Neutrality concept of Turkmenistan

Mihail Păduraru



Turkmenistan presents an unusual[1] situation compared to other countries in the region, is an island of regional stability, but still a closed system, which addresses a questionable neutral policy.

Turkmenistan's foreign policy raises a number of questions:

Why aspire to political neutrality?

How neutral, in fact, is the political line followed by the country's leadership?

How Turkmen attitude is reflected in the overall situation in the region, especially in the field of regional security in Central Asia and Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan became an independent state totally unexpected, neither leadership or population being prepared for such a development.
The results of the 1989 union referendum are very informative in this sense: at that time more than 90% of the population favored the preservation of the Soviet Union and think that Turkmenistan should remain in the Union as a republic !!!

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the only characteristics of a state that Turkmenistan had, was a distinct territory and a quite weak administrative structure.
None of the other important pillars which constitute a state, such as unified socio-cultural areas, national identity, an awareness of the law by public authorities, economic and institutional self-sufficient infrastructure never existed.

They are still evolving.

The territorial integrity of the country is not yet recognised by neighbouring States at the official level, and to judge informally (ex.- press), neighbors have had territorial claims against Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan has made no secret of its claim over the territories from border regions Tashauz and Chardzhou that are populated mostly by Uzbeks ethnics.
Turkmenistan's leadership is also concerned about security policy in some CIS member states, which in certain circumstances could be extended over the territory of Turkmenistan.
In addition, according to some estimates, Turkmenistan is among the richest countries in the world in terms of oil resources, while the population is only 5.2 million.
In this context any movement considered wrong in the political leadership, for building an independent state, could lead to becoming an object of discord between regional Centers of Power, or an appendage of raw materials at any of these Centers, which were totally unacceptable for Turkmenistan.

All these factors have led the country's leadership to look for some unorthodox ways to help achieve the following objectives:

a) preserving the country's territorial integrity
b) guaranteeing security
c) establishing favorable conditions for vital economic and political reforms in the country
d) realizing the potential for raw material without becoming politically dependent to those countries on whose territory pass the export routes

The leadership believes that all this can be ensured by adopting the Neutral Status recognized by the International Community, where Turkmenistan will not be affiliated with any political or military bloc, but will develop relationships of equals with all states of the world.

President Saparmurat Niyazov has first proposed that Turkmenistan should adopt a neutral status in March 1995, at a Conference of Economic Cooperation (the proposal has received full support from the participants).
In October 1995, a meeting of the Heads of States from the movement of non-aligned Countries, has also supported the initiative.
On 12 December 1995, the General Assembly of the United Nations, has adopted a special resolution, calling for UN member states to recognize the Neutral status of Turkmenistan.
Newly acquired status of neutrality has greatly facilitated the nation-building process.
It also allowed Turkmenistan to revise its military doctrine, and by doing so, restricts defence spending, while keeping the resources, for the national economy.
However, it probably would not be correct to say that the Status of Neutrality has freed the country from the influence of external forces.
Turkmenistan has not begun a policy of "pure neutrality", which adheres to the principle of "equal distance" from all countries in the region, and the world.
Considering the economic situation and its geographic location, adopting neutrality was rather unexpected.

Turkmenistan has a competitive economic potential, that has not been exploited, which in turn requires large-scale investment, convenient choice for export and import routes, and so on.
It is no secret that behind any big investments, especially in the construction of large oil and gas pipelines, there are political interests of certain countries, or groups of countries.

Reality of Neutrality

These facts and their dynamics show that political leadership in Turkmenistan sticks to the idea of using Afghan territory to create alternative routes for the export of mineral resources.
Moreover, the leadership of Turkmenistan has ignored the international community's position on the Taliban movement and is engaged in dubious political games.
Turkmenistan's policy, no matter how good its intentions were, is the main factor in the emergence of Taliban activism.
Nobody can accuse Turkmenistan of carrying out a policy that concerns national interests.
Though, Turkmenistan leadership, should forsee the negative aspects and responsibility it assumes through its actions, and should consider the interests of other countries in the region and understand that is a part of the Central Asian region, which constitutes a unified geopolitical zone.
In December 2006, President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov comes to power and a reversal of the policy taken by Niyazov takes place.
He takes a more strategic approach to national security threats, soft threats like - discrimination against ethnic minorities, drug trafficking.
He also starts to cooperate with the United Nations and makes reforms to improve the living standards of administrative and military structures personnel.
According to reports, discrimination was one of the main causes of the assassination attempt to President Niyazov in 2002.[2]
Really ??? Considering the suspicious death since 2006 .... [3]

The new president has tried to repair relations with ethnic groups since 2007, adopting an emollient public policy to Russian and Uzbek communities in the border areas. Meanwhile,leadership positions in the army, police and intelligence services are occupied by turkmens nationals, and informal discrimination remains common.
Subsequently Berdymuhammedov began working to combat trafficking and drug abuse in the armed forces and society in general.
He started discouraging actions, hoping for an end to the complicity of  leading factors of the state in thedrug trafficking from Afghanistan.
He has also improved cooperation with UN structures, and, in January 2008, set up a special service to combat drug trafficking and established cooperation at regional level.
The 3rd reform was the new military doctrine, that emphasizes the importance of modernizing military facilities and follows a program of building new bases and training camps, alongside with modern border points.
A central component of military doctrine associated with reform is to improve living conditions for military personnel and their families.
Turkmen society was at a very low economic level until that time.
In August 2009, he signed the law on the status and protection of military personnel and their families, which guarantees free medical treatment, recreation centers, and minimum standards and conditions for their homes.

Through the policy he carries, Berdimuhamedov tries to attract military and security structures on his side, in order to secure a long-term political stability, through repressive methods of the government system.

At the 2009 staff reshuffling, Berdimuhamedov signed a decree "on the military doctrine of Independent Permanent Neutral Turkmenistan."
This internationally accepted doctrine, emphasizes the neutral status of Turkmenistan and its role as a peacekeeping and prosperity center in the region.
In his speech, the President cited the establishment of the United Nations Ashgabat Centre, based on preventive diplomacy in Central Asia, as a confirmation of Turkmenistan's neutrality policy.
Berdimuhamedov continued to emphasize that Turkmenistan fully supports UNITED NATIONS efforts to turn Central Asia into a zone without nuclear weapons and without WMD, asserting that the country strictly complies with international commitments to prohibit these types of weapons.




[1] https://pulsofcentralasia.org/2015/03/31/turkmenistan-positive-about-being-positively-neutral-by-svetlana-dzardanova/
[2] http://www.ihrc.org.uk/publications/briefings/7365-briefing-niyazov-s-turkmenistan-the-land-of-the-personality-cult-?format=pdf
[3] http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-DeathofTurkmenbashi.pdf

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