Blinken’s Tour of Central Asia: A Recap Before G-20 Talks in India

Uzbekistan is the final stop on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s quick tour of Central Asia before he heads to India for the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ summit, which is expected to be highly abusive due to the focus on Ukraine.

Wednesday, Blinken met with top Uzbek officials in Tashkent, a day after he had warned his counterparts in the other five Central Asian states about the threats posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While former Soviet governments have walked a fine line in blaming Russia for the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Anton Blinken said he believed the U.S. and Central Asia shared worries about Ukraine before their meeting.

After meeting with the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan on Tuesday in the Kazakh capital of Astana, Blinken said he believes there was an incredible feeling of everyday struggle and same purpose among the C5+1 countries.

Blinken made it clear to the five post-Soviet countries that Russia’s value as a partner has been severely damaged by its year-long war against Ukraine, another post-Soviet state, by repeatedly referencing U.S. support for the “sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence” of the five countries.

Bakhtiyor Saidov, the interim foreign minister of Uzbekistan, expressed gratitude to Blinken for the United States support of Uzbekistan and its neighbors.

Of the five countries in Central Asia that have historically been considered under the Kremlin’s area of influence, none have spoken out in support of the Russian incursion. Still, not one of them has spoken out against the war. They all missed another opportunity to do so last week when they abstained from a vote commemorating the first anniversary of the conflict at the United Nations General Assembly.

Before heading for New Delhi, where the foreign ministers of the Group of 20 (G-20) major industrialized and developing countries, including China and Russia, would convene for two days, Blinken met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

As a result of the war between Russia and the Ukraine and the Chinese regime’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, tensions between the United States and Russia and between the United States and China have risen to a fever pitch, prompting the G-20 discussions. At international forums such as the G-20, all three countries are vying for prominence at the expense of their rivals.

Russia and China are expected to seek widespread support for a Chinese peace proposal for Ukraine that Beijing announced last week. At the same time, the U.S. and its Western allies in the G-20 will urge the Group to adopt a harder line on the crisis. The West generally thinks the proposal is ridiculous.

Last week’s conference of G-20 finance ministers in India concluded without agreement on Ukraine.

At the penultimate meeting of the Group’s foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia, in 2022, Blinken held extensive negotiations with China’s then-foreign minister, Wang Yi, which eventually led to a summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, also held in Bali.

In the wake of the United States shooting down a Chinese surveillance balloon and Blinken postponing a much-anticipated trip to Beijing, Wang, who has since been promoted, met with Blinken last month in Germany on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference.

U.S. accusations that the Chinese regime is considering supplying Russia with lethal military supplies for use in Ukraine and renewed suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic could have resulted from a Chinese lab leak have further strained relations, which ended without any sign of progress being made to improve them.

Blinken said in Astana that the Biden administration “would not hesitate” to punish Chinese enterprises that help Russia’s war campaign.