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President Shavkat Mirziyoyev strengthens the relations between Uzbekistan and Russia

photo: darakchi.uz
10 October 2023
Victoria MagdaVictoria Magda

Victoria Magda

CISS expert

On October 5-7 the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid an official visit to the Russian Federation. The rapprochement of Tashkent and Moscow commenced practically immediately after President Mirziyoyev coming to power in 2016, and it continues to gather pace. It is associated with both the policy of the Head of Uzbekistan and his consistent focus on cooperation and interaction with the RF in numerous spheres and the growing role of Tashkent in the Central Asian Region.

Based on the results of the negotiations, the heads of the two states adopted a joint statement about deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance. The Presidents confirmed the high level and the nature of the bilateral relations and of our two countries being the allies. Moscow and Tashkent are connected with numerous ties, which will continue to strengthen. Especially with the account of Russia being the major investor and trade partner for Uzbekistan even in the environment of the western sanctions.

Ambitious pragmatist

During the First Tashkent International Investment Forum President Mirziyoyev announced the plan to bring the Uzbekistan GDP up to USD 100 bn within the next five years and the annual exports up to USD 30 bn. In this case by 2030 Uzbekistan will join the group of countries with the income above average.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev has set rather ambitious targets of the economic growth, but they need to be based on a solid foundation. And there are problems with this, and the key problem is energy sector. Until recently Uzbekistan used to be a major gas exporter, but now the country is facing severe shortage of energy sources. It means that the restructuring of Uzbekistans economy is possible only upon resolving this problem.

This is where Mirziyoyev demonstrates his inherent healthy pragmatism. One of the key issues he discussed with his Russian colleague and with the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who joined them was the issue of supplying Russian gas to Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan.

«We will be supplying 3 bcma of natural gas with potential increase of volumes in future», Vladimir Putin informed the participants of Valdai Forum just on the eve of the official visit of President Mirziyoyev. This is exactly the volume Uzbekistan needs to cover its energy shortage in the winter period. Let us remind here that the last winter was unusually cold and caused a real collapse in the Central Asian energy system. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were the countries that suffered the most. It was quite possible to prevent the energy crisis, the countries only needed to respond positively to Moscows proposal about creating the trilateral gas alliance. The gas transportation system is in place for that. But the anti-Russian lobby in Tashkent and Astana opposed the agreement with Moscow claiming that these two countries will fall into the dependency on Russia. Nevertheless, the pragmatism and the convenience took over: Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov, the Uzbekistan Minister of Energy, signed a gas supply contract with Alexei Miller, the Head of Gazprom, on the sidelines of the St.-Petersburg International Economic Forum 2023.

Kazakhstan will provide for the transit of Russian gas via the Central Asia Center pipeline running through its territory. The second document signed by Tashkent and Gazprom was the Road Map for preparing the gas transportation system of Uzbekistan for receiving and transporting Russian gas via pipelines. Uzbekistan was not only short of gas in the domestic market, its supplies to China were jeopardized, and according to the respective agreement Tashkent needs to export up to 10 bcma of natural gas. These contractual obligations need to be discharged, otherwise the Uzbekistan will have to pay the forfeit the Chinese are not to be taken lightly on such issues.

So, the agreement equally beneficial for all the parties was signed. And this is not surprising: back during the first term of Mirziyoyev the favorable conditions for foreign investors were created, and the implementation of a number of major projects started in the country, including projects with Gazprom and LUKOIL. Besides three thousand companies with Russian capital are operating in Uzbekistan already. It is much easier to develop the cooperation with such a foundation rather than from scratch.

Another positive factor attracting foreign investment is the commitment of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to building the state based on the rule of law. This contributes to the development of foreign economic ties of Uzbekistan, first of all with Russia. The investors feel comfortable in the situation of stability, predictability and protection. Hence there are all the grounds for the good assurance in the positive outlook for Russian-Uzbekistan cooperation and collaboration.

