The United States was among the first to recognize the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan after they gained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the beginning, the United States has sought to assist Central Asia’s development, promoting the ideals of democracy and free markets, said U.S. Principal Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Hoagland.
Central Asia has much to offer to the United States and its neighbors. While the region’s governments still struggle to find a balance between secular state policies and religious freedom, its Muslim majority and religious minority groups have lived together peacefully for centuries. The region is also rich in natural resources including natural gas and oil reserves, uranium, and hydropower potential.
The United States clearly has an enduring interest in strong bilateral relationships with each of the five Central Asian states. Broadly speaking, the U.S. has four critical areas of cooperation and concentration in Central Asia – security cooperation, economic ties, promotion of human rights and good governance, and efforts to bolster each country’s sovereignty and independence.
Partly as a result of the region’s history and conflicting national interests, Central Asia is now one of the least economically integrated regions in the world. But with the right engagement from its partners and neighbors, it can transform itself into a model of connectivity, said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoagland.
Already, intraregional trade is increasing and the cost of moving goods across borders is decreasing. The U.S. is doing its part to help build Central Asian markets and integrate the region with global markets, specifically through the New Silk Road initiative, which seeks to connect Central and South Asia by improving north-south energy markets, trade and transport infrastructure, customs and borders procedures, and business and people-to-people networks.
Over the years, the U.S. has strongly supported assistance programming to improve governance and human rights in Central Asia. The U.S. has supported human rights organizations, rule-of-law reforms, civil society, and the mass media, including social media.
The United States will continue to invest its resources in the region’s security and its economic, political, and social development. “We have been with the countries of Central Asia from the beginning,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoagland, “and we will still be with them in the years and decades to come.”