UZ-18 Cancelled

by Nathan Hamm on 7/13/2004 · 3 comments

Dee emailed to let me know that the UZ-18 Peace Corps group set to leave for Uzbekistan next month has been postponed or cancelled. Dee has since posted about this and it looks like the official explanation has to do with trouble issuing visas–which, in my limited experience, is the front line in diplomatic battles. Volunteers currently serving are also having difficulty with paperwork renewal (which, if I remember correctly would not be the visa, but the registration from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that authorizes the length of stay and work status).

I don’t think this necessarily has to do with the United States in particular, but is a target of opportunity in the wider campaign to limit the power of aid organizations. I’d like to believe the Uzbeks aren’t going after Peace Corps, but are using it as a bargaining chip, though I’m not willing to say that’s necessarily a sure bet. Russia got rid of Peace Corps in just about the same manner. I don’t think Uzbekistan really would go so far, but I wouldn’t put it past them.

Dee also alerted me to something I missed the other day. Armenia lashed out at the OSCE for meddling in its affairs. This statement was made alongside the other members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization plus Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. RFE/RL says Russia coordinated the whole thing. The heart of the criticism was the OSCE’s heavy focus on democracy and human rights rather than security and stability.

I think it would be very hard to accuse the Peace Corps of working against the interests of the state (except in an extremely long-term way) and make the claim stick. Like I said, it looks to me more to be a bargaining chip. Hell, visa problems come up all the time with the Peace Corps, it seems. The US could be the one in the driver’s seat by making a threat to cancel the group altogether. Peace Corps provides some of the best English teachers and teacher trainers in the country, and Uzbekistan knows that. I expect the issue to be resolved. The group may be late, but I would bet it will go.

The OSCE accusations, Russia’s role in them, and the very real possibility that Russia is encouraging Uzbekistan to behave the way it does truly irks me. It’s difficult enough to promote democratic transformation in the region without Russia’s creation of an anti-democratic axis for the sole reason of maintaining its influence and economic dominance. If you want to see truly greedy and corrupt politicians, don’t look in Washington, go to Moscow.

All this begs the question of whether or not the Uzbekistan certification debate–and the larger debate of democracy-promotion in the former Soviet Union–is one in which the question of Russia must loom large. Some are crying out that we are in the beginning stages of a new Great Game. As Lynn Pascoe said at the recent CSCE hearing (you may have to look at the entire transcript rather than just Lynn’s testimony), if we are in a Great Game, it’s not for lack of our trying to get the point across to Russia and China that we would rather cooperate than compete. Russia seems to either not be getting that message or not caring and forcing us to confront both the role of Russia and local dictators in stifling democratic development.

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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 14, 2004 at 12:04 am

Aha! Uzbekistan knew the decertification was coming. This was “you can’t fire me, I quit!”

Andy July 14, 2004 at 2:35 pm

I was an UZ18er that got the call. Apparently the word is that they can’t secure long-term visas for the new group and are having difficulty getting new visas for those already there. I said thanks for keeping us safe to my placement officer. She quickly said it was not an issue of safety but rather they didnt’ want to have to pull us out in 6 months-year because they can’t get visas for us. Hopefully for the sake of the Uzbeks their government will reconsider and a new group will go in January! July 17, 2004 at 4:33 pm

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