turkmen-Russian ties passed the test of time, and nowadays our bilateral strategic partnership is consistently gaining momentum for the sake of prosperity of our two countries. We are committed to continuation of our efforts targeted at developing our relationship in the line of ascent», Serdar Berdimuhamedow emphasized. [13]

During the formal party at the RF Embassy to Ashkhabad dedicated to the Russia Day, the Head of the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an important statement about «Russia being in the past, at present and in future the major global power at the world political arena». Raşit Meredow also emphasized that «the visit of the Turkmenistan President to Moscow demonstrated  Turkmenistans firmness and determination to deepen its strategic partnership with Russia». In his opinion, the Russian Federation is very influential, and modern Russia is a rightful and full-fledged participant of global business connections. «Despite the current political and economic situation, the Russian Federation continues to pursue its course firmly and consistently both domestically and on the international arena», the head of Turkmen diplomacy said. [14]

All these public statements by Ashkhabad additionally emphasize that the new leadership of Turkmenistan has made its strategic choice in favor of Russia. Apparently; during the official visit of the President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow the two countries opened a new page in bilateral relations the era of deep strategic partnership is coming to replace the previous demure neutrality.

1. Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation confirmed their commitment to the deep strategic partnership concept. State Information Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) Turkmenistan segodnya, 10.06.2022. https://tdh.gov.tm/ru/post/31807/turkmenistan-i-rossijskaya-federaciya-podtverdili-priverzhennost-otnosheniyam-uglublyonnogo-strategicheskogo-partnyorstva

2. Vladimir Putin received the Turkmen leader in the couch room for private talks. Komsomolskaya Pravda, 10.06.2022. https://www.kp.ru/daily/27404/4600803/

3. Putin awarded an Order of Friendship to Serdar Berdimuhamedow. RIA Novosti, 18.05.2022. https://ria.ru/20220518/orden-1789258867.html

4. List of documents signed during the official visit of the President of Turkmenistan S.G. Berdimuhamedow to the Russian Federation. Official website of the President of the Russian Federation. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/5815

5. Declaration of Strategic Partnership Extension between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan. Official website of the President of the Russian Federation. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/5814

6. If only this could go to Kabul: Putin urged the USA to attend to rebuilding Afghanistan. Izvestia, 10.06.2022. https://iz.ru/1348103/afanasii-lavrinenko/esli-da-kabulu-putin-prizval-ssha-zaniatsia-vosstanovleniem-afganistana

7. Russian-Turkmen sales turnover amounted to USD 171.1 mln. TASS, 10.06.2022. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/14878223

8. RF Ambassador: Russian companies are interested in participating in TAPI pipeline project. TASS, 12.03.2022. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/14051105

9. The revival of TAPI pipeline project in half a year. Neft and Capital, 09.05.2022. https://oilcapital.ru/news/export/09-06-2022/reanimatsiya-proekta-gazoprovoda-tapi-nachnetsya-cherez-polgoda

10. RZD plan to develop railway transport in Turkmenistan. Bolshaya Asia, 12.06.2022. https://bigasia.ru/content/news/businness/rzhd-pomozhet-turkmenistanu-modernizirovat-zheleznye-dorogi/

11. Tatarstan friends from Africa to the Caucasus the working tour of Minnikhanov in the face of KazanSummit. Realnoye Vremya, 18.05.2022. https://realnoevremya.ru/news/250968-rustam-minnihanov-posetil-ryad-stran-gde-obsudil-voprosy-sotrudnichestva

12. More than 30 thousand students from Turkmenistan are trained in Russia. Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, 10.06.2022. https://www.minobrnauki.gov.ru/press-center/news/?ELEMENT_ID=52507

13. Serdar Berdimuhamedow congratulated Vladimir Putin with the Russia Day. TURKMENPORTAL, 12.06.2022. https://turkmenportal.com/blog/48291/serdar-berdymuhamedov-pozdravil-vladimira-putina-s-dnem-rossii

