Senate Votes to Hold Base Payment

by Nathan Hamm on 10/7/2005 · 21 comments

The Senate has voted to delay the payment of $23 million to Uzbekistan for the use of/services related to K2. The payment is to be delayed at least one year.

Mr McCain said the actions of Uzbek President Islam Karimov were so alarming that the Senate should be considering sanctions against him, “not how to transfer millions of taxpayers’ dollars to his government.”

MosNews makes a bit clearer exactly why McCain is so upset with Uzbekistan and that he may want more than just a hold on the base payment.

McCain said Uzbek President Islam Karimov “has terminated counterterrorism cooperation with the United States,” has rejected all calls for in inquiry into his government’s suppression of the demonstration at Andizhan, and has “launched a campaign of anti-American propaganda.” Karimov’s government has taken “actions so alarming that one would think this body would be considering sanctions, not how to transfer millions of taxpayers dollars to his government,” McCain said.

EurasiaNet discusses the hardening US and EU stances towards Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan now wants more than just a strategic partnership with Russia. “Alliance” is being tossed about. Olesya discusses this over at neweurasia.

Meanwhile, as part of its campaign to speak out in Uzbekistan’s defense, Russia comments on the EU sanctions, again declaring its everlasting affection for dialogue and goodwill.

And in other Uzbekistan news, victims testified at the Andijon trial. Interestingly enough, most of the BBC’s story is about claims from an unidentified former interior ministry (the ministry that got cannibalized after Andijon) employee who says that many of the hostages were killed by Uzbek troops.

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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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JD October 7, 2005 at 7:51 pm

Wouldnt it have been smarter to get the troops and equipment out of Uzbekistan before making this kind of announcement?

Denzil Uz October 7, 2005 at 9:30 pm

Some say vice versa – it’s a smart provocation: “hope” for equipment arest for reimbursment refusal – consequences are predictable…

Nathan October 7, 2005 at 10:14 pm

JD, I don’t think it matters too terribly much. There’s not much Uzbekistan could hope to do in retaliation (what, freeze McCain’s Tashkent bank account?). Just about everything the Uzbek government could do to flick the US on the nose has been done.

And, Denzil, do you really think the Uzbek government would try to seize equipment from the US military? Get real.

Denzil Uz October 8, 2005 at 12:21 am

Of course I don’t think so (I mentioned “some”). My hope is this “retaliation game” will stop, because its getting more danger. But notice the tone of last high level interviews and articles in the West – “Let’s see what Tashkent do now. How they reply. And we go further”. There is even disapointment that Uzbeks still didn’t react to the last measures. That’s why it is not very surprising that “some” do believe in such primitive theories..

Nathan October 8, 2005 at 12:32 am

I can assure you, there’s not hope on the Western side that Uzbekistan will react. We don’t want escalation, and we have done a lot over the last few years that indicates we’ve been pretty forgiving. Further, the Uzbek government has done plenty over the past few months to escalate the situation in response to, well, no action from the West.

What is meant by the tone of those statements is that we aren’t going to push and plead in order to salvage the relationship. We’re more or less done. When Uzbekistan decides it wants a relationship with us, we’re more than happy to have one. But it won’t be one in which we make all the concessions.

Bertrand October 8, 2005 at 12:45 am

I think a lot of people are missing the point, taking a micro view of what is a macro situation. This is no small deal for Karimov.

Before Andijan the U.S., as well as the EU, didn’t have a cohesive policy regarding Uzbekistan. In the case of the U.S. whatever the State Department took away the Defense Department gave back. Since Andijan, the American administration has stiffened its back and State is in the driver’s seat, finally.

I think the current American administration knew the stakes when it decided to draw the line in Uzbekistan. They didn’t particularly want to lose the use of the K2 base, but understood it wasn’t essential and they couldn’t remain consistent with the articulated policy of worldwide democracy and human rights while continuing to be viewed as being in bed with Karimov. Before Karimov attracted world-wide attention because of Andijan, it was possible to sort of paper over his actions because not that many were really watching. Post-Andijan, that changed.

Now the U.S., OSCE and the EU are in line regarding Karimov, who did indeed cross a line after Andijan.

Before Andijan, Uzbekistan was governed mostly by greed. After Andijan, Karimov injected ego.

One has to harken back to the second post-Andijan press conference, which was supposed to be conducted by the Uzbek Prosecutor General. Karimov, ego driven and angered by questions about an independent investigation, couldn’t contain himself, seized the podium and in a stunning instant did a Full Monty before the entire world and, as has been suggested, crossed a socio/political Rubicon.

