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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2001 > December

U.S.-Central Asian Cooperation

A. Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Central Asia and the Caucasus
Washington, DC
December 13, 2001

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, it is a distinct honor and privilege to be the first Administration official to testify before this new Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The very fact that it was created testifies to the importance that the United States now accords to this part of the world. I want to report to you about Secretary Powell’s visit to Central Asia over this past weekend, and discuss with you the general issues of our rapidly evolving cooperation with the five frontline states. But first, I would like to give you a bit of context for what makes this important part of the world unique.


The five countries of Central Asia emerged only a decade ago from the debris of the Soviet Union. While their ambitions are Western they have far more in common with their Asian neighbors than with traditional Europe. To the West, Central Asia for centuries has been one of the most inaccessible and least understood parts of the world. In the Middle Ages, great Islamic theologians, philosophers, scientists, and artists were born, flourished, and were buried in Central Asia, mostly in modern-day Uzbekistan. Their scholarship deeply influenced the Renaissance in Europe.

By the late 19th century, however, these squabbling and despotic warlords became vulnerable to colonization by the Russian Empire. At the turn of the 20th century, the Soviet Empire clamped this region in the vise of Stalinism. I do not excuse the current problems and irritants in Central Asia. But when we become impatient, we need to remember the region's 20th century history. Major transitions in the basic nature of these regimes may require generational change. We need to be patient and continue to push for reform where it is possible.

We have a vision for this region – that it become stable, peaceful, and prosperous. We have a vision that the individual countries will markedly accelerate their economic reforms and democratic credentials, respect human rights, and develop vibrant civil societies. We have a vision that the countries of this region are increasingly integrated into the global economy via am east-west corridor of cooperation stretching from China and Afghanistan across the Caucasus to the Mediterranean. We share this vision with the well-educated, ambitious, hard-working people of these new countries. We are engaging -- seriously and for the long term -- with Central Asia.

The Secretary’s Visit

Our readiness to engage more intensively was the message that Secretary Powell carried to the region last weekend. Of course, a primary purpose of his visit was to express American appreciation for the Central Asian countries' ongoing critical support for Operation Enduring Freedom. While concentrating on the war effort, however, he explored the full range of cooperation, including the development of genuine pluralism and democracy, rule of law, humanitarian relief, Caspian energy, human rights and economic reform.

The Secretary began in Uzbekistan, the most populous Central Asian state. In his meetings with President Karimov, Foreign Minister Kamilov and Defense Minister Gulamov, the Secretary discussed Uzbekistan’s role in the war on terrorism, the political future of Afghanistan, and the continued importance of human rights and economic reform. During the Secretary’s visit, President Karimov took the important step of announcing the opening of the Friendship Bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan that we expect will soon serve as a critical corridor for humanitarian relief supplies. The Secretary also took the time to meet with an Uzbek NGO emphasizing the importance he places on the development of civil society. I will follow up on the Secretary’s visit with a trip to Tashkent early next year to co-chair the U.S.-Uzbekistan Joint Security Cooperation Consultations. These discussions are intended to define in greater detail the contours of our new and intensified relationship.

The Secretary’s second stop was to be the Kyrgyz Republic, but nature intervened. Heavy snowfall in Bishkek prevented the Secretary’s plane from landing.

He did have a long telephone call with President Akayev in which they discussed further counterterrorism cooperation and progress on Kyrgyz efforts to promote further democratic reform. Facing daunting obstacles, the Kyrgyz leadership early on embraced democratic and economic reforms. After backsliding, the country is returning to the road to reform.

The Secretary’s final stop in Central Asia was Kazakhstan, the state with the largest territory and the most economic potential in the region. Stable, multi-ethnic, and nuclear-free, Kazakhstan is likely to become one of the top five oil producers in the world by 2010. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development judged it the leading economic reformer of the former Soviet Union. U.S. investment exceeds $5 billion, and is growing.

The Secretary’s talks with President Nazarbayev and Foreign Minister Idrisov focused on the need for further competition and transparency in energy development, deeper development of democracy and respect for human rights, and Kazakhstan’s potential role in Afghan reconstruction. The Secretary also discussed with President Nazarbayev his visit to Washington later this month.

While in Astana, he met with members of the American Chamber of Commerce to reinforce the message that we are working with Central Asian governments to make sure that the region is a profitable place for U.S. business and investment.

Our New Vision for Central Asia

Secretary Powell’s visit to the region was a rousing success. He received a gratifying level of support and cooperation from our Central Asian partners. This is yet another sign of how the world has changed after September 11. And it underlines that our foreign policy must evolve to keep pace with this change.

The stakes are undeniably high in Central Asia. In what only a decade ago was the Soviet Union, the United States now has thousands of U.S. military personnel working alongside their Central Asian counterparts. We rely on these governments for the security and well-being of our troops, and for vital intelligence that has helped us to conduct such an effective military campaign in Afghanistan.

The frontline states of the region provide a critical humanitarian corridor for food and emergency supplies that may save the lives of millions of people living in northern Afghanistan this winter. We will want the rising tide of reconstruction in Afghanistan to lift the Central Asian boats, too. We would like to see post-war reconstruction supplies and materials purchased, to the extent possible, in neighboring countries to buoy their economies.

Our country is now linked with this region in ways we could never have imagined before September 11. Our policy in Central Asia must include a commitment to deeper, more sustained, and better-coordinated engagement on the full range of issues upon which we agree and disagree. These include security cooperation, energy, and internal strengthening of these countries through political and economic reform. President Bush has invited both the presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Washington in the coming months as the centerpiece of this intensified engagement.

