The United States is intensifying its efforts to persuade Central Asian countries to support its sanctions against Russia. US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with the leaders of five Russia-aligned Central Asian nations in New York next week. Although a pro-NATO think tank characterizes the summit as an opportunity for Biden to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the region, the White House maintains that the meeting does not target any specific country.
During the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Biden will hold discussions with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. While representatives from these five countries have engaged with their US counterparts since 2015, this will be the first time in that period that their leaders will convene.
According to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the summit will cover various topics, including regional security, trade and connectivity, climate change, and ongoing reforms to enhance governance and the rule of law. Sullivan emphasized that the purpose of the summit is not to target any country, but rather to pursue a positive agenda with these nations.
However, the NATO-funded Atlantic Council interprets the summit as an opportunity for Biden to pressure the five nations into enforcing US sanctions on Russia. The think tank also suggests that the US may offer financial assistance to pro-Western politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Central Asian region.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a bloc of post-Soviet nations in Eurasia. Additionally, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance led by Russia that is analogous to NATO.
None of these five countries have condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, and they have not imposed any sanctions on Moscow in response. Last month, there were reports that the US was preparing “secondary sanctions” on Kyrgyzstan. In response, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov claimed that Washington was exerting pressure on him to take the US side on the issue of Ukraine. However, Japarov insisted that Kyrgyzstan is an independent nation and will maintain equal relations with all countries.
Similar warnings have been issued to Kazakhstan, with US Treasury Department officials visiting Astana in April to urge local officials to enforce US export controls on goods destined for Russia.
In summary, the upcoming summit between President Joe Biden and the leaders of five Central Asian countries is aimed at discussing various regional issues. While the White House emphasizes that the summit is not targeted against any specific country, a think tank associated with NATO suggests that it presents an opportunity for the US to exert pressure on these nations to support its sanctions against Russia. The outcome of this meeting will shed light on the future dynamics of Central Asia’s relationships with the US, Russia, and other global powers.