“U.S. Interests in Central Asia” – WAC 2/29/2016 Event
On February 29, the World Affairs Council hosted Daniel Rosenblum, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia, for an event focused on U.S. engagement with the five states in this region: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
DAS Rosenblum first joined our 2015-2016 Fellows Program cohort for a private breakfast discussion, before speaking to a larger audience at an evening community event. A few pictures from the events are included in this post.
Below are a few reflection notes from the community event:
The Center of the World
From around 130 BC to 1453 AD, a network of trade routes known as the Silk Road ran through Central Asia connecting the region economically and culturally with both China and Europe. As a result Central Asia began to be known as the center of the world.
In the last century the Central Asian economy has suffered badly due to a number events including the collapse of the USSR. Today much of the economy is reliant on remittances from Central Asians working in Russia. But remittances have severely dropped due to Russia’s recent economic troubles.
The US and China are hoping to rediscover Central Asia’s ancient prosperity and create a New Silk Road. New trade agreements aim to bring together what is considered the least economically integrated region in the world. By heavily investing in transportation infrastructure, China hopes to take advantage of overland trade routes to Europe that will be faster then those used by sea. The US hopes that the new economic prosperity for Central Asia will lead to better governance and improvements in human rights.
Turning Landlocked into Landlinked
The five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are all landlocked countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. Since independence the five countries have suffered high rates of poverty and endemic corruption, as well as widely criticized human rights records.
On November 1, 2015, US Secretary of State John Kerry held a meeting of all five foreign ministers of the Central Asian States. At the meeting Secretary Kerry communicated US aspirations for Central Asia. These include more economic prosperity, good governance, and improved human rights. By promoting economic integration and cooperation among the states, the US and the international community look forward to the isolated and struggling landlocked states becoming prosperous and engaged landlinked states.