Comment by the Information and Press Department on the statements by commander of the United States Central Command Joseph Votel

Saturday, 03 March 2018 11:23

We have noted the biased assessments of Russia's policy towards the countries in Central Asia in comments made by commander of US Central Command Joseph Votel during the hearings at the House Armed Services Committee, a committee of the US House of Representatives, on February 27. The way this was done again testifies to the anti-Russia prejudices that reign in Washington. Joseph Votel condemned Russia for “increasingly impinging on US influence and spreading inaccurate information.” The fact that the Central Asian countries “rely on Russia to varying degrees for their economic and security needs” is also problematic for the United States. Votel also claims that “Russia has increased Eurasian integration efforts to reassert Moscow’s dominant influence along the periphery.”

Those behind these claims would obviously like to cut the Central Asian countries from their multilateral cooperation with Russia and other participants in the integration processes on the post-Soviet space. The actual facts speak to the exceptional importance of this direction for all countries in the region.

Our countries are tied by over 900 agreements, 70 per cent of them are trade and economic. Russia has relations of alliance or strategic partnership with every country in Central Asia. Recent events include signing a separate agreement that secures Turkmenistan's strategic partnership status with Russia at the former’s initiative on October 2, 2017.

In the past 10 years, Russia's assistance to the development of Central Asian countries has exceeded $6 billion. Russian investment in the region has reached $20 billion. Some 7,500 companies with Russian capital are operating in the region. The mutually beneficial and equal nature of these links is marked by the export of capital from the Central Asian countries to Russia. In particular, Kazakhstan has invested over $3 billion.

Establishing the CIS free trade zone and the EAEU common economic space has opened vast opportunities in the region. Last year, the Central Asian countries' trade with Russia grew by a third − in particular, Kazakhstan's trade with Russia increased 30.1 per cent, Kyrgyzstan's 31.6 per cent, and Uzbekistan's 33.9 per cent.

Mutual cultural and humanitarian ties are developing as well. Together, we are creating a professional and intellectual “pool” in the region. Over 150,000 students from Central Asia are studying at Russian universities, including some 46,000 with fully-funded Russian Government scholarships, which amounts to about $100 million per year. These are lofty investments in future generations.

The labour service supplied to the Russian market is a major export and revenue point for the countries in the region. Unlike Europe, where attempts to solve the migration crisis have failed, our labour market remains open to citizens of these friendly countries. In 2017, about 4 million people came to Russia from the Central Asian countries alone. We are aware that this is important for our friends: each year, the working-age population of this region is replenished by hundreds of thousands of young people.  

Russia spends billions of roubles as part of its efforts to assist in modernising the armed forces of certain Central Asian countries, training officer personnel for them, providing military technical assistance, strengthening border security, and combating drug trafficking.

To compare, between 2008 and 2016, Washington allocated some $3 billion, including military assistance, to the countries of the region. The US has a self-serving approach to the cooperation with the Central Asian countries, seeking the access to raw material resources, logistics, transit corridors, as well as control over the sensitive security sector.

We respect the right of our Central Asian friends to choose partners, but do not want these partners driving a wedge between us.

Politicians, members of the business community and the people in these countries have been long aware of the advantages of the decades-long non-politicised equal partnership between us. Attempts at imposing schemes similar to the New Silk Road or Greater Central Asia on them are detached from reality. The creators of such schemes think that by ignoring the difference between the security levels in the countries of Central Asia and to the south of the Panj River they neglect the risks for stability in the whole region. Many experts wonder what are the goals of the US presence in Afghanistan. During the years of the US presence, the situation with security and illegal drug production has only aggravated. And this is taking place in close proximity to Central Asia, as well as Russia, Iran and China, whom Washington sees as “challenges” to its interests.

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