The Great Game around Turkmenistan
The rise of a new leader of the state of Turkmenistan – President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who became ruler of the central Asian state after the 21-year rule of Saparmurad Niyazov, the self-proclaimed Turkmenbashi, who died on December 21, 2006 – has initiated changes in Turkmenistan’s political life. The new president has broken with the previous policy of self-isolation, and has directed the country towards openness to the outside world. Opportunities have thereby arisen for competitors in the ‘Great Game’, to gain political influence in Turkmenistan and access to hitherto unexploited Turkmen deposits of gas and oil. A new stage in the Great Game, which has been played for influence in Central Asia and control of access to its energy resources for many years, can thus be said to have been launched, and Turkmenistan has become the main setting for it. The major actors involved are Russia, the United States, China and the European Union.