Negotiations in Kazan

It is indicative that the President of Uzbekistan started his official visit to Russia from Kazan. A Regional Forum took place there engaging not only the business community, but the heads of all 14 regions of Uzbekistan. This is quite understandable given the fact that 700 Uzbekistan companies are currently operating in the RF. Just like their Russian colleagues operating in Uzbekistan they strengthen and enhance the bilateral collaboration on an every-day basis. On top of that the General Consulate of Uzbekistan is functioning in Kazan, while as in Tashkent the Representative Office of Tatarstan. Hence Mirziyoyev stopped in Kazan not just to admire the sights of the rapidly developing regional capital.

The statistics proves: as of the results of the preceding year the trade turnover between Tatarstan and Uzbekistan amounted to about USD 300 mln. However, this is still a quite modest metric for the entire country, because the trade turnover of Uzbekistan and Russia totaled USD 10 bn. However, during the Forum agreements and contracts for USD 3.5 bn were signed, which means more than ten times growth! Agreement was achieved about developing a separate Road Map for industrial cooperation by regions with a schedule of mutual visits exchange in the coming year.

By the way, Tatarstan is not the only region, which Tashkent cooperates with. Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Samara, Ivanovo, Belgorod and Vologda Regions are the leaders in terms of the intensity of cooperation with Uzbekistan regions. But another important thing is that the visit of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Kazan is a very important element if the relations between Uzbekistan and Tatarstan in the broad sense of the word, according to Stanislav Pritchin, the senior research associate of the post-Soviet studies in the Institute for International Relations and World Economy with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). In his opinion, «Kazan and Tashkent have quite a few common topics and points of intersection. In particular, they are in petrochemical sector and mechanical engineering. I believe, these will be the key areas for developing the contractual basis between the constituent entity of the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan. The fact of common religion and culture of Tatars and Uzbeks is also very important. So, it is quite understandable why Uzbekistan lays emphasis on Tatarstan out of many other constituent entities of Russia».

Substantive talk with Mikhail Mishustin

Naturally the topic of economic and trade cooperation was dominating at the negotiations of Shavkat Mirziyoyev with Mikhail Mishustin, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. «Our bilateral relations have risen to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance. We succeeded in many areas during the recent years thanks to the political will of both Mr. Putin and myself. There is a progress along all the lines of our cooperation», said the Head of Uzbekistan. He emphasized that in the current difficult period Uzbekistan needs to cooperate with Russia. And even though high performance was already demonstrated in such spheres of collaboration as healthcare and education, there is still room for improvement on behalf of Uzbekistan party.

And all this relates not just to the sphere of economy. The outlook is multifaceted. Thus, the branch of Russian National Research Medical University named after N.N. Pirogov will commence its activities in Uzbekistan starting from the next year. It will be the fifteenth Russian university to open in this Central Asian Republic.

Mirziyoyev discussed with Mishustin the issue of social guarantees for the Uzbekistan residents working in Russia. Over the recent years, the number of migrant workers from Uzbekistan is growing in Russia. This is associated both with the natural increase in population in Uzbekistan and with the changed approach of Tashkent to the citizens working abroad. Shavkat Mirziyoyev keeps control of the labor migration issues. This is understandable: migrant workers transfer cash to Uzbekistan in the amount of 35% of the GDP. «This is quite serious money for Uzbekistan. And we need to understand that such transfers coming from Russia are distributed between families in different regions being an important social stability factor, because they reach specific people in need of help. That is why Uzbekistan is interested in the preferential treatment and maintaining transparent, stable conditions for the Uzbek citizens working abroad, first of all in Russia, because we have Uzbek migrant workers more than any other country», analyst Stanislav Pritchin believes.

Discussing the essence or meeting in the Kremlin

We already mentioned above that the President of Uzbekistan demonstrated his true Oriental wisdom: he timed his Moscow visit to Vladimir Putins birthday the 7th of October. On his birthday the President of the Russian Federation gave a drive to his Uzbek guest on the Russian-make off-the-road vehicle Aurus Komendant. Vladimir Putin took the drivers place.