14. Russia continues to pursue its course firmly and consistently in the global arena Head of the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Information Agency ORIENT, 12.06.2022. https://www.orient.tm/ru/post/38161/rossiya-tverdo-provodit-svoj-kurs-na-mirovoj-arene-glava-mid-turkmenistana

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

Turkmenistan: strategic choice in favor of strengthening and developing cooperation with Russia

photo: kremlin.ru
15 2022

Landmark visit

Russia was the first foreign country, to which Serdar Berdimuhamedow, the President of Turkmenistan, paid his first official visit after coming into office. By the rules of diplomacy, such visit is very symbolic. It means that the first country visited by a new political leader is given the status of priority ally. In the current very complicated international context, this decision of the President of Turkmenistan seems to be a conscious strategic choice in favor of strengthening and developing the relations with Russia despite the immediate political situation.

Besides, the practice of international relations uses the first visit of a new head of state to demonstrate the foreign policy emphasis. The observers noted that despite a very tight agenda of official talks, Serdar Berdimuhamedow laid a wreath to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall and visited the Tretyakov Gallery. This is an obvious sign of respect on behalf of the President of Turkmenistan to the two most meaningful spiritual bonds of Russia the memory of those perished during the Great Patriotic War, and to the great Russian culture. In the context of «Cancel Russia» policy build-up in the West, such attitude towards traditional Russian values could not slip under the radar in Moscow.

From its end, Russia demonstrated the heartfelt red-carpet treatment of the newly elected Turkmenistan leader. He was received in Moscow in a solemn ceremony and with great respect. According to the State Information Agency of Turkmenistan, «In Moscow international airport Vnukovo-2, where the state flags of Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation were raised on the flagpoles and a guard of honor was lined up, high-level Russian officials met President Serdar Berdimuhamedow». [1]

During his visit, S. Berdimuhamedow moved around Moscow on a Russian-manufactured white armored Aurus Senat Limousine the one with the highest level of ballistic protection in the world and believed to be the safest vehicle for official leaders. This car was especially procured for the President of Turkmenistan. The President of the Russian Federation uses exactly the same Aurus, but in black.

Vladimir Putin received his Turkmenistan colleague in a special venue the green state drawing room of the Big Kremlin Palace. This exceptional protocol ceremony is also very symbolic: firstly, the interior of the negotiations venue immediately resembled the national flag of Turkmenistan, ad, secondly, this Kremlin palace is often called the couch room it is traditionally used for especially meaningful one-on-one meetings. Indeed, the negotiations of these two leaders took place in different trust-based formats during their friendly tea-table conversation and one-on-one. [2]

«It is very pleasant for us, that your first official visit you are making to our country. This once again emphasizes a special character of our relations», Vladimir Putin said in the open part of the meeting. On his part, Serdar Berdimuhamedow confirmed the strength of strategic partnership between the two countries. After negotiations, the Presidents held a joint press conference, and right before this press conference Vladimir Putin awarded an Order of Friendship to Serdar Berdimuhamedow. Let us remind you, that on May 18, the RF President signed the respective Decree about this award with the following wording: «for significant contribution into strengthening the strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan». [3]

New stage of strategic partnership

In addition to the impeccable protocol ceremony, big preparatory efforts were undertaken before the official visit of President Berdimuhamedow. Analysts emphasize special merits of the Vice Prime Minister and the Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Raşit Meredow an influential, experienced and esteemed diplomat in CIS and in the international arena, having done a lot to strengthen the ties between Moscow and Ashkhabad. It was R. Meredow, who signed the Road Map for Turkmenistan Russia interaction in the sphere of regional safety in February 2022, which was based on the outcomes of the visit of Turkmenistan Foreign Ministry delegation to Moscow. The efforts of the Turkmenistan Embassy to the Russian Federation headed by Batyr Niyazliev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, should be highlighted.

