Turkmenistan has been hesitant to sign economic agreements within the CIS framework. Niyazov has criticized the weakness of CIS mechanisms and proposed a new CIS structure that would be exclusively consultative in nature. As an example of its approach, Turkmenistan declined to attend the Surgut Conference with Russia and Kazakstan (1994), whose goal was to stabilize falling gas and oil output, stating that the domestic gas industry was sufficiently stable without CIS investment funds. At that time, Russian Federation deputy prime minister Aleksandr Shokhin declared that Turkmenistan must decide whether it is with the CIS countries or not. Despite such friction, Turkmenistan has maintained close bilateral economic and military ties with Russia.
Regional cooperation among Central Asian republics has not been as profound as anticipated upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1993 the other four Central Asian republics accounted for about one-fifth of Turkmenistan's imports and exports. Turkmenistan has followed its own path in all areas of post-Soviet reform, preferring bilateral to regional agreements in the economic sphere; for example, it has agreed to supply Kazakstan with electricity in return for grain. The decisions of all five republics to switch to Latin-based alphabets will not necessarily have the expected result of improving cultural ties because the romanization of distinct sounds in the respective languages will be far from uniform. Fragmentation is evident also in the introduction by all five nations of separate national currencies.
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