When receiving President Mirziyoyev in the Kremlin, Putin, as we can see, had all the reasons to comment that «the relations of the two countries are progressing successfully, and we can confirm that they are at a very high level». The growth of the trade turnover between Russia and Uzbekistan over the preceding year was 26%, and during seven months of 2023 over 14%, the RF President emphasized. The leaders agreed to strengthen the bilateral economic ties, to develop the cooperation in supplies of oil, gas and petroleum products, and to continue interaction in the sphere of defence, which deserves special attention. Putin reminded that in a few days he would be seeing Sh. Mirziyoyev at the CIS Summit in Kyrgyzstan: «we are actively interacting on the international arena, first of all, using such platforms as the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and of course the CIS. Soon we will see each other at the CIS Summit in Kyrgyzstan».

In his turn, Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited Vladimir Putin to pay a visit to Uzbekistan. This invitation was accepted.

The island of regional stability

Economic and trade ties are the so-called basic factors of interaction. However, the geopolitical circumstances play a very important role in cooperation between Moscow and Tashkent. The development plans, logistic chains, gas and oil transportation infrastructure operations neither of them costs anything without a military and political stability of the region in general. The responsible, far-sighted and predictable policy of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev play a very important role here. Every year it becomes more and more obvious that the current trends of economic policy and internal political reforms in Uzbekistan can turn the country subject to lack of any force-majeure into a leading regional power. Of course, this is a positive factor for Moscow from the standpoint of strengthening its own security. We also should take into consideration, that Tashkent is turning into the agent of Russian interests in Central Asia. And it is not just a reliable agent, but it is vitally interested in expanding the sphere of Russian influence.

The case is that in the region we can see a clash of the opposite interests of the leading global players the USA, the European Union and China. This, of course, expands the horizon of opportunities, but at the same time brings serious risks. During the last year only six meaningful summits took place with participation of the regional countries: the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the US and the Central Asian countries in Astana, China Central Asia Summit in Sian, the meeting of the Prime-Ministers of the EU and CA countries in Almaty, the Summit of the Persian Gulf and CA countries in Jeddah, the USA Central Asia Summit and Germany Central Asia Summit. In the environment of external players being so active and each of them promoting its own interests, the diplomacy and especially the assessment of risks, outlooks and capabilities become a truly complex art. Especially if we take into account that the Central Asian countries do not have a common position.

For example, Kazakhstan in the course of the recent meeting of President Tokayev with Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany, declared the intent to abide by the anti-Russian economic sanctions. On the opposite, Kyrgyzstan says that does not intend to reject the re-export even under the threat of sanctions. Against this background, Tashkent is implementing reasonable and responsible policy. The main partners of Uzbekistan are Russia and China, and President Mirziyoyev does not intend to change them, because he perfectly well understands that currently Uzbekistan will not have any meaningful economic and trade ties with the USA, so bringing the country in the wake of the US policy is a short-sighted approach fraught with significant economic losses. Especially because in such case Uzbekistan will have to refuse from cooperation with China.

The pragmatic leader of Uzbekistan makes a decisive choice in favor of a bird in the hand and not in favor of two birds in the bush. Especially given the fact that his bird in the hand is quite a weighty one. The Chinese offer all sorts of goods (except for, maybe, long-range civilian airliners) at much more acceptable prices than the Americans. Russia offers energy commodities allowing for Uzbekistan solving not only the immediate problems, but also to increase the pace of its own development. It is absolutely obvious that the United States lose in this situation. Tashkent will not be able to expand the trade and economic cooperation with the United States in the foreseeable future. It means that we cannot expect any strengthening of Washingtons geopolitical positions in the region.

That is why it is quite obvious that the pragmatic approach of Shavkat Mirziyoyev is very important for Moscow today. The predictable and responsible partner is the most reliable option for the Kremlin, especially during the times of global geopolitical turbulence.

