Ariel Cohen: Eurasia in Balance

by Laurence on 6/30/2005

Eurasia in BalanceJust hours before Muhammed Salih testified in the Senate, the Heritage Foundation hosted a book party for Eurasia in Balance: US and the Regional Power Shift, edited by Ariel Cohen.

A number of the authors were present, including Ali Koknar, Svante Cornell, Stephen Blank, and Martin Spechler. Invited NSC staffer Matt Bryza, now Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, was a no-show.

Still, there were plenty of people in the audience, a television crew from Russia’s RTR, and a strange-looking man from Belarus who acted like a spy (he wore a blue jean jacket and a white cap over a business suit), so there was plenty of entertainment value.

Curiously, little was said about Uzbekistan after Andijan, the interest of the audience and panelists alike, judging from the questions, seemed to be centered on Azerbijan and the new BTC pipeline. Of course, there’s oil in the Caspian. In that regard, Cornell’s comments that the US had alienated Aliev’s son–who wanted to be pro-Western–instead pushing the Azeri elite back into Moscow’s arms bore a striking similarity to the events in Ubekistan. From Cornell’s analysis, one might get the sense the Mr. Bryza and his co-workers don’t really understand the mentality of the region they are responsible for. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t show up?

Other than Azeri issues, Stephen Blank appeared to defend American support for Uighur separatists against protest from Martin Spechler and Ali Koknar, who thought it was counterproductive and pointless.

When it came to Uzbekistan-related issues, Blank seemed more critical of Karimov than Spechler, who stated that Karimov is “not as stupid or as thuggish as he is made out to be,” faint praise, but the best Karimov would get from the panel. Blank’s line, which he told RTR interviewers, seems to be that Karimov is a danger to the region–that Uzbekistan is exporting instability to its neighbors in the way Afghanistan used to, and therefore there must be either rapid reform or regime change. Blank said he didn’t speak for the Pentagon or US government, but it sure sounded like somebody’s talking points. I don’t know that Blank’s analysis is correct, in fact I’d advise Don Rumsfeld and his chief-of-staff Larry Di Rita (who used to work at Heritage) to double check their “metrics” before trying another regime change…

I wish he had gone on longer, but Ariel Cohen had little to say about the Andijan tragedy, other than comparing it to Beslan. In what sense? Blaming Putin/Karimov for overreacting? Sympathizing with victims of religious fanatics who don’t care about killing children? Warning the West to drop support for Chechens and other Islamists? Or all of the above?

There was almost nothing about the other Central Asian nations, either. Considering the big show going on in the Senate with the NGOs and Mohammed Salih, it looked a lot like Heritage was out of the loop on this one. However, the nice free lunch included a sandwich, soda, and cookie.

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