Germans to Stay at Termez

by Nathan Hamm on 12/11/2005 · 20 comments

Remember how the Germans said they were exploring other basing options after other EU members were told to remove their troops from the base near Termez? Well, they’ve decided what they’re going to do.

Text of report by Uzbek TV on 10 December

[Presenter] Uzbek President Islom Karimov received the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany, Friedbert Pflueger, at the Oqsaroy [presidential] residence today.

[Correspondent over video of the talks] Within the framework of the visit, political consultations were held between Uzbekistan and Germany. Both sides confirmed their intention to develop bilateral relations on the basis of Uzbekistan and Germany’s joint statement on the foundations of bilateral relations from 11 April 1995. The sides stressed the importance of holding consultations and talks on the issues of interest to both countries. They also confirmed their readiness for dialogues at both bilateral and international levels.

They noted the positive development of Uzbek-German relations and confirmed their intention to continue to cooperate in the political, economic, trade, cultural and humanitarian fields, as well as in democratizing society, training specialists and developing tourism.

Agreements on continuing to cooperate with the German military contingent in using the infrastructure of the town of Termiz were reached. Uzbekistan and Germany will continue to cooperate in fighting terrorism and will strive to contribute to international peace and stability in Afghanistan by implementing the provisions of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The German side thanked the Uzbek side for allowing it to use the Termiz airport [on the border with Afghanistan] and noted that the Uzbek side did its utmost to help the German servicemen work in the town of Termiz. Taking into consideration the long-term nature of the German contingent’s stay in Termiz, the German side expressed potential readiness to take measures to implement projects aimed at developing the town’s infrastructure as from January 2006. The Uzbek side will create the necessary conditions for this on a long-term basis. With the aim of further developing partnership relations, both sides agreed to make joint efforts to deepen cooperation in the areas of mutual interest.

Source: Uzbek Television first channel, Tashkent, in Russian 1430 gmt 10 Dec 05

BBC Monitoring

Uzbekistan has made quite clear though that it will only suffer the presence of foreigners who bend over backwards for them and never speak up in criticism. Perhaps Germany has changed its Uzbekistan policy and will no longer press for an inquiry into Andijon or reforms. The statements above about increasing “cooperation in the areas of mutual interest” certainly suggest to me that quite a bit will be off-limits in bilateral relations. But I have a hard time understanding why Germany would want to give so much to keep 300 troops in Uzbekistan–as long as they are there, they are more or less political hostages that allow Uzbekistan to keep demanding Germany go to great lengths to please their hosts. Would Berlin fight against potential EU efforts to broaden sanctions against Uzbekistan at some point in the future?

Though Germany certainly can make its own decisions on where it wants to base its troops, it is sending a horrible message. I am always tempted to rip on European states for engaging in the kind of unilateral behavior the US catches so much grief over. In Germany’s case, the criticism carries a bit more force because the EU has been so clear regarding its position on Uzbekistan of late.

UPDATE: This isn’t the only thing that stinks regarding the German government’s relations with former Soviet states.


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This post was written by...

– 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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{ 19 comments }

Laurence December 11, 2005 at 5:32 pm

Of course, I differ. IMHO, it sounds like the Germans know what they are doing so far. Angela Merkel grew up in the former German Democratic Republic and knows how to deal with autocratic regimes. There are also quite a number of Uzbeks living in Germany–my students who couldn’t get American scholarships went to German universities, thanks to DAAD and other German programs. And Andrea Berg, the new Human Rights Watch person in Tashkent, is German. So, I think they have their own information “back channels.” Give them some credit, please. Their policy may be a little more subtle than US and EU condemnation, but that doesn’t make it automatically wrong.

Nathan December 11, 2005 at 6:04 pm

Subtle? Please. And I’d love to know what they are hoping to achieve. It certainly does not seem likely that they are trying to achieve their previously stated policy on Uzbekistan, nor are they in harmony with EU policy on Uzbekistan.

Were the stakes higher, I could see a little more wisdom to what they are doing. But it’s 300 troops at a fairly steep price.

