Another Uzbekistan (and beyond) Roundup (updated)

by Nathan Hamm on 10/5/2005 · 5 comments

Shorter this time though.

Kommersant reports on the levying of sanctions against Uzbekistan by the EU and makes an interesting observation about the growing isolation of Uzbekistan from the West.

Starting from yesterday, Uzbekistan became the only country in post-Soviet space that is facing such serious international sanctions. And the Uzbek authorities are not doing better than, let say, their Byelorussian colleagues. The Minsk leadership was just announced as “persona non grata” in Europe, but nobody demands to sue Alexander Lukashenko in International Criminal Court. Now, Karimov can just follow the example of Turkmenia’s ruler and totally isolate itself from the outside world. It is clear the EU and United States will not limit themselves to these actions.

You know you’re doing something wrong when you draw comparisons to Belarus and Turkmenistan in the same paragraph. And it’s even worse when it’s pointed out that unlike the leaders of those two states, there are some who want to drag you befor the ICC.

And the story goes on to point out that this has costs for Russia.

However, the friendship with Uzbekistan might cost Moscow a lot. First of all, it might completely kill all the diplomatic and specialists’ efforts to improve Russian image abroad. Second, the partnership of Russia and Uzbekistan cannot be long and stable — it will last as long as Karimov’s presidency. Even if the Karimov successor would be a person from his surrounding, most likely he will reconsider all the agreements with Moscow and would go to the West to ask for forgiveness.

I wish I could find where I said it, but I recall arguing some months ago that Russia is going to have its hands full and will have strong incentives to get the Uzbek government to tone it down somewhere down the road.

As if one story along these lines was not enough, Kommersant has another one. This one argues that in trying to avoid the fates of Shevardnadze and Akaev, he crossed the Rubicon at Andijon and now potentially faces the fate of Milosevic. It’s not a terribly convincing argument, but the photo composition and comparison of situations is unflattering to say the least.

Yesterday’s State Department press briefing mentioned Uzbekistan and Rice’s upcoming trip to the region. Maybe it’s just my habitual unfairness to the press, but this struck me as a doltish question.

Why doesn’t she — I mean, Uzbekistan is a country which clearly hasn’t done what the international community wants in having this investigation into the killings in Andijan. Isn’t this a missed opportunity by the Secretary of State in putting pressure on the Uzbek Government?

A much better answer to that question comes in this story.

“We are not going to reward them with a visit after they have stiffed us,” said a State Department official, who was authorized to speak to reporters on the condition of anonymity.

UPDATE: Rather than start another post, I’ll add a few more stories along the lines of those above here as an update. (Thanks to Laurence for the links, and to him and others for those over the last few days for which I’ve failed to credit.)

First up, RFE/RL carries an interview with Daniel Fried discussing US policy in Central Asia. He characterizes the US as having paid much attention to the region lately, but I think that is a borderline disputable claim–there’s something of a yes, but… that one could counter with. He does cite three reasons for the attention that one may take as signs that attention to the region will increase and/or why the region will be taken as more worthy of attention.

  1. Uzbekistan has been an increasing source of headaches for the United States not just because of Andijon but because of a lack of reforms that we had assumed were agreed to by Karimov in 1992. And because of the importance of Uzbekistan to the region as a whole, it is an area of concern for the United States.
  2. The “March Events” in Kyrgyzstan make US attention something of an imperative in order to try to shore up and try to extend positive political changes in the country.
  3. Kazakhstan is becoming more and more important every day not just because of the oil sector but because of reforms encouraging economic growth in multiple sectors of the economy.

Or, as he so ably summarizes,

Important time is a phrase, behind that is an actual thought — one country is moving backward, one country moving ahead quickly but somewhat uncertainly and Kazakhstan moving quite steadily ahead on the economic side with a presidential election, which is a fascinating moment.

Additionally, when speakng of democratic reform in the region, he makes an observation one might not expect to hear from a diplomat.

I’m always a little suspicious of ‘one’s own path to democracy’ because one’s own path turns out to be anything but a path to democracy.

Too true… argues that EU sanctions on Uzbekistan may shorten Karimov’s term in office by sowing dissension in the ranks of the bureaucracy.

Sergei Yezhkov’s argument is not at all unrealistic. There have long been murmurs of there being some powerful officials not being entirely happy with Karimov, and it would not be too much to say that after Andijon, Karimov showed a touch of fear.

To summarize though, Yezhkov points out that the arms and aid provisions in the sanctions do not hurt Uzbekistan much. The aid was never a large amount, nor were the arms shipments especially significant. Both can be replaced. The travel ban does hurt though. Yezhkov says it is only a matter of time before officials will worry about foreign bank accounts being frozen and Western governments taking aim at the webs of financial relationships involving their wives and children overseas. Further, he notes that the country’s elites have been dragged into their situation–disliked by their own people and pariahs in the West–by Karimov, and that it may only be a matter of time before there is an attempt to tap into the anger of the population against the elites and the elites against the president.

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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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Denzil Uz October 5, 2005 at 10:12 pm

Agree with your notes on those ignonimous scribbles of Komersant which they dare to “article” or even “analyses”!
As for StateDep briefing, I would drow attention to that:
“QUESTION: Are they still cooperating in war on terror stuff?..
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, fighting terrorism, we think is something that we would encourage cooperation with all states. President Karimov has said that he has a problem with the IMU and IMU terrorists. Certainly everybody has an interest in seeing that that kind of terrorism doesn’t spread. We have had in the past counterterrorism cooperation with the Uzbek Government and we stand ready to continue that kind of cooperation in the context of a broad relationship, again, not sacrificing any cooperation on counterterrorism or any other — or security cooperation.”

Is it means, that the US no more consider IMU as a threat for themselves, but only for Uzbeks? Am I mistaken about bunch of IMU fighters around Osama? And, who could explain what that “broad relationship” means?

Nathan October 5, 2005 at 10:40 pm

No, it doesn’t mean much. It’s in Diplomatese. It certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t see the IMU as a threat anymore.

And if you’re thinking that I’m criticizing Kommersant you’re not getting my drift. (I understand why you might think I’m criticizing them, but I assure you I’m not). “You” refers to Uzbekistan.

Denzil Uz October 6, 2005 at 3:02 am

😉 Thanks for reference, but I wouldn’t dare..
I don’t think you’re criticizing Komersant – I just agreed with your comments on their articles, which, well, I still couldn’t swallow as “analyses”.
But returning to the StateDep briefing – you’ve probably mentioned that McCormack denied that the counterterrorism was discussed during D.Freid’s visit to Tashkent? How it’s possible when almost every issue in regional agenda in any case linked to the counterterrorism? Talking about possibility of international investigation for 3 hours? – I couldn’t imagine it. Maybe it means that the Whit House no more interested in Uzbekistan in the sphere of counterorism, thus making Tashkent only a subject of “renovation”? Its just a question and… fear that actually its counteterrorism became the sacrifice of perspectives of “broader relations”..
Sorry if I’m not blending with the drift 😉

Nathan October 6, 2005 at 11:17 am

That’s right, I was critical of the second article. My bad.

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