All the more so if these ambitions are pseudo-political...
Summarizing the Russian mass media comments on a visit to Turkmenistan by St Petersburg's Governor Valentina Matvienko, there are certainly more positive assessments.
The visit was well prepared. The head of the delegation was accompanied by a group of Russian financial and business leaders looking for business partners. Emphatic activeness, business-like and pragmatism demonstrated by Valentina Matvienko during the visit ensured not only a new form of contacts between one of the Russian regions and a prospective partner from the CIS but a somewhat new charging impetus to the Russian-Turkmen relations as a whole.
The author of these lines was able to talk to many people from St Petersburg's delegation during their stay in Ashgabat, the ones who personally participated in preparation for the Russian northern capital governor's visit to Turkmenistan. They did not conceal that preparations for the visit had started long ago, almost three years back. It was only with the arrival of Valentina Matvienko as the new governor that this visit got real, visible shapes. Valentina Ivanovna acted as a pioneer of new principles of relations between the Russian Federation's constituencies and the CIS states. Bearing in mind that this Central Asian tour of Matvienko was blessed by Vladimir Putin, a thesis on new approaches in the Russian foreign policy seems quite grounded.
Three Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan - were targeted by St Petersburg's delegation. In all of the three states business programs looked quite the same, but it was only in Turkmenistan that the governor of the Russian northern capital was received at the state level.
Initiatives on the development of economic and cultural ties between the cooperating sides were filled with particular content during personal contacts between Valentina Matvienko and Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov. And an agreement signed between the governments of Turkmenistan and St Petersburg on economic, scientific and cultural cooperation became quite a unique document in the history of foreign relations of the two states.
Member of St Petersburg delegation, famous historian, academician Vadim Mikhailovich Masson who exerted much effort to realize a promising idea of direct contacts between St Petersburg and Turkmenistan was really happy with the results of the visit. He emphasized that "at last, the establishment of a direct link stretching from the banks of the Neva river to the Kopetdag foothills would not be left for enthusiast-loners, but, instead, would find strong backing from the first persons."
One could avoid a detailed record of formal development of events that became part of history if there was not a chain of circumstances, which made this visit a milestone.
The events of last year are still fresh in our memories when the Russian mass media stirred harsh criticism over the relations between Russia and Turkmenistan. It got especially sharp when it came to playing on the topic of the all-out infringement on the rights of compatriots in Turkmenistan. By strange coincidence the "patriotic" hysteria reached its apogee during an election campaign to the lower house of the Russian Parliament. And then elections finished and endeavors on the pathetic defence of the rights of compatriots had strangely calmed down as if they had never existed. Doesn't it serve as evidence of the biased political fuss around the situations with compatriots?
The author of this article, knowing firsthand the situation on the spot, had on many occasions to defend a thesis that rude and often incompetent political insults from Russia are not the best way to defend the interests of compatriots in the near abroad. Russia, having left Turkmenistan outside its foreign political and economic priorities, had by that left a Diaspora of compatriots without due attention.
One should not be a visionary to prove that not a political dictate but implementation of particular programs in the field of culture and joint conduct of business will make Russians living in Turkmenistan feel not isolated from the historical land, let them maintain their language and receive jobs in the Russian-Turkmen enterprises.
Let us note there is no point in talking about any form of charity from Russia. During her visit St Petersburg's governor Valentina Matvienko had quite honestly stated about inadmissibility of losing the CIS markets, including Turkmenistan, for Russian enterprises. In other words the economic presence of Russia in Central Asia is vital.
It is fair to say that the Russian economic presence in the Central Asian states of the CIS was very important yesterday and the day before yesterday and so on. Unfortunately, this thesis was not matched by proper and comprehensive practical steps for a very long time. But the experience with "minus" mark has its positive implications even if we call it the time of missed opportunities for Russia. Let's hope that there is deep understanding of the necessity to overtake arrears. In the end the logic of life, pragmatism of the real benefits prevails over any pseudo-political ambitions.