Monday, May 20

Speech by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mikhail Galuzin via videoconference at the IV Central Asian Conference of the Valdai Club on the topic “Russia and Central Asia: development and security in changing global realities”, Ufa, May 14, 2024

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Dear Andrey Georgievich,

Dear Radiy Faritovich!

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Even from a distance, I feel the warm hospitality of our Bashkir friends. I am sincerely grateful to the organizers of the conference for the opportunity to speak again at such an authoritative discussion forum, this time in Ufa.

Russia and the Central Asian states are natural allies and partners due to a number of factors. First of all, it is geographical proximity. The longest land border in the world between the two countries runs between Russia and Kazakhstan – over 7.5 thousand km, which is about a third of the total length of all land borders of the Russian Federation. Therefore, we have common external challenges and threats that we jointly confront, including the terrorist threat emanating, including from Afghan territory, covered by pseudo-religious rhetoric (terrorism, as you know, has no nationality and religion). The presence of Russian military bases in the region (201st in Tajikistan and 999th in Kyrgyzstan), close military and military-technical cooperation between Russia and the Central Asian states, cooperation on border protection, joint work of law enforcement agencies and special services in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime make our country an almost uncontested guarantor of stability and security.

We have a common historical heritage, despite the fact that a little over 30 years ago we ceased to be one country, but remained good neighbors, preserving fraternal ties of friendship. Effective integration mechanisms in the post-Soviet space – the CIS, the EAEU, and the CSTO – contribute to our political, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties. Relations are based on such fundamental principles as mutual respect for sovereignty, equality and mutual consideration of interests. Russia fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Central Asian countries, considers it incorrect to equate these concepts with distance from Russia, the rupture of historical ties between the states of the region and the Russian Federation, which the West is trying to lead to by maliciously exploiting these lofty concepts.

In the context of the current geopolitical turbulence, Russia’s relations with the countries of Central Asia are being adequately tested for strength. We maintain an intensive political dialogue at the highest and highest levels. In 2023, we counted more than 90 such contacts.

The first Russia-Central Asia summit in October 2022 in Astana was of decisive importance for the progressive development of Russia’s relations with the Central Asian states.

A significant contribution to the development of relations with Kazakhstan was made by the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to this country in November last year. It resulted in the signing of a detailed political statement dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on Good-Neighborliness and Alliance in the 21st Century, as well as the approval of a Joint Action Plan for 2024-2026 with strategic objectives for the future. More than 10 intersectoral and interdepartmental agreements were concluded on the “margins” of the visit. The Presidents took part in the plenary session of the XIX Forum of Interregional Cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan in Kostanay on the theme “Agriculture is the basis of a strong economy”, an annual event that traditionally gives a powerful impetus to the development of human and business ties between Russian and Kazakh regions.

President of the Republic of Tajikistan E.S.Rahmon visited Russia three times in 2023, which gave a powerful impetus to specific bilateral projects and further formation of the regulatory framework of Russian-Tajik relations. Russian Russian Drama Theater In this context, I would like to note the implementation of intergovernmental agreements signed at the end of last year on the construction of a Center for Gifted Children in Dushanbe and a new building for the V.V.Mayakovsky Russian Drama Theater, which will be a significant step in popularizing the Russian language and promoting our cultural and humanitarian agenda in this republic as a whole.

Following the results of the official visit of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh.M.Mirziyoyev to the Russian Federation on October 5-7, 2023, a list of agreed instructions covering all areas of bilateral cooperation was approved, and a joint statement of the heads of state on deepening comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance was adopted. The expansion and deepening of trade, economic and investment ties, industrial cooperation, the development of energy projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, strengthening transport connectivity and the implementation of relevant major infrastructure projects have been identified as priorities. Significant potential for cooperation in agriculture, banking, cultural and humanitarian spheres has been confirmed.

Important events were held with the participation of representatives of the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan.

The annual presence of the leaders of all Central Asian states at the Moscow celebrations on the occasion of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, embodying the unity of fraternal peoples in the fight against the Nazi invaders, partnership and alliance of our states today, is deeply symbolic.

We are the most reliable and key trade and economic partner for the region, which is confirmed by the consistent growth of trade turnover. In 2023, its total volume exceeded 44 billion US dollars. Russia accounts for 33% of all foreign trade in Central Asia. To a large extent, this is ensured by switching to mutual settlements in the national currency. Currently, the volume of such settlements with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has reached 80%, with Uzbekistan – 55%, with Turkmenistan – 24%.

