June 20, 2005

Realists on Uzbekistan

Curzon makes the case for continued engagement with Uzbekistan, and is none too happy with the fact that relations between Tashkent and Washington seem to be taking a turn for the worse. The argument here seems plausible (here's Nathan Hamm's version); as far as I can tell, there doesn't seem any major downside to engaging Karimov—besides upsetting those who hate "hypocrisy" in U.S. foreign policy—and it's not like the Uzbek government will stop boiling prisoners citizens alive now that we've shuttered up our airbase there. Plus, there's a decent fear that if we don't maintain a relationship with Uzbekistan, China will, which means we can kiss any hope of reform goodbye. Our military ties, at least, give us some leverage over Karimov, no? So yes, it's a tough country to work with, and yes, our Uzbekistan policy is never going to be pretty, but engagement seems like a better stance than total isolation. (That said, there's always room for improvement—we certainly don't need to send terrorism suspects to Uzbekistan to be tortured, etc.)

But that said, after reading this article, it seems that the main trend going on right now is that it's Uzbekistan who's souring on America, rather than vice versa. In that case, if Karimov's so paranoid about the United States fomenting revolutions around Central Asia, there doesn't seem to be any reason for the Bush administration to go well out of its way to reassure him. But I don't know. Of course, it never helps when both the Pentagon and State Department are pushing forward two wildly different Uzbekistan policies at the moment. Egad.
-- Brad Plumer 7:52 PM || ||