Turkmenistan comes into focus

Map of Turkmenistan and Central Asian gas networks
Turkmenistan looms large in Chinese and Russian strategic calculations because of its natural gas deposits and central location on pipeline routes (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • Both Russia and China see Turkmenistan’s internal crisis as a threat to their interests
  • Low energy prices and security issues have tightened China’s grip on Turkmen gas exports
  • Moscow is offering help, but only Beijing has the resources to bail out Ashgabat

Long neglected by all but devoted Central Asia specialists, Turkmenistan has recently begun to matter in international politics. The reason is a sharp drop in energy prices and the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. Both developments have put Turkmenistan squarely on the radar screens of Russian and Chinese policymakers.

Each country believes their vital interests in the increasingly important Central Asia region are coming under threat. A shared concern is that Turkmenistan, with the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves and a 750-kilometer border with Afghanistan, may simply collapse as its income from energy exports shrivels. While such fears may be overblown, the concern on both sides is genuine enough.

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