No one in the political circles of the two countries has doubted the success of the new Turkmen president's first visit to Russia. However, beginning the first minutes of talks between Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov and Vladimir Putin it became evident that this success would surpass all expectations. It is the high level of political trust demonstrated during the meeting of two presidents in Novoogarevo and official negotiations in the Kremlin that was the main subject of reports of world mass media covering this visit with the utmost interest. This interest arose for many reasons. Along with traditional ones, they, first of all, included the natural resource potential of Turkmenistan.
In short, the Turkmen leader's visit to Moscow has turned into a true political sensation that in the course of conversation between the two leaders gave way to the sober and suspended assessment of the level of political dialog the founders of independent Turkmenistan and free Russia - Saparmurat Niyazov and Boris Yeltzin - started as early as 1992.
It happened that news on the death of the first president of Russia arrived nearly an hour before the meeting in Novoogarevo. Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov was in fact the first head of state to express his personal condolences to Vladimir Putin. It is natural enough that the names of those who had laid new interstate foundations of cooperation and continued the traditions of spiritual kinship binding the Turkmen and Russian peoples from times immemorial stand behind the issue of continuity of the friendship policy that has become the leitmotif of the summit.
It is not by chance that Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, welcoming Vladimir Putin, said: "We have much in common and at present it is also an enormous joint work on making our interests closer in the new historical conditions". It is this mood for work which is visible, concrete and productive that stipulated the business-like approach to negotiations in the course of which the initiatives followed one after another. The package of proposals that the Turkmen president brought to Moscow demonstrated not so much the desire of the Turkmen side to develop a dialog with Russia but the intention to fill this dialog with concrete content reflecting the spirit, nature and scope of reforms carried out in the country.
It is in this explicit readiness of two sides to give the cooperation both new quality and new scope that the dominating idea of political trust lies in. All journalists covering this visit paid attention to it. Vladimir Putin expressed this idea in more capacious way. Congratulating Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov on election to the high state post he underscored that the election results figure reflected this trust that the Turkmen people placed in their new leader and in the policy pursued in the interests of the nation, the policy that has received the support of the whole population of Turkmenistan.
Thus, Moscow saw the new and already recognized leader able to initiate the progressive reforms in his country and put forward brave initiatives in the field of international cooperation. These initiatives predetermined the overall success of the Moscow visit that could not be predicted in advance.
Only resting upon the solid political, economic, spiritual and moral potential of the home country one can enter into the equal dialog with such great power as Russia. This equality underlying Turkmenistan's whole foreign policy doctrine has been realized in practice by the example of relations with Russia. It is not by chance that while elaborating on the economic partnership, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov stressed that despite the importance of interacting in the fuel and energy complex that Turkmenistan is going to develop on the basis of its huge and reproductive natural resource potential he doesn't intend to limit the cooperation to this area but to build up the comprehensive trade and economic partnership as a whole.
It is here that the potential that Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov referred to in one of his first interviews in the capacity of president of Turkmenistan lies in. Characterizing the relations of Turkmenistan and Russia, the president emphasized that the international legal framework existing between our countries allows the sides to maintain the comprehensive cooperation practically in all spheres of the bilateral interstate ties. However, he said, "during the long period the bilateral interstate potential has not been used to its full capacity. For the most part, the Turkmen gas supplies provided for the impressive level of trade turnover between the two countries. However, as far as foreign investment indicators are concerned, Russia was far behind being the first in the Turkmen economy. There are a lot of areas of the economic scientific, technical and cultural cooperation where the mutual interest of the sides could have produced much greater results".
It should be noted that during the talks the sides were unanimous in determination to use the whole potential of cooperation including, if not to put it in the first place, the humanitarian sphere. Both presidents, proudly speaking about the activities of the Turkmen-Russian School and Russian Drama Theater both named after Alexander Pushkin, the Great Russian poet, expressed their intention to develop this experience. It is here that the initiatives put forward by the Turkmen leader produced both great interest and decisive support to the negotiation process. Inviting the Russian partners to take active part in the education reform, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov identified the concrete directions of cooperation and opportunities of joint work. The future Ruhnama University will get an international status and will serve as a basis for developing international cooperation in the field of education.
The tremendous spiritual heritage of the Turkmen people and the experience of the Russian educational school recognized all over the world provided a ground for joining the efforts. The Moscow State University's branch to be opened at the new university is a real step to the achievement of the world educational standards that the presidential program is aimed at. It also relates to Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov's proposal regarding opening of the branches of the Russian State University of Oil and Gas named after I.M.Gubkin in Ashgabat and Balkanabat.
The country needs educated, qualified and independently thinking cadres. Training of such specialists is the cornerstone in the policy of the Turkmen leader who has displayed such most important trait of leaders as responsibility for the future of the country. It is a country with countless natural resources, powerful infrastructure of the fuel and energy complex which is recognized as one of the world energy powers. That is why during the negotiations in the Kremlin, despite the priority nature of the cooperation in energy, which is considered the alpha and omega of the bilateral dialog, the stress was made on those steps that would advance, promote and push the strategic partnership forward. Only qualified people, specialists with wide outlook armed with the whole arsenal of knowledge will be able to accomplish it.
Introduction of interactive education is also an initiative of the Turkmen leader who instructed the members of the government delegation to hold a number of meetings and talks on studying and applying these technologies in the higher educational establishments and secondary schools of Turkmenistan. It is worth noting that the summit was complemented by active negotiations at the level of governments and meetings with many leading Russian companies. These talks specified the agreements of the two heads of states in the course of the summit that added more result to the visit.
As far as the mentioned priority - the cooperation in the oil and gas sphere - is concerned, the existing Turkmen-Russian long term contract on Turkmen gas supplies to Russia was complemented by the agreement to lay a coastal gas pipeline along the territories of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan with outlet to Russia. This project has got the strong support of the Russian president and has real chances to be realized as well as a number of other large scale projects in the energy sphere do. As is known, the Turkmen leader has invited heads of such world known companies as Gazprom, Lukoil, Itera, Stroitransgaz, Sistema, etc. to implement them.
In the course of talks another important step that added concreteness to negotiations and determined the organizational format of the partnership has been made. It relates to the Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission the status of which was raised by the mutual decision of the presidents. From now on, it is headed by vice-prime ministers from both sides. The commission will hold its regular meeting in June. The agenda of the meeting was agreed upon by the two heads of state.
Finally, there was another initiative put forward by Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov. The Russian side received it with great enthusiasm and inspiration. The countries will declare the year of Turkmen Culture in Russia and the year of Russian Culture in Turkmenistan. It is probably the brightest stroke in the general palette of the visit, and it is the most convincing reason in the reached agreements in favor of two countries' interests that share the bonds of friendship deeply rooted in history and originating from the commonality of spirit and mutual liking.
This was the reason of success of Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov's first visit. The Turkmen president has introduced the human element to the political pragmatism. It is this factor that explains the rapid rapprochement of the leaders of two countries, their mutual political trust and the readiness to make new steps towards each other. Anyhow, Vladimir Putin was sincerely pleased to accept the invitation to lay the foundation of a new ultramodern building of the Turkmen-Russian school in Ashgabat. It is another stroke to the success of the Moscow visit.
The State News Service of Turkmenistan (TDH)