Germany’s Expansion to Uzbekistan: A New Actor Who Wants to Be Included in the “New Great Game” and Central Asian Geopolitics

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German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who organized a three-day visit to Central Asian countries within the scope of diplomatic contacts, both her contacts and statements on her visit to Uzbekistan contain very important messages. It should be also emphasized that the messages given by the German Minister are not limited to Germany’s foreign policy choices, but have certain qualities that can affect regional and global dynamics. In this respect, it is useful to state that the visit has content that needs to be carefully analyzed.

Baerbock also visited Kazakhstan, one of the most important states of Central Asia both economically and politically, as part of the three-day program. She visited a school that has been teaching German since 1963 and the Almalyk Mining and Metallurgical Combine/Complex.

Before moving on to the political dimension of the German Foreign Minister’s visit, it should be noted that it is important in the context of the analysis to mention the visit to the Almayk Complex, which includes significant economic interests. Visits at the level of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when considered in the context of international relations and diplomatic practices, are activities that are tried to be limited to political contacts. However, Baerbock’s inclusion of visits in the field of economy in its program can be considered as a matter showing that Germany is also interested in Central Asian geopolitics, especially in the energy and mining sectors. This becomes even more meaningful when because China is a rising economic value and challenges the economic pillar of Western hegemony. In addition, China’s visionary and global projects for Central Asia within the scope of the Belt-Road Initiative make this move of the German Minister even more understandable.

Another stop of Baerbock, which draws attention with its visits outside the official agenda within the scope of its visit to Uzbekistan, was an educational institution taught in German in Tashkent. Here, too, there is a sign that more investments will be made in Uzbekistan in the future in the context of cultural interaction and public diplomacy. Therefore, Baerbock, acting for more than one purpose within the scope of the aforementioned visit program, was not limited to diplomatic and official political relations, and in a sense, revealed Germany’s opening to Uzbekistan.

Another agenda item of the visit was cooperation on environmental issues within the framework of the “Green Central Asia” initiative of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cooperation in environmental security issues, which is one of the most important problem areas that have been focused on in the international system, especially in the West, and which is at the top of the agenda of international politics, in a sense, is an important tool that lays the groundwork for political cooperation. Therefore, it is not too inconsistent to claim that a more maneuvering area in line with the strategy of opening a space for Germany in Central Asia, which supports the foreign policy preference expressed in the previous paragraph and expressed as “Germany’s Uzbekistan Initiative”, is tried to be activated by the German state.

Expressing that they aim to develop a high-level dialogue with Uzbekistan, the German Foreign Minister said; it was stated that the Afghanistan issue, Ukraine and, accordingly, the current issues of the global agenda, regional cooperation issues, the expansion and deepening of the influence of Russia, and China in Central Asia, and the democratic renewal and socio-economic reform in Uzbekistan were discussed.

When we look at the issues shared with the public through the press, Germany does not have a limited interest and strategic orientation in the fields of education, environment, and economy, which realists treat as soft policy issues. In this context, the German Foreign Minister’s statement that they support the reform process of Uzbekistan is a fact that shows that they closely follow and consider Uzbekistan and that Tashkent, which gives more place to Western values, is considered a partner for Germany in the Central Asian geopolitics in the new period. It also includes signals that it will be received.

The current situation and future of Afghanistan, which is seen as a serious issue in terms of both Uzbekistan and Central Asia and the international system, as well as the Russia-Ukraine War, also reveal the potential of expanding the partnership mentioned in the previous paragraph to a degree that is not limited to a narrow regional partnership.

The most crucial point of the visit, where many topics and strategically important issues ranging from environmental issues to economy, from regional issues to global issues were discussed; it is the call of the German Foreign Minister to prevent the unhindered growth of Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia. This call, on the one hand, puts forward the approach that puts Uzbekistan in the center in the context of Germany’s opening to Central Asia, on the other hand, it openly declared that Germany will take part in the New Great Game as a Western power against Russia and China, and that “Ostpolitik” is part of Central Asia. That also gave the signals that Ostpolitik would extend up to the heart of Central Asia. Of course, when this development is evaluated through the geopolitical approach of Alfred Thayer Mahan, the founder of the 20th-century naval strategy of the USA, known as the “Clausewitz of the Seas”, Russia and China entering into a rivalry and weakening the possibility of a German-Russian coalition. Also, it means the disappearance of the nightmare scenario for the American geopolitical culture.

Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK
ANKASAM Uluslararası İlişkiler Danışmanı Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK, lisans eğitimini Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde, yüksek lisans ve doktora eğitimini ise Gazi Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlamıştır. Günümüzde Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü öğretim üyesi olan Çelik’in başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, Türk Dünyası, güvenlik ve stratejidir.