Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the ambassadors of five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – on Friday to delve into Moscow’s bilateral interactions with the Central Asian (CA) states.
The meeting also emphasized the cooperation within international associations such as the CIS, the EEU, the CSTO, and the SCO.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry highlighted the satisfaction of all parties with stable trade and economic relations, expanding trade volumes, and strengthening science and education, cultural, and humanitarian ties.
“They emphasised their mutual commitment to creating favourable conditions for the sustainable development of our strategic partnership across the board, including security and regional stability,” the ministry said.
Collaboration in the CA5+Russia framework was one of the main topics of conversation, with an in-depth discussion of the outcomes of the mechanism's first summit, which took place in Astana on October 14, 2022.
The Central Asian region has seen a sharp increase in attention since 2022, marked by the first-ever summits of Russia and China with the countries of the region. Russia has underscored the region's significance in its Foreign Policy Concept, ranking the near abroad, including Central Asia, as a top priority for “good neighbourly relations” and “combining potentials” with the CIS countries.
Central Asia's growing importance is further evident in the dynamics of its foreign trade. China has emerged as the leading trade partner, nearly doubling its trade turnover with Central Asia to $70 billion in 2022.
The European Union has also demonstrated similar dynamics, with its trade turnover increasing from $27 billion to $47 billion over the same period. Russia maintains its position as the third-largest foreign trade partner, with a turnover of $42 billion, followed by the United States.
Political scientist and regional expert Arkady Dubnov noted that Central Asia, which was historically important for the logistics of the US and the international coalition in Afghanistan, has regained significance amid the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The Central Asian region has become crucial for Moscow in minimizing economic damage through the organization of parallel imports.
Meanwhile, Lavrov's recent statement alleging the European Union's intentions to contain and "push" Russia out of Central Asia broadens geopolitical implications for the region's relations.
"These attempts are futile. We have been historically present there and are not going to disappear," Lavrov said.
This statement followed French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Kazakhstan. After the visit, he emphasized Kazakhstan's commitment to building a balanced partnership with multiple powers for the benefit of the Kazakh people, rejecting any form of vassalage.