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Publications

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev strengthens the relations between Uzbekistan and Russia

photo: darakchi.uz
10 2023
Victoria Magda

Victoria Magda

CISS expert

On October 5-7 the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid an official visit to the Russian Federation. The rapprochement of Tashkent and Moscow commenced practically immediately after President Mirziyoyev coming to power in 2016, and it continues to gather pace. It is associated with both the policy of the Head of Uzbekistan and his consistent focus on cooperation and interaction with the RF in numerous spheres and the growing role of Tashkent in the Central Asian Region.

Based on the results of the negotiations, the heads of the two states adopted a joint statement about deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance. The Presidents confirmed the high level and the nature of the bilateral relations and of our two countries being the allies. Moscow and Tashkent are connected with numerous ties, which will continue to strengthen. Especially with the account of Russia being the major investor and trade partner for Uzbekistan even in the environment of the western sanctions.

Ambitious pragmatist

During the First Tashkent International Investment Forum President Mirziyoyev announced the plan to bring the Uzbekistan GDP up to USD 100 bn within the next five years and the annual exports up to USD 30 bn. In this case by 2030 Uzbekistan will join the group of countries with the income above average.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev has set rather ambitious targets of the economic growth, but they need to be based on a solid foundation. And there are problems with this, and the key problem is energy sector. Until recently Uzbekistan used to be a major gas exporter, but now the country is facing severe shortage of energy sources. It means that the restructuring of Uzbekistans economy is possible only upon resolving this problem.

This is where Mirziyoyev demonstrates his inherent healthy pragmatism. One of the key issues he discussed with his Russian colleague and with the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who joined them was the issue of supplying Russian gas to Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan.

«We will be supplying 3 bcma of natural gas with potential increase of volumes in future», Vladimir Putin informed the participants of Valdai Forum just on the eve of the official visit of President Mirziyoyev. This is exactly the volume Uzbekistan needs to cover its energy shortage in the winter period. Let us remind here that the last winter was unusually cold and caused a real collapse in the Central Asian energy system. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were the countries that suffered the most. It was quite possible to prevent the energy crisis, the countries only needed to respond positively to Moscows proposal about creating the trilateral gas alliance. The gas transportation system is in place for that. But the anti-Russian lobby in Tashkent and Astana opposed the agreement with Moscow claiming that these two countries will fall into the dependency on Russia. Nevertheless, the pragmatism and the convenience took over: Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov, the Uzbekistan Minister of Energy, signed a gas supply contract with Alexei Miller, the Head of Gazprom, on the sidelines of the St.-Petersburg International Economic Forum 2023.

Kazakhstan will provide for the transit of Russian gas via the Central Asia Center pipeline running through its territory. The second document signed by Tashkent and Gazprom was the Road Map for preparing the gas transportation system of Uzbekistan for receiving and transporting Russian gas via pipelines. Uzbekistan was not only short of gas in the domestic market, its supplies to China were jeopardized, and according to the respective agreement Tashkent needs to export up to 10 bcma of natural gas. These contractual obligations need to be discharged, otherwise the Uzbekistan will have to pay the forfeit the Chinese are not to be taken lightly on such issues.

So, the agreement equally beneficial for all the parties was signed. And this is not surprising: back during the first term of Mirziyoyev the favorable conditions for foreign investors were created, and the implementation of a number of major projects started in the country, including projects with Gazprom and LUKOIL. Besides three thousand companies with Russian capital are operating in Uzbekistan already. It is much easier to develop the cooperation with such a foundation rather than from scratch.

Another positive factor attracting foreign investment is the commitment of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to building the state based on the rule of law. This contributes to the development of foreign economic ties of Uzbekistan, first of all with Russia. The investors feel comfortable in the situation of stability, predictability and protection. Hence there are all the grounds for the good assurance in the positive outlook for Russian-Uzbekistan cooperation and collaboration.

