Research Help Request

by Nathan Hamm on 1/31/2007 · 7 comments

Without going into too much detail, my master’s thesis explores how differences between domestic political competition in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan explain the differences between the two states’ foreign policies. Part of this will involve exploring certain key moments in foreign policy for each of the two. For Uzbekistan, the post 9/11 strategic partnership with the United States and the post-Andijon period are obvious choices. And for Kazakhstan, I plan to include 9/11 not so much because it created a sudden change, but because it created new opportunities for Kazakhstan. Of course, these are both handy because I am extremely familiar with post-9/11 Central Asian foreign policy.

There are, of course, more cases to be explored. For Kazakhstan, I will also almost certainly include Nazarbaev’s decision to define Kazakhstan as a multinational state with a borderline civic national identity. But what other important moments in each country’s foreign policy would readers suggest I also include?

Also, has anyone seen an academic clearly argue that Kazakhstan’s success is primarily due to oil? I have not done extremely deep digging on this yet, but I was a bit surprised I could not quickly find at least one example of such an argument in a scholarly journal. The argument is out there, but it seems to be more of a popular argument that is presented as self-evident.

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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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Laurence January 31, 2007 at 11:12 am

Nathan, sounds like an interesting research project. Perhaps oil is not a curse, after all(looking at Norway and Scotland, for example). On the other hand, oil can’t be the only factor–look at Turkmenistan. So you might also consider geopolitics: proximity to Iran and Afghanistan; population density; and ethnic makeup (Kazakhstan has the highest proportion of ethnic Slavs)…

rustam January 31, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Great project no doubt. I would advice not to be restricted with the 9/11 and the oil, however tempting it might be, but focus on what you have stated – domestic political competition – in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, i.e. start from the make or break period of first 3-5 years of the independence of these two countries; what crucial “reforms” Karimov was able to pass through the democratic and more or less powerful parliament of the initial years; for example look at the parliamentary minutes of the 7th session of the Supreme Council (then Parliament) of Uzbekistan, dubbed as “the last day of democracy in Uzbekistan” by Jahongir Mamatov who took part in that session, this is the link to it but it is in Uzbek – as well as other sessions held in 1990 -1991 when the the strategic decisions were taken, such as will it be a parliamentary system or presidential, who will nominate candidates for the judiciary, how the elections will be held ……. I think you should find out why Karimov was able to hold and keep all the law enforcement in his hands, why Nazarbaev could not or did not.
I hope it will be of some use and good luck, would appreciate a lot if you could send a copy when you will finish.

Rustam January 31, 2007 at 10:56 pm

In the case of Uzbekistan it is a big mistake to suggest and to try to link the domestic political competiton to the shifts in the foreign policy during the 9/11 and Andijon period, becuse since at least 1997 there is only one overwhelming factor which could give the meaning to these sudden shifts and it is the survival of the regime of Karimov and of the so called family.
Because there is no domestic political competition what so ever even to focus on.

Nathan January 31, 2007 at 11:05 pm

There still is competition between elite networks in certain regions and the center. I should make clear that I am not looking at mass politics, but only at elite political competition. And I am looking at how that competition shapes and limits (or, in the case of Kazakhstan, does not limit so much) foreign policy options.

So, I agree that post-9/11 and Andijon foreign policy decisions by Karimov were about regime survival, and that the decisions he made were more or less dictated by threats, or perceived threats, from elite networks.

Josh February 2, 2007 at 8:46 am

I’d say also that Kazakhstan’s decision to renounce nuclear weapons, and the inroads that gave them into western countries, was a big defining moment of their foreign policy.

Similarly, what about how the conflict in the Ferghana Valley (i.e. the IMU) affected Uzbekistan’s relationship with its neighbors?

Dolkun February 4, 2007 at 9:05 pm

You mention the strategic partnership in light of elite competition.

I’m curious if you’ve got an opinion on Starr’s assertion that reformers inside Uzbekistan pushed for the democracy clauses in the partnership, but when the U.S. didn’t support them, the old “clans” regained the initiative. It sounds a bit farfetched to me, and I haven’t seen Starr providing evidence, but if you’re researching it, maybe you’ve found something?

Also, on the oil question, while this probably isn’t part of your project, an obvious difference between the U.S., Norway and Netherlands and Kazakhstan, Nigeria, et al, is that the former had liberal democracies in place when oil was found while the latter did not. Perhaps a simple way of saying this is that oil wealth helps strengthen the existing system.

Nathan February 5, 2007 at 1:47 am

Do you know where he made that assertion? It might be worth bringing up in the paper. He has a point, though I think it is an unintended one.

I think that Karimov had a genuine interest in implementing certain reforms that would be heralded as a step in the right direction by Western partners. In a sense, he is an extremely situational reformer. In short, I think he supported reforms when the result would be a net gain for his power relative regional elite networks. Such reforms include certain types of economic reform (currency convertibility comes to mind, though the exact argument about why it hurts the regional elites escapes me right now) and political reforms like the one he’s pushing through now to increase the role of political parties. That one, I argue, is all about reducing the role of regional elites.

I think that the lack of unequivocal US support for Karimov did harm his position in the country and gave the regional elites reason to be a bit more uppity. But I certainly wouldn’t characterize this as a US failure to support reformers in the government. The cleavages that matter in Uzbek politics aren’t, I argue, ideological. (And damned if that doesn’t have some bad implications for the future.)

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