The United States is luring Uzbekistan away from Russia

Text of report by the website of pro-government Russian newspaper Izvestiya on 14 October

[Report by Kirill Zubkov: "The United States is luring Uzbekistan away from Russia – Washington is ready to give President Karimov guarantees in exchange for leaving the ODKB"]

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and German Cabinet of Ministers Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Michael Steiner visited Uzbekistan’s capital. Officially they arrived in Tashkent under an "initiative on Afghanistan’s economic restoration"; however, according to information from informed sources, other issues were also discussed with Uzbek President Islom Karimov during the negotiations.

Tashkent has not received Western visitors of such rank in a long time. Karimov’s regime is considered to be dictatorial and is subjected to strong criticism in the United States and other NATO countries for human rights violations. Only extreme necessity could force diplomats from the United States and Germany to violate the unspoken taboo and meet with the Uzbek president.

"NATO is getting ready to withdraw its contingent from Afghanistan," the deputy director of Moscow’s Strategic Assessments and Analysis Institute, Aleksandr Khramchikhin, noted. "The alliance urgently needs a transit base like the Kyrgyz Manas, which was closed under Moscow’s pressure."

The Americans and their allies are looking for ways for a safe retreat. Pakistan, through which NATO entered Afghanistan ten years ago is no longer secure, and the supply corridor granted NATO by Russia is not suitable. Moscow has prohibited the transport of weapons. Thus, the Americans and their allies will most likely retreat from Afghanistan through Uzbekistan. But this does not mean that they will not stay there, Aleksandr Khramchikhin warned.

"Islom Karimov has been burdened for a long time by union with Russia and by the obligations that Tashkent is forced to bear under the Collective Treaty Security Organization (ODKB)," the expert claimed. "Uzbekistan openly sabotages all ODKB measures."

The Uzbek Army is systematically absent from the manoeuvres of the Collective Operational Reaction Forces [KSOR], and Karimov himself has more than once and publicly expressed doubts about the necessity of the KSOR and the ODKB itself.

It is not possible to exclude Uzbekistan from the organization, which is what the Russian General Staff in particular has been insisting. The ODKB is still the only capable structure defending Moscow’s interests in post-Soviet territory. By leaving the organization, Tashkent will ultimately be leaving Russia’s zone of influence.

It would be extremely advantageous for the United States and NATO to turn Uzbekistan into their support base in Central Asia. In contrast to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are continuously balancing on the verge of anarchy and civil war, Islom Karimov’s regime demonstrates stability that is unique for the region. The question only consists of whether Uzbekistan’s president himself wants to exchange Russian patronage for American.

A former analyst of the State Construction Academy in Tashkent and now a political refugee, Yusufdzhan Rasulov (Rasul Yusuf) doubts this.

"Karimov is not so interested in Uzbekistan’s security as his own and his family’s," the Uzbek political analyst said to Izvestiya by telephone from Stockholm. "The Americans can give him money and all the guarantees he wants for preserving power, but after the Arab Spring, there is little faith in this."

Russia, on its part, clearly supports the stability of Karimov’s regime. On 13 October in suburban-Moscow Solnechnogorsk, Russian law enforcement bodies arrested a certain Botirov, who was put on an international wanted list by Tashkent for terrorism. Moscow has stated that it is ready to turn Botirov over to Uzbekistan without any red tape.

Source: Izvestiya website, Moscow, in Russian 14 Oct 11

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