Tuesday, March 26, 2013


 About a week ago I dutifully attended an all-day Turkic American Convention on the economies of the half dozen “stan” countries in Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

 It was well attended, including by a number of US House and Senate members.

 Actually, it was enlightening to learn how quickly those new countries – most of which were held under tight Soviet rule until the early 1990s and had little autonomy of their own – have advanced their economies.  All are in, under consideration or desiring the join the World Trade Organization.

 Turkmenistan – because of its proximity to US ally Afghanistan – appeared to be the US favorite at the session, with the attendance of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake and US Trade Representative’s office director of Central Asia Laurie Curry attending a panel on doing business in the relatively rich country.

 Also popping in unscheduled was Navy Rear Admiral Ron MacLaren – who asked if anyone in the audience knew why a Navy guy was on a panel on how to do business with Turkmenistan – a landlocked country.

 The answer is simple.  Given its proximity to Afghanistan – where the United States is fighting its latest war – he was on the lookout for alternative suppliers for American troops in country.

 That sounded fine, until the rear admiral enumerated the types of goods he has procured for US troops stationed south of the border.  They included everything from toothpaste, to bottled water, to aluminum roofing, to rebar for road construction, to cement, etcetera.

 The admiral gave a very boring lecture on negotiating techniques he uses to procure from the Turkmens – such as stressing the importance of quality and threatening to turn to other suppliers outside the country, among others.  Some experienced Turkmenistan hands suggested to this reporter that those general “negotiating” techniques were laughed at by the sellers – who ended up selling at their own prices anyway.

 But the kicker was when the admiral said not buying from US sources actually benefitted
Americans.  Prices and transportation costs were much lower when purchased in Turkmenistan, he explained.  Procurement of those supplies avoided the higher US prices and expenses to ship in US bottoms to the battlefront – all on the backs if American taxpayers.  Cement – for example – purchased in Pittsburgh and sent directly to Afghanistan would cost a lot more than buying from close-by Turkmenistan.

 I couldn’t believe I had just head that.

 I guess not only does the US military have its own criminal system, but it also follows different law than other Americans.

 Jim Berger

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