I suspect history will reflect it was that moment that marked the denouement of the Karimov regime. One can argue that greed is sustainable over some period of time, ego less so.

The clans are getting nervous and that doesn’t bode well for Karimov. If the U.S. and the EU begin to talk seriously about freezing bank accounts, Karimov’s buddies will throw him to the wolves. And all the while, the population of Uzbekistan grows markedly more restive. What happens next may not be pretty, but will likely be an improvement of sorts; it would be difficult to think of a worse situation. A new regime – likely mostly made up of some of the current players – will, as has been posited, probably try and reach out to the West. It will have to.

Karimov’s “vision” has been to make Uzbekistan, and himself, the central power of a vast region. He has now ceded that ground. He’s placed himself in the slow lane, driving an aging Lada with no brakes, while some of his neighbors pass him by in shiny new Mercedes. Some think he will be the “Turkmenbashi” of Uzbekistan. Too late, he didn’t start soon enough.

That is the corner into which he has painted himself.

The “alliance” with Russia will come a cropper soon enough. At the end of the day, Putin doesn’t need the aggravation of Karimov any more than Bush does. What’s really in play here is who will be respected by a new Uzbek regime.

As a political leader, Karimov is grave-yard dead. The question that remains to be resolved is whether Karimov is ultimately Shevernadze, Milosevic or Ceausescu.

Time will tell.

Nathan October 8, 2005 at 12:49 am

I concur, Bertrand. Great comments on the situation.

david_walther October 8, 2005 at 1:20 am

Great comment, Bertrand. I think you pretty well put a cap on the situation as we can see it… is there talk about freezing bank assets yet? I had not come across that… I agree that as soon as it starts impigning on personal fortunes of the rest of the elite here, Karimov is out the door. He will have outlived his usefulness.

Bertrand October 8, 2005 at 1:32 am

In a little known comment, the president of the EU noted that freezing bank accounts is an option. Moreover, members of the U.S. Senate have discussed this option.

There is talk, but so far no action. I suspect the principal actors are waiting for this idea to ferment.

brian October 8, 2005 at 11:54 am

Great stuff Bertrand, I’m printing that one out. One thing, this second press-conference where Karimov grabbed the podium. I either don’t remember that or wasn’t aware that such a defining moment happened. What did Karmimov say?

Nathan October 8, 2005 at 12:08 pm

Brian, I’m guessing it’s this (also here). They were a little hard to find in my archives (because I was doing big posts with various stories back around then), but I’m thinking it’s that. I seem to recall reading a better story back then about the conference, where, if I recall, we received the final, definitive word on what actually happened in Andijon according to the Uzbek government. Hell, I think there was even a book printed that came out of the ideas at the press conference.

Irina October 8, 2005 at 1:03 pm

From what I’ve been reading, CA countries, (as well as others) have been restricting NGOs. Well, maybe help should be conditional on the presence of NGOs. And maybe, if the government is deemed to corrupt, most of the aid packages should go to trustworthy NGO groups who work directly with people and can distribute the aid more appropriately… That way, people won’t suffer, but the government will!

Denzil Uz October 9, 2005 at 3:13 am

Just a few modest comments:
1st. As could I recall, it began from 1996 when different kind of pundits were declaring every year the “moment that marked the denouement of the Karimov regime” at least and “collapse of the Central Asia” at whole. Well, I’d agree with the last quote of Bertrand – time will tell. But, don’t you over emphasize, naming the noted press-conference as “socio-polical Rubicon”? Why so? I’ve seen and heard much more emotional and sudden addresses of other state leaders, whose both relations with the US and internal condition were not better than of Uzbekistan. Kill me, but I don’t remember that it brought to the denouement..
2nd. You’re really believe on the effectiveness of so called “accounts freezing”?! I assume, you’re under the influence of Sergey Yezhkov article in telling that it would bring to the coup d’etat. Don’t be naïve – a) it’s not such a simple thing to track the offshore activities and inter-banking schemes “person-by-person”, including informal financial and investment market (“Asian style trust system” is much different from European one); b) people who has “real amounts” not so stupid about diversification of their actives. Don’t forget about Bahrain, Shanghai, Hon-Kong, even not mentioning about Russia and Baltic states.
3rd. One very popular and enduring myth about Uzbekistan among foreign experts – is “Uzbek clans”. Well, its not really a myth, but history. Believe it or not – significance of the traditional clans-system is dissolved in the last decade. If you really want to deeply understand this, its enough to make few tables: inter-“clan” marriages, dynamics of the local and central principals’ appointments, share-holding balance both in business and administration, etc.

