Sunday, 29 November 2015 00:00

Fall 2015 Rumsfeld Fellowship

9469325398 9a8a07d299 mThe Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Rumsfeld Foundation continue to sponsor a fellowship program for raising regional leaders in government, commerce, and academia from Central Asia, the Caucasus and Afghanistan. The goal of this program is to foster better understanding and build stronger relations between the United States and countries of the region. Since its inaugural session in fall of 2008 the program has brought dozens of young leaders to the United States to conduct independent research and to meet policymakers, business leaders, journalists and academics.


Mr. Azizuddin Jalal (Afghanistan), 34, is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Arrow General Supplies Co, Ltd., an Afghan-owned and operated company with an apparel and boots factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since 2003, Arrow GSC has been a major supplier of Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE) to the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior. Mr. Jalal is also a member of the Executive Boards for Hashimy Group, the corporate parent for 1TV - one of the most popular private TV channels in Afghanistan, East Horizon Airline, Arrow GSC, Arrow Petroleum, Hashimy Mining and Parwan Logistics and Transportation Company. Prior to joining Arrow GSC in 2010, Mr. Jalal worked as a Patient Service Manager at CURE International Hospital, a non-for-profit hospital managed and operated by American doctors and medical practitioners in Kabul to transform the lives of disabled children and their families in the country through medical and spiritual healing. Mr. Jalal holds a BS from Kabul Education University (2005) and a BBA from American University of Afghanistan (2014). He has also completed the Management Program at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey and earned a Certificate in the Health Insurance Program from Interhealth Egypt in Cairo, Egypt. Research topic: “The Critical Role of Afghanistan in Central Asia.”

Mr. Parwiz Kawa (Afghanistan), 39, is the Editor-in-Chief of Hasht e Subh Daily, the leading and largest independent newspaper in Afghanistan and winner of the International Press Freedom Prize from Reporters Without Borders in 2012. He joined Hasht e Subh in 2007 as one of the founders and a Senior Political News and Human Rights Editor, and was appointed as the Editor-in Chief in 2012. Mr. Kawa has been working in local and national media outlets since 1998. He has also served as a Senior Advisor of the National Radio and Television of Afghanistan (RTA). Mr. Kawa is also a member of the Journalists Safety Committee of Afghanistan and is a frequent commentator on Afghan and international TV channels. In addition, Mr. Kawa currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Afghanistan New Generation Organization (ANGO); a board member of Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE); an advisor and a member of the board of directors of Afghanistan Journalists’ Center (AFJC); and a founding member and the Chairman of Afghanistan Analysis and Awareness (A3), a civil movement and think-tank, composed of young, educated and dedicated Afghans. Mr. Kawa holds a BA in Education from Baghlan Teacher Training Center (1996) and a BA in Law and Political Science from Kabul University (2011). He is also a poet and novelist and has published two collections of his poetries: “A Night from Exile” (2000) and “Two Guns, Two Stones.” (2010). Research Topic: “Afghanistan’s New Generation and the Democratization Trend.

Mr. Shoaib Rahim (Afghanistan), 31, is a Senior Advisor to the Minister of Defense on administrative and financial systems development including such focus areas as Finances, Procurement, Logistics, Engineering and Maintenance, Communications, and Human Resources. Prior to joining the MOD in 2013, he served as a Program Manager at CeReTechs Ltd., the President of H&S Consulting Services in Kabul, and as an Energy Analyst at Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company in North Carolina. Mr. Rahim was a Fulbright Scholar and Asia 21 Fellow at the Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative. He has also taught English Parliamentary Debating at the American University of Afghanistan. Mr. Rahim holds a BS in Electronics Engineering from Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, Malaysia (2008) and a MA in Engineering Management from Duke University (2011). He co-authored an essay, “Global Youth: Why this Group is more Important than Ever?” in a book titled, Millennials Speak. Essays on the 21st Century, published in 2013. Mr. Rahim is fluent in English, Dari, Pashto, Urdu/Hindi and Arabic. Research Topic: “Afghanistan’s Continuing Strategic Relevance to Regional and Global Energy Markets.

