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Pragmatism versus geopolitics
Where does Ashgabat look?

A few days ago the Government of Turkmenistan summed up its international tender offer for supply to Turkmenistan of pipes for oil and gas sector. Some foreign companies, the winners of tender, were listed in the official statement. This announcement gave a motive to certain information agencies to accuse Turkmen officials, to say the least, of biased attitude. In particular, they referred to the fact that there were no Russian suppliers among the winner-companies.

This is not only nonobjective but clearly late reference to something that we will talk about later. Those unreal accusations that Ashgabat "turns away" from Moscow in favor of its southern neighbors or western corporations could somehow have been justified back in the late 90th when, thanks to some Russian monopolist, economic cooperation between Turkmenistan and Russia did not practically exist. Today the situation is completely different. Let us recall for example the large-scale Russian-Turkmen "gas" documents signed in Moscow in the early April this year.

Meanwhile, exactly the last "pipe" tender or rather its results could be regarded as live illustration of how the Turkmen government conducts its policy of choosing economic partners. One can recall that during the very first days of independence the President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov used to repeat the thesis that in the process of searching for its business partners Turkmenistan prefers not to choose but to be chosen. The Turkmen leader first of all meant the country's openness for foreign investors. Now that 12 years have passed since the moment when Turkmenistan emerged on the map of the world, this thesis of Turkmenbashi requires certain correction. This is because the country he heads has rapidly strengthened its economy, found its place in the world system of coordinates over the past years and - thanks to its neutral status - avoided involvement in the regional and other geopolitical confrontations. That is why today's Turkmenistan is free to choose its partners in various fields of economy. But choices differ: Ashgabat has not got a habit of trembling at hearing the name of this or that superpower where the company wishing to cooperate with Turkmenistan originates from. "Do you want to be our partners? - they ask here - Then offer us better conditions than your competitors ...".

As for this particular and not very large-scale by Turkmenistan standards tender (the point was to supply 46 thousand tones of pipes) the government of Turkmenistan showed its pragmatism in full. Since it was expected that there had to be various suppliers for various fields of the oil and gas sector so the list of them appeared to be very big. There were both companies that have recommended themselves by cooperation with the Turkmen partners over the last years and also new "faces" among the winners. Great Britain's "Datalink Technologies" company representing, by the way, the pipe factory of Taganrog city (Russia) (here is the answer for the above-mentioned question) comes from the first category of companies.

There was no need in additional advertisement for such traditional suppliers of products to Turkmenistan as Ukrainian heavy-machines factory of Sumsk city and Austrian "Voestalpine Tubulars".

As regards the other winners of tender - Japan's "Sumitomo Corporation", UK's "Unixim", USA's "Barstov Trading" and "Desimal LLC" - there were clear signs that the Turkmen government is keeping an eye on new partners, assessing the quality of their work aiming at the more distant perspective.

As for American companies, which got just a small "slice" of the big pie of $47 mln, this can not be viewed as a reason for making conclusions about geopolitical preferences of Ashgabat. As if replying to this question Saparmurat Niyazov highly appreciated the development of Turkmen-American cooperation over the recent time. Speaking at the signing ceremony of trilateral agreement on partnership in the field of electrical power development between the government of Turkmenistan, "General Electric" company of USA and Turkish "Chalik energy" company till the year 2011 and implying investment amounting to $600 mln, the Turkmen leader underlined the fact that "while picking up them as partners Turkmenistan stood away from any policy considerations".

Turkmenbashi reminded that just recently there was defined next phase of the long-term partnership with American "Boeing", which will deliver to Turkmenistan three more comfortable planes in the coming years. "Caterpillar" from the same United States producing modern automobile equipment works quite fruitfully and on the long basis in Turkmenistan. The contacts with "John Deere" and "Case" companies supplying American agricultural machines to Turkmenistan have become even stronger and broader.

"We are attracted by the exceptionally high quality of the products and services provided by these companies", - Niyazov said. He emphasized that Ashgabat proceeds from the same criteria while finding other partners for mutually fruitful and equal economic cooperation.

Independent observers noticed that speaking about external economic ties Niyasov said nothing on geopolitics. And this surprised nobody. And especially for those who repeats with boring persistence quite hackneyed phrases about the so-called "isolationism" of Ashgabat we can continue the list with serious economic partners of Turkmenistan in addition to the above-mentioned firms. There we have Russian "Gasprom", French "Bouygues", "Merhav" of Israel, British-Arabian "Dragon Oil", Iranian "Dobral", Turkish "GAP", German "Siemens", Chinese state oil company, Malaysian "Petronas", Japan's "Komatsu", Ukrainian "Neftegas".

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By Charygeldi Amano

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