Andy December 12, 2005 at 12:48 am

I’d imagine that the decision has much to do with Merkel’s worldview, which is very much based on realpolitik.

I also think it is very likely that the German decision was made with at least tacit EU and US support. Countries who don’t want to be directly associated with the decision but who can, nonetheless, see the benefit to themselves of having a friendly base in the region (and the benefit of maintaining a conduit to Karimov’s regime).

Having said all that, I think it’s a bad, bad idea. Sends all the wrong signals, gives Karimov the impression that he has some support within the EU and that all is not yet lost, etc, etc.

Rustam December 12, 2005 at 7:06 am

Do agree with Andy, agree that it was with the support of EU and the US who are facing real difficulty in finding other bases to keep up the operations in the Afghanistan going. And agree with Nathan as well that it is a wrong policy in long term, cooperation with the evil to fight with the lesser evil (now) in Afghanistan, sends really wrong signals to IshAK and to Uzbeks who were waiting, expecting real sanctions from EU and what they have is this – Almatov in the hospital in Hanover, relaxing after job well done as well as smiles and handshakes with the dictator whose hands are in blood of hundreds of innocent people who were shot dead in Andijan and those who continue to be prosecuted without any due process and fair trial and are destined to be killed in jail as a result of a “fight with an inmate” or will burn themselves to death while “spilling hot water when drinking a cup of tea”.
And disagree with Laurence, because I am also one of those students in Britain who could not get scholarship in the US and do know number of my friends who are in Germany, yes maybe Merkel knows how to slowly topple the dictatorships from inside but neither me nor others like me we can not and do not want to wait another thirty years for her plans to give result and sadly we do not have a JFK to give speech in Astana and proclaim the fight against evil to be open and we can not rely on solid support in Washington and in Brussels to fight our dictator.
Frankly speaking I do not understand some people who represent US school of political thought, You are neo-conservatists or not, where are those calls to be decisive when it comes to the national security and geopolitical issues as well as export of democracy and liberty, what about “Old Europe”, why You were criticizing German vision of foreign policy regarding Iraq just yesterday and You agree with it today when it comes to Uzbekistan, or Uzbekistan is not a threat for Israel and therefore You agree to let go of it?
He is a real killer and that is it. He must be challenged and dealt with, he will not hesitate to kill another thousand of Uzbeks if anything like Andijan will happen again and believe me it will if he will continue to be there. He is a threat to Uzbekistan, to the Region, to the geopolitical interests of the US and to the security of the World.

David L December 12, 2005 at 10:14 am

I guess the Germans won’t be criticizing the decision to close down the RFE bureau in Tashkent then (reported on fergana.ru today). That was really the last functioning news bureau after IWPR and BBC closed. The German position is pretty indefensible, and will of course end badly. Some people never learn. But I’m not sure its supported throughout the EU – there’s a lot of different positions at the moment, on both Uz and on Kazakhstan. But don’t expect much criticism under the Austrian presidency, starting from January.

Brian December 12, 2005 at 10:22 am

Cheers Rustam. I agree that Germany’s course of action in this case (if that is indeed its course of action, as Uzbek TV may be painting a rosy picture) simply weakens the US/EU stance. The EU has made it clear that it is displeased with Uzbekistan, and it has provided some real ammunition… sanctions and visa bans. That’s good stuff. Now Germany comes along and publically ignores the visa ban… and seemingly gets its base in return. So much for a unified EU foreign policy.

And Laurence, what’s this ace-up-the-sleeve that you believe Germany has? Face it, the West has only limited influence in Uzbekistan for good or for bad. Germany may as well both be principled and not make the EU look like a fool.

Disillusioned kid December 12, 2005 at 1:57 pm

Anyone got any idea what Germany’s economic relations with Uzbekistan are like? Is there more involved here than just a base and 300 troops?

Nathan December 12, 2005 at 2:33 pm

I think they’re the fourth largest export market for Uzbekistan, but I’m far too lazy to look up what it is they buy. As is usually the case though, I don’t think economics is the right road to go down to understand the policies of Western states towards Uzbekistan.

