Those countries that are working toward Western ideals, however haltingly, are the good ones. The satrapies of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan do not care, and so medieval brutalities are commonplace.
2014 will be the year that Europe’s mettle is truly tested.
Today, as Russia and China tussle over the post-American world on the continent, Ashgabat and Tashkent can become secondary beneficiaries of the energy and commerce that will move through the area.
Tehran has ruthlessly exploited its near environs almost perfectly, challenging halting Western inroads in the area through soft power and trade while also never angering Moscow, a jealous if still-wounded imperial giant.
A largely informal geopolitical alliance is again slowly cohering around a series of shared principles — basically that the Western model of development must be left behind for one more inclined to support “national aspirations.”
This misses the forest for the trees. Turkmenistan is basically the seventh layer of Hell. The best thing you can say about it is that there is currently no genocide in progress there.
This is a reminder that so many of the terrible things, the very Soviet things, that are done in the broken empire’s wreckage remain out of the world’s view save when a spotlight is briefly shone on them.
As long as these former Soviet republics maintain a Soviet-era view of private property, their future in the modern world will be more than a few nodes away.
In a just world, the Council of Europe and Turkmenistan’s neighbors and allies would use this as a teaching opportunity, to show Ashgabat the possibilities of reform and help them draw slowly toward it.
Europe is tired of the Gazprom monopoly and isn’t going to take it any more. At least, that appears to be the message from Lithuania, which will take over the European Union’s rotating presidency in July.