It’s time for the U.S. President to visit countries of Central Asia, according to ambassador Ross Wilson, director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, reported Silk Road Newsline.
“No U.S. President has ever visited the region. Now is the time to do so,” Wilson said in his written report prepared for the Congressional hearing on the U.S. engagement in Central Asia that was held at the House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia earlier this week.
In his testimony before the Subcommittee, Wilson repeated his call. “No President, no American President has ever visited this region. One should,” he said.
According to the U.S. National Archives, the highest White House officials ever visited Central Asia since the region became independent after the fall of the Soviet Union were Vice President Al Gore who visited Kazakhstan in December 1993 and Vice President Richard Cheney who visited Kazakhstan in May 2006.
“We need to further rebalance and better coordinate our diplomacy in Central Asia,” Wilson told U.S. lawmakers calling for adding a new senior position at the White House.
“In Washington, the President should appoint a senior director for Central Asia at the National Security Council to more effectively coordinate U.S. policy and its execution and I would note, parenthetically, that Central Asia management at the NSC belongs to the senior director for Russia. Leaving aside the optics of this, such a mixing of responsibilities will not produce the results that we need,” he said.
According to Wilson, the White House also needs to do be more active in promoting the New Silk Road initiative that will develop a network of trade and transportation corridors linking markets in South and Central Asia, with Afghanistan at its heart. The initiative will also allow landlocked countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan to have wider access to foreign markets.
“We should be much more serious about it. The President should appoint a senior-level special envoy to lead our work on this initiative with the regional players and the international financial institutions to work on both the physical and especially the policy infrastructure to make the Silk Road a 21st century reality,” he said.
Wilson also pointed to the fact that the U.S. Government programs for Central Asia “also require resources to be successful.”
“In FY-2002, the United States budgeted some $328 million to support our policy goals in Central Asia, but I understand that the Administration’s request for FY-2013 amounts to only $96 million. I don’t know what the right sum is, but am certain that we should not short-change our interest in security, prosperity and democracy-promotion efforts in Central Asia, especially in light of the drawdown in Afghanistan,” he said in his testimony.
A former career U.S. diplomat and a prominent U.S. expert of foreign policy and national security issues, ambassador Ross Wilson chairs the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center established to address energy, economic and political issues in the Black Sea, Caspian and Central Asian regions. Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council is a non-partisan think tank devoted to promoting transatlantic cooperation and international security. The Atlantic Council is chaired by former U.S. senator Chuck Hagel with Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, serving as the chairman of the Council’s international advisory board.