Mr. Giorgi Pertaia (Georgia), 38, is the Director of the Georgian National Investment Agency which is responsible for Foreign Direct Investment facilitation in Georgia, creating the investment portfolio of Government of Georgia initiated projects, and promoting Georgia’s investment climate. Prior to his current position, from 2011-2012, Mr. Pertaia served as a Business Ombudsman of Georgia, responsible for defending the rights and interests of businesses with the government and protecting the rights and legal interests of taxpayers. In addition, from 2010-2011, Mr. Pertaia served as a Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia, advising on issues of private sector protection. His experience also includes working for Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Virginia; the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia; and the Department of Customs of Georgia. Mr. Pertaia holds a BA in Finance from Tbilisi State University (1998) and a MBA from Western Illinois University (2009). Research Topic: “Can China’s New Silk Road Initiative (One Belt, One Road) bring Foreign Direct Investments to the CAMCA Region?

Mr. Aibek Djangaziev (Kyrgyzstan), 32, is the owner and CEO of Egoist Group, which operates seven restaurants and three fashion shops in Kyrgyzstan. He is also a Member of the Board of Directors of ENACTUS Kyrgyzstan, an organization that helps young students start projects in social entrepreneurship. From 2014-2015, Mr. Djangaziev served as the President of Rotary Club of Bishkek, where he held many fundraising events and initiated various charity projects. One of these projects, “Give a Cow,” was designed to support poor rural families with disabled children by gifting them a cow. This project improved the quality of life and nutrition of more than 100 families and their disabled children with both the consumption and sales of the fresh milk. Mr. Djangaziev is also a member of the Bishkek Business Club, a business association that promotes and supports the interests of small and medium businesses in the country and aims to create an effective dialogue between the government and business community. He is also the Vice President of the Triathlon Federation of Kyrgyzstan and promotes a healthy way of living. Mr. Djangaziev holds a BA in Economics from Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University (2004). Research Topic: “Government and Business Relations and the Prevention of Corruption.

Ms. Saule Imanova (Kazakhstan), 35, is an Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Almaty, where she is responsible for business development in Central Asia with a primary focus on the sectors of manufacturing, agribusiness and services. Her professional interests include private sector promotion, investment climate in transitional economies, corporate governance and civil society. Ms. Imanova has more than ten years of investment and project finance experience in the countries of Europe and Central Asia and, prior to joining the IFC in 2007, she worked at the Innovation Fund of Kazakhstan and Astana Finance Investment Company. Ms. Imanova holds a BS in International Economic Relations from Karaganda State University in Kazakhstan (2000), a MS in Development Finance from Reading University, UK (2001) and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in economic policy management from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Research Topic: “Kazakhstan: Role of Geopolitics in the Choice of Development Model.

Dr. Roman Vakulchuk (Kazakhstan), 31, is Co-Founder and Country Director for Kazakhstan at the Central Asian Development Institute and a Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo. His research interests include economic transition and regional integration, trade, infrastructure and transport, energy policy, investment climate and business culture, climate change and emerging markets. He is an author of numerous articles and a book, Kazakhstan’s Emerging Economy: Between State and Market (2014). In 2013, Dr. Vakulchuk won the prestigious Gabriel-Al Salem International Award for Excellence in Consulting in the category “Consulting without Borders,” for his contribution to the establishment of the Consortium of Consulting and Research Organizations of Kazakhstan. Dr. Vakulchuk has also worked as an expert and project leader for research projects commissioned by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, German Development Cooperation, Economics Education and Research Consortium, Global Development Network and others. In 2015, Dr. Vakulchuk was elected as a Country Director of the Central Eurasia Leadership Academy (CELA) in Kazakhstan and a CELA Board Member. Dr. Vakulchuk holds a BA in International Relations from Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University in Bishkek (2005), a MA in International Relations from Bremen University/Jacobs University Bremen in Germany (2008), a MA in Peace and Security Studies from the University Hamburg in Germany (2009) and a PhD in Economics from Jacobs University Bremen (2013). Research Topic: “How to Boost Regional Integration in Central Asia?

