Turkmenistan has declared "positive neutrality" and "open doors"
to be the two major components of its foreign policy. Positive
neutrality is defined as gaining international recognition of
the republic's independence, agreeing upon mutual non-interference
in internal affairs, and maintaining neutrality in external conflicts.
The open- doors policy has been adopted to encourage foreign investment
and export trade, especially through the development of a transport
infrastructure. Turkmenistan gained membership in the United Nations
(UN) in early 1992.
Pervasive historical and geopolitical factors shape Turkmenistan's
foreign policy. With the removal of the protective Soviet "umbrella,"
the foreign policy tasks facing independent Turkmenistan are the
establishment of independent national security and economic systems,
while coping with the long legacy of existence in the empires
of tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. As of 1996, all of Turkmenistan's
gas pipelines went north into the Russian Federation or other
CIS states, thus subordinating sectors of its economic development
to that of relatively poor countries. Because Turkmenistan lacks
a strong military, independence depends on establishing military
pacts with Russia and on developing balanced diplomatic and economic
ties with Russia and neighboring countries (see Role of Russia
and CIS, this ch.).
Turkmenistan's geographical location close to conflict-riven
Afghanistan and Tajikistan also requires a guarded posture toward
the irredentist and Islamic forces at play in those countries.
Concern over border security was heightened by an incident in
October 1993 when two Afghan jets bombed Turkmen territory, despite
recent talks with Afghan officials aimed at ensuring equality
Turkmenistan's status as an Islamic state also affects Turkmenistan's
relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although in need of the
foreign aid and developmental opportunities offered by these countries,
Turkmenistan's government also endeavors to blunt any perceived
threats to its secular status that arise from Muslim activists.
The Turkic identity of the bulk of its population thus far has
not proven to be a significant factor in foreign affairs because
Turkmenistan must compete with other Central Asian Turkic republics
for markets and for closer socioeconomic ties with Turkey.
An important historical factor in current policy is that prior
to independence the Soviet government conducted Turkmenistan's
foreign affairs. The only involvement of republic officials in
international relations was in the form of ceremonial contacts
aimed at showcasing Soviet nationality policy by presenting Turkmenistan
as a developmental model for Third World countries.
Data as of March 1996