Celebrating the 25th Anniversary “Contract Of The Century”
Welcome to the first edition of Caspian Affairs in 2020. Traditionally, this is the time when media pundits make prognostications for the year ahead. But, as all well know, they almost always miss the big stories, simply because no one can see clearly into the future.
What we can do, however, is look at recent significant trends that will be worth following closely in 2020. Here are a few, but I’m sure you have others that I haven’t mentioned here.
BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE. China’s BRI is a policy that has morphed and developed over the years since it was first announced in the Fall of 2013. For the Caspian Sea region, its strong focus is on transportation links and trade facilities – roads, railroads, and ports. So far in the region, Kazakhstan has benefited the most from China’s BRI, and that’s likely to continue – and grow – simply because of Kazakhstan’s immense size and relatively advanced state of development. Yes, the U.S. government has recently launched its Blue Dot Network policy in the region in response to China’s BRI – a laudable initiative but with miniscule funding compared to China. What to watch in the BRI? Inevitably, hard power follows soft power. That’s simply global realpolitik and something we should keep an eye on.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS. Iran is an essential country in the region – it’s one of five Caspian Sea littoral states and seeks strong economic and political relations with all the countries in the region. Each of the eight countries, to one degree or another, works to balance its relations among Russia, China, the European Union, and the United States. Should the Washington-Tehran conflict heat up this year, no one can predict what will happen – except that the Caspian Sea countries will most certainly be affected.
UZBEKISTAN. Three years into Shavkat Mirzizoyev’s presidency, his economic, political, and diplomatic reforms continue to benefit Uzbekistan and the entire Central Asian region. Although in recent months it has taken a bit of the back burner, his perceived longer-term goal of creating a block of nations among the five is to be lauded and encouraged. Ultimately, it would enhance the political power of the region and improve the livelihoods of the population.
I’m sure you have other ideas for those who watch this region closely. We’d be delighted to hear your suggestions. We always welcome topics for follow-up. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ambassador (ret.) Richard E. Hoagland
Caspian Affairs Editor-in-Chief