If You’re a Pessimist…

by Nathan Hamm on 7/23/2004 · 3 comments

If you’re a pessimist, you’ll read this take on US-Uzbek relations as something to worry about. My opposition to decertification came out of pessimism and the general trends in US-Uzbek relations (which I think were born partially out of too-high expectations on Karimov’s part). Read in this light, decertification is just another in a series of shoves towards Russia.

However, I’m not totally a pessimist, and there are things mentioned in the piece that give reason to believe that relations won’t get as bad as I fear. The US will continue to have considerable leverage because of the income and stability that Khanabad Airbase generates and our place as one of Uzbekistan’s largest trading partners.

So, it might not be all bad…

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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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Matt Frost July 23, 2004 at 4:26 pm

It’s not pessimism that’s got you down, Nathan – it’s disappointed optimism.

A certain euphoric idea really took hold during and after the Afghanistan war, when it looked like we might create a little squad of Mongolias around Russia’s southeastern frontier – that is, countries that use warm relations with the US to protect themselves from intrusive Russian power. I admit I fell for it too. I imagined autocrats waking up to the benefits that would come from good US relations and democratization, and I pictured these nations as even a democratizing force for Russia itself.

But Mongolia really is a unique case, and I don’t think it’s likely to be repeated elsewhere. Uzbekistan is more likely to be representative in that its leader is playing both sides, trying to get the most out of each.

Much as I hope to see our influence spread in the Russian near abroad, I think the process will be ambiguous, incremental, and not very gratifying from a moral perspective. Examples like Georgia and Mongolia will be rare and probably short-lived, and there’s not much return on investment if we decide to try to buy our way into the good graces of Karimov and his peers. After all, can you think of any dictator in recent history who sacrificed his power just to achieve better relations with the US?

So within the real of the possible, this article describes what amounts to a decent, reasonable outcome. It only seems discouraging if you’re comparing it to an alternative that never really would have come to pass anyway.

Matt Frost July 23, 2004 at 4:30 pm

oops. “the realm of the possible…”

praktike July 23, 2004 at 10:05 pm

Nathan, why don’t you try to get paid to write for Jamestown? Looks like they need people.

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