Maj. Bayasgalan Lkhagvasuren (Mongolia), 32, has been a desk officer at the Mongolian Ministry of Defense since 2013. He has been on active duty military service for 16 years, including several overseas deployments including Operation Iraqi Freedom (2004) and U.N. peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone (2006), Liberia (2010), and South Sudan (2012). From 2009-2013, Maj. Lkhagvasuren served as staff officer in J3 of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces where he was responsible for planning and conducting military training and overseas exercises. During his time at J3, Maj. Lkhagvasuren published a Mongolian Armed Forces Survival Handbook based on his personal experiences of planning and participating in overseas trainings and exercises. Maj. Bayasgalan Lkhagvasuren holds a BA in Business Administration from the Defense University of Mongolia (2003) and is preparing to complete his MA in Security Studies at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.  Research Topic: “Can Mongolia Survive in a Challenging Security Environment in Northeast Asia?

Mr. Naidalaa Badrakh (Mongolia), 40, is the CEO and Secretary-General of the Mongolian Bankers Association and the Chairman of the Policy and Research Academy of the National Labor Party of Mongolia. He is also a founding board member of “Khugjil Khun” club, an organization focused on pioneering the public for social reform, and a board member of “Tsakhim Urtuu,” the first and largest network of Mongolian expatriates around the world. Prior to joining the Mongolian Bankers Association, Mr. Badrakh worked as a Chief Risk Officer at Anod Bank and Khan Bank, a Head of Business Development at Unitel MCS Group, a Senior Investment Manager at MCS Holding LLC, and the CEO of the Mongolia Economic Forum. In his early career, he also lectured on economics at the Institute of Finance and Economics of Mongolia. His areas of interest include national development, strategies of developmental politics, economics, finance and banking. Mr. Badrakh holds a BA in Business Economics from the Institute of Finance and Economics of Mongolia (1997) and a MS in Economics from the University of Kobe, Japan (2004). Research Topic: “National Development Strategy: The Challenge for Post-Transition Mongolia.” 

Mr. Almaz Saifutdinov (Tajikistan), 40, is a Economic/Commercial Advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan. In this role, he is responsible for promoting U.S. commercial interests in the region.  He cooperates with the American Chamber of Commerce in Tajikistan and coordinates annual Global Entrepreneurship Week events in Tajikistan. He is also the founder of Economic News Tajikistan Facebook group. With over 5,300 members, including economists, business leaders and government officials, the group serves as a primary source of information and a discussion platform. Prior to joining the U.S. Embassy in 2003, Mr. Saifutdinov worked as the Deputy Manager at the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development in Tajikistan, where he helped to establish one of the first mobile cell phone companies in Tajikistan, and Pamir Energy public-private partnership, which provides hydroelectric power to most of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region and the bordering regions of Afghanistan. Mr. Saifutdinov holds a BA in English and French languages from Dushanbe State Pedagogical University (1997) and a Master of Development Administration from Western Michigan University (2002). He is an author of numerous analytical articles on economic and commercial issues.  Research project: “Increasing Competition of the U.S., China, Russia, India and the Islamic World in Central Asia and its Impact on the Economic and Political Situation in the Region.

Ms. Larisa Agiarova (Turkmenistan), 29, is a First Deputy Director and a Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Reporting Specialist at the General Electric International Inc. (GE) Branch in Turkmenistan. Prior to joining GE, from 2008-2014, Ms. Agiarova worked for international non-for-profit projects funded by USAID and the German International Cooperation agency (GIZ) that facilitated economic and legal reforms in Turkmenistan. Her professional expertise covers accounting, U.S. GAAP, International Financial Reporting Standards, financial statement analysis, anti-money laundering, and valuation. During her professional career, Ms. Agiarova has served both in governmental institutions, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy and Development, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan, as well as in non-for-profits, such as the Union of Economists of Turkmenistan and the Union of Accountants of Turkmenistan. Ms. Agiarova holds a BA in Economics from the Moscow Institute of Economic and Humanitarian Sciences, Russia (2009) and a MA in Accounting from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (2011). Since 2011 she also holds a valid certification of Fraud Examiner issued by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (U.S.). Research Topic: “Communication Bridge between the U.S. Treasury Department and the Ministry of Finance of Turkmenistan on International Financial Reporting Standards Adoption.

