Why Are Central Asia's Presidents Blowing Off NATO?
Central Asia's presidents would have a lot to talk about at the NATO summit taking place in Chicago, given that the summit is focusing on Afghanistan and the Central Asian states play a key role in NATO transport to the theater. But all five of Central Asia's presidents are a no-show at the NATO summit in Chicago, in spite of being on NATO's official list of "leaders expected to attend" and being regular attendees of the last few summits. Instead, they all seem to have sent their foreign ministers.
It's a strange snub, and intriguing because these five countries never do anything in coordination. Information on their decisions are of course hard to come by, and so it's not certain if they are in fact coordinated, but it sure seems that way.
One Kyrgyzstan analyst, Orozbek Moldaliyev, told KyrTag that it's because of Russia:
"One can make various guesses and speculation about why none of the leaders of Central Asian countries responded to the invitation and why all of them are sending their foreign ministers. One of the main reasons, which is on the surface, could be solidarity with Russia," Moldaliyev told KyrTAg.
Moldaliyev pointed out the recent CSTO directive to harmonize members' foreign policies, which is as reasonable explanation as any for the collective no-show, especially since Armenia's Serzh Sargsyan also seems to be skipping it.
The presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan are attending, as is that of Mongolia, Elbegdorj Tsakhia. And China has taken a dim view of Mongolia's ties with NATO, according to a report in People's Daily, which said the alliance is “roping in” Mongolia as an “important part of its eastwards expansion strategy... Especially against the background of the United States ‘return to Asia’ strategy, Mongolia’s position within NATO’s strategy becomes increasingly important.”
But if NATO is "expanding East" to rope in Mongolia, it looks like it's having to skip over a lot of space in Central Asia to do so.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.
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