By the way, Serdar Berdimuhamedow himself previously spent a lot of time on improving the bilateral relations. For example, he participated in Intergovernmental Russian-Turkmen Commission for Economic Cooperation. All the time, he is posted up on our common problems and firmly keeps his finger on the pulse. During his first official visit to the RF in the capacity of the President (and the observers paid special attention to that) S. Berdimuhamedow looked very dignified, stayed cool and clear, spoke using straightforward wording. Eventually, the new Head of Turkmenistan favorably impressed Russian leadership.

Following the results of the official visit of President Serdar Berdimuhamedow, a solid package of 15 documents was signed regulating the development of bilateral cooperation at this stage of deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries. [4] This package includes Declaration of Strategic Partnership Extension, as well as other documents on interaction in trade, transport, construction, science and education, sports and other areas. [5]

Here is one important quote from this Declaration defining the sublime style of bilateral political interaction: «The parties are pleased to note that Russian-Turkmen relations are based on deep political confidence and strategic leadership of the two heads of states». This landmark phrase is key to understanding the essence of the current relations between Ashkhabad and Moscow. Experts emphasize that Turkmenistan holds a special place in the system of regional relations actively promoting a positive neutrality concept. Interaction with Russia is based on exclusively bilateral agreements: this allows for prompt resolution of various complicated issues.

Due to noticeable aggravation of military and political situation in Central Asia, in particular, with respect to Afghanistan, Ashkhabad demonstrates its commitment to raise the relations with Moscow to a new level, including the relations in the military sphere. [6] It is obvious, that in case of need Russia is ready to resolve the issues of military and technical cooperation by way of supplying the necessary weapons and military equipment to Turkmenistan, as well as to assist Ashkhabad with top officers training including in the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The need for joint assessment of different Afghani scenarios and organizing the respective interaction in this sphere is evident, just like the need for regular consultations on the regional security issues.

Russia, in its turn, is facing a number of challenges in neutralizing political and sanctions-related pressure by the West, so it needs a drastic turn to the East. The key priority for the Kremlin is to strengthen its positions and enhance its influence in the post-Soviet area. With that in mind, Moscow needs tangible and guaranteed results: not lengthy discussions about customs and economic associations, not promises of support «sometime in future», but new energy and transport projects, specific agreements on military cooperation and border control. And finally, it is time to move from talks to actions in humanitarian sphere.

In this particular sphere Moscow and Ashkhabad can find complete mutual understanding and solid foundation for long-term mutually beneficial cooperation. The signed Declaration of strategic partnership extension of Russia and Turkmenistan opens new opportunities for that. It establishes the priorities for collaboration in political, trade and investment, cultural and humanitarian fields, as well as in the field of security including biological and information security. Now it is the critical time, when both countries are ready for practical implementation of comprehensive interaction in more competitive formats, linking their geopolitical, military and energy sector related interests with their long-term national interests. It appears to be the main point of the first official visit to Moscow by President Serdar Berdimuhamedow.

Cooperative responses to common challenges

Today, the modern world is facing a whole set of problems simultaneously in such spheres, as security, energy and food supplies; and these problems are interlinked. The outstanding issues of the European security system give rise to regional conflicts immediately reflected in an unprecedented surge in energy and grain prices. Worst of all is that all the attempts to resolve the impending problems «off-the-cuff» are hasty and even hysterical, when the long-term consequences of such ill-considered choices are not taken into account. For example, the embargo on import of Russian energy sources introduced by the European Union and the ban on marine shipments from Russian ports may instigate further deepening of the energy crisis in Europe and even food riots in the Middle East as soon as this coming winter.

