Continuing the discussion

by Nathan Hamm on 6/23/2005 · 6 comments

There have been quite a few posts related to this one from yesterday.

Daniel Nexon disagrees, arguing that a relationship with Uzbekistan drags us in a risky direction. Very theoretical, but that’s probably to be expected.

Stygius and Brad Plumer come down more on my side. From Brad:

And then there’s military cooperation which, as Joseph Braude explains here, can at least get you a few steps closer to democratization, by promoting transparency in defense planning and democratic control of security forces. (Steven Cook has done some thinking along these lines too.) Just because we don’t have much leverage over Karimov, and can’t “force” him to, say, hold free elections, doesn’t mean nothing positive can come out of friendly engagement. In theory. Of course, if Karimov’s intent on scuttling the Uzbekistan-U.S. relationship, as he seems to be, then there’s no sense chasing after him. Engagement doesn’t mean frantic pandering. Foreign affairs are ugly but they don’t need to be pathetic.

For some fairly obvious reasons, we don’t want to be appearing to cozy up at the moment. In fact, the best thing to do in regards to Uzbekistan at the moment is to be stubborn and give the cold shoulder. Let Karimov keep talking crazy without response from us.

But, because there’s little else available with the current Uzbek government, continuing the military training relationship–something NATO should only perhaps temporarily suspend–and technical training for the government while keeping an eye clearly to achieving certain strategic goals is where we should go. Part of keeping our eye on our goals is to not let ourselves get into a position where we believe maintaining the current government is absolutely necessary for our success. In some ways, it is, in other ways it isn’t. It is a difficult balancing act to get from here to where we want to be that we are almost surely to screw up in some ways, but one that we need to take on more seriously than we have until now.

At Freiheit and Wissen, cntodd worries about being drawn into a geopolitical struggle over Uzbekistan. For whatever it’s worth, my reasons for wanting us to maintain what engagement we can with Uzbekistan (without bending over backwards, of course) has little to do with competing with China and Russia. I think they are both more bark than bite. I also don’t want us to take sides in any kind of internal political struggle in Uzbekistan unless one of the sides is clearly democratic or Islamist. What I am more concerned about is being well-positioned to deal with the situation. Like it or not, we will have to deal with it, and I would like us to be able to take another swing at making Uzbekistan a stable, more democratic country that is tied in to the rest of the world in the aftermath of unrest.


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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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{ 5 comments }

Mukhtar June 23, 2005 at 1:03 pm

If Karimov does indeed “defect” and “jumps” into the Russian/Chinese “camp,” my question is: so what? Does Uzbekistan then, what, turn into a hotbed of Islamism? Not likely, given the Russian and Chinese governments’ respective stance towards radical Islam in the north Caucasus and Uighurstan, respectively.

Uzbek gas is worthless, as the country is surrounded by – you guessed it – gas exporters. Foreign investors (who generally have a much higher pain threshold than the USG) deserted the country years ago. So again, this begs the question: who needs who?

BTW, NATO nations have already begun to privately announce they won’t be participating in exercises w/Uzbek forces under the auspices of PFP. UK has already announced, and Netherlands will do so in the next couple of days.

Андижон фарзандлари тинч ухланг. Сизнинг тўкилган онингиз учун Ўзбекистон президенти Каримов халаро жиноий судда жавоб беради.” 21 май куни соат 11:00да Тошкент марказида ўрнатилган Жасорат монументига ана шундай плакат ёпиштирилганини кўриш мумкин эди. Ушбу плакат 13 майдаги Андижон фожеасида Kурбон бўлганлар хотираси учун Жасорат монументи пойига гул қўйгани келган “Озод деklонлар” мухолифат партияси аъзолари ва ҳуқуқ ҳимоячилари томонидан ёзилган эди. Ислом ва насроний динлари анъанасига кўра, хотирлаш удуми одамларнинг Андижон ҳокимяти олдида қурбон бўлганларига 40 кун тўлгандан сўнг ўтказилди. Шунингдек, йиғилганлар монумент пойига гул ва юмшоқ ўйинчоқлар қўйишди.

Nathan June 23, 2005 at 1:06 pm

If Karimov does indeed “defect” and “jumps” into the Russian/Chinese “camp,” my question is: so what? Does Uzbekistan then, what, turn into a hotbed of Islamism?

No, but it certainly doesn’t get better.

I figure PFP is gonna go the way of the dodo, but I think it shouldn’t be a permanent decision.

Dan Nexon June 24, 2005 at 4:35 pm

“…but that’s probably to be expected.”

Heh. Don’t say I didn’t warn everyone.

Nathan June 24, 2005 at 5:02 pm

A very different style from my own, Dan. But I did take and thoroughly enjoy my Political Theory concentration courses 🙂

glory June 27, 2005 at 1:04 am

fareed zakaria makes the case for engagement, and is earning plaudits from both con^H^H^Hlibertarians and liberals 😀

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