Thanks to Russian capital, more than 600 thousand people are employed in Central Asia. The absence of visa barriers (with the exception of Turkmenistan), the presence of a specialized regulatory framework and the prevalence of the Russian language in the region make the Russian labor market almost no alternative for Central Asian citizens traveling abroad to earn money. Every year, remittances from migrant workers provide income for millions of households in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. We are working with our partners to ensure that the selection for work in Russia is more orderly, takes into account the interests of all interested parties, and is not an easy loophole for the penetration of carriers of terrorist and extremist ideology into our country.

We aim the work of our mechanisms of trade and economic cooperation with the Central Asian states, including intergovernmental commissions and business councils, at the consistent development of cooperation in this area, taking into account that the Central Asian region has promising prospects for economic growth. So, in the first twenty years of the current century, it exceeded the global average by 2.5 times. Over the past 7 years, the trade turnover of Central Asia with the outside world has increased by more than 2 times. In the next 30 years, the expected average annual growth rates of GDP and foreign trade, as well as the rate of population growth, will be ahead of the global average. In conditions of disruption of traditional logistics chains, the development of international transport corridors (MTCs), providing continental infrastructure connectivity, is of particular importance. As a matter of priority, we are cooperating with partners on the eastern route of the North-South ITC, which runs along the coast of the Caspian Sea through the territories of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. By 2030, the volume of Russian traffic on it may reach 5 million tons. Its full-fledged loading will allow it to compete with the Suez Canal for cargo flows from Asia.

Russia remains the absolute leader in assisting the countries of the region in school education and training of highly qualified specialists. Joint secondary schools with teaching in Russian are successfully operating in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In the foreseeable future, the emergence of such educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan. It is also planned to open branches of leading Russian universities in this country: Moscow State University. M.V.Lomonosov, Kazan Federal University and the Higher School of Economics, in Uzbekistan – the Russian University of the Humanities, the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography and the North Caucasus Federal University. A project to establish a joint Russian-Turkmen university in Ashgabat is at the approval stage. All this will be a solid addition to the 25 branches of Russian universities already operating in the region. At the same time, about 200 thousand citizens of Central Asian countries study in Russia itself, of which over 75 thousand are at the expense of the federal budget.

Of course, we in no way forget about the environmental problems of the region. The Russian Government has approved a special project to assist the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. We hope for its early practical launch.

At the same time, the West does not abandon attempts to “reformat” the region for itself, stake out access to its natural resources, put transport corridors running through it under control, and turn Central Asia into a springboard for threats to Russia’s security. Our partners are promised multimillion-dollar investments, expanded access of goods to the European market, while demanding strict implementation of anti-Russian restrictions under the threat of so-called “secondary sanctions”. The United States and NATO are trying to involve the countries of Central Asia in “partnership” programs and trainings, and they do not stop calling for the resumption of joint exercises in the region and the deployment of their military infrastructure. Assistance is being offered in the protection of state borders, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking using its own equipment and software, including within the framework of relevant EU programs. In parallel, the processing of public opinion by controlled media and NGOs is underway.

I am sure that the leadership of the Central Asian countries understands the dangers that the policy of the “collective West” may conceal. The strategic calculation of our enemies is obvious: to sow discord between the Central Asian republics and Russia. Apparently, overseas and in Brussels, they think that the countries of Central Asia will not “resist” Western expansion for a long time. We are convinced that the Central Asian capitals are aware of all the risks and potential damage from excessive rapprochement with the West, following its promises and joining anti-Russian sanctions.

So, recently, the United States and the EU have tactically somewhat laid down their pressure on our friends in the human rights dossier. It seems that Washington and Brussels are playing a dishonest game in order to solve the ultimate task – to gain access to the region’s resource base and control of the transport arteries running through it, as well as to the water use system. Further, the current governments of the Central Asian countries are not fellow travelers to the West. Accordingly, the danger of “color revolutions”, which, as is known, are widely practiced by the West, will be publicly announced.

Against this background, Russia has been and remains a reliable partner, firmly defending the sovereign right of the Central Asian countries to independent development in accordance with their political and ethno-cultural traditions and worldview.

I wish the participants of the conference an interesting and fruitful discussion!

Thank you for your attention.



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