Uzbek October 9, 2005 at 12:50 pm

Being an Uzbek it is, mildly said, very strange to read the comments posted by Denzil Uz. I really do not understand when he/she says – My hope is this “retaliation game” will stop, because it’s getting more danger – regarding the sanctions imposed by EU and the decision of the US Senate to delay payment of 23 mln. USD. I would like to ask dangerous for whom??? For the population of Uzbekistan, who for so long have not heard or seen any report prepared by the corrupt government of Karimov stating the amount of foreign investment or ODA received and were it was spent, what specific public projects were undertaken and who were for the past 5-7 years have been living under the stupidest slogan put forward by Karimov himself “O’z uyingni o’zing asra” (in Eng. “Save your house yourself”), i.e. we are, the government, too busy doing our stuff so do not bother us with your day to day survival issues.
Having read the previous comments of Denzil Uz on other issues as well as this one related to the effectiveness of freezing bank accounts, frankly speaking, I am really saddened and angered, because I get the sense that Denzil Uz is trying to set the tone of hopelessness, that nothing works against the dictator, his daughters, his mafia, whose hands are in blood of innocent Uzbek people and therefore let’s don’t touch them. The freezing of accounts will work for sure, we have the info needed to find these accounts, we had the Financial Times articles on Karimov’s daughter’s financial deals, millions of USD transfers to Dubai and London for consultancy services and her companies in Moscow and London, we had a report of an Uzbek airline caught in Moscow with a full of gold bullions without any required documentation what so ever, the money in these accounts represents such a considerable sums that whether they want it or not it leaves a wide and deep trail. If we want it is possible and what Denzil Uz says about “Asian trust system” is nonsense, they are not as developed and sophisticated to differ so much from Western models and after all we have to keep in mind that double entry system of accounting is the same in Asia, Europe or America.
In my opinion the comments posted by Denzil Uz, which as I stated try to establish the state of hopelessness, is possibly the result of two things:
1. Probably, Denzil Uz is from the category of people who for sure will be affected if the EU and the US, I hope and pray, will go ahead with the tougher sanctions, including freezing of accounts.
2. Denzil Uz is a member of one of the rich families in Uzbekistan (I guess because of the Karimov’s regime) and therefore does not give a damn about what the ordinary people feel, who what to see him brought before the International Court of Justice as soon as possible and on contrary would like to keep the status quo.
The comfort and wealth very limited number of the super rich, I should say super corrupt, Uzbeks are enjoying makes any changes seem very scary to them, because after all it is a Pandora’s box, therefore they are trying to depict the struggle of ordinary Uzbeks to get rid of dictator as choice between Islamic fundamentalism or dictator Karimov or like here, nothing works so don’t touch them or even better it is not a time to deal with a dictator in his own country killing his people because we have to focus on Iraq and etc.
In addition, I thank You Nathan for posting this article, I am glad that You are assisting Uzbeks like me who are really trying to get the plain truth to people in the West and I also really would like to thank Bertrand for his objective and true analysis of the significance of the changes taking place in the US and EU foreign policy directed to this region and Uzbekistan in particular.
I am truly glad that Central Asia is being recognised more or less to be as important as sub-Saharan African countries.

Uzbek October 9, 2005 at 12:58 pm


In my opinion, after the events in Andijon only two choices, Milosevic or Ceausescu, are left for Karimov. It is so because people will not forgive him for Andijon, it is unprecedented in the history of Uzbekistan SSR or independent Uzbekistan, who ever comes after him will have to acknowledge the true events that happened in Andijon with the aim to win the support of people, especially most densely populated Ferghana Valley and to start the rapprochement with EU and the US.

Laurence October 9, 2005 at 1:38 pm

It is good to see a real debate between Uzbek readers on this site. Very interesting to read Denil Uz (who may be as close to what is going on in Uzbekistan as anyone else, from the look of his English-language proficiency). He has sparked a valuable discussion, provoking a thoughtful response from Uzbek. It shows that many points of view are held in Uzbekistan. That realization alone is valuable information for Americans. I really do hope more Central Asian readers will contribute their own perspectives and analyses, under pen names, if need be.

brian October 9, 2005 at 5:25 pm

Good stuff, yes I hope both Denil Uz and Uzbek keep participating on this website.

Denil Uz,
What I think Bertrand and Sergey Yezhkov on were predicting was not that freezing bank accounts would be 100% successful, or even 50% successful. What they are trying to say is that the _threat_ of frozen bank accounts could scare the elites into action. Whether they have an Asian financial system or not, if they have a bank account in Switzerland, London, Cyprus or elsewhere in Europe or America, you could bet that they wouldn’t like to hear about not being able to access their money… even if they think their account is well hidden.