In such complicated environment, the strategic partnership of Moscow and Ashkhabad may provide a positive example of handling matters with account of national interests and to mutual benefit. Today the Russian Federation is the main economic partner of Turkmenistan. For example, Russia exports machines, equipment and transportation vehicles to Turkmenistan, along with food and agricultural raw materials, chemical industry items, metals and articles made therefrom. Russian import from Turkmenistan constitutes textiles and footwear, food, chemical industry items and rubbers. In the course of negotiations, President Vladimir Putin emphasized the significant growth of sales turnover between the two countries. Thus, in the first quarter of the current year it grew by 45.1% amounting up to USD 171.1 mln, export grew by 49.3% up to USD 124 mln, and import by 35%, up to USD 47.1 mln. [7]

It is known that Turkmenistan interests in foreign trade pertain mainly to the oil-and-gas sector. Moscow and Ashkhabad have a long-lasting story of successful cooperation in energy sphere. It is not accidentally that during negotiations with Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Vladimir Putin emphasized that the energy sector traditionally is one of the key areas of cooperation between the two countries and has a special focus in the visits agenda. Russian President confirmed that both countries were interested in supporting the cooperation between the respective organizations and the initiatives of business groups targeted at implementation of mutually beneficial projects.

In addition to the traditional partner Gazprom (collaborating with Türkmengaz concern in organizing the export of Turkmen gas under the long-term contract stipulating for purchasing gas by Russia), Lukoil is also interested in cooperation with Turkmenistan. Currently, this company is part of negotiations on the terms and conditions of its participation as an operator for the project of developing Dostluk, the oil, gas and condensate field in the Caspian Sea. Tatneft company also is successfully operating in Turkmenistan providing oilfield and wells workover services.

Other major Russian energy and industrial companies (Inter RAO, Power Machines) also display their interest in implementing projects in Turkmenistan. «We are talking here about retrofit of the existing and building new power plants, including the ones using the alternative energy sources, building high-voltage power transmission lines, transit and export of electricity», the RF President emphasized.

The recent changes in the European energy markets can raise the demand for additional import of Turkmen gas. Experts believe that subject to mutual agreement of the parties the Russian gas transmission system (in particular, the Turkish Stream pipeline) may be used for pumping gas from Turkmenistan.

It is important to emphasize: resuming the comprehensive cooperation with Turkmenistan in the gas sector may become a powerful factor for strengthening Russias geo-economic positions in the Caspian region. For example, Moscow is interested in participation in building a new gas pipeline TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India). [8] In particular, some Russian companies are ready to supply pipes, compressors and other equipment items for this project. Let us note, that this project has a rather long history, because the security and safety at the Afghani section of the pipeline constitutes certain risk. However, before Serdar Berdimuhamedows visit to Moscow, some reports appeared saying that practical phase of the TAPI project shall start after a six-month period. [9] In any case, close cooperation between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan in energy and security spheres open new horizons for different projects including this one.

The most important topic for Moscow Ashkhabad strategic partnership is developing new routes for cargo transit. Previously, the Caspian Sea region was important solely as the source of oil and gas, but now its transit potential is coming to the fore. Caspian region is a strategic crossing for the East West and North South transit corridors. In particular, for Russian it is extremely important to enhance economic cooperation with Turkmenistan within the international North South transport corridor, especially, its eastern segment. An agreements package signed in the Kremlin will allow for upgrading the logistics route of this eastern segment with participation of RZD (Russian Railways). [10]

The North South corridor has three segments, and two of them are being implemented with participation of our two countries. The Trans-Caspian segment goes via the Caspian Sea ports of Russia, Iran, and with participation of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. This segment features multimodal transport maritime shipments and container traffic, which are noticeably limited by the throughput capacity of the ports, by availability of container ships and by weather conditions. That is why new strategic meaning is now given to the eastern railway segment Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and then India especially, in the context of effective transit blockade on behalf of the «collective West».

Cooperation at the regional level

Collaboration of different regions is a very high-potential area for long-term cooperation between Moscow and Ashkhabad. For example, one of the documents signed in the Kremlin is an agreement between the Astrakhan regional government and administration of Balkan velayat (province) about international and foreign economic connections in such spheres as trade and economy, research and technology, social development and culture, as well as in humanitarian sphere. A new agreement was signed for establishing the sister-city relations between Astrakhan and Turkmenbashi. Other Russian regions also express great interest in economic and humanitarian cooperation with Turkmenistan Orenburg, Altai Territory, Chelyabinsk region and some others.

