Oil, Water and War: Presidents of Russia and Turkmenistan meet


The president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, has arrived in Moscow at the invitation of Vladimir Putin. The most pressing regional issues are planned to be discussed during the talks.


The specific topics of this summit have not been reported, but some assumptions can be made upon analyzing recent events. A few days before the visit, Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan. In a congratulatory telegram sent on the occasion of Independence Day of Turkmenistan on October 27th, Russian President Putin emphasized the importance of the neutrality observed by Ashgabat.

Moreover, certain changes are occurring in the Caspian Sea region and this meeting between the two leaders will be the first since the heightening of the terrorist threat posed by both the reinforcement of ISIS in Tajikistan and the change of leadership in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Vladimir Putin already met with the new leader of Uzbekistan after his appointment. Turkmenistan has a low-level conflict with Uzbekistan over the overspending of water resources from the largest fresh-water artery, the Amu Darya.

The Syrian factor

The summit is being held on the eve of what is probably the decisive battle in Syria. In both the US and Russia there is much talk about this. Talks with Moscow’s direct allies in the region, Iran and the Syrian government, were recently held in Moscow. The closest ally of President Vladimir Putin, Nursultan Nazarbayev, went to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, which has a different point of view on the issue of power in Syria, but has seriously revised its relations with Washington.  Another traditional ally of Moscow, Alexander Lukashenko, is making a tour of Qatar and the UAE.

Hence why Ashgabat’s neutrality is so strategically necessary.  In 2014, when Kyrgyzstan closed the US Manas Air Base, some analysts began to discuss a possible transfer of this base to Turkmenistan, but the republic's leadership reacted sharply towards these suppositions. They declared the country’s complete neutrality, which has been confirmed at the last Non-Aligned Movement summit.


Dividing the Caspian Sea

Turkmenistan has an uncertain position over the Caspian Sea, while most of the countries of this region stand for dividing the bottom according to state borders. Hence why periodic disagreements over access to oil fields arise between Ashgabat and some other countries, particularly Azerbaijan and Iran.

However, last week, Iran agreed to the Russian proposal for fair division. Now, with the agreement of Turkmenistan, the demarcation of maritime borders will be done to avoid conflict between allies.