Living In the Limelight: Can Central Asia Sustain Surge of Newfound Diplomatic Activity Without Russia?
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Central Asia has been experiencing increased international diplomatic interest, with the region regularly hosting high-level meetings.
(RFE/RL) ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- When Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Kazakhstan last week, he was greeted by his counterpart, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, and accorded the full pomp befitting a strategic ally.
But there was a change in emphasis that was difficult to ignore.
For Putin, the November 9 visit to Astana was one of only three known foreign trips since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.
For Kazakhstan and Central Asia as a whole, by contrast, high-level meetings with the leaders of powerful countries have become rather routine.
Of late, the diplomatic calendar has afforded next to no breathing space.
As the Russian and Kazakh presidents held talks, neighboring Uzbekistan was hosting a meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit, where high-profile visitors included Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, with Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov standing in for his president.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella was also in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on the same day for talks with Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoev and other top officials.
Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev (right) with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, in Tashkent on November 10. Image: gov.uz
On November 3, Astana hosted the summit of the Council of Turkic States which, like the ECO, is a Russia and China-free organization.
Before that, Toqaev and Mirziyoev welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to their respective homes in perhaps the noisiest diplomatic visit of the season.
And if October was something of a lull, September was plenty busy, with the region's five national leaders holding talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York before all of them headed to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Some of these fixtures, of course, were a long time in the planning.