Mr. Bahtiyor Mirzabaev (Uzbekistan), 36, is a Planning Executive at KNOC Ferghana Operating Company, an Uzbek subsidiary of Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC), the world’s 60th largest petroleum company. In this capacity he manages government affairs and corporate communications activities. He also serves as the Secretary of the company’s Management Committee and its two Subcommittees jointly run with Uzbekneftegaz. Prior to joining KNOC,               Mr. Mirzabaev worked for UNDP’s “Improving the System of Customs Administration in Uzbekistan” Project, which assisted the government in elaborating a new revision of the Customs Code of Uzbekistan. Mr. Mirzabaev also has an extensive background as a public officer both in local and central state bodies. From 2003-2007, he held different positions at the Ministry of Economy, as well as from 2001-2003 at the Namangan Province Administration of Economics. Mr. Mirzabaev holds a BSc in Business Administration, with a major in Finance from A.J. Palumbo School of Business Administration, Duquesne University, Pennsylvania (2000) and a MBA from Tashkent State University of Economics (2004). Research Topic: “Lifting Intra-Regional Trade Barriers for Sustainable Economic Development of Central Asian Countries.

Ms. Hilola Suleymanova (Uzbekistan), 33, is a Founder and Managing Partner at DaVinci Solutions, a Human Capital consulting company. Prior to starting her own business in 2014, from 2008-2013, she worked as a Country Manager and an Executive Search Consultant for Pedersen and Partners Uzbekistan and then as a Consultant for Pedersen & Partners in Germany. Earlier in her career, Ms. Suleymanova worked as a Director at the Central Asia Consulting Group and as a Consultant in the Enterprise Management Development Section of the International Trade Centre/UNCTAD/WTO. Ms. Suleymanova studied at Bemidji State University in Minnesota and holds a LLB from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent. She also holds a certificate of Export Management Development Adviser from ITC/WTO. Research Topic: “Labor Markets in Central Asia: How to Solve the Youth Labor Migration Problem?







  • ASIA Spotlight with Prof. S. Frederick Starr on Unveiling Central Asia's Hidden Legacy
    Thursday, 28 December 2023 00:00

    On December 19th, 2023, at 7:30 PM IST, ASIA Spotlight Session has invited the renowned Prof. S Fredrick Starr, who elaborated on his acclaimed book, "The Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane." Moderated by Prof. Amogh Rai, Research Director at ASIA, the discussion unveiled the fascinating, yet lesser-known narrative of Central Asia's medieval enlightenment.

    The book sheds light on the remarkable minds from the Persianate and Turkic peoples, spanning from Kazakhstan to Xinjiang, China. "Lost Enlightenment" narrates how, between 800 and 1200, Central Asia pioneered global trade, economic development, urban sophistication, artistic refinement, and, most importantly, knowledge advancement across various fields. Explore the captivating journey that built a bridge to the modern world.

    To know watch the full conversation: #centralasia #goldenage #arabconquest #tamerlane #medievalenlightment #turkish #economicdevelopment #globaltrade

    Click here to watch on YouTube or scroll down to watch the full panel discussion.

