Washington has stepped up its efforts to force Central Asian countries to back US sanctions on Russia
US President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of five Russian-allied Central Asian nations in New York next week. While a pro-NATO think tank has described the summit as a chance for Biden to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the region, the White House insists that the meeting is "not against any country."
Biden will hold talks with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week. Representatives from these five countries have met with their US counterparts since 2015, but the New York summit will be the first time their leaders have gotten together in that time.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the group will discuss "a range of issues, from regional security, to trade and connectivity, to climate change, and ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law."
"This summit is not against any country," Sullivan added. "It is for a positive agenda that we want to work through with these countries."
However, the NATO-funded Atlantic Council has portrayed the summit as an "opening" for Biden to press the five nations toward enforcing the US' sanctions on Russia, and to offer financial assistance to pro-Western politicians and NGOs in the region.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a Eurasian bloc of post-Soviet nations. Furthermore, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led military alliance roughly analogous to NATO.
None of the five have condemned Russia's military operation in Ukraine, nor have any imposed sanctions on Moscow in response. Amid reports that the US was preparing so-called "secondary sanctions" on Kyrgyzstan last month, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov said that he was being placed under "pressure" by Washignton to side with the US on Ukraine.
However, Japarov insisted that Kyrgyzstan is "an independent country," and "will continue to have equal relations with all countries."
Similar warnings have been issued to Kazakhstan, with US Treasury Department officials visiting Astana in April to press local officials into enforcing US export controls on goods bound for Russia.