Uzbek Certification: Why is it required?

by Nathan Hamm on 7/12/2004 · 4 comments

As I’ve been (very) slowly reading through the transcripts from the Uzbekistan certification hearing, I’ve repeatedly gotten the impression that the whole certification process is an extraordinary measure. What reporting there has been on the process has been extremely vague on whether or not aid normally must pass this clearance or whether Congress made this a special requirement for Uzbekistan.

Well, it’s the latter. But, I don’t want to be misleading. Strings are tied to aid for a lot of countries, but Uzbekistan has a pretty sizeable and specific laundry list of conditions attached to its aid.

From the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004

Sec. 568. (a) Funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for assistance for the central Government of Uzbekistan only if the Secretary of State determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Uzbekistan is making substantial
and continuing progress in meeting its commitments under the “Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework Between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the United States of America”,
including respect for human rights, establishing a genuine multi-party system, and ensuring free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and the independence of the media.
[Section (b) is on Kazakstan and is much more general]
(c) The Secretary of State may waive the requirements under subsection (b) if he determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(d) < > Not later than October 1, 2004, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and
the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives describing the following:

(1) The defense articles, defense services, and financial assistance provided by the United States to the countries of Central Asia during the 6-month period ending 30 days prior to submission of such report.
(2) The use during such period of defense articles, defense services, and financial assistance provided by the United States by units of the armed forces, border guards, or other security forces of such countries.

As for the laundry list, here’s the cooperation framework. This isn’t to say that these aren’t goals worth pursuing, it just seems like an unreasonable and perhaps irresponsible* demand to tie aid to a vague description of progress like “substantial.” I have a hard time believing that as big of a deal would be made over Russia’s certification process dealing with religious persecution (Sec. 569 of the Appropriations Act). Bullying the weak indeed.

The debate over our policy in Uzbekistan is one that I feel pretty strongly about for obvious reasons. The money is being used for extremely crucial programs that are measurably improving Uzbekistan. For those in the “let our hands not be sullied” crowd, I’d love to hear why taking these programs away from the Uzbek people is worth making a point that will surely be ignored by an Uzbek government that will quickly walk down the street to Russia.

*As much as I don’t want to be, I’m a proponent of the East Asian course of democratic development. It seems to have created healthier democratic polities by creating a middle-class than have the cases where democracy is suddenly proclaimed where there’s little foundation for it. I can think of few cases–but they do exist–where democracy thrives in poor countries or where outside forces cause it to be.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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praktike July 13, 2004 at 1:45 pm

I would say that using a vague word like “substantial” is precisely the kind of flexibility you’re asking for.

Nathan July 13, 2004 at 2:20 pm

Excellent point, and you’re certainly correct.

It would be hard, especially for Congress, to actually come up with a clear and meaningful metric. I guess my problem with it has to do with the way the word is interpreted by the foot soldiers in the debate. Matt, Josh, and Human Rights Watch won’t accept anything less than the rapid establishment of Candyland as proof of “substantial” improvement and/or a commitment to democratic development (I know that’s quite hyperbolic, but they’ve got me riled today).

buermann July 13, 2004 at 8:39 pm

I think it would be more accurate to describe the HRW position as “won’t accept anything less than some sign of improvement” – just about everybody has been in agreement that since US aid was massively increased after 9/11 that the situation in Uzbekistan has deteriorated rapidly, and had been going downhill since the US began the military partnership back in the 90s. I can’t think of any but the most baseless assertions by the occasional Republican to the contrary of that. Closing down the OSI was the last straw among most FP establishment figures, so far as I can tell, and was the end of peans to patience I was hearing from that crowd.

I know you’re aware of that and just taking joy in ignoring the obvious to put down HRW because you don’t like that they were right about this a long time before you were.

As for the economic programs you’re referring to can I see some independent measures of their success that aren’t just brochures from State? Linking the anti-proliferation aid to reform never made any sense to me when it’s the pentagon’s budget and the arms sales agreements that are more obviously a problem.

Nathan July 13, 2004 at 9:24 pm

Josh, I’m sorry, but if you’re going to put this down to some kind of jealousy on my part, I’m just going to have to stoop to saying you’re absolutely full of shit. Why should I blindly take the word of an organization who has little access and makes a living off of hyperbole?

I have a hard time with the “it undeniably got worse” argument. It sucked when I was there during 9/11 and it was really hard to get much worse. The major difference? NGOs showed up like mad and actually started reporting on the situation. More eyes watching doesn’t equal an increase in repression. The fact of the matter is that it’s been a mixed bag since 9/11, and many of the gains come from US-funded initiatives.

Unless you want to define who the Foreign Policy Establishment is and how you’ve got such a line into them, let me point to the transcripts Laurence and I have linked to so many times. Only HRW calls for the decertification.

Merry Christmas, they got it.

Some of those testifying, especially Olcott and Polat, are pretty hard to criticize as being in thrall to Bush’s foreign policy goal.

As for the programs, it’s pretty hard to show results. I could put it on you to show me how they aren’t working. Or even better yet, your argument rests on their being a causal link between US aid and increasing repression. Prove it. Why’s your theory better than ones that explain developments as being related to social and economic trends on the ground and the legacy of communism?

I know you’re in the “let our hands not be dirtied” crowd. You’ve said you’d rather let evil run its course than have us try to stem the tide. Well, cheers Josh! You may get what you want!

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