  • Some Lessons for Putin from Ancient Rome
    Thursday, 04 January 2024 17:01
    By S. Frederick Starr 
    American Purpose
    January 4, 2024
    Vladimir Putin, having sidelined or destroyed all his domestic opponents, real or imagined, now surrounds himself with Romano-Byzantine pomp and grandeur. The theatrical civic festivals, processions of venerable prelates, cult of statues, embarrassing shows of piety, endless laying of wreaths, and choreographed entrances down halls lined with soldiers standing at attention—all trace directly back to czarism, to Byzantine Constantinople, and ultimately to imperial Rome. Indeed, Putin considers himself as Russia’s new “czar,” the Russified form of the Latin “Caesar.”
    But besides all the parallel heroics, Roman history offers profound lessons for today’s world. All of America’s Founders saw the Roman Republic as the best model for their own constitution. Napoleon, Mussolini, and Hitler, by contrast, found in imperial Rome a stunning model for their own grandeur. True, some of Rome’s ancient chroniclers, including the celebrated Livy, so admired specific politicians that they saw only their good sides and ignored the problems and failures. Yet there were others, notably the pessimistic Sallust, who not only wrote bluntly of history’s painful issues but delved deep into their causes and consequences.
    Is Putin likely to delve into the history of Rome for insights on his own situation? Unfortunately for Russia, Putin is not a reader, preferring instead to engage in exhibitionist athletic activities, preside at solemn ceremonies, or offer avuncular obiter dicta. However, if he would study the Roman past, he might come to realize that that model presents more than a few chilling prospects that he will ignore at his peril.
    To take but one example, a glance at Roman history would remind Putin that self-declared victories may not be as victorious as he and Kremlin publicists want to think. Back in the 3rd century B.C., when Rome was still a small state in central Italy, it was attacked by a certain King Pyrrhus, a rival ruler from Epirus, a region along today’s border between Greece and Albania. In his first battles Pyrrhus routed the Roman legions, and celebrated accordingly. But matters did not end there.
    Like Pyrrhus, Putin’s army scored some early victories in its war on Ukraine. As recently as December 1, Putin’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu was still claiming, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that Russian forces “were advancing on all fronts.” Pyrrhus made similar false claims, only to discover that his own soldiers were no match for the determined Romans. As the Romans drove Pyrrhus’ army from the field, he groused, “If we win one more such victory against the Romans we will be utterly ruined,” which is exactly what happened. Pyrrhus’ statement gave Romans the term “Pyrrhic victory,” which we still use today. Putin should apply it to his “victories” at Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
    Another crisis in Rome’s early formation as a nation occurred when a peasant uprising threatened Rome itself and, according to the historian Livy, caused panic in the Roman capital. In desperation, the elders turned to Lucius Cincinnatus, who was neither a military man nor a professional politician, but who had earned respect as an effective leader. It took Cincinnatus only fifteen days to turn the tide, after which he returned to his farm. George Washington rightly admired Cincinnatus and consciously emulated him, returning after the Battle of Yorktown to Mount Vernon. By contrast, Putin’s “special military operation,” planned as a three-day romp, is now approaching the end of its second year. Putin, no Cincinnatus, doomed himself to being a lifer.
    Roman history is a millennium-long showcase of motivation or its absence. In this context, Putin might gain further insights by examining Rome’s centuries-long battle against the diverse tribes pressing the empire from the north. For centuries Rome’s legionnaires were well trained, disciplined, and committed. The list of their early victories is long. Both Julius Caesar and the philosopher-emperor-general Marcus Aurelius succeeded because they motivated and inspired their troops. But over time the Roman army was increasingly comprised of hirelings, déclassé men who fought not to save the empire but for money or a small piece of the bounty. Inflation and rising costs outpaced pay increases. Punishment was severe, in some cases including even crucifixion. In the end, Rome’s army eroded from within.
    This is what is happening to the Russian army today. Putin attacked Ukraine in February 2022 with what was then an army of several hundred thousand trained professional soldiers. But after the Ukrainians killed more than 320,000 Russian troops, their replacements were unwilling and surly conscripts and even criminals dragooned from Russia’s jails. Putin quite understandably fears such soldiers. Putin’s army, like that of the late Roman Empire, is collapsing from within.
    By contrast, Ukraine’s army at the time of the invasion was small and comprised mainly Soviet-trained holdovers. Both officers and troops of the line had to be quickly recruited from civilian professions and trained. Yet they quickly proved themselves to be disciplined and resourceful patriots, not tired time-servers. True, Ukraine is now conscripting troops, but these newcomers share their predecessors’ commitment to the nation and to their future lives in a free country.
    Sheer spite and a passion for avenging past failures figured prominently in Putin’s decisions to invade both Georgia and Ukraine. Roman history suggests that this isn’t smart. Back in 220 B.C., Rome defeated its great enemy, the North African state of Carthage. Anticipating Putin, the Carthaginian general Hannibal sought revenge. Acting out of spite, he assembled 700,000 foot soldiers, 78,000 mounted calvary, and a force of war elephants, and crossed the Alps. Though he was a brilliant general, Hannibal’s war of spite turned into a disaster.
    Why did Hannibal lose? Partly because of his sheer hubris and the spite that fed it, and also because the Romans avoided frontal battles and simply ground him down. They were prudently led by a general named Fabius Maximus, whom later Romans fondly remembered as “the Delayer.” Today it is the Ukrainians who are the Delayers. By grinding down Putin’s army and destroying its logistics they have positioned themselves for victory.
    The Roman Republic fell not because of any mass uprising but because of the machinations of Julius Caesar. A victorious general, Caesar looked the hero as he was installed as imperator. As was customary at such ceremonies, an official retainer placed behind the inductee solemnly repeated over and over the admonition to “Look behind you!” Caesar failed to do so and underestimated the opposition of a handful of officials and generals who feared the rise of a dictator perpetuus. Even if Putin chooses not to read Cicero, Plutarch, or Cassius Dio, he could productively spend an evening watching a Moscow production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.
    Turning to a very different issue, Putin seems blithely to assume that whenever Russia defeats a neighboring country it can easily win the hearts and minds of the conquered, whether by persuasion or force. This is what many Roman generals and governors thought as well, but they were wrong—fatally so. Speaking of the impact of corrupt officials sent by Rome to the provinces, the great orator-politician Cicero declared to the Roman Senate, “You cannot imagine how deeply they hate us.” Does Putin understand this?
    Finally, it is no secret that Russia today, like ancient Rome, is increasingly a land of immigrants; its economy depends on impoverished newcomers from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and elsewhere in Central Asia who fled to Russia in search of work. Yet Moscow treats them as third-class citizens and dragoons them as cannon fodder or “meat” to die by the thousands on the Ukrainian front. Rome faced a similar problem and wrestled with it unsuccessfully over several centuries. Over time the despised immigrants who poured across the Alps from Gaul demanded a voice in Roman affairs, and eventually took control of the western Roman Empire.
    Sad to say, neither Putin himself nor any others of Russia’s core group of leaders show the slightest interest in learning from relevant examples from Roman history or, for that matter, from any other useable past. Together they provide living proof of American philosopher George Santayana’s adage that, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” In Putin’s case, though, he seems never to have known it. 

