Russia’s Putin Makes First Journey Overseas Since Invasion, to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan

In his first international journey for the reason that invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan this week. Within the former he met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon for a stroll among the many melons and within the latter attended the sixth Caspian Summit alongside the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

Afghanistan was a selected focus of Putin’s go to to Tajikistan, given Tajikistan’s lengthy border with Afghanistan, Dushanbe’s troublesome relations with the Taliban, and the truth that Russia’s largest navy base overseas is in Tajikistan. 

“We’re doing the whole lot in order that the scenario in that nation normalizes,” Putin stated of Afghanistan. “We are trying to construct relations with the political forces that management the scenario,” he continued, referring to the Taliban which took management of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021. Putin then famous, “We’re working from the premise that every one ethnic teams in Afghanistan, as was already stated, should correctly take part in working the nation.”

Putin additionally highlighted {that a} Taliban delegation attended the latest St. Petersburg Worldwide Financial Discussion board.

One other subject of debate, as at all times when Russian and Tajik presidents converse, was the vital matter of Tajiks working in Russia. Final yr, the variety of Tajiks migrating into Russia for work hit an official excessive. Between January and September 2021 1.6 million Tajik residents — a few quarter of the nation’s complete inhabitants — traveled to Russia for work, and that’s simply the official determine. In remarking on commerce and financial ties throughout their latest assembly, Putin stated Tajik migrant staff “make a major contribution to the event of the financial system of our nation and are such a human bridge, a bridge of friendship between Russia and Tajikistan.” The identical day Putin was in Tajikistan, June 28, the Russian Duma ratified an settlement signed final yr concerning cooperation on pensions with Tajikistan

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On June 29, Putin continued on to Ashgabat for the sixth Caspian Summit, hosted by Turkmenistan’s new president, Serdar Beridmuhamedov. The summit comes 4 years after the final gathering, in 2018, throughout which the Caspian littoral states agreed on the ocean’s authorized standing: It’s, certainly, a sea and never a lake. Most significantly, the settlement settled in 2018 opened the door to attainable pipelines throughout the ocean. As I defined on the time: 

Crucially, the latest settlement could open the door to pipeline initiatives which have lengthy been  hostage to the paradox surrounding the Caspian’s standing. The conference reportedly stipulates that solely nations by way of which a pipeline crosses must agree on the development. The Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP), from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, has been opposed by each Russia and Iran. Russian and Iranian opposition has nominally (and quite unconvincingly) been rooted in environmental issues; many analysts seen Moscow and Tehran’s opposition as economically motivated, an effort to maintain Turkmenistan from connecting to the European gasoline market by way of Azerbaijan.

In fact, the geopolitics have continued to shift since 2018. European dependence on Russian gasoline has turn out to be a flashpoint given the current battle in Ukraine. Whereas Europe moved to chop its imports of Russian oil, Moscow curbed exports of pure gasoline to Europe in retaliation for sanctions. Europe has marketed hopes to exchange two-thirds of its Russian gasoline imports by the tip of the yr by way of a mixture of liquified pure gasoline (LNG), renewables, pipeline diversification, and different strategies. A trans-Caspian pipeline may theoretically assist Europe diversify its pure gasoline provides, but it surely stays a future prospect. Within the pursuits of holding what mates it has on aspect, Russia could put aside its objections. And Iran — which has additionally objected to the pipeline plan on comparable grounds — may additionally profit diplomatically from getting out of the way in which, not solely with the Central Asian nations however European companions, too.

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In a speech on the Caspian Summit, Putin famous that the 5 littoral states have “nice alternatives for cooperation within the vitality sector.” He famous agreements already applied on joint exploration of the ocean’s sources, which “makes it attainable to fairly and effectively, respecting the pursuits of the events, use the pure sources of the Caspian Sea each in conventional and modern, different vitality sectors.” Putin, nevertheless, did stress biodiversity and dialog points, which have fashioned the bedrock of Moscow’s objection to new pipelines throughout the ocean.

We’ll need to see what, if something, comes from the Caspian Summit, although a landmark settlement like 2018 is unlikely. However, Putin’s journey overseas is vital for its signaling worth alone. Though Russia has been condemned by a lot of nations within the United Nations, and Putin is a pariah in Europe, Moscow retains vital companions, particularly in Asia. The nice and cozy welcome in Dushanbe and face-to-face conferences across the Caspian desk in Ashgabat had been an opportunity for Putin to reaffirm his community of companions at a vital second.