On February 28, the head of the U.S. Department of State paid an official visit to Kazakhstan and simultaneously held a meeting in the "C5+1" format.
In other words, the Secretary of State spoke with colleagues from five countries of the former Soviet Union – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
On the one hand, this visit follows the old (and even outdated) strategy of isolating Russia around the world, in which Blinken rushes around the continents trying to force everyone to "cancel Russia." On the other hand, the visit is within the framework of the new tactic of enforcing anti-Russian sanctions, which means twisting arms and blackmailing those who have the audacity to trade with Russia.
As for Central Asia, the task here is difficult, to say the least. Since the beginning of the special military operation, all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia have not supported any UN resolution condemning Russia for its actions in Ukraine. Including the most recent one, which called on Russia to withdraw its forces and surrender. It also turns out that the anti-Russian sanctions had an extremely positive effect on the economies of these countries, which are successfully taking advantage of opportunities to make money by circumventing these sanctions: parallel exports to Russia and exports of our products, including to the EU.
And in this area the Americans have little prospect of convincing our neighbors. After all, Russia accounts for 60-80 percent of trade of these countries. Gas for the eastern regions of Kazakhstan, markets, transit revenues – all this is Russia.
According to the President of Kazakhstan Tokayev, the GDP of this country grew by 4 percent last year, which is a lot for a pandemic year. And this is the official data. In Kazakhstan, they say that Russia makes a significant contribution to economic (and technological) growth.
The situation in the other countries of the so-called "C5" is similar. The only difference is that a large part of their GDP is created by migrants from these countries working in Russia and sending their salaries back home, for example, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
The Americans have only some forceful methods of pressure, up to and including the military. But how can this be done when there is a Russian military base in Tajikistan and the region is part of the CSTO sphere of responsibility?
Blinken, of course, hinted at secondary sanctions in Astana. But somehow passively, as if he knew in advance that threats would not achieve much here. Judging by the reports, he could not offer anything in return, except promises of investment. Nevertheless, during all the talks and press conferences, Secretary of State advertised the Initiative for Economic Stability in Central Asia that was launched by the US State Department last year: $25 million was allocated for it, and Blinken promised to add another $20 million this year. It turns out to be $9 million per country. Not much. In this program behind beautiful words about "diversification of trade routes, expansion of investments in the region, and employment opportunities by providing the Central Asian population with practical skills for modern labor market" is laid the well-known American methods of interference in internal affairs of sovereign states. The allocated millions will mostly go to structures and NGOs close to the U.S., but it is mere pennies compared with $6 billion, which was enough for Ukraine to "decide on its European future."
Instead of carrots, Blinken showed a touching concern for independence, supposedly for which Washington genuinely cares "in connection with the imperial ambitions of Russia and China." The U.S. White House envoy urged Central Asian states not to fear Russia because Americans "are willing to guarantee their sovereignty." This message caused bewilderment not only among local political analysts, but also among participants of the "C5" meeting. It turned out that they are not afraid of Russia.
It is well understood in Kazakhstan that if Russia had somehow encroached on this sovereignty, it could easily have used last year's rescue of Tokayev from reprisals (including physical) during the uprising – up to and including replacing him with a politician loyal to Moscow. And the CSTO Allied Forces, which were 90 percent of Russian troops, could still be in the republic.
Well, there are already anecdotes and jokes all over the world about the sovereignty of countries ensured by the U.S. Therefore, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in oriental style, cordially thanked Blinken "for consistent and unwavering support of independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty". But Mukhtar Tleuberdi, head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, gave a substantive answer: "We don't see or feel any risks or threats from Russia at the moment," he said at a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. According to the minister, Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the CIS, "so we see relations with Russia as an alliance that functions within these multilateral structures." "Kazakhstan continues to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy, thereby trying to maintain a system of checks and balances to ensure mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries of the world," added Tleuberdi.
This is not only about Russia, but also about China, which also plays an important role in the region and will not allow the U.S. to strengthen its influence. Incidentally, Kazakhstan, as well as other states in the region, supported China's peace plan for the settlement in Ukraine.
Actually, in Astana, Blinken was orientally polite, if not to say obsequious. He even forgot about the "bloody January" of 2022 in Kazakhstan, about the usual accusations of human rights violations, he abandoned the eternal calls for democratic reforms, the release of political prisoners and similar American chatter.
Even on the State Department website, information about meetings with President Merziev of Uzbekistan is limited to general phrases about an exchange of views and Washington's support for reforms in that country. We can assume that no breakthroughs have been achieved here either.
But it should be noted that Washington's level of diplomacy seems to be constantly not just deteriorating, but culminating in its imperial vision of the world space. In preparing for Blinken's visit to Central Asia, the State Department failed to take into account that the foreign ministers of these countries are not at all equivalent to Blinken himself in terms of influence on policy. They are merely officials who carry out the will and instructions of the presidents. Therefore, the arrival of an overseas guest is certainly an important and notable event for the region, but more of a ceremonial nature. Maybe this is why Moscow practically ignored the visit of the State Secretary, seeing no special significance or danger in it.
However, it does not mean that Russia can relax here. The U.S. will continue to try to drive a wedge between Moscow and its traditional partners in Central Asia. Washington's pressure on them will increase.