    ABOUT THE AUTHORSS. Frederick Starr, is a distinguished fellow specializing in Central Asia and the Caucasus at the American Foreign Policy Council and founding chairman of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute.

    Additional Info
    • Author S. Frederick Starr
    • Publication Type Analysis
    • Published in/by American Purpose
    • Publishing date January 4, 2024
  • CACI Chairman S. Frederick Starr comments on "Preparing Now for a Post-Putin Russia"
    Friday, 03 November 2023 18:30

    Whether Russian President Vladimir Putin dies in office, is ousted in a palace coup, or relinquishes power for some unforeseen reason, the United States and its allies would face a radically different Russia with the Kremlin under new management. The geopolitical stakes mean that policymakers would be negligent not to plan for the consequences of a post-Putin Russia. On November 2, 2023, CACI Chairman S. Frederick Starr joined a panel organized by the Hudson Institute’s Center on Europe and Eurasia for a discussion on how US and allied policymakers can prepare for a Russia after Putin.

    Click here to watch on YouTube or scroll down to watch the full panel discussion.

  • Central Asia Diplomats Call for Closer Ties With US
    Monday, 26 June 2023 00:00

    REPRINTED with permission from Voice of America News
    By Navbahor Imamova

    WASHINGTON -- U.S.-based diplomats from Central Asia, a region long dominated by Russia and more recently China, say they are eager for more engagement with the United States.

    Many American foreign policy experts agree that a more robust relationship would be mutually beneficial, though U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations express deep concerns about human rights and authoritarian rule in the five countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

    Michael Delaney, a former U.S. trade official, argued in favor of greater engagement this week at a webinar organized by the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce.

    He noted that three of the five republics are World Trade Organization members and the other two are in the accession process — a goal actively encouraged by the U.S. government.

    "I've always believed that this is a geographically disadvantaged area. There are relatively small national economies," he said. But, he said, collectively the region represents a potentially more connected market, about 80 million people.

    Key issues

    In this virtual gathering, all five Central Asian ambassadors to Washington expressed eagerness to work on issues the U.S. has long pushed for, such as water and energy sustainability, security cooperation, environmental protection and climate, and connectivity.

    Kazakhstan's Ambassador Yerzhan Ashikbayev said that despite all factors, the United States does not want to leave the field to China, its global competitor, which actively invests in the region.

