The Meaning of the US Eviction

by Nathan Hamm on 8/1/2005 · 3 comments

RFE/RL’s Gulnoza Saidazimova rounds up analysis on Uzbekistan’s eviction of the US air force from K2. I often disagree with Craig Murray, but I think he’s entirely correct here.

“Well, I think, Karimov probably thinks he’s been quite smart,” Murray said. “But I think in the long term he’ll discover he’s been pretty stupid, because the United States have been doing an awful lot on the international [scene]. And at the end of the day, the U.S. has a lot more resources available to it than Russia or China.”

Murray goes on to say that Kyrgyzstan and perhaps Tajikistan stand to benefit immensely from this situation and that the West should offer strong support for the Kyrgyz government to protect it from any attempts by the Uzbek government to pressure it.

Another analyst comments on the Russian role in Uzbekistan’s decision.

“Karimov understands that he has no chances [to win] a direct confrontation with Americans,” Sergei Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies, a Russian think tank, told RFE/RL from Moscow. “Russia is the only country he can appeal to. And it’s absolutely obvious that Russia has no interest in [seeing] the presence of the U.S. in Central Asia. Karimov’s decision to confront the U.S. is basically his struggle to survive. In this struggle, the first thing he decided to do is to get rid of [U.S.] military presence.”

I have to wonder to what extent Karimov thinks he can drive a wedge between Russia and the United States. One might think that he would expect only so far as it is in Russia’s interests, but he did foolishly assume that the United States unconditionally supported his policies when close relations commenced in 2001. He certainly shouldn’t get too comfortable as Russia has shown an increasing unwillingness to offer unconditional support to embarassing and troublesome clients.

UPDATE–Related commentary at Kommersant argues that Karimov has just signed his political death warrant. And, ATO opens its coverage with a not entirely accurate but entirely funny line about Karimov.

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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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Kisa August 1, 2005 at 4:51 pm

I would have to go with Kommersant!

squid123 August 1, 2005 at 5:50 pm

If nothing else, this should lay to rest arguments that the US had to maintain the base as “leverage” to extract concessions from the Uzbek government. When the issue is self-preservation, such minor benefits as a bilateral relationship with the world’s only superpower and (according sources I’ve seen) nearly $100 million per year, have no pull. It turns out that, as long as there were new patrons waiting in the wings, the US had nothing to offer all along.

Brian August 1, 2005 at 6:17 pm

respondng to squid123:
Which is a shame. For those of us who look at the Karimov regime and cringe and wonder “what can we (Europe/USA) do?” it’s even gotten more hopeless. I never really thought that we had much leverage on the Karimov regime with our base in Uzbekistan (and the money they got for it), but I held out some hope that perhaps the diplomats knew something that I didn’t: that our influence COULD eventually persuade positive reforms in the Uzbek government.

But now we have no leverage; we can withold the $22 million, we can impose certain sanctions and apply various pressure… but will it work? No way. Witholding the $22 million would be the principled thing to do, and it would feel good to give the Karimov regime a big “screw you!”, but at the end of the day that’s all it will do.

There’s really no good options in Uzbekistan anymore.

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