Negotiations in Kazan

It is indicative that the President of Uzbekistan started his official visit to Russia from Kazan. A Regional Forum took place there engaging not only the business community, but the heads of all 14 regions of Uzbekistan. This is quite understandable given the fact that 700 Uzbekistan companies are currently operating in the RF. Just like their Russian colleagues operating in Uzbekistan they strengthen and enhance the bilateral collaboration on an every-day basis. On top of that the General Consulate of Uzbekistan is functioning in Kazan, while as in Tashkent the Representative Office of Tatarstan. Hence Mirziyoyev stopped in Kazan not just to admire the sights of the rapidly developing regional capital.

The statistics proves: as of the results of the preceding year the trade turnover between Tatarstan and Uzbekistan amounted to about USD 300 mln. However, this is still a quite modest metric for the entire country, because the trade turnover of Uzbekistan and Russia totaled USD 10 bn. However, during the Forum agreements and contracts for USD 3.5 bn were signed, which means more than ten times growth! Agreement was achieved about developing a separate Road Map for industrial cooperation by regions with a schedule of mutual visits exchange in the coming year.

By the way, Tatarstan is not the only region, which Tashkent cooperates with. Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Samara, Ivanovo, Belgorod and Vologda Regions are the leaders in terms of the intensity of cooperation with Uzbekistan regions. But another important thing is that the visit of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Kazan is a very important element if the relations between Uzbekistan and Tatarstan in the broad sense of the word, according to Stanislav Pritchin, the senior research associate of the post-Soviet studies in the Institute for International Relations and World Economy with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). In his opinion, «Kazan and Tashkent have quite a few common topics and points of intersection. In particular, they are in petrochemical sector and mechanical engineering. I believe, these will be the key areas for developing the contractual basis between the constituent entity of the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan. The fact of common religion and culture of Tatars and Uzbeks is also very important. So, it is quite understandable why Uzbekistan lays emphasis on Tatarstan out of many other constituent entities of Russia».

Substantive talk with Mikhail Mishustin

Naturally the topic of economic and trade cooperation was dominating at the negotiations of Shavkat Mirziyoyev with Mikhail Mishustin, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. «Our bilateral relations have risen to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance. We succeeded in many areas during the recent years thanks to the political will of both Mr. Putin and myself. There is a progress along all the lines of our cooperation», said the Head of Uzbekistan. He emphasized that in the current difficult period Uzbekistan needs to cooperate with Russia. And even though high performance was already demonstrated in such spheres of collaboration as healthcare and education, there is still room for improvement on behalf of Uzbekistan party.

And all this relates not just to the sphere of economy. The outlook is multifaceted. Thus, the branch of Russian National Research Medical University named after N.N. Pirogov will commence its activities in Uzbekistan starting from the next year. It will be the fifteenth Russian university to open in this Central Asian Republic.

Mirziyoyev discussed with Mishustin the issue of social guarantees for the Uzbekistan residents working in Russia. Over the recent years, the number of migrant workers from Uzbekistan is growing in Russia. This is associated both with the natural increase in population in Uzbekistan and with the changed approach of Tashkent to the citizens working abroad. Shavkat Mirziyoyev keeps control of the labor migration issues. This is understandable: migrant workers transfer cash to Uzbekistan in the amount of 35% of the GDP. «This is quite serious money for Uzbekistan. And we need to understand that such transfers coming from Russia are distributed between families in different regions being an important social stability factor, because they reach specific people in need of help. That is why Uzbekistan is interested in the preferential treatment and maintaining transparent, stable conditions for the Uzbek citizens working abroad, first of all in Russia, because we have Uzbek migrant workers more than any other country», analyst Stanislav Pritchin believes.

Discussing the essence or meeting in the Kremlin

We already mentioned above that the President of Uzbekistan demonstrated his true Oriental wisdom: he timed his Moscow visit to Vladimir Putins birthday the 7th of October. On his birthday the President of the Russian Federation gave a drive to his Uzbek guest on the Russian-make off-the-road vehicle Aurus Komendant. Vladimir Putin took the drivers place.

