You don’t need to be surprised at the activity of Americans in Turkmenistan. Washington used to take care of Ashgabat’s security. For example, at the end of March 2015, USA agreed meet the request of the authorities of Turkmenistan for the provision of military assistance to this country. This was stated by the head of the United States Central Command, General Lloyd James Austin. An official request from the authorities of Turkmenistan entered Washington after receiving data on the presence of militants of the "Islamic State" in northern Afghanistan.
And now another help arrived. As reported October 22 "Arguments of the week", Turkmenistan gave the go-ahead to deploy the US military at the military airfield "Mary-2". The cost of rent is small: according to experts, we are talking about a relatively small amount in 100-200 million dollars per year.
The modest requests of Ashgabat "AN" are explained by the decision on the implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline project (Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India) from the second in the world in terms of reserves of the Galkynysh field. The length of the pipeline will be 1735 kilometers, and most of it will pass through the territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which control the Taliban and IG. The Americans promised to protect the gas pipeline from the air.
An unnamed military diplomatic source told The Arguments of the Week that the main locations for the remaining NATO forces in Afghanistan coincide with the route of the gas pipeline.
Also, the publication indicates that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu canceled the planned visit to Ashgabat.
About security TAPI previously wrote and "Independent newspaper". Victoria Panfilova’s material from October 20 states that the Galkynysh field will be the resource base for TAPI, which will be developed by Japan and China, and the United States will provide security guarantees.
Turkmenistan has begun construction of TAPI. The pipeline will pass over 30 billion cubic meters. m of gas per year. At its own expense, and on its own, Ashgabat will build 215 km of pipes on Turkmen territory. The publication notes that the construction is probably associated with increased security guarantees that Ashgabat received from Washington during the visit of the Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov to the United States.
Alexander Knyazev, an expert on Central Asia and the Middle East, does not exclude that Washington promised security both at the border and on the construction of TAPI in exchange for the deployment of air forces at the Mary-2 airfield. Quote:
“The details are not yet known. I only know that, apparently, because of this, the alleged visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Ashgabat was canceled without explanation and the status of the Turkmen-American consultations was raised, at which, in fact, everything was discussed. ”
The expert noted that the issue of extending the time frame and increasing the number of the American presence in Afghanistan after the events in Kunduz and Faryab should be considered “in the same context”.
And one more opinion, which is provided by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Director of the MGIMO Analytical Center, Andrei Kazantsev, said that “there is such a disposition based on preliminary agreements: Japan receives the Galkynysh deposit, and the construction of the TAPI begins, which corresponds to American interests within the framework of their Big Central Asia project.
The purpose of the project is to establish contacts between the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and post-Soviet Central Asia. The goal is to stabilize the situation in these countries with the help of energy projects of interest to both Kabul and Islamabad. The US has its own benefit. The expert noted that the United States "receives a military airfield" Mary-2 ", which was claimed for a long time, and will give security guarantees to Turkmenistan." In his opinion, the link between American geopolitical and Japanese economic interests is often found in Asia.
There are opinions and other Russian experts.
“Obviously, we are not implementing the TAPI project,” said "Free Press" Alexander Khramchikhin, Deputy Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis. - As for the American base, it is not at all clear why it is there? Of course, if the Americans and the Turkmen strongly want it, then, of course, you can shove it there, only this base will create problems for the States first of all - it can be instantly blocked, such as our grouping in Transnistria. Even more surprising, some politicians and experts continue to believe in some kind of American security guarantees, especially after the war in Iraq, Georgia and Ukraine. ”
“The neutrality of Turkmenistan has outlived itself,” remarks the military-economic expert Dmitry Verkhoturov. - For a long time already the question is sharp: to whom to join? Either to the CSTO (that is, to enter the channel of Russian policy), or seek help elsewhere — in this case, from the United States. The approach to politics here is typical for Central Asia: Turkmen are trying to bargain, as in the market, comparing the "prices" (benefits). I think at this stage, the relations of Turkmenistan with Russia and the United States are at such a “trading stage”. But Russia is unlikely to allow an air force base to appear near its underbelly - the Kremlin has leverage on Berdymukhamedov. ”
Andrei Grozin, head of the department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan at the Institute of CIS Countries, also doubts that Ashgabat will burn out with a gas pipeline: “... frankly, it is hard to believe in this. Taking into account the fact that now, in Afghanistan, as it is known, the Taliban movement has become more active, an “IG” appeared, it would simply be a “golden trumpet”, because you have to pay for loyalty to various field commanders, and they have been rapidly changing lately. ”
As for the former Soviet strategic airfield "Mary-2", the expert strongly doubts that the United States will get access to it. “To give the US a base means to automatically receive a lot of trouble and symmetrical answers from Russia,” he says. “No matter how neutral Turkmenistan may be, it’s still quite vulnerable ...” The expert believes that Turkmenistan is not ready to reconsider relations with Russia.
Finally, the reaction of the PRC. The appearance of Americans in Turkmenistan will cause a negative reaction from Beijing, Grozin said.
Moreover, let us add, the Chinese will be further irritated by the appearance of the Japanese, these American geopolitical allies, who are in conflict with China over the islands, near the gas pipeline. It seems that the Turkmen authorities, with their overly flexible policies, have created not a “bargaining”, but a tangle of contradictions.
Observed and commented on Oleg Chuvakin
- especially for topwar.ru
- especially for topwar.ru