The wish of Uzbekistan to be the leader in the Central Asia is contrary to the Russian interests
This week attention of the Russian mass media was focused on a new sensational report, related to the problem of security provision in the CIS. On February 3 correspondent of Interfax reported from Tashkent that Uzbekistan would go out the collective security treaty. He referred to spokesman of the Uzbek Foreign Minister Bakhadyr Umarov. Uzbek Foreign Ministry pointed out that “the collective security treaty in its current form does not meet demands of the time, and does not perform the functions, which are laid on it”. In addition, according to Umarov, “Tashkent does not agree with the Russian military activity in some CIS countries, targeted at development of the integration of the former Soviet republics.”
Representative of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry did not specify in which countries Russia is active, but it is clear that Armenia and Tajikistan were meant. These allies of Russia are the outposts of its policy in the Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Uzbekistan has its own interests in both regions. Being surrounded by the former Soviet republics and permanently fighting Afghanistan, it is looking for the access to Europe, Indian Ocean, Eastern and South Eastern Asia. Uzbek leadership supports the idea of the trans-national oil and gas pipelines construction on the bottom of the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Persian Gulf. It agrees for the privileged supply of gas to Kirgizia and started construction of the highway Andizhan-Osh-Ergishtan-Kashgar in this country on account of its own investments. Official Tashkent would also like top construct a gas pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.
It is difficult to say if fulfillment of these plans contradicts the Russian interests, but it is evident that construction of the pipelines, bypassing its territory, is not beneficial for it. Meanwhile, it is impossible to directly associate the Russian economic interests with strengthening of the Russian military presence in Armenia and Tajikistan. This is evidently done primarily to provide for security of the borders of the whole CIS.
Uzbekistan, with assistance of which Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov won the power, lost his influence on Dushanbe. Meanwhile, Leninabad region and some other areas of compact residence of the Uzbeks represent a sphere of its interests. The main transportation routes to Fergana valley pass through Leninabad region. Contacts of official Tashkent have been established with Khudzhant best of all. Official Uzbek authorities would like to exchange the territory, through which the railway to Fergana passes, for a part of its another territory. Karimov would like to see his representatives among the leadership of Tajikistan. He speaks for organization of “honest” elections in the republic and evidently hopes for 1.5 millions of the Uzbek electorate, which might support the protegees of Tashkent.
The Russian military presence hinders this to some extent. The Russian 201 st mechanized infantry division is a factor of stability in the country and supports its present authorities. Naturally, who has the power, has bigger chances to win the elections. Consolidation of official Dushanbe and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and transformation of the UTO into the power bodies of Tajikistan reduce the chances of Tashkent to form its own “purely Uzbek clan” in the government.
Meanwhile, Tashkent gains the power and feels support of the West. We can not say that Uzbekistan longs for joining to NATO, but it most actively participates in the Partnership for Peace program. The largest military exercises in the CIS with participation of large American military contingents were organized in the republic. It is possible that in these contacts the Uzbek leadership sees the main guarantee of its “independence” from Russia.
Incidentally representatives of the US and other Western countries point at the non-democratic character of the regime, established by Islam Karimov. Anyway they support Uzbekistan for stability, for the ability to manage and organize large economic projects. Uzbekistan is probably the only republic in the CIS, which has achieved certain success in the economics: dependence of Tashkent on the oil products export was liquidated, two car manufacturing plants were built and are currently operating, gold production was almost doubled and so on.
Meanwhile, the country experiences serious social problems. Low percentage of the national personnel in the industry (Slavic people still form the basis of the country’s working class) and the emigration of the Russian speaking population to Russia sometimes negatively influence the quality of the Uzbek goods. There is unemployment in the country (especially in the countryside). As a rule Uzbek families have many children. 50% of the Uzbek population is younger than 20. The feudal relations still form a part of the native population’s mentality. All these aspects, as well as the low living standards of the population and diseases were the main reasons of unrest in some regions of the country. Anyway, the repression machine (within the last five years the personnel of the Interior Forces in the republic grew 200%, and the personnel of the Armed Forces- 100%) suppressed the peoples riots.
In addition, there are evident ethnic contradictions in Uzbekistan, especially in the regions of compact residence of the Tajiks (Samarkand and Bukhara regions). here the anti-Uzbek separatist attitude its present, as well as the intention to restore the great Tajik state, which had existed in the territories of the present Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the past.
Disagreement with the Russian foreign political course, targeted at provision of stability in the CIS manifests that Uzbekistan would evidently stake at some other countries for support of its power and positions in the Central Asia. Meanwhile, we think that these countries would hardly help avoiding of a possible large-scale war in the region, because the ethnic and political contradictions were not eliminated, but suspended.