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Uzbekistan: Foreign Policy Perturbations

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Uzbekistan, Human Rights, International Relations, Politics

The Uzbek regime's violent suppression [1] of the uprising in Andijan in May 2005 was a turning point in the country's foreign policy. The government did not allow EU to investigate the case and then, after the U.S. administration's strong opposition [2] to “non-observation of basic human rights”, Tashkent forced American airbase in Khanabad to shut down.

However, there have been some positive changes in fragile relations between Uzbekistan and the West recently. The consent [3] to let the United States and NATO use airbase in Termez was an expected result of Tashkent's current foreign policy, aimed at rapprochement with the West. As reported, now Uzbekistan allows certain NATO countries, including U.S., to use the airbase in Termez (which has been used by Germany since 2001), although they all can fly to Termez only aboard German aircraft.

Registan [4] was the first in the Uzbek blogosphere to write about this. The author complains [5] over divergence of the information in different sources. This yet again proves the Uzbek government's reluctance to officially comment on the matter. But despite controversy, there are obvious changes in the country's foreign policy:

…there is indeed a substantive change, but it is fairly limited. For the time being, the Uzbek government has not said a word on the arrangement. And I would not expect that it would anytime soon. I do expect that the relationship between Uzbekistan and the West will continue to improve — perhaps US planes will be touching down at Termez in the near future.

Nathan discusses [6] the possible results of allowing Western troops into Uzbekistan.

Unnamed activists say that they fear closer relations will cause human rights to recede into the background as Western governments become too excited about closer security ties. Others say that they anticipate closer ties will eventually result in the end of EU sanctions. In my estimation, that’s almost guaranteed, but I don’t really think the sanctions accomplish much anymore. The statement’s been made.

As usually, Registan's readers are very active in commenting. Brian is concerned [7] that presence of the U.S. troops may eventually “hurt” the locals.

I think that’s what a lot of us may be afraid of [referring to Andijan events when US trained Uzbek Special Forces brutally suppressed the uprising]. Whether we do support the Uzbek security services (again) or not, this may be the impression regardless. Hopefully, the relationship will be cordial but at arms-length… and for god sakes I hope we don’t train or equip them again.

Central Asia blog on reports [8] that official visit of Admiral William J. Fallon to Tashkent has given its results:

It appears U.S. Adm. Fallon visit last month accomplished more than just renewing a dialogue. What should one make of this seeming rapprochement between U.S./NATO and Uzbekistan? German troops have already used this base for some time, so is this really a substantial change in policy for Uzbekistan or the U.S.?

Libertad at neweurasia [9] writes [10] that “the Uzbek government is successfully re-building a bridge to the West three years after Andijan”, adding that Tashkent will get some concrete benefits by having Western troops in Termez.

Today, Uzbekistan needs the West on its territory. First, Uzbekistan will secure itself from emergence/import of “religion-based ideologies”. Second, the Uzbek government partaking in the fight against Taliban also fights Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is now mainly located in Afghanistan and supports Taliban. Third, close ally and friend of President I. Karimov – Russian leader V.Putin – officially is not in high position any more, and Uzbekistan may need backing from the West. Fourth, Uzbekistan will gain more authority in Central Asian region.