Perizat RISBEK KIZI
On December 11-16, 2021, an official delegation from the State Department led by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for conducting Dialogues on Strategic Partnership.
All this happened against the background of the decision of the leaders of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to bring interstate relations to a new level, raising their status to allied ones.
First Strategic Partnership Dialogue between USA and Uzbekistan
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, during the first meeting of the Strategic Partnership Dialogue between the United States and Uzbekistan, the parties exchanged views on topical issues of the bilateral and regional agenda in the spheres of politics and diplomacy, economy and development, security, cultural and humanitarian ties, as well as contacts through international organizations and financial institutions.
According to the published joint statement signed following the results of the Dialogue, the parties confirmed their desire to deepen ties between defense departments, law enforcement agencies, border and customs authorities of the two countries, which will contribute to strengthening cooperation in the field of security. The parties also spoke in favor of stepping up interaction within the framework of the C5 + 1 mechanism and bringing this format to a practical level in order to achieve significant results.
The Diplomat writes, that with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington and Tashkent have an opportunity to rebalance their relationship, so long tethered to the Afghanistan issue. Earlier, Politico, citing the US defense department and a member of Congress, reported that Pentagon officials visited Uzbekistan in October to discuss security issues and the possible deployment of a counterterrorism center. This, in turn, indicates that the intensification of Washington’s contacts may be associated exclusively with the continued search by the United States of a new base for its military aviation in the region. According to Sputnik Uzbekistan, despite the official statement of Tashkent about the impossibility of deploying American military bases on its territory, the Uzbekistan, located next to Afghanistan and the CSTO countries, is too convenient for the Pentagon and NATO.
“USA is a reliable partner of Kazakhstan”
After the visit to Uzbekistan, the US delegation went to Kazakhstan, where readiness to be reliable partners of Kazakhstan was expressed.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the main purpose of the visit of the delegation was to summarize the results of joint work over the past six months and determine the prospects for further expanding the strategic partnership between the two countries. Earlier it was also reported that in Nur-Sultan, the coordinating officers of the defense departments of Kazakhstan and the United States discussed the draft Plan of Bilateral Military Cooperation for 2022.
Thus, Kazakhstan is strengthening cooperation with Russia within the framework of its membership in the CSTO, which provides for mutual military assistance, on the other hand, it simultaneously develops interaction with NATO and the United States. Explaining this policy of Kazakhstan, the Carnegie Moscow Center writes that for Nur-Sultan, rapprochement with the United States is an important part of the strategy to balance Russian and Chinese influence in the country, which occasionally allow themselves to make gestures that cause considerable concern to the Kazakh leadership.
All this, of course, worries Russia. In response to the activation of the United States, on December 14 in Tashkent, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A.Y. Rudenko, a working meeting of the ambassadors of the Russian Federation in the Central Asian states was held.
It is emphasized that the politicians discussed security issues in the region and considered the current situation in Afghanistan. The parties also noted the active interaction of the parties within the UN, CIS, SCO and other international organizations. As it is known, earlier, the Kremlin, fearing the loss of its traditional influence in the region, called on Afghanistan’s neighbours not to allow US and NATO forces into their territory. Moreover, just yesterday, December 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry prepared a “Draft Russian Documents on Ensuring Legal Guarantees of US and NATO Security”, where Moscow calls on the US to refuse to admit post-Soviet countries to NATO.
As a result, it can be stated that against the background of a New Great Game, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, along with other Central Asian countries, are trying to integrate into the world system as a single actor by balancing among the great powers who have their own interests in the region.