Tatarstan holds a special position in Russian-Turkmen relations, mainly due to pro-active position of its head Rustam Minnikhanov. Let us remember that on April 24, the President of Tatarstan visited Ashkhabad and had a meeting with the new President Serdar Berdimuhamedow. During the meeting, the two leaders emphasized that Tatarstan was especially active in promoting the friendly relations between Russia and Turkmenistan. According to Minnikhanov, in 2021, the sales turnover between the Tatarstan Republic and Turkmenistan made USD 77.5 mln. Total sales turnover of our two countries in 2021 made USD 865.1 mln, export USD 725.4 mln, and import USD 139.7 mln. [11]

In April, Serdar Berdimuhamedow confirmed his commitment to continue the tradition of close cooperation with Tatarstan, one of the most developed regions of Russia. Thus, many leading Tatarstan companies already have their branches operating in Turkmenistan: PJSC Tatneft, PJSC KAMAZ, IED Holding. KAMAZ supplied 1,982 trucks under the new contract. Kazan helicopter plant supplied Ansat helicopter for provision of emergency medical aid, as well as the medical option of helicopter Mi-17-1V. The Gorky plant from Zelenodolsk supplied two high-speed passenger boats 145. To simplify the contacts, Turkmenistan Airlines launched direct flights from Ashkhabad to Kazan.

Joint educational programs create additional links between the regions of the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan. More than 30.7 thousands of Turkmen citizens are currently studying in Russian universities. Technicians, engineers and medics trained in Russia especially are in demand in Turkmenistan. The most attractive universities for Turkmens are Kazan Federal University, Kazan National Research Engineering University, Adygea State University, U.D. Aliyev Karachayevo-Cherkess State University and Oryol State Economic University.

A special agreement of cooperation between V.N. Tatishchev Astrakhan State University and Magtymguly Turkmen State University was signed within the framework of the visit of Serdar Berdimuhamedow. The RF Ministry of Education and Science with the assistance of the Turkmen side currently is working at establishment of the joined university based on the initiative proposed by Serdar Berdimuhamedow personally. This is clear evidence of Russian-Turkmen humanitarian relations being viewed by both countries as a long-term commitment. [12]

Special format of regular collaboration between the regions of the two countries appears necessary for future development of our strategic partnership. The Forum of the Regions could be such priority format for Russian-Turkmen cooperation. It could be based on the example of the well-reputed Russia-Kazakhstan Cross-Border Cooperation Forum. This annual event is held under the personal patronage of the Presidents of both countries, which allows for quick clearance of various departmental and bureaucratic barriers. As a rule, each year this Forum is dedicated to one major topic industry, transit, trade, education, tourism so every top-level meeting will provide a new strong impetus to the regional cooperation. Such Forum may constitute a very promising platform for extended expert dialogue with the purpose of finding new forms of cooperation and developing recommendations for settlement of the arising contradictions.

International evaluation of the visit outcomes

Most of Russian and foreign media published positive assessments of the official visit to Russia by the new President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow, especially emphasizing the scope and the essence of the executed agreements. Upon returning home, at the government session, the Turkmenistan President provided his high assessment of the outcomes of Turkmen-Russian top-level negotiations in Moscow.