    "Recent visit by 20 companies to Kazakhstan as a part of certified U.S. trade mission, including technology giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, but also other partners like Boeing, have shown a growing interest," Ashikbayev said.

    The Kazakh diplomat described a "synergy" of economies and diplomatic efforts. All Central Asian states are committed to dialogue, trade and multilateralism, he said. "As we are witnessing the return of the divisive bloc mentalities almost unseen for 30 years, it's in our best interest to prevent Central Asia from turning into another battleground of global powers."

    During his first tour of Central Asia earlier this year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, meeting separately with the foreign ministers of all five countries.

    That was deeply appreciated, said Meret Orazov, Turkmenistan's longtime ambassador, who also praised the regular bilateral consultations the U.S. holds with these countries.

    Uzbek Ambassador Furqat Sidiqov sees the U.S. as an important partner, with "long-standing friendship and cooperation which have only grown stronger over the years."

    "The U.S. has played a significant role in promoting dialogue and cooperation among the Central Asian nations through initiatives such as the C5+1," he said, referring to a diplomatic platform comprising Washington and the region's five governments.

    "This is where we address common concerns and enhance integration," said Sidiqov. "We encourage the U.S. to bolster this mechanism."

    Tashkent regards Afghanistan as key to Central Asia's development, potentially linking the landlocked region to the markets and seaports of South Asia. Sidiqov said his country counts on American assistance.

    'Possibility of positive change'

    Fred Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington, ardently advocates for the U.S. to adopt closer political, economic and people-to-people ties with the region.

    In a recent paper, he wrote that among dozens of officials, diplomats, entrepreneurs, experts, journalists and civil society leaders interviewed in Central Asia, "even those most critical of American positions saw the possibility of positive change and … all acknowledged that the need for change is on both sides, theirs as well as ours."

    This is the only region that doesn't have its own organization, said Starr, arguing that the U.S. could support this effort. "We have not done so, probably because we think that this is somehow going to interfere with their relations with their other big neighbors, the north and east, but it's not going to. It's not against anyone."

    "Easy to do, low cost, very big outcome," he added, also underscoring that "there is a feeling the U.S. should be much more attentive to security."

    "Japan, the European Union, Russia, China, their top leaders have visited. … No U.S. president has ever set foot in Central Asia," he said. He added that regional officials are left to wonder, "Are we so insignificant that they can't take the time to visit?"

    Starr urges U.S. President Joe Biden to convene the C5+1 in New York during the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly in September. "This would not be a big drain on the president's time, but it would be symbolically extremely important," he said. "All of them want this to happen."

    Read at VOA News

  • Read CACI Chairman S. Frederick Starr's recent interview on the resurgence of Imperial Russia with The American Purpose
    Tuesday, 23 May 2023 00:00

    Why Russians Support the War: Jeffrey Gedmin interviews S. Frederick Starr on the resurgence of Imperial Russia.

    The American Purpose, May 23, 2023

    Jeffrey Gedmin: Do we have a Putin problem or a Russia problem today?

    S. Frederick Starr: We have a Putin problem because we have a Russia problem. Bluntly, the mass of Russians are passive and easily manipulated—down to the moment they aren’t. Two decades ago they made a deal with Vladimir Putin, as they have done with many of his predecessors: You give us a basic income, prospects for a better future, and a country we can take pride in, and we will give you a free hand. This is the same formula for autocracy that prevailed in Soviet times, and, before that, under the czars. The difference is that this time Russia’s leader—Putin—and his entourage have adopted a bizarre and dangerous ideology, “Eurasianism,” that empowers them to expand Russian power at will over the entire former territory of the USSR and even beyond. It is a grand and awful vision that puffs up ruler and ruled alike.

    What do most Russians think of this deal? It leaves them bereft of the normal rights of citizenship but free from its day-to-day responsibilities. So instead of debating, voting, and demonstrating, Russians store up their frustrations and then release them in elemental, often destructive, and usually futile acts of rebellion. This “Russia problem” leaves the prospect of change in Russia today in the hands of alienated members of Putin’s immediate entourage, many of whom share his vision of Russia’s destiny and are anyway subject to Putin’s ample levers for control. Thus, our “Putin problem” arises from our “Russia problem.”

    Click to continue reading...