When receiving President Mirziyoyev in the Kremlin, Putin, as we can see, had all the reasons to comment that «the relations of the two countries are progressing successfully, and we can confirm that they are at a very high level». The growth of the trade turnover between Russia and Uzbekistan over the preceding year was 26%, and during seven months of 2023 over 14%, the RF President emphasized. The leaders agreed to strengthen the bilateral economic ties, to develop the cooperation in supplies of oil, gas and petroleum products, and to continue interaction in the sphere of defence, which deserves special attention. Putin reminded that in a few days he would be seeing Sh. Mirziyoyev at the CIS Summit in Kyrgyzstan: «we are actively interacting on the international arena, first of all, using such platforms as the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and of course the CIS. Soon we will see each other at the CIS Summit in Kyrgyzstan».

In his turn, Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited Vladimir Putin to pay a visit to Uzbekistan. This invitation was accepted.

The island of regional stability

Economic and trade ties are the so-called basic factors of interaction. However, the geopolitical circumstances play a very important role in cooperation between Moscow and Tashkent. The development plans, logistic chains, gas and oil transportation infrastructure operations neither of them costs anything without a military and political stability of the region in general. The responsible, far-sighted and predictable policy of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev play a very important role here. Every year it becomes more and more obvious that the current trends of economic policy and internal political reforms in Uzbekistan can turn the country subject to lack of any force-majeure into a leading regional power. Of course, this is a positive factor for Moscow from the standpoint of strengthening its own security. We also should take into consideration, that Tashkent is turning into the agent of Russian interests in Central Asia. And it is not just a reliable agent, but it is vitally interested in expanding the sphere of Russian influence.

The case is that in the region we can see a clash of the opposite interests of the leading global players the USA, the European Union and China. This, of course, expands the horizon of opportunities, but at the same time brings serious risks. During the last year only six meaningful summits took place with participation of the regional countries: the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the US and the Central Asian countries in Astana, China Central Asia Summit in Sian, the meeting of the Prime-Ministers of the EU and CA countries in Almaty, the Summit of the Persian Gulf and CA countries in Jeddah, the USA Central Asia Summit and Germany Central Asia Summit. In the environment of external players being so active and each of them promoting its own interests, the diplomacy and especially the assessment of risks, outlooks and capabilities become a truly complex art. Especially if we take into account that the Central Asian countries do not have a common position.

For example, Kazakhstan in the course of the recent meeting of President Tokayev with Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany, declared the intent to abide by the anti-Russian economic sanctions. On the opposite, Kyrgyzstan says that does not intend to reject the re-export even under the threat of sanctions. Against this background, Tashkent is implementing reasonable and responsible policy. The main partners of Uzbekistan are Russia and China, and President Mirziyoyev does not intend to change them, because he perfectly well understands that currently Uzbekistan will not have any meaningful economic and trade ties with the USA, so bringing the country in the wake of the US policy is a short-sighted approach fraught with significant economic losses. Especially because in such case Uzbekistan will have to refuse from cooperation with China.

The pragmatic leader of Uzbekistan makes a decisive choice in favor of a bird in the hand and not in favor of two birds in the bush. Especially given the fact that his bird in the hand is quite a weighty one. The Chinese offer all sorts of goods (except for, maybe, long-range civilian airliners) at much more acceptable prices than the Americans. Russia offers energy commodities allowing for Uzbekistan solving not only the immediate problems, but also to increase the pace of its own development. It is absolutely obvious that the United States lose in this situation. Tashkent will not be able to expand the trade and economic cooperation with the United States in the foreseeable future. It means that we cannot expect any strengthening of Washingtons geopolitical positions in the region.

That is why it is quite obvious that the pragmatic approach of Shavkat Mirziyoyev is very important for Moscow today. The predictable and responsible partner is the most reliable option for the Kremlin, especially during the times of global geopolitical turbulence.