Djana December 12, 2005 at 2:46 pm

Bravo Rustam! Наконец-то, хоть есть единомышленники!

“Frankly speaking I do not understand some people who represent US school of political thought, You are neo-conservatists or not, where are those calls to be decisive when it comes to the national security and geopolitical issues as well as export of democracy and liberty, what about “Old Europe”, why You were criticizing German vision of foreign policy regarding Iraq just yesterday and You agree with it today when it comes to Uzbekistan, or Uzbekistan is not a threat for Israel and therefore You agree to let go of it?
He is a real killer and that is it. He must be challenged and dealt with, he will not hesitate to kill another thousand of Uzbeks if anything like Andijan will happen again and believe me it will if he will continue to be there. He is a threat to Uzbekistan, to the Region, to the geopolitical interests of the US and to the security of the World.”

Nathan December 12, 2005 at 2:58 pm

Rustam, regarding political labels, I’m much closer to being a neoconservative than Laurence.

Anyway, what do you think the West’s policy towards Uzbekistan should be?

Laurence December 12, 2005 at 6:33 pm

Rustam,

I don’t think Angela Merkel is a friend of communist dictators, just that she is smarter, better educated about the former Soviet Union and more subtle in her approach than Bush or Blair in bringing about change. She didn’t get to the top of the CDU by being stupid or cowardly. Also, don’t think more JFK-type speeches (he got the US into Vietnam, remember?), riots, “tulip revolutions,” or whatever are going to work. And if it takes 30 years for a peaceful transition to real democracy, peace and prosperity, it’s a better bet than some rush job leading to civil war, a Russian invasion — or another Islamic Republic.

Bringing Israel into this discussion of Germany’s relations with Uzbekistan shows either extreme ignorance or dangerous prejudice. So I’m not going to comment further in this thread.

Nathan December 12, 2005 at 6:38 pm

I agree the Israel remark is ignorant and anti-semitism lite, but the point is more gracefully made when it’s not thusly announced.

Major John December 13, 2005 at 10:47 am

Rustam,

I am not sure I agree about the US/NATO struggling to replace Uz bases – we were, um…preparing for just such a contingency (Shindand *cough* *cough*) long before I redeployed home in April 2005. I am a bit disappointed in the Germans – They don’t have to be ham-handed and strident, but I don’t think working in the background will accomplish much with this bunch.

Nathan December 13, 2005 at 11:33 am

Major John, I think you’re 100% correct about not much being achievable anymore. I believed it was possible long past many felt such sentiments were plausible, and I think it’s painfully obvious now that pressuring or bribing the Uzbek government to reform is impossible now. And the way the deal is described, it looks more like Germany is paying off the government to stick around by agreeing to do all kinds of improvements.

Nathan December 13, 2005 at 11:34 am

Oh, and what really bugs me is that by sticking around, Germany is in a way saying (and I’m reading some of this by the way they put things on their Uzbekistan policy page I linked) that they are the “good Westerners” who are not trying to overthrow Karimov.

Andy December 14, 2005 at 12:47 am

I hadn’t actually read the German foreign Office page until today. This really quite shocked me – the kind of quote a tin-pot dictator would come up with, not a stable democracy.

“Uzbekistan looks on Germany as an important, preferential partner in Western Europe, views the German political and economic system as exemplary”

Major John December 14, 2005 at 10:15 am

Andy,

Has a nice, Andropovian ring to it, yes?

Sam December 16, 2005 at 3:22 am
Random December 27, 2005 at 5:41 am

Full sheet!
Do you really think that everything will be Ok if Karimov get out?
Andijan region has 70% of population of Uzbekistan and of course there are a lot of pure people. I hope you understand that pure people haven’t money to make revolt but vahabists have.
Nothing happens without people that want to have big money from situation.
And of course if you want to defense your country from vahabists and drugs you have to be cruel person. Look on Georgia. Is it better now? Is their people happy? No!
So, as I understand, Rustam and others only can bla-bla without understanding situation.

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