What Does Bush’s Election Victory Mean for Central Asia?

by Laurence on 11/3/2004 · 7 comments

Vladimir Putin has said Bush’s victory is a blow against international terrorism. What does this mean for Central Asia?

Perhaps readers of The Argus might have some ideas…

Nathan? Asror? Alisher? Tatanya? pf?


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{ 7 comments }

Asror November 3, 2004 at 10:33 pm

Well, is it Ok if I congratulate Mr Bush on victory first?:)
So, I actually think as an exchange student from Uzbekistan that it doesn’t matter for us, as the relations between countries not only depend on US President but also US Congress, the Parliament. Because the relations in the sphere in education and IT development is however seems to me stable as it was in the beginning of 90’s. And it was OK while Clinton adminstration and events 9/11 made these two countries to strengthen the cooperation to fight against terrorism.
According to the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Uzbek website the were held a speacial meeting with local and international journalists by initiative of US Embassy to Uzbekistan in the Hotel Intercontinental on the 3rd of Nov.
In Uzbekistan Kerry defeats Bush by 87 votes(230/143) in alternative elections.
Some local observers say that if Kerry win in elections the White House will have to look thru the relations with Uzbekistan.
But Mr Purnell says, that the results of ballot doesn’t make any changes and the close relations will remain the same.
But none of Uzbek officials didn’t want to express their views. However famous political commentator Kobilbek Karimbekov shared his opinions with a pleasure.
He said that re-election of George Bush is acceptable for Uzbekistan. Because his policy in Central Asia is more stable. Moreover he is more known in Uzbekistan, and at the same time most people don’t know about John Kerry much.

Nathan Hamm November 4, 2004 at 1:20 am

I could, and may, build on this some more, but a lot of my reason for supporting Bush has to do with his foreign policy radicalism. He sees stability as a means, not an end–a crucial difference between his worldview and the one that his father personified all-too-well.

I was very pleased with how the Bush administration has played its hand in the Caucasus. It would be interesting to explore how Clinton would have treated the 2003 unrest surrounding elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia. My hunch, knowing what I know of Clinton’s foreign policy record, is that he would have been much more reluctant about abandoning Shevardnadze and much more vocal about criticizing Aliev. Someone in the Bush administration recognized the opportunity to advance the rule of law in Georgia and seized it. Those same people recognized that the roots of the Azeri opposition were pretty shallow and correctly decided that stability in the short-term provides better chances for democracy in the mid- to long-term.

I want this in Central Asia. When people ask me what the chances for political change in Uzbekistan are, I have to admit that I have no clue. I don’t think anyone does, but I see a couple plausible scenarios:

1) Protests like Kokand keep pace and spread, causing intra-elite tensions to explode into public wrangling for power.
2) Karimov dies, either being replaced by Gulnora Karimova or the victorious faction of the inevitable intra-elite battle (who might even overthrow Gulnora).

[I can’t really speak to the other countries as well, but I think the K-stans have much better odds of being able to liberalize at the ballot box.]

In any situation, I want a US administration interested in democracy and the rule of law present, respected, and influential to midwife a potential transformation. What Bush has shown me so far in the region indicates that he’s putting the pieces in place that leave the US well-poised to seize political opportunities that present themselves in Central Asia.

Would Kerry be better? Maybe. However, I’m not terribly impressed with the Clinton foreign policy team in any region of the world, and I don’t think I’d want them forming our policy in Central Asia.

Alisher November 4, 2004 at 8:03 am

I also agree that even if Senator Kerry had been elected the President, there wouldnâ??t be any major change in the US policy in Central Asia. President Bush did an extremely great service to Central Asia by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, but now,I think it is the high time to expand this cooperation into economic field, or else America will continue losing its influence in the region. The Russians are already investing billions of dollars in Central Asia, the Chinese will come sooner or later. If America seeks to make Central Asian countries democratic and pro-American, it will be more successful by stimulating its companies to invest in the region. Economic development is the best way to democracy, and not vice versa.

Laurence November 4, 2004 at 8:56 am

Thank you Asror, Nathan, and Alisher! Very interesting comments…

Nathan November 4, 2004 at 11:18 am

I agree Alisher. The problem is that it’s awfully hard for the US to play a significant role in the Uzbek economy. American businesses have a really hard time understanding or accepting the risks of doing business in an economy like Uzbekistan’s. Russians are right at home. Add our distance to that and it only gets harder.

On the other hand… I think that the US could play a very constructive role by putting a higher priority on economic reforms.

Andy November 4, 2004 at 3:51 pm

I’m pretty sceptical, too, that the US can play as much of a role in Central Asian politics as many of us would like. It simply doesn’t seem to get the business or political climate in Central Asia and, as a consequence, is investing far less money in the region than it ought if it wants to secure serious long-lasting influence. This is especially a problem in the energy sector, where it does seem to be being squeezed out by both Russia and China.

(Alisher – from what I’ve read recently, China is already a multi-billion dollar player in the region. It invested $4.3 billion back in 1997 to buy Kazakhstan’s Aktyubinsk Oil Company & I’m sure its done more deals since then).

I think we’ll be seeing a lot more Sino-Russian co-operation in Central Asia too over the next few years, further increasing the pressure on the US.

On the plus side for America (and Bush’s re-election has helped here, I think) is that it does have a pretty substantial military force in the area which is likely to be around for a few years at least. Not only the thousands of troops in Afghanistan, but its airbases is Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

All this helps Central Asian states more confident in their efforts to play great powers off against each other, giving them a much better opportunity to develop their own policies, rather than being pressured into policies by other, more powerful, states.

Tatyana November 4, 2004 at 6:25 pm

Sorry, Laurence, can’t say anything on the subject.
I ve lived in Uzbekistan when 1 to 2 y.o., and left former SU 12 yrs ago. I don’t think I’m the one qualified to speculate.

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