Decertification–A Deeper Look

by Nathan Hamm on 7/20/2004 · 4 comments

The current issue of Perspective has analysis of decertifcation and its implications for Russo-Uzbek relation. It’s written by an Uzbek citizen studying in the US and discusses a few oft-overlooked issues such as the role of Gulnora Karimova (who just made quite a bit of money selling Uzdunrobita to a Russian company) in relations with Russia and succession in Uzbekistan.

However, the story that I think might be your first and last stop on decertification coverage comes in this week’s RFE/RL Central Asia Report.

While the entire story is certainly worth your read, here’s the meat,

The preceding is not intended to suggest that the consequences of the U.S. decision to limit aid to Uzbekistan hinge on inscrutable vagaries of great-power politics, that aid from governments and international lending institutions is pointless in the absence of a clearly demonstrated will to reform, that NGOs are too deeply mired in contradictory and self-defeating impulses to represent a viable alternative to engagement with the state, or that the very idea of building up civil society is a chimera. Rather, the aim has been to show that aid to “tough cases,” whether it comes in the context of U.S.-Uzbek relations or in the framework of international lending institutions, defies simple choices between engagement and disengagement; NGOs, for all their undeniable accomplishments in challenging environments, are not as pure a force for good as conventional wisdom often assumes; and that even the laudable goal of constructing civil society is more than a question of mechanics and mechanisms.

No sure-fire formulas exist for effecting, from without, productive change within a sovereign state. Even where an impressive international consensus obtains that change is necessary, as is the case with Uzbekistan, clear-cut conclusions prove elusive. In order to arrive at a clearer picture of how change might occur in Uzbekistan, and what role the international community might play, we need to move beyond the general issues of engagement and leverage to a closer examination of the nation’s internal dynamics. For although we confront a paucity of reliable information in our analysis of this crucial factor, it will almost certainly prove decisive in any changes that are to come. [emphasis mine]

Bingo. While I’ll admit ignorance when it come to certain aspects of Uzbek government and society, I do know enough to tell when someone is either ignorant or utterly full of it. Unfortunately, most who weigh in on US-Uzbek relations (and foreign policy in general, I’ve noticed) tend to be either ignorant or utterly full of it.

I sympathize with the argument that Uzbekistan’s government should be penalized for not keeping it’s words. But then again, we’re not talking about a puppy that pissed on the rugs. What we are talking about is a country of over 25 million people whose lives could take a drastic turn for the worse if we screw things up. We’re more or less feeling our way in our Central Asia policy, and honestly, that’s probably the best we can hope for at the moment. What so many critics of US involvement with Uzbekistan seem to advocate (when they bother to advocate anything) amounts, in my eyes, to charging forth in the dark.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we should figure out what does and doesn’t work before we set off boldly down a risky path.


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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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{ 4 comments }

Alisher July 21, 2004 at 2:48 am

The Dynamics of the Uzbek-Russian relations have been widely discussed in the aftermath of the decertification decision. In my opinion, the intensification of relations with China is also of great importance in the regional geopolitics. President Karimov has always said: “Uzbekistan has neither friends nor enemies, it has its interests”. So, I guess the Uzbek policy of balancing between great powers is still effective. In case Russian friendship becomes unsuitable, and it is impossible to improve Uzbek-American relations due to any reason, China could serve as a containement to Russian influence. Besides, China is very eager to increase its weight in Central Asia. Economically speaking Russia is not a match to China, but the Russians have an advantage of common history and of a “common language” with Central Asia. My guess would be that in the coming years Chinese governement will invest a lot in cultural, linguistic, and other exchanges with the countries of the region.

Do I have to learn Chinese now?…

praktike July 21, 2004 at 12:09 pm

Karimov as Metternich? Now there’s a thought.

Alisher Mirzabaev July 22, 2004 at 3:53 am

I wonder if Praktike could develop his idea..I dont want to misunderstand him.

Islam Karimov’s official biography is available at http://www.press-service.uz/eng/president_eng/president_eng.htm.

By the way, thank you for the comment, as it encouraged me to learn more about Metternich..

Alisher July 22, 2004 at 3:56 am

Praktike, I wonder if you could develop your idea..I dont want to misunderstand you.

Islam Karimov’s official biography is available at http://www.press-service.uz/eng/president_eng/president_eng.htm.

By the way, thank you for the comment, as it encouraged me to learn more about Metternich..

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