In his congratulatory message for celebrating the Russia Day, the Turkmen leader especially emphasized that traditional friendly relations between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation represent a true example of mutual respect and confidence. «The Turkmen-Russian ties passed the test of time, and nowadays our bilateral strategic partnership is consistently gaining momentum for the sake of prosperity of our two countries. We are committed to continuation of our efforts targeted at developing our relationship in the line of ascent», Serdar Berdimuhamedow emphasized. [13]

During the formal party at the RF Embassy to Ashkhabad dedicated to the Russia Day, the Head of the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an important statement about «Russia being in the past, at present and in future the major global power at the world political arena». Raşit Meredow also emphasized that «the visit of the Turkmenistan President to Moscow demonstrated  Turkmenistans firmness and determination to deepen its strategic partnership with Russia». In his opinion, the Russian Federation is very influential, and modern Russia is a rightful and full-fledged participant of global business connections. «Despite the current political and economic situation, the Russian Federation continues to pursue its course firmly and consistently both domestically and on the international arena», the head of Turkmen diplomacy said. [14]

All these public statements by Ashkhabad additionally emphasize that the new leadership of Turkmenistan has made its strategic choice in favor of Russia. Apparently; during the official visit of the President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow the two countries opened a new page in bilateral relations the era of deep strategic partnership is coming to replace the previous demure neutrality.

1. Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation confirmed their commitment to the deep strategic partnership concept. State Information Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) Turkmenistan segodnya, 10.06.2022. https://tdh.gov.tm/ru/post/31807/turkmenistan-i-rossijskaya-federaciya-podtverdili-priverzhennost-otnosheniyam-uglublyonnogo-strategicheskogo-partnyorstva

2. Vladimir Putin received the Turkmen leader in the couch room for private talks. Komsomolskaya Pravda, 10.06.2022. https://www.kp.ru/daily/27404/4600803/

3. Putin awarded an Order of Friendship to Serdar Berdimuhamedow. RIA Novosti, 18.05.2022. https://ria.ru/20220518/orden-1789258867.html

4. List of documents signed during the official visit of the President of Turkmenistan S.G. Berdimuhamedow to the Russian Federation. Official website of the President of the Russian Federation. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/5815

5. Declaration of Strategic Partnership Extension between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan. Official website of the President of the Russian Federation. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/5814

6. If only this could go to Kabul: Putin urged the USA to attend to rebuilding Afghanistan. Izvestia, 10.06.2022. https://iz.ru/1348103/afanasii-lavrinenko/esli-da-kabulu-putin-prizval-ssha-zaniatsia-vosstanovleniem-afganistana

7. Russian-Turkmen sales turnover amounted to USD 171.1 mln. TASS, 10.06.2022. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/14878223

8. RF Ambassador: Russian companies are interested in participating in TAPI pipeline project. TASS, 12.03.2022. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/14051105

9. The revival of TAPI pipeline project in half a year. Neft and Capital, 09.05.2022. https://oilcapital.ru/news/export/09-06-2022/reanimatsiya-proekta-gazoprovoda-tapi-nachnetsya-cherez-polgoda

10. RZD plan to develop railway transport in Turkmenistan. Bolshaya Asia, 12.06.2022. https://bigasia.ru/content/news/businness/rzhd-pomozhet-turkmenistanu-modernizirovat-zheleznye-dorogi/

11. Tatarstan friends from Africa to the Caucasus the working tour of Minnikhanov in the face of KazanSummit. Realnoye Vremya, 18.05.2022. https://realnoevremya.ru/news/250968-rustam-minnihanov-posetil-ryad-stran-gde-obsudil-voprosy-sotrudnichestva

12. More than 30 thousand students from Turkmenistan are trained in Russia. Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, 10.06.2022. https://www.minobrnauki.gov.ru/press-center/news/?ELEMENT_ID=52507

13. Serdar Berdimuhamedow congratulated Vladimir Putin with the Russia Day. TURKMENPORTAL, 12.06.2022. https://turkmenportal.com/blog/48291/serdar-berdymuhamedov-pozdravil-vladimira-putina-s-dnem-rossii

14. Russia continues to pursue its course firmly and consistently in the global arena Head of the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Information Agency ORIENT, 12.06.2022. https://www.orient.tm/ru/post/38161/rossiya-tverdo-provodit-svoj-kurs-na-mirovoj-arene-glava-mid-turkmenistana