We have told the leaders of these countries that America will not forget in the future those who stand by us now. After this conflict is over, we will not abandon Central Asia. We are committed to providing the resources, the high-level attention, and the multinational coordination to support reform opportunities. We want to stand by the Central Asian countries in their struggle to reform their societies in the same way they have stood by us in the war on terrorism. This is not only a new relationship, but a long-term relationship.

This will require resources that must be tailored to each country. Uzbekistan has asked for guidance and support in its dealings with the International Monetary Fund and other international financial organizations. Kazakhstan needs more foreign investment and support for local private-sector development. Turkmenistan may need support for the development of grass roots organizations. Kyrgyzstan needs help with its debt burden. Tajikistan, the poorest state in the region and still recovering from civil war and drought, will need a broad range of humanitarian, economic, and political assistance. In all five countries, we need to expand our ongoing support for democratic political institutions, local non-governmental organizations, and independent media. We are ready to explore new areas of assistance for all five states, but only in exchange for demonstrated, concrete steps toward reform.

Promoting reform in Central Asia has not been easy. Today we are concentrating much of our assistance on programs that seek to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders in the region. You know these initiatives well. They include the high school-level FLEX program, Freedom Support Act program at the university level, and the graduate-level Muskie program. Further, the IREX exchange program targets young professionals, and the Peace Corps has a broad range of programs for the next generation. These programs look to the future by concentrating on the successor generations, and they are an integral part of our long-term commitment to Central Asia.

Promoting Longer-Term U.S. Interests

In addition to wanting these countries to become stable and prosperous, we have three significant U.S. national interests in the region: preventing the spread of terrorism, providing tools for political and economic reform and institution of the rule of law, and ensuring the security and transparent development of Caspian energy reserves.

The terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan reinforces our view that underdevelopment and repressive, anti-democratic regimes provide conditions that terrorists and other extremists exploit. We have been working on counterterrorism with states in the region, but we must do more in parallel with our emphasis on respect for human rights. Since the announcement of the Central Asian Border Security Initiative in April 2000, the USG has committed $70 million for customs and border-guard training, anti-terrorism assistance, and communication, observation and detection equipment. These programs have been well-received. They have developed the basis for cooperation upon which we have built our current joint efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom. But I want to emphasize that our many efforts at promoting human rights, democracy and economic development are every bit as important as our security assistance in dealing with the long-term root causes of terrorism.

An inextricable component of a more secure and prosperous Central Asia is an investment and legal climate that will both fuel local economic development and protect the interests of U.S. traders and investors. Property rights, privatization, due process, rule of law, currency convertibility, bank and tax reform all contribute to the security of investments and individuals in Central Asia -- the foundation of a stable economy and just society. We are investing heavily in efforts to promote this kind of reform throughout the region.

Development of the vast Caspian energy reserves and their reliable export to global markets will in large part determine the ability of Central Asia to achieve economic independence and improve the standard of living of its citizens. Ensuring this autonomy for the Caspian states, as well as diversifying global energy supplies and creating opportunities for U.S. expertise and investment, make the development of Caspian energy an important U.S. interest as well. Our policy in this area has focused on enabling these states to develop multiple and reliable transport corridors for delivery of these resources to global markets.

Currently these hydrocarbon resources reach the West via pipelines that transit Russia. We seek to broaden export options for the countries of Central Asia and the companies operating there. Our objective is therefore anti-monopoly but not anti-Russian. We have supported and facilitated the efforts of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia to reach agreement with private companies to build pipelines from the Caspian Sea across the Caucasus to Turkey. I am proud to say that construction of the landmark Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline will begin this summer and will bring oil to world markets in 2005. The Shah Deniz gas pipeline, paralleling BTC, is also on track. I am also pleased that the Caspian Pipeline Consortium or CPC Pipeline is also now officially operating. This pipeline, which links Kazakhstan to global markets via Russia, underscores the desire to work in partnership with the former Soviet nations, developing Caspian energy

A New Partnership With Russia

One of the most remarkable developments of the last three months has been our extraordinary cooperation with Russia in a region that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and that Russia naturally regards as its own backyard.

On October 19, we conducted our first-ever United States-Russia consultations on Central Asia. We were both pleasantly surprised and gratified by the convergence of interests in this region. We both desire long-term stability and prosperity in Central Asia, where we both have important interests. And we have pledged transparency and collaboration. Secretary Powell’s conversations in Central Asia and Moscow over the past few days were part of this new effort, and demonstrate their need by no tension between our support for the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian states and our desire for broader and deeper cooperation with Russia.

Presidents Bush and Putin are leading our countries to a new level of cooperation in many spheres, including in Central Asia. President Putin has shown noteworthy leadership in the way he has actively coordinated with Central Asian leaders to encourage their cooperation with the United States in the battle against terrorism. This supports what we have long said: that Central Asia is not a zero-sum game. We have no desire to replay the nineteenth century "Great Game" in the twenty-first. We have offered support to efforts by Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to foster a new Caspian Sea delimitation scheme, as long as these efforts do not hinder the future transport of energy resources. Our shared interests with Russia – indeed, with the other regional powers of China, Turkey and even Iran – are greater than our areas of competition.

A Partnership With the Congress

The role of the Congress, and in particular this Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be vital as we invigorate our relations with Central Asia. As the former United States Ambassador to Kazakhstan, I have seen first-hand that the leaders in this region really do want an active dialogue with the United States and especially with members of Congress. I would certainly welcome more members of Congress visiting Central Asia, but particularly members of this Subcommittee. The Administration values your input and suggestions as we move forward with this region. It is for that reason that I am particularly grateful for your invitation to share perspectives today.

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