In cooperation with U.S., Uzbekistan sees balance against Russia

Politics Materials 25 August 2009 09:00 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug. 24 / Trend , V.Zhavoronkova/

Uzbekistan considers cooperation with the U.S. balance against the Russian influence and guarantee of its intervention in the country's its internal politics, believes Jeffrey Mankoff, American Expert on Russia.

"Tashkent is eager to have the US help balance against Russian influence," Associate Director of International Security Studies at the Yale University, Jeffrey Mankoff wrote to Trend news in an email.

Uzbekistan is interested in playing a larger role in regional security, and sees Russia as the main threat to its aspirations, he said.

Tashkent cozied up to Moscow in 2005 after the fallout over the killings in Andijon, but has always been suspicious of Moscow and its motives, Adjunct Fellow for the Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mankoff believes.

The Uzbek government broke up the rally with great human losses in Andijan in 2005.

"Of course, Uzbekistan also fears Russian intervention in its internal politics, which could become more of a threat when it comes time to choose Karimov's successor," Mankoff said.

Relations between Tsahkent and Moscow have gotten dramatically worse over the past year, the expert believes.

Uzbekistan withdrew from Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), an economic organization including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

It also refused to participate in the joint rapid reaction force that Russia wants to set up under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The Uzbeks are worried about Russia's increased pressure on many of the CIS states and fear that Moscow is trying to find an excuse to undermine Uzbekistan's regional influence, Mankoff said.

The expert cites an example Russia's setting up a new base in Kyrgyzstan, the memorandum on which Bishkek and Moscow signed after the CSTO informal summit in early August.

The Uzbek government seems very worried about the possibility of social unrest and extremism, the expert believes.

"For the time being, it looks like relations between the two countries will keep getting worse," Mankoff said.

Using Uzbekistan as a transit state to Afghanistan would also reduce the need [of Washington] to rely on Russia or on Kyrgyzstan, where the presence of the US transit facility at Manas has become increasingly unpopular, he added.

With a new US administration that is both stepping up its presence in Afghanistan and less committed to the idea of spreading democracy than its predecessor, Uzbekistan could well be a useful partner, the expert believes.

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