Turkmenistan joins the modern world

After the death of the "Turkmanbashi" (meaning leader of all the Turkmen) Saparmurat Niyazov, it seems that the nation of Turkmenistan, one of the former Soviet Republics, is finally joining the modern ages.

Two days after his inauguration, the new Turkmenistan President, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, has signaled that he wants to open up his country.  His first decree was to open up Internet café's allowing access to all websites.  Since the previous government had only allowed government officials Internet access, this comes as a great awakening to the average Turkmen citizen.

Why should we in the US care about what happens in such a small and seemingly insignificant nation such as Turkmenistan?  Well for starters, Turkmenistan has a very large untapped supply of natural gas, approximately 2 trillion cubic meters according to the CIA. And mostly what Turkmenistan does is sell this natural gas to Gazprom, the Russian oil cartel, for processing so that the Russians can sell Turkmenistan natural gas to other countries.  It would be much better for the Turkmen to have an alternative shipping route for its natural gas via a pipeline through the Caspian Sea, so that the Turkmen nation would not be dependent on Gazprom.  This pipeline could end up in Europe, thereby freeing Poland and much of West Europe of the tyranny of Gazprom. 

Secondly, over the past 2 years, our relations with other Central Asia nations like Uzbekistan have collapsed, with Uzbekistan removing US Air Force landing bases in 2005.  For us to be able to rapidly deploy troops or have Air Force strike capacity in the future, the US will need a Central Asian ally.

Now we must work with the Turkmeni people and put some pressure on their government to release all political prisoners.  The Turkmeni nation has a long way to go.  Freedom of the press is not allowed.  And Turkmenistan must open up to different political parties.  For all the talk about this having been a "free" election with multiple candidates, all of the 6 candidates were of the same political party. 

For years the government of Niyazov had either tortured or exiled all people in opposition to his government.  And he had used the natural gas reserves as his own personal "slush fund" to make himself rich at the expense of his own people. The average Turkmeni citizen earns approximately $8900 per year according to the CIA webpage. Compare this to the average annual American per capita income of $43,800.

This step by Berdymukhamedov is not the end all and be all.  But it is a good first step to opening up the Turkmen nation.  And this is the type of Central Asian ally that the US needs. 
After the death of the "Turkmanbashi" (meaning leader of all the Turkmen) Saparmurat Niyazov, it seems that the nation of Turkmenistan, one of the former Soviet Republics, is finally joining the modern ages.

Two days after his inauguration, the new Turkmenistan President, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, has signaled that he wants to open up his country.  His first decree was to open up Internet café's allowing access to all websites.  Since the previous government had only allowed government officials Internet access, this comes as a great awakening to the average Turkmen citizen.

Why should we in the US care about what happens in such a small and seemingly insignificant nation such as Turkmenistan?  Well for starters, Turkmenistan has a very large untapped supply of natural gas, approximately 2 trillion cubic meters according to the CIA. And mostly what Turkmenistan does is sell this natural gas to Gazprom, the Russian oil cartel, for processing so that the Russians can sell Turkmenistan natural gas to other countries.  It would be much better for the Turkmen to have an alternative shipping route for its natural gas via a pipeline through the Caspian Sea, so that the Turkmen nation would not be dependent on Gazprom.  This pipeline could end up in Europe, thereby freeing Poland and much of West Europe of the tyranny of Gazprom. 

Secondly, over the past 2 years, our relations with other Central Asia nations like Uzbekistan have collapsed, with Uzbekistan removing US Air Force landing bases in 2005.  For us to be able to rapidly deploy troops or have Air Force strike capacity in the future, the US will need a Central Asian ally.

Now we must work with the Turkmeni people and put some pressure on their government to release all political prisoners.  The Turkmeni nation has a long way to go.  Freedom of the press is not allowed.  And Turkmenistan must open up to different political parties.  For all the talk about this having been a "free" election with multiple candidates, all of the 6 candidates were of the same political party. 

For years the government of Niyazov had either tortured or exiled all people in opposition to his government.  And he had used the natural gas reserves as his own personal "slush fund" to make himself rich at the expense of his own people. The average Turkmeni citizen earns approximately $8900 per year according to the CIA webpage. Compare this to the average annual American per capita income of $43,800.

This step by Berdymukhamedov is not the end all and be all.  But it is a good first step to opening up the Turkmen nation.  And this is the type of Central Asian ally that the US needs.