Denzil Uz October 9, 2005 at 10:37 pm

My dear Uzbek, if you permit:
1st. Thanks for the interest to my personality (actually, its a well-known feature of us, Uzbeks, to “sticking” each other 😉 ). But..Well, you’re right writing that I’m “rich” – thousands books and fifth generation of intelegencia makes me real rich, even with only $20 bucks in pocket. I’d say more – you and me are rich, because of traditions and culture, which teach us about the difference between leafing pages with soaked finger and spits on this pages..
Be honest, you even can’t imagine how I harshly criticize our policy and whatsoever among us, Uzbeks. And I don’t call it courage – courage, imho, is to face spits to your country and try to be objective not spitting back.
2nd. You asked – For whom this “retaliation game” is dangerous? Well, you’re again right that it dangerous for me, equal for my family, friends and co-citizens like you. Can you recall when sanctions have not brought to dangerous consequences – I hope, you wouldn’t dare to say that they were the blessing for ordinary (forget authorities) Yugoslavs, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, Burmanes, Indonesians, etc.?!
3rd. You wrote – “I am truly glad that Central Asia is being recognised more or less to be as important as sub-Saharan African countries”. Please, never again show you incompetence in history and geopolitics. And do not dare to compare Uzbekistan with sub-Saharan countries!

Dear Brian,
As for “the _threat_ of frozen bank accounts scare”. Maybe there is such scare, but I wouldn’t too dramatize its significance. First, let’s retrospect same kind of occasions when elite’s accounts were threaded – except Philippines it never brought to the regime-change. Even there it wasn’t the real cause, because (and you must agree) political structure in Manila is quite different from one in Tashkent. Although there are some geopolitical commons – remember Subic Bay?
Second, yes I’m pretty sure on ability of Western intelligence to track accounts and schemes, but.. Two factors – time and legal ground, both effectively usable by any account-holder. Police, FATF, whoever would need months to make their “tracking job”, add here time and inventiveness for finding a legal grounds to make personalized list, force the banks and assure the lawyers (sure, one hold the big account you hold a lawyer), etc. This is endless activity, which doesn’t necessarily force elite for regime change, because –
Third, why should this “elite” be sure that hunt for their would stop after kind of coup?! Who can guarantee or you hint to the breaking the direct deal?!

Matt W October 10, 2005 at 6:12 am

First of all, Bertrand, good stuff!

And a small point: As for freezing foreign bank accounts– I’d be inclined to agree with Denil that Asian banking would be the sticking point. European banks freezing funds, assuming they could and would do it, would probably hurt, but would not be comprehensive. Denil mentions Bahrain, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Russia as hiding places for the money of the Uzbek political elite– the one that sticks out in my mind is South Korea. The Dark Horse of the post-independence “Great Game” (sorry for the cliche), I’ve heard many well-to-do Uzbek acquaintances talk about perspective or existing Korean bank accounts. With all the business that the country does with Uzbekistan, it would make sense. I’m no Korea hand, but at far as I know, untangling the chaebol industrial-financial conglamorates to even identify Uz money would be beyond the scope of any sanctions.

I guess the question is, would a European freeze be enough?

Matt W October 10, 2005 at 6:13 am

First of all, Bertrand, good comment.

And a small point: As for freezing foreign bank accounts– I’d be inclined to agree with Denil that Asian banking would be the sticking point. European banks freezing funds, assuming they could and would do it, would probably hurt, but would not be comprehensive. Denil mentions Bahrain, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Russia as hiding places for the money of the Uzbek political elite– the one that sticks out in my mind is South Korea. The Dark Horse of the post-independence “Great Game” (sorry for the cliche), I’ve heard many well-to-do Uzbek acquaintances talk about perspective or existing Korean bank accounts. With all the business that the country does with Uzbekistan, it would make sense. I’m no Korea hand, but at far as I know, untangling the chaebol industrial-financial conglamorates to even identify Uz money would be beyond the scope of any sanctions.

I guess the question is, would a European freeze be enough?

Disha October 11, 2005 at 5:35 pm

“…But how will it play in Peoria?”

Guys, freezing personal bank accounts of Karimov is one thing, but skipping on the bill is another. It does not help but rather hurts the image of America in the CenAsian (and wider postSoviet) region. “They illegally refused to pay their bill” plays right into the common, if not prevalent, “they are arrogant, untrustworthy liars and cheats” meme, I’m afraid.

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